It is no surprise to anyone when I tell them I like indie games. I mean the name of the website I write for is The Indie Game Report. When I attended Gen Con this past August, I was set on finding games that weren’t listed in “The Hotness” on BoardGameGeek. I wanted to find the games which were treasures hidden among the shiny franchised games.
I planned on recording interviews and run-throughs of games, and I did end up doing that, but unfortunately, you can hear the loud booming “A-A-A-A-A-ATTENTION GEN CON ATTENDEES! BLAH BLAH BLAH, FOOD COURT, BLAH BLAH, GAMESSSSS!” every 30 seconds or so in all of the interview videos. So here I am, writing about just a few of the awesome games I found during Gen Con, instead of sharing a video.
By the way, I know this article is coming almost four months after the convention. I have a plethora of reasons, none of which are related to this article, and I do want to say my feelings regarding the games have not changed since then, however some of the games may have become a more highlighted game post Gen Con, simply because the game had a chance to finally be showcased. It’s great when this happens because of course you want a great game to be played on every table, it’s gold! Everyone should get a chance! But just letting you know, some of these indies may not be so indie anymore.
Before the Earth Explodes is a two player game. The story of the game is the Earth is about to explode (bet you couldn’t guess that one), and you are doing what you can to save your faction. You see your opponent’s faction as a threat to the planet, and somehow they will be defeated. The game itself is really simple to play. Both players have their own deck of cards, but the decks are identical. In rock-paper-scissors fashion, each player chooses one card from their hand and then both players reveal their chosen cards at the same time. Depending on the cards chosen players will perform actions or inflict damage on their opponent. Eventually a player will either 1) colonize seven planets, 2) reach level seven in technology, 3) complete a victory condition from a card, or 4) kill their opponent. Whoever completes one of the four victory conditions is the winner.
The art of BtEE is SUPER sci-fi. There’s purple planets, pink skies, and mountains shaped like screaming faces. Like I said, super sci-fi.
- Two players only
- Smaller box game
- Plays in under 30 minutes
- Sci-fi theme
- Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanic
Pinball Showdown is a two to four player game which uses bidding and hand management mechanics to toss players around in a pinball machine! Players are pinballs in a pinball machine, bidding to be the first one to hit a playfield device. If you win the bid and are going the minimum speed required, you get to score the playfield device for end-game points. Be careful though, each device you hit slows you down. You don’t want to become standstill!
The artwork of Pinball Showdown is flashy and retro, with images of actual pinball machine obstacles on the cards. The player tokens match the theme of the game as well, looking like parts or items you’d find normally on a pinball machine, and there’s even a “wizard mode” card. You know, for all you pinball wizards out there. Whichever player has the scored the most points at the end of the game is the winner!
- Two-four player limit
- Small-Medium sized box
- Plays in under 30 minutes
- Retro pinball themed
- Bidding, hand management, and set collecting mechanics
Konja is a two-player dice-rolling game in which you play as a shaman, attempting to bring rain to the drylands. The main mechanics of the game are hand management, as you have cards which you’ll use to modify dice rolling and others, and press-your-luck, with dice rolling and re-rolling. On your turn, you will choose an Ancestor from whom you will receive a Favour. Each Ancestor provides a different kind of Favour which will aid you towards winning the game. Be careful though, your opponent will receive Favour as well when you choose your Ancestor, and you don’t want to help them win! After you receive your Favour, you roll dice to attempt to collect other items as well. Players will collect cloud points throughout the game, and the first player to reach 21 points is declared the winner.
The art of Konja is bold and sketchy and really works well with the theme of the game. The game pieces look like relics, as though made of stone and show their age through the withering colors and cracks. The game caught my eye with its beautiful art, but the theme and mechanics are what kept me interested.
- Two players only
- Medium sized box
- Plays in 30 to 60 minutes
- Ancient magic themed
- Hand management and press-your-luck mechanics
Bemused is a 4+ player game in which you are a muse, attempting to boost your chosen virtuoso artist by casting dread and doubt upon their rivals. The mechanics which are used in Bemused are mostly hand management and take-that (attacking opponents directly). Players begin the game with a virtuoso and some secret objectives. Throughout the game, each active player will take their turn placing dread cards and doubt cards onto their opponents in hopes of reaching their secret objectives while also attempting to keep their virtuoso from becoming insane or worse, a Fantasma. Players earn points dependent upon the mental state of their virtuoso and the modification made to their score by their secret objectives, and whichever player has the most points when fewer than two sane virtuosos remain in the game is the winner.
Bemused is another game which first drew me to its artwork. At first glance, I thought the virtuoso cards were tarot cards by their art style. I still have no idea how to describe art, but I can say I also had a “stained glass” feeling coming from the art style. It’s dark and bold, but still bright in between. The game is kind of that way though, isn’t it? A game about muses casting dread and doubt upon each other’s artist virtuosos? Pretty dark, but you still have the artist part, so there’s the bright in the darkness.
- 4+ players
- Small-medium sized box
- Plays in 30 minutes
- Depressing theme, dreaded and doubtful artists
- Hand management and take-that mechanics
Thanks for reading! Have you had a chance to play any of these games? I’d love to hear your opinion about them!