At a late night event at Gen Con, I was lucky enough to playtest a couple of still unfinished titles, both of which ended up being excruciatingly fun to my sleep-addled brain. First up was Shirak Agresta’s Horseshoes, Hand Grenades and Atomic Bombs. This 20-30 minute title pitted a handful of players each representing Cold War powers against one another.
The game was played with three decks of cards, first “horseshoes” which saw the players racing to get up to 40 points to advance to the next deck: “hand grenades” which allows you to damage the other players. Hidden within that deck are three cards: red alert, red phone and red scare, and once all three are played, all the players switch to the “atomic bombs” deck, and the damage jumps massively.
Hilarious, quick to learn and quicker to play, it had our entire table plotting alliances with poorly performed accents as we blew up the entire world — or died trying.
The other title I was invited to attempt was Ghost Pirates by Tim Rodriguez. While significantly more complex than my other game of the night, it enchanted me with its fluidity. Plus, you know, ghost pirates. It’s a combat title between two ships of ghost pirates, which are constantly shifting in size and shape, as you try and send your undead crew across to the opponents deck, and drive their captain off the plank.
By far the best mechanic is that your ship is variable in size, so you can add canons and sails, replace them with other parts, and eternally shift your ship’s layout as most valuable for you at the moment. You also have to artfully plan sending your crew over unstable planks to your opponents ship in order to slowly force his captain across the ship, and eventually into the water. Rodriguez has been working on the game for two years, now fine-tuning it, and the fluidity of the battlefield make it extremely fun, even to my exhausted brain at a late night shindig.
[This wraps up our Gen Con coverage this year, courtesy of Tim Barribeau. You can also see a huge gallery of the photos he took at Gen Con over at io9. -Ed.]