Top 3 GenCon Demos & Games I Bought

I have a tendency to hype up something I’m excited for but have never done; GenCon was no exception.  Walking into the Exhibit Hall was like walking into a small city full of your favorite people, toys, stores, gadgets, d20’s, etc.  Needless to say, I felt like a little kid at the grand opening of a brand new toy store.


Super-sized King of Tokyo!  I’d buy a copy if shipping weren’t so expensive.

As an amateur game designer, the sheer volume of games, people, and events is too much to take in all at once.  So as long as the Exhibit Hall was open, when I wasn’t volunteering with Z-Man Games (which was a blast and totally worth it), I was walking through with eyes wide and demoing game after game.  All said, I played almost 20 different games while at GenCon.  While most of them were demos, a handful of them I played many many times.

Jesse and Heisenberg passing out blue rock.

After my experience, my first piece of advice for any aspiring game designer is to go to your nearest convention (or game store), talk to other designers/gamers, and play their games.  Nothing motivates me more than to play a ton of games, talk to other people about their favorite games, and maybe share a little about my game as well.

While I didn’t attend that many panels or events, I made it a point to play as many games as I had time for.  I won’t discuss them all, but here are the three games I enjoyed demoing the most (not in any particular order):

  1. Summoner Wars:  As a fellow doug that has listened to over 200 Plaid Hat podcasts but has never played their flagship game Summoner Wars, it was a treat to finally sit down and play a full game.  The game combines the deep strategy of a tactical, turn-based game with the excitement of a rich, theme-filled card game.
  2. Secret Hitler:  Possibly the most fun hidden-role games I’ve played to date.  By combining hidden roles with the roles the rotating presidency and elected chancellor, players must sort through the chaos and determine who is a fascist and who is a liberal.
  3. Rumors of Chaos:  I met the designer on, who is in a similar boat as me.  He’s designing a game that he wants to self-publish, has it prototyped, and is looking for playtesters.  His game is a cooperative, strategy game where players protect the kingdom from a growing threat of enemies and natural catastrophes.

Although my wife would be happy keeping my board game collection as-is (or better yet, smaller), I did not oblige.  Here are the three games I played at GenCon that our shelves had to make room for:

  1. Junk Art:  Since I’ve gotten into hobby board games the past 5-6 years, Junk Art is the first dexterity game I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.  Players construct towers using objects of many shapes and sizes, and depending on the selected scenario, there are specific ruquirements, rules, or opportunities to topple your opponent’s towers.

    A super-sized Junk Art demo.  I was sold immediately.

  2. Saboteur:  In this game, dwarfs are trying to find the hidden gold at the other side of the cave while the saboteurs secretly stop them.  The game combines strategic card play and hidden roles; not to mention it’s cheap and plays quickly.
  3. NHL FastTrack:  There were only 30 minutes left Sunday afternoon before the GenCon Exhibit Hall closed until 2017.  My friend Ray and I were walking through one final time and he told me I HAD to play this game.  A little skeptical because it looks fairly basic, I played against the booth operator.  Needless to say, it was a thrilling 3-minute game.  He almost won twice, but I ended up winning after getting eight-straight shots in a row.  It’s fun, quick, intense, and cheap.  You should get it.

Since this blog is meant to be a motivator and insightful source of tips for aspiring game designers, next week WILL be about game design.  Until then, maybe you found an interesting game from my post.

I would be interested in hearing any comments you have!  See you next week…


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