The hobby game industry makes their biggest announcements and releases flagship products every year at Gen Con. Check out this year's rundown of the new games we're most excited about playing.
Dungeons & Dragons
The biggest news, of course, was the official launch of 5E, with the release of the Player's Handbook. They seemed to be selling like hotcakes, and there was a lot of buzz around the con about it, almost all of it positive. The organized play tables in the D&D area were literally always full – all the 5E sessions sold out very quickly. Wizards of the Coast also had a few copies of the upcoming Monster Manual on hand, though it isn't due for release for another month. Wizards even held a big outdoor launch party, open to anyone and free of charge.
Paizo Licenses Pathfinder to Obsidian
Paizo's big Gen Con release this year was the Advanced Class Guide (we'll have a review in the coming weeks), and they announced next year's release, Occult Adventures. The next big adventure path for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Skull & Shackles, was available and selling briskly.
The really big announcement was a new licensing partnership with Obsidian Entertainment, the company that made Fallout: New Vegas among other videogames. Obsidian will be creating a variety of games based on the Pathfinder world and characters, starting with a tablet version of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. I don't tend to get too excited about tablet versions of things that already exist, but there's a lot of potential in this deal. Anyone interested in a AAA Fallout-style adventure game set in Golarion?
Upper Deck Resurrects Vs.
Upper Deck announced the relaunch of the Vs. collectible card game. It was kind of an odd announcement – with much fanfare they unveiled a Vs. logo, basically said, "Vs. is back! It's $50. Go buy it." No one at their booth offered any additional information. A blog post on the Upper Deck site suggests this is a limited release intended to test the waters and see if fans are into it, and that this will follow the living card game model (a fixed set with future expansions, no random boosters). So Vs. is back but isn't a CCG, and enters a market that already has separate Marvel and DC deck-building games.
Fantasy Flight Soars
Fantasy Flight has owned the exhibit hall the last few years, with a huge booth space packed with demo tables that are constantly crowded. They had so many big releases this year it was hard to keep track. Perhaps the biggest is Star Wars: Armada, a more strategic take on space combat involving massive star destroyers and other capital ships. It will be a totally separate game from their ridiculously successful X-Wing miniatures game. They also unveiled an upcoming adventure game that uses the Descent board game framework, but with Star Wars characters delving space stations. It also includes rules for a head-to-head skirmish game. I've got my eye on their Witcher board game for a future review as well.
The game the Fantasy Flight people were themselves most excited about was their X-COM board game. It's a game for up to four players, with each player taking on a distinct job in the fight against invading aliens. The game is managed through an app (available on a bunch of different platforms, including a browser version). I'm usually really skeptical of these sorts of games, since the tech is often just a gimmick. But I watched a play session and came away pretty impressed. The app runs the players through a timed planning phase that forces them to make quick, difficult decisions, and cranks up the tension even further by throwing in random events. I'll have to play it myself before I can form a real judgment, but at first glance it honestly looked really cool.
Steve Jackson Games' Munchkin has been on a tear lately, and the most recent variant will blend the game of exploration and leveling up with the "kill off your own family in inventive and gruesome ways" game Gloom. This is an early announcement, so there aren't many details yet on how the two games will blend, but if you're a fan of both then it seems like a nice chocolate-in-your-peanut-butter moment.
Gloom also released a second edition that cleans up some of the text and rules from the first edition for clarity and ease of play. There's also a new Gloom expansion, The Unquiet Dead. We'll be reviewing those in due time.
Kickstarter Projects Arrive
A ton of Kickstarted projects had print copies available at Gen Con, in many cases the first time they were available. Pelgrane Press had print copies of 13 True Ways available, a massive expansion of the 13th Age RPG, with more of everything: classes, monsters, lore, variant rules, and more. And it's gorgeous. Kobold Press unveiled the Midgard Bestiary for 13th Age, and Sasquatch Game Studio showed off the print edition of Primeval Thule, their Robert E. Howard-inspired multi-system sword & sorcery setting. Reviews of all are forthcoming.
Green Ronin released a new edition of the Icons superhero RPG under the name Icons Assembled. The idea behind it is to have a fast-playing, rules light superhero RPG, something which doesn't really exist these days. You can roll up a random character and start playing in about 20 minutes. I'm definitely planning to review this soon, since I'm a huge fan of superhero RPGs.
Cubicle 7's New Editions
Cubicle 7 has taken their existing Doctor Who and One Ring RPGs and put out revised editions. Both games fold what were formerly two softcover books into a single hardbound edition. One Ring has a Darkening of Mirkwood mega-campaign to go along with it, which I'll be reviewing.
The main exhibit hall was significantly expanded this year, including an area for lower cost booths aimed at small indie game companies. Entrepreneur's Avenue (as this area is called) had a bunch of really neat looking games and dealer booths. In fact, there was a huge uptick in the number of booths selling Magic cards and other collectibles. There was just more of everything at Gen Con this year, and it keeps growing.
On Saturday morning of Gen Con, I joined Jonathan Bolding of The Escapist, Mike Mearls, lead designer of D&D 5E, Chris Helton of BleedingCool, and Dave Chalker of Critical Hits for an Escapist podcast about all the stuff we were oohing and aahing over in the exhibit hall, 5E house rules, the tragic history of superhero RPGs, and more.