The Best Four Days In Gaming…Part 1

Gen Con. Its tag line is “The Best Four Days In Gaming”. You know what? I’m sure they’re right.

I’ve never really been a gamer. I played AD&D for a while but haven’t played in about 17 years, not since I moved to Indiana. I’ve played card games, been stuck inside on rainy days with Milton Bradley, and play some video games sometimes.

If that’s all you’ve ever experienced, Gen Con will blow away your idea of what the word “gaming” means.

This was my second year, though last year I was only able to make one day. I learned this year that one day just isn’t enough to take in the full scope of what there is to offer. Even if you don’t know exactly what they are, you’ve probably heard of Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and Yu-Gi-Oh. What you don’t know is that, for every one of those you’ve heard of, there are dozens you haven’t…and that’s a very conservative estimate.

Most of the games being sold were being sold by the companies that created them. In some cases, the creators of the games themselves. Among many relatively smaller companies like Myndzei, our new friends (and booth neighbors) at Mindtwister USA, Twilight Creations, Inc (sponsors of Friday’s Zombie Walk), established companies like Privateer Press, Smirk & Dagger, Catalyst Games, and Steve Jackson Games (creators of the Munchkin series), and the heavy hitters like Bandai, Konami, Wizards of the Coast, and White Wolf. Every company had demos of several of their flagship games set up where someone working for the company would teach you to play. Try before you buy…and with the amount of money that flows through the gaming industry, the odds say you’ll probably buy.

I didn’t get to play anywhere near as many games as I wanted to but that’s because there just wasn’t enough time to play everything there is to play on the show floor, at least not if I wanted to see things going on in surrounding areas.

Since they were (as I mentioned) our next door neighbors for four days, I got a good look at what Mindtwister USA had to offer and was pretty impressed. They aim to do pretty much what their name suggests…twist your mind. The games are primarily strategy-based board games but newer games have been moving into card and party games. I ended up getting two games from them, a strategy board game called Element and a cards and dice party game called Sushi Roll.

Element is a two player game of capture and resource management that combines elements of Go, Chess, and Rock, Paper, Scissors in which you’re trying to trap your opponent using the elements of fire, wind, earth, and water. The elements work in a recursive heirarchy where fire burns wind, wind blows away the earth, earth rises from the water, and water puts out the fire. I played a demo with the game’s creator Mike Richie…and got my ass handed to me in 3 turns.

Sushi Roll is a game where every player is trying to be the first sushi chef to match the pictures on the cards to those on the dice. Whoever has the most cards at the end of the game is the winner. It really is that simple…just a really entertaining party game.

You can find out more about Mindtwister at their website, Mindtwister USA.

Steve Jackson Games is another really interesting company with some great products including, as mentioned before, their flagship Munchkin series. One of the best and most unique things about Steve Jackson is that he’s designed almost all of his games to be combined with all the other ones to create a huge number of different gameplay experiences. Try mixing Scrabble and Candy Land…that probably wouldn’t be too special. I ended up picking up Zombie Dice, in which you roll randomly selected dice in a quest to collect at least 13 brains while not getting shot and Cthulhu Dice, where each player is a cultist trying to steal sanity from the other players in order to become the cult leader. Both games are simple, fast, and a lot of fun.

Twilight Creations, Inc makes their mark with games involving Zombies, Vampires, and Martians (all, incidentally, names of their games) among a few others. The games are all designed to put the cheesiness and fun back into the undead. Though all of their products looked interesting I picked up a game called All Wound Up that is a racing board game featuring little plastic wind up zombies. Your goal is to be the first out of the graveyard. Granted, the rules are a little complicated but it’s pretty hard not to laugh at zombies that can’t walk in a straight line.

The last game I got came from Myndzei who, sadly, don’t seem to have much of an online presence. It’s called Wench: Top Shelf which is a revamp of their original Wench, a card-based drinking game where every card has a rule or action that can be directed at one or more players. Billed as “The Thinking Drinking Game”, its play shares several ideas with Kings (I know you Mofos know that one…) and the cards, featuring cupcake-style pinup art, are actually a full 54-card poker deck. This is definitely coming out the next time there’s a party.

Something that’s always caught my attention but I never got into because of time and financial limitations is the world of miniatures gaming. The granddaddy of them all is the classic Warhammer 40000 from Games Workshop. These games use armies of small character models (usually hand painted in amazing detail) and rely heavily on strategy to defeat the opposing armies. In some competitions, winners actually keep trophies…pieces of their opponents’ armies. It’s the tabletop gamer equivalent of racing for pink slips.

There are several other games that work using the same general type of play, including WarMachine, Monsterpocalypse (soon to be a 3D movie by Tim Burton, apparently), and an upcoming Voltron game all by Privateer Press as well as Star Wars Miniatures by Wizards Of The Coast (Magic: The Gathering, D&D, and Axis and Allies), a game involving combat between miniature planes called Wings Of War by Fantasy Flight Games.

Most of these types of games involve rolling dice to determine movement and the unit types have different rules that apply to how and in what direction they’re able to move as well as what actions they’re able to perform.

Of course, even though this article has gotten fairly long, this is really only a sample of the variety of what’s available at Gen Con. I’ll have to write a whole new article just to talk about the culture of gaming.