Another year, another Gen Con. In 2018, over 60,000 people crammed into the Indianapolis Convention Center to sample a mere taste of everything on offer, from game demos to tournaments, costume contests, giant-sized games, VR experiences, escape rooms, dungeons and dragons and paths and finders and vampires… there’s almost no end.
Tabletop gaming just keeps getting bigger every year, with more games, more publishers (and bigger ones, thanks to mergers!), and more people playing.
Now, Gen Con is definitely a hype factory. It’s difficult to accurately judge the quality of any game when you’re in such a high-energy place, filled with thousands of people all excited to try the latest and hopefully greatest that tabletop designers have to offer. Even if you’re an introvert, the palpable electricity in the air makes it difficult to not enjoy everything you try, and the limited exposure to most of the games out there prevent you from seeing major flaws, games that last too long or are incorrectly balanced, or even properly judging what would be right for your group. I say that simply because it’s easy to get caught up in all of this, to feel like you need to play every game or buy a bunch of new products that everyone seems to think are great. Don’t do that.
Every year, hundreds of games debut at Gen Con of the thousands of games that release that year. A high percentage of games fade into oblivion; we simple can’t keep up with everything. We can’t play everything, and even “really good” games fall by the wayside because we tire them out after too many plays, or the truly “great” games occupy our minds and our game nights.
I noticed a definite trend in the increase of consumable games – legacy, escape room, campaign, or story based games, all designed to be played through and then theoretically be complete, opening the door to future campaign purchases next year without having to displace an unfinished regular.
On the other hand, I know I personally have trouble pulling together long-term campaign games for my gaming group thanks to irregular attendance and the simple desire to play a variety of games. (It doesn’t help that, as a reviewer of games, I have to push a variety of products on my friends on a frequent basis). Pandemic: Legacy was a staple at my table only because I could play 2-player with my wife. Still, a few campaign games from the show excite me, and I may try to pull them off.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that among the thousands of games released each year, only a few will last. Many excitements of the now will fade quickly, and with the number of releases and the increasing backlog of fantastic games to revisit, games have to truly shine to become anything more than bargain bin memories.
Anyway… here’s to the future. The hobby is growing, and even as Asmodee snags many of the biggest studios, dozens of “little guys” are popping up all over. There were no shortage of unique publisher booths, and while many newcomers may not have the development prowess of an aged publisher yet, there’s much hope that games will get better designed, better produced, and better refined over the coming years.
And if not, we always have our old favorites to return to.
So without further ado, allow me to begin presenting the games I experienced at Gen Con 2018.