Today marks the beginning of the dog days of summer, but it is also the start of the U.S’s biggest board game convention, Gen Con. While lots of gaming happens at Gen Con each year, I am personally excited because a lot of publishers release new games at the convention. While I am still trying to keep my collection lean and trim, here are a few games coming out that caught my eye.
Point Salad. This an inside joke in the board game hobby but it has also turned into an intriguing game! Sometimes people describe games where you get a few points here and there for doing lots of different things as “point salads.” The designers of Point Salad from AEG took this literally and made a game about scoring vegetables in lots of different ways. Each card can be a scoring condition OR a vegetable, and players draft cards to create a salad that will score well for them. The tongue and cheek nature of the name and design definitely earns some points as well, and being able to play with up to six players is always a bonus when a larger group wants to all play the same game.
Parks. After the hit of Wingspan I think it is great that more games are expanding to nature themes. Plenty of board games are also avid hikers and this game aims to capture that theme with absolutely gob smacking art of the cards representing the National Parks. There does seems to be some meat on the bones here as well with a central “trail” of cards that you are on which changes each season, and resource management to contend with. The game reminds me of Tokaido, a lighter game about traveling and seeing Japan that also has amazing art. I will definitely be keeping an eye on this one, and it might be a great game to introduce hikers to the hobby of board games; for those rainy days when hiking is not an option!
Las Vegas Royale takes a game I have loved for a long time and gives it a new coat of paint. The original Las Vegas was a perfect family friendly dice game. Each turn players roll dice and have to pick all the dice of one number to place on a corresponding numbered casino. Whoever has the most dice at a casino gets the largest payout of money with second place getting a smaller pot. The genius of the game however is how it handles ties. Players with the same number of dice at any casino BOTH lose and the player with the next most dice wins the pot. It’s the perfect twist that gives the game an extra playful edge as players try to win as many casinos as they can while also not spreading themselves too thin and ending up tied and with nothing. The new edition not only upgrades the components of the original but adds in some new expansion rules and special powers that can be assigned to some of the casinos. Another case of a good game becoming great with a little bit more TLC.
Crown of Emara is finally hitting the U.S. This game had a lot of buzz at the Essen board game fair in Germany but has taken some time to make the jump across the pond. The theme is nothing terribly exciting, something about gathering resources to become King in Medieval Europe. However, I have a soft spot in my heart for games that play in a very interesting way despite the theme. The mechanisms that make this game tick are really fascinating. Each round players select a card from a hand of three, and this card give them a resource as well as triggering another piece to move around in a circular action selection system. So already there’s kind of a chain reaction effect for each move a player takes, a sort of Rube Goldberg machine. But to add another wrinkle to this there are two action selection circles players can choose from. For a certain kind of gamer, this puzzle of building perfect chain reactions to score points is pure joy. For others, and folks not in the hobby, this can essentially sound like doing homework for fun. Where I fall sometimes depends on what time of the night the game comes out, but I will admit I can definitely enjoy these so called “brain burners” and I am excited for this one to hit the states.
Rail Pass is a game that sounds ridiculously silly, and that has me excited. It’s nice to take a break from the serious brain burners I mention above for a laugh with friends. The game is a dexterity game about delivering goods to the other players stations using trains. So far, so normal. Except that instead of doing this on an abstract board, you are doing this quite literally by handing off little metal trains to the other players. Each train has “conductor” pegs that drive them and cubes loaded onto the cars that players are penalized for dropping. Before delivering a train you are required to say “Toot toot” and players must have space in their train yard as well as their hands to receive your delivery. There are even landscape features like tunnels and bridges to contend with. If it sounds ridiculous that’s because it is, but there is a real puzzle here as well as different goods need to go to different cities and the players manual dexterity is a real factor in having any success. Games like these remind me of a true toy and play aspect of the board game hobby.
One of these days I will make it out to Gen Con, but for now I am excited for the crop of new games on the horizon. What upcoming games do you have your eye on? Let me know in the comments below.