Visiting Gatewaycon 2016

Last weekend Jennifer and I drove down to Strategicon. We had a good weekend–not perfect by any means, but a great getaway.

On Friday, we hit a Santa Monica local place for lunch, essentially at random. It was tasty Thai… and I’ll probably never be able to find it again.

We checked into the hotel around 4, got things moved up to the room easily (we didn’t overpack as badly this time), and rested after our ride, before dusting off Pathfinder and checking out our characters. We brought some snacks down, joined Zach, and played some PFS from 8 until past midnight.

Unfortunately, the GM had received the adventure less than 2 hours before the game started and he was new to GMing. He did great though–and it turned out that he’d prepped wisely, by pressing his girlfriend into work as his dungeon drawing assistant while he read the adventure. (She was done before we reached the table–she had a game of her own to play.) Anyway, it was a good experience, though mostly because we got to play with Zach.

Saturday had a lazy beginning–no urgent morning game. Jennifer and I cruised the dealer hall… a little too quickly. The turnout among venders was much worse; basically no one was carrying indie games unless they were demoing their own. Speaking of which, I did get to play an enjoyable abstract–reminiscent of checkers, with movement allowances dictated by a card deck draw. It wasn’t bad, but it’s not one that’d make it to my table. Still, pleasant enough and the game was quick to play.

After lunch with Zach and Jennifer, I grabbed my gear and headed down to run my Dogs in the Vineyard game, Destiny Branch. (It’s the same branch I ran at the minicon–the familiarity from repeated exposure to the NPCs was great.) I had two preregistrations on day 1, which filled the game. (Only half can be reserved online, with the other half available for signup at the con.) At the con, I had +3 signups on paper. Only 2 people, both the preregistrants, actually sat at my table. Fortunately, Dogs is great with a pair.

They tackled it in a very different manner from my June game, in part prompted by the different relationships they selected with the locals. The blight sign (from an overlook of the town) prompted them to ride directly to the farms, where their relations (and a love interest) were. The next morning they talked with the most affected farmer, then rode into town and encountered the obnoxious gold leaf being placed. From there they saw the Steward… and went off to the final confrontation.

It was a solid session; both players were new to the game, but character generation led to interesting characters who really engaged. They’d both heard about it recently and decided to give it a try. Both really enjoyed the dice mechanic, but wondered about drifting the game to another setting (a less problematic one). I talked about how the problematicness was baked right in, intentionally… it was a great discussion.

After the game, I grabbed a quick Cobb salad (thanks to Bryan for putting that in my head–it’s good fuel!) from the hotel Starbucks and headed up to my table to run my fate game, Camp X. Unfortunately, while it also had two signups early in the online preregistration, by the con one had been changed to “badge refunded”. The one player wasn’t joined by any paper signups, so decided not to bother showing up for a game that wouldn’t fire. [I presume.]

After waiting 15 minutes and noting the attendance as zero, I excitedly headed to the (poorly advertised) Games on Demand. When I got there, a sign explained that six games were on offer (mostly GMless favorites, like Microscope, The Quiet Year, and Kingdom).

(Aside) Games on Demand Pros:

  • Games on demand is a great concept, successfully implemented at GenCon, etc.
  • They scheduled the slots to begin 30 minutes after the roleplaying slots–so, if your game was canceled, you always had a backup available.

Games on Demand Cons:

  • Poor advertisement: It got a decent placement, but I hadn’t heard about it at all, and it was only a line in the Con Schedule Book. I don’t know if it was listed online–since “on demand” meant that you don’t signup in advance.
  • At 8:20 pm, one guy was holding the room and didn’t really seem to understand the concept. He wasn’t a player or GM, didn’t point me to the game interest/signup list or anything else.

Anyway, no game fired with only me present and signed up as interested. After 8:30, we both wandered away.

I headed down to the board game area; it was still quite busy. After drifting around the room and awkwardly looking over people’s shoulders, I came to the HQ table, where they kept track of the events on a white board. I noticed that a Captain Sonar 101 (demo) was going to start at 9, which was in just a few minutes. I was present when the organizer arrived and they discussed which tables would be free for use and where we could muster and discuss crews. There were 31 signups; I made 32.

We gathered in the hallway where we could discuss things without having to shout so loudly. Most of the attendees had never played, though a few had played one position. As resident “expert” and enthusiast, I was provided a crew of three other players and an opposing team. Much as when Josh taught us, we went through a few turns… then leaped into real time. My ship took terrific damage from loading up systems, but eventually we cornered our foe and landed a pair of perfect torpedo hits, eeking out a victory.

Unfortunately, we had only one game box, so we all got up and swapped out for the next two crews. Much like previous times, the people who weren’t playing (and random people walking by) clumped up around the game to study and cheer the teams on. After the second match, we had hit “tournament time” (the demo was scheduled for an hour), but with only one box we built a few more crews (I played one more match) and turned the subs loose on each other. All in all, a very fun end to the evening.

I set my alarm so I could get to Pat’s table for his Fate: Pacific Rim game. He had perfect attendance–6 players showed up on time, with one showing up 20 minutes late and having to get turned aside.

It came off incredibly well; he’d prepared a cool soundtrack that ran in the background (with key moments having custom tracks), and a great in media res beginning with a patrol off to rescue a crashed ship… and fight off a wave of Kaiju.

The fight was the densest, most complete Fate fight I’ve experienced. The pair of people working together to manuever a Jaeger made for a great partner to bounce ideas off. We generated a ton of Aspects for our positioning, target systems, our efforts to distract them and more–and needed them, since the Kaiju could take a tremendous beating and ignored minor pokes.

It was a slick, well produced game–clearly a labor of love. We even walked away with cool mini-movie posters featuring our Jaeger: mine was Aurora Bombshell. Don’t mess with Artemis and Athena!

After another Cobb salad, I got to my afternoon Dungeon World game. It was stacked with engaged players; a pair were new to the system, while the guy to my right was a regular GM of the game.

We explored (and slew!) the Everinth, a twisting collection of elements the demon had eaten over time, including whole towers, sewers, natural caverns and much more. It was a weird and sometimes surreal journey to the labyrinth’s heart…

It was a great one-shot. I made a mistake that I often do–picking a less flashy character–but my portly dwarven cleric got plenty of well tailored hooks (and moves) directed at him. There were a number of good moments, including the PCs stretched out along an icy cliff and climbing–only to hear dragon wings as the lead team reached a cave ahead! Poor Drummond clung to the icy wall, but Dagolir went tumbling down to smash into the icy pond below. Fortunately, Slog kept the dragon busy until Cinder Colfang scorched it badly in its protruding rear… which prompted a roar of pain… and Slog’s sword stab through the top of the dragon’s open mouth.

Several other good scenes popped up; the GM had a logic to the connections between the surreal locations that we moved between–eventually discerned–and lots of vivid locations for us to court danger. Plus our bonds threw us together and encouraged conflict in good ways throughout the adventure.

All in all, it was a great night and a cool tale to kick Drummond’s adventures into new motion.

After the session, I caught the close of Mike’s Traveler game, where I was scheduled to join Mike and Pat for dinner. Unfortunately, a mishap left Mike unable to join us, so Pat and I headed out for night of good conversation on the town. It was nice to get away from the con a bit and catch up.

On return to the con, I headed down to board games learn Glory to Rome. It’s an interesting card game; still popular despite not being published for a while. After a half-game during the 101, I joined the tournament that followed. There… I got to see some very effective strategies, though I did luck into a pretty good one myself. After being eliminated, I headed up to sleep.

Monday We slept in late, before checking out and loading up the car. We returned to see Shane’s game being playtested, but got distracted in the hall by a cool Sherlock Holmes game in development. We got a good description, then got to play through a quick game with another curious customer and the friend of the designer who was demoing.

It’s a fun cooperative game with great art. It’s thematic, and has a great mechanism for connecting clues to tie Moriarty to crimes. On the flip side, Moriarty’s deck makes him threatening… but sometimes he’s so scheming far ahead that you don’t have to worry about this turn’s fiendish twist.

Afterwards, we got a chance to see (but were too late to play) Shane’s space merchant game in development. It was in a much earlier phase–still printed pieces without art. It looked interesting but complicated to explain. Gameplay seemed much less complex once you got started only the techs of your specific ship to worry about.

After watching them play for about a half-hour, Jennifer and I hit the road home. We beat the worst of the traffic–there was some stop-and-go after the 405 joined the 5, but it wasn’t that bad. Then over the mountains and the flat road home.

Random recent links

Saga Character Sheet (pdf), Random dungeon maker review
Free 4e character manager, 4e power organization tip, Good GMing advice for beginning players and GMs
Free 4e trial reviewed and direct link.
4 commonly missed 4e rules
4e Skill challenges revisited, More card substitutions

Candids as 3.5 race

RMap web builder
Game to try: Passage
Random Average Wiki home

PTA: Have games, will travel talks about their season of PTA
Doyce tries PTA again… Home, Pitch Session, and Pilot Episode.

Mouseguard: Doyce, MJ Harnish and Martin
Burning Wheel Resources

Larping with kids
Character background development with: Cards and online

Official Map of the Verse

Operation Damocles Errata–
Phase 1:
• Mission 1: The asterisk (*) on the secondary objectives means that the defender cannot access these benefits.
• Mission 4: The area shaded in blue is the defender’s deployment zone. The defender also has an access zone on the lower edge of the map.
Phase 2:
• Mission 4: The node must be controlled to be able to influence the nanodisturbance.
AT-43 cards

Haywire’s Hobbies: Modding AT-43 figures
Star Ranger’s Full Thrust page

Other Games:
Board Game Quick Reference Sheets (Awesome!)
Zombie Cinema sounds like a very interesting game.
Roll through the Ages: The Bronze Age (2009) Playtest Review by Shannon Appelcline (5/5): A well-designed and fun dice game that gives you all the enjoyment of building a Civilization to last the ages in 45 minutes or less.
Fun little (free) dueling game
Small World (5/5 by Shannon).A terrific fantasy war game that tracks the rise and fall of civilizations and plays in just 90 minutes.

An easy polenta meal
Cooking w/ dried beans

ASCE journal RSS feeds
James Tyner’s poetry
Free SF (claimed as scientifically accurate)
An interesting traffic phenomenon & A tale of two exurbs
Credit crisis explained (11 min video)
Hilzoy’s video
Easy wine guide (for Dad)
Poor non-gnomes
Comic to Investigate
Honest and mostly my questions too

Recent random links

Scott Metz’s link page, with links for Serenity, D&D, and more.
Serenity themes and premises, an investigation/discussion.

Carefully Prepared Improvisation
Story Now, long Heroquest example

Blink Dogs in 4e
3.5e Monster Generator and Random dungeons
Giant list of house rule options for 4e
Round Table discussion of PH2 classes
Martin’s detailed look at the PH2

A good quick names trick.
F-sharp, a very rules light FATE derivative
Swashbucklers of the 7 skies sounds cool
Mouse Guard campaigns, characters, etc.

Story Games is still out there.
A Spirit of the Century short campaign from Story Games.

A Memory of Light, the final Wheel of Time book, to be released November 2009.
A cool short story
Gametable goodness; cool to drool over

Struggle for Rome

Struggle for Rome is a Settlers of Catan variant that we picked up in Rome. Unfortunately, the version we bought has only Italian rules. Here are various resources for the game:
wikipedia overview
Board Game Geek page, including translations of the quick reference cards in PDF format.
Mayfair games page: Home page for the English version of the game
ProfEasy tutorial, for a quick English introduction to the game.
Reviews: one, two.

Lots of clutter

RPGThoughts, a new blog.

I bookmarked this for the post’s name… I need to see what it is. Dr Who Torchwood and BSG

How cities change over time

I am TRex, a political humor blog.
Thick political newsfeed
Cheryl’s Mewsings: a cool sci-fi fandom site.

Levi is working on a SotC/Perfect 20 cross
Tokyo Rain RPG developer’s log. Interesting discussion about emulating the books. (The books also sound cool…)
Fantastic Dice Bag.

(Investigate): Bacchus’ Banquet Playtest Review by Shannon Appelcline (5/5).
Wordfare Playtest Review by Tom Vasel (5/3).
(Read) El Capitn (2007)
An interesting sounding expansion to Mare Nostrum: Mythology.
AT-43 company manager

Board Games with Dave

I flew to Las Vegas to join Chris and Jarred at David and Nicole’s for a weekend of board gaming. We started from the moment we got to Dave’s house, and played through the weekend. We got in a lot of games…

Saturday we started with Blind Justice, where you play trial lawyers in the 80s. It’s a solid game; Jarred continued his winning streak, making it to the end while we were still struggling in district court.

We also played a few games of Guillotine, which was good silly fun. Many heads were collected…

Continue reading “Board Games with Dave”

Recent Gaming Discussions

Aim for an ending Good advice for creating a punchy game with a strong conclusion, without railroading.

EnWorld thread with lots of good game pitches. Specifically for a Chicago Gameday, but the pitches are well crafted.

Is D&D getting overwhelmingly complex? An interesting discussion.

[All Systems] Process of Character Creation. Lots of specific detail– great for inspiration and a teaser for lots of specific games.

[Design Theory] Fun outside of conflict scenes, about character development scenes and other places where the rules get thin.

Not roleplaying, but…
FUMBBL :: Online Blood Bowl League. From this post, Do you fumbbl?

Gameblog. A Finnish guy babbles about his board gaming, much like my After Actions.

After Action: Monday Sept. 25th

We gathered a different group tonight; Emily and Jennifer D were able to show, since I wasn’t scheduling against their classes. Unfortunately, Jerret and Dad were both feeling ill, so they weren’t able to make it. My Jennifer was much peppier and joined us for the first couple of games.

We started with a game of Killer Bunnies. After mighy struggles, a micro black hole and other warfare, Jennifer D had the magic carrot.

Then we moved on to Medici. I did pretty well on the first day of trading; on the second Emily and I both crossed 100. The game wound up ending much closer than it looked after the first couple of rounds– I think we each finished between 120 and 145, with Emily the victor.

We finished up with a fun game of Fluxx— after some play and a lot of resets and low draw rates, Ben finally pushed himself and me to victory with the goal 5 Keepers.

After Action: September 6th

We had a short crew tonight, but got in a couple of fun games. We also got to enjoy Jerret’s birthday and some Chinese food, so it was a merry night indeed.

We started with Ticket to Ride Europe. We started out with most of us (Jennifer, me, and Jerret) building in France and West Germany, with Dad hiding out in Russia. Our paths tangled a bit but diverged pretty quickly; I headed north to Sweden, Jerret headed north to Edinburough, Jennifer headed into the Alps, and Dad expanded to the west.

Continue reading “After Action: September 6th”

After Action: September 4th

Zach was in town, so we got together and had a big day of gaming. It was a lot of fun– we pulled out a lot of pointed competition games. The antagonism around the table was fun…

We began with Web of Power. Zach, Dad, and I hadn’t played in a long time, while this was Jerret’s first time. The first game was hard fought, but Zach’s advisors really bailed him out in the final count– he rose from last to first on their strength. Even so, the final scores were pretty close.

Continue reading “After Action: September 4th”