Big conventions like Gen Con are a great place to try out new releases and get a sense of what the hot games are going to be in the coming year. When the convention hall doors open at 10 AM you can tell what the hits of the event will be by the direction of the rushing crowds. This year, titles like SeaFall, Cry Havoc, Bloodborne, and Codenames Pictures captured the collected interest of con-goers. However, cons are also a great place to check out some smaller publishers and try out some games that you might not come across at any other time. One title that caught my eye to the extent that I had to grab a copy was Shindig Machine. It’s actually been around since 2013, but because of its low profile and the vast amount of games released every year, it failed to hit my radar until now.
It’s not much more than a deck of cards and a rulebook, but Shindig Machine is incredibly visually captivating. It’s a storytelling game with a number of different ways to play. The rules to each version vary a bit on the idea of each player adding a card and building on the ongoing narrative. Sometimes players are working cooperatively and other times the game forces players to compete.
Regardless of the version you play, the real star of Shindig Machine are the 108 illustrated black and white cards. Each one is taken right from the pages of a Dark Horse or Image Comics. They are haunting and unique and the type of pictures that tell a story. I’ve forced myself to not even go through them all in an effort to have some pleasant surprises as I play. What I have seen are macabre moments, intense situations, and scenes pulled from childhood nightmares.
The different versions of the game require players to exercise their creativity. They’ll have to find ways to tell a story with the cards they have in their hand. There’s Kill/Survive, where in turn players will put down a card and use it to describe a method they’d use to kill the player on their left. That player then must play a card from their hand and use it to explain how they would survive that attack. Diagnosis tasks players with describing a number of symptoms with their cards and then trying to create an actual diagnosis for the illness. Now, if your play group isn’t into adding their own narrative flair to the games they play this might not be a good fit, but if titles like Dixit or Rory’s Story Cubes have been hit then definitely give Shindig Machine a try. It should be made clear though, these pictures are not of the silly or whimsical variety. They are dark glimpses at imagined situations. Where your mind takes them from there is up to you.
I was pretty happy to come across Shindig Machine at Gen Con. It’s a good reminder that if you dig a bit below the surface you can sometimes find some hidden gems. You can shop for it at Travesty Games as well as other titles and comic books.
Over the coming weeks we’ll definitely be talking about a lot of the bigger games from Gen Con, but we’ll also feature a lot of titles that may have gotten a bit less buzz, but are still definitely worth checking out.