The Games of Gen Con 2019

The Games of Gen Con 2019

WarChickenIslandThe summer conventions are winding down, as school starts back up. I have previously mentioned games I discovered at Origins Game Fair earlier this summer, and our intrepid leader John O’Neill has hinted at some of his own exploits in the wilds of Gen Con. John and I usually run into each other when we’re both at the same convention, but Gen Con is massive enough that it’s no surprise our ships didn’t cross paths, particularly since I’m usually busy enough moving through the exhibit hall and participating in demo games that I rarely make it these days to many of the Writer’s Symposium activities … held in an entirely different hotel, as Gen Con has spread tendrils, Cthulhu-like, throughout all of downtown Indianapolis.

This year I’d like to begin my discussion of Gen Con gaming discoveries on the weird end of the spectrum, with War for Chicken Island. This successful Kickstarter funded with over $160,000 and is slated for an October 2019 release. They had a prototype at the Draco Studios booth, but weren’t running complete demos, so I can’t speak to the game play. But this is a game where you fight for control of an island of chickens, using miniatures of crazy battle-ready chickens. I don’t need a full demo to know that I’m interested.

The prototype version they had out wasn’t the complete game, and the developers told me that with all of the Kickstarter inclusions the full box will end up being much bigger, but the basic elements were all there, and even the prototype was a decent sized game. Basically you build an island and assemble your chicken armies and do battle. And there are miniatures. Several miniatures … of chickens … with weapons and armor … and battle mechs.

War for Chicken Island is available for pre-order (though when I go to the page, the pre-order link is hidden over the graphic of the box, so I can only find it by scrolling over it).

In the slightly-less weird spectrum of things, there are my old friends at Privateer Press, the creators of the Iron Kingdoms fantasy adventure setting. This world of steampunk magically-driven iron warjacks, which began as a Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 adventure setting and eventually transformed into the setting of the miniature wargame Warmachine and then later Hordes.

The setting of Warmachine and Hordes is undergoing a transformation with the release of Oblivion, the new campaign set for the game, released in mid-September (though they did, of course, have copies available at Gen Con). Oblivion marks the arrival of the Infernals, who are basically ushering in a new apocalyptic age in the Iron Kingdoms. The campaign from Oblivion will change the status quo of the setting, and the Infernals themselves do not neatly match the existing warcaster or warlock structure of the existing Warmachine and Hordes games, though the Infernals army can be used to fight faction armies from either of those existing games. The Infernals are other-worldly demonic beings that have arrived in the Iron Kingdoms to exact payment for ancient pacts, claiming the souls of humanity and anyone else to fulfill their contract. Though Oblivion isn’t out yet, the Infernals are allegedly (per the Privateer Press release schedule) available for order through your local gaming store or the Privateer Press online store.

RiotQuest1The storyline of Oblivion directly leans into the setting of Riot Quest, a game where a small team of adventurers compete for fame and fortune in a post-apocalyptic future. The game comes with a team of 5 unique miniatures, as well as an arena map and the various cards and tokens needed to play the game. The players engage with each other in a combat to move through the arena, trying to open treasure chests and collect bounties for accomplishing specific tasks before other players. The treasures can be used to collect helpful riot gear cards, but the ultimate goal of the game is to obtain 7 victory points through completing the bounties.

Riot Quest has a very different feel from the full wargames, and the characters have different ability cards. More models are being released for the line in waves, and each comes with unique ability cards, so they can be added into the game. A crew in Riot Quest can consist of anywhere from 5 to 10 of these models, although at any given time only 4 models will be in play on the game board. As models are knocked out, you may spawn remaining crew members into the game.

The miniatures for Riot Quest can also be used within Warmachine and Hordes games, as well. This sort of cross-pollination of the games is a brilliant way to convert existing fans into multiple game lines, and is similar to how miniatures from the existing games were utilized in Privateer’s earlier game Company of Iron.

Riot Quest fully releases later in August, though there were copies in stock for sale at Gen Con. You can find out more about the game at the Privateer Press website, including looks at the game models and access to the full rulebook.

Another miniature war game variant available at Gen Con this year is the Clone Wars Core Set for Star Wars: Legion. The original Core Set of the game focused on the classic Galactic Empire versus Rebel Alliance match-up, with Luke and Vader at the forefront, while this new set bring armies built around the Galactic Republic and Separatist Alliance factions, led by the young Obi-Wan Kenobi and General Grievous. Though I took this picture below with an emphasis on capturing the fantastic terrain of their demo table, you can see the Droidekas and Battle Droids moving against the clone troopers.


This new Core Set is fully compatible with the existing game, meaning that battles can have any two armies in combat against each other. Thematically, of course, it’s a little unusual to have the clone troopers fighting against the stormtroopers, but the theme often has to fall to the wayside in games like this when you have to justify armies attacking each other. (This isn’t a problem in the Iron Kingdoms of Warmachine, of course, because all of the factions are constantly in conflict with each other.)

The Clone Wars Core Set doesn’t become available until November. You can find out more about the product at the Fantasy Flight Games website.

Fantasy Flight Games also had the board game Star Wars: Outer Rim on demo at Gen Con, where you play smugglers, bounty hunters, and other scoundrels, trying to gain fame for their exploits and adventures in the outer rim. While gaining and losing favor with the Empire, Rebellion, Hutts, and the Syndicate, players advance by completing jobs, while avoiding the factional patrols that are on the hunt for them.

Players begin the game by selecting a scoundrel character from the series, like Lando Calrissian, Boba Fett, Han Solo, or a variety of more marginal characters, along with a default ship. As you move through the game, you gain wealth, giving you the option to upgrade to a unique ship – including the classic Millennium Falcon or Slave 1 – as well as getting crew members, gear, and starship mods that will help you complete the missions necessary to advance through the game. There is a lot of strategy involved in the choice of missions, hires, and purchases. The decks of cards are designed to create a nice randomization mechanic as you move through the game, so that even completing similar missions can have different outcomes.

StarWarsOuterRim1Though one of my favorite board games is Fantasy Flight’s fantastic and epic Star Wars: Rebellion, this new game has an entirely different feel to it. Instead of an epic, cinematic war between an overwhelming empire and a scrappy rebellion, this is about working jobs transporting goods or prisoners, or maybe eliminating them if you can’t capture them, all so that you can get a few credits on your credstick and keep a bit ahead of your enemies. The best game I can compare it to is Gale Force Nine’s Firefly: The Game, which is a ringing endorsement considering how much I enjoy that game.

Star Wars: Outer Rim does appear to be available through (at a bit of a discount, no less), though I don’t know if your local game store can track it down. At the time of this writing, it looks like it’s out of stock at the Fantasy Flight Games website.

Another flash from the past is the newest standalone version of the DC Deck-Building Game from Cryptozoic Entertainment, DC Deck-Building Game: Rebirth. This card game where you acquire cards representing equipment, allies, powers, locations, and even villains is built around the characters and setting of DC Comics. The original DC deck-building game was structured where the superheroes were pitted against each other, though subsequent expansions have introduced a co-operative variant of the game.  Rebirth has cooperative campaign play, but can also be played in a competitive version for those who prefer to battle out among the superheroes. One of the big changes in this newest iteration is that the game area is configured around moving through a series of locations, introducing new mechanics involving restricting villain movement and being able to assist heroes at other locations.

The general mechanics structure of the DC Deck-Building Game, called the “Cerberus engine,” is also used in the Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Annihilageddon Deck-Building Game. This one isn’t cooperative, but as the name implies is a battle between wizards. Selecting a Wizard, an Ability tile, and a Familiar means that there are a variety of unique wizards that you can play in the game as players fight against each other. Death isn’t final, though, as you can come back to life with penalties, and the presence of Mayhem cards throws drastic chaotic elements into the game play.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg on the games from this year’s Gen Con … since I haven’t even touched on the biggest release of the convention: Paizo’s Pathfinder Second Edition. More on that coming in my next installment …

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John ONeill

Great wrap up Andrew! I should have realized you’d be somewhere on the massive Exhibit Hall floor. Next time, let’s meet for lunch so we can compare notes!

You’re obviously more organized than I. I’m still sifting through the 200+ pics I took to find the best ones that showcase the new games I found most interesting. It’s a project that could takes weeks to do it justice.

Star Wars: Outer Rim looked terrific. I totally missed War for Chicken Island, but count me as an interested party! The game I really wanted to buy but which wasn’t available yet was likewise animal-focused: the Aftermath Adventure Book Game from Plaid Hat Games, which features heroic rodents trying to survive in a dangerous post-apocalyptic landscape. It’s available this fall.

Aftermath Board Game-small

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