LOU'S VIEWS: GenCon game discoveries for mere mortals

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry

If you think all the games at Gen Con are geared toward would-be dungeon masters and deck-building card collectors, you’re wrong. And to prove that, once again, I set myself upon the quest of finding 10 fun games that I might actually be able to talk friends into playing.

The best quick-learn game I found: the pulse-quickening, deceptively simple Tapple (from USAopoly), which features a device topped by a buzzer and surrounded by lettered paddles. When a category is revealed—say, Boys’ Names—players take turns pushing down the initial letter for a word in that category. Once a letter is used, it can’t be used again that round.

ae-games2bp-15col.jpg Tapple (IBJ Photo/Susan Bertocci)

The timer gives you 10 seconds, which might seem like plenty of time … at first. But if you survive, another category is revealed and now you have to name two items in the category in the same amount of time, narrowing the field of available initial letters as you go.

Smartly designed (the category cards fit into a compartment underneath) and easily adaptable to house rules, Tapple quickly took over IBJ’s production department when it was introduced for a photo shoot. I expect my copy to see a lot of play.

If you’d rather not have the pressure of a ticking timer but still like word games, try Word Winder (Word Roundup). Sixteen cards—each looking like a four-by-four rack of Boggle letter cubes—are laid out in a grid. Your task is to form words to create a path from one side of the board to the other. In the process, you not only have to pay attention to your own words, but also try to block the moves of other players as they get close to winning.

Commodity trading games—the biggest is Settlers of Catan—make up a significant percentage of the game play at Gen Con every year. My favorite newbie of this type is Cinque Terre (Rio Grande). With a board made up of five Italian coastal towns and a looping road connecting them to produce fields, the game requires each player’s truck to pick from the fields and deliver the goods.

Sound like child’s play? With each city paying different amounts for each kind of produce, special orders to be fulfilled (including one kept secret) and limited space on your flatbed, Cinque Terre requires strategic business thinking.

ae-games1-15col.jpg Zen Garden (IBJ Photo/Susan Bertocci)

City planning is the theme of Urbania (Mayfair). Here, you gain points by rehabbing rundown sections of a city. As your desired buildings are fixed up, they become moneymakers, allowing you to hire specialists to further your empire and plan larger projects. If you can get past the overly busy board, game play is swift and fun, with different strategies available in your effort to score the most points.

Too real for you? Then how about Spin Monkeys (Rio Grande Games), in which monkeys riding bumper cars attempt to collect as much fruit as they can from the playing area, tossing banana peels behind them to cause others to spin out? Playing your cards right can make a difference in the end and your kids might learn something about angles. (But please don’t tell them it’s educational. That’s never a good idea.)

This being GenCon, I suppose there needs to be at least one game with a strong fantasy element on my list. I’ll skip the hardcore battles, though, and pick the whimsical The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet (Asmodee). You pick tiles equal to the number of players in the game, with each tile representing a section of the famed alien boy’s planet. You keep one and pass the others, trying to build the most point-scoring world. Perhaps the most attractively designed game at the convention (it uses images from the original book), the game plays nicely with two to four players.

Also deceptively peaceful is Zen Garden (Mayfair), a tile-arranging game in which you and your opponents are each trying to manipulate the building of a zen garden so that your secret pattern appears twice.


ae-games4-15col.jpg Fluxx (IBJ Photo/Susan Bertocci)

Too gentle for you? Then consider Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition (Bezier Games), a variation on the popular group game Are You a Werewolf? That one focuses on discovering who among your group is the designated man-beast. In this one, playable with three people, finding out who is the werewolf is just the beginning.

Lighter fun can be had from Fluxx: The Board Game (Looney Labs), in which the rules can change at the play of a card as you try to get your multiple tokens onto the right pairs of spaces. Those who like the Fluxx card games will find that this one actually requires some thought.


Of course, there are many reasons to play games. If one of yours is to get hammered, then DrunkQuest (Loot Corps) may quench your thirst. Monsters appear every turn, but to defeat them, you need to take a prescribed number of drinks—a number that can be subtracted from or added to by your helpful/evil friends. Just make sure before you start playing that you have a couch to crash on.•


This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. By Mr. Lee's own admission, he basically ran pro-bono ads on the billboard. Paying advertisers didn't want ads on a controversial, ugly billboard that turned off customers. At least one of Mr. Lee's free advertisers dropped out early because they found that Mr. Lee's advertising was having negative impact. So Mr. Lee is disingenous to say the city now owes him for lost revenue. Mr. Lee quickly realized his monstrosity had a dim future and is trying to get the city to bail him out. And that's why the billboard came down so quickly.

  2. Merchants Square is back. The small strip center to the south of 116th is 100% leased, McAlister’s is doing well in the outlot building. The former O’Charleys is leased but is going through permitting with the State and the town of Carmel. Mac Grill is closing all of their Indy locations (not just Merchants) and this will allow for a new restaurant concept to backfill both of their locations. As for the north side of 116th a new dinner movie theater and brewery is under construction to fill most of the vacancy left by Hobby Lobby and Old Navy.

  3. Yes it does have an ethics commission which enforce the law which prohibits 12 specific items. google it

  4. Thanks for reading and replying. If you want to see the differentiation for research, speaking and consulting, check out the spreadsheet I linked to at the bottom of the post; it is broken out exactly that way. I can only include so much detail in a blog post before it becomes something other than a blog post.

  5. 1. There is no allegation of corruption, Marty, to imply otherwise if false. 2. Is the "State Rule" a law? I suspect not. 3. Is Mr. Woodruff obligated via an employment agreement (contractual obligation) to not work with the engineering firm? 4. In many states a right to earn a living will trump non-competes and other contractual obligations, does Mr. Woodruff's personal right to earn a living trump any contractual obligations that might or might not be out there. 5. Lawyers in state government routinely go work for law firms they were formally working with in their regulatory actions. You can see a steady stream to firms like B&D from state government. It would be interesting for IBJ to do a review of current lawyers and find out how their past decisions affected the law firms clients. Since there is a buffer between regulated company and the regulator working for a law firm technically is not in violation of ethics but you have to wonder if decisions were made in favor of certain firms and quid pro quo jobs resulted. Start with the DOI in this review. Very interesting.