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Another unpublished game is Small Time Crooks.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.

Top 4 PAX East Games with Demos

Four cool things from the show floor that you can experience from the comfort of your own home.

So, you couldn’t make it to PAX. Perhaps you had other things to that week. Perhaps you had entirely reasonable concerns about the perpetual global endemic. Perhaps you were less than enthusiastic about the fact that ticket prices doubled since last time. Or perhaps you did make it to PAX but were working a booth the entire time.

Not to worry! I’ve compiled a list of four games that I played at PAX, really liked, and all have demos that you can go download from Steam. So lets jump in, shall we? Starting with…

Slay the Spire, with party mechanics and a metal vibe.

I like Power Chord. It’s a turn based roguelike, in which you control a literal band (musicians), on their quest to… look I wasn’t paying much attention to the story. I’m assuming you’re trying to kill the devil or something. The gameplay itself is very much like Slay the Spire, in that you have a deck of cards, and each turn you have energy that you expand to play them, and try to kill your opponents. Unlike Slay the Spire, your deck is contributed to by the members of your band. If that sounds interesting, you can click here to go grab a demo for the game on Steam, and here if want to just learn more about it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a release date just yet.

Perhaps turn based strategic gameplay sounds too relaxing though. In that case, next up we have…

I was gonna joke that the main character is named Turbo, but it turns out that’s actually his name, and now I don’t know what to put here.

Turbo Overkill is an entry in the boomer shooter genre, i.e., things like Doom, Wrath: Aeon of Ruin, and Ion Maiden. These games are shooters that went “What if shooting things was fun, you had more than two weapons, and our entire graphics budget for polygons was stolen?” I will note that as a general rule of thumb, I’m little skeptical of boomer shooters at the moment. This is not because I dislike the genre, but because they always demo really well, even when I end up not liking the game as much (looking at you Desync.) Regardless of my whining, the demo was a lot of fun, and you can grab it here. Turbo Overkill is currently available in Early Access, and the devs have said that it’s 30% content complete. If you want more info about the game then you can check out their twitter feed here, because I couldn’t actually find another website.

Perhaps you want something softer and lighter, or perhaps you think crushing AI is for losers. In either case, may I offer..

I don’t love the art style, but the gameplay is good. I think they were probably going for a sort of Touhou vibe?

Swapette Showdown is a head to head match-3 puzzler. Blocks rise from the floor, you swap them into rows of at least 3 to clear them, and send trash lines to your opponent. You also have special abilities based on the character you select. Something like Puyo-Puyo is probably the closest equivalent? Look, instead of reading my poor description, why don’t you just download the demo here? And then, if you decide you like it, or have questions, or can’t quite get said demo to run right on your ultrawide even though you played it on a TV at the show, you can click here to join their Discord and try to troubleshoot.

But perhaps you hate anything with anime eyes. Perhaps you think indie games should never go past two dimensions. Perhaps you should just humor me because I’m running out of convenient segues. In that case, try…

I get that the little cat thing is supposed to be cute, but something about it just rubbed me the wrong way. It has big Furby energy.

Dwerve is technically a tower defense game. You construct towers, and use them to defend. The reason I wrote “technically” is because it has a lot of non-standard tower defense mechanics. There is no end point to be defended. Instead when you get into combat, enemies will go right for your delicious face meat. Towers refund their cost when they get destroyed, and you’ll be expected to rebuild them. And finally, the game isn’t structured as a series of levels; it’s a world that you actually travel through more akin to something like Nobody Saves the World. It’s a really interesting blend, and you can play the demo here. The full steam page is here, the game’s site is here, and I’m kind of out of things to say about it. Oh, except that it does have a release date for the end of next month (31st of May) so if you do end up liking the demo, you won’t won’t have to wait long for more.

Anyway, with that final entry on the list, that concludes all I’m writing about for the moment. Not all I have to write about, because I have a second window up of things I saw/played, and I still have 21 more games I want to write about. I need to find a way to break that list down into convenient bite size categories.

I think the way you’re supposed to end these sorts of lists is to encourage people to fight with you on social media as a roundabout cover for getting more interaction, so yeah. So, hit us up on Twitter if you disagree with our list? Not really sure how that’s possible, but I’m sure someone will find a way.

PAX Unplugged 2021 – Day 3

I can’t think of anything clever to put here. PAX was fun.

It’s day 3. One of the things I enjoy about PAX (and conventions in general) is the chance to do things I might otherwise not. Sometimes this takes the form of playing games in genres I’m not as interested in. Sometimes it takes the form of doing something completely unrelated.

In this case, it’s the second one: painting miniatures. After trying to line up at the free painting zone, realizing how slow the line was, and leaving yesterday, I showed up earlier today. While waiting in line, I ended up chatting with a dude and his boyfriend, and asked him to play a game of Knights of the Hound Table with me. Despite being the person teaching, I got absolutely demolished before the floor even opened. After thanking him for playing, I headed over to the free painting zone, picked out a Space Marine, and sat down.

This isn’t a painting blog, so I won’t be going in depth on this. The short version is that: 1. Unsurprisingly, since I haven’t done this in years, I’m not currently very good at painting. 2. Despite that it was very relaxing. 3. The lady sitting next to me was very good at painting, gave me a bunch of helpful tips, and also finished in about half the time, with her Space Marine looking twice as good.

After this, I ended up browsing the show floor for a bit. My partner who came to the show with me had played in a game of Kids on Brooms the previous day, and really enjoyed it. I picked up a copy of that, and also a copy of Cats of Cthulhu. Then, after talking myself out of purchasing too much other stuff, I wandered back over to the Unpub Hall.

In the Unpub Hall, I found Privateer. It’s a drone piloting tactics game, and I really enjoyed it. It also had my favorite components of anything at in the Unpub hall. While I didn’t play a full game, I was really enjoying what I saw, and I’m going to keep an eye on this one. It’s made by TimeSpacePlace, and they told me they’re planning to have a tabletop simulator version of the game up at some point in the next year.

The last game of the day I played was a demo of Skytear. It’s a MOBA inspired miniatures board game, and while I didn’t quite mesh with it, it does have one really cool thing I want to quickly talk about: how it handles the concept of creep waves. (This next part is going to be a bit inside baseball for folks who don’t play MOBAs, so apologies in advance.)

Because Skytear is a miniatures game, the default assumption would be that creeps would be their own set of miniatures that spawn at the Ancient/Nexus, and then walk out into lane. This would require a lot of miniatures, effort, and extra movement. Skytear doesn’t do that. Instead, it has a “Capture Point.” It’s a little token that indicates where the creep wave currently is, and at the end of each set of rounds, it gets moved toward one of the towers, based on a variety of factors that simulate who’s applying more pressure to the wave. Then, new sets of creeps spawn in on this marker. It’s an incredible implementation of the system, and I really like it.

And that ended up being the last demo of the day. I wandered the show floor, grabbed some presents for friends, and headed back to the hotel. I really enjoyed PAX Unplugged. It was my first in-person convention since the start of lockdown, and I really appreciate the fact that everyone attending seemed committed to wearing masks, and following the safety rules. While we’ll most likely want to wait a few weeks to see how things turned out, I hope that this means that life can return, at least a bit, to normal.