PAX East 2014
All About Tabletop Games at PAX East 2014

Jonathan Bolding | 16 Apr 2014 18:45
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Indie Tabletop Space

The biggest, newest, fanciest thing in tabletop games going on at PAX East was definitely the inclusion of a whole row of indie tabletop games in the titan of the show floor that is the Indie Megabooth. The highlights for me were definitely the party games, like These French Fries Are Terrible Hot Dogs and Funemployed. However, I was surprised to also find a couple more serious and interesting looking games in the row of indies.

French Fries is a game where you try to convince another player that your card you have in your hand, say, hot dogs, is the most like the card they're judging, say, French fries. You'd say something like "It's long and edible, and you shouldn't eat too many of them even if you want to." It's a deceptively simple pitch, but it may well be a great addition to the party game collection that a lot of gamers have built since the explosive popularity of Cards Against Humanity took off. You can learn more about it at their website.

Funemployed! is a quick party game about why you'd be best at any given job, and involves playing qualifications from your hand and from a common pool to prove that you'd be best for a job. To a degree, it solves the boring problem that many card-playing judged party games have, where you don't have a good card for the situation at hand and so put down the card you have which you like the least. It also has a definite edge over some other games, in that with a bit of deck editing it's perfectly acceptable to play with mom and dad. It's available for preorder at Urban Island Games' website.

A quick, fun real time game that involves making gun fingers at your friend and questionable appropriation of a wild west theme, Slap .45 was definitely worth the minutes it took to learn and play. As new cards are revealed in turn from a deck, you move your hand between various pieces of cover in front of each player - if you can't get into cover in time, you get shot. If the chance to shoot comes up and an enemy isn't in cover, you can try to take your hand off cover in and get the shot on them before they do the same to you. It's a fun twist on real time and took only a handful of minutes to play.

The oddest pitch, but most interesting execution, in indie tabletop was definitely Wizard Dodgeball, where players are participants in the interdimensional wizarding dodgeball league. It was a much more traditional game, with a gridded board and dice "balls" for your wizard pawns to pick up and run with before chucking at each other. Each team had statistic cards for their wizards and a hand of spells to cast, making it play out like a tactical minis game. The game had a satisfying amount of randomness, but still relied on heavy tactical play from the participants. Light, whimsical tactical games are an underserved category, and Wizard Dodgeball will be a strong entry when it releases. It'd be great, for example, for those who've played and enjoyed Munchkin but wouldn't touch Memoir '44. If the full game lives up to the short demo I got, it could be popular among both hardcore and casual gamers.

I didn't get to play AEGIS, a "combining robot strategy game," because both their space in indie tabletop and in the larger tabletop hall were slammed doing demos every time I came by for three days - it must have been doing something right!

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