Abstruse here and, hoo boy, there is a shitload of news. That’s what happens when you put your head down to transcribe interviews when the biggest convention in gaming happens. GenCon broke two huge records, the first in attendees (over 50,000) and the second, the world’s largest board game (Mayfair Games set the Guinness Book World Record with a total count of 922 simultaneous players in a single game). Oh, and there was a lot of gaming announcements. I’ll be brief with a lot of these because there’s a LOT to get through!
Let’s start off with the BIG NEWS. First off, we have an official release date for the new edition of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: 2014. That’s pretty much it, but it’s something that I and everyone else called last year considering that it’s the 40th anniversary of the original printing of the game. The other big news is that the public open playtest comes to a close after the final packet coming out in mid-September. This packet will have Kender, Warforged, and Bards. They’ll also have the rules for multiclassing ready for that packet, but it hasn’t been officially announced that they will be included. The reason behind the move away from the public playtest is that WotC feels they’ve got the “core engine” down at this point, snagging the tone of the game as well as making sure the core game rules function.
During the Q&A, several big questions came up, the foremost being licensing. When asked if there would be an OGL or GSL for Next, Mike Mearls said “We don’t have any specifics we can talk about, but we know giving people ways to create and sell or share their content is important and we are looking at ways we can do that.” There was also a question about tiered gameplay in the new edition. The idea is for the first two levels of play to be an “introduction” to the class (based on the context, sort of like 0-Level play if you remember those days) with the third to tenth levels being heroic play, 11-17 for higher level play, and 18-20 for epic level play.
A bit of information about the release model they’ll be going for was hinted at as well. The first set of books (the quintessential Player’s Handbook and Dungeonmaster’s Guide, though those names aren’t official at this point) will have some rules modules but not a whole lot. You’ll have the ability to tweak tactical combat, healing options, rest periods, and skills. The idea is to release further books (one mentioned is “an UNEARTHED ARCANA style book”) with further rules modules as well as genre-themed books (meaning that seafaring/swashbuckling class options, monsters, spells, etc. would be in a pirate themed book, for example). The idea is to stay very story-focused with the books after the core material is released.
If you thought Paizo would be silent with all these D&D announcements, you’d be...well, kind of right because nothing related to the Pathfinder RPG was announced. They just reiterated what they stated at PaizoCon involving their release schedule for future projects. Where they made an impression, though, was through their expansion into non-roleplaying tabletop games.
The PATHFINDER ADVENTURE CARD GAME made its debut at the convention. A very interesting deckbuilding game, it’s cooperative for one to four players and really tries to replicate the experience of playing a Pathfinder campaign. Each player takes on a character class and levels up as they go, with even the options for campaign-based play so you can continue on over the course of several games. The base set, PATHFINDER ADVENTURE CARD GAME: RISE OF THE RUNELORDS BASE SET is available now, with character add-on pack for RISE OF THE RUNELORD coming soon. The releases announced seem to indicate that Paizo is going to work its way through the modern classic Adventure Path RISE OF THE RUNELORDS before moving onto the other Pathfinder Adventure Paths. I haven’t gotten my hands on this yet, but the reviews so far are very positive with some calling it the best deckbuilding game on the market.
Steve Jackson Games announced they are producing MUNCHKIN ADVENTURE TIME for release in fall of 2014. John Kovalic will not be doing the art for this set as it will be done by artists from the series. It will play as a stand-alone game while still being compatible with other editions of MUNCHKIN if you want to add Adventure Time goodness to your other Munchkin sets.
USAopoly (the company that does all the licensed spin-offs from Hasbro-owned board games) announced several new products at GenCon. RISK: PLANTS VS. ZOMBIES based on the app-based game, WALKING DEAD themed versions of both RISK and MONOPOLY, and finally MY LITTLE PONY MONOPOLY. Yeah, think we’re done here.
Flying Frog Games went a bit nuts at GenCon this year. They released not one but two expansions for the already-massive FORTUNE AND GLORY, called FORTUNE AND GLORY: RISE OF THE CRIMSON HAND and FORTUNE AND GLORY: TREASURE HUNTERS. RISE OF THE CRIMSON HAND adds more twists for the cultists introduced in the core game, making them a full-fledged enemy faction in line with the Mafia and Nazis. In addition to new cards for every deck, there are two new mechanic called Deadly Tests, which require the test to be completed in a single roll of the dice; while each city gets themed events for each major city called Epic Events. This expansion will be in stores this month.
TREASURE HUNTERS, meanwhile, adds four new heroes to the game which hit on even more pulp adventure mainstays (including an ersatz Allen Quartermain, Rick Blaine, Willie Scott, and (less accurately) Marion Ravenwood). There are also new villains for the Mafia, new cards for the decks in the game, and two new mechanics. There are Docks at each port city which adds new city-based adventures and there is a new deck called Personal Missions which adds a new secondary mission for each character. This expansion comes out next month.
Oh, we’re not done yet. They also previewed their new game A TOUCH OF EVIL: DARK GOTHIC is a deckbuilding game based on their A TOUCH OF EVIL board game. This game has three different resources – Cunning, Spirit, and Combat – which the designers feel separate the game from the pack when it comes to other deckbuilding games. Each player also gets a different hero with a different special ability, which affects gameplay. This game will be out in February of 2014.
But wait, there’s more. LAST NIGHT ON EARTH, the pulp zombie survival game, is also getting an expansion called BLOOD IN THE FOREST. There are several new heroes (including an FBI agent and a shotgun-toting Nun), several new boards including L-shaped boards and rectangle boards that allow the board size to be increased, many new scenarios, and of course additional cards for both the Hero and Zombie decks. Finally, there are super-zombies that are bigger and badder zombies to pit against the new, more badass Heroes and their upgraded tools. This expansion also comes out this November.
Do I look like I’m finished yet? I’ve got one more for you. SHADOWS OF BRIMSTONE is a brand new game from Flying Frog which will also be their first Kickstarter. The claim is that this game will top FORTUNE AND GLORY (the $99.99 MSRP game that I said was fully worth the price) in both scope and size. It’s a dungeon crawl adventure board game heavily focused on miniatures, with a genre theme that sounds to me like Wild West Cthulhu. This is also the first game from Flying Frog which will be level-based with character classes with some minor roleplay aspects. The Kickstarter will launch this October, and you can be goddamn sure I will give you more information about this as we approach the launch.
Fantasy Flight Games, true to their nature, announced a LOT of new products at GenCon. First up, for STAR WARS: X-WING MINIATURES, they announced something I’m a little concerned about. Back when the game first launched, FFG stated they would keep to the dogfight mentality and not release capital ships nor would they release expensive ships to prevent the pay-to-win mentality of a lot of miniature wargames. At GenCon, however, they announced two capital ships – GR-75 REBEL TRANSPORT AND ESCOURT for $59.95 and TANTIVE IV for $89.95. Don’t get me wrong, these ships look AMAZING (see below). But it seems to go against what they set out to do originally to entice new players who were afraid of getting involved in a miniature wargame due to WARHAMMER and WARMACHINE’s steep cost curve to be competitive. The new ships will be used in a different game style than the normal mission-based skirmishes previously used, so they may be more set pieces than actual ships, so I’ll give the company the benefit of the doubt for now. And seriously, these things look fucking AWESOME! Both ships will release in early 2014.
Fantasy Flight also announced the release of BLUE MOON LEGENDS, a reprint of the classic two-player card game which has all nine preconstructed decks originally printed and all expansions in one box. It releases in Q1 2014 with a MSRP of $49.95. Two-player squad-based board game BATTLE LORE (which has some pretty awesome plastic unpainted minis) is getting a second edition in Q4 2013 at a MSRP of $79.95. The first edition was originally released by Days of Wonder. Finally, we’ve got a WARHAMMER-themed version of DISKWARS, a game that has some very odd but intriguing mechanics that remind me very vaguely of pogs (showing my age there I think). It comes out in Q1 of 2014 with a MSRP of $39.95.
KINGS OF TOKYO, the really fun kaiju-themed press-your-luck dice game with surprising amounts of strategy, is getting another expansion, KINGS OF TOKYO HALLOWEEN. The expansion has two new monsters, 12 new power cards, and 8 personal evolution cards for each of the two monsters (making the POWER UP expansion a near-requirement for this expansion). It’s coming out in October, but no price has been announced yet.
Iello also announced several other games. THE PHANTOM SOCIETY , a deduction and deception based board game where one side are ghosts trying to remain hidden while the other side are ghost hunters trying to catch them, is out now with a MSRP of $39.99. HEROES OF NORMANDY is a two-player WWII themed strategy game about storming the beaches on D-Day, with one player playing the Allies and the other playing the Germans, out in Q4 2013. Finally, STEAM PARK is a steampunk-themed amusement park building game for 2-4 players where you try to build the most badass coal-fueled rides while still managing the minutia of an amusement park (hiring employees, cleaning the place up, advertising, etc.), due Q4 of 2013. In ZOMBIE 15, everyone over the age of 18 is now a zombie and you and your fellow 15 year olds try to find shelter, food, and possibly a cure while the 15 minute long soundtrack plays (when the song’s over, the game’s over), due for a Q4 2013 release.
Cryptozoic is following up their very successful WALKING DEAD board game with the new WALKING DEAD: THE BEST DEFENSE, building off of Seasons 2 and 3 of the TV show. Each player takes on the role of a main character (Rick, Daryl, and Michonne have been announced) to defend resources from the walkers for 12 rounds. The Leader of each round makes decisions to prevent calamities, but can be overridden by the other players. This game will release in Q4 of 2013.
In a game I wish I had when I first read the books and can’t want to play now, ENDER’S GAME BATTLE SCHOOL will get a November release tied to the film with a MSRP of $25. It’s a two player game with you choosing between Ender’s Dragon Team and Bonzo’s Salamander Team, attempting to capture the enemy’s gate or freezing the opponent’s entire team. The entire idea of the Battle School game intrigued me when I first read the book, and I can’t wait to see how the zero-G combat is represented in this game.
Cryptozoic also debuted their first expansion for the DC COMICS DECK-BUILDING GAME called HEROES UNITE, which features Shazam! (current name for Captain Marvel per DC so don’t bitch at me for getting the name wrong), Hawkman, Booster Gold, Nightwing, Red Tornado, Black Canary, and Batgirl. The expansion is coming out Q4 2013 at a MSRP of $40.
Finally, there was one game that everyone seemed to be talking about at the convention: RAMPAGE from Asmodee. And yes, it IS based on the fucking classic arcade game (my second favorite game at the old movie theater after GALAGA). You take on the role of one of the three classic monsters as you run around the city knocking over buildings made of meeples, devouring them to score points. This is a dexterity-based game, and while I haven’t seen it in action yet, that means you get to friggin’ KNOCK OVER BUILDINGS WHILE PLAYING A KAIJU!! Seriously want this fucking game! It’s coming out in October with a MSRP of $59.99.
Yes, I’ve talked about the CADAVER BONE fiction anthology IndieGoGo campaign already, but it’s a really cool book and it’s for a very good cause. Green Ronin founder Chris Pramas need spinal surgery, and he’s releasing an ebook fiction anthology for $15 on IndieGoGo in order to raise money for it. The anthology itself is worth the price, as it includes work from C. Robert Cargill (aka Massawyrm, founder of this column), Ed Greenwood (creator of the Forgotten Realms setting), John Rogers (showrunner of LEVERAGE and freelance game designer), John Kovalic (artist for MUNCHKIN and DORK TOWER), Steve Kenson (designer of MUTANTS & MASTERMINDS as well as prolific SHADOWRUN writer), and many other big names. Help support one of our own in his time of need! The campaign runs until September 30.
This one’s a bit odd, but the only thing I love more than 3D terrain in a game is props. Nothing is more immersive in a game than handing the players a physical object from the game, whether it’s an aged letter or an old ring. And boy, does Conquistador Games have an awesome one – replica metal coins from real-life and mythological societies. Yes, real coins. So far, the stretch goals for Greek, Roman, Middle Ages, Norse, Mythological Creatures, and Celtic coins have been unlocked with a second Mythological Creatures set left to be unlocked. A $20 pledge gets you one set of your choice (51 total coins), with price breaks for multiple sets. The Kickstarter is fully-funded and runs until September 11, so hurry up!
CoolMiniOrNot is Kickstarting another game (their Kickstarters tend to break records) for a miniature wargame called WRATH OF KINGS. I’m not a big miniature wargamer and the rules are light on the website, but they claim the game can scale from skirmish combat to large scale warfare easily. And, as with all CoolMiniOrNot games, the figures themselves look fucking amazing. You can get a starter army from any one of the five factions for a $50 pledge, $100 for two factions, a special bonus mini, and a variant cover rulebook, or $200 for starter packs for all five factions. Each faction’s starter comes with between 37 and 46 miniatures at this point, but stretch goals will unlock even more. The Kickstarter is, of course, fully funded and runs until September 15, so get in while you can!
That’s all for this week, gamers! Next week, I’ll finally finish up my coverage of Space City Con (was that really a month ago?!) with interviews from game designer Ari Marmell and editors Torah Cotrill and Miranda Horner along with more games I got to take a look at during the convention. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Abstruse or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.