Gen Con bills itself as "The Best Four Days in Gaming," but if you want to have your best possible four days, you've got to have a plan. In less than 24 hours, the doors of the Indiana Convention Center will open, and over 30,000 gamers will enter a massive exhibit hall that is jam packed with companies demoing prototypes and selling advance copies of unreleased games. There might just not be enough time to see it all, so to help guide your way, here are our picks of the hottest titles you should be checking out at GenCon 2011:

Battleship Galaxies: Hasbro is no stranger to the strategy game market, but their releases usually are published through their subsidiaries Wizards of the Coast or Avalon Hill. However, this is the first time that a core Hasbro game has been re-imagined for hobbyists. The classic game of Battleship has been turned into a spaceship war game, and it's good. Getting something right on the first try is a big achievement, and it makes this game worth checking out.

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By George Holochwost

Recently at GenCon I had the opportunity to catch up with game designer Francesco Nepitello, creator of boardgame masterpieces Age of Conan: The Strategy Game and the soon-to-be-reprinted War of the Ring. The most recent inheritor of the Lord of the Rings RPG license, Francesco's fresh take on the subject for Cubicle 7, The One Ring: Adventures Over The Edge Of The Wild, promises us a Middle Earth experience like no other.

Set between the events of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Nepitello offers a narrower scope with far greater depth than previous attempts. Whereas Middle Earth Roleplaying and Decipher's Lord of the Rings suggested an all inclusive set of options for articulating the much loved setting, The One Ring RPG offers an incredibly deep take with some very cool options for players. With everything from Hobbits to Mirkwood Elves to the tribal Beornlings, players no longer suffer second-fiddle syndrome while adventuring in the shadows of Gandalf, Frodo, Bilbo and company. Instead, an untapped span of Middle Earth history is offered as virgin territory in which players can carve their own legends while that troublesome ring sits idly on Bilbo's mantlepiece. Read More...

By George Holochwost

And so it begins...

GenCon Indianapolis is the largest gaming convention of its kind. With nearly forty-five thousand attendees, the convention offers a garden of gaming delights – vast tournament halls, open play areas, and spectacularly unique gaming events have become the hallmark of this annual indulgence. Located in the shadow of Indianapolis's Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indianapolis Convention Center is uniquely suited for this titanic occasion.

Perhaps the best thing about GenCon is the seemingly limitless diversity of gamers from all over the world. So far I've spoken to folks from Finland, Brazil, Germany, Greece and Japan. Some are here to defend titles earned through their card playing skills, some are here to march around in meticulously crafted costumes of favorite video game and movie characters. One convention attendee states that he had no plans at all and wanted to keep it that way, following his nose to whatever strikes his pan-geek interests.

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These days, It seems that board game publishers are constantly annoncing their intentions to port titles over to the popular smartphone app stores. It's not every day that you see two big names such as Alderac Entertainment Group and Incinerator Studios come together, though.

Although sparse on details, the two companies have announced a partnership this morning that will culminate in the release of AEG's hit deckbuilding card game Nightfall as a universal iOS app. The announcement goes on to state that this will be the first but not the last of AEG titles to make the leap. One can only speculate, but it does not seem that digital versions of Thunderstone and Legend of the 5 Rings titles could be that far away.

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Back in May, Pathfinder RPG publisher Paizo joined forces with miniature producing veterans WizKids (of HeroClix and Mage Knight fame) to announce that four pre-painted plastic hero miniatures would be included in the upcoming Pathfinder Beginner's Box. Early images of these sculpts have been impressive, generating significant positive buzz from Pathfinder fans. It's all lead up to this week's announcement: The miniatures line will continue past its initial 4-model run with an additional whopping 100 new sculpts to follow.

This ongoing line of miniatures intends to cover all areas of the Pathfinder universe, beginning with a 40-piece set, Heroes & Monsters, in December. Following that will be a 60-piece set, Rise of the Runelords, in June 2012 with additional unannounced full sets to follow.

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Ever since Wizards of the Coast announced early last year that they would not be renewing the Star Wars hobby gaming license, gamers have been wondering what company would pick up the torch. Now we know the answer: Fantasy Flight Games, the publisher best known for high-quality game components and detailed miniature sculpts. It's as if millions of geek's wallets suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly emptied.

As a publisher of board, card, roleplaying, and miniatures combat games, Fantasy Flight will have no shortage of options to develop Star Wars games around. Two titles have already been announced, Star Wars: The Card Game and X-Wing, but many more will follow. Excitement is high for these and future titles primarily because Fantasy Flight has proven time and time again that they know how to handle a license. In the past, they've published well-received games themed around Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica, World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings, Doom, StarCraft, Conan, and more.

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The Realms are back: Dungeons & Dragons will be returning to the legendary Forgotten Realms city of Neverwinter this Summer. To mark the occasion, Wizards of the Coast has a whole slew of new Neverwinter-themed products, led by the he core RPG release, the D&D Neverwinter Campaign Setting.

Players can get their first taste of the newly revised campaign setting during the Neverwinter Game Day on August 6th at their local game stores. The event will serve as a character creation session, after which players will get their toes wet with a prelude adventure to the upcoming D&D Encounters season. Kicking off on August 10th, D&D Encounters Lost Crown of Neverwinter will also feature a brand new set of Neverwinter-themed Fortune Cards.

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Guest post by Dave "The Game" Chalker (editor-in-chief of Critical-Hits.com)

With a Star Trek franchise that is now 45 years old, there have been games of all sorts made featuring the crew of a ship called Enterprise. From choose-your-own adventure-style games to complex war games to roleplaying games to disc-flipping games to my personal favorite: a game that required a VCR so a Klingon could yell at you while you played. Simply put, the gaming industry has run the gamut of styles as well as quality. Star Trek: Expeditions is one of the newest in the series, but it boldly goes where no game has gone before in three important ways:

  • It's based on the new movie reboot
  • It's designed by prolific, award-winning game designer Reiner Knizia
  • It uses "Clix" base figures like those also used in HeroClix and other games

Are these elements enough to make an interesting game, worthy of the crew of the Enterprise? Read on to find out.

Just The Facts:

Players: 1-4
Playing Time: 60 minutes
Age: 14 and up
Publisher: WizKids
MSRP: $49.99
Release: June 2011

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Towards the end of San Diego Comic-Con 2011, the Steve Jackson Games crew had one extra surprise up their sleeve: a new 15-card booster pack based on Felicia Day's hit web series The Guild. The pack will launch in Spring 2012 and will feature all new artwork by Len Peralta making his Munchkin card debut. Peralta is no stranger to cards, though. He achieved internet fame last year with his "Geek a Week" trading card set. Seeing as how he already has proven experience transforming geek icons into caricature form, the artwork for this upcomingThe Guild set will be well worth looking forward to. Read More...

Blood Bowl is back, and it looks better than ever. After a long wait, Fantasy Flight Games has revealed much more information about their new Blood Bowl: Team Manager card game, including a late 2011 release. The game will also be present in playable form at Gen Con later this summer.

For those not familiar with the original Blood Bowl, know that it is a gamer's parody of American football where teams stocked with fantasy races (Chaos, Dwarf, Wood Elf, Human, Orc, and Skaven) and the rules are based loosely around Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy system. A niche title to be sure, but one with a fervently loyal fan base. Since Blood Bowl's original release in 1987, fans have been clamoring for more, yet often feel that they wind up getting table scraps at the end of the day.

Such was the scene in early 2010 when Fantasy Flight Games announced they would be developing a deckbuilding card game off of the franchise, called Blood Bowl: Team Manager. FFG was hot on the heels of several other high-caliber Games Workshop remakes such as Space Hulk and Talisman, so the expectations were high. Instead, gamers were met with over a year of silence, causing many to doubt that the title would ever see the light of day. Those fears have been swept away now, but don't blame Blood Bowl fans for staring at the clock. Read More...

Guest post by Mark Calder

Thunderstone: Thornwood Siege is the 4th expansion in the fantasy adventure deckbuilding game designed by Mike Elliott and published by AEG. In this latest expansion, the Thunderstone lays in the Thornwood Forest which home to a brand new set of dangerous foes. These enemies not only defend the Thunderstone’s location but introduce new game mechanics wherein they attack the town, hindering you in your quest. Read on for the full review.

Just the Facts:

Players: 1-5
Playing Time: 45 minutes
Age: 12 to adult
Publisher: AEG
MSRP: $34.99
Release: June 2011

The Gameplay:

Thornwood Siege requires one of the previous two standalone Thunderstone releases for play and is therefore not playable by itself. This review will assume you have played some version of Thunderstone or its previous expansions and will concentrate on the new heroes, village cards, and monster cards available in this expansion. For more information on the basic mechanics of Thunderstone, see Matt Morgan’s review of the standalone Thunderstone: Dragonspire. Read More...

It was only a few months ago at PAX East when Steve Jackson Games announced Munchkin Axe Cop, the first-ever licensed Munchkin card game set. Now, the product lineup is starting to grow. While Munchkin Axe Cop is not set to release until later this year, popular franchises Conan the Barbarian and Terry Pratchet's Discworld are also getting the Munchkin treatment.

If you're a Munchkin fan at San Diego Comic Con, here's what's not to miss:

  • First shot at purchasing Munchkin Conan booster packs. The Steve Jackson Games crew of Phil Reed, Andrew Hackard, and Ben Williams are eagerly awaiting your dollars, and will gladly hand you this first of the licensed Munchkin expansions. Go quickly, though, as these may not wait around for Sunday stragglers.

Boxed of Munchkin Conan booster packs ready to be sold for the first time to SDCC attendees. Photo: Phil Reed

  • Preview the Munchkin Axe Cop cards. This set has been completed and has been sent to the printer for production, so stop by the booth for a hands-on look at some of the early samples. If you ask nicely, that is.
  • Grab a free Discworld card. While there are no announced plans for further cards, Terry Pratchet's Discworld has received the Munchkin treatment in the form of this one-off promo card, "The Luggage." If you ask REALLY nicely, the Steve Jackson Games crew may send you home with one.
  • Get your card signed. If you've got a keen eye, you may spot Munchkin and Dork Tower artist Jon Kovalic. He'll be roaming the halls and occasionally tweeting his location to give away some of the above-mentioned Discworld promos. Bring a pen and you'll have yourself a souvenir worth saving.

Back in 2008, RPG designer Luke Crane and comic creator David Peterson combined their successful properties, the Burning Wheel RPG and Mouse Guard comic series, to create an official Mouse Guard RPG. Critical reception was strong, as the game used a pared-down version of the Burning Wheel system while still retaining its strengths. In the Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game, players are pushed to engage in actual roleplaying by creating well-developed characters with a system of beliefs, goals, and instincts. This has been frequently been pointed to as one of the best systems to introduce new players, particularly young ones, to the RPG hobby.

Earlier this week, we got our hands on the new deluxe box set of this game which is not expected to hit store shelves until late August. Its an impressive set, and what follows is our first look at the finished components. Expect for a full review here on MTV Geek later this summer, but for now enjoy this sneak peek:

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Guest Post by Jonathan Perrotto (www.TheModernDayPirates.com)

Just the Facts:

Age: 12 to Adult
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
MSRP: $39.99
Release: May 17th, 2011

I'd feel remiss if I didn't open this review with an obvious and glaring flaw, if only because it was the first thing about this product that I noticed. As far as packaging goes the Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond boxed set can barely be considered a boxed set at all. Content-wise, it can hold its weight with recent releases, but as far as the box itself, I have a serious issue. As recently as the reissued Red Box, D&D boxes have been durable products, with separate tops and bottoms made with sturdy cardboard; perfect for repacking what's enclosed and more so for storing or transporting with ease. I've had boxed sets that have endured a decade or more of abuse. The Shadowfell boxed set falls woefully short of its predecessors, its contents packed in a weak cardboard sleeve—a single piece, with an inserted support the only means of keeping the box itself from being crushed. That being said, there's some worthwhile content inside the shoddy packaging.



The Shadowfell: Gloomrought and Beyond boxed set is what gamers have come to expect from 4th edition sets: Inside the box comes a campaign guide, with information on factions, monsters, landmarks and locations, and some tips on running a campaign in the Shadowfell. This is coupled with a book of encounters, detailing several interesting ways to challenge your gaming group. To populate the encounters, there are two sheets of the always useful die-cut monster tokens. Of course, there is a fold-out map with locations for the encounters to take place, and a map detailing the central city of Gloomwrought on the reverse. Last, there is a deck of thirty cards, the Despair Deck, used to reflect the in-game influence of the Shadowfell on the players.


A slew of monster tokens included in the set

The campaign guide, this boxed set's most noteworthy part, deserves the most attention. The first chapter goes into description of the Shadowfell itself, giving the reader a brief idea of the nature of the place, and a painfully brief suggestion as to how to evoke the emotions that adventuring in the Shadowfell is supposed to evoke. This is jarring, and made all the worse by the fact that the Shadowfell world is essentially a reworked Ravenloft (complete with its very own Domains of Dread). While the original Ravenloft publications focused entirely on evoking style – entire chapters focused on establishing mood, the art spoke of dread, the adventures were a lesson in keeping your group enthralled and terrified—in this book, such aspects are heavily downplayed. The Shadowfell boxed set just tells you to make your game creepy. Play spooky music. Dim the lights. I wish I were making this up. I understand that 4th edition has throttled back on the hand-holding for DM's and is intended to be more of a loose framework of rules, but if the focus is on establishing and maintaining a mood—a very difficult aspect of being a DM—more attention is needed.

The second chapter brings the focus on to the city of Gloomwrought itself. The city is central to the world, and there is quite a bit of detail to be had here. This is a somewhat different turn for the usually brief descriptions and vague backgrounds found in 4th edition source material, but it's for the better. Gloomwrought is presented in such a way that a capable DM (read: one who does more than play spooky music and turn down the lights) could easily run the city as a shadowy counterpart to such iconic D&D metropolis' as Sigil, or Baldur's Gate. Different districts of the city are given their due, and the factions that inhabit them are enumerated as well. The book eventually expands beyond the walls in the third chapter, and gives life to several different locales, though none are given the detail dedicated to Gloomwrought. The final chapter details the “Dark Threats” facing adventurers, providing an assorted cast of baddies that populate Gloomwrought. The few interesting characters are the Keepers (Gloomwrought's version of Planescapes' Dabus), the shadowy custodians of the city; Prince Rolan, the human—but seemingly immortal—ruler of Gloomwrought; and the Deathless Watch, the city's corrupt and self-serving constabulary. While the art throughout the book is done in the same style seen throughout 4th edition, it evokes little more than a bold, active, comic book feel, which does not mesh with the material presented.

The encounters book could be very useful. The encounters contained therein are standard fare, but can be utilized in any campaign with some minor tweaking. There are some monster combinations that can make for tough fights if run correctly, a few skill challenges that could be used very effectively, even outside of the Shadowfell. The challenge level too, is varied. The encounters range from level 7 to 23, so an ingenious DM could get a lot of use from this book. The included map does the job of providing a suitable arena for several of the fights. The inclusion of a full map side dedicated to Gloomwrought is questionable, as an insert in the book would have worked just as well while leaving more room for always-useful encounter maps.


The Despair Deck sets the mood

The Despair deck is an interesting concept. Intended to show the long-term effects of the Shadowfell on characters, it contains a slew of inconveniences that when overcome are turned to a benefit for a player. In the hands of a role-play heavy group this can be a lot of fun, while providing a challenge that can lead to new and different character interactions. In the hands of those more prone to the 'hack and slash now and role-play never' variety, it'll provide some inconvenient obstacles to overcome in combat while they remain in effect. It's an intriguing idea, but my initial impression is that overcoming the draining effects of the Shadowfell's nature should be it's own reward, and a party that have all overcome their individual cards could gain a significant advantage in encounters.

Overall, this is a decent addition to the 4th edition world. The background information, specifically on the city of Gloomwrought harkens back to older editions, when content was more “fluff” driven ( I do hate that term), and backgrounds rather elaborate. A book of stand-alone encounters can be of more use than a pre-written adventure for a specific level range, but I think The Shadowfell boxed set finds a very comfortable middle-ground between similar releases from older editions and most of 4th. It doesn't feel burdened by all the history, as some settings have in the past, and remains open-ended enough that an inventive DM can have a lot of fun running adventures with the information given here.

Disclaimer: MTV Geek received a complimentary review sample of this game

Guest Post by Kevin Wenzel (2D6.org)

Just the Facts:

Players: 2-5
Playing Time: 10-30 minutes
Age: 6 to adult (with included variant rules for ages 3 and up)
Publisher: Looney labs
MSRP: $15
Release: Q2 2011

Introduction: For the last couple days I have been playing the new Seven Dragons card game from Looney Labs. Seven Dragons is a remake of the game Aquarius from Looney Labs that came out in 1998 with some minor rule changes, and most notably, new artwork done by Larry Elmore (a well-known artist for such brands like D&D, and other fantasy games such as Defender of the Realm). The first thing players with a Dungeons and Dragons background will notice when the game is dealt out is that you have a feeling that you’ve come home, due to Elmore's contributions.


Artist Larry Elmore posing with an uncut sheet of Seven Dragons cards
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