PAX East 2023 – Day 4

The final day of PAX is a bit slower. After three full days of running around and playing games more or less non-stop for 14 hours straight, I am a bit tired. So I’m more than happy for a day with less crowds, and a more leisurely tone.

I started by wandering over to the Top Hat Studios booth. I tried a game called Ellementallis. From what I saw it was sort of a simple dungeon crawler in the vein of the Zelda games. I ended up putting it down fairly quickly.

Then I moved to another game at the booth, Athenian Rhapsody. Specifically, Athenian Rhapsody: Thunder Goober’s Personality Dungeon. It’s not a demo of the full game, instead it’s a sort of standalone mini-section of what the full game will be.

Athenian Rhapsody might be my sleeper hit of the show. It’s unabashedly following in the vein of Earthbound and Undertale. It’s weird, with a distinctive style and unusual tone. It also uses a amped up version of Undertale’s bullet hell/real time movement dodge mechanics within an RPG.

I am cautious. Undertale is an incredibly strong game on every axis. Music, writing, and perhaps most importantly, gameplay. But it’s a strong game because all of how well all of those three work together. I have no idea if Athenian Rhapsody will be as good. But I’d like to believe that it will be. It certainly has the potential.

Anyway, moving along I found Treachery in Beatdown City. It’s part side scrolling beat-em-up, and part JRPG. Characters are moved around with the control sticks, but there’s a energy and FP menu for actually using some attacks on enemies. The game didn’t click for me, but it’s a very cool combination I’ve never seen done before.

Another cool project that I haven’t tried out yet was Project Dark, a video game with no video. Instead, it’s a audio based game where you swipe left or right to make decisions. I grabbed a code for one of the modules and I’m hoping to try it at some point this week.

Then a lunch break!


In entirely unrelated and weird experience, I ran into the booth for Artix Entertainment. There’s a longer story here. Short version is that I met someone who was basically a personal hero from my childhood, and made a bunch of the games I played in highschool and middle school. So that was cool. They’re working on a port of Adventure Quest Worlds to Unity, with the name Adventure Quest Worlds Infinity. So if I can ever figure out how to get my old character back, I might play that again.

Then it was back to wandering, and I wandered over to Righteous Mojo. I didn’t like Righteous Mojo very much. The game felt and played like a combo of Friday Night Funkin and a 2006 flash game. It also looks like 2006 flash game. Graphics aren’t everything, and gameplay isn’t everything, but you gotta have at least one of them.

Anyway, I wandered a bit more and found myself at the Raw Fury booth. I’ve written about one of their published games, Dome Keeper before. Raw Fury has a bunch of games I’m curious about, including Cassette Beasts and Superfuse. But I sat down and played Friends VS Friends, the deckbuildy-cardshooty 1v1 and 2v2 shooter. It had a bunch of cards I hadn’t seen before in some of the other public demos they’ve run, and was quite fun.

Strolling around, I stopped into play ODR Hockey Heros. Sports games aren’t really my thing, but it was pretty fun. It’s apparently inspired by the SNES era of couch co-op and versus hockey games. I’ve never played any of those, so I’m not sure if it succeeds.

Then I played something a bit more in my wheelhouse: Robobeat. It’s a rougelike arena-shooter, where you get rewarded for shooting to the beat. It was pretty fun! Side note: This is a genre that demos well at game conventions, but I’ve burned by before as well. So I’m always a little hesitant when see these sorts of games.

Crossing to the other side of the hall, I found Toy Tactics, a neat little RTS with primary gimmick being the ability to draw your own battle formations. It reminded a bit of Battalion Wars 2. Yes, I am comparing this to a Wii game from 2007. No, I won’t elaborate.

Because PAX East closes at 6:00 on Sundays, I didn’t get as many board games. I did however get to demo Potion Slingers, a very cool semi-deckbuilder. It’s difference from a traditional deckbuilder is that cards are placed face up onto your deck as you buy them, and many are single use. So instead of being a hard engine builder, it’s more about spotting combos and combining various factors. It was quite interesting, and ended being the only board game I played at the show today.

However, it wasn’t my last game of the day. That honor goes to the somewhat unfortunately named Pandemic Train. It’s a roguelike about managing survivors in a train, and getting out to loot the places you stop at, all while trying to cure a deadly disease. The game was interesting, but felt a bit rough around the edges. Right now it has a release date of next quarter, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that gets pushed back a bit.

And finally, as the hall closed, I waved goodbye and- no wait, I didn’t do that. Instead, I helped some friends break down their booth, lug everything out to the car, and then made my way home, where I’m now typing this.

From an attendee standpoint, this was a pretty good PAX. Attendance did feel a bit lighter then usual, but I don’t know how that worked out for folks at booths. I saw a bunch of cool stuff, learned about some interesting looking upcoming games, and chatted with cool folks.

PAX East 2023 – Day 3

Read day 1 here. Read day 2 here.

Day 3 of PAX East 2023 has rolled around, AKA Saturday, aka the busiest day. But I was a bit tired, so I just laid in bed, and headed over to the convention center at about 12:00.

I started by heading over to the NIS America booth. They’re the publisher and developer for Disgaea, a series I absolutely adore. There was some promotional material for Disgaea 7, but no demo. So instead I played the five games that they had available. The two that stuck out to me as interesting were Grim Grimoire OnceMore and Trails to Azure. Grim Grimoire is a remake of a PS2 RTS style game. Trails to Azure is a JRPG.

After that, I wandered a bit and checked out Bish Bash Bots, a multiplayer tower defense game. The mechanic setting it apart is a light physics system. Players whack towers to upgrade them. They can also whack incoming enemies to push them back. What I saw was a bit simplistic, but fun.

I swung by Serenity Forge. The demos I was interested in had fairly long lines, so I kept going.

Then I found Galactic Getaway. Players play Mario Party style mini-games to earn currency. Then they can spend that currency to decorate and build up a Animal Crossing style island. One of the mini-games was a very clever tile placement thing I found quite fun. I didn’t really experiment with the other parts of the game, but there’s a lot of potential. I’m going to keep an eye on this one, even though it’s not really a genre in my personal wheelhouse. Side Note: I chatted with the devs a bit. They’re aiming for a multi-platform and cross platform release. It’s ambitious, but I hope it works out.

Then I went to actually demo Nostalgix. Nostalgix is an Indie TCG that feels like a combination of Hearthstone and the Pokémon TCG. It was actually quite fun! I’ve written a bit about other indie TCG’s (and my skepticism of MetaZoo). I may try to do a full writeup at some point on Nostalgix, but it played best of any of the indie TCG’s I’ve seen so far.

After that I wandered and found Infernax. I legit didn’t know anything about it, other than that it looked like gritty Shovel Knight Castlevania. After playing for a bit, I would say that it was fine. It felt a bit tonally weird, but the actual mechanics of the demo didn’t feel special enough to make me love it.

Then it was time for board games. I demo’ed Skytear: Horde. It’s a co-op PVE defense game. I’m not a huge PVE board game person, so it didn’t grab me. Might be worth checking out if you are into that sort of thing though. It did have nice art.

After the Expo Hall closed, I checked out the Board Game library.

The first game I ended up playing was Downforce. Downforce is a diceless tactical movemnt game where you’re racing racecars by playing movement cards. Each card can move multiple cards, and there’s also a bidding. It was quite neat, and I would play it again, but I did not win.

The second game from the library was Land Air & Sea. It’s a neat bluffing game. Players take turns placing cards, and try to win two of three battlefields. At the same time though, it’s possible to retreat early. Doing so lets you minimize losses, and keep playing.

The last game of the night was Macaryoshka. It was some sort of incredibly interesting Japanese homebrew, with what appeared to be home machined parts, and a set of English rules that weren’t translated 100% correctly. It placement game about Macaroons. It was pretty neat! We did have to google translate the Japanese rules to figure a few things out though. Fantastic components, interesting gameplay. I would be shocked if I ever see another copy of this thing again in my life.

Image of Makaryoshika board game
Here’s an online image I found. I can’t actually find a website or link for the developer.

And with that, PAX East 2023 Day 3 was over! But we still have one more day left. So for now I am going to get some sleep, and try to prepare mentally for Sunday.

PAX East 2023 – Day 2

Day 2 of PAX East 2023 is over, and I am completely fried. Before I stumble into bed though, I’ll be doing another quick recap! Mostly just focusing on what I saw and played.

Lets start with the big highlight: Mina the Hollower.

It’s from Yacht Club Games, the folks who made Shovel Knight, which I also love.

From what I played, it feels like a combination of the best mechanics of 2D Zelda and a sprinkling of Soulslike, specifically Bloodborne in some ways. So far it is hands down the best thing I’ve seen at PAX East this year. The movement and combat is fantastic and fun, and while I can’t comment too much on on story/art/music, they all seemed great from what I saw.

I did get to chat with one of the devs as I was playing, and he mentioned that the game likely won’t be out this here, but hopefully will be out next year. So I have a bit to wait before we get to play the whole thing.

Anway, just in case I wasn’t clear enough, let me say it one more time. Mina the Hollower is currently the best thing I’ve seen at PAX East 2023, and it might turn out to be the best game there.

Rest of the Day

Anyway, after that I rolled over to the Unpub tables, and played some stuff there. First game was Magician’s Challenge by James Eastband, who doesn’t have a twitter or website I can link to. Players try to draw props to complete various sets to perform magic tricks, while messing with their opponents via sneak cards. It’s effectively Yahtzee with cards, and it was pretty fun.

This was followed by Wormwood. It’s a 2-4 player (prebuilt?) deck game, in the spirit of something like Netrunner or Magic’s Commander format. Where it differs is that it’s designed to be played with 4 players, and there’s no elimination. Instead, you win by collecting 10 of a certain type of card, meaning that even if you fall behind, you stay in the game. I only played a two player game, but it was pretty neat, even if I did feel a little overwhelmed at the start.

Finally, I played The Armory a second time after seeing it at Granite State Games festival. They’re been a few tweaks, reducing the lulls quite a bit, and it’s neat to see how it’s shaping up.

Then it was back to roaming the show floor for a bit. I tried out Blackout Protocol, a top down team based shooter in the spirit of something like Alien Swarm. Me and the other two folks I was playing with got absolutely bodied by the zombies.

The big thing I saw this afternoon though was Cobalt Core, a deckbuilding game about piloting a spaceship, in the vein of something like Slay the Spire. I quite liked what I saw, but it was a 12 minute demo, so it’s a bit hard to draw long term conclusions. Still, there was enough there, and enough differences to make it feel distinct from Slay the Spire, especially with the positioning and row mechanics.

Finally, with the day rounding down, I went and got a healthy dinner.

Just kidding, no I went, ate half of a friends sandwhich, and sat down for some more games. I played Gudnak, and just dipped after a little bit. It’s a positional card game, but it didn’t really grab me.

This was followed up by Dice Miner. It’s aset collection and engine builder game that was quite fun. Players take turns drafting dice off the top of a mountain, score points, and than accumulate a increasing horde of dice to use to get more points in the next round. I liked it.

The last game I played was Hero: Tales of the Tomes. I demoed this game at PAX Unplugged about four months ago. Overall, I can’t say I love it. It feels like it’s trying to give a Commander in a Box experience. The problem is that there’s a lot randomness in card draw. There’s also first player advantage, and not much incentive to be the aggressive player. When one player dropped to leave, we all decided to just sort of abandon the game, and call it a night.

Everything Else – AKA Rapid Fire Round

Broombot Battlegrounds: Play as a “Legeally Distinct Non-Roomba”, and complete in a small battle arenas sucking up dust. Played a little bit, but controls were inconsistent and didn’t quite grab me.
Star Salvager: Match falling blocks into your ship to power your weapons and fight off aliens Space Invaders style. Controls felt a bit wonky, but it does have a demo, so if that neat, check it out.
No Longer Human: Side scrolling spectacle fighter. Currently looks like it’s an very early alpha, and I broke the demo build while playing it.

Overall thoughts

Solid second day. Mina the Hollower could be my game of the year for 2024, so at least I have that to look forward to. I’m planning to take it easy tomorrow. As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll be back to regularly scheduled writeups until April. Until then, I have two days of PAX left, and I need to sleep.

PAX East 2023 – Day 1

PAX East 2023 Day 1 is over! Which means I still have three days left. This post is going up on what will technically be day 2 of PAX East, so it’s going to be a bit ramshackle. Still I want to get my thoughts down on paper.

I showed up a bit after 10:00 instead of waiting around too much this year, and just wandered the show floor for a bit.

First game I demo’ed was Worn Wanderers by Cleromancy Games. They’d launched their Kickstarter 20 or so minutes before I showed up, and it’s blazed past it’s funding goal now, which is awesome. I wouldn’t say that I loved the game from what I played, but I think making a game that you can play with wearable enamel pins is a really cool design space.

Next demo was Xenotilt. I’ve written about Demon’s Tilt, and this is another game from the same creator, who was more then happy to listen to me ask questions about various mechanics in the game, and give me some answers. Xeno Tilt does seem like it’s going to solve some of my complaints about Demons Tilt, so I’m excited to see how it ends up.

A bit more wandering, and I found Begone Beast by Tandemi. It’s pretty clearly in an early stage (there’s quite a few things that need some polish) but the core movement is fun, even if the combat isn’t quite there yet. In addition, the final boss is a giant blob made out of hands, and it’s terrifying and I love it. I’m gonna be keeping an eye on this one. I’m not sure if it’s something special yet, but it could be something very fun.

Then there was Bomb Sworders. I didn’t play a huge amount, and kind of just got instantly killed each round. No strong feelings either way on this one.

There’s a augmented reality game called Sigil. It’s kind of hard to demo an augmented reality game, but I like that genre. I’m always up for more stuff like Pokemon Go, and I’m curious to see how Sigil compares to something like Orna.

There’s a few other things that happened, but don’t have enough to fulfill a whole paragraph, so lets cover those!

I got crushed at Pocket Paragons by the folks at the Solis Game Studio booth. I played Brew, and lost by 8 points. There was a cool multiplayer vampire survivors styled game called Extremely Powerful Capybara’s, and that was pretty neat.

I’ve also managed to sign up for a press session for Mina the Hollower (Yacht Club Games, the folks who made Shovel Knight, yay!) and then somehow misplaced the one business card I needed to hold onto (I’m an idiot.) Fingers crossed that all works out. Bought some stuff, but no new games so nothing to say on that.

All in all, a solid day one of PAX East 2023. And now I am going to sleep.

Granite Games Summit 2023

Every time I go to a convention, I promise myself I’m gonna write about everything I saw. And every time I get home, a bit overwhelmed, I cover 2-3 games, and then move onto the next thing.

So this time, I’ll write all it all up right now the bus ride home! But first…

The Non-Games part of the Event

This is a very small event compared to something PAX Unplugged. At its heart, Granite Games Summit is a bunch of folks in a hotel ballroom playing board games for four days straight.

It also has a very cozy feeling compared to other conventions I’ve gone to. The whole thing was very low-key, with plenty of of families and children. In terms of lodging, the Doubletree by Hilton is perfectly average. Still nicer than my apartment. For food, there’s enough stuff within walking or driving distance to be fine as well, but nothing special.

There’s very much an air of trust to the whole thing. One draw of the event is that attendees can bring their own board game collections to be borrowed from. And beyond that, the event organizers also provide an entire game library.

Overall, this is a low-intensity event, offering a chance to play a large number of games without buying them yourself. I don’t think anyone comes to an event like this for any reason other than to play board games. So let’s talk about those games!

The Playtests and Prototypes

Given that none of these games are out yet, I don’t want to say too much about them, and I won’t be saying anything I didn’t already say to the designers’ faces. Still, I spent a fair amount of time on them, so I’d like to talk about them a bit.

Cubism by Resonym
A very fun deck builder. The designer is a friend of mine. Still in the tweaking stages, but if you see it at another event, I highly encourage you to try it out. It has a very clever twist on resource generation that I’m not sure I should spoil here?

Cypher Sessions
Cypher Sessions is a beat-the-leader matching game about writing rap. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t have too much fun with it. I said as much in my feedback to the designer. I’d play it again if someone wanted to, but I don’t have any huge amount of interest in it. But it’s still in development, so maybe it will end up great!

The Armory
The Armory is a set collection buying game about trying assemble collections of weapons and armor. It’s in the early stages, but its core concept does feel fun. There were some lulls and weirdnesses, and the game itself doesn’t quite feel ready for prime time, but I’d be interested to see where it ends up.

A quick note: If you’re the dev of one of these games, and would like me to update this article to link to your twitter or blog, please just send me a message on Twitter.

The Fully Released Games

Here are the fully released games I played. So no punches pulled. I’ll be giving my quick thoughts, and ultimately, answering a single question: Would I play it again?

Dice Forge

Dice Forge is a game about Forging Dice. There are customizable dice that you can snap the sides off of, and snap back on. It’s a heavily produced affair where your goal is ultimately to Get The Most Victory Points, by customizing your dice, and using the resources they generate to buy cards that give you victory points and abilities.

Would I play it again? Yes. I generally enjoyed it, and I’d be curious to try different strategies if I got a rematch.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle

Hogwarts Battle is deckbuilder with the Harry Potter license. I’ll talk about the game in a moment. First though, I would like to note two things unrelated to gameplay that drove me a bit nuts.

First off, it feels like every other name and item in the game has a trademark symbol on it, to the point of ridiculousness. In addition, all the game’s art has a tone of “on-file style guide movie images.”

Poor Harry Potter, emblazoned with the symbol of ownership by “She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-On-Social-Media” for all eternity.

The end result is that the whole thing has the artistic feeling of licensed children’s valentines from Hallmark, and a tone of tackiness. Someone in the chain of command had a decision to make: was it more important that players be immersed in defending Hogwarts from its villains, or that they know that, should J.K. Rowling’s estate ever wish to make a Peter Pettigrew themed vacuum cleaner, they own the rights to do so. They chose the latter.

Editor’s note: You know, because Peter Pettigrew sucks.

Which is unfortunate, because this game doesn’t feel like it wants to be a cheap tie-in product. Whoever designed it seemed to really give some thought to the characters and items. One small standout function for me was that both Draco Malfoy and Lucius Malfoy have a similar effect, with the elder Malfoy being more powerful. The effect itself is “Not really doing anything bad on their own, but making bad things that happen worse.”

Which at least to me was a pretty good way to encapsulate those characters!

That said, this is not the strongest deckbuilder I’ve ever played, or even the best one I played this weekend. The game has 7 scenarios, all of which are additive as far as I can tell, and I played through 1-3 without being challenged. The lack of any deck-thinning mechanics or way to clear the row of items you can buy to add to your deck can quickly lead to a feeling of bloat with no mechanical remedy.

Would I play it again? Yes, BUT only to beat the game on the hardest difficulty, and see if it gets any more interesting/addresses any of the problems with the deck building elements.

This also would probably be a decent game to play with non-board gaming Harry Potter fans, or maybe your family.

Editor’s note: playing this game at a convention’s library is the best way to play it! You get to try it without giving JKR any more money.


KeyForge is yet another card game from Richard Garfield. I have to assume it was built around the question of “How can we remove deck-building, landscrew, and collecting cards, but still sell you blind box packs?” And thus was born the Unique Deck Game. Each deck is randomly generated in advance for you, and cannot be changed.

Snark aside, I generally like KeyForge. Did it disrupt the big 3? No. Do I only have the game because it’s mostly dead, and I bought a booster box of decks from a discounts bin for $40, when its MSRP is supposed to be about $120? Yes. It makes novel attempts to solve a bunch of problems in the card game space, even if they don’t all succeed.

Would I play it again? Yes. I find KeyForge entertaining, and the unconstructed nature lends to a lower power level than a lot of constructed TCGs. I might get bored at some point, but it hasn’t happened yet.

A Feast for Odin

Feast for Odin is a worker placement game about populating a Tetris grid. Is that an oversimplification? Yes. But this game took 30 minutes to sort components, 30 minutes to explain the rules, and 3 and half hours to play. Whatever I write here will be an oversimplification.

Analysis Paralysis: The Board Game

I would like to make a few quick observations, though. If games are art, and art is subjective, then I subject that I would like to never again be subjected to A Feast for Odin. The game has an 8.2 on Board Game Geek, a number would now be infinitesimally lower if I added my own rating. I found the game to be long, tedious, and I struggled to spot interesting mechanical interactions and failed to be engrossed the game’s theming.

This probably says more about me than A Feast for Odin, but it was my experience.

Would I play it again? No. I would rather do my taxes. It wouldn’t be more fun, but it would be shorter, and at the end at least my taxes would be finished.

Fun Fact: A Feast for Odin is a Euro-game, following the traditional Euro-game model of “Everyone should score about the same number of points at the end, despite the winner having a clearly better position.” I scored 30 points. Both my opponents scored OVER 90, and one of them had also never played before. I am very bad at this game.


Clank is the better deckbuilder I played this weekend. It’s still not great, but it does do some interesting things. The goal is to get into a dungeon, get loot, and get out. This is compounded slightly by fact that you need to do it without getting burnt to a crisp by the dragon living in the dungeon.

There are really three systems in Clank. There’s the deck builder, where the unique conceit is that you must play every single card in your hand each turn. There’s the board that you move around on. And there’s the Clank bag.

Some cards in your deck will generate clank tokens. These get added to the bag, and whenever various cards show up in the games buy row, the dragon attacks. You pull out a certain number of tokens from the bag, and take damage based on whose color they were. Things get more dangerous as players pick up the loot, giving the whole thing a feel of escalating tension.

Would I play it again? Yes. Each component of Clank is “just okay,” but as a whole, it feels like a much stronger game. Apparently the spinoffs also address issues with the game’s pacing.

Spirit Island

Spirit Island is a co-op settler construction game. Oh I’m sorry, I mispelled that. It’s a co-op settler destruction game. This game also took 3 hours to play, though the setup time was much faster.

I enjoyed Spirit Island far more than A Feast for Odin. At least part of this is due to the theming being far more interesting. “Drive out the invading settlers as a powerful nature spirit” excites me more than “Acquire a cow.”

That said, given that both my teammates had played before, I don’t know exactly how impactful I was to the group. There was also a lot of time just spent resolving various effects, as opposed to using my various powers.

Would I play it again? Yes. I liked Spirit Island, and I’d be curious play some of the more complex spirits, and the ones with different playstyles. It was fun!

Wrap Up

Granite Games Summit 2023 was a good time, and I’d attend a Granite Games Summit again. I do think this is an event best attended as some sort of group, or if you’re already local to try to keep the costs for a hotel/travel down.

The other benefit to attending with friends/family is that you already have a playgroup for most things, and can hopefully find people fill out slots should you need them.

That said, this is a very focused event. It’s about playing board games for up to 4 days straight in a reasonable hotel in New Hampshire, and not doing much else. If that sounds fantastic, awesome. Go follow the convention’s account on Twitter, so you can find out when to buy tickets for next year (they sell out very fast).

Alternately, if you’re looking for more stuff to read about board games, why not check out my PAX Unplugged Writeups? I wrote about some Indie TCGs, board games adapted from video games, and some other stuff.