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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A New Year’s Eve Countdown!

It’s New Year’s Eve, and we are literally counting down the hours until 2016, so why not celebrate the end of 2015 with a little countdown of our own?

Here are my 10 favorite blog posts from 2015!


#10 Rubik ‘Round the World

One of the most amazing things about the world today is how interconnected we all are. The Internet has made it easily to not only keep in touch with far-flung friends, but to forge new, meaningful friendships and connections with staggering ease.

And I confess, I am a total sucker for those heartwarming clickbait videos that spread the message that we are all the same. (The one of that guy doing the same dance in countries across the world comes to mind.) So seeing people from all over the world solve a Rubik’s Cube one move at a time…what can I say? It got me.

#9 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide

Every year, one of my favorite activities is putting together our Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide. I get to include the best products sent to me for review by top puzzle and game companies, mix in some of my own favorites, and draw attention to terrific constructors, game designers, and friends of the blog, all in the hopes of introducing solvers (and families of solvers) to quality puzzles and games.

#8 Music and Puzzles

Talking about how puzzles are relevant to daily life is one of my favorite subjects for blog posts. Brain health, stress relief, the long-term benefits of puzzle solving…we’ve discussed all these topics and more during my time as lead blogger.

This year I continued that tradition with this post about how listening to music can make you a more effective solver. It’s always interesting for me to do some research and really delve into a topic — especially scientific ones because they’re often so drastically misreported or misinterpreted by mainstream outlets — and give the PuzzleNation audience the straight story.

#7 The Dress

One of the most bizarre moments of 2015 was when someone shoved their iPhone in my face and asked me what color a dress was. It wasn’t until a few moments later that I found out this was a big thing on the Internet that people were vociferously debating.

The chance to explain exactly what was going on in the photo through one of my favorite puzzly mediums — the optical illusion — was too much fun to resist, and it resulted in one of the year’s most popular, most shared blog posts.

#6 The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament

Although it’s a highlight of the puzzly calendar every year, this year’s ACPT was extra special for me because it was the first I attended in person.

Not only did I get to meet a lot of top names in crosswords — in many cases, finally getting a chance to put names to faces after many emails and tweets exchanged — but I got to enjoy the Big Fight feel of seeing so many friends and puzzlers test their mettle against some great puzzles.

#5 A Puzzly Wedding Proposal

Our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles pulled off one heck of a puzzly coup when an intrepid fellow puzzler asked them for help proposing to his girlfriend with a special Escalators puzzle.

I reached out to the lucky fiancé and got his permission to share the story with the PuzzleNation readership, and as I learned more about who was involved and how they’d managed to make it happen, I just became more and more enamored with the story. I have no doubt that years from now, this will still be one of my favorite blog posts.

#4 Max Reviews the Boston Festival of Indie Games

Guest bloggers are nothing new to PuzzleNation Blog, as Sherri regularly pops in with her app reviews, but Max Galpern pushed things to another level with his appearances throughout the year. Not only did he pioneer our first video review (with assistance from Fred), but he took over the blog for an entire day with his review of the Boston Festival of Indie Games.

Here’s hoping we can get Max back for 2016 a few times, though I suspect he’ll be in high demand.

#3 Will Sudoku

We do a lot of reviews (board game and card game reviews, puzzle reviews, tournament reviews, app reviews, etc.) and I thoroughly enjoy introducing new puzzly products and events to my fellow PuzzleNationers and sharing my thoughts on them.

But it’s rare that we get the first shot at introducing a brand-new never-before-seen puzzle or product, and that’s what separates the Will Sudoku post from many others. Serving as the debut outlet for a new puzzle was great fun and very exciting, one of those rarities that made 2015 such a terrific year.

#2 Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Island Seesaws

Brain teasers were a big part of 2015 for the blog, since several challenging ones went viral this year. But I don’t think any of them taxed my brain — both to solve AND to explain how to solve — like the island seesaw brain teaser from an episode of Fox’s sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine did.

It is an epic-length blog post — one I needed a mathematician friend of mine to help me write — but it broke down a tough puzzle bit-by-bit and explained every step. In a year of brain-melting puzzle posts, it still stands out.

#1 Announcing Free Daily Puzzles for the Penny Dell Crosswords App

I almost put announcing the Android release for the App here instead — because so many people had been asking about it for so long — but in the end, the free daily puzzle announcement won out, and not simply because it was a terrific new feature for the App, one that I feel would draw a lot of new eyes to the product.

Getting to interview Fred and talk about not just what we’ve been working on for years, but where we were headed in the future, made it feel like a special event for the PuzzleNation Team as a whole. Plus it was a chance to introduce all of you to another member of the team, something I hope to do more of in 2016.

It may sound self-serving or schlocky to talk about our flagship product as #1 in the countdown, but it’s something that we’re all extremely proud of, something that we’re constantly working to improve, because we want to make it the absolute best it can be for the PuzzleNation audience. That’s what you deserve.

Thanks for spending 2015 with us, through logic problems and love stories, through dresses and debuts, through Rubik’s Cubes and revelations. We’ll see you in 2016.


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Max reviews the Boston Festival of Indie Games!

Hello Puzzlers and PuzzleNationers! Today we’ve got a special treat for you! The intrepid Max Galpern, 12-year-old game enthusiast and son of our Director of Digital Games Fred Galpern, will be taking over PuzzleNation Blog for the day!

[Max, trying out a new virtual reality game at Boston FIG.]

You may remember Max from his cameo appearance in our Laser Maze product review or his work in our first video review for Star Realms (alongside his dad).

I’m happy to hand over the reins to Max as he gives us the lowdown on the Boston Festival of Indie Games.

[Glenn’s note: the photo comments are my only contributions.]

Take it away, Max!


I went to the Boston Festival of Indie Games (FIG) on September 12 in 2015. This festival has been going on for many years now. It used to only show digital games and this year is the first year they’re introducing tabletop games.

[A brief glimpse of Boston FIG.]

First, I went into the tabletop showcase, and when I walked in I saw a big poster for EPIC, the card game. I’ve played EPIC before. Earlier this year, my dad backed the Kickstarter campaign, so we already have the game and really like it. I walked right over to the EPIC booth and played a game with my dad right away. I crushed him in the game we played!

[A sample of some of the stunning art featured in EPIC.]

EPIC is a card game that consists of 120 cards that are all different, and among them are 4 colors/factions: Red (evil), Green (wild), Yellow (good), and Blue (sage). If you know how to play Magic:The Gathering (MTG) you may pick this game up as easily as I did. It has many of the same abilities as MTG but worded differently. EPIC is a really fun game, and I totally recommend it.

After EPIC, I walked around and saw this game called PBL Robots.

[Here’s an illustration of a sample attack in PBL Robots.]

My dad and I walked past it and it looked pretty cool, so I wanted to check it out when we circled back. We walked around for awhile and then sat down to learn about PBL Robots. When the creators were explaining the rules, I realized I had thought of a game like this one many years ago.

You start with a base robot and a pilot. Then you play cards that may be an arm, a pair of legs, shoulders, an action, a hangar, crew members, or a better pilot. When you’re ready to attack, you roll dice according to the part you are attacking with and/or the part you are attacking. It was amazingly fun to play, and I hope to play it again.

After that I went to the video game section, where I tried a game called Space Jammers. It was pretty fun, and if you have a Windows computer you can play it at igs.io/spacejammers.

Next, I played a video game called Sylvio.

[Max, matching wits with Sylvio on a PC. Now THAT is focus…]

It’s a survival horror game where you take the role of a girl who records ghosts with a microphone. The sound in the game makes it even more creepy. It is a very fun game. If you like games like Slender you may like this too.

Last but not least, I played a game called Loose Nozzles by my Dad’s friend Chris Foster and his son Ian. It’s a fun game for iPad where you fly a rocket ship to save the stranded people below. I recommend this game for children of all ages to play.

[Ian welcomes you to give Loose Nozzles a try!]

This year’s Boston FIG was a blast, and I can’t wait for next year to revisit things I saw this year AND see new stuff.

P.S. My Dad bought a card game called Poop (it’s like Uno, but more gross). I accidentally left it at the festival but two awesome people who work there found it and are sending it to us. Thanks, Caroline & Shari!


Thanks for the terrific rundown, Max! We’ll have to have you back again soon.

For more info on the Boston Festival of Indie Games, click here! And if you’d like Max to take over more often, let us know in the comments below!

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!