Heating Up: Gaming Highlights from Phoenix Comicon 2016

Phoenix Comicon 16

Despite record temperatures, fans of all ages enjoyed four days of unadulterated geekdom during Phoenix Comic Con (PCC) this year, and gaming seemed bigger than ever. Nestled in the wide expanse of the Hyatt Regency’s main Atrium sat the central hub of PCC’s tabletop gaming space. Ascending the escalator as it emptied into the gaming hall where new demos, development companies, and play experiences waited, always brought with it a feeling of excitement mixed with anticipation. Thousands of gaming enthusiasts sat and enjoyed the dozens of free-play tables, tournament areas, and demo booths, for no other reason than it seemed to be the one place in the massive expanse of PCC where they could stretch their arms, cool off, and actually hear the people standing next to them.

A number of game developers appeared at PCC this year in both the main tabletop gaming space and in the massive exhibitor hall. While each and every one deserves praise and attention for simply surviving the incredible crowds, we’ve selected just a few that we thought deserved some extra attention for providing some truly great gaming experiences.

Iconica

Iconica — Created by Eric Torres of Phoenix, Arizona, Iconica is a tactical card game where 2-4 players duke it out using their own unique party of fantasy heroes. The entire mythos surrounding Iconica was built from the ground up by Torres in his fantasy RPG world dubbed Rynaga. Players take turns drafting a 3 party team from a wide collection of beautifully illustrated character designs. Each hero has a list of special abilities which can range from aggressive damage dealing spells, to supportive or protective maneuvers. During a player’s turn they will roll two dice and based on the results can trigger different effects listed on their character’s card. Each character has their own amount of hit points, and once a player has successfully knocked out each of their opponents' characters they are claimed the victor. Torres has been working on his fictional world of Rynaga for years, and his passion shines through the available lore and amazing artwork of this mechanically simple, yet tactically robust title.

Make Me a God

Make Me a God — This title was developed by another local company named Buxx Game Studio. Back in December 2015 the game was successfully funded via Kickstarter, and it had its own demo booth at PCC. Inspired by Greek mythology, 2-4 players compete by seeing who can be the first to turn one of their human champions into a full-fledged deity. Players attempt to get their champions to each of the temples to learn a unique skill from that temple’s particular god. If a character manages to make it through each temple and learn all the skills, they ascend into godhood and end the game. However, random dice rolls not only determine the acquisition of skills, but also combat between characters that happen to be at the same temple. While success in the game can be greatly improved by efficient tactics, it is certainly one of those experiences where a roll of the dice can make or break a particular strategy.

Mystic Vale

Mystic Vale — One of the newest titles to come from well-known game development studio Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG), Mystic Vale adds a unique twist to the familiar card drafting game experience. As with most deckbuilding/deck-drafting games players all begin with a standard deck and slowly build their unique set of cards from an ever-changing board of available options. Gamers take on the role of opposing druidic clans hoping to either cleanse or curse the lands around them. Visually the game is stunning with gorgeous artwork and transparent cards which allow participants to virtually craft their very own cards. There is also a sort of "test your luck" mentality to the way a particular resource called decay is utilized, giving a distinct advantage to those players who can keep track of the cards they’ve added to their deck throughout the course of the game. Players acquire points throughout the game either directly from cards they play, or through special cards called Vales. Once the initial point pool has been fully exhausted, players take one final turn and then count up all the points accumulated from the direct pool in combination with their cards and Vales. The player who acquired the most points wins and gets to determine the course of nature herself.

Pups

Pups — This family-friendly, dog-themed trick-taking game comes from designer Charlie Bink with art by David Jackson. Both creators reside in Phoenix, Arizona, with Bink having previous game development experience from his first title, Trekking the National Parks. This is a perfect game to play with children and can support 2-5 players with about a 30 minute game time. The adorable artwork pairs well with the simple rules that revolve around securing a target number of treats. Each player gets a hand of seven Pup cards that range in color and number. The main colored suits range in number from 1 as the lowest to 9 as the highest. Based on the quality of the hand, or on some bold bluffing, each player announces how many treats they think they will take that round. If they succeed then they are awarded with points at the end of the round. If not, well then they are unfortunately given penalty poos — thankfully in card form. For those interested, Pups will supposedly be hitting Kickstarter sometime soon this summer!

Superfight

Superfight — This seems to be a game designed expressly for those geeks who love to argue which of their favorite superheroes could beat each other up the best. Two players draw a number of color coordinated cards and select one of each category to create their own fighter and unique special ability. Their selections are then flipped up to be visible to the table, and add 1 last card to add a bit of random variety. These two players must then argue to the remaining players, who act as judges, about why their fighter would clearly win this fight. This humorous game has released a wide number of themed variants that include Anime, The Walking Dead, and even a NSFW variant.