A couple of weeks ago, I attended this year’s Boston Festival of Indie Games held at the MIT – Johnson Athletic Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
This was my third year attending the show and the thing I love about it is that is has both digital games for mobile, PC and console as well as a huge floor filled with just table top games and there is even an open gaming section if you want to play your own games or recent purchases.
As this site’s main focus is on iOS apps, first and foremost, my plan every year, is to cover all of the mobile game offerings, which admittedly this year, were a bit sparse this year, before moving down to the table top area. Despite the limited mobile offerings, there were some entertaining titles and I was thrilled to see one game back for a second year in a row.
First up was Yesterday!, a 3D manipulation puzzle game in which the player is trying to help a lovestruck boy and girl find each other. To do so, players move the girl on floating connected 3D cube structures and rotate cubes based on the girls’ current position. The goal is to eventually manipulate the structure to where the boy and girl can finally meet. It has this sort of Rubik’s Cube meets Monument Valley feel to it as you play with rotation and perspective to find a way to get the girl on the same ‘side/plane’ as the boy. I found it to be both fun and at times a little frustrating (but in a good way). The art is quite beautiful and the game felt very tactile and perfectly suited for mobile as you manipulated the structure(s).
Next was Ruins of Glitterdeep, a neat free-to-play turn-based puzzle RPG dungeon crawler where you play the hero. The twist here is that you are actually building the dungeon as you go by placing tiles to form your path to reach treasure chests and avoiding the goblins trying to protect their valuables. At the bottom of the screen players have a choice of three tiles (and their one special tile that they equipped before entering the dungeon). Tap on any adjacent tile to move the hero to that tile. If desired, the player may fill in one of the empty squares by dragging up a tile from the their supply, as long as it connects to an existing tile. Tiles can be rotated before dropping in place, which is helpful as some have walls on one or more sides which can be used to block enemies. Any time a tile is placed directly in front of the hero, they get a free additional move onto it. After the hero moves, the monsters take a turn, moving in whatever their pre-programmed path for the the level is. Should a monster and the hero end up on the same tile, combat resolves automatically with each attacking and defending based on their stats. It is usually best to avoid combat when possible. Between dungeons, collected treasure can be used to upgrade stats, buy special tiles (like a cool expanding tile that fills in multiple empty spaces and disappears after x number of moves). New unlockable new heroes, each with their own advantages and tiles appear to be behind a paywall. Ruins of Glitterdeep is a fun little time waster and the deeper the dungeon you travel to, the tougher the monsters will get.
Forge Ahead Studios’ Gravity Farms is a frenetic, real-time, same-device multiplayer, space farming game where players are trying to be the first to plant, grow and harvest enough grain to fill their container before the other player(s). To do this, you are jumping between planets. When your character lands on a planet, they will automatically star traversing it, putting down seeds as they go. After some time elapses, plants will grow from these seeds and the player must return to the planet to harvest their crop, each unit of which fills their meter a little more. Sounds easy enough right? However, other players can bump you off the planet if they land on it after you. They can also gather YOUR crop, and while they don’t get credit for it, it keeps the original planter from getting any credit for it. If that wasn’t enough, sometimes there will also be pesky birds and goats that will also eat your crops and bump you off planets. It is a quick frantic game as you are constantly having to try to protect your growing crops, destroy your opponents and remember to harvest your goods before they can be stolen. I have really enjoyed playing this game for the past two years at BFIG and happy to hear that it should be releasing fairly soon. Gravity Farms is a creative game that takes some familiar mechanics and crafts them into a new, social experience. I think families will have a blast gathering around an iPad to play this at holidays or while waiting for dinner or even just settling disputes.
One awesome surprise highlight of the show was a last-minute visit by Harmonix’s Community Team Member, Nick Mundry who swung by the open tabletop gaming area for a few hours to demo Hasbro and Harmonix’s highly-anticipated musical, analog and digital card game mashup, DropMix. As fan of not-only card games, but Harmonix’s console titles like the Rock Band and Dance Central series, I have been watching some of their live streams and dying to check out this latest offering. So needless to say I was thrilled to get a hands-on demo as I played head-to-head against Nick. The base DropMix sys tem consists of an electronic board which connects wirelessly to your iPhone or iPad running a companion app. The board contains five spots on which players place their cards to build rad original mixes of songs. Each card has a level (one through three) and are from one or more colored category for vocals, mid-range, percussion and bass. Depending on the color, cards can only be played into certain spots and instantly effect the current mix in real-time (thanks to an NFC chip embedded into each card). There are multiple game modes and supports 1v1, 1v2, 2v2 and a collaborative party mode. In the mode that Nick and I played, we earned a point for playing a card and then there were numerous ways to earn bonuses on top of that for playing certain colors, by getting full control of the board and more. It was super fun and much more strategic than I had thought it would be. Released the day after BFIG, you can pick up the Core set for $99 at most local and online retailers where Hasbro products are sold. This comes with over 60 cards and they have all sorts of themed packs you can buy to unlock more songs. Even after just my single play, I would definitely recommend picking this one up…loved this analog and digital mashup. I suspect this’ll be one hot Christmas item this year.
This seems like a good spot to segue into the tabletop games that I got to check out at the show. It’d be too much to write in detail about everything I saw here, so I’ll just focus on few of the real highlights and briefly mention some of the others as I wasn’t able to get in on demos for everything I wanted to try as some of them seemed to be quite busy all day long.
One of real highlights for me came from one of Boston FIG organizers (and designer of the fun deduction game Oh My Gods!) Tim Blank. He set up a quick, fun pop up puzzle/ escape room like experience called YOU’VE BEEN POISONED! in which a team of people had been poisoned and subsequently locked inside their attacker’s office. With only minutes to live the group had to work together to search the office for scraps of information which would help them determine which of the four bottles contained the antidote (the remaining three contained a catalyst which would cause the poison to kill them instantly). Teams could choose from multiple difficulty levels before they started which affected the amount of time they had and whether or not they were given some initial information. Choosing the middle difficulty, our team solved the puzzles pretty quickly and survived. It was a free, entertaining condensed escape puzzle experience and I hope that Tim does more of these at other conventions in the future.
Successfully Kickstarted just about a year ago, Cake Duel is a cute, quick two-player memory and bluffing card game in which players take turns playing Sheepie cards in an attempt to steal cakes from the other player, with the first player who successfully steals all the cakes being declared the winner of the round. The first player to win three rounds wins the game. On their turn each player plays up to two cards face down and declares what they are playing. The other player can either call their bluff, or play cards of their own to counter. There are penalties for being caught bluffing as well as incorrectly calling another player’s bluff. Otherwise, once both players have played their cards, then the results of that match are determined based on the cards reported to have been played. It was quick and fun and there were quite a few different card types you could swap in to change things up, plus there are also 10 special cards, two of which are randomly added to the basic deck at the beginning of each duel to mix things up.
Finally, perhaps my favorite board game of the show that I tried was Donner’s Pointe, a light dice rolling and worker placement game about selling frozen explorers from designer Zachary Huff. Players are competing to earn the most money over 5 days by selling off frozen bodies that match the missing persons reports. Each day (round) a set of four common dice is rolled, each of which has different characteristics, like hair color, eye color, jacket color and whether or not they have a backpack. This is the person that players are looking for in their hand of three “ice cube” body cards and want to find one that ideally matches the most number of characteristics on the rolled dice. Players select one card from their hand and place it face down. At the end of the round, they will earn one stack of cash for each characteristic of their card that matches the dice. Now it’s time for players to manipulate the dice to try to get them to match their missing person. Each player has selected one of six locations and placed their character on that location (one player is allowed per location). These locations provide players with special actions for that round and are resolved in order. The first lets a player draw an extra card to give them more body options and lets them delay selection of their face down card, the Missing Persons office lets players re-roll one or more of the dice, The Daily Donner lets you turn one die to whatever face you’d like. If you don’t want to take chances, you can select the Diner which lets you just immediately sell your ice cube for three stacks of cash (equivalent to matching three die faces) or finally the Butcher Shop allows you to discard another of your ice cubes and take one characteristic from it and add it to your face down ice cube to replace the one printed on the card. The macabre theme is presented in a light-hearted way and the game is beautifully illustrated. The game is fully developed and designed, hopefully Donner’s Pointe can find a publisher.
I played quite a few other board games and several that I wanted to try were always packed with people. If you live around the Boston area and love playing games, then you should certainly add this one-day gem to your convention schedule.