Convention Report

Partner and I went to a small convention a couple weekends ago (MarsCon near Williamsburg, VA) and got to play five different games in one day. It was great.

Bridge Simulator

This one was a cooperative video game (still in development). Y'all play the bridge crew of a spaceship out on a mission or part of a campaign. There are five stations—Flight, Tactical, Science, Operations, and Engineering—plus the Captain's seat. I played Flight and didn't crash our ship into a planet! I kinda picked a station last and got asked to play Flight, an option I was really nervous doing because I don't multitask well or have great situational awareness. I thought Flight would need both those skills, although less so than Tactical (they shoot the guns! pew pew!) but it turned out I was okay on the Flight station. We didn't die, moved at a decent speed (space is big guys), and I kept the enemy fighters that showed up in range and view well enough for my friend L to shoot them all to itty-bitty bits. Partner played the Captain, who doesn't actually get a screen to play with, and kept communication between the stations working well. Plus made some good command decisions. As I said, my friend L was on Tactical, her partner W was on Engineering (keeps the power routed optimally for what we're doing), and two folks we'd never met before were on Science (scan objects around us) and Operations (communicate with other ships). The set-up we played had a big main screen projector and everyone had a pretty big touchscreen in front of us. But! It's playable off a central computer and connecting via a browser. So, the four of us (Partner, L, W, and myself) could hangout together on the game from our homes. Which would be really neat.

www.strangehorizons.com for anyone interested.

Century: Spice Road

A competitive card drafting board game. This one is all about building and playing a deck that gains and converts cubes (theoretically representing spices) into the right combinations to purchase victory point cards. There's four different actions you can do during your turn: take a card from the market, play a card from your hand, pick up all your played cards, or purchase a victory card. The game goes around players' turns remarkably fast, too.

I prefer the skinning of a different game with the same mechanics (from the same designer) we played later in the con, which I'll talk about later. I did not win this game, in fact out of five players, if I recall correctly, I came in dead last. But I like the mechanics, I think I can see what I need to do to have a winning strategy, and now it's just a matter of getting the practice to get better. I had fun playing with friends and am happy that L and W are considering buying the other skinned version.

Potion Explosion and Tiny Epic Galaxies

Partner and I introduced these games to some folks at the convention, both friends we already know and a new person we met this convention. My description of Potion Explosion still holds and it's still one of my favorite games. Bonus, now that W's played, he's decided that the game really needs a marble randomizer tower (like a dice tower) and is considering making one (he does quite a bit of woodwork) over the summer. Assuming he has time.

Tiny Epic Galaxies is an area influence/control game with what you can do determined by the dice gods, although there is a mechanic for re-rolling utterly awful crud. Everything fits into this small box and the lid turns into a tray for containing those dice you roll. And the artwork in the box is great. The goal is to accumulate points through controlling planets and upgrading your empire (which incidentally gets you more resources towards doing things and controlling planets). There's a couple different types of planets which need different resources to gain control of them and each planet gives you a different benefit or optional action when you do control them. It's a tightly designed, fun game that I'm glad we got to introduce to a few friends. 

Century: Golem Edition

This is the differently skinned version of Century: Spice Road I mentioned earlier. It's the exact same game mechanics wise, just with different art and theoretical premise. Those cubes you're gaining and converting in Spice Road are knobby rocks here which represent soul crystals. Turning in the soul crystals (i.e. buying a victory point card) represents making those crystals into golems (as drawn on the victory cards). It just makes more sense to me, from a narrative view point. Also, I think the art is a little funnier and a bit cuter. So, I rather own and/or play Golem Edition over Spice Road. 

It was a good convention, full of board gaming.

MarsCon

Partner, Metamour, and I went to MarsCon last weekend, which is a little literary convention in Williamsburg, VA. I went to a few panels while Partner and Metamour spent most of their time in the board gaming room. It's a fun, chill convention. Since it's smaller (let's be honest, my benchmarks are Dragon*Con and GenCon — anything is going to seem small in comparison) there's less rushing to get across X hotels to go to the next panel which is really nice. The hotel we stayed at was less than a mile from the convention hotel which feels like short enough of a walk that I feel guilty when I drive between them, but gods damn, 10 or 11 at night in the middle of January is cold. So, you know, more driving than let's me pretend to be a decent environmentalist.

Friday

After we picked up our badges (yay pre-reg), we tootled around the dealers' room for a bit. I grabbed all three books in the Ancillary series by Ann Leckie:

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I definitely paid a lot more than if I'd bought them on Amazon or something, since, you know, I paid actual list price. But they were there, I was thinking about it, and I finally just did it rather than continuing to let these books languish on my wishlist. They'll probably languish on my to-read pile now but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

I did reread Ancillary Justice in the evenings before bed at the con. Just have to finish up The Real and The Unreal at home before I let myself start Ancillary Sword. 

After the dealers' room we all went to a panel: What Makes a Good Narrator or DM?  It was fun and interesting. There was some good give-and-take and feedback before the Q&A got semi-hijacked by a kind of socially awkward teenager who didn't know how to ask his questions with telling the panel the whole story of his specific situation. And he wasn't very good at telling the story. I'm glad he could get some advice. I wish the questions could have been kept more general and relevant to more people without everyone having to individually extrapolate out from the specific question.

After the panel was dinner and then board games. For the life of me, I can't tell you what we played — that information apparently never made it into the long-term memory. But any rate, after a board game I went back to the hotel to get some sleep while Partner and Metamour played another and then went to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Which apparently was a bust: technical issues plus incorrect assumptions. They thought it'd be in the tradition of Rocky Horror and have yelling at the screen. Instead it was just a watching party. Not bad, but not a desired activity at midnight.

Saturday

Actually did make it to the 10am panel I was aiming for: Economics of Self Publishing. First of all, I can't seem to sleep in so I was getting up at my usual time of 6am. Second of all, Partner and Metamour do not share this problem. So there I was typing away on my computer when Partner starts waking up. 

"What time is is?" 

Looks at clock. Well... damn. "9am." 

I made it anyway. 

The panel was pretty good. It was my second time at this particular panel (same moderator ran it at MarsCon 2016), so it mostly functioned (for me) as confirmation I'm doing everything the author's on the panel recommend. Best line of the panel of the panel was in response to the opening question of 'what does it cost to self-publish?' Answer: time, emotion, and pain. Second best: as much as you need it to.

After that, Metamour joined me at the panel on Genre Blending which was a lot of fun. Mostly thoughts on what works, why what doesn't doesn't, and talking about what's already out there. Of course, being me, I walked out with a recommendation for a book I do want to read (Vellum by Hal Duncan), a book I am going to read for the new podcast a friend is putting together where we tear apart why a book is bad and will regret reading immensely (Out of the Dark by David Weber), and an aesthetic I want to somehow write now: solar punk which was described as art deco/nouveau ecological sustainability.

If someone would like to draw that or point me at artists who already do, please please let me know in the comments.

After the panel was lunch (hurray ConSuite!) and then a Star Wars:Edge of the Empire game with a friend who found out MarsCon was happening that morning and decided to drive up for the day. Yay living within an hour's drive? Any rate, I'm finding that I like the Star Wars stupid custom dice for the variety in outcomes they could produce (... got a few single success plus two disadvantages rolls) but the Star Wars universe is not one I'm particularly interested in playing in for an RPG. Nice to visit for the length of a movie. But not play in for extended periods. 

Two things from that game:
1) my (male) friend played a female Rodian while I played a male Rodian. Nobody at the table, including the two of us, could get character genders right. argh.
2) the other player at the table had a well timed "Master, shall I attack the darkness?" that was completely in character. Play stopped for a few minutes while Friend poked me to keep breathing, I was laughing so hard. :D

After RPGs was a spin around the art show and more board gaming, where I played Cosmic Encounters for the first time. Lost, not horribly, but man, the ending to that game. A little bit like Munchkin where everyone is trying to throw everything they have at stopping whoever is in the lead until everyone runs out of things to stop other people with and someone grabs the prize. I mean, I'd play again, I think there's strategy and interesting things to do. But that particular game end felt a bit grindy.

Sunday

Sunday had one last panel for me: Indie Publishing: Getting Known. This wasn't all that useful for me. I've got that I should have a blog and twitter and stuff in order to connect with people. But like how do I drive more people like you, dear reader, to the blog or catch people's attention to come check me out? I guess I need a marketing class or guru or something to get that answered. Meanwhile, I'll keep on keeping on with this blog and hope for steady organic growth.

Last thing we (Partner, Metamour, and I) did at the convention was play T.I.M.E. Stories with a friend we only know from and see at MarsCon. So, TIME Stories is, to my mind, an RPG campaign in a box. You're time travelers jumping between bodies in the past to try and figure out how to fix something gone wrong in the time stream. There's a time limit and no way to figure everything out in that time limit. So you jump back and do the loop all over again. And again. Until you figure out where what you need is and can, essentially, do a speed run through the time loop. I felt like each loop could be it's own weekly gaming session, except maybe the last speed run one. I think we played that game for... five hours? and I was mentally fried from taxing my brain at the end of it. Lots of fun! Have to buy new stories/expansions to go with the core game in order to have replay-ability. And yet, I'd like to own it/play it again. 

All in all, a fun MarsCon trip!

Come back later

I ran two games at a local gaming convention over the weekend, in between conventioning (it's a word now!) all weekend. So I was wiped out Sunday night and thus no blog post this morning. Come back tonight, I'll have a post on the next round of editing / improvements Partner, Tom, and I should make to our convention packet project. In my opinion.

Refining scenarios in preparation for WashingCon

WashingCon, where Partner, Tom, and I will each be running a game of Red Markets out of this convention packet we're putting together, is coming up this weekend. I think it's going to be the first time we'll be running it for folks who haven't played in this system yet, i.e. the actual intended target audience. Well, Partner and I will. Tom may have run it for some of his local new folks, I'm not sure.

I did run it for the Technical Difficulties crew on Sunday — we all found some extra time due to the long holiday weekend (thank you Labor movement). And it's a good thing we could play this weekend because the scenarios are definitely four hours long. That told me that I need to trim down the one I ran (a trade caravan mission) because that was all the job. Four hours is the right amount of time for a convention session, but I need to build in time upfront to teach people the basics of the system. And time to remind and reteach system stuff during.

So. Out goes the middle stop-over on the trade route. I'd initially put that stop in because the whole thing didn't feel like an actual trade route with only two stops. But that's my assumption. And it was in the job as a purely roleplaying opportunity. One I haven't figured out how to use to prompt the player debate I was looking for. So, out it goes.

I could, theoretically, leave in the random (scripted) encounter that preceded it. But honestly I think I'll be getting more time back by cutting the encounter than the stop, so out that encounter goes too.  Which is a bit of a shame for the players, since a lot of the money they could scavenge on this job is in that encounter. The players are just going to have to do a better job negotiating than the TD crew did this time – they ended up AT equilibrium. Which made for some fun banter in game. “So about that 10 bounty we're getting…”

I do still need to pull together a script for the teaching portion. Even if that doesn't end up in the final packet, I need it to remind myself of all the rules new players don't know. Because at this point I've just internalized a lot of them. Especially the basics which are all I should be getting into with new players.

Wish me luck folks...

Internet and Gaming

So the internet in our new apartment has been down for a couple days (as of starting to write this part). No worrying about celluar data now, we're already boned there. Ah well, luckily the building I'm in has a couple of computers I can use to transfer these posts from Google docs to the site. I shudder trying to think how I'd do it on my phone. I'm sure there's a way. I just don't want to have to figure it out.

Which may make gaming this Thursday (ie today by the time folks will be reading this…) challenging. Internet based voice chat gaming group. No internet. Yeah.

Continuing the whole reassessing stuff from having routine disrupted theme of my life these last couple of weeks, good grief my life is mostly on the internet. Or at least all my hobbies/projects and social life. And I am so massively privileged that that could just be in the background for me for so long.

I feel like I should be making a joke about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs right now. ... Yeah, I've got nothing.


 

Anyone in Washington DC Sept. 10th - 11th? Then you should come to WashingCon 2! It’s a fun, smallish convention focused on board games and RPGs - Partner and I will be there, running Red Markets and Eclipse Phase games. We’re giving away a free badge for the weekend, too! Enter by filing out this survey (so we can get it to you if you win): https://goo.gl/forms/jLK54tC0rSk9m1rD

The Brief Post-GenCon Report

So I've spent my entire weekend at GenCon and a) I'm exhausted but b) SO HAPPY.  This was a very, very fun weekend and I am in need of some sleep, so... I'll write something up and post on Saturday. Thanks guys!

  • Thursday
    • Doom Metal Space Whales - the first GMing
  • Friday
    • My First Red Markets Panel as a Panelist
    • "We're soooo bad at puzzles"
  • Saturday -
    • Football Field Dealers' Hall  
    • I can run a Red Markets game
  • Sunday -
    • Doom Metal Space Whales - the second GMing
    • Adam runs a Red Markets game (I nearly die from laughing)