A game that I had never heard of prior to GenCon was Stomple. Fortunately for me, I walked past their booth, and the game looked interesting enough for me to try a demo of it.
In Stomple, 49 marbles are laid out on a 7x7 grid. Each of the marbles carefully rests on a foam inset, and the board is placed on top of a wooden "holder" (for lack of a better word - it catches all of the marbles when they fall through the hole that they are resting on). After the marbles are randomly placed, each player randomly selects one "Stomple", which shows a marble color on top, and has a base that fits into the same place as the marbles. Unfortunately for the marbles. On the first turn, a player takes their Stomple, starts from the edge of the board, and "Stomples" (the box says Stomp, but what does a Stomple do? Stomple, of course) a marble; and if that marble is adjacent to another marble of the same color, they Stomple that one. And the next one. And the next one. Until they have Stompled all of the adjacent marbles of the same color. On the second and all following turns, a player can either continue Stompling (in the same manner as on the first turn) any marbles that are adjacent to him, or he can "Hop" to another marble of his color to get better positioning (thus Stompling it and ending his turn). The object of the game is to be the last Stomple standing when no other player has any moves that they can make. And at that point, you score points based on how many marbles are left. Then you play again. And again. Until you get to a certain number of points. Then you declare a winner. And play again.
So, the first pro to Stomple is that it is incredibly fun. The back of the box states that it can be addictive, and I would tend to agree. Sure, it is great to win the game, but the physical act of Stompling the marbles is fun as well. And the game itself lends to a lighthearted atmosphere where friends can simply get together and enjoy each others' company while playing a fun, high quality game.
Speaking of enjoying people's company, Stomple's next pro is that it can really be played by just about all ages. I could see friends playing this with each other. I could just as easily see parents or grandparents playing this with their children (and grandchildren). The rules are straightforward enough that anyone should be able to master them, and the act of Stompling I think will appeal to children, motivating them to ask to play the game (and yet the game won't be annoying to adults).
The third pro for Stomple is that it is a beautiful game. I have at least one friend that will buy games that he can set out on his table because they look pretty. Unfortunately, when he does this, he often winds up with games that are gorgeous, but aren't very good as an actual game (I'm glad that at least he isn't buying dozens of fancy chess sets). Stomple would make a good game for this - with the quality of the wooden board and the marbles (and even the Stomples), the game would look good if you left it out for decoration.
A neutral point of note before getting to the cons: I'm not really sure how long the board itself will last. Since the holes that the marbles are pushed through are made of foam, I don't know how long they will last in terms of both years and plays before they will wear out. This is important to me, as I can see this being a very good game for grandparents to have in a game closet that can be pulled out whenever the grandchildren are visiting. And, if that game closet is anything like the game closet in my Grandmother's home, then those games will be in there for a long, long time - and so I would hope that Stomple could last that long.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of cons with Stomple. The first of which is rather trivial. Stomple is a very noisy game. This isn't really very true when playing the game, but when setting up the board, and when transporting it in the car, the marbles roll around a lot and ram into each other. Again, this isn't really a major indictment to the game, but it is something to be aware of - make sure that you plan on playing it in a place where some occasional loud noises won't get you kicked out (stated another way, "this is not library friendly").
A more significant con to Stomple is that it feels like there is too much luck in the game. Now, with that said, there really are only two random parts to the game: the setup and the selection of the Stomples. However, if you start the game with most of your marbles in a continuous line, you will be at a very significant disadvantage in the game. The other aspect of the game (and why it "feels" like luck instead of actually being luck) is that in a large game, you don't have very much control over your chances of victory. When playing six-player, the board simply is too small to allow everyone to have many movement options - and so it is very easy to eliminate players; and to be defeated no matter what your "strategy" might have been. Because of this, I think that as a "strategic" game, Stomple is probably best with 3-4 players. (As a fun game, however, Stomple truly is fine with 2-6).
Overall, I give Stomple an 8.0/10. I'm glad to have added this game to my collection, and I really think that it will continue getting playing time. I would recommend this game to anyone that likes abstract reasoning games, but I would highly recommend this game to anyone with children that enjoy playing games.
I would like to thank Stomple's designer Greg Zima of GaZima Games for providing me with a review copy of Stomple to play.