Round Up: Gen Con 2014

And we’re back! By all accounts Gen Con was a solid all-around experience. Demos were played, tournament spoils were won, friends were made, dungeons were conquered, and costumes were on display at just about every turn. There were a few bumps, which we’ll get to in a bit, but by and large it was a wonderful con. In keeping with all the other convention round-ups featured on the blog, I’ll tackle the goings-on at Gen Con by publisher, then give overarching feedback on the con as a whole. So, without further ado…
Fantasy Flight Games (FFG)

Powerhouse publisher Fantasy Flight adopted what I’ll term the PAX East methodology and released a series of major announcements in the days immediately preceding Gen Con. Arguably the most sensational of these press snippets was news that FFG would have a playable demo of XCOM: the Board Game in Indy. Unsurprisingly, the wait times to get in on such a demo stretched over multiple hours, but I was finally able to snag a seat on Sunday. So, does it live up to the hype?

Never in my life has a board game elicited such an intense, visceral reaction just from what are ostensibly its standard mechanics. While the iconography used on the board and the various components are directly ported from XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the actual gameplay and resulting player engagement feels like it was wrought from X-COM: UFO Defense. Players assume one of four available roles to govern a specific aspect of either base management or XCOM relations with external factions. The order and degree to which these roles influence play is guided and dictated by the free downloadable companion app which provides both structure and anxiety. Only the base commander has access to the app and must relay the information it provides to his or her fellow players. This most commonly takes the form of a countdown. It’ll be, “Chief Scientist, you have 15 seconds to act…10…5…0. Squad Leader, you have 60 seconds to assign soldiers to missions and base defense.” 

It will get your heart pounding while simultaneously breaking it in a way that’s all too familiar to players of the source games. XCOM: the Board Game accommodates 1-4 players and is scheduled to be available in the fourth quarter of this year.

- The other merited-hours-of-wait-time-for-the-demo title was Star Wars: Imperial Assault. Think the best parts of Star Wars: Epic Duels made both broader and deeper. 2-5 players find themselves in the midst of a series of skirmishes directly tied to the events immediately following the Battle of Yavin. Each player takes on a specific role either as part of the Rebel Alliance or the Imperial forces threatening to annihilate them. The game can also be played Epic Duels style with two players going head-to-head. The game itself is entirely self-contained, with both the campaign and duel modes included in the base set, and is slated to arrive in your local game store in early 2015.

- The addictive spacefaring adventure Star Wars: X-Wing Minis is getting even more robust with the addition of a new faction: bounty hunters. Five new ships (in addition to the capital-class Slave I) make up the Scum and Villainy set of expansions. The Most Wanted expansion includes three new ships (one is a basic Y-Wing with a custom paint job) while the remaining entrants in the Scum and Villainy lineup are one-off, self-contained sets. All of the ships will be available for purchase in the fourth quarter of this year. As a related aside on capital-class ships, I got a chance to play with a full contingent of them during one of my X-Wing tournaments and can confidently say that they add a whole new dimension to the base game.
- While we're on the subject of capital-class ships, get ready for many more of those as they are the focal point for Star Wars: Armada. It's effectively the next evolutionary step for X-Wing, adding a number of enhancements to a now-familiar set of base mechanics. While the two games are not inherently compatible, it's fairly easy for an X-Wing player to pick up the jist of Armada. Additionally, you can add individual capital-class ships to your X-Wing game using the latter's Epic Rules. This two-player tactical title is scheduled for a release date in early 2015.

- The beta for the third and final installment of FFG’s gargantuan Star Wars RPG system, Force and Destiny, will be open in the very near future. Click here to check out the rulebook for the beta and sign up to submit your feedback. The other two thirds of the system (Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion) will be getting new fully scoped campaign sets.

- Eldrich Horror, Netrunner, Warhammer 40K: Conquest, and Cosmic Encounter will be getting expansion sets between the last quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of 2015. 

- FFG's Warhammer RPG system now has a full FAQ and a compilation of all errata from the first edition of the GM's manual. 

- FFG is beginning its foray into digital gaming with BattleLore: Command. The tactical combat game is designed primarily for mobile use (on both Android and iOS), but can be played on a PC as well. It will be available for download in the fourth quarter of this year.


The maker of Pathfinder seemed keen to participate in what was definitely the overarching trend of the con: melding digital and tabletop gaming. Just hours before doors opened, Paizo announced that it would be partnering with Obsidian Entertainment (the guys behind Fallout: New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity) and that the latter party would be producing several all-electronic versions of Paizo’s titles. First on the docket will be a mobile-based version of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. While there was an early prototype of the game on hand at the extremely crowded Paizo booth, no release date has been assigned to the project.

In what was certainly no surprise to those familiar with Pathfinder, Paizo took home a sizable number of Ennie Awards during the con including Best Interior Art, Best Cover Art, Best Cartography, Best Free Product, Best Minis, Best Monster/Adversary, Best RPG, and Best Supplement.

Wizards of the Coast (WotC)

For Wizards, the con was pretty much all 5th Edition all the time. That’s not to say that the proverbial staples of Neverwinter and Magic: the Gathering were absent, far from it, just that 5th Edition predictably took center stage. Fans of Neverwinter were rewarded with the news of a new expansion, Tyranny of Dragons

In addition to what seemed like dozens of panels expounding upon the new, highly streamlined (to use their words) rule set, WotC displayed examples from their new line of minis and touched upon the Player’s Handbook for 5th Edition, which just came out today. The guys over at i09 have already put together this helpful breakdown of the Handbook.

Additionally, as part of the celebrations surrounding the 40th birthday of Dungeons & Dragons, WotC released details concerning the D&D anniversary tribute audiobook. Said book, The Legend of Drizzt, is a compilation of 12 stories about, you guessed it, the life and times of everyone’s favorite drow. Longtime Forgotten Realms author R.A. Salvatore provides the text while a cadre of celebrities lend their voices to the project. The book is available for free download here on Audible until September 20th.

Mayfair Games

As the leading sponsor of the con, Mayfair was just about everywhere you turned. Its logo was draped over doorways, its sheep loomed large over the demo hall, and its van was a fixture amongst the food trucks parked just outside. While it certainly commanded attention simply by virtue of those things, Mayfair went the extra mile and hosted what was arguably the most talked about event of the convention by taking the once entirely fictional euro-parody Cones of Dunshire from the NBC show Parks and Recreation (which is set in Indiana) and making it real. The event allegedly sold out in mere seconds and garnered over $20,000 USD, which Mayfair then donated to Gleaner’s Food Bank, the official charity partner of Gen Con.

Asmadi Games

Asmadi had a considerable presence at Gen Con derived more than a little bit from their very own room located directly across from the dealer hall. Said room was the site of many a demo, but also an equal number of absurd and hilarious events including We Didn't Playtest This Resistance Movement At All and the Ridiculympics. The Playtest mashup actually came in several different flavors and met with rave reviews. We also got to see the newest incarnation of Consequential, which has been a long time in the making and looks better than ever

Flying Frog Productions

Flying Frog made sure to put one of the most highly anticipated Kickstarters of 2013 front and center in their booth. Shadows of Brimstone seemed to live up to every ounce of the hype surrounding it, successfully combining the feel of Eldrich Horror with a distinctly western air. 

Indie Pubishers

We talked earlier about the meshing of digital and physical components to create new gaming experiences, but World of Yo-Ho by Volumique sought to take that combination in the most literal way possible. In this fantasy turn-based pirate-themed game your phone is both a source of information and your pawn. The fast-paced play can be modified into either a one-shot experience or an ongoing campaign. Keep an eye out for their Kickstarter, which is set to open in October. 

Gen Con 2014 saw the fruition of several Kickstarter projects we've featured on the blog over the past few years. Thrash-Car made its official debut just a few weeks after going through the final stages of production and Call of Catthulhu was one of the more talked about titles out of the indie publishers.
One of the runaway hits of Gen Con was a nondescript little table off to the side of the Mayfair portion of the demo hall. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes was an ingenious use of the geeky love of solving puzzles, teamwork, and an Oculus Rift. One or more team members sat across from their compatriot wearing a set of Oculus goggles. The be-goggled individual then had a number of minutes (usually 5-6) to describe the components of a bomb depicted by the Rift. Those teammates outside the Rift were left to frantically page through a binder of decryptions and walk their colleague through the process of defusing the bomb.

We also did two separate True Dungeon runs (surviving one and literally crashing and burning in the other). While the monsters were no more or less impressive than in previous years, the props and effects used in some of the puzzles were jaw-dropping. One puzzle involved motion projection onto a table filled with kinetic sand while the intricacies of a steampunk 'fueling tower' had us shaking our heads as we guessed how long it must have taken to build.

While the overall experience was wonderful, the huge draw of Gen Con was palpable. The official attendance number was listed at 56,614, which is an increase of 15.4% year-over-year. There was talk that the convention could expand into the adjoining Lucas Oil Stadium to accommodate future conventions, but what will need to take precedence is the provision of more housing. Though it was often extremely crowded, it appeared as though local businesses were prepared for the nerdy onslaught. So there were lines aplenty, but little danger of not finding something great at the other end.

Finally, all the costumes turned out as well as I could have hoped they would. The last few days leading up to the con were far more stressful than they should have been after the artist I'd commissioned my trident from overreached on the scope of our project and almost didn't finish it. After a flurry of very late night emails and a lot of crossed fingers, the trident arrived with only hours to spare. While it turned out beautifully, I can't say that I'd use that artist again.

The costumes themselves were very well received. There was some minor difficulty getting the GIR's wings to behave and stiletto heels are always a challenge to walk in, but the experience was very positive. All three outfits even made it onto io9! For more pictures, check out our social media pages. Until next time Indy!


  1. Really enjoyed meeting you when you stopped by my booth, and thanks for the tip on the low-cut costume tricks!

  2. Aw, thank you! And thank you for stopping by the blog!