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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PuzzleNation Product Reviews: Takat and Noueni

In today’s product review, we look at two card games that are all about matching colors, identifying patterns, and scoring points, but in very different ways. Today, we put Takat and Noueni under the PuzzleNation Blog microscope!


Let’s start with Takat.

A card game for 2 to 4 players designed by Tyler Kilgore, Takat is different from most pattern-matching tile games or card games because it’s not about maximizing points…it’s about scoring as few points as possible as you place cards and create different colored shapes on the board.

The game starts with each player secretly drawing a card that reveals that player’s color for this game. Not only are you trying to conceal your color from your opponents, but you’re trying to guess what color they have, based on how they place cards and build shapes on the board.

[Some of the multicolored tiles. There are only two legal plays represented here: the second and third tiles in the top row, and the third tile in both the top and bottom rows.]

The multicolored patterns on the cards allow for all sorts of placement options. When you place a card, you can either neighbor a card on the board or partially overlap it, but you always have to make sure the colors match. If the edge of a card is red and blue, the card you place beside it must also be red and blue.

Since the goal of the game is to score as few points as possible, the strategy quickly becomes a mix of bluffing and deduction. You have to complete shapes in your opponents’ colors without revealing your own. (For instance, if you keep building red, blue, and yellow shapes but not green ones, you’ve told your opponents you’re purposely avoiding green, which will only encourage them to build green shapes and give you more points.)

In this game in progress, the players have mostly avoided completing any shapes; there’s the mostly-round yellow shape on the top right as well as the pointy red shape below it (which is partially formed by two overlapping tiles, unintentionally obscuring the black line at the bottom right of the yellow shape.) Those two are the only shapes completed, which means those shapes are worth more points than shapes that aren’t enclosed by black lines.

But since you can score points on neighboring tiles as well as completed shapes, you have to pay as much attention to who placed a tile as you do to what tile they placed.

For instance, on the bottom left, there’s 2 points for the neighboring red tiles, 3 points for the blue shape above it, and 2 points for the yellow rectangle beside the blue shape, despite none of those shapes being closed by black lines.

The game ends when all cards have been played. Then the players reveal their colors, and the points on the board are tallied up, based on how many shapes were made (and how many were completed), as well as how many cards were used in making each shape. The lowest score wins.

The game play of Takat is pretty easy to pick up, but the scoring is a bit more esoteric and takes some getting used to. It does, however, make for a fun variation on the usual tile-placement scoring game, and as a fan of games like Mafia and other bluffing/concealment games, it does make for a more tense playing experience than your average round of Qwirkle.


Now let’s take a look at Noueni.

Designed by 263 Games, Noueni is also a card game for 2 to 4 players that involves pattern-matching, color-based scoring, and cards that can either overlap or sit next to other cards. But there are some important distinctions between Noueni and Takat.

For example, each player chooses their color at the start of the game, and there’s no attempt to conceal it from your opponents. Also, like many pattern-matching games, highest score wins. In this game, your score is determined by how many of your scoring orbs are on the board by the end of the game.

Each card has two colored scoring orbs and a pattern of black lines emerging from them. Those lines are the connectors, and they determine how the cards placed on the board line up. Any card played must link up with the other cards on the board, whether there’s zero, one, two, or three connectors along that neighboring edge.

As you can see, the green scoring orb on the upper left connects to the red orb by three connections, but the other red orb connects to a yellow orb with only two. So far, there have been no overlapping cards played, so all four players are tied with two scoring orbs showing apiece. (The connections aren’t part of the scoring; they’re just the mechanism for lining up cards.)

A few moves later into the game, the yellow (upper right), red (upper left), and blue (middle) players have all added to the board using those matching connections, but the green player has overlapped half of a blue card, using those connections and obscuring the blue scoring orb.

Overlaps allow you to cover your opponents’ scoring orbs and claim those spots for yourself, but you have to exactly match the connections they left behind. (You can only overlap half of a card already on the board, so even if the green player had a card exactly matching BOTH of the blue card’s connections, that’s an illegal play. The green player could, however, overlap half of one card and half of another, if the connections lined up.)

And that’s where the strategy aspect of Noueni comes into play. It’s a mix of expanding the board and placing as many scoring orbs as possible, but also seizing the opportunity to hide your opponents’ orbs and match those same connection patterns.

The game ends when all cards have been placed, and the player with the most visible scoring orbs wins.

Noueni is more straightforward than Takat, which will make it more accessible to new players, but it also lacks the tension of hiding your color and ferreting out your opponents’ colors. On the flip side, Noueni does maintain that ever-present paranoia that at any point, someone might drop a card on top of yours and steal a key scoring orb at a crucial moment in the game.

Both are terrific games that build on the pattern-matching color tile game format in interesting ways, requiring more from a player than simply outscoring their opponents. You need to outthink them too.

Takat and Noueni are both available from The Game Crafter.


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