Friday, 11 November 2016

PAX Picks

Having dedicated a post to the atmosphere of PAX, I would like to dedicate another to my favourites of PAX. Which, for me, narrows down to board games and video games, both of which I hardly get to play because I do not have time for anything in my life anymore; let us refer to yours truly as a collector of games rather than a gamer per se.

In the card game department, which I consider an offshoot of board games, we stocked up on the latest Magic the Gathering has to offer. I have a problem with Magic, being an elaborate mechanism to suck my money on a yearly basis that it is, but I will grant it much fun and an incredible balance. Virtually every game my son & I play comes down to the wire, and by now we have played with numerous decks (I did mention yearly purchases, didn't I?).
The side effect of those yearly updates, variety and balanced play is that we never seem to seek out to play Magic, but whenever son & Co do play we greatly enjoy it. Those "ooh, how do we interpret the rules now?" moments we used to stumble at are now gone, with Magic offering us quick but meaningful fun.

Moving to proper board games, what games did this collector of board games find attractive? Narrowing down to games that would work well with the family (thus taking adult only contenders such as T.I.M.E. Stories out of the equation), there were three games I came out spending my money on:
  • Islebound, for what seems to me like great art in a joyful game.
  • Mission Red Planet, for generating the impression of being a light version of Alien Frontiers.
  • Star Trek Panic, for taking the simple mechanics of the Castle Panic game and fitting them well into the Star Trek universe (specifically, the Captain Kirk incarnation), red shirts et al.
We also spent a long while observing PAX' X Wing tournament action, being that we play this game ourselves. It was an education to see others practice the art; most competitors came equipped with a Bunnings toolbox containing their favourite vehicle (all but one went with Darth Vader's Tie Fighter), looking very professional like and making me wonder what else they packed in that toolbox of theirs. Sandwiches, perhaps? [I'm sorry, but you have to be an Israeli to get this joke.]
While X Wing matches started and finished all around us, the one match that we randomly picked to observe in close quarters had us witnessing two players trying very hard to outflank one another but failing to even fire a shot once during the half hour we stood watching before deciding to try our luck elsewhere.
It was quite an educational experience; X Wing can be dead simple, if one likes it to be that way, but clearly heavy just the same.

The biggest ticket items of PAX are meant to be video games, but I will disappoint you and state I did not care for the biggest ticket items. Nor for VR, for that matter; I can see how VR adds a new dimension, but what I couldn't see are games that made me go "wow, I need that".
If I were to ignore Mini Metro, a game I already knew about and cannot stop recommending, I will point at two locally made games that my son, my friend and yours truly all took note of separately. Which says something.
  • Defect is a PC/Mac/Linux game that has the player building a spaceship (not too unlike FTL) and then taking it for a fight. The catch is that, eventually, the ship gets taken away from you and you need to design a brand new ship with which - wait for it - you will be fighting your previous ship. So you better do better the next time around!
    The dev stood there next to his display, selling Steam codes of his game for $10. I bought one for myself, thank you very much, but I am still bashing my head against the wall for failing to figure out what a great gift this game could have made if I was to buy five or ten more such codes for my friends. Once again I am being made aware of just how much of an idiot I am.
  • The other game I noted (and then bought) is Hacknet, another PC/Mac/Linux affair. The great thing about this game is its basic idea:
    You know hacking? It's generally immoral and also illegal. But, if you're into computers and such, and especially if computer security is something you deal with (yours truly raises a hand), the begging question is how can one practice this dark art without harming a soul and without risking a thing in this world?
    The answer is, of course, through video gaming. How come I didn't think of that myself? I'm such an idiot.
    Moving on while trying to stick to the constructive side, Hacknet is a game that simulates real life computers, code and all, and challenges you, Player 1, to go ahead an hack.
    Delightful.


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