Gen Con 2022 felt like coming home for me. After nearly two decades attending board gaming’s Super Bowl, I’ve developed some very close friends that I enjoy seeing every year. Going two years without renewing those relationships was entirely too long. This year, after the vendor floor closed, we weren’t interested in playing the latest Euro-style game, or a campaign in a box, or a big, sprawling Ameritrash strategy game. We just wanted to have a lark, and the selection of new games on offer perfectly suited our needs.
In fact, I think the best games at Gen Con this year were the lightest, most frivolous things you could imagine. But more than anything, the best games this year were chaotic — including the title that might just be my own personal game of the show.
Psychic Pizza Deliverers Go to the Ghost Town
Psychic Pizza Deliverers Go to the Ghost Town is a hidden-environment game for 3-5 players. Notice that I didn’t say hidden movement — like say Nuns on the Run, Last Friday, Letters to Whitechapel, or Specter Ops. In this game, every player is given a large laminated grid and a dry-erase marker. The goal is to uncover and deliver a pizza to the people who live in Ghost Town. What kind of pizza does each house want? You won’t know until you’ve found a pizza, and then used your psychic powers to divine where it belongs. The concept is just as batshit as the name — especially when you accidentally stumble onto a teleport space and have to start your Zork-like mapmaking all over again.
You can purchase Psychic Pizza Deliverers Go to the Ghost Town directly from Board Game Tables Dot Com for $39.
Here’s a bit on the rest of the most chaotic new titles, presented in alphabetical order.
The latest from Smirk & Laughter Games, Boop is a Scott Brady-designed small-box game that is absolutely charming. Inside you’ll find a collection of wooden cat meeples and a plush comforter. Turn the inside of the box over, place the comforter on top, and proceed to boop your opponents in a match-three-meets-area-control fiasco.
Boop will be available soon.
Cat in the Box
Cat in the Box is a trick-taking card game — like Hearts, Spades, Euchre, and Pinochle. Players compete to collects sets of cards based on playing the highest card in a given suit. The wrinkle is that all of the cards are black. Players call out the suit that they are playing, then mark down the card they’ve played on a double-layer board with a unique token. If for whatever reason you break the logic of the board that you’re creating — by being unable to play a color or number of a card that’s missing, for instance — you create a paradox and all of the points you’ve scored so far turn negative. It’s an elaborate game of screw-your-neighbor, but also surprisingly fast and light.
Cat in the Box is available now directly from the publisher for $29.95.
The first thing I throw out when I open a board game is the punchboard. The second thing I throw out is the sand timer, if there is one. The stress of that thing has contributed absolutely no fun to any game that I’ve ever played — except Kites. Each of the different timers is different, with some that are at 30 seconds, another at a minute and a half. Players take turns playing cards that correspond to the timers, cooperatively trying to keep all these “kites” in the air before their sand runs out. Again, absolute chaos — but also a great way to warm people up at the beginning of a long night of board gaming.
You can pre-order Kites now for $20.
Ready Set Bet
I was lucky enough to get a demo of AEG’s Ready Set Bet by none other than Ruel Gaviola, who told the assembled influencers that he both consulted on its design and contributed voiceover work for the companion app. He described it as “a party game for board gamers,” which makes perfect sense. Basically, it takes horse racing and roulette, mixes them up in a real-time game, and then adds some alternate win conditions in the form of a stack of cards. This way your family members who enjoy going to the casino, and understand things like trifecta bets and... well, math... can compete on a relatively level playing field with those of us who like playing Ticket to Ride.
Ready Set Bet will be $39.99, and is expected to become available for purchase later this year.
Academy Games is known for its heady historical simulations and strategy games. I am happy to report that Gunter Eickert’s Stellaris: Infinite Legacy is coming along nicely. But the real head-turner for me was Reality Shift, which is very obviously inspired by the iconic lightcycle racing in Tron. It’s just that this time around the track moves, with cubes that rotate and pivot along their axes. You’ve not lived until you’ve taken turn four and brought it crashing down on the back straightaway, derezzing your opponent and sending them back to the starting line. There’s a deluxe edition, as well as optional rules to go full Mario Kart with shells, bananas, and more.
Reality Shift was only on sale this year at Gen Con, with the deluxe set coming in at $65. Expect to have the opportunity to buy it soon.