I tried out four new RPGs, most of which I’ve been following casually since development– and one, Burning Wheel, which I’d owned but had been too intimidated to run without playing. After playing it, I think I could run it– and would enjoy doing so. Dresden was fun– very like I expected, but it was great to see the other players go “click” when they got Aspects. The game was crazy and over the top by the end, when it all sang. The GM took some chances, but they paid off beautifully, and really reinforced the feel of the novels. Star Wars was very well run intrigue– and I accidentally got to play the straight man– the only guy no one had a hold on. So they kept me in the dark– as a player and PC both– and it was a blast. Of course, it didn’t end quite right… my dice went on a hot streak and the rebel defectors fell to my blaster. 😉 Pathfinder was interesting; it’s exactly as advertised– a slight cleanup and extension of 3.5. I was able to play confidently from my character sheet, despite never looking at the book.
Meeting writers of blogs and RPG books was less exciting than I’d anticipated. Despite following people for years, it’s all one way, so conversations really stalled at the “nice to meet you” stage. Which, really, is fine– I’d never pushed to make them closer before, and a con with so many new faces wasn’t the place.
Conversely, finally meeting the people I’ve been writing with for a couple of years was neat. We didn’t schedule enough together time– I could have spent a day, easy, in camaraderie, but we were all trying to fill our GenCon, most were traveling with other friends, and so on. Still, it was great to meet them, the same night we won the Ennie– which was nice. The ceremony was too long, and Pathfinder’s roll of victories (something like 11 of 21 categories) got a little embarrassing after a while. The workshop the next morning was great– I’m not a huge public speaker, but it was very comfortable passing the conversation and questions back and forth, due to our years of interaction. Winning a silver Ennie was great– I think it caught us all off guard. Selling out the 50 con copies of Eureka was gratifying– all the way through the design I though the product category was a long shot because so little system neutral stuff does well. I was pleasantly surprised to find out otherwise– though some of that was due to our sights not being too large.
Open board gaming was a way to fill the cracks; it was interesting to see which games were popular enough to maintain tournaments years after their release. The Rio Grande room was great– they had a roving demo staff who would come up to you when you sat down at a board, and would walk you through the first couple of turns. I got to try out several new games, which was a nice spot of fun. They also had Dominion’s new expansion, Prosperity, which really broke the mold of the first few sets. It’s intentionally inflationary, and I suspect that it won’t mesh well with core sets Dominion– or, rather, that games using Prosperity cards will feel more like Prosperity than core Dominion.
I blew off a game for more dealer’s hall roaming Sunday. The dealer’s hall was impressive, sometimes overwhelming. Each time I’d hit an area I’d see new booths I’d somehow not noticed on the previous pass. Given my biases, it was more amazement at the variety of goodies out there than the need to buy much that struck me… but the IPR booth was dangerous, particularly when a designer pitched their own game.
Sunday morning we also got a very quick demo of Battles of Westeros, FFG’s new “Battlelore” core set. We all liked it right away, and I think it’s a lot like a Euro-game version of most tactical minis games; about a 90 minute play time, simple but deep rules, with lots of room for strategy but a strong influence by luck. We bought BoW and it’s been a frequent play this week. We have the rules down pretty smoothly now, and once the new game luck wore off for me, Jennifer enjoyed it too.
It was sometimes overwhelming, often fun in a small way, sometimes fun in a huge way, and simply an amazing experience. I have no idea when I’ll get to go again, but I hope it’s some time soon.
More on the RPGs (from the original post):
Burning Wheel was great to see in play; I’ve long owned it, but had been intimidated by the rules. I now think I could tackle it.
Dresden was great– I love the novels– but what really made it sing was watching the non-Fate players “get” Aspects. We did some crazy big, crazy cool stuff. I’m going to steal the GM’s big marker and index cards for keeping track of scene and city aspects– having them in front of you reminded you to tag them for awesomeness.
My Star Wars game involved some really well run intrigue. It was great to play with my normal Star Wars GM– he’s long run it, but hadn’t had a chance to actually play. Winding up the accidental straight man, and rolling incredibly lucky just when the story required that I not do so was great.
Learning byswarm’s “Dark Golden” world and Pathfinder was neat. The easy grapple rules really were impressive, and familiarity from long play of 3.5 made it relaxing.