Gen Con, the biggest board game convention in the U.S., was back in full force this year, with over 50,000 unique attendees and more than 500 new games on display. It felt like the first real Gen Con since 2019, and my dance card was full, as I visited or met with almost 40 publishers. Earlier this week I wrote about the best board games I saw at Gen Con this year. I played and learned about a lot of other games that weekend, so here’s a list of what I saw at each publisher’s booth. Here’s a rundown of everything I saw, played, demoed, or even glanced at longingly while racing by to my next meeting at Gen Con 2022.
Pegasus Spiele had Framework, a new tile-laying game from Uwe Rosenberg (Patchwork) where players place tiles on their tableaux to complete tasks, and the first player to get 21 tasks done is the winner; Fyfe, a surprisingly challenging game where you draw tokens from a bag and place them on your 5×5 grid to try to fulfill as many distinct patterns as you can, such as five different colors, tokens numbered 1 through 5 in a row, or a full house of three tokens of one image and two of another; and Carnegie, a crunchy worker-placement and economic game inspired by the life of robber baron and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. (And it’s car-NEH-gee, not CAR-neh-gee, as my fellow Tartans will tell you.)
Dire Wolf had Clank! Catacombs, a standalone entry in the super-successful Clank! series that introduces a modular board that you build as you explore the dungeon, and also brings in several features from their very popular legacy game (which I own and still want very much to play). They also just released a mobile app and Steam version of Everdell, still a top 20 all-time game for me.
Foxmind capitalized on the success of their GoPop! bubble-popping fidgets with a game built around them called Presto, where every player has a 4×4 GoPop grid and races to match the description on the flipped card—a pattern, or a requirement that you only use your ring finger to pop all 16, or more. I don’t generally like dexterity games, but this is pretty satisfying (also, I won the demo, let’s not pretend that doesn’t bias me just a little bit). They also had Racing Hedgehogs, a retheme and update of a 1998 Reiner Knizia kids’ game called Bucket Brigade. Now you’re moving four hedgehogs along a track by playing cards of their colors, but you only score at game-end based on which colors are still in your hand. It’s for ages 5 and up. And their Sport Dice series has expanded to include soccer as well.
Genius Games had Cellulose, a sequel to their game Cytosis. Players are once again inside a cell, placing workers and competing for the same actions so they can engage in photosynthesis, build carbohydrates, and create the titular cellulose that constitutes a cell’s wall. Power Failure was a personal favorite of mine from the con; I think of it as Power Grid the Card Game, in the sense that it takes the essence of Power Grid and strips out a lot of the complexity for a faster game that is actually more fun if less crunchy. (The games and designers are not connected in any way.) Power Failure asks players to build power plants of four types—coal, natural gas, nuclear, and renewable—and then fire them in groups to fulfill power contracts from cities. The catch is that you have to place a carbon token on the common tower for every plant you build, and to fire coal or gas plants, you have to add 3 or 2 more tokens per plant. If the tower falls, your turn ends immediately and you get nothing. They’ll have a new Ecosystem game, this one set on a coral reef, out in Q4, and their First in Flight Kickstarter was successful and will hit retail next spring.
Perplext had Long Shot: The Dice Game, a much shorter version of the 2009 game Long Shot, still a horse-racing game with economic elements but now as a roll-and-write of sorts. Players bet on eight horses moving around a small track, and can use various bonus actions to move horses further than the dice say, or even move them backwards, and can even buy horses if they have the cash. On each turn, the active player rolls two dice, one to move the horse, and one to say if it moves one to three spaces, but every horse’s card shows which other horses also move one when that horse’s number is rolled—and you can check off more horses on that card with extra actions. Your player sheet has a 4×4 grid that gives you bonuses when you complete a row or column, which seems to be at least a core part of a winning strategy. The first two horses cleared the finish line quickly, but it took just as much time to push that third horse over, making for a long end phase.
Heidelbaer had the sequel to their bluffing and lying game Spicy, this one called Sweet and Spicy, which has the full Spicy game but has additional cards that allow you to make the game a little less fibby and perhaps better for kids. They also have another bluffing game coming called Coyote where you see everyone else’s card but your own and have to bet on what your card is while bluffing other players so they guess incorrectly on their own cards; and Hungry Monkey, an UNO-like game where you also can’t see the cards in front of you and have to use special powers on cards you draw to peek at them and avoid taking the central pot.
Adam’s Apple had two new games, one of which sold out within a few hours on day one: Planet Unknown. It’s a polyomino game where players try to fill in their own boards and cover spaces, then move them up various tracks that, in turn, grant new bonus actions. It plays up to six players, and play time doesn’t vary that much by player because players are always taking simultaneous actions. They also had 4 Humours, a bidding game with four different token types—phlegmatic, choleric, melancholic, and sanguine—each of which works differently in the bidding, which results in a lot of trying to intuit what your opponents might bid so you could underbid them and still walk away with the card. There’s also some area control on a medieval map and objective cards tied to where you place your tokens on the board.
Lucky Duck was new to Gen Con, I believe, and a welcome addition given their history of very high-quality games. They had the two-player version of It’s a Wonderful World, called It’s a Wonderful Kingdom, which has a ton of player interaction—think of it as the Duel version—and a “split and trap” card drafting scheme I’ve only seen before in maybe two or three other games. The Chronicles of Time expansion to the Chronicles of Crime game is now available to buy on the Lucky Duck site after previously only appearing in their big box Kickstarter, but it does require all three expansions to the original Chronicles of Crime. There’s also a kids version of the game called Kids Chronicles: Quest for the Moonstones, for ages 7 and up. It’s still app based but less murdery. The game comes with four scenarios to play and has been out since December. Destinies is an app-driven competitive RPG-in-a-box that plays one to three players, with another Kickstarter scheduled for its expansion.
Asmodee was back this year with a giant floor presence, including a few games I mentioned above. I didn’t play Twilight Inscription, the new roll-and-write version of the mammoth Twilight Imperium, because I couldn’t get near that table, but it’s the most ornate roll and write I’ve ever seen. Each player has four player boards, and on a turn, you flip a card, roll the indicated dice, and gain actions and/or victory points. It plays up to 8 players, with a solo mode, and should be out by the end of Q3. San Francisco is a brand-new Reiner Knizia city-builder, with tile-laying and card-drafting elements, as you try to build skyscrapers and other buildings in the city of the game’s title. Endless Winter: Paleoamericans is a medium-heavy worker placement Euro with some deck building elements, set around 10,000 BCE in North America. Players are trying to establish their tribes in an unforgiving environment, sending meeples to action spaces and playing cards to gain more meeples or saving them for end-of-round bonuses. It has a zillion pieces, but takes just four rounds and promises playing time under two hours. (Skeptical face.) Asmodee is distributing SPECTRE, a game where each player is a major villain from a James Bond movie, the best of which was the Daniel Craig Casino Royale in case you were wondering, and where a token representing 007 is also moving around the board and foiling your plans. It’s a light game for two to four players, published by a small British imprint called Modiphius. Zombicide Gear Up is set in the Zombicide universe and is a short flip-and-write where players work together to use their polyomino weapons to completely cover the large patterns on enemy cards without going over the boundaries. It’ll be out later this year. The Days of Wonder studio had Heat: Pedal to the Metal, a car-racing game where you have to monitor your engine’s temperature to make sure you don’t overheat; and Ticket to Ride: San Francisco, the fourth small-box, shorter game in the city series, this time using cable cars. Asmodee also had a new expansion for Meadow, called Downstream, that adds a whole river board to the original game, which came out last year and is sort of a heavier game you can still play with the family.
WizKids has mostly made its name with D&D-related products but is moving much more into tabletop now, including spinoffs of its hit card game Fantasy Realms, with a Marvel Remix version coming first. They also had Dice Conquest, a small-box game for around $20 that comes with a full set of polyhedral dice, a solo or co-op mode where you roll those dice and use them to help your heroes defeat monsters—a very simplified version of D&D with just the combat, and an easier version of combat at that. I thought that was a clever idea for folks who are D&D-curious but not ready to fight the demogorgon. Yosemite is an upcoming game where two players move their meeples around a 5×5 grid, themed around that national park, to try to take the best ‘photos’ of the park. How you move depends on the animal on the tile you’re currently on, however. WizKids also has a pair of Marvel-themed games coming, including one called Damage Control where you’re not a hero but a regular citizen who has to come clean up the mess after a superhero has saved the day, and the rubble is represented by cards thrown on the board 52-pickup style; as well as Age of Heroes, an X-Men-themed worker placement game. Finally, Featherlight is a … uh … feather-light game due out in Q4, with set collection and hand management elements. There were a lot of bird-themed games at Gen Con this year. I wonder why that is.
Ravensburger had Star Wars Villainous, which I assume will be the first of several in this line, featuring Kylo Ren, Moff Gideon, General Grievous, Asajj Ventress, and Darth (not Jeff) Vader. It’s the same villainous game but with a few nods to the Star Wars universe, including Vehicle cards in player and Fate decks that also become new locations on player boards. The Marvel Villainous line will also get a Venom one-off expansion in October. The Great British Baking Show game has artwork from the same artist who does those amazing drawings on the show, and asks players to flip cards simultaneously from their decks to try to build cakes or other pastries to match the pattern on the common card. You do indeed lose points for a soggy bottom, and if you come close enough to the pattern, you may get a Hollywood Handshake. It looks like silly fun, but is probably one just for fans of the show. Dungeons, Dice, and Danger is a roll-and-write from Richard Garfield (Magic: the Gathering) where you’ll move around your scoresheet to explore the dungeon and fight monsters through four different levels. eXplorers (sic), from Phil Walker-Harding (Gizmos, Imhotep), is a flip-and-write where you’re exploring the territory on your personal board, and every time the active player flips a card, they choose one of the two terrains shown, and other players must choose whether to use the same terrain for a small penalty or use the other one for the full benefit. It’s out at retail already. Alea, the Ravensburger imprint behind The Castles of Burgundy and the new Puerto Rico retheme, announced an October game called Council of Shadows, where players will compete to build their civilization quickly enough to earn a seat on the intergalactic council of the game’s title. It’s from the two designers behind Race to the New Found Land.
North Star has tightened its focus to just midweight strategy games, jettisoning their party games line. Paint the Roses is out now; it’s a cooperative game set in the Alice in Wonderland universe, as the players compete to finish a shared garden while they’re being chased around the board by the Red Queen. They’ll have a new expansion for Oceans called Legends of the Deep coming to Kickstarter in October. The expansion doesn’t add complexity to the rules, but adds a bunch of powerful or just strange cards to the Oceans’ Deep deck showing various marine monsters and other legendary creatures from mythology and fantasy traditions around the world. The art is fantastic, too.
Devir was one of the busier booths I saw for sales, with their Red Cathedral: Contractors expansion selling out by Saturday. Red Cathedral is a stunning medium-heavy game in a small box, and Contractors kicks the weight up by adding a whole extra layer of meeples as well as expanding the main board and adding a contractor track to each player board. The expansion has a ton of additional pieces, including diamonds (a new wild resource), a black die you can add to the rondel, and new guilds you can add to the base game. They’ve also got a medium-heavy title based on the unfinished works of Mozart called Lacrimosa that is due out in October.
Stronghold will be bringing Terraforming Mars: The Dice Game to Kickstarter soon, taking the original’s theme to a much lighter game than the original or even last year’s card game version.
Horrible Guild had Evergreen, another plant-themed game (big themes this year: birds, plants, and roll-and-writes) where each player has their own planet with six different biomes, and will draft cards, plant seeds, and hope to grow them into full-sized trees to maximize their points. It has a sun going around the board, if you were getting a Photosynthesis vibe. It was a Gen Con release
Pops & Bejou had two games out, including the snarky little game CULTivate, where you are, indeed, trying to grow your own cult. (Branding irons not included.) It’s a pattern-matching game on a 4×4 grid with different cult member types, but investigators can show up too, and you might have to bribe them to get rid of them or otherwise try to send them to an opponent’s cult instead. Channel WON just finished a successful Kickstarter run last month; you’re competing to craft the best stories for the nightly news, and can even jump in on someone else’s story before they close it, and if your ratings aren’t good enough, everyone loses.
Funko’s line of IP-based games is endless, but here are the major tabletop titles to know. Jurassic World: The Legacy of Isla Nublar is a 12-session legacy game for two to four players in a big, heavy box, where you are building out the island and also breeding new dinosaurs—some of which may not be what you were planning to create. It’s out now, as is Rear Window, based on the classic Hitchcock movie, where one player knows the solution (the Director) and the others try to figure out whether there was actually a murder and what the details were. There are up to eight questions for players to answer in each scenario, and. The Warriors: Come Out and Play game and the Ted Lasso party game are both out now as well. Disney Kingdomania is a collectible and expandable game for kids ages six and up, with a theme derived from the Wreck-It Ralph films but featuring some of the most popular Disney characters.
Czech Games has brought out Galaxy Trucker: Keep on Truckin’, an expansion to their 2021 reissue of Galaxy Trucker, updating some previous expansions (like the Rough Road Ahead one) while introducing some new elements as well. They also had demo versions of Deal with the Devil, a table-hogging four-player game from the designer of Alchemists that has hidden roles and a lot of trading as players try to build the best kingdom—sometimes selling pieces of their souls to get there; and Starship Captains, a midweight Euro inspired by classic American sci-fi TV programs, with a big engine-building element and some worker placement.
Pandasaurus’s big attraction was The Fox Experiment, the upcoming game from Wingspan designer Elizabeth Hargrave, based on the actual experiment that began in Novosibirsk, Russia, in 1959 to domesticate silver foxes. It’s a medium-heavy dice-rolling game with some roll-and-write elements, although there’s quite a bit more to it. It’s heading to Kickstarter on September 6, and I think it’s going to fully fund. Just a hunch. They also had Sobek, a two-player game that’s been on BoardGameArena for a few months. It’s a quirky set-collection game with restricted movement around its board, where the tile you take affects what tiles your opponent can take, and deviating too far from the last tile gives you a penalty called ‘corruption.’
Bombyx’s Garden Nation is an area control game with public and private objectives where you place towers on one of the board’s 49 spaces, divided into seven regions and where you place your tower determines the region where the next player must go. It reminded me a bit of Iwari, if you’re familiar with that game, but without combat (although you can replace an opponent’s tower with your own with a special action). High on my “wanted to play but didn’t get to” was their two-player game Nicodemus.
25th Century Games, publishers of the great new roll-and-write game Three Sisters, had several new titles that sold out pretty quickly. Gartenbau is a gardening-themed game where players try to grow four mature flowers to become the “gartenmeister” (garden master, although you probably figured that out), a tile-laying game where you need to have the right seeds on your tiles first before you can lay a flower tile on top of them. You score prestige points for your flowers with additional bonuses available. Longboard is an upcoming Reiner Knizia game, a very light card-drafting game where players try to complete card panoramas representing surfboards, scoring points for stickers on those boards but losing points for unfinished boards at game end. Blazon is a heraldry-themed game with a heavy hand management component, as players draw and play cards to place elements on their heraldry boards as they try to gain prestige points.
Buffalo Games bought Gamewright a few months back, which meant that Buffalo, which has more history as a puzzle publisher, made its Gen Con debut this year. Planted is another plant-themed game, and in fact both Planted and Verdant had fiddle leaf fig cards on the table when I visited each booth. (My wife really wants a fiddle leaf fig plant, so this was a sign from the universe that I need to buy her one. And get both games.) Planted is the second title from designer Phil Walker-Harding for Buffalo Games, following last year’s deckbuilding-for-beginners game Summer Camp. This one is a light resource-collection game, where you are collecting houseplants and trying to get the right combinations of sunlight, water, and fertilizer to keep them healthy. It sold out on day one at Gen Con, and is a Target exclusive for right now.
Kosmos has introduced a new narrative game series called Cartaventura that plays out like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, with each game presenting eight possible endings to players, so they have some replay value as well. There are two versions right now, Vinland and Lhasa, both of which have stories with some historical basis. They’ve also got a pair of Exit: The Game advent calendar games coming, one more Christmas-y and one just winter themed. Karnak is a dice-rolling, tile-based dungeon crawl game for younger players (7+) that’s due out in October.
Thunderworks, publishers of the Roll Player series and Cape May, had Tenpenny Parks, a medium-light economic game where you’re building your own theme park, trying to raise income while also moving up the thrill, awe, and joy tracks. You build attractions and other buildings on your grid, using polyomino pieces to cover it, but they can only touch at corners, so you have to be efficient in your placement. It’s a short game with just five rounds and 15 total actions per player.
Big Potato Games has a USPS-licensed title called USPS: The Great American Mail Race, a lightweight pickup-and-delivery game with some hand management as you use different transport cards to deliver mail to real U.S. towns with weird or funny names. I believe the part where Louis DeJoy removes the sorting machines from USPS facilities will be in a future expansion.
Hachette had a slew of games out now and a bunch more coming soon. Idavoll, the second expansion to Nidavellir, will be out later this year for just $20. It adds more cards into the base deck, putting more powerful cards like gods and animals into one of the taverns from which you select your cards in each round. Oh Really? is a party game for three to eight people where you’re betting on how well each of you knows the target player in each round by ranking how much they like (or dislike) five things on cards randomly drawn from the deck. Olé Guacamole is a hard word-association party game where you have to say a word connected to the word the last player said, but can’t use any of the letters on cards turned over so far in that round. Linkto is a new series of trivia games where you have 50 prompts and have to place the answers to 49 trivia questions on them. Galileo Project is an upcoming title that’s set in the same universe as 2018’s Ganymede, but with different mechanics. Players draft cards representing characters and robots, building engines to help their corporations settle the four Galilean moons of Jupiter. It’ll be out in late October, and looks a grade heavier than its predecessor.
In addition to Wormholes, Alderac announced Ready Set Bet, an upcoming betting game that plays up to nine players. There are horses, represented by the numbers two through 12, and they move based on rolls of a pair of regular dice, but with some tweaks to try to equalize the odds—if you roll certain numbers twice in a row, they move extra spaces, more spaces if the sum is farther from seven. Players can bet on horses to win, show, or place, although there are some penalties for some bets if they don’t pay out, and there are some long shot bets at the top of the board. After the first round, players get cards that might give them more money or other advantages for future betting. It’ll hit retail at the end of September. That Old Wallpaper is a pattern-building game where you’re trying to remember the wallpaper patterns of a house from your childhood. They also announced three things heading to Kickstarter soon, a Dead Reckoning expansion called Letters of Marque hitting the site later this month, a tile-laying city builder called Shake That City for Q4, and a game called Let’s Go to Japan, designed by a guy who saved for three years for a trip to Japan only to have the pandemic hit when he was ready to go, hitting early next year. And finally, Waffle Time is a light game where you’re trying to top each square of your waffle with fruit or sweets, and now I want waffles. It’s due out next year.
Besides The Spill, Smirk and Dagger had a prototype of boop., a cute two-player game of cats on a quilt—the board is an actual miniature quilt with a 6×6 grid—where each player is trying to make a pattern of three adult cats in a row. Your cats start as kittens, and when you move a kitten or a cat, it causes the kittens in neighboring spaces to jump away, which can break up your opponent’s pattern or one of your own. Tesseract is heading to Kickstarter in October; it’s a cooperative game where a giant 4-D cube (represented here by a 4×4x4 cube of dice, since four-dimensional dice take too long to manufacture) has invaded our universe and is shedding pieces of itself on its way to collapsing the entire universe into a singularity. Players must work together to try to use the dice it has lost to fill out a 4×6 grid that requires dice with values one through six in each of the four colors, doing so by collecting sets or runs of three on their personal boards. Each player has a specific role with special powers, so there’s definitely some Pandemic framework here, although the dice-rolling aspect is novel. And they’ll have RPG Party, a party game with an RPG theme, out at some point next year; you have to tell a story to try to get your party mates to guess what number you rolled on your 20-sided die, with 20 being a critical hit and 1 being a complete failure.
Plan B still had its own booth, although they’re now part of Asmodee, and had the newest Great Western Trail game, Argentina, which has some significant differences from the original. Cow cards now have “strength” ratings, which you use to hire farmhands, who are on the board in place of hazards and bandits. You can also use engineers to open up early delivery routes on the board, useful later in the game when you might have a valuable hand of cow cards and just want to rush to deliver them. And you’re delivering to ships now, rather than cities, which puts your tokens on three European city boards, allowing you also to sell some of your wheat for more cash. Yak is a family game where you’re loading stone and food onto your yak-drawn carriage, paying for the food when you’re able so you can take the stone off to build your tower. I’m surprised PETA hasn’t protested this one yet. They were supposed to have Maui out to demo, but it wasn’t on a table when I visited the booth.
Keymaster had the second expansion for their hit game PARKS, Wildlife, which has already started going out to pre-orders and will be widely available later this month. They also had Caper: Europe, which is not about the brined berries of a Mediterranean bush but is in fact the two-player version of/sequel to 2018’s Caper. This is a card-drafting game with some Battle Line-like area-control aspects, following its predecessor’s theme of spies and intrigue, now in multiple European cities, each of which offers its own tweak to the game.
BoardGameTables, which publishes several clever tiny-box games as well as the tables in the company’s name, had one new one I tried: Psychic Pizza Deliverers Go To the Ghost Town. One player knows the layout of the Ghost Town, which is a 7×7 grid that has ghosts, pizzas, houses, fences, and portals; all other players are just trying to pick up and deliver one pizza, brochacho. You tell the player who has the map which direction you want to move, and they tell you if you have a fence adjacent to you, or if there are ghosts, pizzas, or houses nearby. If you step into a portal, you could end up anywhere else on the map and have to almost totally start over until you reorient yourself. You get to draw on a dry erase board to try to figure it out. The first player to make a successful delivery wins.
Keith Law is the author of The Inside Game and Smart Baseball and a senior baseball writer for The Athletic. You can find his personal blog the dish, covering games, literature, and more, at meadowparty.com/blog.