Saturday, August 6, 2016

Gen Con 2016 Mini-Diary: Day 2

I am so proud of myself. I barely set foot in the main exhibit hall yesterday and did not make one purchase...well, except for paying for my pre-order of Codenames. It probably helped that I didn't get to the convention center until 1:30pm. So much of the day was gone by then that I wanted to just play games. And I did not regret getting there so late. Part of it was due to the fact that I'm rooming with five other people and there was no point in me trying to get ready until they were all done using the bathroom. And part of it was due to the pain in the butt that is my ethnic hair; soooo not dealing with that today--it's all about the ponytail.

People may poo-poo the fact that I wasted almost half a day at the con.  But I had gamed until 1:30am the night before, and so I chose to sleep in; I got to get ready in the morning without rushing and worrying about getting anywhere on time; and I got to avoid the mass hysteria that occurs when the doors open first thing in the morning. So I don't care so much what people think. This is my personal con experience, and I'm all about no stress at an event where I'm attending for the sole purpose of just having fun.

All I did on Day 2 was play games. Here's what I played:
  • Glory to Rome (out of print): Patrick Hillier taught me how to play this classic game, which happens to be his #1 favorite game of all time. And it is a great game. I love games with multi-use cards, and now that I've played it once and seen some of the special abilities of the buildings, I'd love to give it another try to improve my game, as Patrick and his son, Allen, are both sharks and destroyed me.
  • Gingkopolis (out of print): I played this for the first time online with Patrick last week and liked it; although, with the artificial intelligence taking care of things, I know there were a ton of mistakes I made, so I was happy to try this game in cardboard form on the table. Patrick and his son are sharks. This game...I've never both hated and liked something so much. I think this game is definitely rewarded by continued plays and is one of those games that frustrates me to no end, but is so interesting that I want to keep playing. I have a feeling I'll be playing this a lot more online on boiteajeaux.net.
  • Oceanos (published by Iello): I'm glad I got to get in a play of this game since there's no chance of me snagging a copy at this convention. I really liked this game a lot. It's simple to play, but there are a lot of different paths you can take to maximize your points, plus there's a little press-your-luck thrown in there, and also some luck due to the cards you're dealt, which you can mitigate through gameplay, at the sacrifice of other things. I love games like this where players can probably all take a different approach since there are so many to choose from. Some of the people I played with complained that too much was thrown into this simple game, but I liked that aspect of it. But everyone knows Feldfangirl loves multiple paths to victory. Oh, and this game looks amazing! So cute and full of color. I especially love that the skull-shaped front end of my submarine, named Naughty, had a gold tooth on it.
  • Klask (published by Gigamic): This game. I lost so miserably to Dan Patriss because I'm spastic and get way too excitable. This is a dexterity game that's like air hockey, but with magnetic pieces you control under the small game table. Super-fun, but I need to calm down and relax to play this game without knocking the ball off the table, knocking my main player piece all over, and just making a spastic fool of myself in general!
  • New Bedford (published by Greater Than Games[Dice Hate Me Games]): I finally got to play this game of historic whaling and city building. It was completely different from what I expected, and I enjoyed this game immensely. It's actually really easy to play, but rich with lots of choices to make. And I know some people are put off by the whaling aspect of the game, but, although the game feels thematic and historic, I didn't feel like an evil whaler since I was also just so in love with the mechanics of the game (Nat Levan, you clever designer).  This game is also really beautiful on the table (that soft art is just so aesthetically pleasing--Nolan Nasser, you ridiculously talented artist, you). And the game plays soooo fast; I had no idea. I've got my Kickstarter copy of this game waiting at home for me and due to the simple, but intriguing gameplay and its quick playtime, this game is going to see the table a lot.

Since I did have a late start to the day, that's all I got to play, but it was still a great, full, rich day to me. Man, I love this hobby.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Gen Con 2016 Mini-Diary: Day 1

I had such a great first day at Gen Con 2016. I witnessed this spectacle about 30 minutes before we could enter the exhibit hall. So many people waiting to stampede to the publisher's booth with their most coveted game.


Once we were let into the main exhibit hall I did get jostled around a little as the hall truly was packed. I, of course missed out on purchasing Oceanos at the Iello booth since only 50 copies were slated for sale per day (how dare they). ;) But I did acquire most of the games I mentioned in this post here. Those games were:
  • The Council of Blackthorn,
  • Covert,
  • Lotus,
  • Beyond Baker Street, and
  • Diamonds: The Thief Expansion.

I realized a few things during my first day at this con:
  • I should've taken trips to the car to dump my games. My shoulders were not happy with these skinny straps digging into my shoulders.
  • I should've had a game plan. I was walking around in circles a lot going to various booths and having to walk more than I should've had I mapped out a plan.
  • I'm glad I didn't have a game plan. It was nice to not have to rush anywhere in particular and just go with the flow.
  • I need to keep Motrin on me. I walked so much and by the end of the night/early morning I was hurtin' a little bit. So many steps walked on Day 1.


Two games of note I played on Day 1:
  1. Save the Cupcake, published by Asmadi Games: This is the early darling of Dan Halsted of the Podcast of Nonsensical Gamers. Balls rolling down a hill, Plinko-style, trying to crush a cupcake hidden at the bottom of the hill, one person playing as the Crusher and one person as the Defender. Silly and surprisingly thinky for such a simple game.
  2. Terraforming Mars, published by Stronghold Games: This game was not on my radar at all, and now of course I am coveting it really badly now that it's sold out. Each player plays as a different corporation using that corp's special ability to their advantage to increase their terraform rating and earn the most victory points. Soooo my type of game. Not too much player interaction, at least in my play of this game, which is just my speed, and it was great trying to create combos in my engine. Can't wait to play this again. I may have to pre-order it.
Alright, so I need to jump off here so I can head to Day 2. I have nothing planned today, just looking forward to meeting up with some friends I missed yesterday, maybe checking out some events, and, of course, playing some more games. The sky's the limit and we'll see what kind of hijinks I can get into.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Trek to a Convention

It's 11pm EST and I'm just now settled into my hotel room in Indianapolis, Indiana, ready to get a good night's sleep in preparation for the mayhem that is Gen Con tomorrow morning. I drove down with my friend, James, and this trek was so different from the one I took just a little over a month ago for the Origins Game Fair.

In June 2016 I took the 8-hour trek from my home in Virginia to Columbus, Ohio completely solo. The weather was great; the rolling, tree-filled mountains of West Virginia were incredibly beautiful; and the surprising amount of roadkill I saw on the side of the road once I entered Ohio was curious, puzzling, and interesting. But I will never...EVER...take that trip alone again. EVER!!! I had to make a pit stop just 2 hours into the trip, otherwise I would've ended up stopped at the foot of a mountain after having driven off the top of one. I had to stop several times actually. I think the only reason that I made that trip alive was because God must have some higher purpose in mind for me in the future because that drive was brutal. It lulled me straight into "let's take a nap" mode. The trek home was just as bad, maybe worse.

Today's trip to Indianapolis was two hours longer than the one to Columbus, and I can't believe it's already over. Granted, we did whine about why no one has yet created a teleporter (we literally did), and our backsides are still tingling from the blood just now being able to rush back into our glutes, but with a driving companion the drive was so much more tolerable. We chatted, laughed together, and even played Ben Pinchback's and Matt Riddle's roadtrip game Cow Tiger Santa Claus (that clown is so elusive). We snacked together on beef jerky, gummy bears, and my favorite roadtrip food, Gardetto's snack mix. And because of this awesome companionship, the drive went by in a breeze, and that 10 hour drive was only as brutal as maybe 2 of those 8 hours of me driving solo to Columbus.

I know some people like to drive alone. But for a long drive like that, to an event that, to me, is mostly about the people I get to spend some extra time with participating in a hobby I love, starting out the trip with friends can make what I believe to be the hardest part of the trip tolerable and even enjoyable. That's your Convention Trek PSA of the day.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

My Personal Convention Progression

I'm not much of a traveler. I grew up in California and moved to Virginia in 2005 and in those 11 years I've gone back to visit my old home twice. But dern it if I haven't traveled so much this year for boardgame conventions. And I still have a bunch more traveling to do yet!

When I first got into boardgaming last year it was a month before Gen Con. I heard so much anticipation about Gen Con having just gotten connected to a little of the boardgaming community on Twitter, and was constantly seeing posts of people excited for the convention. Then the con happened, and I followed the heck outta some Gen Con tweets. The videos and pics of the herds of people practically trampling each other as they swarmed through the doors into the exhibit halls first thing in the morning are my most vivid recollections. And it made me almost never want to go to Gen Con. It looked CRAZY!!!!! I feel like I'd need a breath and a nice long scan of my surroundings in order to just orient myself in that huge exhibit hall, but that I wouldn't have the time lest I get trampled!

Despite my fear of probable death at Gen Con, I was super envious of the people who were there. They seemed to be acquiring awesome, newly released games; they got to meet up with friends that they only see a few times a year; and they got to basically have Gamer Summer Camp together with their friends for four or five days; and they got to game a lot, through demonstrations during convention hours and through after-hours gaming. Those parts sounded awesome.  And now I will be attending my first Gen Con. A friend of mine at home was supposed to be deployed overseas with the Army, but ended up not getting sent off. As soon as he heard he was staying he said, "I'm goin' to Gen Con. Wanna come?" So here I come. And thankfully I have a few other conventions under my belt to hopefully minimize the shock of the spectacle that is to be expected at this con.

For newbie gamers and first-time convention goers, my suggestion is to start by attending smaller conventions before hitting up the insanity that is Gen Con. To follow, I'll outline my personal progression of group gaming and convention experiences.

  • Home Game Group (July 2015 - present)
    • Started with long game days with the game group I found at home through meetup.com
    • Biweekly game nights in peoples' homes
    • Biweekly game days at the library, some lasting 6 hours
    • Made some good friends who would then come over to game after gaming at the library ended
    • I remember gaming one night at my house until 4am--I called it a mini Wade Manor Con
  • Unpub Mini (October 2015)
    • Local to me, hosted by a game design group in the area
    • All-day unpublished games event for designers to get their games playtested
    • I playtested games with my friends for hours
    • Good crowd of about 40-50 people
  • PrezCon (February 2016)
    • An hour and a half drive away
    • It's a 7 day convention, but I only attended 4 days
    • Seven hundred people in attendance competing in tournaments and participating in open gaming--I only participated in open gaming
    • I didn't know many people except my fellow co-hosts on The State of Games podcast, but by the end they'd introduced me to so many new people that I'm almost comfortable enough to go back next year without needing my original friends as a comforting safety blanket.
  • Unpub 6 (April 2016)
    • Large, yearly unpublished games convention in Baltimore, MD
    • My podcast co-hosts were busy doing game industry stuff and working, one of them being the president of Unpub, so I was mostly left on my own and became Shy Jessica
    • Playtested a lot of games and played a lot of games after-hours
    • Ended up making some good friends and now that I know how the event works, I'll feel way more comfortable next year (and will make sure to peruse the list of prototypes to make sure I hit the ones I'm most interested in)
  • Origins Game Fair (June 2016)
    • Annual convention in Columbus, OH
    • Over 52,000 people in attendance, turnstyle
    • I mostly participated in open gaming with new friends I made through Twitter and my podcast co-hosts (finally met a fellow contributor on the WDYPTW Podcast Thing, Patrick Hillier)
    • Spent way too much money on game purchases
    • Had so...much...good...food (I wanna move to Columbus, I think)
    • I cannot wait until next year!!!!!!! Loved this convention so much!!!!

And that's my con history until this Thursday when my feet will cross the threshold of the Indiana Convention Center for Gen Con. I think progressing steadily through smaller then larger conventions has conditioned me to be able to survive Gen Con coming up this week....I hope. I don't have my days planned, which may be a mistake, but I know there'll be plenty of things to see, and I'm sure I'll have plenty of experiences to share.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Gen Con Anticipation

I can't believe I let my friend, James, talk me into going to Gen Con this year. Gen Con is the biggest gaming convention to occur each year in the United States and runs from August 4th through the 7th this year.  Just a couple more days until I leave (...and of course I haven't started packing yet). I've heard so many things about Gen Con and still remember how insane the photos of the mass hourdes of people were from last year's convention.

However, I am looking forward to it. I get to see and spend some time with some of my podcast-mates who I don't get to see regularly since we're spread out across the country. I'll also get to play some newly released games that my friends purchase.... That my friends purchase, not games that I purchase. I have to try to curb my spending at this con. I literally don't know how much money I spent on games at the Origins Game Fair in June. AND I bought more games through Amazon when I came home. Nope, not goin' overboard this time!

However, there are some games that I hope my friends purchase, or that I at least get to demo during the exhibit hall hours. Below are those games.

  • Ice Cool, published by Brain Games, Booth 2858
    • Igloo/penguin-themed flicking dexterity game
    • Wobbly pieces are flicked and go every which direction
    • Nesting boxes make up the game board/arena (this is pretty cool)
  • Oceanos, published by Iello, Booth 249
    • Ocean/submarine exploratio-themed set-collection game
    • Unique card drafting mechanism that I might actually like
    • Amazing art and production quality
  • The Council of Blackthorn, published by Great Northern Games, Booth 2738
    • Play cards to build influence and power at the risk of gaining too many hidden treason points
    • At game end, player with the most treason points gets beheaded
    • Then, player with the most influence is declared the winner (I love how this will force people to think about balance)
  • Covert, published by Renegade Game Studios, Booth 2304
    • Spy-themed game with a dice-placement mechanic
    • Players race to complete missions, but always have future missions in mind, so you're always thinking several steps ahead (oh, my poor friends having to sit through my Analysis Paralysis)
  • Lotus, published by Renegade Game Studios, Booth 2304
    • Some amazingly gorgeous art
    • Very zen-like set-completion game with some area-control
    • 30 minute playtime and very approachable--would be a great filler to add to my game group
  • Beyond Baker Street, published by Z-Man games, Booth 1429
    • Sherlock Holmes-themed
    • Cooperative Hanabi-type mechanic in which players can see the other players' cards, but not their own
  • Diamonds: The Thief (expansion), published by Stronghold Games, Booth 2323
    • Thief token gets passed around to prevent collusion and ganging up on one player
    • Only $5 (must buy for this trick-taking lover)

With the exception of Beyond Baker Street, I have not played any of the games. I LOVE Beyond Baker Street and will purchase that one, and I may just buy Ice Cool outright, but I want to try the other ones out before possibly making a purchase. I can't wait to see if I my high expectations of these games are met.