It’s almost time for the biggest gaming event in the United States. GenCon is celebrating 50 years this year, and with expected crowds of more than 70,000, it’s gonna be a wild one. I attended GenCon way back when it was held in the Mecca Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Once it moved, we were less motivated to go, plus we had a small child.

Flash forward about 16 years to GenCon 2016 last year.

I have become involved with a group call Double Exposure Envoy as a “Herald”. The Herald program lets you demo games for companies in exchange for getting the game for free as long as you agree to run it X number of times (depending on the game and company). But around these big convention times (Origins, GenCon, and several other larger cons), these game companies need help manning their booths. They turn to Double Exposure Envoy for help and offer some pretty swanky perks for doing so. You will usually get a badge to the con, and maybe a shared hotel room. Some companies pay in store credit, others give great bags of swag. I got set up to work with Bezier Games. I had a super awesome time running the games and being a part of the convention.

This year, my whole family is going. They’ll be doing some RPG’ing while I work, then we have all number of cool things scheduled to do. Honestly, we couldn’t even go through all the things there are to do. Some of our highlights include an Escape Room, Pathfinder, and a few panels. (I get to go to my first Dice Tower Live! show… squeee!)

I could spend my entire convention in the dealer room and NEVER GET BORED! It’s amazing. Trying out new games, seeing all the cool accessories for sale, wandering the artist section and drooling over the amazing art on display. I expect this year to be super crowded though, and hope to do a few other things.

If you end up with some time, scope out the first exposure playtest hall. You can help beta test new upcoming games, give feedback, and you’ll get to play games before anyone else! It’s really interesting. Last year I helped a designer playtest their rules. Oh, how I wish more companies would do that!

So what is the “cult of the new” that I want to check out this year? Hotshots from Fireside Games definately tops my list. It sounds like they won’t have it for sale, but hopefully I can get a demo in. It looks like a lot of fun. I’m planning on picking up Biotix from Smirk and Dagger. I like their games, and the collaboration between Smirk and Dagger and Tina Bongorno, the artist on the game has a special place in my heart. They were both guests at Gamicon (run by Mindbridge Foundation, whose page you are on), two years ago. While I was talking with them, Curt Covert looked at Tina and said “I may have a project for you…” I feel priviledged to have been a very tiny part of making this combo happen. ¬†One of my favorite games, King’s Forge by Game Salute has a new “Gold” expansion out, so I’m hoping to pick that one up. I’d really like to get a chance to play “Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time”. I don’t know much about the game, but with a title like that, it sounds amazing!

Lots of companies have special GenCon 50 promotions, and I hope to pick some of them up, and may even try to partake in Mayfair’s Ribbon quest. You play games and get various ribbons. Once you have collected all of the ribbons, you can get a special ribbon and promo and discounts & stuff.

If you go to GenCon, come say hi! I’ll be in the Bezier Booth from 10am-2pm every day. Ask for Michele.








Castle Panic, 2009
Munchkin Panic, 2014
Star Trek Panic, 2016
Fireside Games, USAopoly

Don’t Panic! It’s just a game, or game(s). In this series of games, (which includes “Dead Panic” and lots of expansions which I do not own,), you must defend your castle/ship from invading armies of bad guys. The basic premise of the panic games is that you have a tower/ship in the center of the board. Castle and Munchkin Panic have a set of walls to protect the tower while in Star Trek Panic, you have cool acrylic blue shields to protect the Enterprise. The board consists of concentric rings spreading out from the center tower/ship, and is divided into six sections. Enemies will come onto the board in the outermost ring in a section determined by a roll of the die. The enemies will move closer and closer, eventually taking out the walls/shields and towers/ship unless they are killed first. To win the game, you must destroy all your enemies before they destroy your castle/ship.

Players have a hand of cards (the number of cards depends on the game and/or the number of players). These cards will be used to attack enemies, repair walls/shields, or other game effects. The order of play for each person’s turn is mostly the same for every panic game. Draw up to your full hand, discard one card and re-draw (optional), some sort of traiding or “charity” (Munchkin), play cards, move enemies, and place new enemies on the board.

I won’t go into too much more detail about the game mechanics since each game has it’s own fiddly bits that would take too long to go into here. If you are trying to determine which Panic is right for you, I’d recommend basing it on the theme of the game. The game play isn’t different enough, in my opinion, to pick one over the other based on the rule set. Munchkin has treasure cards and a charity phase, which will only make a difference to someone who plays Munchkin. Star Trek Panic has the players go on missions while they are fighting, which plays a little differently, but if you don’t like Star Trek, you probably won’t care. I haven’t yet played Dead Panic, but as the title suggests, its theme is the Zombie Apocalypse. If this is your thing, I can with some surety say that you probably won’t go wrong picking up Dead Panic with, or instead of one of the other versions.

The Panic series also can be played in several modes, cooperatively, competitvely and solo. So there is a way for almost anyone to enjoy these games. We will generally play the games cooperatively. They all seem to be well balanced so that you won’t always win, and the tension can run pretty high when you’re down to a few last monsters, but only a couple of tower/wall/shield/ship points.

Monsters are placed with a random die roll. This can be good and bad. I have lost games based solely on the fact that we couldn’t roll anything but a 4 on the die, so all the mosters came in on one side, and we couldn’t get enough cards to take them out. Most of the time, we get a fairly even distribution. This can make the game really tense when you get an area that is starting to get more enemies than another.

The Panic games aren’t terribly strategic, mostly based on luck and die rolls, but savvy play can make the difference between a win and a loss. They are filled with humor and fun thematic bits.

If you like games like Forbidden Desert or Forbidden Island or are looking for a good cooperative game that is a little lighter than Pandemic or Dead of Winter, then pick up a version of Panic and give it a try. It’s a good family game. They are recommended for 10+, but in cooperative mode, I believe that younger children could easily enjoy them as well.