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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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[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!)

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[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.

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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.

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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?

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[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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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[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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New Puzzle Sets for the Penny Dell Crosswords App!

Hello puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!

That’s right, it’s a bonus blog post today because we’ve got some exciting news!

We’ve got two new puzzle sets available for both the Android AND iOS versions of the Penny Dell Crossword App!

Just in time for TableTop Day, we’ve got our April 2016 Deluxe Set! You get 30 easy, medium, and hard puzzles, plus 5 themed bonus puzzles!

And if you’re looking for something a touch less seasonal, we’ve got you covered with the Deluxe Fun Set, also loaded with 30 easy, medium, and hard puzzles, plus 5 bonus puzzles!


Wait, there’s more!

For our iOS solvers, we’ve also got a new collection available:

Collection 13 not only offers a complement of topnotch puzzles, but it features a 5 puzzle sampler!


And that’s not all!

That’s right, an iOS app loaded to the brim with great puzzles! In the fine tradition of the first Jumbo app releases, Penny Dell Crosswords Jumbo 3 offers a fleet of great puzzles (150 of them!) in one easy-to-access package!

It’s a certified puzzle bonanza all across the board!

All this, plus a new edition of the PuzzleNation Newsletter hitting inboxes today! How can you go wrong?


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 explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: TableTop Day Eve 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 puzzly holidays!

Saturday, April 30, is the fourth annual International TableTop Day, a day that has been set aside for family and friends to get together and play games. Board games, card games, role-playing games, puzzles…anything that involves gathering in person and having fun around a table fits the bill!

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. This was the case with Just Desserts (a card game all about serving desserts to hungry customers; guaranteed to make you hungry) and Timeline (a card game about history where you don’t need to know what year things happened, just if they happened before or after other important moments).

One attendee opted to tackle the challenge of Puzzometry (a diabolical jigsaw puzzle) while I played a few rounds of Geek Out! and tested the pop culture and trivia knowledge of my fellow puzzlers.

[The conference room is abuzz with TableTop Day energy and fun, players strategizing deeply.]

I started recommending some new games to the players at this point, and the hit of the day was easily Red Flags, a Cards Against Humanity-style game all about building the perfect dates for other players.

The uproarious laughter inspired by the game was constant background noise while I explained the ever-changing rules of Fluxx to some curious players.

[Forgive the lack of further photos. I was so busy explaining games that I neglected to take more pictures. As a small gesture of apology, please accept this picture of me beneath a half-collapsed puzzle fort.]

We then closed out the event with two terrific card games for smaller groups: 12 Days and Loonacy. (12 Days is a lowest-card-wins wagering game based on the 12 Days of Christmas, and it has the most beautiful cards I’ve ever seen; Loonacy is a pattern-matching card game that rewards quick reflexes.)

The day was a total success, and it was a wonderful break in the middle of the day, allowing for a fun way to interact and recharge before returning to a thoroughly puzzly workday.

But that wasn’t all! To include fellow puzzlers who couldn’t attend the event in person, we had our own in-house session of Schmovie running all day.

I gave participants five What? cards (Undercover, Magical, Teenage, Flying, The Last) and five Who? cards (Barista, Chef, Princess, Pro Wrestler, Spy) to combine as they saw fit, and then challenged them to come up with the funniest Schmovie titles for those subjects.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Undercover chef: The Tsai Who Loved Me
  • Teenage barista: Latte to Class
  • Magical barista: Starbucks: The Foam Awakens
  • Teenage princess: Medieval Times at Ridgemont High
  • Flying spy: The Airborne Identity
  • Undercover princess: Leia Confidential

Are you celebrating TableTop Day? Let us know your plans in the comments! We’d love to hear about it, see photos, and share in the fun!


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Kickstarter Round-up!

International TableTop Day is this Saturday, a day where we celebrate getting together with family and friends to play games! Board games, card games, role-playing games, puzzles…anything that involves gathering in person and having fun around a table fits the bill!

But we simply can’t wait until Saturday — plus the office is closed that day — so we’re hosting our PuzzleNation’s TableTop Day event in-house TODAY! And I figured what better day could there be for a round-up of puzzly crowdfunding campaigns marking some of the newest and most intriguing projects in the puzzle-game industry today!

I’ve covered various campaigns for board games, card games, and puzzle projects across the Kickstarter and Indiegogo crowdfunding platforms over the years, and today I’d like to share three more that could use your attention.

The first is the strategy game Tak.

Tak is a collaboration between game designer James Ernest, head honcho of Cheapass Games and Hip Pocket Games, and author Patrick Rothfuss, creator of the Kingkiller Chronicle series, to bring to life a game featured in Rothfuss’s novel The Wise Man’s Fear.

The premise sounds simple: build a road of pieces connecting opposite sides of the board. By using some pieces as parts of your road and others as walls to block your opponent, this mix of chess, Stratego, and Go is all about strategy. Plus, the game is adaptable, playable on square boards as small as 3×3 and as large as 8×8.

This is a new pub game that feels like a timeless classic, and it looks perfect for puzzlers of all ages.

Now let’s move from the pub to outer space with another Kickstarter campaign, Avoid the Void.

This is a different sort of strategy game, since it’s all about outlasting your opponents, not completing a task first. In Avoid the Void, whole sectors of space are being replaced with black holes, and everyone is scrambling to gather resources and elude these hungry death traps.

You’ve got an ever-changing gameboard, intriguing alien races (including one resembling a piece of cake), and all the reason in the world to deceive, outmaneuver, and betray your fellow players, just so you can stay in the universe a little while longer.

This is a game designed for replayability, allowing you to indulge in all of the diabolical selfishness of games like Monopoly, but without the huge time commitment. After all, the universe is collapsing and there’s no time to waste!

And speaking of replayability, the makers of this last Kickstarter campaign are known for puzzle games with high replay factor. Let’s talk about Pyramid Arcade from Looney Labs.

We normally talk about Looney Labs card games like Fluxx or Loonacy, but their original product line revolved around the Looney Pyramids system: various games you can play with their signature colored pyramids.

Now, they’re launching Pyramid Arcade, covering TWENTY-TWO different games and encompassing 90 pyramids of various colors. It’s their largest release ever, and with all the variants and mini-games they’ve created for these game pieces over the years, this promises to be a game set with endless possibilities.

Pattern-matching games, chess- and Tic-Tac-Toe-inspired games, bluffing games, strategy games, and even a tower-building game…Pyramid Arcade literally has something for everyone.


These are three intriguing and very worthy projects, and I hope you contribute to one or more of them. As someone who has become a regular donor to various Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns, I am proud to have funded some marvelous new ideas and watched them take shape over the months that followed.

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PuzzleNation Looks Back at 2015!

The year is quickly coming to a close, and as I look back on an eventful year in the world of puzzles and games, I’m immensely proud of the contributions both PuzzleNation Blog and PuzzleNation made to the puzzle community as a whole.

Over the last year, we explored dice games and tile games, apps and pen-and-paper puzzles. We met designers, constructors, and creative types of all kinds. We cracked brain teasers and tackled mind-bending riddles.

We explored the history of puzzles, broadened our understanding of how puzzles and games contribute to brain health, and celebrated the lives of puzzle greats Bernice Gordon, Henry Hook, Merl Reagle, and Leslie Billig, who were taken from us too soon.

We spread the word about numerous worthwhile Kickstarters and Indiegogo campaigns, watching with glee as a puzzle/game renaissance continued to amaze and surprise us with innovative new ways to play and puzzle.

We celebrated International TableTop Day, the debut of The Indie 500 crossword tournament, a new Star Wars movie, the 80th anniversary of Monopoly, new world records set by Rubik’s Cube solvers, and a puzzly wedding proposal, and we were happy to share so many remarkable puzzly landmark moments with you. Heck, we even solved the mystery of The Dress!

It’s been both a pleasure and a privilege to explore the world of puzzles and games with you, my fellow puzzle lovers and PuzzleNationers. I recently posted my 450th blog post, and I’m even more excited to write for you now than I was when I started.

And that’s just the blog. PuzzleNation’s good fortune and accomplishments in 2015 went well beyond that.

In January, we launched the Penny Dell Bible Word Search for iPad, and in March we started our monthly hashtag games. In May, we added Penny Dell Jumbo Crosswords 2 for iOS devices, and July saw the debut of our Crossword Clue Challenge every weekday on Twitter and Facebook.

But the standout showpiece of our puzzle app library has been the Penny Dell Crossword App. With our Dell Collection puzzle sets, our monthly Deluxe puzzle sets, and the 2015 Deluxe Combo (not to mention our various value packs and supreme bundles), we maintained a steady stream of quality puzzle content for solvers and PuzzleNationers.

We added a free daily puzzle feature for all users, and just before Christmas, we launched the Penny Dell Crossword App for Android devices, ensuring that more puzzle lovers than ever have access to the best mobile crossword app on the market today.

[Fred, our Director of Digital Games, shows off the Penny Dell Crossword App
at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in March.]

And your response has been terrific! We amassed over 1500 followers for the blog and we’re closing in on 1700 followers of the PuzzleNation Facebook page, numbers that are both humbling and very encouraging.

2015 was our most productive, most exciting, and most creatively fulfilling year to date, and 2016 promises to be even brighter.

Thank you for your enthusiasm, your support, and your feedback, PuzzleNationers. Have a fantastic New Year. We’ll see you in 2016!


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: Sing It 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 hashtag games!

You may be familiar with the board game Schmovie, hashtag games on Twitter, or @midnight’s Hashtag Wars segment on Comedy Central.

Last month, a hashtag game was part of our International TableTop Day festivities. The hook was Penny/Dell Puzzle Movies, and it was great fun.

Well, we’ve decided to make it a monthly game, and this month’s hook was Penny/Dell Puzzle Songs!

Examples might be “Lucy in the Sky with Nine of Diamonds” or “Man in the Mirror Image” or “Dream Weaver Words.”

So, without further ado, check out what the puzzlers at PuzzleNation and Penny/Dell Puzzles came up with!


Penny’s from Heaven

We are Crypto-Families

Piggybacks in the U.S.S.R.

Say Say Say That Again

Do You Want To Know A Secret Word

Jenny From The Block Letters

You’re the First and Last, My Everything

Double Trouble No More

Double Crosswords Trouble

Battleships of Fools

Stoplines (In the Name of Love)

More than Codewords

Hip to be Jigsaw Squares

Hip To Be Anagram Magic Square

Anagram Magic Carpet Ride

Crackerjacks and Diane

Jack & Diagramless

Halftime After Time

Too Much Rhyme Time on My Hands

Rhyme Time and Time Again

Give and Take It to the Limit

Give & Take a Chance on Me

We’re Not Gonna Take It from There

Frame By Framework

Freeze Frameworks

Across and Downbound Train

Lay Across and Down Sally

Flower Power of Love

Where Have All the Flower Powers Gone?

Places, Please Please Me

Friends in Low Places, Please

Letterboxes To Me

Love Letterboxes in the Sand

Thick As A Brick By Brick

Brick by Brick to Heaven

Goodbye Brick by Brick Road

Another Brick by Brick in the Wall

Wish You Were Here & There

Pinball Wizard Words

Zigzag Stardust

Mystery State of Love and Trust

A Hard Rains A-Gonna Quotefall

Take Me Out to the Bowl Game

The Itsy Bitsy Spider’s Web

Bull’s-Eye Spiral of the Tiger

Candle in the Windowboxes

I’ve Been Working on the Railroad Ties

Shadowbox Dancing

Under the Scoreboardwalk

Free Your Mind Tickler

Runaround the Block Sue

Ringmaster of Fire

Old Time Rock and Roll of the Dice

Walk Like an Encryption

A Boy Named Su-Doku

Pencil Pusherman

Girls Just Wanna Have Bible Fun

Text Message in a Bottle

Out on the Missing Tiles

The Bookworms of Love

50 Ways to Leave Your Logic Lover

Guess Who Can It Be Now?

Make the Rainbow Connection

Matching Circles in the Sand

Power of Two for One

What’s Left? Of Center

Add One Is the Loneliest Number

Will the Circle Search Be Unbroken?

Alphabet Soup John B

Triangle Sum Kind of Wonderful

Everybody Wants You Know the Odds

The Shadow Knows

I Put A Spellathon You

A View To A Skill-O-Gram

Trans-Europe Crossword Express

Anagrams-a Got Run Over by a Reindeer

Cryptogram-ma Got Run Over By A Reindeer


One fellow puzzler even went so far as to create new puzzly lyrics for some of these songs!

  • Brand New Keyword – Deanna Carter

I’ve got a brand new pair of Cryptograms, you’ve got a brand new Keyword

  • You Don’t Bring Me Flower Powers – Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand

B: You don’t bring me Flower Powers. You don’t give me Codewords.
N: You hardly talk to me anymore, when you solve on that floor at the end of the day

  • Quotefalls – TLC

Don’t go chasing Quotefalls
Please stick to the Fill-Ins and the Takeouts you’re used to

  • Crossword Traffic – Jimi Hendrix

Ninety words per hour, baby, that’s the speed I solve.


All in all, the game was great fun!

Plus, we received some submissions from solvers on Twitter! Friend of the blog Robin Stears submitted Runaround Sudoku, The Old Rugged Crostic, and Do You Believe in Magic Squares?, while @Francespuzzles submitted a boatload of good ones, like Blowin’ in the Windowboxes; That’s All Right Angles, and Crimson and Lucky Clover!

Have you come up with any Penny/Dell Puzzle Songs of your own? Let us know! We’d love to see them!

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!