|By Philip Kerr|
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending FIG, MIT’s Festival of Indie Games.
In its fourth year, the festival hosts developers and organizations that support the creation and development of games within New England and beyond.
With 47 board games and 58 videogames hosted this year, the nine hours I spent was not enough time to play them all.
I checked out as many as possible, and would like to highlight what I enjoyed the most and hope you will too.
First off, the board games:
I spent more than half my time in this section and played at least one round of everything. The following are twelve games that stood out from the rest.
Dragoon is a 2 to 4 player game with moderate interactivity, territory control, and resource gathering and management. It is published by Lay Waste Games.
In Dragoon, you take the role of one of several ornery dragons whose Island is being invaded and settled by that most horrible of creatures, Humans! The one and only saving grace of these terrible humans is they love gold almost as much as you do. Through play, you will lay waste to villages to steal gold or convince villagers to worship your scaly magnificence and pay tribute. But watch out, the other dragons of the Island are trying to do the same and competition is unavoidable. Raid your neighbors’ hoards of gold while trying to protect your own. Winner is the richest dragon.
I enjoyed playing a demo of Dragoon with some of its creators. Turns are short with an importance placed on territory control and placement. Stray too far away from your den and risk losing your collected goods. Sound play style seems to support subduing villages close to you and trying to pick off those close to your competitors. Average play time is 30-60 minutes and varied with each play of the game.
Already fully funded on Kickstarter, this game is available through preorder on their site www.laywastegames.com. They also have an expansion in planning. If you enjoy games like Hacienda, El Grande or Samurai you may want to check it out once it releases, planned to be by December of this year.
Heart Catcher is a cute and simple 2 player card game designed by Emma Larkins.
The prime mechanics of this game are bluffing and deception. In Heart Catcher, players are attempting to control piles of cards by adding cards to them, and gain points through those piles.
Control centers on a rock-paper-scissors mechanic based on three colors, the trick being that certain cards have special abilities which manipulate the points of the piles into which they are placed. Cards may be placed face down to delay the effect until the scoring round begins. The cards’ special powers range significantly, and the ability to play face up or face down encourages bluffing and ridiculously enjoyable mind games.
This is a great game to warm up before some longer games, but can be just as fun, on its own, with small company.
An average game lasts about 5 minutes, or less with experienced players. No current release date is available yet, but news can be found at www.heartcatchergame.com
Karmaka is a competitive card game for 2 to 4 players, produced by Hemisphere Games. In the game, you start out as a lowly dung beetle. Each round of the game, you ascend the karmic scale and ultimately transcend the mortal coil.
The primary mechanics of Karmaka are card drafting, deckbuilding and the choice of cooperative/competitive play. On their turn, players play cards to gain karma (points), hurt other players karma, and mitigate harm to their own karma. Once the round ends, if you have scored enough Karma, you may ascend to the next life state and play continues. Failing to meet the threshold forces you to relive your past life with less interference from others. The lack of competition also creates an opportunity to attempt skipping lifetimes.
Deck building comes into play with previously played cards echoing in your future rounds: good actions benefit you, but aggressive or “bad” actions can come back to hurt you.
The game blends theme and mechanics beautifully, resulting in a very enjoyable session that ranges from 25 to 60 minutes in length. Players of Dominion, 7 Wonders, and Sushi Go should enjoy this game.
Hemisphere Games plan on launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund Karmaka in October of this year with shipment after successful funding following early in 2016. All news can be found at www.karmaka-game.com
Maze Racers is a 2 to 4 player maze building and navigating game for 8 year olds and up, designed by Foxmind. A quick and cute game, players race each other to construct a maze by placing wall segments on a magnetized board. The first player to create their maze can institute a one minute time limit for remaining players to finish. After time is up, the boards are swapped between players who will twist and turn the boards trying to navigate a ball through the maze. First through the maze wins.
This game can be as complex as players want, limited only by creativity, which is great for kids and gamers with kids. A great warm up or cool down game after more intense game sessions.
Maze Racers has already completed one production run, with pre-orders already shipped. A second production run is expected in the next few months.
Oh My Gods!
Oh My Gods! is a memory / special power based game developed by Timothy Blank.
In Oh My Gods!, one of the gods of Mount Olympus has stolen Zeus’ lightning and it is up to the players to figure out through elimination and wit who dun it. Players are dealt cards which contain a particular god with an accompanying power, element and trait. The guilty party is not among the cards dealt. By asking other players to reveal a God of a specific element or sign, or by revealing a God to everyone to use its power, a player can narrow down the options and make a final guess, hopefully before they reveal too much to the competition.
Play can take from 10 to 20 minutes. Players who enjoy Clue will appreciate this light, easy to play deduction game. The game has already had a successful Kickstarter campaign and is in the mid stages of production. News of release will be available at www.gameworthylabs.com
Pleasant Dreams is a 2 player card game placing the players in a dreamworld where they fend off nightmares. Decide whether you want to hold onto pleasant elements of your dream… Anything can come back to haunt!
The goal of the game is to trick your opponent into drawing so many nightmarish dream fragments that he or she wakes up. Alternatively, you can win the game by being the first player to finish the dream without waking up.
The cards contain beautifully fantastical and surrealist art, making it well-worth looking at each card. Players who enjoy deck building or press your luck games will enjoy Pleasant Dreams. It is available for purchase now at www.pleasantdreamsgame.com.
Robit Riddle is a tabletop RPG meant for all players. With the specific aim of getting young kids into role playing, this game stands as a great gateway game for many of the RPG systems we know and love.
In Robit Riddle, you play the role of a pre-built Robot Character, although more experienced players can build their own character. As a party of 4 or less, you go off in search of your lost pet Robit.
Players take turns getting comfortable role playing by reading from one of four story books which guides the players through their adventure. Players encounter obstacles of varying difficulty, and overcome those obstacles by crafting narratives which integrate their specific skills into a solution.
The skills players choose to employ, characters they have acquired, and the eventual success or failure of each challenge determines the story path, as players turn to a different page in a choose-your-own-adventure style. Once players become comfortable with branching or adaptive stories, they have the option to write and play their own campaigns.
Play time can range from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on the story. The game is still under development but plans to ship with 4 complete story modules. I strongly suggest this game for RPG players with kids, and caretakers of any kind: it’s an amazing introduction that sparks kids’ imagination and will lead to more RPG players. What’s not to love about that?.
You can find news about the game at www.babageekgames.com
The Depths of Durangrar
The Depths of Durangrar is a unique 4-player game which is played in complete darkness.
Three of the four players play as explorers who navigate a maze searching for treasure. Their goal is to collect 3000 gold and escape. Their small LED mounted player tokens illuminate a finite area around them. Their view looks like this:
There is, however, a fourth player. This player takes the role of the monster. The monster’s goal is to kill off the other players. Their token has no lights on it and can only be seen by the others in proximity. Get this though, the monster player uses night vision goggles that ship with the game.
They can see the whole board:
First one to their goal wins.
Fundamentally, the game is a fairly standard loot-based modular dungeon crawl. However, the dark element and the monsters abilities change the gameplay entirely, while also immersing the players in the fiction. Certain monsters can move walls, forcing players to frantically seek the exit, when they thought they knew the way back. Lay traps, or outright attack the players. It’s damn fun, and the novelty has enough staying power to keep it from being a one hit wonder.
For people who like D&D, anything related to dungeon crawls, or just a unique multiplayer interaction, I would suggest checking out this game.
It is still under development but you can follow its development here Facebook.com/CreativeCoveGames
The Networks is a 2 to 5 player game best explained on their Kickstarter page.
In The Networks, you start with three awful public access shows and some money. As the game goes on, you will be canceling these shows and replacing them with better and better shows.
Shows will have varying prerequisites of stars and ads; you’ll want to secure those before developing your shows. Stars and ads have their own sets of conditions; they perform better on certain types of shows, or in certain time slots.
Shows age each season. Their popularity usually takes a plunge at some point, so you must be quick to replace them with fresh new shows whenever you can.
The Networks rewards planning and strategy, but you can’t ignore the other players. They may beat you to the show you were planning on getting. Timing is crucial.
Fans of Power Grid, Hansa Teutonica, Agricola and Puerto Rico should really enjoy this game. Check it out and pre-order on their Kickstarter campaign.
Next up, the Video Games:
I spent hours in here and it was very difficult to narrow down which games to write about.
These are the top five that really got me in no particular order.
This game is beautiful and surprised me beyond words. It can only be described as surreal and fantastical visual experience on the nature of memory and coping with trauma.
The protagonist after losing their partner descends into their memories of themselves and their relationship. Memories fold in upon memories. Stare at a picture for a while and then turn around to find yourself within the picture. Hallways carry on endlessly until you stop and find the door was in front of you all along. Changing your perspective changes the world, and the world changes you. A true work of art and 100% worth playing, no questions asked.
Poke around the website and watch the videos.
This 2014 Figgies winner is an educational game that attempts to teach language through music.
Listen to songs with subtitles and fill in missing words or replace incorrect ones in a way that feels natural and intuitive. Progression and learning speed is very impressive. They already have their Spanish for English speakers and English for Spanish speakers up and running, and they are coming along on several other languages.
The game is available in IOS and Android, as well as a free web-based version. Please, check out this great game and learning tool.
While this game may look like that maze screensaver from Windows 95, it is so much more. Also a winner in the 2014 Figgies, Black Hat Oculus is a 2-player cooperative game in which you are both Hollywood-style hackers.
One player (using the Oculus Rift) is inside of the program the players are trying to hack. The other player has a terminal input and a top down view of the area, on a monitor. Each player has unique information that they must give to their partner in order to successfully progress through the game. It is seriously fun. You end up shouting at each other, a lot, until you create your own lexicon for communication.
Here, just go watch the Rooster Teeth crew play it.
Definitely follow this one.
In Mushroom 11, you play as a mold slash amorphous organism.
You trim and grow this mold to progress through a gritty landscape filled with gaps to cross, physics problems to solve and creatures to avoid or kill. Extremely unique, interesting, great visuals, fun to play, and honestly really hard to describe satisfactorily so here is a video of gameplay.
I played 10 minutes of this game and am hooked. I strongly suggest playing this multi-award winning game.
A beautiful game about the nature of choice in life.
You play a genderless protagonist who is off to college. You move through your house packing for school, saying goodbye to friends or loved ones, listening to music you love, fixing that pipe you always meant to, or spending your last sunset at home skipping rocks on the pond. Whatever you choose to do, as you interact with the world it lights up and fills with color. Your small actions within the game represent more important choices about the type of person that you are, and the game branches from there.
Does your attention to detail and organisation lead you to a life as a hard working business-person, or are you more carefree and lackadaisical, living your later years in relaxed solitude? Each small choice can lead to a very different outcome, down the line, and this game is an excellent thought experiment in cause, effect, and choice.
Its beautiful, thought provoking, and relaxing, reminiscent of Gone Home, but functionally different. I strongly suggest it. its available for early access on steam currently with a full 1.0 release planned later this year.
Also worth checking out:
And that about covers it for FIG. Overall, a great Indie festival well worth your time. I will certainly be there next year.
If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment. Cheers.