Getting Strategic: Top Picks From Tacticon 2023

Game design guru Josh Bycer gives his top picks from Tacticon 2023

Getting Strategic: Top Picks From Tacticon 2023
Source: Tacticon 2023.

Tacticon is a new showcase that follows strategy games and they had their showcase the past week. While I did play plenty of them during the 2022 showcase, there were new games I had a chance to play for this year’s event, and that means it’s time to talk about my favorites from the event.

Like before, this list contains my personal favorites, and you can learn about the entire list of games I played by watching the showcase video.

1: Rogue Voltage

Rogue Voltage combines module synthesizers, roguelikes, and timeline management into one game. This one is not for someone looking for an easy-to-play game. Your mission is to use your backpack of generators and devices to fight monsters out in a ruined world. Each turn, your generators will produce energy which you will need to wire to your devices to power them up.

A timeline dictates the order of units, and certain abilities and skills work better when they are synchronized on the timeline. As the game goes on, you’ll get advanced devices that provide energy based on different conditions and you will have to spend each turn rewiring your entire backpack to get the most out of it.

I really enjoyed this one as a game that rewards proper planning and thinking, but it's not aimed at someone looking for a light or pick-up-and-play kind of game. If you’re a roguelike fan looking for something to test your skills, Rogue Voltage is a must-play.

Super Fantasy Kingdom. Source: Steam.

2: Super Fantasy Kingdom

More proof that you can make anything into a roguelike or rogue-lite, Super Fantasy Kingdom is a city-builder rogue-lite. Every morning, you wake up to find your kingdom destroyed, and to save the land and your kingdom, you are going to have to build and defend it from monsters. Each day, you need to allocate villagers to work buildings to get resources and use them to construct new ones and upgrade your heroes. You can spend a resource to permanently unlock roads which will expand out and give you access to new services and characters. During the night, your heroes must defend your entrance from invading monsters with the threats escalating each day.

When you die, you can spend gold to permanently unlock upgrades on your heroes and the cycle begins again. There is something charming about the city building in the game, but it does feel very repetitive at the start. Your first dozen runs or so are going to be just getting far enough to get enough starting resources unlocked to stand a chance. Still, there is potential here for city-building fans who are looking for something a little different.

3: Wandering Sword

Fans looking for a lengthy RPG to play should find it with Wandering Sword, a Wuxla-inspired adventure with a fantastic billboarding aesthetic like in Octopath Traveler. When our convoy and friends are attacked and killed, it’s up to us to learn the ways of fighting in order to take revenge for them.

From the demo, combat is turn-based, but uses an active time battle system like in the older Final Fantasy games. A huge aspect of the game is unlocking QI points to provide a wide range of passives and character customization. I’m curious to see where the game is going to go and how advanced the gameplay is going to get, but this is a solid title for RPG fans to spend several dozen hours with.

Shogun Showdown. Source: Goblinz Studio.

4: Shogun Showdown

And now a game for roguelike fans looking for one that is easy to learn and difficult to master. Shogun Showdown is a deck-builder where you must fight against waves of enemies using your different attacks. Every step or use of a skill acts as a turn, and you’ll need to manage your positioning and facing while fighting enemies in the best order possible. After a stage, you can upgrade your abilities in a variety of ways or buy new ones to use.

A combo system allows you to queue your attacks beforehand to then unleash them at multiple enemies at once. The game presents everything well, and I’m interested in seeing if/how advanced or rarer cards will work in the game.

5: Laysara Summit Kingdom

We’ve done city building in all manner of environments, and Laysara Summit Kingdom takes us to a new destination, the Himalayas, to build settlements on the sides of mountains. A different take on the logistics style of the Anno series, your mission is to construct settlements at different heights on mountains. Each zone has rules for what resources work best, and you will need to protect and manage the placement of your buildings for avalanches.

There is a story campaign that involves completing challenges on different mountains, and I really like the theme and aesthetics of this one. While it doesn’t look like it’s going to be super challenging, this is a city builder for fans looking for one that is more about mountaintops as opposed to rooftops.

Star Vaders. Source: star-vaders.com

6: Star Vaders

The last game is one that I had a chance to play the demo while it was on itch.io, and now they have things on Steam as well. A deck-building roguelike that also mixes Space Invaders into the mix. Your mission is to defend Earth from invaders one turn and one card at a time. Each turn you’ll use different cards that will allow you to attack, move, or a combination of both, to stop the enemies from reaching the danger areas at the bottom of the screen. While you start with three points of energy, you can play more cards at the cost of burning them — rendering them unusable normally for the rest of the battle.

There are unlocks in the forms of new mechs and pilots that affect what cards you can use and specific passive abilities. This is the third deck builder on the list that is also wildly different than the rest, and that is great for roguelike fans.

Those may have been my top games, but there were plenty of other ones I enjoyed from Tacticon 2023, and you can see them in the video here:

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