Gen Con is board game mecca in the United States. Every year more than 60,000 gamers make the trek to Indianapolis to buy board games and chew bubble gum. And bubble gum is outlawed in Indiana.
Gen Con is where the majority of the year’s biggest board games are sold for the first time. It’s where many publishers demo next year’s biggest games. Everyone who is anyone in the board game industry is at Gen Con. Even Dog and Thimble!
Here’s a look at some of the biggest publishers appearing at Gen Con and the new games they’ll be selling and demoing. I’ve called out some of the ones I’m most looking forward to playing. Oh, and if you’re at Gen Con, be on the lookout for me and Chris Schock. We’d be thrilled to play a game with you. And, if you’re really lucky, you may even score a free Dog and Thimble t-shirt.
Most games on this list were confirmed by publishers. Some games on this list were taken from Eric W. Martin’s comprehensive listings on Board Game Geek.
Action Phase Games
A beautiful-looking game, Dreamwell has you and a few friends trying to find one another within your dreams. If that isn’t compelling enough to catch your interest, well, I just don’t know if you’re a human being. The gameplay is simple - basically adjusting tiles on a 4x4 grid. Sometimes it’s the simplest games that have the most impact.
Retreat to Darkmoor
Though some already snagged this at Origins, its full debut comes at Gen Con. This intriguing new deckbuilder is sort of like Gloom meets Dominion. You’re creating cards as you go, sliding sections into a sleeve and overlapping parts here or there (that’s the Gloom-feel bit of it). Though you only ever have 20 cards, they are quickly evolving into unique creations. I love games that give me something new, and Mystic Vale is definitely one of the more innovative offerings at Gen Con.
Archer: Once You Go Blackmail...
Smash Up: Cease and Desist
Valley of the Kings: Last Rites
The Goonies: Adventure Card Game
Mage Wars: Arena
Behind the Throne
The Last Friday
War of the Ring: Warriors of Middle-Earth
Chronicles 1: Origins (demo only)
Chronicles is the most ambitious Legacy-style game. This first entry into the series puts you in the beginnings of civilization, where you are first forming your own tribe. You'll explore, name the lands you discover, and slowly evolve your tribe based on the decisions you make. But this is just the beginning. Because Chronicles will continue, taking you from what is essentially the stone age and into the modern age, eventually. The choices you make now, may impact your race into space several years from now. That is pretty damn awesome.
Tesla vs. Edison: Powering Up!
One Deck Dungeon
I love rogue-like video games. Those are games where you have a single life and you’re exploring a randomly generated dungeon, building up your character as you go and seeing how long/far you can survive. Now imagine a 2-player cooperative rogue-like card game. Here’s hoping One Deck Dungeon lives up to its video game legacy.
Innovation: Artifacts of History
Innovation: Cities of Destiny
One Deck Dungeon
Save the Cupcake
Colony (demo only)
Ted Alspach’s latest game, Colony, won’t be available for purchase at Gen Con, but Bezier will be demoing the game. At first blush it might not sound that unique - you gather resources, use those to acquire buildings that offer abilities, and hope to come away with the most victory points. Oh, but there is one twist. The dice are the resource, with each side representing something different. And it’s by Ted Alspach. He was dope in Castles of Mad King Ludvig, yo! (No, really, this game sounds fantastic and I can't wait to give it a go.)
One Night Ultimate Alien (demo only)
Hive Mind (demo only)
Menu Masters (demo only)
Running with the Bulls (demo only)
Two unannounced games
If a picture is worth a thousand words, than the sequel to Codenames should be sold for a lot more than $20. But hey, I’ll gladly spend it as Codenames hit the table more than any other game in my house last year. This time around, the words are gone and you’re instead trying to guide your team through a grid of images.
Alchemists: Golem Expansion
Cool Mini or Not
Bloodborne: The Card Game
From friend of the show* Eric Lang comes a light, but fittingly brutal card game based on the video game Bloodborne. Everyone at the table is trying to beat the big bad that has been drawn from a deck of big bads. But you want to be the one to deal the final blow. Wisely select your combat card to try and steal a kill from one of your opponents. Just don't be too clever or you might end up getting yourself bloodied.
Cthulhu in the House
Krosmaster Arena 2.0
The Others: 7 Sins
Rumble in the Dungeon
Adventure Time Card Wars: Doubles Tournament
Attack on Titan (demo only)
GKR Heavy Hitters
Mad Science Foundation (demo only)
Poker Assault (demo only)
Rick and Morty: Mr. Meekseeks Box o' Fun Dice and Dares Game
The Walking Dead: No Sanctuary (demo only)
Days of Wonder
Five Tribes: Thieves of Naqala
Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails
Fantasy Flight Games
Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
I can’t wait to return to Arkham in this updated version that removes the need for a Keeper, allowing all five players to work together as a team. An app now acts for the game, creating a new level of secrecy as you uncover new areas, monsters, and puzzles. There’s also a conversion kit so you can combine the first edition with the new edition, which basically makes the original game a massive expansion. Wow!
End of the World: Revolt of the Machines
Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne (demo only)
Lord of the Rings Card Game: Flame of the West
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Beginners Game
Tiny Epic Quest
Lovers of classic NES games such as Final Fantasy and the Legend of Zelda perk up those ears. Tiny Epic Quest attempts to be a small-box recreation of those classics. The world is FUBAR thanks to a goblin invasion, forcing you to take a trio of elf heroes on an epic quest. You’ll explore, risk it all for fortune, and probably slay a lot of goblins.
Heroes of Land, Air & Sea
Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black
Bring Your Own Book (demo only)
Gale Force Nine
Tyrants of the Underdark
Another game that had limited availability at Origin, but now releases in full force at Gen Con. Dungeons & Dragons has a long history of great board games and everyone I know who’s played Tyrants of the Underdark love it. So what exactly is Tyrants of the Underdark? Mix area control with deckbuilding and add a dark theme - you’re a Drow lord recruiting and promoting minions (cards) and sending them to assassinate your enemies.
Star Trek: Ascendancy
AEGIS (demo only)
Champions of Hara (demo only)
Escape the Sanitarium (demo only)
Ninja Dice Expansion
Grey Fox Games
Order of the Gilded Compass
Greater Than Games
Fate of the Eldger Gods (demo only)
Spirit Island (demo only)
Explore under the sea in Iello’s beautiful new card game. Each player has their own private submarine and want to spot the most fish and see the longest coral reef. And send their diver to collect some treasure. I don’t have a great sense of how Oceanos plays (it has card drafting, which I love), but it’s from Antoine Bouza. So… Probably going to be great.
Schotten Totten (demo only)
Welcome Back to the Dungeon
Indie Games & Cards
Don't Mess with Cthulhu
Loony Quest (demo only)
Cosplay as a stiff in a coffin, because AssassinCon is probably going to be the death of you. You are an assassin, at the famed convention where one killer-for-hire will be awarded the best in the biz. Only this year everyone’s decided to take the decision-making out of the judge’s hands. Kill or be killed by playing secret movement cards that are then shuffled in with everyone else’s. If you like Colt Express, this sounds like the right game for you (and me). Best part? If you die, your ghost can torment the other players!
Fight for Olympus
Cosmic Kaboom (demo only)
Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction
Manhattan Project: Energy Empire (demo only)
Manhattan Project 2 (demo only)
Saga of the Northern (demo only)
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Mummy's Mask (demo only)
Wasteland Express Delivery Service (demo only)
What if Mad Max or Borderlands were made into a board game? It might be something like Wasteland Express Delivery Service. You are on the road in a post-apocalyptic world filled with characters almost as unseemly as you. The base game comes with 10 scenarios, which play out into a lengthy narrative. The art is great and Pandasaurus has been a rock-solid publisher. Teamed with IDW (and with each scenario prefaced with a comic book), this is one of the quiet games of Gen Con that could end up getting a lot more hype.
The Game on Fire (demo only)
StarFall (demo only)
Plaid Hat Games
Rob “Pandemic Legacy” Daviau is back at it with another legacy game. This time you’re forging forward to explore the sea in a hope of expanding your knowledge (and your empire). That means establishing trades, ship battles, and maybe a little piracy await. But this is a Legacy game, meaning that every game adds to the next. Grudges carry over from one game to the next, building a history in the world.
Ashes: The Duchess of Deception
Ashes: The Roaring Rose
Dead of Winter: The Long Night
What if Small World had depth? That’s the question Cry Havoc will answer at Gen Con. This area control game has asymmetrical factions, each with unique abilities. But the Trogs are very different from the other factions, springing up on just about every new area you explore. Probably because it’s their planet you’re trying to plunder for resources. With a unique combat system, a touch of deck-building, and cool minis, Cry Havoc is definitely one I have to check out at Gen Con.
Rattle Battle Grab the Loot: Angry Ocean
Tides of Madness
Red Raven Games
I love games that bring something new. Though little is really known about how Lotus plays, it is definitely unique. You are competing t build a full portrait of a blossoming lotus. But there are others that would try to undo your work and only by enlisting animal guardians (uh, butterflies, of course) can you keep your lotus whole. Just look how cool this game lays itself out. Beautiful and intriguing. I can't wait to try this out.
Steve Jackson Games
Batman The Animated Series Dice Game (demo only)
Bill & Ted's Excellent Board Game
I Hate Zombies
Moops Monster Mash
Simon's Cat Card Game
Final Touch (demo only)
Hit Z Road
Probably the game with the most hype heading into Gen Con, Scythe recently arrived at the doorsteps of Kickstarter backers. As you can tell from our recent review, it lives up to the hype. Come for the haunting artwork, stay for the deep and engaging gameplay.
Mars needs oxygen and you’re just the person to give it. As one of several giant corporations looking to turn Mars into a habitable planet, you’ll help to terraform the red planet while vying to also be top dog in space. Earn project cards that directly associate with ways to turn a deadly planet into a tranquil one. Use these on your way to earning victory points and title as Greatest Mars Terraformer.*
City of Spies: Estoril 1942
The Dragon & Flagon
Kraftwagen: V6 Edition
Pursuit of Happiness
Th3rd World Studios
Tasty Minstrel Games
Guilds of London
Legendary Encounters: Firefly
The Dog and Thimble sitcom, “Are You Board Yet?”, had nearly as many episodes (0) as Firefly (14), and yet the cult show continues to have a healthy life more than a decade after cancellation. I love Firefly and I love the Legendary Encounters system from Upper Deck. It’s hard to say how well the two will mix, but I can’t wait to find out. Here’s hoping that the silly adherence to using super hero symbols from Marvel Legendary doesn’t carry through to this game and we get some icons that fit the theme.
The Crow: Fire It Up!
Legendary: Big Trouble in Little China
Legendary: Civil War
Vs.: The Alien Battles
Game of Thrones Clue
Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle
Munchkin Marvel 2
Star Trek Panic
Star Trek Risk
White Wizard Games
Hero Realms (demo only)
Star Realms United (demo only)
Beyond Baker Street
Take Hanabi, add Sherlock Holmes sleuthing, gently shake, and you have one of my most wanted games of the show. Beyond Baker Street did hit shelves recently, but it’s full debut can be considered Gen Con just so I can write about it. I love the idea of this game and at such a low price, it just seems crazy not to pick it up sight unseen.
Merchants & Marauders: Broadsides
Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu
Heading to Gen Con 2016? Keep an eye out for the Dog and Thimble crew. Let’s play a game! And subscribe to our podcast for daily Gen Con updates (wifi speeds allowing).