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Gen Con Journal Pt. 2 – The Games

If you’re unfamiliar with what Gen Con is, check out out Part 1 of our Gen Con Journal. In Part 1 I talked about what the actual experience of Gen Con was like. In part two, I’ll be talking about some of the games that I saw and played at the convention.

Now that you’re caught up with what the Gen Con experience is like, let’s dive in and talk about some of the games that were at the show! One thing you may have noticed in the previous article is that the majority of the games that I played this year were older games that have already been released. Initially, I intended to show up and play all of the hotness so I could give my thoughts about them. What I so ignorantly did not consider was that everyone else would also have the same idea. I realized that if I focused purely on playing these games I would have less opportunity to see the rest of the con. My philosophy quickly changed from “Play all the hotness!” to “Check out the hotness, but also see as much of the convention as humanly possible.”

So, let’s jump in and take a look back at my Top 6 Games I’m Looking Forward to from Gen Con, talk about some of the hotness from the show, and see what my “Best of Show” picks are!

Top 6 Follow-Up

I’ll be honest, I completely forgot about the fact that I had set these games aside specifically for this article. Don’t get me wrong, I still set out to look at them all, but not from a journalistic standpoint of providing a follow up to my top 6. The sad truth is that I only actually got to try out two of them… Still, I did take a look at each of them! Here are my thoughts:

Ice Cool

I was really excited by this one and almost preordered it ahead of time. I’m not sure if I got caught up in all of the other great games I saw or what, but my excitement really died out when I got to the show. Brain Games had a fairly small booth in a crowded area of the exhibit hall and it was always too busy to get up close. After hearing some mixed reactions, I decided to not go out of my way to try it. I sort of regret that now that I’m seeing so many people talking about it again, but oh well.



This was one of the hottest games of Gen Con this year by far. All of the copies sold out to the VIG ticket holders before the general admission doors opened, so there wasn’t any hope of grabbing one. I really wasn’t planning on purchasing the game anyway since the preorder over at Plaid Hat Games comes with a free set of metal coins (which are normally $40) and ships only a month or so later. Still, I will be playing this game soon, so I was still excited to see it. Both of the demo booths were constantly busy (and often with a group waiting to play already) and with the 45 minute demo time, I never got a chance to give it a shot. The game still looks amazing, so we’ll see what all the hype is about in a month!


Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails

This one didn’t sell out immediately, but it did sell out. On day one it seemed like they had plenty of copies, but by the time I made it to the booth on day two they were all sold out. In fact, I believe I just barely missed the cut off… The game still looks great and I plan on buying it sooner or later.


World Championship Russian Roulette

Finally! A game that I actually got to play! We played through a demo round of WCRR and I really enjoyed it. I backed it on Kickstarter, but hadn’t kept up with the game too much in terms of how it all works. I knew that the guys over at Tuesday Knight Games always put out quality content, so I planned on being surprised with a great game when it came in. The few quick rounds we played really gave me a good feel for the game. I anticipate playing this one quite a bit when I get it in early next year.


Codenames Pictures

This was another game that was super popular at the convention. I really planned to head over to the Czech Games Edition room to check this one out, but just never found the time. Since it was in a different part of the convention center from the exhibit hall, it slipped my mind to stop in and give it a try. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it, so I’m sure I will enjoy it once I get a chance to try it out in the near future.


Junk Art

This is one of the few new games that I actually got to try out in the exhibit hall. Pretzel Games had an awesome booth with oversized versions of both Junk Art and the new Flick’em Up expansions. Seriously, these oversized versions are amazing. I can only imagine how much they would cost to buy if Pretzel Games decided to sell them, but I would probably buy them anyway. Once I played a round, I went over and purchased my own copy pretty quickly. Though it won’t be as exciting as the big version, I’m still really excited to get this one to the table. The game is a lot of fun and it’s totally worth trying!


The Hotness

There were a ton of games that were popular this year at Gen Con 2016, but these are some of the biggest ones that you could hear rumblings about all around the convention. Specifically, here are 8 of the top 16 on the Board Game Geek Geek Buzz ranker that I personally heard the most buzz about.



Cry Havoc

Wow, this game was HUGE this year! Though there were plenty of other games being talked about, this seemed to be the biggest game to surprise everyone. It is an asymmetric area control game where up to 5 players duke it out ,with factions that play extremely different to each other, in order to control the island and it’s crystals. I wasn’t excited about this game at all at first since I generally do not like “ameritrash area control” style games. Still, when I heard that the game was designed with each kind of gamer in mind and that one of the factions at a euro playstyle to it, I was down to give it a try! Unfortunately it sold out… Hopefully I’ll get to play it soon!


I had mixed thoughts about this one as well, but the more I saw it, the more I realized how cool it looked. Similar to Cry Havoc, Scythe looks like an “ameritrash area control” game. It has nice mech miniatures and a slew of other minis that really make it look like that style of game. As it turns out, Scythe actually leans more towards a Euro style game where everyone is competing over resources to fuel their faction! Now that does sound like my kind of game! Luckily, I won a copy at The Secret Cabal party! I am extremely excited to get this one to the table.


We walked by the Lotus booth the first day and contemplated waiting for the current demo to finish so we could give it a try. If I remember correctly, we were pretty hungry and on our way out to eat at the time. Given the situation, we decided to pass and come back. We were warned that they thought that they’d sell out pretty quickly, but I didn’t want to buy the game without trying it out first. Of course, the game sold out before we could make it back that day… We made this mistake a couple different times during the convention… Still, this is a beautiful game that I’m excited to try once it is back in stock!


Like I mentioned before, this was one of the hottest games on the floor. The irony was that pretty much no one on the floor had it. Though it was technically released at Gen Con, there was only a very small supply. Most people who had planned on getting it had already preordered it. Still, it was the talk of the con!

Mystic Vale

I really enjoyed this game. We only got to play a little demo of it, but it was very unique. The idea that it is similar to a deck builder, but you upgrade your cards individually instead of adding new cards to your deck is really innovative. I’ve still heard some mixed reactions about it’s depth and replayability, but at the very least it is a really cool concept.

Mansions of Madness

This was a bit of a surprise for most people. I believe it was announced the week before the con, so it wasn’t really on anyone’s radar. I’ve never actually played the original game, so I’m still not very familiar. Still, it seems to have been a very popular game and I’m sure that will translate into it’s full release later this year. At the very least, the use of an app instead of a dedicated moderator will make the game much more approachable for a larger audience.

Captain Sonar

Oh man, this game looks so fun! Imagine a 4v4 realtime game of battleship where each player has a different role in the submarine’s management. Everytime I saw someone playing Captain Sonar, everyone seemed to be having a blast. I worry that a game like this will be hard to hit the table since you really need 8 people to get the whole effect, but it would make a fantastic game for those situations where you would normally have too many people. Definitely check this one out if you get a chance!

Codenames Pictures

It’s Codenames… with pictures! We all knew this was going to be successful. Though I didn’t actually get to play it, I can tell that it will be just as good, if not better, than its predecessor. I’ll certainly be playing it in the near future as I’m sure plenty of copies will be readily available and floating around my various playgroups.

Best of Show

I’m going to break this down into two categories: “Best Game That I Played at Gen Con” and “Best Game That I Saw at Gen Con”. Only about 60% of what I played would be considered “new” (though they were mostly all new to me), but all of them are eligible! Without further ado…


The Best Game I Played at Gen Con

Winner: Go Cuckoo


Sure, best is completely subjective, but I’m giving this to the game that I played the most: Go Cuckoo. Not only was it a ton of fun, but everyone wanted to play it over and over again! Any “kids game” that still leads to a group of adults having a blast is a good game in my books. This game was sort of a sleeper hit of the con. Honestly, I’m not sure if anyone even knew it existed before Shut Up & Sit Down mentioned it in their live podcast. Haba is currently out of stock and is waiting for the rest of the games to make it to port, but as soon as you see this game, go grab it! Also, keep an eye out on this site for more information about it soon.

Runner-Up: Potion Explosion


I was only able to play a demo of this, but man it was cool! I’m a sucker for bejeweled style puzzle games and so the idea that they could be translated into a board game fascinated me. I brought a copy home, so we will see if it stands up to the fun of the demo. I do have high hopes for it.

The Best Game I Saw at Gen Con

Winner: Cry Havoc


Wow. I did such a 360 on this game! To be clear, this does not necessarily think that I personally think it will be my favorite game (or even that I know I’ll like it), but it gains a lot of merit based on all of the great things I’ve heard. I honestly do not think I’ve heard a single bad thing about Cry Havoc. I’m sure it has it’s downsides, but I’ve yet to hear much about them. I’m really excited to try this game out whether it is my normal style or not. I’m really hoping that it hasn’t been overhyped for me though!

Runner-Up: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle


I really wanted to demo this game, but the demo schedule filled up at 10am every morning! This was definitely one of the bigger surprises for me for the con. I knew that the game would be around, but I had no idea how much buzz it would create. From what I understand, the game plays similar to other cooperative deck builders, but with a big twist. The big thing that I had no idea about was that the game has sort of a campaign where you play through all seven books. Each book unlocks new content and even new gameplay mechanics (think dice and things). It was often compared to a legacy game, but everything is fully reversible. I am super intrigued by this one and I’m looking forward to trying it out.

That’s it! Those were just a few of the great games that were at Gen Con this year! I know that we will be talking more in depth about some of these games and more in the coming weeks, but in the meantime you can head over to the Board Game Geek GeekBuzz page to see some of the other big hits from the show!

What were some of your favorite games to come out of Gen Con 2016? Let us know in the comments below!

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About the author

Elijah Longwell

Recruiter by day, board game enthusiast by night. Despite controversy, i’m a firm believer that collecting can be just as fun as playing games. My favorite aspect of the board gaming hobby is its ability to bring people together in a meaningful way.

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