The Horrors of Gen Con (PICS)
Gen Con, the biggest gaming convention in North America, took place in Indianapolis week before last. I was there on the front lines, sorting through all the wizards and elves to find the finest in horror gaming and cosplay. There were a lot of zombies.
Horror gaming is mostly divided between zombies and Cthulhu. Cthulhu was everywhere a few years ago, but zombies have saturated pop culture lately.
Twilight Creations are certainly not bandwagon riders – their Zombies!!! franchise has been around for ages, using a modular game board and simple dice mechanics to let you run around a city overwhelmed by tiny plastic zombies. The latest expansion is Zombies!!! 11: Death Inc. It takes place in an office building, and instead of racing your fellow players to escape via a helipad, you’re actually trying to rescue all the board members of your company. At the end of the game, whoever rescued the most board members (or killed the most zombies) gets elected CEO. The new win condition injects fresh life (ha) into the series (I’ve got a more detailed review over at Robot Viking).
Last Night on Earth is another zombie board game, this one from Flying Frog Productions. It’s more detailed than Zombies!!!, with multiple scenarios and a cinematic feel. All of the game’s art assets are photographs – the make up effects and lighting make them look like production stills from an actual horror movie, which really reinforces the game’s theme. The latest expansion, Timber Peak, is a standalone game, but it also adds a ton of new scenarios, characters and options to the original game.
If you haven’t had enough zombie board games yet, Guillotine Games’ Zombicide is entering the fray after a successful Kickstarter campaign. This one looks fairly complex, but they’re planning to release a smartphone app that acts as a character manager, tracking your items and experience points. This not only saves on table space, but streamlines the process of running the game. I can think of a solid dozen board games that would benefit from a similar app (Arkham Horror, I’m looking at you), so I hope this catches on.
The cosplayers were out in full force, but there was a paucity of horror costumes. Silent Hill characters and a few supervillains made appearances among the many warriors, anime girls and orcs.
While there wasn’t much Lovecraftian horror going on at Gen Con as far as new releases, but I did get to play an amazing Call of Cthulhu scenario by Brandon Hodge called “Black Cows’ Milk, Black Hens’ Eggs.” Set during the Civil War, it concerned the recapture of some escaped Haitian slaves with ties to voudon spirits, and perhaps darker evils. The next time the “can games be art” debate comes up, I will point to this experience. It was disturbing and horrifying on many levels.
Artists’ Alley was home to eerie landscapes, cute fae creatures, epic dragons and – of course – zombies. Something for everyone. There was plenty of supernatural weirdness in the rows of indie author tables, too. I’ve got a review copy of a book about a post-apocalyptic sentient ambulance (Ian Harac’s I, Ambulance) headed my way that I’m looking forward to.
Gen Con may not be a horror convention, but it’s so huge and varied that you can find creepy games and gory art if you look hard enough. And even if you stick to traditional fantasy themes, you’re bound to run into some undead now and then.
Tags: call of cthulhu, cosplay, games, gaming, gen con, gen con 2012, last night on earth, zombicide, zombies