Going Analog

Where video game industry veterans introduce great board games to video gamers

The best and worst of Gen Con 2016 (guest edition)

Our friends in the industry offer their takes on the best and worst of Gen Con 2019!

Back in early August, the industry converged in Indianapolis, IN for a chance to meet the staff of Going Analog. Or was it to be a part of Gen Con, tabletop gaming's biggest show in North America? Listen, the whys aren't important -- we were all there together, having too much fun on too little sleep, checking out the latest and greatest. Earlier, we wrote about our staff best (and worst) experiences from Gen Con 2016.

This time, we asked our friends in the biz to offer their opinions on the mega convention. (Oddly enough, no one listed "meeting the Going Analog gang" as one of their faves.) Read on to see what Geek & Sundry, Board with Life, Polygon, and others have to say.

​Donald Shults, writer/director/Dungeon Master (Board with Life)


Favorite game that I played: Via Nebula
As someone who loves Brass (but doesn't even bother trying to get it to the table), I was pleasantly surprised to find that Martin Wallace's Via Nebula evoked a lot of the same feelings in about a third of the time with snappy turns and attractive pieces. I've been fondly calling it Brass: Babiez and can't wait to play it again.

Favorite game that I played (runner-up #1): Beyond Baker Street
Beyond Baker Street is the sort of game that I am always happy to play. It creates interesting conversations, rising tension, and even allows me to stick it to that smug-ass Sherlock Holmes bastard.

Favorite game that I played (runner-up #2): HMS Dolores
Dolores by Eric M. Lang and Bruno Faidutti is a fun negotiation game with simple mechanics, a grown-up title, and an enchanting box -- it packs a lot of intriguing interaction.

The game I wish I got to play (but didn’t): Ex Libris
This might seem weird but Adam McIver had a prototype for a game called Ex Libris that I was very fired up to play but missed out on.

Thing I loved most about Gen Con 2016: 
A succubus humiliated me, cold metal chains shocked me, I was killed by a beholder...and I loved every cruel second of it. My good friend Zackary Collins gently guided my friends and me through the True Dungeon fantasy I have always dreamed of.

Thing I hated most about Gen Con 2016: 
Aside from missing my family, the worst part was not being able to buy the stuff I wanted. SeaFall? Sold out. Via Nebula? Sold out. Cool-looking green dice? Weirdly absent. Oh well. I wound up spending way too much money anyway.

Hilary Goldstein, editor-in-chief (Dog and Thimble)


​Favorite game that I played: Tiny Epic Quest
I might not have loved the prototype for Gamelyn Games' next Tiny Epic game as much as some others, but the experience was pure Gen Con. We played in a darkened room after hours under the lime-green glow of our phone lights projecting through bottles of Mountain Dew.

Favorite game that I played (runner-up #1): Adrenaline
Czech Games Edition showed off a prototype of its upcoming arena combat game, and it felt like I was playing a video game. A perfect re-creation of the feel of multiplayer shooters.

Favorite game that I played (runner-up #2): Grifters
Gen Con for me is about playing as many different games as possible, but I got in three games of Grifters. Easy setup, fast play, and a four-player game that everyone enjoyed each time I brought it to the table.

The game I wish I got to play (but didn’t): Mansions of Madness: 2nd Edition
I really, really, really hate Cthulhu and his crew of Old Ones. I'm up for any chance to team up with a handful of others and take the mad things of Arkham down a peg. Sadly, I never had a chance to get in on a game during the Con.

Thing I loved most about Gen Con 2016: 
Leaning on my decades of experience with Tetris to fit all my purchases into my suitcase.

Thing I hated most about Gen Con 2016: 
Waiting to get into demos. A big part of Gen Con is checking out new and upcoming games, but sometimes you're stuck waiting 30 minutes or longer to get into some of the biggest ones. Ain't nobody got time fo' dat!


Ivan Von Norman, host (Game the Game)/co-author (The ABCs of RPGs)


Favorite game that I played: Lotus
This was the only game I got to play at Gen Con, so naturally it is my favorite! Superfun zone-control game from Renegade that features amazing art and is simple and as engaging as the classic Bullfrogs.

The game I wish I got to play (but didn’t): All of them! But mostly Captain Sonar
The time I had on the floor was short, but the game that I wanted to play (mostly because Geek and Sundry editor-in-chief Rob Manuel and I have been talking about it so much) was Captain Sonar -- it looked interesting, engaging, fun, and team-driven. I knew it was from a Japanese developer but was surprised to see it over at publisher Asmodee's booth this year.

Thing I loved most about Gen Con 2016: Reconnecting with other creators/publishers
Gen Con is a time where I get to meet some of my favorite people who I only get to see yearly (at Gen Con), and it never seems to be enough time to spend with everyone. I am always excited to get home but always feel like I could've done more and seen more folks at the show.

Thing I hated most about Gen Con 2016: Saturday's crowds
I know they extended the show floor, but it still seemed so tightly packed on Saturday. Plus, I never care for the humidity in Indianapolis. Ugh!

​Rob Manuel, editor-in-chief (Geek and Sundry)


​Favorite game that I played: Tak
If I had to describe the game in one word, it would be “elegant.” It’s a battle told in still life with wooden blocks surging over your opponent or falling into place across the board. With only a few rules to remember, Tak reveals more of its depth with every playthrough. And maybe next time, I’ll actually win a round.

The game I wish I got to play (but didn’t): True Dungeon
Somewhere between LARPing, an RPG, and a room-escape game, True Dungeon pits you and your companions against rooms filled with puzzles and real monsters. And there’s loot in the form of tokens you can use the next time you play. It’s not so much a game as a rite of passage for gamers. 

Thing I loved most about Gen Con 2016: The love of gaming
Loving board games can be tough. Describe to someone how a well-crafted deck engine works can often cause eyes to glaze over. Being at Gen Con meant that you were surrounded by people who would squee at every new game or fall in love with a mechanic. 

Thing I hated most about Gen Con 2016: Not enough time
You practically need a whole week just to start working your way through all the games. Board games take time and sometimes you need a couple of playthroughs just to find the deeper strategy behind some of them. And that’s not counting all of the RPGs, talks, or other events happening everywhere you turn. 

Jeff Large, co-host (Happy Mitten Podcast)


Favorite game that I played: Tides of Madness
I bought Tides of Time from Gen Con last year and loved it, so this was an easy decision. 

Favorite game that I played (runner-up #1): Unreal Estate
This one is coming to Kickstarter in September from friends of ours. It's great because of the tension on the multi-use cards with every turn. 

Favorite game that I played (runner-up #2): Pokemon Go!
I know it's not a board game but Indy was a fantastic city for Pokestops and hunting Pokemon. 

The game I wish I got to play (but didn’t): Cry Havoc
Looked amazing -- plus the designer, Grant Rodiek, was running the demos. 

Thing I loved most about Gen Con 2016: The people
I love catching up with all the people we chat with online. 

Thing I hated most about Gen Con 2016: Leaving

Kyle Hogendyk, co-host (Happy Mitten Podcast)

​Favorite game that I played: Unreal Estate
A fantasy-themed, real-estate card game with beautiful art. A perfect freshman release for upcoming board game publisher Grand Gamers Guild. The properties on Unreal Estate’s cards are guaranteed to be more magical than our dull, real-life homes. Picture

Favorite game that I played (runner-up #1): Tides of Madness
A card-drafting game exploring the Cthulhu mythos. Balance completing objectives with accepting “madness” tokens for more aggressive plays. If you accept too many madness tokens, you lose your fragile mind (and the game).

Favorite game that I played (runner-up #2): Codenames: Pictures
Deliver clever messages to your teammates to help them identify your team’s secret cards! Have plenty of laughs while hearing at least one person say, “I think the original Codenames is better.”

The game I wish I got to play (but didn’t):  Dead of Winter: The Long Night
The original Dead of Winter is my favorite game, so playing this follow-up was a must. Designers Isaac Vega and
Jon Gilmour have done an incredible job with this “meta-cooperative” game series set in the zombie
apocalypse. I recommend it to anyone who’s accustomed to making ethical compromises for their survival.

Thing I loved most about Gen Con 2016: 
I love the various publishers, journalists, designers, etc. that Happy Mitten has been fortunate to meet through
our board game podcast. Meeting face-to-face and sharing stories always leaves me feeling refreshed.

Thing I hated most about Gen Con 2016: 
The thing I hated most about Gen Con is not having a thing to hate for this blurb. (Gen Con 2016, I wish I knew how to quit you!)

Charlie Hall, features writer/tabletop specialist (Polygon)


Favorite game that I played: Scythe The lore behind it, about the rebirth of nations in pseudo Eastern Europe after the first World War -- which was fought with giant mechs! -- is tremendous. The art from Jakub Rozalski, the creator of the 1920+ world, is something that I need on my walls right now.

Favorite game that I played (runner-up #1): Dark Souls
The node-based movement system is terribly clever and seems up to the task of simulating the kind of combat players experience in the video game series. And it's tough as nails!

Favorite game that I played (runner-up #2): Colt Express
Papercraft train cars? Cowboy-shaped meeples? It's charming on the table and a quick play. Highly recommended.

The game I wish I got to play (but didn’t): Exiles
There was no game at Gen Con with more heart than this one. It's a long story, so best to head here for a roundup on why this NOLA-based team is on my short list of those to watch in 2017.

Thing I loved most about Gen Con 2016: The diversity of experiences on offer
I think we finally hit peak zombie last year and peak WWII a few years prior. This was the first Gen Con in a while that felt extraordinarily diverse. There wasn't one game I saw that was the same as the one sitting next to it. 

Thing I hated most about Gen Con 2016: The crowds
​Even though badge sales were down slightly this year, it felt more crowded than ever. Turnstile attendance was up though, which tells me that Gen Con is drawing a more dedicated core fanbase. They went every day of the convention, and that made it hard to get around. Of course, I was probably putting in more miles than most.