Game Night 2.0: Pax Unplugged Edition

Nearly four years ago, my husband and I hosted a few friends one night for a simple game night. It was an excuse to get together since life with children had taken over and we rarely saw each other any more. Before we knew it, that one little night would turn into a monthly tradition of late night game marathons. I often joke that our tabletop trend is the grown-up manifestation of our old PS2 days - hours spent goofing about and beating each other up in DoA 2. Back then, it was weekly. They’re a little harder to schedule these days, but we make do with what we can.

We take turns introducing new games into the mix, however these new games rarely get more than a fleeting chance and are banished to the “one-hit wonder pile” while we return to our  tried and true. Some may call it a gaming slump, returning to the same two games over and over. I tend to have a more optimistic view; the longer we’ve been at it, the easier it is to realize we have a niche. We prefer games with humor. Games where you have the option of cooperating, but for the most part are free to backstab and connive your way to the top. Regular in our rotation: Steve Jackson’s Munchkin and AEG’s Smash Up. Dozens have come and gone, these are the only two that return regularly.

So, when our core group had the chance to attend the inaugural PAX Unplugged this past November in Philadelphia, it was an opportunity we could not pass up. Three days and two nights of adult-only company, surrounded by thousands of like-minded and equally geeky folks and board games!? Oh, hell yes!

While the well-established PAX brand of cons has catered to the video game set; PAX Unplugged focused on all things analog: tabletop, board, card, pen and paper, dice, mini-fig, etc.

It was a fantastic three-day con and a true testament to the astounding tabletop renaissance we are in the middle of. Massive game tournaments; guest speakers; game releases; nearly 200 vendors; a gaming floor and lending library that could make even the most experienced gamers swoon; and a sold-out Saturday.

We test drove several games, and found a few that will be added to our regular roster. If you’re looking for easy-to-learn, fun games to shake up your game night, these are definitely worth a try!         

 Caption: A late night filled with DiceBot MegaFun.

Caption: A late night filled with DiceBot MegaFun.

DiceBot MegaFun      

  • 2-4 players
  • Ages 14+
  • 30-45 minutes
  • WizKids Games

Description from the publisher:

In the future, robots battle it out to the amusement of humans.

Our take:

This game was an absolute blast to play!

We played several rounds and see it joining our regular rotation. It is easy to learn, has quick set-up and fast action.

Each player takes control of a robot card. You draw six weapon cards, which can include uzis, lasers, bombs shields, jammers, viruses and more, and then strategize your initial dice scramble. All players throw their dice into the middle and then grab dice back one handed, placing the dice on the body parts of their robots. You want to get dice that correspond to your weapon hand - as each card is activated by a dice (ie: shields are activated by the pink dice). The head piece is placed last as it has a special ability depending on the color dice you place.

Everyone plays their first card face down. Upon turning, you have to expend the dice needed to activate the action. The player with the highest weapon speed goes first and so on, down to the lowest speed player. The cards indicate the direction the attack can go, and the number of damage it can do to the affected player(s). Players can block damage if their damage number is higher than that of which is attacking them.

You run through six rounds and whatever players are left standing at the end receive a victory point.

Three victory points win the game.

 Playing the ranged DPS Pyromancer during a game of Dice Throne.

Playing the ranged DPS Pyromancer during a game of Dice Throne.

Dice Throne

  • 2-6 players
  • Ages 8+
  • 20-40 minutes
  • Mind Bottling Games

Description from the publisher:

Dice Throne is the game of intriguing dice, tactical card play, powerful heroes and unique abilities! Your hero choice has a significant impact on the strategy and feel of the game. So pick a champion that suits your play style and take the throne!

Our take:

We were able to get an early release of this game during the con. It will be released via retail on Jan 24.

This was another home run! Quick to pick up, fun to play, and absolutely beautiful design.

We played this game cooperatively - two on two -  but you can also do free-for-all. Each player chooses between six class types (ranged dps, melee dps, healer, tank) and you battle via a combination of cards and dice rolls. To some degree, the dice roll portion of the game reminded us of a glorified Yahtzee - trying to get straights or flushes to let loose certain attacks, or moves, depending on the character.

The use of accrued combat points and the deck of cards provided a nice counter to the simple mechanics of the dice rolling. The cards give you the ability to enhance and upgrade your moves.

As I tend to love ranged dps in all forms of gaming, I chose to play with the pyromancer. She was highly enjoyable to play. A terrific damage dealer, but as you can imagine, she had little to no damage mitigation on her end. We found that pairing her with the paladin created a nearly unstoppable force.

As is expected, your goal is to be the last person (or team) standing.

Of note, the devs have said they will be heading to crowdfunding sites in the near future to create expansions - adding new classes.

 Super Kitty Bug Slap’s super cute super kitties.

Super Kitty Bug Slap’s super cute super kitties.

Super Kitty Bug Slap

  • 3-5 players
  • Ages 6+
  • 20 minutes
  • Steve Jackson Games

Description from the publisher:

Pause and you lose! Only the fastest paws will win! Grab the coolest cats you can find for some bug-slappin' action in this speedy card game of quick thinking and swift paws! Super Kitty Bug Slap is a fast-paced game for 3 to 5 players, where slapping the right cards will put you in the lead, but slapping the wrong cards will send you home with your tail between your legs!

Our take:

I am pretty sure Steve Jackson can do no wrong. As a massive fan of ALL the variations of Munchkin we’ve tried, we picked up Super Kitty Bug Slap to have a game to bring home to the kids.

One player serves as the dealer and remaining players choose an archetype kitty card. Kittys can have unique shape, color and a unique bug.

As the dealer lays down a card, you want to be the first to “slap” it if it has any traits that match your card. Whoever slaps first, wins the card and whoever has the most at the end, wins.And as my kids would say, easy peasy lemon squeezy.

We love adding trying out new games, and would definitely love some new additions. If you have a game you love, let me know!