Living in the UK makes it a little tricky to get to Gen Con but I'm determined to get hyped anyway! There are hundreds of games being sold, released and demoed at the convention, which means that there is plenty to get excited about even if you can't be there in person. Many of these games will be available to buy in the UK over the coming months so we can look to Gen Con to get a taste of what might be hitting our tables in the near future.
With that in mind, I've put together my top 10 picks for Gen Con. My one qualification for a game to be eligible for this list was that it had to be on BGG's preview list. The preview list includes some games that are already widely available, some that will be available for the first time at Gen Con, and some that will be demoed there. My list includes games that fall into all of those categories. I hope you find something that catches your eye!
10. Horizons (For Sale)
In at number 10 is Horizons, a sci-fi space exploration game from Daily Magic Games and designer Levi Mote. A lot about this game will be familiar to fans of the space exploration genre - you gain points by exploring new worlds and completing objectives. An action selection mechanic keeps the game moving as the board unfolds through the discovery of new territories. There's also a deck of helpful ally cards that you can draw from with some fantastic art. Horizons looks like an attractive addition to the sci-fi genre with some interesting gameplay. One to keep an eye on.
9. Reckoners (For Sale)
Reckoners is based on a trilogy of novels by Brandon Sanderson. In the novels, a group of assassins - the Reckoners - work to bring down Epics - superhero-like beings who have been corrupted by their powers. Each Epic has a weakness that they must find in order to defeat them. Designers Brett Sobol and Seth Van Orden take this theme and incorporate it into a co-operative board game published by Nauvoo Games.
Players roll dice to determine which actions to take as they hunt for clues to bring down the Epics that are ravaging Chicago - or Newcago, as it's now known. I'm a big fan of the Reckoners novels and have heard only good things about this game so far.
8. Root (For Sale)
Fans of asymmetrical games will love Root. In the vein of Leder Game's previous hit, Vast, Root sees players taking control of factions with unique identities, play styles and victory conditions as they battle for control. Root has an adorable, fairy tale type theme with cats, birds, an alliance of forest creatures and wandering vagabonds making up the factions.
There's been a lot of hype for this game already and I think the hype will only get bigger as we head into Gen Con. The only reason it's not higher on my list is because I tend to play a lot of games with non-gamers or more casual gamers, and an asymmetrical game of this magnitude will always have a high barrier to entry.
7. Critical Mass (For Sale)
Critical Mass is a highly-acclaimed two-player duelling game from designer Kevin Chang and publisher Arcane Wonders. The game is being released in two sets, with each having two unique decks. Each deck can be played against any other.
I'm a fan of duelling games and this one looks like a fun twist on the genre. Players control a mech, with the objective of defeating the other mech through attacks. They can also defend and upgrade. Each turn, both players will simultaneously reveal a chosen card. Priority scores will decide which resolves first as players try to damage each other, defend to save damage or upgrade, but risk taking a bit hit in the process. The tactics look fascinating, with a lot of game for what I predict will be a pretty low price.
6. Coimbra (For Sale)
Coimbra might just be the hottest Euro-style game this year. It's published by Eggertspiele and designed by Flaminia Brasini and Virginion Gigli. I'm not a big Euro gamer myself but this one has caught my eye. At its heart is a dice-drafting mechanic, with different coloured multi-use dice that buy cards and score points. It's a strategic game with a lot to think about, but all accounts suggest that the gameplay is excellent.
As you'd expect from a Euro game there is a sprawling board with wooden components everywhere, but the art style is nice and the game has a lot of visual appeal. This could be a game that we talk about for a long time to come.
5. Volt (Demo)
Emerson Matsuuchi's VOLT: Robot Battle Arena was released in 2014 and is now getting a second edition from HeidelBAR Games. It's a fascinating-looking robot-programming game. Players have to program three steps for their battling robots, trying to anticipate what others will do. The revised and expanded version contains an AI ruleset for games with fewer human players along with incredible art and stunning robot miniatures.
I hope some of my enthusiasm is coming through - this is one of the games that I'm really excited for! Definitely one of my top picks to keep an eye out for.
4. Dice Throne: Season 2 (Demo)
I may be a little biased in putting Dice Throne: Season 2 on my list as I've already backed it on Kickstarter, so I have a vested interest in it and know quite a bit already. The game won't be for sale at Gen Con as it's not due to ship until November, but it will be available to demo. Season 2 continues where Dice Throne left off, with eight brand new heroes and a slew of fully illustrated cards.
It's a head to head dice and card duelling game described as a cross between King of Tokyo and Magic the Gathering. Players roll their character's unique dice to use their individual powers and augment their abilities with cards from their unique deck. I don't own Season 1, but Season 2 looked too good to pass up. If you see it at Gen Con, you should definitely give it a go.
3. Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn expansions (For Sale)
You'll have to forgive me for including expansions on my list, but Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn is one of my favourite games. I've already previewed the four decks that Plaid Hat games has announced here and two of them - The Spirits of Memoria and The Demons of Darmas - will be available at Gen Con. Because I've already previewed them in depth I won't say too much more here. Have a read of my earlier article if you're interested!
2. Specter Ops: Broken Covenant (For Sale)
Broken Covenant is a brand new standalone game set in the Specter Ops universe from designer Emerson Matsuuchi (who's already appeared on this list with VOLT) and publisher Plaid Hat Games. This is another sequel whose original I haven't played, but looks fantastic in its own right. The game pits human agents against superhuman Raxxon hunters, with the humans using skill and wit and the hunters relying on special powers and enhanced abilities.
The game involves dice rolling, hidden movement, deduction and stunning miniatures. As we've come to expect from Plaid Hat Games the production quality is excellent and Emerson Matsuuchi's gameplay looks like enormous fun.
1. Cerebria: The Inside World (Demo)
I hadn't heard of Cerebria before researching this list. A whole team of designers came together with Mindclash Games to create this intriguing area control game. Cerebria first appeared on Kickstarter and will be demoed at Gen Con as they haven't started to fulfil their backers' orders yet, but I'd expect it to be fully available later in the year, maybe around November or December.
So what was it that attracted me to Cerebria? For one, the theme is like nothing I've ever seen. It's kind of like a darker version of Disney's Inside Out mashed with fantasy, as spirits tied to positive and negative emotions battle for control inside some kind of mental world. Positive emotions vie with negative emotions in a series of actions taken over multiple turns.
According to Board Game Geek, there are elements of pool building and hand management as well as area control. All of this is supported by absolutely gorgeous art and beautiful components. I haven't heard any hype for it at Gen Con, so this may be a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered.
Gen Con 2018
That's my top 10 picks finished, but there are hundreds of other games available too. Gen Con 2018 takes place between August 2 and August 5, at the Indiana Convention Centre (Indianapolis).