Gen Con — the largest gaming convention in the country — bills itself as “The Home of Tabletop Gaming™” and as such, is primarily focused on tabletop gaming such as card games, board games and role-playing games. These types of games are traditionally purely physical affairs, composed entirely of cardboard, paper, wood, and plastic.
However, even at Gen Con, technology is sneaking its way into the convention.
GeekWire spent the weekend scouring Gen Con for traces of technology that have worked their way onto the show floor. Here is a roundup of the most interesting things we found.
kNOW! (by Ravensburger)
If the color scheme on Ravensburger’s kNOW! trivia game looks familiar, you might be able to guess where its tech hook comes from. It was developed in partnership with Google, and is integrated with the Google Assistant via Android phones or Google Home devices to make an “always current quiz game.” An example of unique question styles only possible with a game like this is something like “how far away is San Diego” (the answer will change depending on where you’re playing). The game was originally released last year in Ravensburger’s home country of Germany, and has just been released to the USA. It is currently being sold exclusively through Walmart for $25.
Rathskellers Gaming Tables
I counted at least six different companies at Gen Con that are making custom gaming tables, each with their own distinct selling points, but the Rathskellers gaming tables were my favorite thanks to their unique combination of high-quality wood craftsmanship and cool integrated tech features.
The coolest part is the LED light strip that wraps around the entire edge of the recessed playing area. It works with a custom app that allows you to fully customize the lighting, including coloring different sections of the table with different colors to correspond with the game token color of the player seated in a given location. The table also has integrated wired power ports and wireless charging seamlessly built into the wood.
The quality of their woodworking was among the best of any of the tables as well, probably because the company is a 2013 spin-off of a 60-year-old Greek family furniture business. They also realize that the wood table is likely to outlast all of the electronic components, so they wisely made all of the electronics inside the table easily accessible and replaceable. Their main product, The Councilor, starts at $2,250 and is available to order now.
— Mattel (@Mattel) July 2, 2019
Even toy and games giant Mattel is bringing tech into their games. They were showing off Pictionary Air, a new version of the classic drawing party game that uses a light pen and an app on your phone to allow you to draw in the air. It is very silly and very fun, even though it was somewhat tricky to actually draw something guess-able by your teammates. Pictionary Air is available now at retailers like Target and Amazon for $20.
Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game
If you ever played the classic Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? computer games in the ’80s, you may remember that this pre-internet video game required you to have access to physical resources such as almanacs and encyclopedias to figure out how to solve the game’s various puzzles. Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game is the same kind of concept, but inverted. The game is a physical board game, but requires you to get on the Internet and use various databases and sites like Wikipedia and Google Maps to solve crimes in the game. It is available now on Amazon for $34.
Chronicles of Crime
Continuing on the detective theme, Chronicles of Crime is built around a board and character cards that contain just pictures and a QR code. The game is played using these physical components as well as a phone in a VR headset that scans the codes and also contains VR crime scenes. A variety of game scenarios can be played using the same base set by simply launching them in the app. They are also releasing additional downloadable content to expand the game beyond the five scenarios that the game comes with. The base game (requires a phone plus a VR base like Google Daydream or Gear VR) is available now for $29 on Amazon.
Escape Room: The Game (Virtual Reality)
Speaking of VR, Escape Room: The Game (Virtual Reality) uses a cardboard VR headset that you assemble out of the game box to put you into a virtual escape “room” that you have to puzzle your way out of. I put “room” in quotes because since it’s in VR it can be any setting at all. For example, the scenario I played starts you off in a crashed helicopter in a jungle. A series of cards included with the game contain hints and rules to help you through the game. It is available now for $20 on Amazon.
Unlock! Escape Adventures
And speaking of escape rooms, Unlock! Escape Adventures has another take on the genre. These games use a deck of cards and a well-integrated app to create an escape room. The app is used to type unlock codes, operate puzzle mechanics, get card-specific hints, and to manage the game timer, which can penalize you precious minutes if you draw the wrong card or attempt an incorrect solution. A large variety of Unlock! scenarios are available now on Amazon for between $10 and $15 each.
D20 Pro is a “virtual tabletop” app that runs on a variety of platforms and is designed to supplement roleplaying games such as Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. A near-infinite variety of game scenarios can be loaded into the app, which can track stats, dice rolls, movement, and more. The app is available directly through their website for $50 and runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers.