Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Three Cons, Old Friends, and a Boom

I have been busy as heck lately, and playing a lot of games.

Work sent me out to GenCon, were I ran demos of Shadows of Brimstone, Forbidden Fortress, Last Night On Earth, Fortune & Glory, and A Touch Of Evil. It was super fun and I love sharing and teaching many of my favorite games to total strangers... but it was also very exhausting because GenCon is a huge show with a million faces and a hundred thousand games.

In my off hours at the con, I played a couple of new games I hadn't tried before.

Incan Gold is a fun press-your-luck game that I reliably came in... well, certainly not winning, but not in last place, either, so I feel like I did okay for a newbie. The best part was that I got to play the game with my old friend Brendan Riley, who lives far away and I hadn't seen in several years, and my buddy Bill French. I never would have expected them to meet, given that they live in different states, but GenCon is a place of miracles.

Brendan's company Rattlebox Games is playtesting a game called Udder Chaos, the only competitive cow-milking game I've ever seen. It's fast and goofy and full of rhymes. It was light-hearted fun, and you'd be helping support a old friend of mine, so check it out if you get a chance.

One night at GenCon I played a party game called Buy The Rights, in which you get a random hand of high concepts and genres and have to make your best pitch about why producers should invest money with you. I hammed it up, basically role-playing as a different screenwriter or producer in each round, and it turns out that nonsense is a very successful strategy in this game.

The other fun new experience of this GenCon for me was Hellapagos, a party game that starts out fully cooperative and then suddenly very quickly descends into murder and sometimes cannibalism. It was a social game that really felt like the first season of Lost. Everyone was working together to build a raft and catch fish, except for a couple slackers who just raided the wreckage for personal treasures. Much fun was had by all, including those who died when suddenly everyone started scrambling for the limited space on the raft. I, as one of those horrible slackers who spent a lot of turns searching the wreck, found a decent supply of bullets, which I traded 1 at a time to the only person who had found a gun, in exchange for her using them on people other than myself. In the end, 3 of the 8 players, including myself, made it back to civilization to tell the story of how we were the sole survivors of the wreck. Just don't ask about the barbecue.

Shortly after getting back from GenCon, I packed my suitcase a second time and headed to my favorite little (~1,000 attendees) local gaming convention, Dragonflight. I had originally planned to just go for fun, but at the last minute agreed to volunteer to run the Story Games Lounge when the usual volunteer dropped out. As it turns out, volunteering to run the Story Games room is itself a lot of fun.

First day of Dragonflight Game Convention:

GM'd an awesome double-length Psi*Run for 7 players.

Explored an alien planet in The Quiet Year

Lost a game of Snake Oil to the dreaded Fraud card

Played "2 Rooms and a Boom" till my brains hurt. It's a great social-deduction game, kind of like "Are You A Werewolf?" except everyone gets to play the entire game and know one has to die until the last couple seconds.

Won a game of Jetpack Unicorn. Honestly, I'm not crazy about this game. I think Superfight does the same thing, but better.

Played some more 2 Rooms and a Boom. (Across 6 games I've now been on both teams a couple times, been the bomber and been an Ambassador.)

On Day 2 of Dragonflight:

 GM'd Og the caveman RPG for 5 players. No use big words play Og. The cavemen met The Doctor, and caused a regeneration.

GM'd another successful Psi*Run, for 4 new players. Hallucinatory madness derailed everything in a delightful way.

Hosted a giant marathon Microscope timeline for 6 players. It was epic! One of the best-developed, most fleshed-out microscope games I've ever seen. These new players really picked it up quickly and dove deep into the game.

That night, I got the band back together! Playing in Laura Mortensen's annual midnight Urchin game, as my recurring character, Rory Wanker of the formerly famous Rory Wanker and the Bloody Stickers. We're making a comeback, if only in my mind.

Other games played in the Story Game Lounge included more Quiet Year, some Zombie Cinema, and a few escapades of esteemed Baron Munchausen.

Day 3 of Dragonflight:

Played in a delightful Lego and d20s game run by Tim Beach. Two of the 5 players were kids, and they kept the game light-hearted and unpredictable. Tim did an amazing job of making the game work on the kids level and not lose the adults to boredom. Nearly all of my GMing experience in the last 20 years is with adults, but I can only imagine GMing for kids takes extra creativity, patience, and panache. Well done, sir.

Later that night:
I went to a birthday party at Zulu's game cafe. While there, we played a game of Dark Gothic. We all lost when the Shadows filled up in a sudden hurry. Quite the shame, as I was super close to winning, and probably could have done so in one to two more turns.

The next weekend:

Battlestar Galactica board game with old friends I hadn't seen in forever: Andy Collins, Gwen Kestrel, and Greg Collins (and their friend Ben). I was a frakking toaster the whole time, and I successfully destroyed the pathetic human fleet by breaking their morale. It was a solid game, and the humans came very close to winning. Possibly the closest game I've ever played of BSG. 

After that, we played Between Two Cities, which is a very clever cooperative drafting and tile-placement game where you're building a city together with the player on your right and simultaneously building another city together with the player on your left. I didn't do so good at this, coming in 4th out of 5th place. I love the entire-cooperative nature of the mechanics, and how that's counter-weighted by the scoring. It's a game that exists in a very unique head space. I want the players adjacent to me to do well, and any other players to do poorly, but I don't really have a way cause that second part. There's probably some deeper strategy I'm not seeing yet, but I can at least admire the novelty of this truly unique game.

We followed that up with Royal Turf. It's a Knizia game about horse racing and betting on horse racing. In the abstract the topic doesn't sound interesting to me at all, like if you said "want to play a game about racetrack betting?" I'd reply with "not unless it's Royal Turf". Every time I play it I feel like a) I'm really not very good at it,  and b) the game is surprisingly fun and enjoyable despite all that.

Then the wonderful Bobbie Hyde showed up to pick me up and we talked her into playing a round of Decrypto. It's a team code-guessing game, and we both really enjoyed it. If I didn't already own Codenames Duet, I would immediately rush out and by Decrypto. I feel Decrypto is a much better game than normal Codenames, but that makes it about equal with Codenames Duet (which is closer to codenames, but also generally a vastly improved version of Codenames itself).

So, it's been a summer cavalcade of new games and old friends. Pretty damn cool way to spend the days. And it ain't over yet. This weekend is PAX West! I will once again be running demos of Flying Frog adventure games. Sleep is for the weak.