Tabletop Day 2017: PuzzleNation Style!

Saturday, April 29, is the fifth annual International Tabletop Day! Whether you play board games, role-playing games, card games, dice games, puzzles, or logic games, this is the holiday for you, family, and friends to come together and play games

Although the actual holiday is tomorrow — making today Tabletop Day Eve — we celebrated early! The PuzzleNation Crew got together with our friends from Penny Dell Puzzles for a few hours of Tabletop Day fun on Tuesday! Games were played, snacks were consumed, and fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers were introduced to some terrific games.

[The spread of games available for the event. Can you name them all?]

As usual, the event started with people picking out their favorites and introducing new players to the game. Tsuro, a path-laying tile game where each player maneuvers a flying dragon across the board, was immediately snatched up by our first group of players.

While one table was occupied with Tsuro, I introduced several players to the quick-play pattern-matching card game Loonacy, which always lives up to its name. The fast-paced play and constantly changing images to match make for a fun intro game or a palate cleanser between longer-play games.

More hands of Loonacy followed as the Tsuro players moved on to the runaway Kickstarter sensation Exploding Kittens. The players bravely tried to avert and avoid the catastrophes induced by various adorable, oblivious. combustible cats.

But, as you can see from the photo above, everything game-related immediately came to a halt when Tabletop Day Cake arrived!

Shout-out to fellow puzzler Jen Cunningham for delivering a delicious dice-shaped treat fit for experienced tabletoppers and board game newbies alike!

After a much-appreciated cake break, we switched to dice games as several players filled their hands with colorful cubes and played Tenzi.

There’s something very enjoyable about hearing players shaking big handfuls of dice and preparing to roll them all at once. It’s like a drumroll. Great stuff.

As some players returned to work, others filtered in, and we opted to close out our Tabletop Day celebration with a bit of Apples to Apples.

It was a silly, mellow way to wrap up a terrific session of gaming. Another marvelous Tabletop Day success!

[Naturally, people waited with baited breath to see who won our raffle AND this terrific Bananagrams tote bag full of games and goodies!]

So, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, how are you celebrating International Tabletop Day tomorrow? Let us know in the comment section! We’d love to hear from you! And remember to check out Tuesday’s post for ideas on how to participate in a Tabletop Day event near you!


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The Connecticut Festival of Indie Games!

Last year, one of our most popular posts was Max’s review of the Boston Festival of Indie Games. And when I heard that Connecticut was hosting its first Festival of Indie Games this year on International TableTop Day, I definitely wanted to check it out.

Now, I have neither Max’s charm nor his good looks, but I hope you’ll indulge me in my own rundown of the CT FIG this weekend.

Elm City Games and The Grove combined forces to host the inaugural event in New Haven, and it made for a fun, intriguing, and intimate event.

The designers were spread out all over the building, wherever there was space, so you’d go down a hall and find a half-dozen tables, then head upstairs for a dozen more, and then down around random corners for a few more exhibitors. It was like a game-filled scavenger hunt with surprises around every turn.

One of the first booths I visited belonged to the folks at Geek Fever Games, because only last week, I touted their Kickstarter for Avoid the Void right here on PuzzleNation Blog!

They had a playtesting area set up where guests could try out the game, as well as several games available for sale, including an alien invasion game called Mars vs. Earth, a robot-building card game called Awesome Bots, and Young Wizards, a card game that brings magic and RPGs to life in a simple, easy-to-learn format.

I also had a chance to sit down with Todd from Filsinger Games — one of the nicest guys on the planet — who was offering an intriguing take on role-playing games: a pro-wrestling edition.

Yup, Filsinger Games figured out how to boil down all the mechanics and style of professional wrestling into a game you can play with any old six-sided die, and it’s great fun. The company has licensed with classic wrestlers and new indie stars to use their likenesses and move-sets for the game, and you can learn how to play in minutes flat.

I realize that RPGs and wrestling may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I was thoroughly impressed by the simple, elegant design of the game, as well as the outside-the-box variations, like ’80s-style video game wrestlers, monsters, and more.

It’s worth noting at this point that my goal was to make it to noon before spending any money on games. I arrived at the event at 10:30.

Slideways was the puzzle game to first crack my resolve, then my wallet.

[A progression of my first time playing Slideways. The creator was red and I was gold. As you can see, I lost. Also, the last photo looks different because I photographed it in nighttime mode in order to better show off the metallic colors of the flippable tiles.]

Proudly displayed alongside an award earned at the Boston FIG, Slideways is the brainchild of Tricia McLaughlin and distributed by R&R Games.

Combining the classic four-in-a-row playing style of Connect Four or Quarto with the board-manipulating game play of Rush Hour Shift, Slideways offers a lot of choice in a little package.

Plus you can change moves your opponent has made, allowing even more flexibility of play! (And if you order through the R&R Games website, use the promotion code SLIDEWAYS to get 25% off!)

[Designer Tim Blank closes his eyes dramatically before bestowing judgment upon an unsuspecting player.]

After visiting the well-dressed fellows at Gameworthy Labs (and winning a copy of Oh My Gods! in a raffle; review coming soon!), I continued exploring the plethora of possible booths to check out.

(It’s worth noting that unlike Boston FIG, CT FIG was almost exclusively board games and card games, with very few digital games to be seen. I suspect more digital games will be involved with every passing year.)

One board game that caught my eye was Dragoon, a clever reversal of classic fantasy storytelling tropes by the team at Lay Waste Games.

Usually, it’s humans fighting off dragons, but in Dragoon, you play a dragon whose lands are being invaded by humans! How rude! So it’s up to you to roar and be generally dragon-y and keep them away, all while stealing their gold, because as we all know, dragons love gold.

It’s a funny concept executed beautifully. With a cloth map as your game board, well-crafted metal pieces for the dragon and its cave, and some sharp game play mechanics, it’s terrific stuff.

I spoke to Jon Ritter-Roderick of Lay Waste Games, and he shared that this was another Kickstarter success story, and that they were taking pre-orders for the game because they’d already sold out of their original print run! (Good news for my wallet, since I would definitely have bought a copy right then and there.)

I had a similar experience when I sat down with the dapper crew behind Movie Buff, a card game that pits your movie knowledge against that of your fellow players. If someone names a movie, how fast can you name an actor in it or quote that movie?

[And the Oscar for Best Hair goes to…]

Combining your own knowledge of the movies with the order-shifting rules of Uno, Movie Buff is a fun and frenetic way to establish your cinematic dominance over friends and loved ones alike.

Oh, and spoiler alert: When we played a round to show off the game, I won. (They’re also taking pre-orders now.)

I next tested my puzzle-game skills in a round of GATUCA, a dice-rolling combat game based on DNA, of all things. (And riffing on the sci-fi film Gattaca.)

Oh, and my opponent? The nephew of the friend of the guy who designed the game.

Allow me to explain: The designer and his pals from The Board Room needed a fourth person to demo their game-in-development This Is Only a Test, so this amiable fellow (nephew of the friend of the designer) stepped up. And when the designer and his team went off to do a livestream demonstration of one of their games, said nephew-friend was left to man the table.

But he stepped up and made for an impressive opponent in my first round of the game. You roll dice to determine what components you have available, and then you apply them to the game sheets in front of you in order to attack, defend, or evolve. It’s a little overwhelming at first, but new players will catch on quickly, and it’s a fun variation on simpler dice-rolling combat games.

I went from learning about DNA (and how to make it work to my advantage in combat) to learning about language and color theory with the team at TPG.

They’re teachers who also play and design games, and their mission is simple: combine those two worlds to create games that help students learn.

Their flagship product is Verba, a language game that uses the card-combining game play of Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples in order to reinforce and engage foreign-language learning. Students are given sentences (the blue cards) and must complete them with one of the white cards.

With editions in Latin, Spanish, French, and English (for English language learners), it’s a terrific immersive way to explore an unfamiliar language with practice and fun, one that appealed greatly to the word nerd and language lover in me.

(They also had a game where you hatched dragon eggs with color theory, which looked fascinating, but that I didn’t get to try out. Hopefully I’ll get a second chance to give that game a shot.)

I did, however, get to try my hand at wielding the elements and bringing items to life, thanks to the crew at Rampage Games and their game Elements.

Elements is all about combining the elements fire, air, earth, and water to bring different substances into existence. You have to manage your limited resources, use your cards wisely, and outwit your opponents in order to complete your substances before they complete theirs. I can easily see this game appealing to all sorts of puzzle fans. (And it must have, since its Kickstarter campaign closed out successfully that very day!)

Nick Rossetti of Rampage Games was kind enough to walk me through some of the other games they also have available, including quick-play survival games like Woodland and Adrift, as well as Iron Horses, a card game where competing train companies battle to be the biggest and best in the land.

But it was their soon-to-be-available card game Aurora that piqued my puzzly interest. While Elements is all about building single items or substances, Aurora is about building entire solar systems and tending to them so that intelligent life may emerge. Talk about ambitious!

[Aurora and Elements were both added to the increasingly long list of games I would’ve bought on the spot, had they been available.

I did end up returning to the Geek Fever Games table and buying Awesome Bots, as well as a card game called Plus Word Plus that’s all about finding common ground between words.

And several other games from other booths.]

As you can see, there were so many noteworthy and interesting games that I can barely describe them all. Heck, this is a pretty long post. And guess what? We’re only halfway done. There were so many great games to cover that I’m splitting my CT FIG recap into two posts.

I devoted this post to games that are available right now (or will be soon). Thursday’s post will be all about games in development or not yet available for sale!


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TableTop Day: PuzzleNation Style!

The third annual International TableTop Day was last Saturday, and according to reports across the Internet, it was the most successful and joyous TableTop Day yet! Games were donated by some of the top companies (our friends at Looney Labs and Steve Jackson Games among them) as well as by the folks at Geek & Sundry, and the puzzle game community came together once again to prove how amazing and warm puzzlers and gamers can be.

For the second year in a row, we at PuzzleNation had our own little TableTop Day event with our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles, and it was great fun! Games were played, an insane amount of sugary treats were prepared, snacks were consumed, and fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers were introduced to some terrific games.

I raided my personal puzzle and game collection to provide some choice offerings for my fellow puzzlers, and readers of the blog will no doubt recognize several items from previous product reviews!

Here’s the full rundown of games we had:

(Sadly, a lot of personal favorites had to be excluded because they would take more than 30 minutes to play, like some of the offerings from Cheapass Games and other great companies, and it was a work day. I promise, this is a fraction of my full puzzle and game collection.)

Timeline proved to be one of the biggest hits of the day, because it’s so simple to play and offers endless replay value. (Especially with seven different editions of the game to choose from!)

I also managed to win my first game of Jenga in what seems like a decade!

There was plenty of switching between games as well. Here, a game of Just Desserts immediately followed a round of Bananagrams Wild Tiles!

But that wasn’t all! To include fellow puzzlers who couldn’t attend the event in person, we had our own Hashtag Game running in-house all day. Inspired by both @midnight hashtag games and our friends at Schmovie, we had a contest to create “Penny/Dell Puzzle Movies.”

I’ll be posting ALL of the entries on Friday, but here are a few favorites:

  • The Scarlet Letterboxes
  • Schindler’s List-A-Crostic
  • Double Trouble Indemnity

All in all, it was an awesome time. Hope everyone enjoyed!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Library Gaming edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’d like to return to the subject of puzzle-game holidays!

[Once again, a board game brings a family together…]

In the past I’ve written plenty about International TableTop Day, the holiday dedicated to social gaming and puzzling. But did you know that in less than two weeks, another puzzle-game holiday arrives?

That’s right, November 15 is International Games Day, an event organized by the American Library Association “to celebrate the mutually-reinforcing power of play and learning.”

From the I Love Libraries website:

Libraries are about sharing culture and information, and games are a form of culture that you often have to share – you often can’t experience them without another player!

They’re also good for brain health, and foster important life skills like socialization, theory of mind and systems literacy. Plus, they’re fun!

Whether video games, tabletop games, social games or other kinds of games, they’re all a part of culture whose importance is only becoming clearer with time. And that means we need to foster the kind of smart engagement that libraries support, for games as well as books.

And while International TableTop Day is synonymous with board games, card games, and roleplaying games, International Games Day encompasses all of the above and more, including online videogames, trivia games, and any other games you can think of.

It’s a terrific opportunity to come out to support both games and your local library, and maybe make a few new friends along the way!

Let us know if you’ll be participating in International Games Day, PuzzleNationers! We’d love to see pictures and hear all about it!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: TableTop Day Edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

For those new to PuzzleNation Blog, Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and update the PuzzleNation audience on how these projects are doing and what these people have been up to in the meantime.

And today, I’m following up on all the International TableTop Day goodness we got up to this week.

The PuzzleNation offices weren’t open on April 5 for the actual TableTop Day, so we celebrated a few days late with an event on Tuesday, and we invited our pals from Penny/Dell Puzzles to join us in all the puzzly game activities we had planned.

Here’s the table of available games for play that day! Everything from one-player brain teasers from ThinkFun (like Rush Hour and the Sudoku-inspired Chocolate Fix) to bigger group games like Apples to Apples and Scattergories, and everything in between! (Including previously reviewed games like Castellan, Pink Hijinks, ROFL!, Fluxx: The Board Game, and Loonacy!)

Here, fellow puzzlers partake in a spirited round of Apples to Apples, the perfect way to blow off a little steam at work after a long morning of puzzlesmithing.

Furiously contested games of Bananagrams and Qwirkle were conducted at either end of our play area, and both were big hits with attendees.

I even had the opportunity to test my mettle against Penny/Dell’s well-traveled Corin the Puzzle Bear in a few rounds of Jenga.

While he beat me handily in two straight games, the tide soon turned against him in round three.

We had a pretty decent turnout overall, and everyone who attended had fun. What more can you ask for, really? (Other than more excuses to play games during work, that is…)

I hope your International TableTop Day was just as enjoyable. As Wil Wheaton says on his YouTube show TableTop, play more games!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!