PAX West 2016 Wrap-Up!


Another PAX West (formally PAX Prime) has come and gone, and I am exhausted.  There is so much to see and do that it just overwhelms the senses.  Every show that I have gone to is different, and this year was mostly about just hanging out with my friends.  One big reason for that was the huge indie game presence at PAX, and a lot of them were similar, so nothing really stood out.  Indies are usually well represented at PAX, but this year they were everywhere.  Word to the wise for all you indie game creators out there: if your new game features the terms rougelike or procedurally generated, your game had better be amazing.  There are like eighteen million (not exaggerating) procedurally generated rougelikes out there and they are all pretty much the same.  They are not bad, but just not good enough to care about.

Which is why the only indie game that I really ended up enjoying was an old school four player party game called Death Squared from SMG Studios.


In Death Squared each player tries to move their cube to their colored circle.  Once all cubes are on their circle the ‘room’ is complete.  The problem is by moving your cube you are causing problems for the other cubes, so you all have to work together.  It is so simple, but so well executed.  This looks to be a must buy.

For board games I was starting to feel the same way that I was feeling about indie games.  They all have different settings, but in the end they are pretty the same three or four games.  However it took a trivia game called America by Bezier Games to prove me wrong.


I generally am not a big fan of trivia games, but America’s excellent design makes it a ton of fun.  Pretty much there are three tracks for every question: the State the question takes place in, the year the question happened, and the amount of something in the question.  You get more points for getting it right, but if you are close you get points too.  That way even if you don’t know the answer you can guess based on whether you think other people know the answer or not.  It is great.

Like I said above with this year kind of being different it took a while for me to come up with a game of show, but I ended up picking Cowbots and Aliens.


This game saved VR for me.  Every VR experience I have had thus far has been kind of so-so.  Some of it has looked cool, but none of the games have been better because they were in VR.  Cowbots and Aliens by Wizard Games Inc. was different.  It puts you in a saloon where you can use anything in the room as a weapon.  You can flip tables, deflect bullets with spittoons, break bottles over counter tops, you know pretty much everything you have ever wanted to do in the wild west while fighting an Alien Squid.  It was a blast.

The best panel by far was Telltale’s group play of Batman.


It was so fun to control Batman with a thousand other people.  If you have not picked up their Batman yet, you should.  Like everything they do it was well done.  I can’t wait to play the rest of this great game.

That was pretty much my PAX West, and while I will need a few days to recover, I can’t wait until next year to do it all over again!  I wonder what PAX West 2017 will be like?

Shmee Watched The Skies And Survived Neptune’s Fury!


Team Japan filed their immigration paperwork and became Team UK for Bellingham MegaGame’s second Watch the Skies event.  This time subtitled: Neptune’s Fury.  You can see how British I am now since I am smoking a pip and holding a blue teacup!  I was curious how much would change between the two games, and I am happy to report quite a lot!

The basic gameplay mechanics didn’t change that much, so I am not going to go back over them (my link to my first game is here and The Paladin’s is here), but the teams playing sure did.  This time people went in to the game with their eyes wide open.  Everyone had agendas and schemes they wanted to accomplish.  This made the game much more fun since we were constantly trying to figure out what was going on.  So much so that the Aliens were secondary for much of the game.  Another big change was that we all shuffled our roles, so this time I was no longer in charge of Science, but I had instead been promoted to Prime Minister!  Well until Brazil assassinated me for selling them bogus tech, and then my second in command took over the country and I became a totally different person who was appointed Deputy Prime Minister.

The Prime Minster is an odd role.  Because while you are in charge of everything, you also know the least.  The other countries’ leaders are all lying to you, and your own teammates can only relay a bit of what they are gathering in their specific areas, but they don’t have enough time to do it thoroughly.  It is like being the center of a giant game of telephone while throwing money at people.  Being the Deputy Prime Minister on the other hand is crazy because you can go anywhere and do anything.  Your legs ache from all the running around, but at least you can find out what is happening for yourself.  Like that all the Scientists are creating their own country.

With so many teams having so many things going on it is still hard to explain all that happened, but I am happy to report that the UK, despite being attacked by a giant monster, London getting nuked by the US via France, and of course myself getting assassinated, end up pretty dang good:  The people were mostly happy; We launched an aircraft carrier in to space Battleship Yamato style; We kicked those American jerks out of the UN, and then our Chief Scientist started his own country only to leave them to return to Britain and declare himself the King since we all decided to go to space and take the Queen with us.  Enjoy your nuked castle!!!!  We have all of Space!  Long Live The Space Queen!

I guess what I am saying is, if there is a MegaGame going on near you, you should attend.  If you have already played the game you should still go because not only will the controllers change up the story, but a different role not to mention different players totally change the game.  It is a ton of fun.  If you don’t believe me you can read The Paladin’s experience here.  Oh and here is me being the best Prime Minister ever, you are welcome:


Shmee Explores The Living Dungeon!


The Living Dungeon by RadiationBurn is a great strategy board game that you just happen to play on your PC or Xbox One!  So it is perfect for people like me who love to play complicated board games but hate to clean them up.  Hurray for games for lazy people!

The way The Living Dungeon works is you get five dice that have different actions on them: like move, attack, jump, ranged attack, and then some very special ones like spin a board piece or maybe flip the board piece to change up the dungeon completely.  These five dice are the actions you are allowed to complete during your turn.  So each person takes turns rolling dice and moving their characters.  The Dungeon Master (DM) also has dice, but his have actions to move or add monsters, give special action cards to players, or change up the board even more.  The image below kind of shows what I am taking about:


What is great is that you can either have the computer play the DM or let a friend do it to let him screw with you.  It is also fun to trade off being the DM so everyone has equal opportunities to be a jerk.  A lot of people can play The Living Dungeon at one time too with local multiplayer for up to nine, eight standard players and the DM, but it is still fun with less than that or against AI opponents.  On top all of the multiplayer content there is a single player component too, but it is the same game with a story attached.  Fun for if you can’t get any friends to come and visit.  It is a shame this game doesn’t have online play because it would be a great way to kill a few hours with random strangers or friends that hate to drive.

The Living Dungeon is not without issues.  For one the camera: it seems like it is always flipping around, and sometimes it is pointed in just the perfect way to get you killed.  It really needs a top down view.  Another is how actions are selected.  When you pick a die to play the character will automatically have the action ready to go, but they are generally going to do it the wrong way, so accidentally pressing a button to quickly has disastrous consequences, and of course there is no way to back out of the action once you have committed to it.

These small issues aside, The Living Dungeon is a lot of fun, and a great game to pick up if you love board games, or strategy video games for that matter.  These small games are why the indie game scene is so important.  Something like this would never come out of a major publisher.  If you have an Xbox One or a PC you should give The Living Dungeon a look!

The Paladin also Watched the Skies


This is a follow-up to Shmee’s Watch the Skies post. Reposted here from my blog Ex Nihilo. Hopefully it gives you a little more insight into the game. -The Paladin

Running a country takes having the right mindset, having the right team, and a lot of luck. It’s never easy or simple – are the Russians for us or against us? Did an element of the United States kill their own President? Why does the U.K. want our blood? Aliens is the best answer to all those questions and you’d think being one would help make those answers more clear, but I see I’m getting ahead of myself.

Saturday, three friends and I played the MegaGame “Watch the Skies” with about 40 other people – each serving in different roles in different countries, or as news reporters, or even as aliens. The setup of the game is that aliens are real and each nation needs to deal with that fact. Will they fight the aliens? Join them? Underhandedly collect DNA from cards you handed out to figure out who is an alien and who is not? The possibilities are endless as each team can define its own agenda – even if it breaks the “game”; in fact you are encouraged to break the “game”.

We were Team Japan; Shmee our Head Scientist, Black Raven our Military Commander, and Swashbuckling Samurai our Foreign Secretary, and I was Prime Minister leading the “Calm is Strength” Government. Each of us had our own game to play within the game itself. As PM I held the purse strings, deciding where to place our precious resources each turn therefore setting our nation’s agenda. As Head Scientist Shmee was tasked with collecting research and completing our nation’s primary goal PROJECT GUNDAM (more on that later). Black Raven had the difficult task of placing our Advanced Interceptors and Advanced Tactical Squads on response to flying saucers and abduction squads; he also tasked our Secret Agent who turned the U.K. spy the very first turn, disarmed a nuke in Angola, and double-crossed the British when he assassinated the U.K. PM after he paid us to kidnap the Russian Military Commander. Last but not least was our Foreign Minister Swashbuckling Samurai, who sat through grueling United Nation’s meetings serving as Japan’s public face on the world stage.

The game started slow, our plan was to remain neutral yet helpful in the world, but to acquire alien technology to complete PROJECT GUNDAM. Our agent found 100 special candidates within our borders that we started training in special high schools. We were starved for technology though; while Black Raven shot down an alien craft his operatives failed to recover any tech. The first two rounds were disappointing in this regard, so we went to the Gray Market to buy alien tech. That allowed us to jump start our research. Meanwhile Swashbuckling Samurai learned of a plague in Uganda which he pledged our willingness to take in refugees – who we shifted through for more special pilots.

In proceeding turns the other nations’ actions became difficult to decipher. The U.K. wanted to test people’s blood to see if they were aliens. Russia wasn’t fighting the aliens. The U.S. declared to the world that aliens were real. It was difficult to know who to trust and with what information. You learned to not only appreciate the worth of information, but also the cost – does revealing this information reveal my intentions or imply something I didn’t consider or intend. Decisions were made by implication; for example: failing to shoot down a saucer one turn implied to the rest of the world that we were far more complicit with the aliens than we actually were.

Eventually Shmee succeeded in creating détente and collected the much needed power source for PROJECT GUNDAM from the Brazilians. Sadly here is where we made our misstep though – we announced the completion of PROJECT GUNDAM to the world and then we failed to anticipate foreign agents being used to sabotage them. Had we used our agent to protect our mechs the final battle would have turned out very differently. Despite this Japan was left on excellent footing, the Gundams could be repaired, we were masters of Science, and Swashbuckling Samurai had usurped the UK’s position on the Security Council in the UN gaining Veto power. Sadly Swashbuckling Samurai was vaporized when the escaping saucer was destroyed with him in it.

Some advice I would give future Watch the Skies players is to have a goal to work towards; whether that is giant fighting robots, secretly assassinating every Head of State, or building an undersea lair have that plan in mind and go to the game controllers with it. The unscripted, improve nature of the game means no-one is there to hold your hand, so you need to take charge and at least have a starting point. Secondly, use Whats-App or another messaging app to stay in the know. I don’t know how many times we collectively knew things before the other teams (like when the US President was assassinated, Swashbuckling Samurai actually gave his condolences before the US Foreign Minister had heard the news). Finally, look the part. Team Japan all wore suits and red ties to create a united front. It made it easy for us to be identified and it gave us an air of credibility. The paper lantern and home-made mochi also helped sell the fiction. You’re not going to get the chance to be the Prime Minister of Japan any other time in your life, why not live it up while you can?

So final highlights that probably make no sense out of context:

  • Black Raven’s brilliant play to turn the U.K.’s agent on the very first turn. We didn’t get a lot out of it, but we knew when their agent was killed.
  • Still having no idea who nuked China.
  • Still being clueless about who assassinated the US President.
  • Revealing that I was also an alien right after Shmee did and after I had been funneling money and interrogating a live alien for my own ends.
  • Getting a Haiku published in the GNN Newspaper
  • Brazil becoming a world power right under everyone’s noses
  • Seeing the biggest smile on Control’s face when I told him we’d built Gundams piloted by unstable high schoolers.

If you get the chance to do a MegaGame, any MegaGame really, get your friends together, make a plan, and sign-up I think you’ll enjoy it.