Saturday, August 16, 2008

Gen-Con Blow by Blow

Once a year Indianapolis host something called Gen-Con. For the most part Gen-Con is a celebration of all things gaming (that is not video gaming anyway). By, what was really Abigail's prodding, I went for a day and I am so glad I did (and as an aside, it appears the budget can be broken when she wants to make me happy :) )

At Gen-Con I spent seventeen hours playing board, card, and roleplaying games. So here is how it went down.

Starting at 8am I played in a Settlers of Catan world championship qualifying tournament. Sadly, I didn't make it any further than that one game, but it was close. Catan is played to 10 points, and I had eight. The guy who won was right before my turn and if he had rolled a seven, then he would have discarded resources and I would have been able to build longest road and win the game. Oh well.

Next I played Battlelore. Battlelore is a fantasy board game that simulates army battles and combines strategy with luck. The game used a rules variant I had not played before and was a team game that I had not played before. What was really neat though is the game used a new soldier piece, and we were the first people to ever play with it! Another cool part of it all is that the guy running the game was the game designer himself. In the end my team lost, but it was fun

By time Battlelore was done it was about 1pm and I checked out the main convention floor. I had sort of assumed that this would mostly just be merchants selling stuff, but it was more because there were a TON of game companies who more than willing to demo their games, so I got to play a lot of new stuff.
The first game I played was a simple card game called Duality. It was ok, but not really my thing.
After that I waited half an hour to play the Call of Duty card game. Call of Duty is a video game series that I really like, and this card game promised to be unique because it was played in real time, as opposed to being turn based. So essentially this was a card game simulating a video that played as fast as the card game Speed. It was especially cool to play it because the game is not even out yet. While it was not as tactical as I would like, it was fun. After that I played a truly bizarre game about gnomes on a sinking submarine (seriously, gnomes!)

I got some food and then went back into the main hall and toured all of the booths. Along the way I played a card game called Adventurer that I loved, and just had to get. Tonight, Abigail is going to play it with me and I really, really hope she likes it.

Next, I played the Star Wars Pocket Model Game. If you go into Target and look where they keep the Baseball cards you will know what I am talking about. This is a game that I had heavily contemplated trying to get into because it seemed like a cheaper way to fulfill my undying hunger for miniature based games and customizable based games. After playing it, I now know that I will be avoiding it. The problem is that it is not really a Star Wars game. It uses Star Wars vehicles, but for all intents and purposes it could be about anything and play the same way. there is no Star Wars game that should allow a snow speeder to take down a Star Destroyer.

Next, I learned how to play a game that simulated a race between rubber ducks. Seriously, rubber ducks. I also chatted with a hopeful game developer, who wanted to turn chess from a simple game of complex strategy into a complex game of simple dice rolling. I didn't have the heart to tell him I thought his game was dumb. Next, I learned how to play the Blue Dragon "role playing card game". It was not really a role playing card game, that was just a silly marketing phrase. When it comes to Collectible Card Games I have played my share (I still have a box full of Star Wars cards, AvP cards, X-file Cards, Sim City cards, Red Zone cards, and Redemption Cards. I no longer have any Spellfire or Magic cards), but I am by no means an expert on the games, but even I was able to tell that everything about this game was derivative. I got a free T-shirt out of the deal, that upon seeing it, Abigail commented "You aren't seriously going to ever wear that are you?" That sounds like a dare to me.

After that I learned how to play a free (sort of) online card game, and then I continued towards the back of the show floor. All of this time, I had essentially only been on one half of the convention center floor. Towards the back there more merchants, and I had to really restrain myself from buying crap I really don't need. Back in the 90's there was a huge glut of Collectible Card Games. A lot were crap, but there were some good ones that had marginal success but eventually folded up shop. It was possible to buy entire boxes of unopened cards for these games for less than $10 each. I would have loved to buy a couple of boxes, which would give a good start of cards to mess around with and play some old games. However, I realized that Abigail, who I have learned as a low tolerance for complicated card games, would never play with me, so that helped me say no.

By this point it was closing in on 4:30 and I had a game to be at by 5pm so I started heading to the front. On the way up there, a booth for one game publisher was selling a game of theirs that was normally $30 for $5. I figured it was impossible to go wrong for $5, and it looked fun so I got that. Also, from playing Battlelore I got a $5 off coupon from Days of Wonder so I used that to get an expansion I had been wanting. I even got it autographed by the game's creator. I saw so much other stuff that I wanted to play, and I seriously could have spent at least one more entire day (probably two) just wandering around there.

At 5pm I took part in a game of Memoir '44. This game is very similar to Battlelore only instead of Fantasy/Medieval battles it is World War II. This was also a team game of four on four. I had never played this way, and it was really fun. I got to be the Supreme General and make the overall command decisions. This of course meant we lost. Bad. The game was to 13, and we lost 13-2. Of course, I was consoled when the game designer (same guy as Battlelore), who had been watching the game, told me it wasn't my fault, it was just the cards.

Because we got beat so bad and so quickly I had some extra time so I looked in the schedule and saw there was a writing workshop I could attend. I figured why not and got there right before it started. The workshop was about self-publishing your book and it was interesting.

After that I began walking a few blocks away to play in a session of the Star Wars RPG. You can ask anyone in my family about how much I love this game. In high school, I played it with friends twice a week and loved every minute of it. More than anything else getting to play this game was what I was looking forward to the most. Sadly, it was a huge disappointment. I won't go into the details, but it was just the perfect storm of bad stuff. The adventure was terrible (and even the guy running it said so). It was obvious that the guy running it had only looked at the adventure like five minutes before hand, and to top it off there was a guy in the group who really had just the wrong combination of personality traits to guarantee to get on my nerves in no time flat. However, the worst part is I got to roll the dice exactly six times, and they were all for pointless reasons. I eventually left in dejected annoyance before the game was fully over, and out of six people I was the third person to do this :(

Despite that, it was still an incredible day that I greatly enjoyed. I am fairly sure that next year I am going to work out so that I can volunteer for sixteen hours there and get in for free for all four days. Plus, doing that will get Abigail in for free so in a year expect me to post that my wife is now the world's reigning Settlers of Catan Champion. :)


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