Find out all about the debut of Australia’s newest gaming event: The Game Expo!
Melbourne is the cultural capital of Australia. If you want to hold an event in this amazing country, then Melbourne is clearly the place to do it (sorry, not sorry Sydney). The Melbourne Cup (the biggest horse race in the country), the Australian Open (tennis), the Melbourne Grand Prix (F1) and the Australian Football League Grand Final (the Superbowl of Australia) all call Melbourne home.
But it isn’t just sport – even the Gaming community is aware of this fact. This is because the massive Penny Arcade Expo (which we covered last year), better known as PAX, has held annual expos in Melbourne since 2013 – the only city outside the USA to do so.
The problem is that PAX is in October. What are gamers to do for the rest of the year? Don’t worry, there is a new Gaming and Pop-Culture expo in town… known as simply The Game Expo.
The Game Expo (henceforth known as TGX) went down for the very first time in 2023, being held on the weekend of March 10th and 11th. Being a first run, TGX aimed at providing a little bit of everything.
What was on at The Game Expo?
Freeplay and Retro
You want games? They definitely had games both new and old from almost every genre imaginable set up over a large ‘freeplay’ area and a separate ‘Retro’ section rocking classics from the days of the NES and Sega Master System.
The Gamecube. The best four player couch co-op console ever made.
You want to be competitive with your games and beat the guy sitting next to you? Fighting game tournaments and PC LAN tournaments abound.
Tekken 7 – the best fighting game available right now. That is, until Tekken 8 graces our shores.
There was even a massive fighting game area that was available for use by everybody over the whole weekend.
Not all of the space was used though, a strange decision.
Competitive, but prefer one player games? Speed Running was also on the menu, with the AusSpeedruns team set up and running games live with a dedicated viewing area.
Looking for something a little slower? The Tabletop games library is available to all for of your board game renting needs.
Want something even slower? One of the oldest and best known board games was well represented, with big tournaments held each day. I am of course talking about Chess.
The Game Expo – Indie Games
Personally, the thing that interests me the most about Game Expos, are demonstrations of new and upcoming games.
Interestingly, this was one of the areas where TGX fell a bit short for me. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely some things of interest, but the overall number of these offerings was very, very small. Indeed, the creators of the two games below stated that they only signed up for TGX at the last minute. One of them was not even aware of the expo until it was almost too late!
Here at Qualbert, we do have a love for indie titles (and you can find all our indie reviews here). Even more-so when they are homegrown in Australia! So here are a couple of the highlights for us:
I love me a card game. I also love games where you can succeed by lying, and by correctly calling out other people’s lies.
You may have played a similar card game in the past – colloquially known as ‘bullshit’. Bullcrap! is the evolution of that idea. This is the brainchild of Melbourne based solo developer Loaded Deck Games. Bored of developing software for useless things like engineering and architecture, David turned back to his passion – video games.
The core idea of Bullcrap is simple – you are dealt a hand of cards and take turns calling out one to four cards of a certain value (e.g., three jacks) and putting these cards face down. Players take turns doing this until one player has no cards left in their hand – they are the winner of the round. However, after a player’s turn each of the other players has the opportunity to call ‘Bullcrap’, if they do the cards played in the last turn are flipped face-up.
If that player truthfully placed the cards down, the player who incorrectly called Bullcrap picks up all of the cards in the pile. If the player lied when playing their cards and is called on it, then they pick up all of the cards in the pile instead. In either case a lovely animation will play where Bucky the Bull (the ‘game show host’) will shower the player picking up cards with a literal pile of shit. Wonderful.
I call on the Heart of the Cards!!! … It’s Poop.
Gameplay is kept fresh by the inclusion of wildcards which provide even more variance, like a ‘shield’ card that can protect you once from being called ‘Bullcrap’ (i.e. you get to lie with no consequences – the best kind of lying). The gift card allows you to hand up to three useless cards over to one of the other players. ‘Distract’ quite simply skips one of the other players’ next turn.
You can wishlist the PC version of Bullcrap on Steam, with the demo version available immediately. Even better, the mobile version is available for download on Google Play or the Apple Store right now! A physical version is also on the cards.
At the moment, the Mobile version and Steam demo are playable only in single player mode, with increasingly difficult complexity and more cards added as you move through the game’s levels. What I’m personally most interested in though, is the multiplayer version of the game. It is somewhat easy to know when the AI is calling an obvious lie (e.g. calling all four Aces when you have one of them in your hand already), but I’m sure actual people will make things much more difficult. The multiplayer is expected to roll out on the mobile version of the game in one to two months. The Steam version is a little further away, but is expected to release as a ‘final’ version with all available features.
Next on the menu is the mysterious Daemon Masquerade. Callum Page is a Melbourne-based developer with a plan to mash up a bunch of ideas including Agatha Christie style mysteries, the Supernatural, anime stylings and puzzle/organisation based gameplay into coherent title. Based on the demo available at TGX, he is certainly on the right track!
Daemon Masquerade is planned to release around October 2023 (Halloween…ooooooooo) as a series of 7 mysteries that must be solved by the player/detective. Each of these cases will involve interviewing various witnesses and suspects, and reviewing detailed evidence on the game’s ‘Evidence Board’. Here the player can read through detailed letters and reports to try and unlock the secrets of the case.
The build of the game is such that the player cannot simply ‘brute force’ the solution. For example: in the first case there are seven possible suspects and you can accuse any of them – but the game will ask WHY you are accusing that person. You need to be able to point to the specific piece of evidence that led you to your accusation. Past that you also need to justify other details of the case – can you prove that the person had a motive? Can you prove that they were at the location at the time of the crime?
The supernatural elements of the game aren’t immediately apparent in the first case/demo portion of the game, but the description of these provided by the creator certainly piqued my interest to see what is coming later in the rest of the cases.
One of the most impressive parts of this package to me was the unique art style. Callum drew all of the art himself and described his style as a cross between anime (he called out Naruto as his childhood favourite) and more western style art. He brought the original pieces to TGX and some of these blew me away.
Once again, Daemon Masquerade is available to wishlist right now on Steam!
The Game Expo – Boardgames
It wasn’t just digital games that were on show. There was also a massive showing for tabletop games available throughout TGX. Two boardgames in particular caught my attention. Drumroll pease… *please imagine the sound*
Melbourne is the home to the amazing team at Ukiyo – the Japanese themed escape room. Narrative-based interactive experiences immerse the team inside physical set pieces where players interact with a cast of characters in order to be able to solve mysteries and reap the rewards. Anybody that hasn’t experienced the story of The Crumbling Prince and has any interest whatsoever in Puzzle/Escape rooms needs to give this a go. The stunning art style of Ukiyo is amazing and ripe for translation into tabletop gaming – and that is what the team have now done with the multiplayer card game Kitsunedo.
At the start of the game each player chooses one of the unique Spirit Lords to represent them in the game. The goal of the game is to attack the other lords two times in order to kill them off, whilst maintaining your life and being the last surviving Spirit Lord. Each of these lords has a different unique skill (sometimes two skills) and provide for a variety of different gameplay styles. One of the Spirit Lords plays nice by allowing all players to draw two cards – you would want to keep that player alive for longer, wouldn’t you? One of the other Spirit Lords can look at another player’s hand and exchange their best card for your worst – sneaky, but a good way to make enemies.
Each player is also allocated one of the four types of ‘Lantern’ at the start of the game. These lanterns provide a further skill that can be activated at the right time to further your schemes and control the other players by stealing one of their cards or evading an attack. However, these lanterns are secret and known only to the holder. Furthermore, you can pretend to have any lantern ability and activate it (at the correct time). If you are challenged on your lantern use, must flip over your lantern to show whether you were using it truthfully or lying. If you were lying, you must discard your hand – if you have no cards in hand then you lose one of your two lives. Or, maybe you are lucky enough to hold a ‘block’ card in your hand to stop the challenge dead.
Kitsunedo comes across as a well crafted and stunningly presented multiplayer game with various layers of complexity. The challenge style gameplay and different Spirit Lords look like they will provide some great replayability to a game that is just beautiful to look at and fun to play with friends and strangers alike.
Murders at Tealwoods Manor
You like Cluedo? Agatha Christie’s Poirot? Social deduction ala 4-D chess? So, a quick and dirty summary of the game, according to it’s developer, Keith, is that it is…
“A reverse murder mystery! It’s as if you were the director watching a murder mystery play out in front of you. You already know who the murderer is as well as the investigator and the host of the event, but you don’t know if the murderer will get away with it, or if the investigator will solve the mystery and save the day! You’re also invested in the random side character that dodges death at every hour, as you have four characters that you’re invested in keeping alive or getting killed to score points.”
The key inspiration behind the game’s inception was revamping the achetypal classic Cluedo.
Regarding that sweet sweet deduction, Keith mentions that: deductive elements are beyond just trying to find the identity of the murderer, you’re trying to deduce what moves your opponents have made, what their secret goals are, what kind of gossip they’ve collected, and whether or not the investigator will be able to stop the murderer before they go on a killing spree!
The Game Expo – Cosplay Competition
One of the biggest elements of the whole TGX was the massively supported cosplay competition. The amount of attendees who put so much care into their costumes was great to see. At times it felt like we canvased half of the cosplayers for their picture.
The Game Expo – The Wrap Up
The Game Expo got off to a little bit of a rocky start in regards to the turnout of new game developers and the Indie scene overall, which I felt was on the weaker side (in terms of number, not the quality of the games which we highlighted above).
Where the expo excelled was the amazing Cosplay Competition and the fighting game / tabletop game tournaments held throughout the weekend. The small number of upcoming indie and tabletop titles on show were certainly interesting, and I am personally looking forward to the full release of some of the titles highlighted above.
The overall size of the expo was noticeably smaller than the ‘other’ offering in Melbourne. But in a sense that was a blessing as there as plenty of space to move around, and no significant waits to play in the tabletop or freeplay areas. It was clear that the support of the fans was there for another event to be held in Melbourne through the first half of the year.
We look forward to TGX returning in 2024 and continuing to grow. I do hope that it can do something to separate itself from PAX Australia and give itself a unique identity moving forwards.
Media passes were kindly provided by The Game Expo team for the purpose of our coverage. To find out more about the show, head to the official The Game Expo website, check out the expo highlights, and join the Qualbert Discord to chat to us about the event!