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Top Of The Table – The Games Of Gen Con 2017

by Matt Miller on Aug 25, 2017 at 03:00 PM

In 1968, Gen Con got its start as a wargaming convention founded by Gary Gygax, well known for his co-development of Dungeons & Dragons. Back then, it was a small gathering in Lake Geneva, WI. Today, the gathering of tabletop publishers and enthusiasts has blossomed into a titanic affair, with tens of thousands of attendees, and hundreds of games to peruse, preview, and purchase. 

It’s a tremendous challenge to cull down from all those projects (many of which look amazing) and highlight just a few, but a few games managed to snag more than their share of the spotlight thanks to smart concepts, innovative mechanics, or simply fulfilling long-held anticipation. Here are ten of the games (listed in alphabetical order) that garnered big buzz and excitement at this year’s show.  

The 7th Continent
Publisher: Serious Poulp

After a highly successful Kickstarter back in late 2015, The 7th Continent continues to impress. This exploration and survival game is inspired by the classic choose-your-own-adventure books. The cooperative game can be played solo or with up to four players. Players take on the roles of explorers in the early 20th century who are ranging across a mysterious land, aiming to lift curses placed upon them. Players must hunt and fish, gain new abilities, and otherwise find ways to survive in the harsh environment. The 7th Continent is built to support not just dozens, but even hundreds of hours of exploration and adventure across a modular board of terrain cards, and as such, the game includes a save system to let you carry over your progress from one adventure to the next.  

Codenames: Duet
Publisher: Czech Games Edition

Codenames (and its sequel, Codenames: Pictures) are two of the best tabletop game experiences of recent years, offering an engrossing mix of deduction, word play, and guessing wrapped in a sneaky, espionage overcoat. Codenames: Duet is the latest release in the mix, providing a smart twist on the rules that eliminates the need for two big groups of players, and instead offers cooperative play for as few as two players. The Codenames concept is firmly established at this point, but anyone who has played a few rounds of the original knows there’s good reason to be stoked about a new twist on the excellent formula.

Dragonfire
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs

Two to six players can come together in this deckbuilding card game set within the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms world. Gorgeous fantasy art and a clever adventure structure communicates the feeling of a classic RPG session, while the deckbuilding aspects let you build up your party of clerics, rogues, fighters, and wizards with new magic items, feats, and other improvements. Building off the excellent Crossfire deckbuilding system, Dragonfire has the trappings of a big launch, and continues the D&D brand’s expansion into gaming spheres beyond its core tabletop role-playing pillar. 

Next Page: A game of gnomish librarians, and post-nuclear Fallout

Ex Libris
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios

This fantasy-themed worker placement game has a charming concept, gorgeous art, and surprisingly new twists on mechanics within the genre. You are a gnomish book collector, eagerly snatching up books and making sure they are meticulously catalogued within your library. Players send out their assistants into various places to acquire new tomes, and then the books (represented by cards) must be shelved in the correct order. Scoring tracks multiple avenues to success as a collector, from how well you’ve put together your shelves, to the variety of different topics represented within your collection. Ex Libris’ cute and colorful scheme belies its layered strategy and deep gameplay, which should appeal to anyone who harbors an inner desire for order and a nerdy love of books. 

Fallout
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

We helped pull the curtain back on the Fallout board game just a few weeks ago, but it has since made a big splash at Gen Con. In this competitive venture into the Wasteland, players compete to gain influence and survive against super mutants, synths, and other post-nuclear threats. The game’s most innovative feature is a deck of story cards that are added into the draw deck in response to player choices in quests and encounters, making every playthrough unique from the last, and lending a narrative depth rarely seen in board games. 

Massive Darkness
Publisher: CMON/Guillotine Games

CMON is known for releasing games with remarkably detailed minis, and it looks like we can expect more of the same in this fast-paced dungeon crawl board game. Massive Darkness iterates on the established gameplay model in the long-running Zombicide games, which were known for their brisk pacing and need for cooperative efforts in the face of overwhelming odds. Players customize their chosen hero with a class, and venture forth into monster-slaying across modular dungeons. Massive Darkness offers an excellent fit for players looking for gorgeous minis, intense and constant combat, and an unchecked flavor of epic fantasy. 

Pandemic Legacy: Season 2
Publisher: Asmodee/Z-Man Games

The thrilling first season of Pandemic Legacy told the story of humanity’s fall to a bevy of virulent diseases, and the valiant doctors and scientists who fought to contain the worldwide disaster. The legacy aspects of play meant the game would change from one session to the next, with new rules getting added to the rulebook, entire cities wiped from the map, and secret dossiers that hid dramatic story events. The popularity of that first season means that the Season 2 follow-up is one of the most hotly anticipated tabletop games in recent memory. Players take on the role of ragged survivors of the original plague, decades later, as they once again venture onto land and try and rebuild civilization. 

Next Page: The natural beauty of growing your own forest, and miniature combat in a galaxy far, far away

Photosynthesis
Publisher: Asmodee/Blue Orange

One of the biggest surprises of this year’s show, Photosynthesis is no more and no less than what it sounds like – a game about growing trees. Players compete to have their trees grow strong and tall amid an ever-broadening forest. Beginning as saplings, each plant can eventually reach a massive size, which makes its shadow better suited to blocking the light from reaching opponents’ trees. Like in the real world, the sun is in constant motion along a fixed pattern, so players must plan ahead, considering both where to place a tree for immediate benefit, and how that tree can continue to develop in subsequent turns. Photsynthesis’ innovative concept, beautiful but simple art, and deep strategy made it a hot property at the show. 

Star Wars: Legion
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Fantasy Flight has gradually been expanding its catalog of tabletop games set in the Star Wars universe, and the publisher revealed its next effort at Gen Con 2017. Star Wars: Legion is a customizable miniatures game for two players. Legion is set during the Galactic Civil War, with figures like Stormtroopers and Rebel Commandos duking it out on the field of battle, alongside leader minis like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. Miniature games are known for their complexity, but early looks at this system suggest a streamlined approach that should welcome new players into the fold, so anyone can build an army, paint their figures, and prove strategic superiority against their opponent. 

Stuffed Fables
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games

Jerry Hawthorne designed the excellent cooperative game, Mice & Mystics, which mixes storytelling and adventure in a way that is appealing to both families and veteran gamers. The designer’s more recently revealed project shares those same traits: Stuffed Fables tells the tale of a group of stuffies on a quest to save the little girl who so treasures and loves them, as her safety is threatened by a malicious mastermind. The game unfolds within the pages of an adventure book, which has the rules, story guide, and game board all together on its pages. Subsequent adventures turn to new pages of the book. The game encourages cooperation, as players share dice with other players, or even share “stuffing” after a hard battle.  

 

Thanks for checking out some of the standout titles from Gen Con 2017. If you’re looking for other tabletop gaming recommendations, be sure to click on the Top of the Table banner at the bottom of this article. And if you’re looking for more personalized gaming recommendations, feel free to drop me a line via email or Twitter through the links below.