Aside from all the board game action, one of the things I loved about my first Gen Con experience was randomly bumping into different people I only “knew” from Twitter. I’m really glad I crossed paths with Jason Matthews (Twilight Struggle, Imperial Struggle, 1960: The Making of the President) and got to chat with him for a bit in between meetings.
• Eric and I met with Clay Ross from Capstone Games, and thankfully Clay was still friendly with us after we “stuck him” playing Stick ‘Em the last time we saw him in early 2020 at the GAMA Trade Show. We got to play a quick game of their new fantasy-themed, 2-player duel card game, Riftforce from designer Carlo Bortolini.
The goal of Riftforce is to gain 12 Riftforce (VPs) before your opponent. At the beginning of the game players draft 4 out of 10 different guilds with unique special abilities. Then you create and shuffle a deck of element cards for your respective guilds and draw a hand of 7 cards. You each essentially have a deck of four suits of cards with 5, 6, or 7 on them representing the card’s health.
On your turn, you either play up to 3 cards along the rift with the same suit or with the same number, or you can discard a card and activate up to 3 cards you’ve previously played, again, either matching the number or the suit. This is when you trigger the special abilities of your guilds to attack and hopefully destroy your opponent’s element cards, which is the main way you score points.
Besides playing cards and activating cards, you can also check and draw as an action. First you gain 1 point for each location on the rift that you have at least one card and your opponent doesn’t have any opposing. Then you draw back up to 7 cards.
Riftforce quickly becomes a deep, thinky card game as you’re managing your hand of cards to strategically play and place cards along the rift, while holding some back so you can activate the ones you’ve played. Timing is very important as well. The 10 different guilds all have interesting abilities and it’s super fun exploring synergies between them.
I’ve already played 3 more times since Gen Con and dig it more and more with each play, in spite of always getting whooped.
• Over at Genius Games, I got schooled on pea plant genetics when playing a few rounds of Genotype: A Mendelian Genetics Game, a new worker-placement, dice-drafting game for 1-5 players from designers John Coveyou, Paul Salomon, and Ian Zang.
In Genotype you are competing to gain the most victory points, which primarily come from fulfilling phenotype trait requirements on pea plant Cards. I had a great experience playing 2 rounds of a 5-player game. I’m not sure if it was the game itself or the fun, competitive people I was playing with (probably a mix of both), but I really enjoyed the blend of tight worker placement with dice-drafting and how well it was integrated with the theme. Plus, the fact that it’s educational and even includes a booklet explaining how the gameplay elements tie back to the history and science behind is icing on the cake.
My player board during my demo game
• I previously mentioned Public Market, from Point Salad designers Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, and Shawn Stankewich, in a tile-laying games post, but it was great to stop by the Talon Strikes Studios booth to check it out in person.
In Public Market, players bid on and draft fish tiles which you put in your ice chest to eventually sell based on the current market prices. After you sell your catch, you get a new ice chest. Each ice chest is different and presents new placement puzzles for you to solve as you load it up with more fish, plus you can unlock bonuses by covering shrimp in your ice chest. All the while, you can also build up an engine by earning permanent fish increases by completing Today’s Catch cards.
The play mat looked great and really made the theme pop, but it’s an upgrade and doesn’t come with the game by default.
• I met briefly with Sam Healey at the Mythic Games booth where some people were deeply engaged in a game of Carlos G.Q.‘s 6: Siege – The Board Game, an asymmetrical game with miniatures based on Ubisoft’s acclaimed tactical shooter video game, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege, which is available for pre-order and coming out in 2022.
At the next table over, a few folks were playing Monsterpocalypse Miniatures Game since Mythic Games and Privateer Press are co-producing a Monsterpocalypse big-box product range coming to Kickstarter Fall 2021, targeted for delivery in late 2022.
• While wandering around the convention hall one afternoon, I was mesmerized by the sight of beautiful, chunky, orange crystals from Samuel Bryant and Gwen Ruelle‘s 2019 release Fire Tower, so I made an impromptu stop at the Runaway Parade Games booth to see what it was all about.
Gwen gave me quick rundown of Fire Tower, which is a competitive 2-4 abstract strategy game that plays in 15-30 minutes, where your goal is to protect your own fire tower while trying to spread the blaze towards your opponents. You play action cards that allow you to alter the direction of the wind and add varying patterns of fire, water, and defensive barriers on the board. But most importantly, you get push those beautiful, chunky, orange gems around the board while you play!
They were also showing off the Fire Tower: Rising Flames expansion, which is new 2021 release that adds a new action cards, other special cards, a flock of firehawks, and a solo mode.
• I picked up a copy of Dune: A Game of Conquest and Diplomacy, the new fast-paced, streamlined version of the original Dune board game from Gale Force Nine and designers Bill Eberle, Jack Kittredge, Peter Olotka, Greg Olotka, and Jack Reda. They weren’t demoing it at Gen Con, but I was excited enough to unbox it in the hotel lobby to take a peek at everything. I’m really looking forward to playing it! Of course, I still need to play its predecessor, but I’ll likely get this to the table much sooner since it plays in an hour.