As mentioned in my previous post, I attended the four days of Connecticon recently. And though I would not call it a raving success (at least for myself, the convention itself was great), I did manage to play a lot of games over the course of the weekend. Could I have gotten more games in? Most certainly, but that is my own failing rather than that of the convention. After all, they did have a game library that I did not take any advantage of.
Role Playing Games (or RPGs) are a curious case for me. I love the idea of slipping into another role for a little while and exercising my creativity. Sadly, I usually never get the chance to really get into an RPG. This is usually because I don’t usually have the time to get into a long running campaign, or the availability due to work to get in on a regular group. Moreover, I would rather play as a character than as a game master, which means that I am less inclined to try and organize a gaming session. In spite of this, there are still a number of RPGs that I would like to try.
Thursday night of the convention gave me the opportunity to try out one RPG that I have wanted to give a go since I picked up the rulebook. End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse is published by Fantasy Flight Games is the first book in a series that has the players coming up against various end of the world scenarios. Zombies, obviously, are the first in that series. What makes this series stand out is that the players are pretty much playing themselves.
The group I was in Thursday consisted of five people (including myself) and the GM. After we wrote up our characters (or rather, after we wrote up ourselves), we dove right into the scenario, which started exactly where we were, a ballroom in a hotel playing games. Then, all Hell broke lose. In our particular scenario, we had no survivors. I was the first casualty, taken out be a old lady zombie with a walker and her husband.
And to think it seemed so promising after I axed a zombie earlier.
There was one thing I suspected about this RPG. Or, at least the zombie apocalypse RPG. The source book provides immediate scenarios (like the one run Thursday) as well as long term campaigns. One of the things I suspected is that a one off scenario (again, like the one we ran) w0uld work well, but the game might fall apart if it extends further than that. Granted, with our entire group dying, there was not much of a chance that we were going to run a longer campaign, but there was a feeling that a campaign would have started to fall flat. Still, as a singular session, this RPG was actually pretty cool and I would love to try it again… and hopefully survive this time.
The other RPG I played this weekend was one I had not planned on trying out. The Dresden Files Role Playing Game is based on the Jim Butcher book series using the Fate system. The particular campaign I hopped into had started earlier in the convention, with that session being the second of three. I had not planned on joining in, but ended up getting pulled into it. Thankfully, the runners of this game (I’ll explain that in a bit) had preconstructed characters that players could slide into. My particular character was a smooth talking con man who happened to have psychometric powers and had a voice from a powerful idol talking in his head.
Anyone who knows me will know that this is completely the opposite of who I am.
By the end of the night, I was hooked enough to rearrange my Sunday plans to take part in the third and last session.
Part of what pulled me in was the simplicity of the system. Players role four specialized six sided dice. The number faces are replaced with blanks, plusses and minuses. Minuses counter plusses, and the end result is added to skills for the outcome. It was easy for me to slide into the system as the End of the World RPG uses itself (though that system uses regular six sided dice to role for successes and stresses).
The bigger part that pulled me in was how the campaign was structured. This was not just one table at the convention, but two tables. Each table represented a different location in the world (the table I was at was in South America). The two tables were able to actually communicate with each other through text messages on cell phones, allowing for both tables to share information with each other. Sometimes it was helpful, sometimes not… much like real life. The game left me wanting to play more, either the actual Dresden Files RPG, or the Fate system in another game.
Learn To Play…
A majority of the board games I played through the weekend were in Learn to Play situations. Games were presented for those who were unfamiliar with the particular games, or at least that particular version of the game.
The biggest of these (at least for me) was Mansions of Madness. This is a game that I have had sitting in my collection, but have never brought to the table because of the long set up time. Thus, it is a game that I never really got a chance to try out.
At least, not until the convention.
The learn to play set up made it easy for those of us playing to get into the game better since there was one person explaining the rules but not part of the game itself (mostly because there were too many people interested in playing).
Now, having played the game once with guidance, I am more inclined to try it again, possibly even running as the adversary if I needed two. And I can mark it off as one of my games in my collection that I have played.
Also fitting into the games I own but not played was Sentinel Tactics. Sentinel Tactics is based on the Sentinels of the Multiverse card game, bringing many of the card game’s characters to a miniatures game. I was able to run through one quick scenario (it was pretty late when we started), but got an idea how the game is played. It was interesting, but I got the feeling that if there were more characters in the game, it would be a bit more interesting.
I also had a chance to learn Eclipse during the convention. This is a game of space exploration, planetary conquest, and resource management. This is not a short game, but still quite interesting. Unfortunately for me, it is also one of those games in which if you make a mistake in the game, you can pretty much consider yourself out of the running for victory
It also was a bit marred by a player who withdrew from a combat situation without even trying to fight. This player eventually ended up winning the battle once we allowed him to take back his withdrawal and fight the fight.
Belfort was a game of worker placement set in a Medieval town with some area control mixed in as well. It was pretty straight forward once we got into the game, but it seemed to lack something for me that other worker placement games have. I would play it again, but I’m not sure I would buy it for my collection.
I also sat in on a learn to play Red Dragon Inn, which was a bit of a misnomer since just about everyone at the table knew how to play the game. It also fell short because the copy at the convention was only Red Dragon Inn 2, which meant we had only the four characters that were in that set, limiting how many players could actually play the game that day.
The last game of the convention was also my last learn to play. Even that, though, was a bit of a misnomer because Small World Realms does not really change all that much from the Small World parent game except replacing the board with modular hex tiles that were set up according to a scenario. Small World is needed to play the game. Still, it was fun to learn a different way of playing Small World, even if I did not win.
Demos, Demos, Demos
A lot of the other games I played were demonstrations. Many of these were set up by people working for the companies who make the games (ZMan Games, Steve Jackson Games, etc.) Many of these games were new to me, and were interesting to try out.
The biggest surprise was Munchkin Legends. Anyone who has read my blog knows how I have felt about Munchkin, especially after a particularly disasterous first (and up to the convention, only) time playing it. So, I was a bit surprised that I was willing to give it another go. Fortunately, this time through was no where near as painful as that dreaded first play. The massive run up of levels that multiple players had in that first game was not present, which made this time through a lot more enjoyable. It may have also been because we were not playing a six person game, but a four person game which cut down on the back stabbing that usually comes with Munchkin games.
I also got the chance to try out Flick ‘Em Up at the ZMan Games table. This is a dexterity game that will not see its official release until Gencon (so… soon). Up to ten players take the roles of wild West lawmen and outlaws. Players flick discs to move their pieces, then flick “bullets” to shoot their targets. If your shot knocks over the target, that target loses a health (or “dies” if it has lost enough).
It was an interesting game. The pieces are nice wooden pieces that should hold up for multiple plays, though the “bullets” might get lost easily. I’m not really big on dexterity games, mostly because I’m not all that dexterous. But, it was actually kind of fun to play. I might not buy it, but I would probably play it again if it came to the table.
I also was able to try out Merchants and Marauders, also my ZMan Games. This game is set in the days of the Spanish Main. The nice thing about this game is that it is completely possible to take one of multiple approaches to winning the glory points that are needed to win the game. You want to be a pirate, you can. You want to play it straight and just be a merchant, you can win that way as well. And, while set up takes a bit of time, the pieces look nice. I would consider adding this to my collection.
I also got the chance to try out the deck building game Tanto Cuore, or, as Wil Wheaton refers to it as, Felicia Day’s pervy maid game. I am not sure if I would ever buy this game, but it was fun to have played it at least once.
Unfortunately, not every game can be a success. I did manage to play two that just did nothing for me.
Maze Racers was a demo game that is going to be released later this year. Players build a maze using magnetic walls on a tablet. Once the mazes are built, the tablets are exchanged and the players race to try and make it through each others maze.
This game just did not do anything for me. It might be cute for children (I’m thinking 6 to 10 years old), but I just did not get any sort of thrill from it. It did not help that the maze that I was handed to complete actually did not allow for my marble to get through.
The other game I played that was a dud for me was Incursion. This scenario based miniatures game is set in an alternate reality which pits power armor wielding Americans against Nazi zombies. The scenario in question was a simple point A to point B march, complicated by swarming zombies. Parts of the game seemed too simple (as the Americans, I was killing a lot of zombies), and the card play seemed a bit overwhelming for the particular scenario. I’m not sure if this runs as a campaign or not, but then, I was not all that thrilled with the game itself to care if it did.
The last game I’ll mention that I played at the convention was one that I had brought with me. Rumpelstiltskin is a small two player card game from AEG. Each player gets a deck of ten cards and a mission: find out the name of their opponent. Players then play cards from their hands trying to keep their opponent from guessing the last card in their deck. If they run out of cards, the player loses. If their opponent guesses what the last card of the deck is, the player loses. It is a quick and simple card game that works well as a filler game.
Naturally, if you go to a convention, you are most likely going to hit up the dealers’ room. I was no exception.
From one place I managed to pick up both Dominant Species: The Card Game and Dungeons and Dragons: Dungeon Command: Sting of Lolth for ten dollars each. As it turned out, this particular dealer had reserved the booth the year before then went out of business. Thus, he was selling off whatever he had left dirt cheap.
I also managed to pick up what I call my convention grail game: Machine of Death (with expansion). I had played this game based on the Machine of Death anthology series a while ago and have been trying to find it since. Amazon had it, but I never took the plunge there, preferring to purchase locally if I could.
On the last day, I also picked up my own set of Fate dice (having to borrow dice during the Saturday night and part of Sunday’s sessions of Dresden), a dice bag for them, and Monster of the Week, an RPG that sounded interesting for me. I figured that even if I don’t get a chance to play it, it might provide some source material for a future National Novel Writing Month project.
This past weekend, I attended my first legitimate convention. Not San Diego Comic Con, but Connecticon.
I say my first legitimate convention because I had attended smaller shows before. But, really, those events were more dealer shows than conventions. Connecticon is a legitimate convention. Four days of games, events, panels, and dealers. I went with the full weekend pass, which was Thursday through Sunday, though Friday through Sunday were the main days of the convention.
The convention itself was great. Even with San Diego happening the same weekend, there were still some great guests and some cool panels. And while I did manage to have a lot of fun at the convention, I am not entirely sure that I was the best convention guest. It was a bit of an eye opener, and I know that there were a lot of things I could have done to make my personal experience better.
First and foremost, I should have realized that could have gotten more involved in the events. Yes, I did attend some panels and played a lot of games. But, there was one thing I could have done to make my experience a lot more enjoyable: I would have been a lot more outgoing. I had always considered myself socially awkward (a “sheepish people” as Pair of Dice Paradise’s Chaz Marler calls them). The convention seemed to push all of that to the forefront. I was not a just socially awkward. No, somehow, I had managed to push that well beyond that. The best way I can describe it would be “socially inept.” My personal experience would have been so much better if I was willing to just break out of my shell and say something like, “Hey, you’re just getting started and I wanted to learn this game, do you mind if I sit in?” or “Hey, that’s an awesome costume, do you mind if I take a picture?” or even something as simple as, “Hey, my name’s Dave.”
This became such a problem that I actually considered sitting in on a panel dealing with social anxiety and conventions, except that I was too self conscious to attend the panel.
My social ineptitude was so strong that I am pretty sure I missed out on a few cool things about the convention, like the Nerd Prom (which I waffled a while about signing up for it until it was too late to do anything about it), or the informal dances (which I managed to convince myself that someone of my age would not really could take part in).
Which brings me to my next point: organization. I do not mean the convention’s organization. They did a fairly good job with it, even printing out a program for attendees with nearly all events listed (I say nearly because, like any event, there are always updates cancellations and changes). But, even looking online prior to the convention, I still did not have an absolute game plan about what I wanted to check out. I had a few ideas, but nothing solid.
The program was a great tool. It did list a lot of the events with descriptions, times and even a time table with locations. It was great, but it did haze problems. Because of the shear number of events, panels, games, and everything, things were sectioned off. Main events were shown in one part, game events in another, RPGs in a third. Because of this, it was sometimes a bit difficult to keep track of what was when especially when there were changes to the schedules. Thankfully, Friday, someone mentioned there was an app called Guidebook that has the convention program available. The app, available on iTunes and Google Play (the person who told me about it said he had an Android phone), took the convention program and made it available on any device, even offline. This program allowed me to see all the events available (updating when needed), and allowed me to make a schedule of the events I wanted to see and let me know if there were conflicts with other events I wanted to take in.
Which made me realize one other thing: There was no way I would be able to take in everything I wanted to see. In any convention (and I am pretty sure that San Diego is the same way), you will find that some of the events you want to attend or participate might just conflict with other events you want to take in. I soon learned that I just needed to prioritize what I wanted to see more. Doing that, both the program and the Guidebook were a great help. For me, there were events I absolutely wanted to take in. There was The End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse RPG on Thursday, which did conflict with the Nerd Prom (that I had not signed up for anyway), and the voice actor movie reading on Friday (definitely worth it), and a Learn to Play Mansions of Madness session later that night.
I also learned that flexibility is very important, especially when you are dealing with games at conventions. I becomes a good rule of thumb to assume that a game will always take longer than whatever the box says it will take Since a lot of the game presentations were “learn to play,” there was a lot of explanation about the games as well as set up. I always needed to keep that in mind just in case I started a game session what was very close in time to another.
Still, I learned that I needed to be flexible with what I picked, especially when I get actually got involved in something I did not expect to, like a Dresden Files RPG session… or two. This was Saturday night and Sunday morning, which threw my Sunday schedule into a tizzy. I had planned on attending a panel of fighting with Medieval weapons that morning (it was research for writing). But, the previous night had been so much fun (which had me playing so much out of character), that I had to come back to see how it ended. I was worth it to know that I ended up talking a monster into unconsciousness, and discovered a new RPG that I wanted to play.
This was probably the most outgoing I had been that weekend. And, sadly, that was because it was the character that was outgoing and not me. Maybe it’s something I need to work on if I go next year.