We attended TokenCon 2023 as exhibitors in the Indie Zone, and while our focus was testing our own games, Bubble Net and Mycelia, we also wanted to give back to our fellow designers and play their games. While Cat spent most of her time at the booth, George was in charge of play-testing as many other games as possible, because it’s really important to maintain a balance of participation – and it’s fun to help test games! Here’s what George had to say about the games he tested at TokenCon.
Coalition (Sidereal Gaming)
Summary: Coalition is a game of social negotiation and intrigue for 6-20(!). Players are distributed amongst four factions in a medieval court, each vying to influence the writing of a new constitution that best favors their defining pair of interests by voting those interests into law. To do this they conspire amongst their faction, cut deals (and break them) with other factions, and generally try to outmaneuver the opposition.
My thoughts: First things first; this is not my preferred style of game, and certainly not one in which I have much expertise. I am more moth than social butterfly. Despite this I found the game enjoyable and well thought out. The fact that every faction has a value in common with two other factions, means that -someone- inevitably engaged with me during each round of play. I was also pleased with the selection of (for lack of a better term) specials powers I had to choose from as a member of my faction. I was able to select one that fit my more “watch and wait” approach, a strategy that I chose totally by design and not at all as a manifestation of my terrible social skills.
We had quite a close game, with some smart outmaneuvering by another faction undoing the outmaneuvering and betrayal I was hoping to plan for my own faction. This might not be my sort of game but that’s sort of how I imagine its supposed to be, so bravo to the designer. The one criticism I have is that it appears that it may be too easy to end up in a game state where one value has sufficient votes that factions espousing the opposing value are effectively out of the game e.g. if “North” hits a certain weight then NE and NW are still in it but SE and SW are really in an unrecoverable position. This is less a knock against the mechanics of this game and more a note on the nature of any game where player aptitude is the determining factor. Which is another way of saying, if you’re better at this you’re inclined to win. Maybe this isn’t a criticism at all…
Greedy Goblins (The Barons’ Game Room)
Summary: Greedy Goblins is a simultaneous play set collection game for… what I think is seven players? Eight? Played over as many rounds as you care to. Players are each assigned a goblin type (stabby, smashy, meat, etc.) and with that a hierarchy of preference with regards to cards that match those types. Each round of play involves players presenting any number of cards into the center of the table and calling for a trade of the same. All at once. Usually loudly. This process (that’s a strong word) continues until one player has a complete set of one type, at which point scoring occurs.
My thoughts: GG is the best kind of chaos. People shouting, hands being thrust forward, decisions being made in a split second; it’s a whirlwind. There are special effect cards to keep track of, the memory of what people have traded you in the past, etc… but honestly if you want to ignore all that and just focus on trying to get a matching hand you absolutely can, and still 100% be having the intended experience.
I played it tired, which I’m fairly sure is peak experience for a game like this. When its way too late to play another box game, but everyone is unready to go home, get yourself some goblins.
Behütunsburg: Castle and Course (Compter Enterprises)
Summary: B:C&C is a simple, yet strategic card game for two or four (as pairs). Players are tasked with forming a court of nobility, acquiring a castle, and accumulating wealth in a treasury. The game ends when one player meets these conditions and finishes the turn with an empty hand. Games are generally played in sets of three or five to determine the winner.
My thoughts: B:C&C has echoes of some classic set collection games one might have played with a normal deck of cards, and has a learning curve typical of games of that nature, but uses its own deck with some unique twists. While most similar games involve players largely acting in parallel there is a mechanism here to steal members of an opponent’s court or treasury, a pleasant twist that didn’t feel terribly take-that. A hand cycling effect is also present (and I love me some hand manipulation, so bonus points here) via sending certain members of your court on quests; this serves well to keep the game from hitting the sort of lulls that can occur in games that require the collection of prescribed sets.
The best compliment I can provide is that, for a game with minimal moving parts, it provides sufficient opportunities to “feel smart”. You can check out the print-and-play version here.
Espionage (David Thomas)
Summary: Espionage is a two player game of hidden movement, involving mission completion via pick up and deliver set collection, lightly set in Berlin during the Cold War era. Players take on the roles of opposing spies, each racing to complete a series of missions in enemy territory while simultaneously attempting to track down and foil the efforts of their opponent’s spy.
My thoughts: Espionage is a small game with big tension. The mirrored set of city maps (a series of nodes and paths) the players operate in feel simultaneously far too small to ever avoid being caught when working your spy, and yet befuddlingly large and opaque (I cannot count the number of times I was -certain- I knew where my opponent’s spy was, only to find out they were on the opposite side of the map) when hunting your opponent with your guard. The set collection element of your missions forces movement around the map, and generally prevents discourages pursuing any sort of defensive movement loop.
One special thing about the experience of Espionage is that, even though in retrospect I don’t think my playthrough was a close game, it always felt like it was a close game. I attribute this largely to the guard mechanic; while I was consistently behind my opponent over the course of the game the margin was close enough that I could believe that catching my opponent would turn that situation around. All in all good fun; I’m quite looking forward to seeing this one reach its final form.
Overall a solid set of designs for the weekend; nothing that didn’t know where it was going, or with any real dissonance in its design, or anything else that indicated some serious backtracking in development was needed. We made some great new friends in this motley community that is game design, and I’m looking forward to seeing how all these games progress!
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