Satisfactory – Take #2

A while back, I wrote a post on Satisfactory. However, I don’t think it was particularly satisfactory, haha, I’m so clever, wordplay. Okay, that’s out of my system. Anyway. I’m not super happy with how it came out. So I’m gonna give this a second shot, because Satisfactory deserves a more focused review.

What type of game is Satisfactory?

One of the things I’m the most unhappy with in the last article I did on this game is how I actually described Satisfactory, because I really didn’t. I think at least part of this is because Satisfactory doesn’t quite fit into any video game genres particularly well. While you could call a Automation game, or maybe a sim, it’s not really a sim of anything, and most of the elements in the game aren’t particularly… sim-esque. (For who does think Satisfactory is a Sim, please go run 3000 MW through 3 inches of cabling, over several miles, and let me know how well that experience matches up with doing the same in Satisfactory.)

Instead, I think Satisfactory might be closer to a genre of board game, the engine builder. Engine builders as a genre are mostly about building sets of systems to take actions and produce resources, all of which ultimately get turned into victory points. Most board games with this system have some sort of win-lose condition, but this isn’t present in Satisfactory.

But Satisfactory does have a lot of what I’d consider to be the hallmarks of engine builders. There are a variety of resources, and you turn them into other resources. As you progress, you get access to both new types of equipment, and more powerful/faster versions of the equipment you already had. This access is gated by having your current setup produce certain thresholds of resources.

Why is it good?

Regardless of what genre you want to put the game in, Satisfactory can be really good. The animations and models are incredibly polished*, the gameplay is smooth and satisfying*, watching conveyer belts spin up is enjoyable*, and I really like the semi-parallel tech trees.

*If you’re wondering what that asterisk is for: Don’t worry, we’ll get to that in a bit.

Lets talk about those tech trees for a moment, because unlocking them serves as both a combination of progression and tutorial. We’re mostly going to focus on the Tier progression tree here. There are several other systems in place that also unlock building items and craftable items, but they’re mostly sidegrades/semi-optional. Except for the ladder. I have no idea why the ladder is in the coupon machine.

Here’s how tier progression works. There are 8 tiers of research, and within those tiers, there are research goals. Once you unlock a tier, you usually unlock a few new structure types, the ability to see what unlocking the next tier will require, and the list of research goals.

As an example: I can work on unlocking improved logistics, or a jetpack, but neither of those will progress me to Tier 7-8.

At any given point in time, making progress on a tech tree is your general goal, usually requiring you to craft somewhere between 50-1000 of various different parts.

But the main gameplay of Satisfactory is building. And everything around the building is mostly designed to make it easy. For example, if you disassemble a structure, you get all the resources it took to build back.

It’s also fairly easy to switch between what you’re building, and you can look almost everything up in the in-game Codex. That’s right. No longer do you have to have a fandom Wikipedia page that consists of 95% advertisements and 5% the recipe for wood logs.

At the same time, the buildings themselves are fairly flexible in how they can be placed. You can run conveyer belts through each other, and also across things that you maybe shouldn’t be able to.

Look, the highest praise I can give Satisfactory is that each time I try to think of nice things to say about, I go boot the game up, play for 6+ hours straight, then go do something else because I’ve completely lost my train of thought. There’s a constant feeling of success and progress, even if you mess things up a bit.

Okay, nice things over. Lets talk about the somewhat… unpolished parts of Satisfactory.

The elephant in the room.

If I had been forced to guess how long Satisfactory had been out, prior to actually knowing the numbers, I would have gone somewhere between half a years, to maybe just sneaking up on two years. There are two reasons for this, the first being the combat, and the second being the multiplayer performance, and bugs. Let’s talk about the combat first.

If the combat in your game makes me LONG for Minecraft’s combat system, you’ve done something horribly wrong. Satisfactory has a combat system, but I’m honestly not sure why. From what I can tell, there are three or so types of enemies, all of which have larger more “Dangerous” versions of themselves. The dangerous is in quotes because every single enemy in the game can be dealt with in loosely the same way: Kite it behind something, and then hit it until it dies. Assuming you’ve unlocked one of the games two ranged weapons, you have the alternate option of “Stand far away and shoot it until it dies”. Lets actually talk about those weapons for a moment, because they’re awful. The entire weaponry array of Satisfactory consists of the pokey stick, the pokey stick that does more damage, a modified nail gun (which is the only one that comes anywhere close to fun to use) and the worlds most unsatisfying rifle.

Special shoutout to the rifle here as being the most joyless gun, both across real life and games that I have ever encountered. It both eats through ammo, which is a massive pain in the ass to make, has a laughably small clip size of 10 shots, and has absolutely no feedback/tracers/anything to make it clear if you’re actually hitting your target, or if shots are flying freely though the wind, and for all of that effort, it doesn’t seem to even kill things very well.

I can’t tell what the goal is here to be honest. If combat is supposed to be anemic to make us focus on building and other mechanics, why does every single resource node past a certain point have several of the higher tier enemies, who despite being dumb as bricks, also hit like a stack of them, and will force you to salty runback to where you dropped all of your stuff. If the combat and unlocks related to it are supposed to be meaningful, why do they all suck so much? It’s clear the devs already understand how to create gated zones with things like the hazmat suit and gas mask. That sort of thing is much more similar to the sort of game Satisfactory feels like it is, with the unlocks of various tools and equipment and options to make building more efficient and easier.

The thing is though, as much as I loathe the combat, it is vestigial. An annoyance when it shows up and rears it’s ugly head, but it can be ignored a good 95% of the time. The next big problem I have with the game can’t be.

Satisfactory, much like Minecraft, isn’t a game I would ever really play single player. This is because both games are about making things, and the purpose of making things, at least for me, is to show them to other people, and to see the things other people make. It also massively cuts down the labor needed, because while you’re working on optimizing iron production, your friend can be setting up a full oil refinery. I personally find exploring the world tedious, but some of the folks I was playing with enjoy it. Where there are required tasks that one person might enjoy, others like them.

All of which would be cool if multiplayer wasn’t quite as shit as it is.

“Bugginess/Stability” is kind of a weird metric. For me, the impact a bug has on my experience comes down to pretty much two factors (1) How often does the bug occur? and (2) What happens when it does? Something like Skyrim has a lot of bugs, but from what I’ve seen, they’re usually more immersion breaking then they are save file shredding. In my playthrough of Elden Ring, bugs themselves are fairly rare, but when they do occur, the game fucking crashes, and in a game where closing the game without saving is death, and death means losing all your experience points/currency if you aren’t able to get to where you dropped it, this is substantially more aggravating. I had one friend whose entire save file was corrupted and effectively died outside the door to the final boss, after 63 hours. A patch fixed that issue, and he was able to complete the game, but that’s the sort of thing that leads to an uninstall.

There are two bugs I’d like to talk about with Satisfactory multiplayer. The first is incredibly specific and straightforward: When you log into a multiplayer game, if you’re not the host, or if you’re playing on a Dedicated Server, there’s a pretty good chance you will show up with exactly nothing in your inventory. As a result, you’ll have to spend a fair amount of time running around and trying to resupply/reequip potentially each time you log in. Disconnecting and reconnecting won’t solve it, and there’s no easy fix. When I looked up this bug, I found bug reports and discussions to it that date back several years ago.

The second set of bugs are a set of bugs I’m just going to refer to as “Desync” bugs.

While I’m not a game developer, I do have a technical background, and enough knowledge to make a guess as to what I think is likely occurring to cause these bugs, and why I’m specifically calling them desync bugs. First, a brief and somewhat inaccurate crash course in one way multiplayer games work. You have a server. The server is the sole source of truth for information about the games state. Then you have clients. Clients send information about what the player is doing to the server, and the server sends world state information back to the player. Because moving things, even across the internet can only go so fast, many game clients use various tricks to make things look instantaneous, or have the game client attempt to predict what will happen in order to give a smoother experience. When the client and server can’t talk to each other fast enough, for any number of reasons, you get latency, AKA lag, AKA the server is delayed in processing client inputs and sending the client information. I’m pretty sure these bugs aren’t lag, because they happened to me almost non-stop even while running the game on the same machine I was running my dedicated server one.

Instead, there’s a second type of problem that can occur. Usually, the game server tries to send only information that the client actually needs. If the system is well designed, this will be information that is relevant to the player. If the system is not well designed, it might not do that quite as fast, or it might not refresh certain information at the rate that might be desirable. For example, loading in that the player has walked directly into a cloud of poison gas.

And because the server is the sole source of truth, the client can send instructions that directs the player into situations where they take damage on the server, before the client receives that information. To the player, it seems like they died to nothing, because the state that the server was in did not match the state of their client. This is desync.

And it is fucking everywhere in Satisfactory. Sometimes its just annoying, such as with how every single conveyer belt in the game displays what it’s moving inaccurately, and how trying to grab things off them is a complete crapshoot.

And sometimes it will just fucking kill you, because you walked into the aforementioned poison gas. Or alien bees. Or radiation. Or a pack of angry spiders. You can see where I’m going with this.

Bugs are not inherently a reason to rip on a game. They can be a reason to avoid the game until it patches, like I’d currently suggest with Elden Ring, they can be a amusing nuisance like with Skyrim. But in the case Satisfactory multiplayer, they are a massive pain in the ass that actively interferes with the games gameplay loops and feel, and many of these issues have remained unfixed for years at this point. One friend who I had played with was shocked at how little had changed since the last time he’d played the game, about 3 years ago.

Early Access isn’t an excuse to ignore multiplayer performance, and frankly, there’s zero evidence that server performance will ever be fixed. They’ve had 5 years to do it, and they haven’t. I don’t see why I should believe they’ll do it in the next 5.

TLDR/Wrap-up

As a single player game, it’s an incredibly satisfying engine building/factory construction game of optimization and improvement, with a vestigial combat system, and some unimplemented features. As a multiplayer game, it’s all that, but with some exceedingly aggravating bugs that offset much of the games polish and design, in exchange for being able to untouched wilderness into a something resembling if MC Escher was tapped to design an Amazon warehouse with your friends, and the fun you’ll have is directly proportional to how long you can all go as a group before one of you snaps and quits to go back to a game that doesn’t wipe your inventory every time you try to log in. If this interests you, it’s out for PC on both Steam and the Epic Store at $30 a pop.

PAX East Party Game Post

This week: The party games we saw at PAX East!

I mentioned in another post-PAX writeup how I’m hesitant to recommend boomer shooters based off demos. This is because boomer shooters almost always demo well, even if the final product is subpar.

Well, this week, we’re talking about another genre that almost always demos/plays well at a convention: The party game!

Combine the excitement of being at a con with anything competitive, and a large number of people to play with, and just about everything can be fun for a bit. So here are the party games I saw at PAX East.

Starting with…

This image does not do a good job of capturing gameplay mechanics.

From what I played, Orbitals felt like a Smash Bros style 2d party brawler. The game had two mechanical twists though. The first is that the whole thing takes place in a gravity free area. You have to move from area to area Super Mario Galaxy style. The second is that after each round, you get points to spend to upgrade your character.

When I played, I found the gameplay a bit floaty. I couldn’t tell if that was just because it was my first time playing. The gameplay seems interesting, and Orbitals is on my watch list because of that. If you want to find out more about the game, click here.

Next up:

I guess this one does slightly more?

Match Point by Jolly Crouton is effectively multiplayer super Pong. It supports up to 4 players. Unlike Pong, you have a few other abilities then just bumping into the ball. By pressing certain triggers, you can magnetize yourself to pull the ball in, or do harder shots. Also, the goal requires you to hit it twice in semi-quick succession to score.

After reading my notes, I have written down that I thought it was “Fine” and “Not really my thing”. Also “Good Party Game???”. I think those notes are pretty accurate. It’s well made, but it’s still mostly Pong. I think it might be fun with the right crowd. But if it seems like your thing, you can learn more about it here.

Which brings us to our last entrant…

Finally, someone made a header image where the image is from the game!

Squish is fairly straight forward. It’s a survival versus game for up to 4 players. You play as a small blob skeleton, and try to be the last one standing while blocks constantly fall down onto the field. You can push this around, but if you get crushed by one, you die. Get killed, and you’re given one last chance to control a falling block. Take out another player with that block and you’re back into the game.

Squish feels like a extended release of a Mario Party minigame if I’m being honest. I don’t dislike it, but it wasn’t amazing. The full game does promise more modes, which might change things up a bit. If you want to find out more, you can click here. It actually has a scheduled release date of May 31st, so pretty soon!

And those were all the party games I played at PAX East. Like I mentioned before, it’s a genre that does well at conventions, and always makes me pause for a bit. My personal favorite was Orbitals, for both having the most potential and being the most interesting.

In either case, join us next week as I attempt to keep writing these summaries because I played a ton of stuff! Not sure what the theme will be then, but I’ll figure it out.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Kirby and the Forgotten Land is fun, but I wish I could play the challenging parts without beating the game first.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land is fine. But even though I just finished the game, I don’t really have any strong feelings about it. I think if you’re looking for a fairly relaxing 3D platformer, or are newer to video games, Kirby would probably hit the spot. That said, if you don’t play Kirby and the Forgotten Land, I couldn’t really make a strong argument that you’d be missing out on much.

Kirby games are generally fairly easy*. I don’t think this is a bad thing. Kirby is Nintendo’s entry level franchise. Making a game that everyone can beat, but still feels fun to play for both folks who might be picking up a controller for the first time as well as jaded freaks like myself is a tough balancing act. If you want more insight into that sorta thing, I suggest you check out this article from the Washington Post, with the creators. Even how the game handles detection isn’t straight forward, and is built in such a way that if an attack looks like it should connect, it connects! Which is brilliant, and clever, but still easy.

*Many Kirby games have post-game content in the form of boss rushes/time attacks/etc. These are NOT easy.

This writeup is about Kirby and the Forgotten Land though. So let’s get the bit of this article were I describe game mechanics verbatim over with, shall we?

In Kirby and the Forgotten Land, you play as Kirby. Like most Kirby games, the primary mechanic is being able to swallow up enemies, and copy their abilities. Unlike most Kirby games, the game is the first true 3D entry in the series. You don’t quite have the ability to jump/float infinitely, as it would break most of these 3D maps. Compared to something like Amazing Mirror, the game is incredibly linear, taking place over a series of levels played in order.

Each level has 5 mini-objectives, and two main objectives that are always the same. Objective one is to complete the level, and objective two is to find hidden captured waddle-dees. Usually the waddle-dees are in some sort of hidden area off the main path, or in something that needs to be destroyed. Objectives 3-5 are usually to complete some sort of additional task, and while these start out as hidden, each time you complete a level, you’re given a hint about what these extra goals are.

By the time I completed most levels, I had found 8-9 of the 11 waddle-dees. Beat enough levels, and you’ll reach the boss. Actually unlocking the boss does require that you freed enough of the waddle-dees from earlier, but I never actually had to go back to replay a level. I always had enough waddle-dees anyway. Beat the boss level, you unlock the next world.

Let’s talk about the bosses. They’re solid. Like most Kirby games, there are mini-bosses, which are fairly easy, and main bosses, which are the only places in the game I died. They’re fun spectacles and are somewhat challenging.

Outside the main game levels and the bosses, there are a few more activities. There’s a home town area that gives access to several mini-games, which I never played. There are also side areas called treasure roads that serve as time-trials/skill checks to get currencies to upgrade your abilities. I played like two of these, and then decided I didn’t care.

Complaining about Kirby being a generic video game is like complaining about Lord of the Rings being generic fantasy. Kirby is meant to be an easily played and approachable game, with a certain level of challenge and depth offered in the post game for more skilled players. As I mentioned in the intro, it’s not like it’s easy to make a game anyone can beat and feel good about it.

But with that said, I also don’t have strong feelings about it. Kirby and the Forgotten Land doesn’t offer anything I haven’t seen before, or seen at a similar level of polish. It’s a new Kirby game, with all that the series entails, including bright and colorful visuals, a story that takes a surprisingly dark turn in the last 90% of the game, and a final boss that looks like it belongs in a JRPG.

If you’re newer to gaming I think it’s a really solid place to start. Not because it is easy, but because it’s well designed. It’s good training ground for a lot of the habits and ideas that could serve well playing other games. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is $60 for Nintendo Switch. It’s a fine 3D platformer, with a fair amount of content and side objectives, but it doesn’t redefine Kirby games, and outside of the boss levels, there wasn’t anything super memorable about it. I don’t dislike it by any means, but I don’t feel passionately about it.

Post-Script: So after finishing the game, and dying a bunch in Elden Ring, I went back and decided to play the post game. It’s much harder and could best be described as a remix of the base game. It takes sections from each world, compresses them into a single level with juiced up boss fight at the end. Then it adds extra enemies to each section. It’s a lot more fun and interesting, because it isn’t as easy. I appreciate that it’s there, but I wish there was just an option to start with this version of the game.

TLDR: There’s a harder game mode, but you have to beat the game to unlock it.

The Cruel King and the Great Hero

Ed Note: We requested and received a review copy of The Cruel King and the Great Hero from Nippon Ichi Software.

The Cruel King and the Great Hero is a a turn based RPG by Nippon Ichi Software. It has a beautiful story book art style and the story is solid. With that said, I’m on the fence about recommending it. The mechanical aspects of its combat system sit somewhere between “Unfun” and “Rudimentary.” This isn’t helped by the game’s random encounter system, and early to mid-game world traversal.

The game starts out with Yuu, the main character, living with her father, the Dragon King, where she trains every day to become a hero. We learn fairly early on that Yuu’s actual father was a hero who traveled around defeating monsters. The details on how she ended up in the Dragon King’s care are fairly hazy, though they do get fleshed out by the end of the game. While training, the stick that she uses as a sword breaks, and the Dragon King suggests she go to the nearby monster village to get a replacement. This means traveling through the forest, which is populated by dangerous monsters that will attack her. After defeating monsters and visiting the village, she gets a new sword.

After this the game opens up a bit. I won’t go into great detail to avoid some spoilers, but the general structure is “Someone has a problem, Yuu volunteers to help them, they join as a party member, and Yuu has to go to a place to do a thing.” A majority of the game follows this structure, prior to the climax and finale.

The localization is generally solid. There was only a single quest where it fell flat.

But it does bring us to the point I want to talk about the most: the game’s combat and RPG systems. Let’s talk about the RPG systems first, because there aren’t many. You have a maximum of up to two party members at any point in time, consisting of Yuu and one other character. Prior to reaching the climax, you have no ability to choose who is in your party. The game has a level system, but there are no choices related to leveling up, or character customization.

The closest thing to customization lies in the equipment. Each character has 4 equipment slots, a weapon, an armor, and two accessories. However, I never found two weapons the game that were equivalent but with different abilities. Every new weapon was just an upgrade. The accessories are the actual customization, but even then, I used the same 4 accessories for more or less the entire game (the accessories in question were two that auto-healed each turn, one that made guarding reduce damage even further, and a stat stick that increased speed and damage). This is really the extent of character customization.

Having covered the RPG elements, let’s talk about combat. Combat is basic. You have health and energy. There are a variety of status effects, but they follow fairly standard RPG tropes. Energy is used to perform special attacks. For abilities, (if I recall correctly) prior to the final boss, Yuu had 7 skills, of which only 5 were really relevant. More on that later. These 5 could be summarized as: Heavy Attack, Fast Attack, Conditional AOE, Protect Ally, and Heavy AOE. My other party member had 4, which could be summarized as: AOE and Team Buff, Self Buff, Single Target Damage plus Status, and Heavy AOE.

Each character also has a normal attack, and a guard. The guard is the only part of the combat system I have any actual praise for, because guarding restores extra energy, making guarding vs attacking an actual meaningful choice.

These two raccoons are about to be absolutely flattened.

The problems I have with combat are multi-layered, so let’s go through them. I mentioned above that there are conditional multi-attacks. These attacks will only hit enemies if they are lined up correctly. The problem with these attacks is that enemies never move around in combat. There is also no way to move them around. That means these attacks are only useful when enemies just happen to show up in ways that are convenient. Of the 3 potential party members, only one had access to non-conditional AOE, and so was the party member I brought with me when I could choose. Remember: you can only have one other party member.

The boss fights are the only source of real difficultly I encountered, and they don’t feel particularly fair. There were two instances of frustration I encountered. One was around the middle of the game. In that fight, the enemy used an attack that would do about 100 damage. Unfortunately, the max HP of my characters was respectively about 120 and 70. So if I ever let myself go below max, there was a non-zero chance I would get wiped by a random attack, with no telegraphing.

The other situation was the final boss fight. While I only failed it once, before returning to clear it, that first failure took around 45 minutes, and the second attempt took around 30-40. It is simply not a fun fight. Bosses are not affected by status effects, even temporarily, so the only real strategy devolved into “Make sure that they can never do an attack to kill both party members at once, and spam healing items.”

Combat just isn’t fun. Characters don’t have enough attack variety to keep things interesting, or exciting, and tactics for any encounter almost always boiled down to “Spam big AOE attacks, and hope you kill them first.” I used the word “rudimentary” in the opening paragraph, and I really mean it. The combat structure feels like it was copy-pasted from a default RPG Maker project.

All of this would be less annoying if combat wasn’t such a large portion of the game. Almost every quest and sub-quest involves traveling from point A to point B, with random encounters along the way. And while there is an item you can use to “prevent” encounters, I’m not convinced it actually works. At the very least, it doesn’t quite work as described.

Since we’re on the subject, let’s talk about traversal. Traversal is my other big gripe with the game. Yuu moves incredibly slowly. For an idea of how slowly, let me tell a story. Early on in the game, you get access to an item that lets you return to a hub zone. Later in the game while doing side quests in the ice zone, I found myself using this item often. This was because it was faster to complete an objective in the ice zone, warp back to the hub zone, walk to the teleport near the hub, and then teleport back to the ice zone, rather then just walking from one part of the ice zone to another.

But despite all this, I did finish The Cruel King and the Great Hero. I won’t lie, part of that is because I had a review copy, and I refuse to write a review of a game I can’t finish. Which is why we don’t yet have an Elden Ring review.

But the other reason is that the story is good. It’s a curious and compelling take on story book tropes. It’s not subversive, and it’s not going to win a Caldecott award or anything, but it’s generally comfy and interesting, and the story incredibly well accompanied by the art. The game’s side quests and writing all feed into this, making the end result feel like reading a set of children’s books.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about that art for bit. It’s great. I love the painterly feel, and the general soft tones. The animation is good. The UI elements are clear and crisp. The game absolutely nails a theme and feel, and that’s supported by the music. It’s just unfortunate that so much of this incredible art and comfy, if simple story, is left to carry the weight of a mediocre paint by the numbers RPG.

And those are pretty much my thoughts on The Cruel King and the Great Hero. A solid 9/10 for art, music, worldbuilding and tone. A 6/10 for passable mechanics that aren’t bad, but do nothing new, while not really offering interesting options. The game is $30 for Nintendo Switch, which honestly, seems about fair. If you want something small and comfy to play around with, and don’t mind dealing with a few aggravating moments, it might be worth picking up.

PAX East 2022 – The Board Games Post

A look at the board games I played at PAX East, 2022.

While PAX East doesn’t focus on board games in the same way as Gen Con, or PAX Unplugged, they’re still there! Despite having a smaller presence, PAX East’s tabletop sections stays open late into the evening. So let’s go over the fun board games I played at PAX East.

Disclaimer: This list is no particular order, but I have listed bigger/released games closer to the bottom of the list. I played Dominion. It was fun. But it’s been out for 10 years, it doesn’t need top billing.

So let’s get right into it. Drum roll please!

1. I ripped this image straight from the Space Lion site, and 2. Pretty sure this is a concept box, even if the art is somewhat finalized.

First up, we have Space Lion! It’s an asymmetric bluffing/placement game. At the show, I only played the demo which used a single army. The full game is supposed to include four armies, if I remember correctly? The general gist is that you have a hand of cards, which are your units. Each round, you and your opponents place cards face down at various locations, and after placement is finished, you flip them up. Whoever has the highest unit value wins that battle, and the goal is to destroy the opponent’s base. While this sounds simple, I’ve completely skipped unit abilities, exhausting units, and the fact that each army is supposed to play differently.

Unfortunately, the game isn’t actually out yet. There was a Gamefound campaign running, but it was canceled. Still, if you’re interested in the game, there’s hope! The creators announced they were taking the lessons they learned from the first campaign and planning to try another at some point. If that all sounds interesting, you can sign up for their mailing list here. I hope it succeeds, as it was one of my favorite games from the show.

Another unpublished game is Small Time Crooks. I found this one in the Unpub hall. If you’re not familiar with Unpub, it’s a small area where you can play test board games in various states of development. The games can vary quite highly in their levels of completeness. You’ll find folks looking for publishers sitting next to a first prototype of a hand made deck of cards.

Small Time Crooks though! It’s a hyper-lite GM-less RPG? The mechanics are pretty straight forward. You have a character, and you have a randomly generated target to rob. The target consists of a series of random rooms. Each room contains a skill check, which you make via dice rolls.

I’m honestly not sure how well it would work with multiple players, but the demo was neat. I think it’s worth keeping an eye on. And if you want to do that, here’s the link to their website. My notes say that they’re planning a Kickstarter at some point in 2022? Weirdly enough I could never find who is actually making the game.

Update: You can also find them here, on Twitter! Thanks to the Unpub hall for pointing this out for me.

Leaving the indie and unpub space, let’s head over to a game that had its own massive booth.

Calling Dice Throne an incredibly polished “Push-Your-Luck” dice brawler is underselling it a bit, but it feels fairly accurate. I only played a single 1v1 game, but it worked like this: each player picks out a character to play. The character determines the starting health, energy, hand size, and most importantly, your attacks. Each attack consists of a matched pattern of dice rolls. On your turn, you have three sets of rolls. After each roll, you can choose which dice you want to reroll, and which to keep. The end result is that you’re generally trying to roll specific patterns to inflict damage, while using your own abilities to keep yourself alive. You can also use your hand of cards to modify dice rolls, and upgrade your abilities.

It’s very polished, and the two characters I saw seemed pretty different. I didn’t rush over to buy a copy afterwards, but I’d play it again. Also, the game box is massive, and I’m not sure I have space for it. Like, much bigger than other board games.

Of games I played though, the last one is one I owned: Dominion.

A deckbuilder like Tanto Cuore, Dominion is over 10 years old and is the OG of OG deckbuilders. There’s not much I can say that hasn’t already been written about, but let me summarize it anyway. Each player starts with a deck of cards, and a shared market. The market consists of 10 of 21 non-starter cards, and also a few more. Your goal is to spend the currency you get from you hand to buy cards from the market and add them to your deck, and improve your deck’s efficiency, so you can buy victory point cards. But as victory point cards only give VP at the end of the game, you want to avoid buying them until you have to.

Overall, it’s a very solid game, and playing it with someone who hadn’t played before gave me a solid appreciation for how well it’s held up all these years later. It also gave me a sense of nostalgia for a time 10 years ago. Y’know, back when you could just go places, the world wasn’t falling apart, and my parents weren’t divorced!

How time flies.

In any case, that’s what I played at PAX. This was only a microscopic sample of what was available, but as I tend to focus on video games while at East, it’s all I have to write about today.

Oh, and I also played lot of MTG, but that might just end up being its own post.