PAX Unplugged – Mythic Mischief and Klask

Mythic Mischief and Klask don’t really have anything in common with each other. It’s not even like they had booths next to each other or something. Mythic Mischief is an action economy and movement-based game with victory points that almost reminds me of Chess. Klask is a skill-based dexterity game that feels like miniature air hockey.

So why am I covering them together? Because I don’t have enough to say about them separately to fill writeup! Anyway, let’s get to it.

Mythic Mischief

Mythic Mischief is an asymmetric grid-based movement game, designed by Max Anderson, Zac Dixon, Austin Harrison, and published by IV Games.

The best summary I can offer is that you and your opponents both control 3 miniatures on a 5v5 grid. Alternating turns, you attempt to spend your actions and use your abilities to place your opponent’s units in the path or directly on an NPC unit called the Tome Keeper.

Editor’s Note: Tome Keeper not to be confused with Dome Keeper

At the end of a player’s turn, the Tome Keeper moves towards specific locations. If there are units in its way, the Tome Keeper knocks them out, and the player who didn’t control those units scores points. Units that get knocked out can be replaced at the start of the next player’s turn.

There’s a fair amount to the movement and action system, and how it plays with the game’s upgrade choices that I don’t think I can summarize effectively, so I won’t try. It’s a perfectly fine system, but I would not describe it as “Sparking Joy,” at least for me.

It is worth noting that each player will be playing a different faction, with unique abilities and so keeping track of what your opponent can do is necessary to succeed.

I only played one game of Mythic Mischief, and it was a combination of a demo and an ass beating. I wouldn’t say that I hugely enjoyed it. That might have been because I lost, and because I get salty easily. But I also struggled with two other factors.

First up, just because of how the game works with scoring, it felt very difficult to make any sort of comeback once I fell behind. Secondly, the game reminded me of Chess in that it felt like a game of trying to find the “Correct” moves, and like a puzzle of chaining things together. That’s just not something I find very fun.

So yeah, if you do like deterministic movement games, or things like Chess, maybe you’ll get more out of Mythic Mischief than I did.

Klask

Klask is a manual dexterity game by Mikkel Bertelsen.

Honestly, it feels weird to be reviewing Klask here. It’s as if for some reason I felt compelled to write a review of Skeeball, or Soccer. The closest games I can think of as a comparison to Klask would be Air Hockey or maybe Foosball.

Those chips look really good.

All of this to say that the “Manual Dexterity” part of the game is absolutely not optional. Klask is played in an elevated square wooden box with sides. Each player has a magnet with a stick in the end that they hold under the box, and a pawn they place on top. The top pawn is moved by dragging it with the magnet from under the box.

The pawn and stick aren’t the only magnetic pieces, though. Klask also has 3 small plastic beads with magnets in the center that are placed equidistant in the middle of the playfield at the start of a point. These beads will jump and stick to your pawn if you get too close, and if 2 of the 3 stick to a player’s pawn, their opponent gets a point.

Points can also be scored by a player hitting the ball into the goal indent on the board, or if a player messes up and gets their pawn stuck in the indent.

The interesting part of Klask for me is how the tiny white beads open up strategy. Without them, the game is pretty much just air hockey with a marble. But with the beads, you can do interesting stuff like hitting them towards your opponent in order to close off parts of the board.

Overall, I like Klask. I just don’t like it enough to really want to buy it. That said, if someone asked me if I’d play, my response would be a semi-enthusiastic “Sure!”

Conclusion

I don’t think there’s any meaningful conclusion you can take out of things like both Klask and Mythic Mischief being present at PAX Unplugged. Maybe there’s some sort of testament to the diversity of mechanics and games present. Maybe there’s something to be said for the sorts of games you’d play if someone else is footing the bill.

And maybe there’s nothing. Maybe there is no purpose. Maybe the real journey was the friends we made along the way.

If you want more nonsense and to be notified whenever I write new stuff, maybe consider following me on Twitter? The site still seems to be up and functioning, at least for now.

PAX Unplugged 2022: The Adaptations

I don’t have anything good to put in this opening paragraph. Maybe I should just talk about how good the food is in Philadelphia? It’s really tasty. Reading Terminal is delicious, even if PAX Unplugged does pack it to the brim. Even if it can take 40 minutes for someone to get you an egg and cheese on a roll.

Anyway, enough about sandwiches. Let’s talk about board games. Today I’ll be covering the board games at the show that are either adapted from, or licensed from video games. It’s an arbitrary category, but one with a fair number of entries. Also, interestingly enough, all of them are based off games I’ve played.

Shovel Knight: Dungeon Duels

I want to open this part of the writeup by noting that I love Shovel Knight the video game. I did a writeup on it where I said as much. Which makes it a bit hard to say the next bit.

Shovel Knight: Dungeon Duels feels like the literal definition of overproduced Kickstarter Ameritrash.

That’s kind of a bold claim, so let me make some observations to back it up. From a mechanical standpoint, the game is incredibly uninspired. The goal is to get the most victory points. You do this by defeating enemies, and clearing out a boss. This, in turn, is done by moving across a board.

You have three actions per turn: moving, attacking, and jumping. Of those actions, only moving doesn’t require you to roll dice. You can’t just move your way to victory, because the board is covered in spikes. You’ll need to roll to jump over those. And if you fail? Fall into a pit, and lose half your victory points. You want to attack something? Roll dice, and hope you get enough successes to do something valuable. Because if you don’t, you might die, and lose half of your victory points.

Should you manage to survive long enough to get to a shop tile, you can spend your victory points to buy a completely random upgrade. It could be +1 dice to all your rolls! It could be the ability to make ranged attacks. It could be a worse item for a slot you already have filled, because it’s a random draw from a deck. Upgrades are frequently utterly worthless and get thrown away immediately.

Of course, dying doesn’t knock you out of the game. You’ll get to replace your wonderfully crafted miniature at the start of the next round on the far side of the board. And that’s good, because aside from the aforementioned falling into pits by missing a jump, or just taking enough damage to die, you can also get pushed back into pits by enemies if they damage you.

Now, this can’t happen during the boss fight. Instead, if you get knocked off the board during a boss fight, your character goes prone, and has to spend an action to get back up. If you get unlucky, the boss can do this to you before you even get to take a turn. And yes, someone in my demo was on the receiving end of this.

These are all the mechanical reasons I have for calling Shovel Knight: Dungeon Duels “Ameritrash.” The game is incredibly random with a focus on dice rolls for resolving most meaningful interactions. You have minimal capacity to make meaningful choices around upgrading or building your character.

This game was Kickstarted. It has 44 miniatures. And they are very nice minis! I like these characters so much from playing the video games, that I was and am still tempted by them because of how much fun they would be to paint. But those minis are also probably a large portion of why this game costs $125. It has a 58 page rulebook, apparently? It has custom dice, and tokens, and lots of playable characters.

My personal verdict: cut down on the minis and include a fun game. Or even keep the minis and include a fun game! Or, scratch that, screw the game, just let me buy the minis from you directly. Because they’re the best part about what I played here.

SolForge Fusion

Continuing a trend of writing things that guarantee I will never end up on a press list for prerelease copies of anything, let’s talk about SolForge Fusion. Like with Dungeon Duels, I really liked SolForge Fusion’s parent game, SolForge. Also like with Dungeon Duels, I really don’t like SolForge Fusion. It’s for a very different set of reasons though, and to explain them, we need to talk about SolForge briefly.

Or perhaps it would be more accurate to talk about what SolForge was. You see, SolForge is dead. And unlike many games that I’ve written about in my end of year wrap-ups, SolForge didn’t really do anything to deserve to die. It just didn’t make enough money for the company to continue supporting it. Which honestly kind of sucks, because SolForge was one of the best digital CCG’s to exist.

The key word in that sentence, and the root of a lot of problems we’re going to be talking about, is “digital.” SolForge’s key mechanic was digital-only, and it worked like this: whenever you play a card, an upgraded version of the card is added to your discarded cards. When you run out of cards in your deck, you shuffle your discarded cards back into a new deck, and continue the game, now with some of your more powerful cards. It also had a reliance on triggered effects. Also damage and buffs on creatures didn’t wear off between turns.

All of these were good and interesting designs that worked well digitally. The computer could manage resolving triggered effects, tracking stats, and upgrading your cards. Because all of these were handled by the computer, games were quick, fun, and could allow for ridiculous numbers and scaling.

Perhaps you see where I am going with this.

Works great with a single digitally managed card. Works less great when it’s 3 physical cards that have to be swapped out.

You see, all of these mechanics technically could work in a paper card game. Each paper deck would need to have three times the cards, forcing you to keep track of which ones you played. And because damage and buffs don’t wear off, you’d have to have a billion tokens for keeping track of damage. And you’d need to manually track all triggered effects, and also manually resolve the full combat step for the board.

This is all technically possible in the same way that it is technically possible eat an entire card board box. You can do it, but I don’t know why you would, and it probably wouldn’t be a good time.

All of this is to say that SolForge Fusion is effectively a port of the aforementioned mechanics to tabletop. It’s not a straight port by any means, with many cards being heavily changed around, and the numbers having been rescaled a fair amount. But it’s still a port!

Anyway, as if this wasn’t funny enough, two days ago I got this in an email:

So yeah. They’re planning to make a digital version of a physical card game based off the mechanics off a digital game that was shut down for ultimately just… not really making enough money.

It would be cool if this went well, but I’m not exactly holding my breath. And again, the digital version doesn’t exist yet. Until it exists, SolForge Fusion requires playing a set of decent mechanics that are fundamentally flawed in meat-space.

Storybook Brawl Unnamed Deckbuilder

I’ve debated whether to put Storybook Brawl’s unnamed deckbuilder here with the other video game adaptations, or with a later page on games I played in the Unpub hall. Ultimately I decided to place it here.

I’ve written about Storybook Brawl before, but you don’t need to read that writeup now. Unlike the other games on this list, this board game is its own game. It’s also in the rawest state, if the fact that it doesn’t even have a real name wasn’t enough of indicator.

Unlike Storybook Brawl, instead of building a set of characters that you play out onto a single large map, it’s much closer to a deck builder with simultaneous play competitive elements. And while it maintains some mechanics (such as the idea of tripling, and playing a single spell per turn), this unnamed deckbuilder mostly puts its own twists on the video game’s mechanics.

I wouldn’t say that I love this as-of-yet-unnamed game. But given that it’s still an alpha, there’s both time to improve and tweak things, and also to refine the game as a whole. Despite its flaws, Storybook Brawl’s unnamed deckbuilder is probably the most interesting of the three games on this list, despite not being a full game yet.

So in summary…

What have we learned today? Well, mostly that Panda Cult and Stone Blade Entertainment are incredibly unlikely to send me review copies for any reason whatsoever in the future. And the same is probably true for Storybook Brawl, if for no other reason than the fact that their parent company lost $16 billion dollars.

On a less sarcastic note, I think the main takeaway should be that if you’re going to adapt anything, it’s probably a better idea to try to work with the strengths of the target format than to just try to port things straight across.

More PAX Unplugged writeups in the week(s) to come! And in the meantime, why not follow us on Twitter, assuming it hasn’t burnt to the ground yet.

Boston FIG 2022 Writeup – Part 1

They say to strike while the iron is hot, and it’s been like a day since Boston FIG wrapped up. So if it actually was iron, it probably wouldn’t be very hot anymore, and now I’ve lost the thread entirely.

If you haven’t heard of Boston FIG, it means Boston Festival of Indie Games, and it’s a smaller game convention that takes place in Boston. I find it to be a really good place to find games that I might not otherwise hear about.

That’s what this writeup is gonna be: a list of all the stuff I saw and played at Boston FIG, some notes on which things I liked, and where to find out more info about those games.

That said, before I start the rest of this glorified listicle, I want to make two quick notes:
1. I only played board games at Boston FIG, and of those, I played or listened to pitches for almost 75% of the pool of the games. I didn’t get a chance to see the digital side at all, and there’s a whole quarter of the board games at the show I didn’t see at all. So if your game/a game isn’t on this, I apologize. I just may not have gotten to it.
2. I think of myself as a someone who enjoys lighter board games, but even more importantly, I prize demos far more than pitches. For a digital convention this can be difficult, as not everyone has the time or effort to make something that can be played digitally. And some games (thinking of you, Crash Factor) would probably be near impossible to make a cheap digital version of. Thus, the longer paragraphs are pretty much exclusively for things I could actually play at the show.

Retrograde by Resonym

Retrograde is a roll and write, a genre that I think could be better named. I assumed “roll and write” meant some sort of word game, like Scrabble. As such I had kind of avoided it until someone explained, “No, it means a game where you mark stuff to score.” So Retrograde doesn’t involve writing any words. Instead, you roll dice in real time to try to get sets, then draft one of a series of cards from a shared pool to determine which of the invading droids on your sheet you can actually blast. The primary tension comes from trying to get a perfect roll vs. getting the draft card you want before someone else snags it.

You can find more about Retrograde here, and I believe it comes out next month or so.

Dyna-Boom By Entro Games/Chris Backe

Dyna-Boom is a set collection and movement game by Entro Games, which is actually just one guy named Chris Backe. I’m not throwing shade here, that’s his description from the site. Anyway, Dyna-Boom. You move around a playing field of randomized tiles, flipping them after you pass over them, and collecting them when you pass over flipped up tiles. There’s a bit more to it than that, but I very much enjoyed playing Dyna-Boom, and I want to play more.

Chris mentioned to me that he’s currently looking for a publisher for the game, so I guess maybe check out his site if you’re a publisher?

If, like me, you’re also not a publisher, don’t worry. You can play the Tabletop Simulator version of the game, and you can download the set of rules from the Entro Games site under the games page.

Speculation

Speculation is a number guessing game. Everyone gets a hidden number, and then takes turns drafting face up cards that give away various pieces of information about that hidden number. Nick Federico, the designer, mentioned to me that he thought of it as like trying to count cards in Poker. I’m inclined to agree with him that it’s a lot like Poker, because just like Poker:
1. I am very bad at it.
2. It made my head hurt.
Speculation was not my favorite, but if you want to try it, it has a Tabletop Simulator implementation you can grab here.

Lab Meltdown by Zerua Games

Lab Meltdown is a co-operative… hmm. Writing “Co-operative Board Game” seems like kind of a cop-out. But I’m not sure what genre to place it in based on what I played.

Players are a group of astronauts on a space station, working to stabilize various chemicals compounds and keep the station from turning into a ball of gas and flames high in the sky. It has some very neat movement mechanics, with the same cards being used to both run your astronaut around, and also stabilize chemicals.

It did feel like it might end up suffering from quarterbacking, where one player ends up directing everyone else on where to go, and what to do. But it also isn’t out/published yet, so it’s also possible that might change.

While Lab Meltdown isn’t released, Zerua Games does have a bunch of other games out, and you can see those on their website here. (Tack was also at the show, and supposed to be very good, but I didn’t get around to playing it!)

Rapid Fire Round – Some Other Stuff

All the games listed below are either one of two things: I didn’t make it to their booth, or they just had a pitch deck and not a demo.

The Worthy – Grand strategy/area of control game. Lots of minifigs.
WarBonds – Grand strategy fantasy wargame. Apparently fully deterministic. Not really my thing.
Persuasion – Supposed to be good. Didn’t get to play. No idea how it plays.
Critical Care – Won a bunch of awards. Didn’t play it. Also supposed to be good.
The Genetic Code – Genetics themed builder/trick taker. Didn’t have a demo.
Plague House – Non-worker misplacement game. More stuff by author here.
Crash Factor – Manual dexterity/placementgame with a board designed to allow structured placement and strategies without having great dexterity.

That’s all for this section of the writeup. I think there were enough games to do 2-3 more of these, so expect more as the week/day rolls on!



Space Lion

I like Space Lion. I liked it when I played it PAX East last year. I’ve liked it as I’ve played the various head to head and 3 player modes. I think it’s a really cool semi-asymmetric bluffing/placement board game. There’s one catch though: Space Lion doesn’t actually exist yet.

Space Lion is currently running its Kickstarter, and with 70 hours left, they are incredibly close to hitting their funding goal. They’re just under $15,000 of the $16,000 they need. So if anything about what I’m describing sounds cool, check out the Kickstarter here. And if you’re the sort of person who would never back a board game without playing it first, there’s a Tabletop Simulator version here, and a Tabletopia version here.

So yeah. I think it’s cool, and if you stop reading this article right now to just go play the game, or look at the Kickstarter, I’d consider that a win. But if you want to stick around, let me talk about why I like Space Lion.

Or just click this image to go straight to the Kickstarter.

I’m not gonna cover the full rules of the game, but I do want to go over them in brief, so I can explain why I like it. You start by picking an army, and then choosing a commander. Each army has 7 unit cards, with strength values of 0-6, and one of those units can be swapped out for an upgraded version. While it won’t have a higher strength value, it will have stronger abilities.

On the left, the default version. On the right, the upgraded commander.

At the start of each round, you fight across three battlefields. Each player takes a turn where they deploy up to four units, placing them face down onto one of the battlefields. Each battlefield starts with a base for each player on it. Once everyone has deployed their units, you flip up your cards and the first player to deploy chooses the order in which battle are fought. If you have less total strength than your opponents in any battlefield, your base on that battlefield takes a point of damage. Take two points total and that base is destroyed, meaning that any future losses you take there deal damage straight to your home base. Run out of health, and you lose. (And for anyone going “Wait wouldn’t the first player have an advantage?” don’t worry, the first player token switches between rounds.)

There’s one big thing here, though, that I haven’t covered, and that’s how your army actually works. You actually start the game with all 7 of your cards in your hand. There’s no randomness, or drawing from a deck. You have all the tools.

Instead, you’re limited by your deployment choices. If you deploy one card to a battlefield, even if you lose the fight, you’ll get that card back in hand. But if you deploy two or more, those cards are exhausted for the next round of placement. Trying to force a push with your 6 strength and 5 strength units in one lane means that next round your opponents know that there’s simply no way for a single facedown card you’ve played to be stronger than 5.

There’s a lot of I’ve left out here, but this tension of “Where do I commit to putting pressure?” and “What can I afford to give up for the future?” is why I like Space Lion. It’s not super rules dense either, which means you can focus on those choices, instead of trying to keep a million different systems in your head.

Also, like I mentioned above, this is a semi-asymmetric game. While each army has the same strength values, their actual playstyles and abilities vary quite heavily. The Leon Army can upgrade all of their units to the more powerful commander versions, and also has a nuke. The Castell Army can place degrees on various battlefields, giving them permanent bonus or adjustments in those arenas. The Enerhiya builds a pool of energy and other resources they can spend to trigger effects, but also to power up their giant mecha. And my personal favorite, the Vacuus function as a sort of twilight zone version of the other armies, with many of their units being warped or twisted versions of units from the other armies.

The normal marine moves itself around, but the corrupted marine moves your opponents’ units!

I think this is a decent, if brief, overview of Space Lion, and why I like it and want to see it as a fully physical game. Hopefully this article got you interested enough to check it out. If you’re looking for folks to play with, Solis Games has a Discord server here where you’d be able to find a play group. Maybe I’ll even see you there.

Disclaimer: I’m not not associated with Solis Game studios in any way. Kickstarter is a pledge platform, not a pre-order platform. Crowdfunding can be risky. I’ve backed the Kickstarter because I think it’s a cool game, and I want to see it be a full thing. Also hoping they’re not annoyed at me for ripping images from their game for this article.

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.