Updated with Martian Dice from Tasty Minstrel Games.

This year at GenCon I will be demoing games for Fantasy Flight Games, which is sort of my not-so-sneaky way of getting to play with and check out several of the FFG games they have to offer this year.

Top of the list is The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game. A major draw of this game is it is designed for two-player right out of the box. Actually, that is a primary consideration of any game that I purchase: I don’t just play games on game days or at conventions or with large groups. When the wife and I want to play a game, we need something that will work for two players. I have too many games that require at least three players, so games with two player options are first in line for my wallet. (A note for attendees at GenCon — pick up Android at the FFG booth. It plays great with two players.)

Another draw for this game is the cooperative play aspect. As a parental unit, games that showcase the value of teamwork are wonderful additions to our game library. The problem that most cooperative games is that most coop games are multiplayer solitaire: the best choice is the most obvious choice, so there really is no “cooperative” play, just a single play that everyone takes part in implementing. LotR looks like it avoids that. Add on all that, the Tolkien theme, the expansion packages that increase replayability, and the solo play option, all adds up to a 95% chance this is coming back home with me along with the first two expansions (assuming the second one is debuting at GenCon). Not to sound even more like the FFG fan that I am, but it’s also a FFG game, which means it is gorgeous.

Also at the Fantasy Flight Games booth is Elder Sign, which promises to be Arkham Horror without the setup time. I’ll be upfront here: I really don’t get the appeal of Cthulhu/Lovecraft but everyone I know loves their cake stuffed with unescapable tentacled horror from beyond the stars. (Which is a whole other series of posts.) However, what I like about Arkham Horror are the story elements: go to Hibb’s Roadhouse and have a little story encounter = nice. Elder Sign has the cooperative play and the scalability down to two players (and even a solo mode) that LotR has, but looks to have a long playtime and might remove the story encounter bits I enjoyed with Arkham Horror. This is definitely a check it out game.

The other FF company, Flying Frog Productions, is rumored to have Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game at the show. As much as I love two-fisted pulp adventure, getting a box that size home (about the size as Fantasy Flight Games’ coffin box games) and the rumored near $100 sticker price are going to keep me away from picking up this one, which is a shame. I’ve been sort of following the two-plus years of development of Thrilling Tales of Adventure, and man, Fortune and Glory would tap that itch.

Elsewhere on the floor is the Star Trek Deck Building Game, which I definitely want to demo. If it is there to purchase, maybe, but shock! horror! I really didn’t care for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and this game appears to be focused on that particular license. I really don’t know much else about this game, but want to see what it has.

I also want to see Seth Jaffee‘s Eminent Domain, which I playtested. Again, another two-player game. With the wife and I loving Dominion, I have a feeling that this deckbuilding game is something she’ll love. The gameplay was great, even in the pre-open beta. The artwork for the final game looks amazing, but I want to see it up close and personal. However, the item that I definitely will be picking up at the Tasty Minstrel Games booth (#1641) is Martian Dice. Crazy dice game in the spirit of Zombie Dice? I really like the design of the rulesheet, the whole “chickens are Earthlings, too” thing, and WHA? It’s only $10 at GenCon? Sold. (I might also buy one of the plush dragons — I saw them when TMG debuted at GTS, looking for distributors. They are adorable. I am surprised they don’t just sell those straight out of their web store.)

Also in the two-player game camp are Cthulhu Gloom, which I really want to love but there’s that whole Cthulhu thing that just doesn’t grab me, and Alien Frontiers, which I had the designer come to demo at my regional game convention but didn’t get a chance to play (bad timing, me!). I really want to pick up Alien Frontiers (we love dice games like Kingsburg and To Court The King, which is also why I want to give Elder Sign a go), so there’s about a 50% chance that will wind up in the luggage on the way back.

My big regret of last year is not picking up The Armitage Files, despite my odd “I don’t really understand Cthulhu/half the things on this list are Cthulhu related items” malady. What really pushed me over the edge was reading over Rick Neal’s actual play reports.

What items at GenCon are you looking forward to this year? What should I be on the lookout for on the exhibit hall?

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