Contributing Authors: Marielle Shaw and Antal Bokor
This was the second year we headed to the Logan Theatre for their annual Playtest Party and found it as packed with people interested in seeing the latest from Chicago video and tabletop game developers as we had the year before, everyone huddled around laptops, donning VR headsets and taking seats at crowded tables to try their hand at new tabletop titles. Though there didn’t seem to be quiet as many tabletop games as last year, the crowd was no less excited, and there were some real standouts. As with last year, we managed to make our way through the full-to-overflowing Lounge at the Logan to talk with devs and players alike to get their take on making and playing the games. Here’s what we saw and what we thought.
There seemed to be fewer tabletop games, but that didn’t seem to translate to less excitement about them, as often the tabletop games were the hardest to get a chance to play with the crowds.
Scoundrels is a pirate-themed card game where you seek your fortune and fame on the high seas. Sail around to various islands to find treasure—or bury our own–or seek out other pirates to blunder their often ill-gotten gains. It’s an interestingly dynamic game where you’re encouraged to maximize risk for the greatest rewards. You can see more Scoundrels here.
We ran into Foxbo Games at last year’s Playtest Party, where they were showing off Cursed, which took its inspiration from Bloodborne. This year, they were showing off Barfight!, a memorization-based card game that is exactly what it sounds like: a down-and-out bar brawl without the actual brawling. Instead you get a fast-paced, fun and unique game about drunken melee. You can see more about Barfight! and Foxbo’s other games at their website.
This year’s winner in the Tabletop division, who will have their own booth at C2E2, and who showed off their game prior to this at PAX 2018, was Too Many Poops, a sort of “cat management” game by Neat Games. The concept is simple–you have lots of cats, and they’ve got lots of poops. Your task is to make sure everyone’s happy and healthy. The cats are color-coded, and even have rivals who will make them unhappy, if placed in the same home, and will reduce the amount of points you can score. Action cards allow you to play with cats, move them from house to house, add poops to your litter box, modify rules or negate other cards, “noping” them away. Gameplay looks well explained and thought out, and the version we saw at the Playtest Party looked ready for production. Too Many Poops is a game that’s not only headed to C2E2, but also bound for Kickstarter. For now, find out more about the game on Neat Games’ website.
This year’s video game entrants ran the gamut from mobile titles and sims to multiplayer battles.
Onsen Master is a customer management game set in Feudal Japan. Created by contemporary artist and gave developer Derrick Fields of Waking Oni, it’s been a work in progress in the artist’s mind since 2014, and only this year saw some alpha builds being brought into the light, first at Chicago’s annual Japanese Matsuri in September and also making an appearance at the Harold Washington Library’s annual International Games Day event for 2018. Onsen has a bright, crisp feel to it visually and from what we saw of gameplay, an entertaining and culturally accurate world full of carefully created customers you’ll get to know as you continue playing.
One real standout for us was The Grate Cheesemancer. If the title hadn’t drawn us in with its humor the artwork certainly would have anyway. Though the lead artist on the game warned us that the game was still unfinished (as were most at the party) it had a polish and style to it that called back to Spyro and Crash, and gameplay was remarkably smooth. Gameplay is a mix of collecting and puzzle platforming and has the main character, Alexander the Grated, equipped with a magical fondue pot and some rudimentary knowledge of cheesemancing, takes a journey to find Landalf and become an even more powerful cheesemancer.
Kakatte Koi Yo is an action filled multiplayer game by purpleninjalink where you play as a little cat and battle it out against up to three other feline friends to get collect fish. You can take quite a few approaches–sneaky, combative, or even explosive, dropping bombs to hurt your enemies’ progress, but in the end whoever collects seven fish first will be victorious. We saw a lot of groups of friends crowding the couch to get a chance to play this game, and all seemed to really enjoy the fracas.
Project Lantern is a 2D puzzle platformer by Salsa Studios. It’s in an Alpha stage right now, so it’s a little rough around the edges, but we can tell it’s shaping up to be something interesting. As of right now, most mechanics revolve around pushing and pulling boxes, but Salsa Studios has put together some impressive visuals and an atmosphere that reminds us of (a very early build of) Limbo or similar side scrolling puzzlers. Check out more on their website, and see the game in action here.