Metatopia was a great convention located at the Hyatt Regency in Morristown, NJ. I went last year and this is my favorite convention. This is a convention for game designers to playtest their games they are developing. I went there as a player and not as a designer. I wanted to learn how it is done. I took many different seminars, played many games that are still in development, and met many people who are up and coming designers and those involved with the industry.
My main reason to go was to play the many games at Metatopia. Now bear in mind, these games are still in development by independent game designers. I wasn't playing with finished manufactured products. I was playing with cards printed from their office printer glued to a stiffer paper placed in card sleeves. Boards were hand drawn or printed and glued to a stiff board. Components were cannabalized from other games.
It was also a great time to network and let me people know I am a graphic designer and photographer.
I will list the games I play tested from my favorites to least favorites.
Kong: Battle for Skull Island
"Kong: Battle for Skull Island" by Devious Devices, LLC; presented by Anthony Rando. An officially-licensed Kong board game in which players take on the role of adventurers on the mysterious Skull Island, a land lost to time and civilization. Recruit a party and venture beyond the Wall to explore the perils and marvels of the island, while avoiding the giant beasts that call Skull Island home - including the terrifying reptilian goddess Gaw and the ape-like creature that lurks in the shadows, thought to be the last surviving Kong. Exploration, resource management, and press-your-luck elements combine in this adventure game.
This was my favorite game at the convention. They are tapping in an underused theme of King Kong on Skull Island. The game is competitive where you gather resources, increase your karma or reputation, complete quests and do encounters where another player reads it and you are given a set of choices. As a solo player, I suggested they think of doing solo player rules and even a cooperative variant. With a few areas that need improving, I really hope this game gets produced in a couple years.
"AlderQuest" by Rock Manor Games; presented by Ryan Ward. High councils of Aleron have initiated a four-seasons tournament with an urgent summons to the many houses of the realm. Guilds local to the Great Tree Aiyana have convened at her watershed to take part in the first contest, as autumn slowly expires. Rival factions of animal heroes and minions will square off in a competition that blends area control, tile placement, hidden information and bluffing, and traditional match-3. The team that captures the most acorn points before the start of winter will be victorious.
This was a beautiful game reminiscent of Everdell though I never played that game. I really liked the quality of the art and components of the prototype. The resource gathering is on a separate board which plays like Tetris or Bejeweled which uses tiles from a bag. It plays a team of two versus another team. Each player gets two heroes which are flipped when an action is done. A hero can summon a minion onto the board to gather acorn tiles by flipping it which may be an acorn resource or a trap set by the opposing team. I loved the tree but it blocked parts of the board.
I felt the tree could be next to the board, but the designer said he would cut holes in the trunk for better view. Another thing is we tried to hoard resource tiles, but the designer kept telling us not to do that. I felt from a usability testing standpoint that he should let us hoard to see if this breaks the mechanism or not or reveal any flaws. But overall I liked this game.
"Epic Duels" by White Wizard Games; presented by CJ Moynihan. Epic Card Game is a draft and sealed card game, designed to reuse the same set to be played and replayed right out of the box. The resource to play cards is built into the game, so gameplay is about choosing your plays each turn rather than managing mana. Epic Duels is a standalone, complete two player game and recommended for new players to start. It includes a gold tracker, health cards, a reference card, and a script for your first game.
I am a big fan of Star Realms and Hero Realms so I was excited to meet CJ Moyhihan who worked for White Wizard Games. We weren't really play testing the game itself. We were play testing a set of Playthrough Rules to teach new players. I admit was confused when playing the game and the Playthrough just made me go through the motions without knowing why I was doing it. I made some suggestions to the Playthrough to help. I got a free copy of the game when I was done. Yeah!
"Communique" by Cardboard Edison; presented by Suzanne Zinsli. In this clue-programming game, you must interpret a series of messages to travel the continent and hit three checkpoints before your opponents do.
This game is very similar to Codenames, but the cards on the tables of images of locations. Each team has a Clue giver and each team has 3 checkpoints (one checkpoint is active at a time) which needs to be found by placing their miniature on a location. The clue giver gives one word clues on cards from his/her hand. When an opposing team lands on a location with an active checkpoint for the other team, that team gets that checkpoint.
We tested two ways of game play. One was the turn based way which is very strategic and the other way was real time where the both clue givers constantly gave clues and each team raced each other to get all three checkpoints. The real time was a lot of fun and gets people going. But I see the turn based being the main way of play because of the forward thinking works better. Both will be used in their final game, but they need to decide which should be the main way of play.
I pointed out that when they get illustrations done for their locations to make sure it is very clear from a distance and to be contrasty and have colors that can set a particular mood. For their prototype, they just used artwork from the internet where some images were hard to discern because of lack of contrast and details were too small.
"Draughtnauts" by LazArt Studios; presented by John Lazration. A modified, expandable version of checkers with miniature character pieces and added power-up abilities. Add expansion boards and sets to create a unique multiplayer experience.
It is 2-4 player checkers using these robotic miniatures that get power ups from 3 boards guarded by each player. One thing another player and I didn't like was the different patterns and colors of the boards. It should all be same pattern and colors. The wiggly attached legs didn't make sense since the minis kept falling over. I noticed when we were playing a 3 player game, one player had an unfair advantage that one row of powers was only available to the player it was farthest from. The two closer players wasn't allowed to use them. Game wasn't quite there yet and needs some major retooling.
A Legacy of Embers
"A Legacy of Embers" by Benjamin Little and Andrew Evans; presented by Benjamin Little. A post-apocalyptic science fiction RPG set in a blasted world where humanity's greatest failure could be it's on only hope. The game explores ideas of hope, redemption and our place in the universe as visitors from the stars arrive to pick through the ruins of our world. Will your band of survivors be able to build a future for those under your care or will they fade away on the dying Earth? Light to moderate complexity.
This is an RPG in development. I have no photos as I only had a printed out character sheet and 2 6 sided dice. I felt out of my element trying to play test an RPG. I played D&D back in the late 1980s but haven't played RPGs since. The dice mechanic felt gimmicky with rolls of 1-3 being a negative result and 4-6 being positive plus skill modifiers. And aliens coming into play after it was set up as a world devastated by a geological cataclysm caused by scientists was a bit jarring. It wasn't a bad RPG system but not my cup of tea.