The Best of Gen Con 2017

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Hello! You probably don’t know me, because this isn’t my blog. Pleased to meet you! My name is Josh McIllwain, and I do a bunch of random things on the internet – I co-host a Game Master-centric podcast, I run a digital tabletop YouTube channel, and I occasionally write about board games on websites.

That’s also me on the right with the goofy glasses on. That one picture sums me up accurately I feel.

I had the opportunity to attend Gen Con 50 this year, which was amazing as always. My friend, Mr. GameGuy himself, offered to pay me in booze if I wrote a 10,000+ word deep dive into the metaphysical connections between board games and the collapsing space-time continuum.

But instead, I’m just going to do a list of my favorite stuff at Gen Con, because that’s way easier, and I already drank all the beer. Oops!

Best Lovecraft Game

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Look, Lovecraft-themed games are never going away. As long as publishers can keep milking that sweet, sweet public domain, we’re just going to have to accept it. Which I’m totally fine with as long as we continue to receive amazing gems like Iello’s Mountains of Madness.

Who would’ve believed that a Lovecraft-ian party game would work? I certainly didn’t, and I was totally ready to write the game off at first glance. That was a mistake. When a friend pulled his copy of Mountains out and demanded we play it in some otherworldly tongue, I felt compelled to give it a try.

Tasha Robinson of NPR and The Verge said it best: “It’s particularly interesting to see a Lovecraft game that focuses on the mechanics of dealing with insanity, instead of monsters.” No game has ever handled insanity through game mechanics as well as Mountains of Madness. We laughed, we screamed, we cried, we went insane. And it was so worth it.

Best Game Based on a 80’s Film

Licensed board games aren’t a new concept at all, but man, were the 1980’s out in full force this year. I saw games based on Big Trouble in Little China, Terminator, Goonies, Ghostbusters 2, First Blood… We get it! People were born in the 80’s or something, jeez!

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However, one game stood out to me from the sea of movie-licensed products – The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31. And no, I’m not just saying that just because I’m secretly an oozing shapeshifting monster! Shut up!

Film fans will probably recognize the name Mondo, as they are one of the most popular collectible creators in existence. They’ve expanded their operations from t-shirts, posters, and soundtracks to now include board games, and The Thing is their first tabletop project. If you like hidden traitor games, it doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel. However, if you’re a fan of John Carpenter, want a traitor-mechanic that plays up to 8, and only lasts about 90 minutes? Sure!

Also, the game is full of really great unique art, so collectible junkies can still get their fix.

Now, where’s my Gremlins game!?

Best New Old Game

Now that many classics are hitting big milestones, we’re seeing fancy re-releases of some old favorites. In the Year of the Dragon and Notre Dame had new 10th anniversary editions at the con, and Rob Daviau’s new company Restoration Games was on hand with completely revamped versions of classics like Stop Thief!, Coup D’etat, and Top Race.

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But when I walked by Flying Frog’s booth and saw that beautiful and massive Last Night on Earth: 10th Anniversary Edition, I was bitten. Right on the arm. I should probably get that checked out.

My nostalgia runs deep for Last Night, though there are certainly better games that have iterated on that winning formula over the last decade. But the new edition is like a greatest hits of the best expansion content, with cleaned up and modernized rules, and new higher-quality components. It’s not just a reprint, but the definitive version of the game.

Best Game Based on Science

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Photosynthesis.

There’s trees. And a sun. And it looks really pretty. And it’s just amazing, and wow, and whoa.

I wrote a bunch of words about it already here. Yes, shameless plug, I know. But seriously, the game is amazing. And, you know, science!

Best Lyft Driver

I had a lot of really great Lyft drivers during my week in Indianapolis, but Linda was by far the best. Very clean and spacious vehicle, and friendly to boot. Thanks Linda!

Best Game That Included a Sleeping Mask

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When I Dream from Asmodee wins by default, since I didn’t see any other games that included an actual sleep mask in the box. But mark my words, this is going to be a hotly contested category in a year or two!

Oh, the game is actually pretty fun too! One player wears the mask and is trying to guess the “dream card” on the table, while other players yell one-word clues that may or may not be relevant to the card. One player wants the dreamer to guess correctly, while the other wants them to say the wrong answer. It’s simple but deceptively fun!

Best Steak ‘n Shake Burger

steakHey, I’m from California, and Steak ‘n Shake is a rare commodity out here! So if there’s an opportunity to get a greasy and delicious steakburger, you better believe I’m going to eat it.

Anyway, I can’t just pick one favorite, so they all win. That’s right, the entire menu wins this award. Good job!

And that concludes my Gen Con 50 Besties awards! Congratulations to all of the big winners. And my sincere apologies to Jeff for tarnishing his wonderful blog with this nonsense. Until next year!

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