Metatopia 2020 Online Board Game Convention

Because the pandemic is still everywhere, Metatopia 2020 Online Board Game Convention was online from Thursday November 5 until Sunday November 8. I have been going to Metatopia for a couple years. I will miss going to the Hyatt in Morristown and playing with other gamers and meeting designers and seeing their prototypes. Double Exposure sponsored the event. They created the Envoy Gateway to host games online and used this as a starting point to show their schedule and for people to RSVP the events.

Now that is it online, players and designers used Discord with for audio chatting while playing or just talking to other players, Tabletop Simulator to play the games online, and on the DexConcord channel on Twitch for seminars and panels by publishers and designers. It didn't have an official Discord channel, so each designer had to make their own channel.

On the DexConcord, I watched a panel discussion with many game publishers talk about trends in game design and what publishers look for when designers pitch to them. One interesting thing was a discussion that they do like theme in pitched games, but they may like your game more if they replace it with another theme. So don't fall in love with your game if you pitch it as they may think a different theme may make your game more marketable. 


Next I signed up to play test a game on Tabletop Simulator. HERO is a direct-conflict game with a Euro-flair for kung fu masters. Designed by Tam Myaing. You are a kung fu master on an epic quest for fame and virtue. Set in the mythical Far East, acquire virtue points (VP) by gaining followers, performing heroic feats, winning epic clashes, and liberating the subjugated provinces of the tumultuous lands.

This uses the tile building mechanic where it uses tiles with an icon on top and on bottom. The tiles are in a bag and you pull them out onto a scroll where you can use the tiles for actions. The top icons would be the actions like Move, Recruit (collect a tile on the map), Liberate (fight a warlord that rules a territory), Train (take a card with a power) and Rest where you add two more tiles from the bag. Once your turn is over, you put two more tiles from your bag onto the scroll.


When you fight a Warlord of a territory, you must use a Liberate tile and then you use tiles where the bottom icons match the Warlord's icons. You then plant flag on the territory on and on the warlord that makes the Warlord harder to fight. You can also fight other players wherewith players add tiles to their scroll. The attacker needs more claw icons than the defender who needs more ox icons. The winning condition to defeat all the Warlords and count up victory points. It was a fun game and I only saw the tile mechanic once before at another prototype a couple years ago.

The Contraltos

The Contraltos is a light 18-card game of mafia intrigue. Designed by Jason Costa.  As one of the siblings vying for control of the family business, you’ll send associates to finish jobs at the various nightclubs under family control. Establish criminal enterprises and knock off troublesome associates to achieve your secret objective and declare yourself godfather! Unfortunately, I forgot to take screenshots of the game.

He uses multi-use cards where the resources (fist, seduction, and sneakiness) are on the top of card and the objectives are on the bottom. When you choose an objective, the top part of the card is not used. The objectives on the rest of the deck is no longer used. There are 4 locations. You can play associates on each location and their resource are added to a pool on that location. And in order to place an enterprise on a location, you need enough whatever resources it needs to be placed. You can perform a hit on a character which requires to flip one card in your hand and you need enough of the resources in the location's pool to off an associate. 

My goal was to have 2 different enterprises in play and one hit. Unfortunately, my goal was an impossible to achieve no matter what I did. Because one of the players withheld the one enterprise I needed on his hand. This was a frustrating broken aspect as I couldn't do anything to influence the outcome. So I spent the game just randomly moving cards around with no purpose. I shared how this was broken. I felt the objectives should be separate cards in their own deck. And that we should have the option to discard an objective to get a new one. The game has potential though.

Space, Inc.

A light strategy game about rocket building with resource management and card drafting. Designed by Chris Swan. Players draft cards to perform actions that either prepare rockets for launch or develop different areas of their enterprise. Milestones have to be achieved in the pursuit of being the first successful commercial spaceflight company, and the first player to complete five milestones wins.


This is a card drafting game in the vein of Sushi Go. You use cards to build your rocket ship, upgrades, add satellite dishes, create payloads, create tugboats to retrieve rocket parts, and astronauts and to launch your completed rocket ship. There are Milestone cards with goals like building a rocket ship with 3 parts and have one astronaut and more variations. Similar to Century Spice Road. You win when you complete 5 Milestone cards. 

The game has great replayability and if you played a card drafting game and Century Spice Road, it will be easy to learn. I made critiques on that the simple milestones were worth the same as the more complex milestone cards and there needs to be more reward for completing a complex milestone. Also some of the aspects on the player board was a little confusing and needs to be graphically improved to reduce confusion on whether something is added to a rocket ship or not.

BOOM Patrol: Smirk & Dagger

The "rrr-rrr-rrr-rrr.....BOOM!" game of blowin' stuff up! Hop in your tank, plow through buildings, blast other tanks, grab every gold bar you can find and earn medals to be victorious. It's an arcade-style, programmed movement battle game where making tank noises is almost mandatory as you push along your cardboard tanks.

This design by Anthony and Nicole Amato is a late-Beta looking for opportunities to bring it to the next level. Hosted by Curt Covert, Owner of Smirk & Dagger.

This is a fun arcade style tank game where you use a small deck of cards to program your moves. You put 3 cards in the player mat and then on your turn you reveal you reveal what moves you will do during the turn. The cards are used to measure and place your tank. If you hit a building, it reveals what is inside like gold, a brewery, rubble, hedgehog, and minefield. Then your tank is propelled forward until you're not touching a building or another tank. My tank was propelled across the map.

There are goals to achieve like being the closet to the clocktower in the center at the end of the round and more. And you receive medals for goals. It's a fun little tank game. 

Sector Z4X

Sector Z4X is a 4X space opera in a vast and unexplored universe. It plays 2-4 players in about 40 minutes per player (1.5 - 3 hours est). Designed by Zintis May-Krumins.

This game plays similar to Twilight Imperium except has more simpler rules and will not play for 10 hours. Your alien race you choose only has one ability or attribute like mine only has an extra Space Port on my homeworld. You have 7 cards which are the actions you use to play the game. You explore the space around you and discover systems, research technology, build buildings, Build fighter ships, play politics by buying senators' influence and voting on new laws that change the game, and reset your cards.

Each player gets a player board with all their resources on a track and they add technology cards which are multi-use cards to the sides of the player board depending on what part of the technology card they want to use.Very innovative use of the player mats. 

With combat, each player has a combat card, and they place their ships on spaces of actions. Some actions nullify the action of the other player. It has a push your luck aspect to it.

Bento - a puzzly set-collection game

Create the best bento box you can! Draft food tiles to fill your bento box, ability cards to give you some flexibility in moving things around, or goal cards to help you score bonus points. Score points by placing partitions, positioning the foods in your bento box, and creating bowls - most points wins. Designed by Chris Backe.

It's a puzzly, set collection game that rewards making a plan and working toward it. 2-6 players, 30 minutes long, ages 8 and up. 

If you like Tetris or Cartographers, you'll like this game. It uses Tetris shapes of different Bento foods. You have to place them in your Bento box player mat. You pick up goal cards and try to arrange for those foods to score the goal cards. An added feature is partitions of 1 to 3 squares long. You have to use them to partition your bento box and can only close off pieces or a piece of the same food to score the food. 

Below is my finished Bento box with goal cards I used.

Star Travelers

Join the ranks of the World Space Exploration Asociation’s Explorers and train your own crew of tomorrow’s Star Travelers as you explore the galaxy, discover new planets, and defeat the alien threat to Earth. With nearly 150 million combinations, can you find the best crew, ship, and robot to outperform your competition and prove yourself as the top commander in this ever-changing game based on the sci-fi book series? Featuring a custom game introduction and graphics by author K. E. Knights. Designed by Keith Wilcoxon

(Player mat with ship that can be upgraded, supplies, crew members and goal)

In this deck building and engine building game, you have 2 phases. Your first phase, is to prepare your ship for space travel. Your second phase to explore space with your ship. You have a market row of ship parts and crew members and robots. They add attributes to your ship like radar, science, and attack skill. You also have supplies which is a resource for upkeep and spending. 

Market row on left with Science Report chevrons and star map your ship explores on right.

When you're traveling in space, you get individual goals. Ways to score victory points is to fight aliens and to explore planets and write a science report. The radar attribute determines how many space tiles you can view before you choose one and place it down. Your science attribute contribute to the level of the science report on a planet and your attack value is used to fight aliens. You need dice to determine the final score plus your attribute for alien attack and writing a science report.

It is a fun little game of space exploration and am interested in its development. The icons need tweaking as they are too complex. And the use of the icons on the cards was confusing and hard to decipher since the designer wanted them to be used without needing language translation. 

Hex Hex Decks - Smirk and Dagger

Hex Hex, our nasty ‘take that’ card game of hex & counter-curse has been in constant print for 17 years. But this ALL NEW standalone version of Hex Hex is now a deck builder, made unique by allowing new cards you summon into your hand to be played on the fly – at the risk of reducing your hand size to pay for them. It features the same chaos-filled card play but adds a whole new dimension of strategy as you custom tailor your deck to your play style. It’s a brand new experience you don’t want to miss. Hosted by Greg Millikin.

(Player mat above with 2 Voice and a hex token with another blue token on top of it)

Hex Hex Decks is a deck building game very similar to Star Realms and Hero Realms. It adds a hot potato mechanic where a hex is given to a player and they need to use cards to push that hex around. When a player that receives the hex has no cards or is unable to push away the hex, the hex detonates on them. Subtracting a number of Voice from their player mat. There are cards that can add nasty tokens to the hex token that do more damage or give a bonus. Some even duplicates the hex.

Market Row

(Market Row with one Rupture card under the fifth market space)

Each player has a starter hand of cards and Voice is their hit points and a resource they can use. Each card has a number called the craft to use to buy more cards from the market row. You can add Voice from your player mat to add to that to buy higher value cards. You have to discard that card to use to buy a new one. When a rupture card is revealed on the market row, it is placed below the market space. Any card bought where the rupture is activates a power the rupture has written. When all 5 market spaces has a rupture card, the game ends.

This game is a game that does all sorts of take that actions against other players so that the one with the most Voice wins when all rupture cards are revealed. Has alot of replay value and many different strategies to play.

These are all the game prototypes I play tested at Metatopia. It was enjoyable. Yes, I prefer to go to the convention itself, but I congratulate Double Exposure for still making it happen online with the pandemic still raging. I plan to watch some of the panel discussion on their Twitch channel and summarize soon. Stay tuned.

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