Wednesday, 31 December 2014

That 2015 Look Ahead Post

Last year’s look ahead post was structured by –
  • Game Time
  • What To Play?
  • What Else?
  • Other than Gen Con?
I’m going to use a similar structure to this for simplicity other than of course there will be no Gen Con in 2015 for me (Yes +Greg Barr I mean it!).  So…

Game Time

I’ve pulled together a calendar of all events / sessions of gaming that are a) available to me and b) likely to actually happen.  Yes, I’m that guy.

Here’s a breakdown (spreadsheet available on request!!!) –

Other Events
Total Days Of Gaming

So keep in mind that this is what is available to me.  What I expect to actually attend is somewhat different.  The “Other Events” includes things like conventions and other stuff that I‘m considering including a couple of special events throughout the year.

You’ll also notice ENT FRI as an entry in this list.  This is an attempt to create more local gaming capacity (at the expense of some potential DWARF time...). Given my lack of overall available capacity for more gaming I’ve opted to swap the last Friday of the month from a potential DWARF FRI to an ENT FRI. Whether this actually happens is of course debatable…

So how does that resolve?  Based on limited scientific calculations I’ve gone with the following –

Actual Days Gaming

The “Other” is made up primarily of conventions and special events with 1 exception that I’ll come to later in this post.
The RPG is inflated as currently all of the ENT FRI sessions will be RPG sessions, in addition to those I have as DWARF FRI sessions. I stress currently as I have no set venue for these ENT FRI sessions nor do I have a clear view on how this will work.
Board / Card is a mix of ENT SUN, DWARF FRI and DWARF SAT sessions and also relates to that 1 exception above.

So in theory I will be gaming 1 day in 6 throughout 2015.  I can say with absolute certainty that this will NOT happen.  If I get over 50 days of gaming in (conventions included) I’ll be happy, in fact let’s say 52 as that’s an average of 1 day’s gaming per week.

What To Play?

This is a bit of a tough one for 2015 but only because I’m spoilt for choice.

Board & Card games will continue to dominate my hobby time if only because of my ever expanding collection of games and that’s essentially what ENT was built for.  I have a lot of games now and the ENT community in particular is growing its own game collection so there’s more choice on offer than when we started out (which is great). I don’t want to pre-suppose what games we’re going to play as it’s usually a gut feel thing on the day itself.
What I do want to do though is play more Sentinel: Tactics and we’re planning to support the Greater Than Games month in January 2015 so would be rude to not play Sentinels Of The Multiverse too. Also in January (as I’ve posted previously) ENT is planning to host a Pandemic Party on the 25th so Pandemic along with Pandemic: Contagion will be played.
Other than that though the only objective (with a small “o”) that I’ll set is to try and play every game I own once during 2015.  That’s going to be hard to do but would be good to see how far into my collection I get!

RPG wise I want to improve on my time spent on that from 2014. If nothing else I want to run 2 separate games, 1 for the DWARF crowd and 1 for the ENT crowd, note that these “crowds” aren’t exclusive and anyone else that happens to join in on either can do so.  Whether those be campaigns or variety of one-shots I’m not fussed.  There is appetite in the DWARF crowd for more Star Wars so that’ll likely be the option taken there. For the ENT FRI crowd though I’m really not sure.  D&D 5th Edition is the obvious candidate and I do want to run it but there’s also Atomic Robo and a few other games that are calling me back – All Flesh Must Be Eaten being one of them…
When starting a new RPG community (ok so it’s a fork off the ENT SUN community) the temptation could be to launch straight into a campaign game.  With something that’s largely fledgling and really only having 1 “active” GM (that’d be me, although I know +donjondo has and think +Michael Mauderer might have too) the better approach may be to taste test a variety of games to generate that appetite.  We’ll see though…

That’s largely it right?

Well if I succumb to the musings of Greg and John Laurie I may have to admit that Battletech: Alpha Strike is a wargame.  If so then I want to play at least 6 games of Alpha Strike during 2015.  Might have to pick up some of that Dropzone Commander Cityscape scenery though...

Where to Play?

As I’ve now added “Attend More Conventions” to my objectives I should really cover what my intentions are here.  I’ll also try and cover any special events that are part of my plans for 2015.

Conpulsion – Given last year’s largely poor experience I’m tempted to give this a miss in 2015. Currently I’m unable to make my mind up so this will likely remain as a TBC until nearer the time. There is a sense of obligation to go though and I’d be interested to see what improvements have been made.

UK Games Expo – This is the priority convention of the year for me. In the absence of Gen Con this is the nearest thing from a UK perspective.  My accommodation is already booked, just need to finalise the list of others who are going and then get ourselves organised travel wise.  I also need to make sure I remember to take the time off needed pre and post!

Spiel Essen+Greg Barr and +Liz Mackie are -ahem- encouraging me to go to this and it is the exception I referred to above in the Other category.  It’s certainly cheaper than going to Gen Con (Essen in Germany as opposed to Indianapolis but the cost needs to be something I can justify. It might also have to be a later than ideal decision on whether to go but yes Greg the fact that there’s a beer hall in the convention centre is an added draw…

Glasgow Games Festival – This happened at the end of November and I couldn’t make it for a variety of reasons. IF it’s held again in 2015 and doesn’t cause any schedule challenge then maybe I’ll go. That obligation sensation is there alongside Conpulsion as it’s a Scottish Games Convention of sorts so I should probably make the effort…

Dragonmeet – London’s game convention which I had hoped to go to in 2014 but couldn’t justify it… If other events like Spiel Essen and the Glasgow Games Festival don’t happen then maybe 2015 will be the year I’m at Dragonmeet.

There are a few special events that I want to make happen in 2015, some are incorporated into existing ENT SUN sessions but others are a bit more than that.

These are only really planned up to end of July and there will be other options beyond that but I wanted to pull out a few things from this.

The Greater Than Games team always celebrate in January as that’s when they were formed as a company. For 2015 they want to game stores (and some other people like me/ENT) to host special events to promote their games.  There might also be special limited edition promo cards available if they arrive from the states in time!
So in January (11th and 25th) I want to play Sentinels at ENT SUN events alongside hosting a Pandemic Party at the end of January (25th).  Should be totally doable.

In March it’s the Fife Science Festival and we’re trying to link up with the Anstruther Science Café group to co-host this event at an ENT SUN (22nd). Again it’s likely that Pandemic will play a part but it’s Science so most things can be played!

April sees the next International Tabletop Day (11th) and again we’ll use an ENT SUN (12th) slot to host this.  I really, really, want to push the boat out for this!

June has the first “special” event that I want to organise in 2015.  I had wanted to organise an event in 2014 to raise money for MacMillan Cancer but that didn’t happen for a variety of reasons.  I want to make this happen in June 2015 instead.  Why June?  Too many reasons to mention but the one at the front of my mind is that this would be the 1 year anniversary of the passing of my friend Ray Gillespie.  Aiming for something around either the 13th June or 20th June for this. I have a venue in mind as with before but this is still in the early forming stage…

Lastly we have Gary Gygax Day in July.  This is normally the 27th of July and there’s an ENT SUN session on the 26th so will likely use that for D&D themed fun.

What Else?

So that covers a whole host of conventions and special events etc but is that it?  In short, no.

I have some ideas that may fall at the first hurdle as they’re primarily about “the hobby” as opposed to “my hobby”.
I also have some ideas that reflect on what I referred to in the 2014 Retrospective post about changing how I engage with my hobby.  Some of these are wrapped up in the above but mostly these are about doing something to improve my enjoyment of my hobby and indeed getting that enjoyment in different ways.
All sounds pretty mysterious? Well that’s because currently it has to be at least until I’ve fleshed some of these ideas out a bit more.  Some of the content is also perhaps a little close to the bone so I need to make sure I’m pitching it right…  It’ll become clear as we move into 2015 what some of these are, assuming of course that they don’t fall at the first hurdle!

Phew! Just read that back and there’s a LOT of stuff here… Maybe I should have split it into 3 posts? What it does say though is that 2015 is looking like a ramping up of hobby commitment for me and also looking to stretch ENT more through the use of events and more sessions in general for RPGs.
It should be a very good and busy year!

Monday, 29 December 2014

2014 Retrospective

2014 has been full of highs in relation to my hobby and how I explore it.  There are some low points but those are heavily out weighted by the high points.

My continuing attendance at DWARF is a high point albeit there were times when that attendance was infrequent. In spite of that I think I managed to attend 2 out of 4 sessions per month on average with peaks of 3 when not impacted by Real Life™ stuff.  The key achievement with DWARF was the completion of the Beyond The Rim story arc in my somewhat elongated Star Wars : Edge Of The Empire game.  As per previous posts on RPGs I would like to have done more RPGs and maybe 2015 will be when I do that but that’s for another post.  Specific thanks would go to my Star Wars group ( John, Simon, Ross, Ant, Dougie and Scott) and a few others at DWARF (namely Brian F, Brian W, Colin, Graham, Greg and +Scott Melrose ).

The establishment and flourishing community that has been built up around East Neuk Tabletop Games is probably the high point of the year.  Not necessarily because it’s been a roaring success (although in some aspects it has) but more because it’s enabled me to help establish a local community who are hungry for gaming, specifically board and card games but with an appetite to try other things.  Biggest thanks goes to +donjondo (Alan) but also to Michael, Richard, Oliver and Martin who have consistently supported our fledgling community.

Another obvious high point was my attendance at Gen Con 2014.  Not quite a life long ambition but from a hobby perspective it was always there as a goal and one that I can now mark as complete. Whether I’ll return to Gen Con in the future is debatable largely due to the financial cost of going (not just due to what games I’d buy) but I’d like to think I will return in the next few years (although not 2015 Greg!).  Big thanks to my travel companions +Liz Mackie and +Greg Barr but also to everyone I played games with and chatted to during that amazing experience.

Other highlights are largely sub-headings under those above but in the main it’s been an excellent year for my hobby and one that’s been quite cathartic in washing away some of the negativity I’d held at the start of this 2nd Chapter.

If I was to single out any form of low point it’d be largely down to personal frustrations over available game time along with the associated balance I need to find in amongst Real Life™ stuff.
I also have some frustrations over the speed of growth and consistency of attendance at East Neuk Tabletop Games but that’s largely irrational and down to my impatience when it comes to building communities.  The Field Of Dreams adage of “If you build they will come” is very fitting here as whilst it has an element of truth to it there are always delays in realising the potential of something like building a community almost entirely from scratch.

What would I have done differently in 2014?

Somewhat positively I’m not sure there is much that I would have done differently.  I’m happy with most if not all of my decisions in 2014 and it’s refreshing to look back and see that.

If I was to nitpick though?
  • There are some bridges that I feel I could have actively worked on in 2014, particularly in relation to the ex-KoA community. As yet I’ve not managed to bring myself to do that, which is largely down to the negativity I referenced above.  Whether 2015 is the year I do that or not is debatable and I’m trying to not timetable that “recovery” or indeed confirm that there are bridges that actually need re-building.  I’ve deliberately remained distant from a number of people that were involved both within KoA and as part of that community.  Some of that is due to personal reasons that I won’t divulge here but also it’s because I don’t really want to be reminded of that low period which unfortunately I associate entirely with that community. This isn’t a big deal (to me) but there are times when it feels like the right thing to do.
  • I had grand plans of organising some special events in 2014. None of which materialised, with the exception of the Tabletop Day event at DWARF.  This was largely down to that Real Life™ thing again but also because I was the only one involved in making these things happen. Something I plan to revisit in 2015 with a plan forming as I type.
Other than those though it was largely a low point free year for my hobby which is itself a cause for celebration!  There were obvious low points indirectly related to my hobby, not least of which was the death of my good friend Ray Gillespie.  One of those special events that I didn’t manage to organise was with him in mind so fingers crossed I can sort something out for 2015.

So what about those guiding principles and objectives I’d set myself way back in this process?

  1. Only buy it if you're going to use it. – Still largely on track with this, yes even with the haul of games I brought back from Gen Con!  Definitely helped by the creation of East Neuk Tabletop as I have more opportunity to play games now. East Neuk Tabletop has also been successful in bringing some historic purchases which have languished on the shelf onto the tabletop instead.
  2. Is everyone having fun? Including you? – Yep, again partly down to East Neuk Tabletop but also due to some occasions at DWARF where I’ve ensured that people aren’t without a game to play (wherever possible!).  I’m definitely enjoying my hobby a lot (especially board games) and no signs of that changing. As I reflected in my recent post on RPGs there are things I’d like to do differently but nothing that’s preventing the fun.
  3. Accept that you’re going to be the GM.  – This one I’ve been challenged on by a few people in recent times. It’s also been challenged by me at a certain level after being a player in a few RPGs at Gen Con.  I still think though that this principle stands as in the absence of anyone else looking to run something (that I’d want to play in…) I am always happy to be the GM.
  4. Change is a good thing and necessary. – Out of all the principles this one is hardest to define other than in editions/revisions of games. What I will say though is that 2015 may also be a year in which I change how I engage with my hobby.  More of that though in my Year Ahead post.
  5. Opinions aren’t as important as knowledge and experience. – Still strongly behind this one, if only in relation to reviews and also when it comes to community dynamics.  I’m pretty strongly opinionated myself and so this has to be there in the back of my head when I start to “rant” about the hobby, which does happen from time to time…
  1. Sustainable and regular gaming. – Massive tick in this box with the advent of East Neuk Tabletop Games.  Whether I can expand on the volume of gaming I’m doing is debatable and something I’m investigating just now ahead of my 2015 post.
  2. Play more with more. – Again East Neuk Tabletop Games is helping with this as is DWARF to a lesser extent primarily through the board gaming I’m doing.
  3. Home based gaming. – No real movement here but again something to improve upon for 2015.
  4. Play something new at least one in every six gaming sessions. – Successfully being achieved without really any effort, thanks in part to my ever growing collection of games but also down to the growth in the gaming community that’s around me.
  5. Visit more game shops. – Hmmm. Still mostly in the same space I was this time last year. Indeed since then Major Arcana in Dundee has sadly closed down.  I have continued to support Black Lion Games as my chosen FLGS and have (thanks to work) made many visits to Fan Boy 3 in Manchester but apart from those it’s been limited.  Sure I’ve made a visit or 2 to Common Ground Games in Stirling and Highlander Games in Dundee but those have been opportunistic as opposed to being part of any grand plan.  Not that this is a bad thing of course!
  6. I've decided to formally add this one to the Objectives list.  Attend more gaming conventions. – Gen Con and Conpulsion were my conventions in 2014. 2015 looks to be slightly (very slightly) busier…
So what else is worth noting from 2014?  Nothing springs to mind so I’ll call it quits at that. If anything it’s probably been one of the best years in hobby terms for me for many many years.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Hobby PR

So I was contacted recently by the Aberdeen Press & Journal about them wanting to run a feature on the local scene for games like Dungeons & Dragons in their paper.

I'll let you digest that for a minute...

So I've previously reflected on media coverage of the hobby and since then there's a been a swell of coverage on board games in particular and strangely enough in The Guardian specifically.

I've also been interviewed by BBC Radio Scotland in the past on D&D around the time that Gary Gygax died.  That was cool and particularly memorable for the quotes from the attendees of +ORC Edinburgh who took part in the broadcast.

But to be contacted via Twitter about a potential article in the P&J (not a paper covering my geographical area of Scotland) was kinda odd but very cool at the same time.  I duly pointed Andrew at some contacts I have in the area and encouraged him to speak to the people at Plan 9 Comics (nearest thing to a FLGS in Aberdeen). The feature went live today and is excellent. Really takes a serious look at the history and stigma of the hobby and comes out the other end representing it properly and positively. Excellent coverage I think and especially pleased to read that Andrew took part in the game of D&D that was ran. As Steve says in the article - "Role playing games are to be experienced, and not observed." You can read it here.

Another thing with respect to Hobby PR that came up recently was in relation to the East Neuk Tabletop Games 14th December session.  It was the final session for ENT  in 2014 and we decided to host our own award show (see previous post - Golden Axe Award).  The opportunity to promote this event, the hobby and most of all the club was too good to let slip so we approached the Fife Free Press and they agreed!  Now this promotion could be very beneficial as we're looking to have a number of special events in 2015 which we can try and get the press to promote alongside us, not least of which is the Pandemic Party we plan to host at our January 25th Event.

So with that in mind Alan and I pulled together a draft press release for ENT which our contact at the FFP really liked. A photographer turned up to our Golden Axe Awards and took photos (including one of the winning game - Dobble - alongside an actual Golden Axe!).  Now it's been a while since I wrote a press release (KoA days) but between Alan and I we managed to cover all the bases.

The photographer turned up on the day and took some great photos.  As I write this the feature hasn't been published yet but once it has been I will share it like crazy on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

RPG Pre-Conditions and Self Limitations

So way back when I started this blog I kicked it off with a post called "I'm Dave and I'm a Roleplayer" and I proceeded to talk about the rediscovery of what I wanted my hobby to be.

Since then I've managed to rediscover my hobby and I've achieved some things too, not least of which would be attending Gen Con and establishing East Neuk Tabletop Games.

As my post on DMing Lost Mines of Phandelver attests though I've not really lived up to the title of that first post - namely I've not done much roleplaying since this 2nd Chapter started.

Why is that?  Well.....

My Star Wars game has suffered as a result of conflicting schedules (mine and my players) and establishing another game has proven to be more challenging than I think I ever appreciated.  Not through a lack of player interest more that I've not found or indeed at times made the commitment of time to run a game.

One of the beauties of boardgames is that the majority of them can be played in 90 minutes as a maximum time span. Yes there are some that will take longer but the majority of the ones I own can be played in that 90 minute slot which is great.

RPGs can also be played in a relatively short slot too but I'm beginning to think that I don't like that... I actually think that for me RPGs should be in a 4 hour slot as a minimum.  Sure you can play one-shots in 2 hours or even less and that's essentially how the Star Wars game has functioned since it started.  Now if any of my Star Wars players are reading this don't fret, I'm not about to say that we're only going to play it if I have a 4 hour slot (although that would be nice...).
What I am saying is that for any RPG that I kick off from here-on I want the slot to be roughly 4 hours.

This obviously brings me back to my challenges with that around available free time etc but it also gets me thinking too.  What other things should be pre-conditions of running a RPG?

4 hour slot is great but it should happen semi-regularly. Ideally it should happen fortnightly as a minimum although weekly would be preferable but let's not over extend things and just stick to the fortnightly as a minimum.

The funny thing is that I used to be able to do this.

Every fortnight I'd turn up on a Saturday at +ORC Edinburgh and run a game.  Not always a campaign game but a RPG and I'd run it for 4 hours.  This worked really well for a good few years and then I found I couldn't sustain it due to Real Life (tm) getting in the way...  Ok so that sounds bad. Real Life (tm) didn't so much get in the way, it was more that my priorities changed when I became a dad.

So how does that help me now?  Well it doesn't really.

Where it leaves me is going back to that consistent element of "time". The only way I can really kick off a new RPG session in a 4 hour slot is by making that time.  That really means that something has to give and the most likely (and also easiest) option is that I swap some of my existing game time for other game time.

There is another option, or perhaps just a different nuance to the option above. My Star Wars game has just completed the Beyond The Rim scenario and whilst the players are keen to continue maybe I should put it on a short break and run something else (likely D&D) for a time...  I'm not overly keen on that though as my preference leans more to running RPGs at ENT and given we're now running in a 4 hour slot that becomes more likely.

No conclusions as yet, more pondering required about my options but without pre-empting my 2015 look ahead post I think it's clear that more RPG play is going to be one of the objectives I set myself.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Golden Axe Award

So movies have the Oscars and the BAFTAs if you're in the UK.
Music has the Grammys, Mercury Music Award and other awards.
Tabletop games have plenty of awards, not least of which is the Spiel des Jahres.

Over at East Neuk Tabletop Games we're not to be outdone by industry awards with fancy (ok German) names.  As I said in my last post we've decided to have our own.

The Golden Axe Award will be given to the game that's voted on by the most number of people.  Seems simple enough right?

The challenge is in having a clear winner.

We've played 52 different games over 13 sessions since April which averages out as 4 new games introduced per session.  That's probably very normal for a new community as they look to sample and be exposed to as many games as possible.  I'll be very surprised if we hit that same level of new games per session next year.

So what did I vote for?

I decided to pick games that I've bought since ENT started. That way it was fully representative of my time at ENT.

Dragon Slayer - One of my many Gen Con purchases and probably one the most re-playable games out there. I've played quite a few dice games and most of them are fun, most are fun for a few plays but Dragon Slayer doesn't get old.  Sure it's limited in it's scope but every time I play this (and I've played it a LOT!) it is fresh and lots of fun.  It's also a great "introductory" game to the hobby as a whole as the dice are easily understood and the mechanic is so simple it can be explained in less than 1 minute.

Forbidden Desert - I picked this up at J G Innes in St Andrews.  I've never played Forbidden Island (the other Forbidden cooperative game by Matt Leacock) but I really enjoy cooperative games and I spotted this in the window of J G Innes so bought it on a whim.  Having now played it many times it's probably my favourite cooperative game.  Yes, dare I say probably even more so than Sentinels Of The Multiverse.  I said probably +Greg Barr !!!

Cash 'n Guns - Another one of my Gen Con purchases but a game I've been looking to pick up for several years.  With the second edition being released I had the opportunity.  Why did I pick this game though?  I mean it's hardly the most tactical but what it does have is plenty of fun. It's not about pointing foam guns at each other, nor is it about bluffing with respect to whether you have a bullet or a blank loaded.  This game is about having a laugh and quoting cheesy lines from films.  As with Dragon Slayer above it has a lot of re-play value and whilst it might not have the "introductory" feel of Dragon Slayer it does work on a lot of levels and of course can support a lot of players too!

So those are my votes.  There are many other games on the list that I could have chosen but these are the ones that stood out for me.

If I was to choose any others I'd probably go for Braggart (although I've never actually played it at ENT so doesn't count), Sentinel: Tactics or Shinobi Wat-Aah!
Again they all share that re-play ability that a game needs to encourage you to take it off the shelf time after time.

Monday, 1 December 2014

One Small Step For A Meeple...

One Giant Leap For Meeple-kind?

Not quite.

I realise I've slipped into another "no update" zone with the blog which I can only apologise profusely for. Other than work, family and of course gaming I've not really had any real time to spend on the blog.

So a quick update is probably in order then.

Games at a beer festival went really well. We didn't have any converts but we did have some people asking questions which is never a bad thing.
We managed to play Poo, Get Bit, Kittens in a Blender and Braggart which all worked pretty well considering we were sitting near where the live (and at times excellent) music was being played.
I look forward to the next Cambolicious beer festival in May 2015 where more games and more beer can be enjoyed.

DWARF wise we've finally managed to re-instate the Star Wars game that we've been playing. First game since July and 2 of the party almost died.
We're coming to the end of "Beyond The Rim" and I've been very pleased with the scenario this far.  It is a bit railroady at times but it's flexible enough to manipulate the story.
The question I have started to ponder is what's next? Another Star Wars scenario or something else?
Of course alongside that I've been playing more board games at DWARF

ENT wise we're approaching our final event of the year - Sunday 14th December.  Alan aka +donjondo pulled together a list of all the games we've played since we started and it comes to the frustratingly not rounded number of 49! Then our community pointed out a few omissions and we're actually now at 52!
To celebrate our first year we're hosting a sort of poll / survey to get people to vote for their favourite games played this year ahead of the session on the 14th. Alan came up with the name Golden Axe Award and we've decided to stick with it, although what an ENT would be doing with an axe I'm not sure... ;-)
ENT will also see some changes from the 14th December with us moving to a 4 hour slot (1pm to 5pm) and also moving to the Upper Hall which should be warmer over the Winter!  I think the changes are a positive step forwards for the community, especially for the longevity of the community but also increasing the options of what can be played.

I've failed miserably at getting the "gang" back together for some D&D. This has been solely down to me just not having that much free time to actually play the game for any reasonable length of time (a separate post is brewing on the topic of game length).

So that's pretty much where we are although I do have a couple of other topics to be covered, just need to find the time to write them!!!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Gaming at a Beer Festival

So I'm going to a craft beer festival - Cambolicious - on Saturday 8th November and I'm taking games with me to play with people I know and hopefully introduce some games to complete strangers.

Given it's a beer festival and the focus is on the beer I'm not looking for any in depth gaming experience but I do want to take some "pocket sized" and easy to learn games that we can just break out if we feel the urge.

So which games fit that requirement?

Dragon Slayers from Indie Boards & Cards - It's quick and fun and very very portable.
Other dice games would also work and I'll likely take Zombie Dice with me too.

Jungle Speed from Asmodee - A really fun dexterity game that always seems to be better with alcohol....
Coup from erm Indie Boards & Cards! - Very very portable and quick to play bluffing game.

Magic: The Gathering from Wizards Of The Coast - Well ok so this is a 2 player game and I don't have any functioning decks other than old demo decks but I might take them anyway...  It's a fun game and absolutely can be played casually.

Get Bit from Mayday Games - Afterall, what's more fun than trying to swim faster than your friends to ensure you don't get eaten by a shark?

Get Lucky from Cheapass Games - I've not played it yet but it's quick and looks like a lot of fun.  Essentially Cluedo in reverse (i.e. you're each trying to commit murder).  Plus who doesn't want to play as Fauntleroy Shabozz???

Love Letter from AEG (Alderac Entertainment Group) - Whilst I'm still not 100% sure about this game I do like it's simplicity and speed so definitely a candidate to take.

Poo The Card Game from Wildfire LCC / Catalyst Game Labs - After all who doesn't want to pretend to be a monkey throwing poo at each other?

Any suggestions of other "pocket sized" games suitable for a beer festival?

Thursday, 23 October 2014

DMing Lost Mine of Phandelver

So I've finally got round to running a game of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition.  Specifically I've started running Lost Mine of Phandelver.

This is the scenario that comes with the Starter Set and I've chosen it for a number of reasons.

  • None of the players have played it.
  • It's an introductory scenario and 4 of the players either hadn't played D&D ever or for a very long time.
  • One player is currently playing in the Hoard Of The Dragon Queen season of Encounters so had to be something very different from that.
So what did we have?  Well I used the pregens from the Starter Set and I also managed to find some D&D Adventurers League compatible 1st level pregens online.

The players opted for -
  • Dwarf Cleric - Played by Richard
  • Halfling Rogue - Played by Steven
  • Human Fighter - Played by Alan
  • Human Paladin - Played by Theresa
  • Tiefling Warlock - Played by Oliver
They managed to rescue Sildar and take down Klarg the bugbear, the wolves and a number of the goblins.  Ok so they had lady luck to thank for some of that after some tributes were made to Tyche in Phandalin as at times the dice were being particularly cruel!

Overall it was a really good session and felt good to be running D&D again, especially for a group of people that I've never roleplayed with before as most of them I've met through East Neuk Tabletop.

Hoping to get at least 2 or 3 more sessions in before Christmas but need to think carefully about the scheduling of that and of course a location to hold it. For this 1st session we used my wife's wool shop on a weeknight, with weeknights largely being problematic for me I think it might need to move to a Sunday post-ENT slot (whether that's coinciding with ENT or not). Something to ponder and chat with them about before organising the next slot.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Dry Wipe Notebook

So there were a few things I was looking for when at Gen Con that I didn't buy largely because I actually didn't find precisely what I wanted.

Amongst that list was something I only realised I wanted after playing in the Atomic Robo.  Mike was using what is called a WipeBook - essentially it's a dry-erasable pad.

So after asking Mike where he got it from I looked for it at Gen Con but it wasn't available at any of the booths.  When looking into getting one for myself I came across the usual challenge of buying something overseas - shipping...

So at first I decided "Oh well." and forgot all about it but since then I got to thinking - "Surely I could make one myself?"

So I have.

  • 1 pack of A4 160gsm card.
  • 1 set of Staedtler whiteboard dry wipe pens.
  • 1 pack of laminating pouches (well I already had this and the laminator).
  • 1 binder to put them in.

To mix it up a bit I used some of the PDF templates from Incompetech to create Hex, Square and Lined sheets and went about printing and laminating the card.

Final result -

I've still to use it properly but I can see me using it instead of squared paper and blank paper to draw maps (not to scale!) and other short term items in games.

I also hope to use it for brain dump stuff that can be wiped in future once they've been blogged or otherwise.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Games that fail the Value principle.

I've completely lost track of this hence why I've not done an updated post on the value assessment of my hobby.  Plus as I said in my last post there are some games which on the value scale just haven't earned their position to stay in my collection.

So there's a couple of options here.

  1. Play them.  Sounds easy enough doesn't it and in many respects it should be that easy.  After all these are games and I, y'know, play games so surely I can play them?
  2. "Sell them".  I've put quotes around that as there are limited options to how this can play out.  Sure eBay is an option but I always find eBay a bit of a pain. There are Facebook groups for selling stuff so maybe that's an option instead.  Of course I could donate them to charity shops or gift them in some way.
Before determining which option is the right one it's worth looking at the games on the list of those failing the Only Buy It If You're Going To Use It principle test.
  • X-Wing (plus 2 Y-Wings) - It's really a 2 player game and I have since learned to avoid 2 player games as they just don't get played.  At least not by me. Sure it's Star Wars and I am a huge Star Wars fan but it's a 2 player game and given that I've not played it for erm actually I can't remember the last time but it was more than a year ago it probably is time for it to move on.
  • Star Wars LCG (plus numerous expansions) - Again it's a 2 player game (ok so it can be more than that with one of the expansions) and again it's Star Wars.  There's probably a lesson in here around my weakness for games set in the Star Wars universe.  At least I can say that I play the Edge Of The Empire RPG though and I've (so far) not bought Age Of Rebellion or Force and Destiny (currently in Beta). I had high hopes for playing this (hence the expansions) but I just don't see me playing it.
  • Snake Oil - So this one isn't a 2 player game. It's a 3 to 10 player game.  Surely that means I'll play it, right?  Well actually no.  I suspect the game will never be played because whilst I find the concept and theme amusing and I'm sure it's a lot of fun it will just never reach the top of my "to play" list (not that I have a "to play" list but you take my point).
  • Catan Junior - So I bought this as an impulse purchase near the beginning of this 2nd Chapter because I'd been looking for it for a long time and I believed it would be a great family game to introduce my daughter (and wife) to board games. Unfortunately (for Catan Junior) other games took that slot instead.  Specifically games like Hey, That's My Fish! have taken that slot. Plus now that my collection has grown and I have more family orientated games that I think I will play it's probably time for Catan Junior to move on.
  • Panic Station - A game I bought when we went to London and at that time I think it was a gamble but I had been looking for a sci-fi themed co-operative game. The thing with Panic Station is that it feels too fiddly. Ok fiddly isn't a good descriptor. The approach of having essentially 2 characters per player to manage just feels like a hassle and whilst I can't really explain why it's always put me off.  Now out of the list so far this game might not actually go as my original reason for buying it remains - I still want a sci-fi themed co-operative game and as yet I haven't found an alternative one.
  • Stonehenge - I've talked about this before here.  I am still intrigued by it but as with Snake Oil I just don't see me playing it...
So there we have it.  It's a small selection of my overall collection but they fail the principle and so I need to make a decision on how to move them on.

It's probably not a one size fits all solution here for each of these as some will likely not be that easy to sell on eBay or elsewhere.

Of course there is the other option of just keeping them...

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

So what's next?

It's been a month since Gen Con and since then I've been really busy at work leading to my limited time to write here.

I have however had some time to play games that I picked up at Gen Con including Dragon Slayer, Sentinel: Tactics, Abyss, Cash & Guns and Battletech: Alpha Strike (which I had a post about but the Blogger Android app wiped it...).  All of which I can happily report are great fun.  That's not all I've been playing though and the growing games library is certainly getting used at the moment.  There are a few games that might be close to being removed as they're just not getting played but that might be a post for future.

But considering the first 8 months of 2014 was largely dominated by my build up Gen Con I have to wonder what the remainder of 2014 really holds with respect to the blog and my hobby.

There's no grand announcement here as at the moment my immediate focus is on playing games on Friday nights at DWARF and specifically on trying to grow the community that is starting to form around East Neuk Tabletop Games in Anstruther, Fife.

So what is next for my hobby and indeed for this blog?  That's really 2 questions.

My Hobby - More time for gaming.  I've posted before about my hobby objectives and my challenge around available free time.  The position in the latter post has changed a little and there may be an option to some irregular gaming on a Tuesday night soon which would be great.  Just need to ensure I'm keeping a balance though as I'm already sustaining a 3 weeks in 4 attendances at DWARF and have the 2nd and 4th Sundays at ENT.  What neither of those is giving me though is time to play D&D and that's kind of important to me.

The Blog - No real change. I expect and intend to continue to post on the various topics that I've been covering. Not least of which are those that fall under my hobby and the hobby.  I'm equally passionate about both aspects and they are things I have more to write about, especially "the hobby" but right now it's about finding / making the time to write that's proving a challenge.

So yeah, that's what is next. More of the same but obviously with less / no Gen Con content at least until 2016 when I might look to going back (2015 isn't an option for a variety of reasons!).

Monday, 8 September 2014

Seminar : Using Games To Build Community

Sooo.....  This is the 2nd time I've posted this.  Thanks to the wonders of the Blogger Android app I managed to wipe the original post.  Fortunately I had the content of the post in an email I sent to Dustin.  Needless to say the Blogger Android app has been removed from my phone and tablet to avoid the same thing happening again...

I’ll be the first to admit that with hindsight I wasn’t the target audience for this seminar.

That actually disappoints me as I really wanted to be the target audience but I feel that Dustin (the organiser) had to tailor his pitch to a largely generic level to ensure he covered the variety of bases that the wide audience would need support in.
That said, I felt it was too light and not entirely sure what people took away from it other than "must do stuff" around choosing areas to organise events in and how to partner with FLGS' etc.
My view is that specific elements of community and choice of venue to enable that community to grow could have been expanded on.  Limited time to do that in many respects as it was a 1 hour seminar but I would have looked at things similar to previous topics in this blog.

Venue - Everything about choosing your venue needs to be based on engagement, this is both for the internals and the externals of that venue.
Externally the venue has to be -

  • Signposted : So people need to know that there is something inside the venue associated with games.  This can be posters and other signage but from a tabletop hobby market it has to be clear of the types of games that will be on offer whilst still remaining relatively neutral on the level of "geek" association.
  • Welcoming : Everything about the externals of the venue needs to enhance the likelihood of people wanting to enter. Avoid the stereotype of blacked out windows etc.  People need to see in to ensure that they can see it's a venue they want to go into.
  • Accessible : Can a wheelchair get in? Can a kids pram/buggy get in? These ideally shouldn't involve a need to invoke a secondary method such as an elevator.  Accessible also applies to things like security and "do I need a badge/pass" to get in? Ideally not although appreciate in certain environments that isn't an option.
  • Restrictions : Does the venue have any restrictions based on age or other elements? E.g. there was 1 gentleman who talked about his gaming community meeting up in a bar. I'm unclear on the laws in the US and indeed if they vary by state but in the UK under-18s aren't allowed to enter a bar without that bar having a food license or indeed some sort of family license (which is usually time bound),  I personally think that bars are a bad choice if you're trying to include the younger communities not just because of the licensing but also because parents may not be keen on having their kids attend a bar.
Internally the venue has to be -
  • Signposted : Again this is key.  Where does the community meet? In a FLGS/FLCS scenario that should be much clearer however in most other scenarios signposting internally may be required or at the very least there needs to be someone available throughout the session to direct people to the correct location.
  • Welcoming : Again the interior has to present the atmosphere that it is welcoming to the community.  Social elements like cliques can be perceived without actually existing plus the "politeness" element of not wanting to interrupt a group of people whilst they're engaged in games is something that needs to be addressed.  This could be managed through having "spotters" to handle that engagement with the new attendees.
  • Layout : Ideally the layout should be semi-flexible so that different combinations of tables/chairs can be used to accommodate different games and/or events.  If that's not an option, e.g. where the layout is fixed booth type tables/chairs then this can be a challenge to ensure the new attendees can see opportunity to join in.

Targeting your community - Knowing how to target and who to target is very difficult without knowing about existing play groups and understanding more about what sort of appetite exists within the wider community.
So how do you start that?

  • Format : If there is a pre-existing community, such as the one you may be in or one that you have had previous involvement in then that's as good a starting point as any. If there's a pre-existing board/card/war/roleplay gaming community then use that format as the starting point with the expectation and open mindedness to be able to support other formats.
  • Branding : Giving anything a name gives it identity and a brand that can use to refer to it. The easiest trap to fall into here is to brand it based on the format of the game being played. Naming the community as a roleplaying group may result in the silent exclusion of those who don't "do" roleplaying as they perceive the community as only playing that format of game. The flipside is that anything more generic may mean it slips under the radar of existing gamers who think you're something else.  E.g. when I opted for the name Kingdom Of Adventure it was obvious to me what that meant but when speaking to people who became customers some thought it was a soft play area for kids. So branding (for want of a better term) is key.
  • Frequency : This depends on a variety of things; your available time and the venue's available time probably being the greater influences on the frequency.  What's important is that you set a schedule, stick to it and promote the future dates in every piece of marketing you have. So if you meeting every 2nd and 4th Sunday then don't break that routine and ensure that everyone knows that's when things are.  For some events a more frequent schedule can be better but the key to promoting the frequency and schedule regularly is that this presents attendees an opportunity to "invest" in the community.  Without that community investment it is harder to build momentum and harder to grow overall.
  • Event Format : This is in many respects driven by the format of the event, however don't assume you have to go for formal tournament based play by default.  Competitive games work just as well in a casual format as they do in a tournament format.  It's true that tournaments will drive commitment to the community but at the same time it can be off putting to new players.  If it's CCG/TCGs that are being played then a tournament enables better community cohesion and integration as it's not just people playing in their own "sub-communities" and are simply sharing the location, not that there's anything wrong with that per se but it does dilute the identiy of the community a bit.
  • Promotion : Nothing beats word of mouth, ask everyone that you know if they are interested in trying the games out and if not ask them to ask their friends. Plenty of people are willing to give things a try and simply not everything is for everyone. Other promotion will depend on budget and time.  Social media promotion can work for you and be free too. I'm not talking about advertising on Facebook more the use of key phrases especially when it comes to your location / region.  Using hashtags on Twitter for your region can also draw people into the community but that the social media element really depends on how rural or urban your community is going to be based.  More rural is likely going to work better through word of mouth or posters. For ENT we've used posters to good effect thanks to Alan mostly. Having something recognisable to a gamer (current or lapsed) will perk their interest but at the same time if you're looking to target non-gamers then it needs to be more obvious what the community is about.

Each of these elements above come under the umbrella term of "barriers to entry".

Every barrier that is put in front of a potential attendee at an event is something that the event organiser needs to either remove or mitigate to give every opportunity for new attendees to participate in the hobby.

These are the things that every event organiser has to overcome to enable the greatest chance of success for their event.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Gen Con Seminar : The Psychology Of Gaming

So yeah I attended this seminar and it was very interesting although I think I was out of my depth at times...

The pitch for the event was - "Are you interested in psychology? Are you looking for some insight into what makes gamers tick? Come join a talk on some interesting connections between psychology and gaming." - and I think they pretty much (if not entirely) nailed it.

The presenter was Justin Laplante and he kind of ended up doing this seminar by mistake.

An amusing sequence of events from Gen Con 2013 had Justin and some other fellow attendees turn up for this seminar only to find out it had been cancelled but rather than move on to their next event they decided to hold a kind of "workshop" approach to this.  Indeed several of those attendees were in the audience with one of them shouting "Weren't you dressed up as a Wizard last year?" to several laughs.

So fair play to Justin for stepping up and this time being the host for the seminar.

It was a fairly academically heavy pitch (for me at least) and the audience seemed to contain a fair number of academics or pseudo-academics with a real interest in Psychology.  Something that very much made me (the layman who was intrigued) feel more than a little out of my depth.

What I did take from it though is that there haven't been specific psychological analysis and in turn papers on the tabletop hobby and so the "science" of the topic just isn't there.

What was covered though was that traditional approaches to this sort of research usually results in a very narrow band approach.  Essentially trying to distill the analysis down to as few conditional and environmental factors as possible.  This is primarily because of the need (or the perception thereof) for a proof to be defined.  After all, this is Science!

The audience participation throughout the seminar was fantastic to say the least.  It was particularly vibrant throughout the section where there was a discussion about "Geek Culture" and how it is defined.  Most of the supporting analysis for this was on the Video Games population but there are parallels.  Now this research was cited as an example on the definition of Geek and came up with 4 classifications that could be used.  Unfortunately I didn't note down who completed the research so apologies if this is your work...

The classifications were -
  • Misfit - Socially awkward
  • Genius - Technology Expert
  • Super Fan - Must Have Everything!
  • Geek Chic - I missed a part of this definition but what I picked up was that this is essentially the borderline point where Geek things become popular.  Usually via pop culture references and the discussion here tended to focus on the plethora of superhero movies that we've seen in recent years.
Now for each of these I can see elements in myself.  I can also label people I know within the wider community with 1 or more of each of these.  However I don't want to and I also don't think that is the point here either.  The ability to distill a community helps us to understand how to a) grow that community through targeting those stereotypes and b) segregate the overall community which I think is a bad thing as it leads to exclusivity of the hobby.

There was some debate around the "geek badge" and wearing it with pride and I entirely echo that statement.  I don't hide my hobby, it's pretty much front centre when I meet new people. Even at work I talk about my hobby openly with the team and with others too (once I've actually y'know done the work stuff).

This also touched on "taking back" the geek identity from the borderline pop culture and the abhorrent "fake geek (girl or otherwise)" element of the community. Kovalic explains thus here. Again I want to be known as a geek but I also don't want to be divisive in how that community is formed.

Whilst I believe retaining ownership of what constitutes the geek label is important I don't think it should be to the detriment of the growth of the hobby as a whole.

So all in all it was a worthwhile hour but I kinda wish it had been more about avoiding the distinctions that make us geeks (e.g. the 4 classifications above) to enable the growth of the community as a whole.  But that'd probably be a whole different workshop!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Sentinels Of The Multiverse: Campaign Game

Another one of those games that I've blogged about on here on a few occasions is Sentinels.  Seeing that someone was running a 3-part scenario driven game of this at Gen Con I knew that I had to play in it.

The linkage between the scenarios was light so that it didn't get 2 prescriptive based on results.  Each scenario had 2 objectives - a primary and a secondary.  It was the successful completion of these objectives that determined specific things for the following scenario.

The villains we played against were -

The Ennead : I've never played against these guys before and DAMN! are they a tough nut to crack.  Unless you're able to nullify their stacking abilities or deal out some serious damage then you're not going to get very far against them.  Which is about as far as we got...  It wasn't a loss but it wasn't much of a victory either!

Then it was Ambuscade : Far simpler to combat than The Ennead (as there's just the one of him!) but he's really tough. Success awaited us in this game though and we managed to take him down although he did take out 2 of us in the process - including Chrono Ranger who I'd been playing.

And finally it was Gloom Weaver.  In this game I'd changed character to Fanatic and boy was she uber effective against him. We didn't defeat him in the time allocated but we did complete the secondary objective.

All in all it was a fun way to play the game and having the clock ticking really added to the play style of the group. After all none of us knew each other before we started to play.

Might look to do something similar for future times we play Sentinels!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Atomic Robo RPG At Gen Con!

So as you may have gathered from previous posts I'm a bit of an Atomic Robo fanboy.

Perhaps you can imagine my fanboyness reaching exponential levels when +Liz Mackie and I played in a game of Atomic Robo run by +Mike Olson who only went and wrote the game!

Ok so I think I actually played it kinda cool and didn't have any fanboy moments but I'll let others judge me on that!

So the game - "Bring Me The Head Of Doctor Dinosaur" had the description of "Twelve years ago, a lunatic calling himself Dr. Dinosaur murdered everyone you know. And to make matters worse, he's your brother. Majestic 12 wants to study him. Tesladyne wants to bring him to justice. But you? You just want revenge."

I played Fang - An almost human with lizard abilities and the character sheet is below.

Our mission was simple enough and that was to find and kill Doctor Dinosaur.
This obviously wasn't that easy to achieve but along the way we encountered Robo, Jenkins, Majestic 12 and many other characters from the comic books which really helped to bring it to life. My companions in the game were
Ghost - A Lemur "ninja" with a thing for knives. Played by +Liz Mackie
Tank - A bipedal Triceratops who hit REALLY HARD.
Professor - An octopus who was supremely intelligent especially in relation to Chaos Theory.

Needless to say we managed to catch the crazy one and managed to put him in an early grave.

Afterwards Mike signed both Liz and I's copies of the game and we had a good chat about stuff.  Liz and Mike are looking to synchronise schedules to try and get something recorded for +NearlyEnoughDice too which would be awesome.

Funniest out of game moment was when Mike realised who we were - "Hey, wait you're David Wright!" and the girl next to me (name forgotten apologies but you were playing The Professor) turned and asked if I was famous.  I politely said No and explained how I'd got in touch with Mike prior to the convention.

Lots of fun had and now I need to start thinking about running it...

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Gen Con 2014 - 3 Key Lessons Learned

Going to something like Gen Con is not a small undertaking when you live in the UK.

For me it involved travelling 3,765 miles (give or take a few miles) each way.  All of that went fine. Flights etc were without problem, we had enough time in between connecting flights to relax and take our time without the gap being tooooo long. Apartment we chose was also completely fine with a few niggles, which is where the 1st lesson comes from.

1st Lesson - Location Does Matter.
Despite being ONLY a 15 minute walk away the apartment felt too far away at times.  Not just when I was carrying 327 bags of stuff but also just the general tooing and froing between the venue and the apartment.  It was just too far away that it made a quick bag drop too time consuming and so whenever we did anything like that it invariably resulted in us staying at the apartment.
Some of that was down to general tiredness but as strange as it sounds, being just 10 minutes closer or being in one of the adjoined (via skywalk) hotels would have made a lot of difference and made it more likely that we'd be gaming later into the night.

That aside we all managed to stick to the minimum 3 hours sleep, 2 meals and 1 shower per day rule shared by those awesome UnderGophers at Under Discussion.  Although on the Thursday I had to have 2 showers as I was sweating buckets carrying around all of my purchases.  Picking up my purchases was something I managed to do very very easily thanks to having early access to the hall what with being press and all that.  It did mean that both Liz and I had to be there super early on the Thursday to make sure we were amongst the first 100 press passers but that was easy enough.

2nd Lesson - Press Pass Was Worth It
Ok so I was always going to write a number of things about Gen Con in the blog but getting the Press Pass enabled a number of things.
1) Attendance of Trade Day Seminars - Ok so these were a bit hit & miss or possibly closer to miss & miss in the main but what I learned from them both from a content and lack of content perspective was useful.  I'll have a few posts about the Seminars I attended in due course.
2) Press Room - I really didn't use this for much of anything other than a "rest point". Free water / juice was enough to get me to use the room and of course the free Wi-Fi that was offered to the press was useful although I didn't really use it that much.
3) Early Access to Exhibit Hall - Definitely the biggest benefit.  1 hour before the masses entered the hall meant that I got the majority of my shopping done quickly. It may have been a bit frantic in places but that early access was worth it and I'd definitely do it again.

As I posted in the run up to Gen Con I had a pretty packed schedule.  What I didn't appreciate fully was the distance between all of the things I wanted to do and similarly my level of desire to actually do those things instead of these other things would diminish.  Don't get me wrong, it's not like I wasn't having fun or anything just that the schedule became a bit more erm fluid once I got there and other than some specific games (posts to follow) and a couple of seminars I might have been better off just buying a bunch of generics and randomly playing stuff.

3rd Lesson - Don't Pack Your Schedule
As I've said above this was more a question of over planning rather than being spontaneous.  If I was ever to go to Gen Con again (not next year but sometime) then I'd more than likely want to keep an abundance of space other than some MUST do events.  Keeping things fluid let's you see more of the convention itself.  Sure you might miss out on some really cool stuff but at the same time you might discover some other REALLY COOL STUFF!

There are other lessons that I learned whilst being at Gen Con but these 3 are probably the stand out ones for me.  If there was a 4th then it would be - Don't try to eat 24 donuts and drink 3 litres of coffee in 1 day.  Fortunately I learned that one BEFORE I tried it.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Best Four Days in Shopping erm Gaming!

I'm going to do a few posts on my experience at Gen Con but I thought I'd do a quick one on what I actually bought.  It's safe to say that I bought a lot of stuff...

That pile doesn't include any of the 12 (yes twelve) t-shirts that I bought when there too...

So what did I buy?

D&D Player's Handbook and Hoard Of The Dragon Queen - These were actually bought at Downtown Comics in Indianapolis which was just round the corner from our apartment.  I picked up 4 D&D T-Shirts and 2 playmats at the con itself (no, I don't really know why they have playmats or why I bought them... But they'll be good for rolling dice on!).  The books are amazing to look at and I'll have a follow up post about what I thought of the game itself in due course.

At Gen Con itself I bought -

Abyss - The artwork alone is just amazing. I've heard so much positive news about this game that I wanted to pick it up anyway but the art really sells it.
Battletech Alpha Strike Lance Sets (1 each of the Assault, Battle, Pursuit and Support sets) and Ad Hoc Unit Cards - +Greg and myself played in a game of Alpha Strike at Gen Con (future post on that) and I bought these afterwards. Some of the mechs are ones I already have but that just means I can field 2 Atlas' if I want!!!  Just need to work out whether I'm going to paint them or not.  More on that later... Oh and I also bought a Battletech t-shirt.
Bigfootses - This was one of those games that I wasn't sure about. A few people have said it's a Munchkin clone and whilst I'm not a huge fan of Munchkin I do like this. Perhaps it's the theme that sells me on it, I'm not sure but we played it at the airport on our way home and I enjoyed it.  Not entirely sure why it's a 12+ game as I think it could be 10+ but it might simply be down to the hunting element of the game.
Car Wars Classic - A classic (hence the name!) reprint of one of those games from way back in the beginning of my hobby. I do expect to play this once in a while though as I remember it being a lot of fun and the stuff you get in the box warrants play i.e. the playmat maps alone make me want to go all Mad Max again plus with the new Mad Max film coming out I think Car Wars will be back with a bigger bang (edition) soon enough!
Cash & Guns (2nd Edition) - I played the original of this many years ago and it was always on my "to pick up" list as it's a fun game.
Coup : Reformation expansion - Coup is a great little game and Reformation adds more flavour to that "universe" by incorporating themes that look to be lifted from The Resistance (another great game from Indie Boards & Cards Games) oh and it increases the number of players up to 10.
Dark Dungeons DVD - Went to the première of this on the Friday night and it was great fun.  Plus JR Ralls signed my copy of Mazes & Monsters which was very cool of him.
Dragon Slayer - Another Indie Boards & Cards Games game.  In a similar vein to dice games like Zombie dice but feels more intuitive as you have a Slayer set and a Dragon set which are rolled together in an attempt to slay one of 3 dragons (Green, Blue and Red).  Quick and lots of fun.
Lords Of Xidit - Same universe as Seasons but a very different looking game.  It's based on a game called Himalaya (which I've never played) which was created by the same designer and as with a number of other games on my bought list the art is amazing.
Munchkin : Adventure Time - It's a gift for my brother Allan and his family. They're all Adventure Time crazy.  It means nothing to me.
Night Of The Grand Octopus (Link is in French) - Speaking of amazing art.  This is just gorgeous and I mean who doesn't want to play a game with gorgeous art like this? It's a game about summoning Cthulhu (The Grand Octopus) but it's not dark in any sense.  I'm really looking forward to trying this one out.
RARRR!! - You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a King Of Tokyo clone but it's not. Well not mechanically anyway.  The objective of the game is to make your own monster and then fight other monsters with it. Aimed at the younger market (8+) I really want to try this one out with my daughter.
Seasons : Path Of Destiny expansion - The most recent expansion for Seasons adds even more cards and some new mechanics.  It doesn't add any more players though :-(  I did however get a fabulous looking Seasons playmat for free! :-)
Sentinel Tactics - My primary purchase at Gen Con was ALL OF THE THINGS for this.  So I picked up the Flames Of Freedom Core Game, Uprising Expansion 1 and both sets of miniatures. It looks fantastic and the booth for Greater Than Games was packed the whole con with people getting demos of this and other games.  I also managed to pick up a Sentinels Of The Multiverse T-Shirt. I expect to get these painted by someone else as I want them done properly so might get my Battletech mechs done at the same time too.  We'll see.
T-Shirts - 6 other t-shirts were bought in addition to those already mentioned.  All of which were picked up from the Offworld Designs booth.
Shinobi Wat-Aah! - You may remember I had 2 Samurai games in my To Buy list?  Well I bought neither of those and ended up buying this one. I'll admit it was amidst the panic and I was already at the Iello booth and obviously the art is amazing.
Zombie Dice 2 & 3 - I picked these up just because I was at the SJ Games booth to pick up Car Wars Classic and also Munchkin : Adventure Time.

I also bought a giant foam d20, some large 32mm polyhedral dice and a Gen Con dice bag.  The 2 books in the picture are novels written by R. A. Salvatore.  I was asked by some friends to get his signature but I'll likely do a separate post about that experience!

Plus the eagle eye'd amongst you will have noticed the Anna and Elsa from Frozen dolls.  I've been trying to get these in the UK for my daughter for about 6 months to no avail as they're constantly out of stock.  Popped into a toy store in the Circle Centre Shopping Mall which is next to the convention centre and picked up Elsa on the Wednesday and Anna on the Sunday (was out of stock on the Wednesday). Very excited and happy 7 year old daughter achieved, in addition to getting me home again too of course!

So yeah, a lot of shopping was done at Gen Con and safe to say I don't expect I'll be buying anything any time soon!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Travelling To Gen Con 2014

So it started almost like part of my normal daily commute. In other words it started early.

5:30am departure to pick up Greg and then pick up Liz for us all to get into the airport for no later than 7:30am.  Or at least that was the plan.

As it turned out my body clock woke me up 20 minutes early and I ended up leaving the house earlier than planned too. Meant I had time for a brief stop off at the local supermarket before picking up Greg.  So far so good.

We were at this point about 20 minutes ahead of schedule and Liz had already messaged me to see where I was. "At Greg's" was my response and sure enough when we got to Liz's (probably 25 minutes early by this point) she wasn't ready.  10 minutes later though we were heading for the airport.

All good and so things continued to be.  Airport check-in had been done online so it was really just a bag drop then get through security. Unfortunately the print outs of the tickets were poor so we had to go back down to check-in and get new ones. Not big deal.
Security was strangely quiet (I'm used to it being mobbed when I travel for work) and we got through that with no hitches.

Quick browse of the retail offerings, a quick (expensive) breakfast and we met up with a fellow Gen Con traveller - Jon Hodgson, artist and art director extraordinaire for Cubicle 7.  Jon and I met during the 1st Chapter and he's a genuinely decent bloke. He was going to Gen Con for work reasons, something admittedly I hoped I still was but hey that's the 1st Chapter...

We spent an hour chatting about the con and what to expect including a minor critique of my "buy list" and that 3 hour wait largely sailed by.

Flight was on time and we headed for the gate at the perfect time to board.  Nothing of any real consequence to report.

The flight was a non-event other than it did seem to take an age but that's because it did.  Food - passable, comfort - Ok.  I read some of Mazes & Monsters (separate post on that to come) and I also dozed off at times which felt like a good plan to offset any jetlag.

Connection in Philidelphia went smoothly and we had enough time to sit and chat and drink beer (well Greg and I did).  The airport in Philli is more like a mall with some airport stands attached.  You could almost buy anything there including (to our collective amusement) a Harley Davidson.

I'd heard before that internal flights in the US feel like getting on a bus/train in the UK.  There were certainly elements of that to this flight as the crew seemed to be less regimented in explaining the safety detail etc.  There were some other Gen Con goers on the flight, nobody we knew and knowing that 50,000+ people would be attending there was very little desire at that time to engage.  Perhaps a bit bad of us but hey we just wanted to get there...

And so there we got. Flight was on time, bags were quick-ish for collection and we grabbed a cab into town.  Dropped Mr Hodgson off at his hotel en route and to then we got to the apartment.

Positives - Lots. Big roomy space and thankfully (for Liz mostly) a decent sofa to use as a bed.  I did offer to take the sofa but Liz declined the offer. Decent kitchen and so on.
Negatives - It's tired (and I'll feed this back to the agent) and in need of a freshening up in places.  Biggest thing though is that there's a smell...  Not oppresive but it's there and we can't identify it either.  It's not a big deal though as it's not disrupting sleep etc.

Other positives are the location both from a proximity to the convention centre perspective (sub 15 minutes leisurely walk) and the facilities around us.  Not least of which is Square which is right next door.  Great coffee and donuts which was perfect way to start our Wednesday.  Great comic/game store round the corner too and we took advantage of the nearby Farmer's Market for me to pick up bananas to at least attempt something healthy...

There is no such thing as a "local" supermarket from what we've seen so far but the Big Red Liquor store next door does soft drinks and snacks as well as beer - Sierra Nevada Summerfest being our choice.

So yeah, we are here and settled in.  No apparent jet lag either other than some aches (mostly me but that's nothing new),

I'll not commit to doing a day by day post but wanted to get something up to signify our arrival at what promises to be the Best Best Four Days In Gaming Ever.