Published on September 5th, 2014 | by Across the Board Games Staff0
Tabletop Gaming at PAXPrime 2014
Even More Indie Games!
The Penny Arcade Expo or PAX for short is an all encompassing gaming convention that celebrated its 10th year this past Labor Day weekend. PAX has grown from its single Seattle convention to include 4 more conventions including PAXEast in Boston, PAXSouth in San Antonio and PAXAus in Melbourne and PAXDev in Seattle the week before PAXPrime. With this ever-expanding convention line up many attendees, including myself, worry that PAXPrime will become more inaccessible to those attendees and indie developers without loads of money.
I have been a regular attendee since 2009 and have witnessed PAXPrime’s growth first hand. I can say with confidence that PAX remains committed to indie games and not just digital games but tabletop games as well. This year there were three advertised locations for tabletop gaming. The second and third floor featured a random assortment of game demos, local game stores selling games (with an indie focus) and a very large gaming library where attendees could check out games until 12am.
Across the street at Motif (formerly the Red Lion) there were two floors dedicated to tabletop tournaments from Ascension to Krosmaster Arena and tabletop RPGs including 13th Age and D&D 5e. I was surprised to find the 5E booth swarmed with players who were given character sheets and a borrowed book to create characters in the new system. I was so happy to see so many gamers like me: young, eager and excited to build their favorite character in the new edition.
Finally, on the main expo floor in the Indie Megabooth was a sub-booth titled the Indie Tabletop Megabooth. I passed a couple times and saw that all the tables were filled with indie designers showing their games including a familiar face, Pete of Mind the Gap Studios demoing the magical sport of Wizard Dodgeball. The ten games featured in that space were all currently on Kickstarter or were preparing for Kickstarter. Here is the complete list here:
Besides gaming, I also attend cons for the cosplay. The cosplay community is growing pretty rapidly too and the costumes are becoming even more creative. Cosplay to me is a way that artists and fans express their love for a franchise or try to put their own creative spin on a character they love. I wonder if there will ever be a time when board game characters become prominent enough to gain a cosplay following.
There were many Magic the Gathering costumed attendees and the previous year I saw Pandemic players dressed in lab coats. Did you see any costumes from tabletop games? If so, please share those with us on Twitter or Facebook. These were my favorite costumes of PAX:
As far as con culture goes, PAX has quite a ways to go before it comes close to the inclusiveness and friendliness of GeekGirlCon which is my favorite convention in Seattle. BUT, PAX is making large strides forward by including a large swath of indie games, a large section of Diversity Programming and exhibitors for the LGBTQ community, an open cosplayers’ lounge and charity booths dedicated towards making games accessible for disabled gamers.
I also noticed many more female gamers roaming the floor this year than previous years. I am so grateful that there are people within the convention scene that are really doing a great job to turn the culture of PAX into one that is friendly towards all gamers. I believe PAX has many more amazing years ahead!
I’ve lived in Seattle for several years and I am a veteran of many PAX events. After the recent controversies, the way that Mike and Jerry responded to them and the fan response after that just really turned me off on the whole event. Coupled with that, the last three years of PAX didn’t have much to show that I cared about as it was focused mostly on stubble faced men with guns and a devil-may-care attitude. I went in to this year’s event with the intent that it would be my last PAX.
I was really only going to PAX to see some Dragon Age 3 panels and to go to the PAX Prime Pink Party. After milling around the convention this year, I realized how wrong I was about the direction it was heading. At the very front of the Expo overflow area (where they keep a lot of indie video games and some table top games) there was a diversity outreach area.
When I first heard about the diversity hubs, I thought it was a poor PR move that would backfire but after seeing it in action, I thought it was great. The hub featured Northwest Press (a favorite of mine) prominently, and it had some very friendly people there willing to discuss issues of diversity and representation for people of all types in gaming. This positive trend continued throughout the con and we had a great time!
When we played games, I got most excited about trying some new table top tactics games. Either table top or digital, tactics games have been a favorite of mine most of my life. This year I tried a demo of Krosmaster Arena which I have almost Kickstarted twice but always caught me at the wrong time to afford the level I really wanted.
The demo I played used over-sized game pieces, including minis- the characters were about as big as a Funko POP! figure. The pre-painted figure sculpts are great and the game is simple and fast paced, especially for a tactics game. I loved Krosmaster and went to Amazon to buy a ton of merch afterwards (if you have any recommendations on figures tweet us @board_crossing).
Another tabletop game I enjoyed was Relic Knights, which is a free form tactics game with a strong hand-management resource mechanic. The minis are high quality sculpts with great concept art and they come unpainted so you can customize your forces. I like how easy it is to pick up the basic rules and I’m looking forward to playing more in the future. Expect a full review of both of these games in the near future.
Apart from table top, I was really taken aback at how many digital games are emulating table top games now. RPGs like Dragon Age and World of Warcraft are incorporating elements of keep/fortress management, tactics games like XCOM are becoming popular again, and the digital card game market has never been better. There used to be a time when it was hard to play any card game on the net that wasn’t poker or bridge. Now gamers can play Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, Hearthstone and the list keeps growing.
While this gets more people into CCGs, is it just a fad or will it take over the collectible market because of the free-to-play incentive? It’s hard to tell, but the increasing amount of video games that play like board games, or even ports of board games, seems like a logical next step. I’m excited to see where the future of gaming takes us!
Want to Hear More About Our PAX Experience…
We sat down with the Game Viceroy himself, Andrew to talk about our favorite games, the crazy parties and the future of PAX on A Podcast, for All Intents and Purposes.