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Gencon 2011 Day 2: Fantasy Flight, Battlefoam and Other Games

A little bit late (darn you timezones!) but Gencon correspondent KK still manages to bring us some awesome quick peeks into Gencon for all of those who weren’t able to make it to Indianapolis this year… If you’ve been following along, you’ll notice that KK hasn’t been able to supply that many photos of the convention due to a faulty camera cable. We’ve got some photos thanks to the interwebs and Lost Hemisphere, and hopefully KK will be awesome enough to get us some photos soon!

During the few days of Gencon, one company was having noteworthy success (as they usually do). Fantasy Flight Games probably brought the largest showing this year, having literally dozens of tables running demos in the prime real estate of the Exhibit Hall, and filling about half of two more gaming halls each, for in-detail demos and tournaments/open-play, respectively. This is, of course, on top of the very impressive booth and store that they were operating. (Interested in replicating FFG’s feat? Gencon’s asking price for just their Exhibit Hall space this year begins in the ballpark of 15,000 USD.)

Aside from the more regular demos of FFG classics such as Arkham Horror, Descent, and the Game of Thrones Living Card Game, demos of upcoming products such as Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game (designed by everyone’s favorite Eric M. Lang and Corey Konieczka), Gears of War: The Board Game, Elder Sign (a third board game set in the Arkham Horror universe), and their fourth Warhammer 40,000 RPG line: Black Crusade attracted thousands of attendees. Copies of these games were also available for the first time to convention attendees, and Blood Bowl: Team Manager has actually already sold out two days in to the convention. (Saturday update: Gears of War has also sold out, and copies of Black Crusade are running low).

On the more distant horizon, two very early prototypes were demoed of Star Wars: X-Wing, and Star Wars: The Card Game. Both games are set in the Original Trilogy time period, and focus on the Empire-vs.-Rebellion conflict featured in the movies. X-Wing is a miniatures game featuring small squadrons of dogfighters. At the demo they only had the TIE Fighters and X-Wings, but I’m sure the full game will feature more. The game handles maneuverability by supplying 2cm-wide cardboard arcs that you place at your plastic rectangular base and move to they other side of, telling you exactly how far your fighter can go and how much of an angle they turn at. All moves are chosen secretly and revealed simultaneously. Obviously no ship is complete without a pilot, and the game takes this in to account by allowing you to assign pilot cards to your ships, from “Rookie Pilot” all the way to “Red Leader.” You can also customize your ship’s hardware, including the astromech droid. The rules for this game are just the right complexity, in my opinion: quick to learn but fun to play.

I did not get a chance to play the Star Wars card game, but from watching it, I see that it essentially revolves around the playing of ally cards, who can then gather more soldiers and equipment for your war or engage in conflict with the other side. The gameplay revolves around both resource management and risk management, and really emulates the feel of the early Alliance’s hit-and-run and gather strength approach to their rebellion. If you ever wanted to play Mon Mothma versus Emperor Palpatine: The Game, this will be perfect for you. The final previews by FFG were of the box art and prototype miniatures of Wiz-War and Twilight Imperium: Rex. No information was given about them, however.

I was lucky enough to hear from two special people from within Fantasy Flight. Tracy Hickman (author of the Dragonlance Saga) talked about his new novel Fireborn: Embers of Atlantis (published by FFG, of course), and did a book signing. FFG CEO Christian Petersen gave a presentation slideshow on his company’s performance, and future plans. His talk was packed to the point where I could only stick my head in for a minute or two. Clearly, obtaining the rights to Star Wars games, probably the most visible science fiction IP, spells a bright future for this company.

Friday is typically the peak of the tournament scene at Gencon, with Saturday usually reserved for finals and other such events. While I wasn’t able to watch all the events, I was wowed by the showing at the Warmachine/Hordes Hardcore tournament. The incredible amount of artistry demonstrated both strategically and visually is something that is difficult to forget. Fellow Press Ganger Tyson Koch drove for thirty-three hours from California just to bring his Trollbloods and framed display base to the tournament, and his efforts were not unrecognized as he walked away with the Master Craftsman award.

Another company I would like to point out is Battlefoam, Arizona-based creators of miniature transport foam cases (http://battlefoam.com/). As a gamer who travels with models extremely often, I’m constantly on the lookout for better protection for my minis. Battlefoam has been around for three years, and is probably the most expensive brand out there today (especially for us Singapore gamers, the price becomes insane), but their quality is undeniable, as reflected by their success. The employees at the booth were extremely helpful and knowledgeable in talking about their bags.

They had a new bag being previewed: the PACK GO (named for its backpack-type carry instead of their usual messenger type), and they were able to identify every “feature” of the bag, and the exact reason why it was there. Though not everything in the bag was ideal for me (for instance, I’ve had bad experiences with the PACK 432 and the vertically-carried trays, which they’ve replicated here), I’m impressed that they clearly put a lot of thought in to their bag design.

On a personal note, I was able to catch up with the Battlefoam convention team after the hall closed, and I was happy to find out that Romeo, Jayma(sp?), Kip, and Kyle are all really cool people to hang out with as well.

That’s what’s cool about Gencon, isn’t it? Meeting game or hobby creators and realizing they’re all geeks as well? KK is living the dream…

kakita

Singapore’s resident Press Ganger, that is, the man to go to for Privateer Press’ WARMACHINE, and HORDES. Kakita also dabbles in Games Workshop’s WARHAMMER FANTASY and WARHAMMER 40K lines.

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