Gencon 2009! Pink Hair, Goggles and Dominion
J Boyes
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It is long after Gencon I know, but belatedly here is this years excitement.

Anyone else who treked out to Indy this year feel free to add your adventures.
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1. Board Game: Road Trip [Average Rating:5.75 Unranked]
J Boyes
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The road trip there, a pile of us, seven in all rode out in one giant SUV, a snail on top of the thing and a playlist aptly entitled WTF? We had a gencon newbie with us, which is always fun. For the most part we talked, napped, played a round of ghost, stopped for restroom breaks a lot as we had two pregnant ladies with us.

One game we play on the ride out to indy every year is, “IS THAT CAR GOING TO GENCON?” This was just an awful year for it, I don't think I saw a single vehicle stuffed with nerds or with a cthulu bumper sticker. Nobody with a single wizard holding a crystal dashboard jesus, or even a beat up cavalier filled with guys with beards eating fast food. Very disappointing, maybe we were on the road at the wrong time.
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2. Board Game: Swag [Average Rating:6.17 Unranked]
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Arrival and disappointment

I didn't preregister for Gencon this year, because when I went to do it, a month ahead of time their website had shut it down, Really?

The Wednesday evening line for badges wasn't bad. I was behind a guy who about halfway through the line apparently decided that he might starve to death, so he opened his backpack and took out a foil wrapped burrito. Be prepared.

The disappointment comes from the Swag Bags. Wow, I heard that gencon was going to be smaller this year, but the swag bag had, I think a single half booster of magic cards in it, and the gencon themed six sider that is an incentive for buying more dice at one of the booths. And a bunch of ads. That is it. No admiral ackbars, no crappy ccg games I had never heard of. There was much bitching and moaning.

Every year there is a girl who makes a costume out of things donated from swag bags, I hear this year she went naked.
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3. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:72] [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked]
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Dominion

This was a good year for board games it seems. Especially dominion, everywhere you went there were people playing dominion, intrigue regular, whatever, we demoed it and Rio Grande got a couple of sales out of our group. I think it is a really strong game.

Rio Grande last year had food, soda and water in their room. And we got fresh veggies even fairly late in the con. Word must have gotten out this year as gamers swarmed on free roasted veggies and just left a tray of wilted pepper scraps.
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4. Board Game: Wasabi! [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:1197]
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Wasabi

Z-man games keeps on coming out with consistently interesting games. I really like this company. One of the first games we demoed at the con was Wasabi, a game where you fill recipes out and get points. It was easy to learn and fun to play. I think our group ended up buying 2 copies, one being a gift, and the last copy at the con as well. I saw people playing it around, I think at least in the circles I saw ran as a minor hit of the con.
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5. Board Game Publisher: Z-Man Games
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Z-man games

I also picked up a copy of Agricola this year. I think it is a solid game and I have had fun the few times I played it. I also picked up a copy of 1960 race for the president, but I was a bad person and bought it from a discounter booth rather than the z-man booth. Z-man got my agricola money so I don't feel too bad.

The table for the tales of the arabian nights demo was always full, but I managed to get on it with a friend and two strangers. The game is interesting in that, what is going to happen to you kind of way. You don't have a ton of control over what happens to you, but the results were entertaining. I think playing this with a group of friends could be a good amount of fun, but after the demo I didn't think that it was a game I needed in my collection. If you are going to spend that much time on a game like that you might as well just bust out a role playing game.
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6. Board Game: Deadlands: The Battle for Slaughter Gulch [Average Rating:5.86 Overall Rank:7520]
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This was the very first game we demoed, and we were the first people to demo it. The bits were nice, lots of little plastic dudes. Basically you have a character with a set of goals, like kill a guy, or mine a bunch of ghost rock, or bust someone out of jail. There is a town map, you secretly allocate where your gang is going and what they are doing, then you resolve all the actions, Kind of a bluffing game. Each location has an ability, each player has several abilities, everyone can learn spells and pick up gear. This is one of those games that thrives on chrome. B picked it up because he is a deadlands completionist. I would give the game another shot or two. It seemed interesting enough, Almost felt like a multiplayer arkham horror with all the character abilities and spells.
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7. RPG Item: True20 Adventure Roleplaying [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:1835]
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True Dungeon

Waaaah! We didn't get to do true dungeon this year, apparently the process of preordering tickets requires arcane web-fu, and our normal ticket goblin had a meeting at the moment when the true dungeon stars aligned, so he handed the task off to a newbie ticket goblin who had a fail. This is too bad, I always look forward to true dungeon. Next year.
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8. Board Game: Ha-Ha Hair-do! [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
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Hair

There were a ton of girls with pink hair there this year, it was like a lazy town invasion. I don't object at all.

We hunt the last couple of years for what we affectionately call 'The FauxHawk” you have seen them, short stripes of semi spikey hair down the middle of the head. They almost look like mohawks but the people who have them clearly lack the commitment to do a full on hawk. I have idly dreamed of making a blog called Newmullet, and it would be entirely pictures of fauxhawks. Here are some of the pics we took of offenders. It seemed in bad taste to obviously snap picture of people unfortunate hair choices, so many of these involve subterfuge, pictures of us pretending to pose, while the real target of the photo lurks in the background.
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9. RPG Item: Aftermath! [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:2630]
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I always spend a lot of time in the auction all. I love just sitting there watching things roll buy, seeing what goes for big money, what doesn't. The thrill of the chase, and the agony of defeat. I didn't do particularly well at the auction this year. I only won one auction, sorta.

A pristine boxed copy of Aftermath! Came up, it even still included the original 20 sider uninked! My friend S was there and he runs an epic sprawling aftermath game that has been going on for over a decade now, we get together maybe twice a year to play it. He has something like 3 or 4 full copies of the game plus all the expansion booklets. So he and I were bidding against each other for it. There was also one guy sitting way up in the front bidding as well. When it got to around 25 dollars I dropped out figuring I would let Scott take it, which he did for 40 bucks I think. A steal for this unplayable relic of a game.

I made some whiny noises at some point in the retelling of the tale and S gave me the game, how kind! Earlier that day S was looking for game recommendations for his kids, and I suggested Gulo Gulo, as it had some minor success with my non gamer nieces and nephew. And I think gulo gulo is a blast to play. So the next day I went and picked up a copy of it for S to thank him for parting with Aftermath. I cannot think of any two games further apart in theme or mechanics. Maybe next time we play aftermath there will be giant gulos.
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10. Board Game: Unpublished Prototype [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:2210]
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We usually try to roleplay a couple of times over the course of gencon. So one night we played S and J's homebrew game that they are working on. The experience was pretty rough. The game is polished, and the mechanics are rough. As well as the game being pretty complicated. So this a prime game for playtesting, but it is not a prime game for a light and fun evening of roleplaying, especially if your wife has never roleplayed before. Which was the case with J's wife, T. T was playing a healer type, a non magical sort, which would be nice in a long campaign, but in a skirmish type fight, turned out to be frustrating and boring.

I think the game has some potential, there are some interesting mechanics at its core and I hope that it gets more playable soon. Right now it perhaps tries to do too much.
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11. RPG Item: Hollow Earth Expedition [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:293]
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Hollow earth Expedition

In addition to T's awful experience with the prototype game, our other friend M had had a similarly terrible experience with Hero at the last gencon. T and M are both the wives of gamers who came out to gencon more as a vacation than from a gamelust point of view. And they both had been subjected to rpgs that were rules and combat heavy with very little roleplaying involved. I decided to make it my mission to correct this and run a game that they would enjoy.

I was supposed to run a reprise of Cajun style third edition shadowrun for everyone, but I decided that was the wrong kind of game if I was going to make sure that T and M had fun.

Out in the exhibition hall there was a booth with a big paper drill truck and a dinosaur eating a pterodon. I decided I had to demo that game. This was Hollow Earth expedition. A pulpy adventure game. It had more than a few things that sell me on a game. Dinosaurs, superscience, goofy characters, and weird dice. We were on our way to dinner, so I didn't get to do the whole demo, but from the short thing we did I decided to buy the game and the ubiquity dice. (8 siders that simulate 1, 2, and 3 coin flips)

I gave myself a crash course In the rules, decided I would just wing it for the most part. I spent a good amount of time with T helping to build a character. We ignored most of the character creation rules, using the stats as a guideline, I mostly focused on character history and motivations. I went with a buy your stats and give yourself whatever skills you want at whatever level you want.

I didn't have time before the game to help make a character for M, so when we sat down and I started making characters with the more experienced roleplayers, I took some extra time with her. She cried tired and said that she was gonna go to bed in a half hour. Which is cool, but I helped her build her magician anyway, who was a kind of knock off of her WoW character. Not a perfect fit for the 30's but we made it work.

In the end we had a good group, A moneyman with TB, a great white hunter who wanted to kill one of everything, an annoying academician, a mad scientist with a portable booze machine, a crime fighting occultist, a gritty orphaned mercenary, and a velocoraptor named spot.

There was a clockwork bomb that broke time and space, an alien crash site with dinosaurs attacking an alien, not a whole lot got accomplished but everyone laughed a lot and we managed to keep M awake until 1 am. T enjoyed herself as well.

I think that HEX is a good system for newbies because it has a simple resolution mechanic, and as players do fun things, they are rewarded with style points, which is an instant feedback mechanism. I think it fits our one shot gencon needs pretty well too. I will probably run it again next year, so that B can punch out a camel, after all I wouldn't want his skill Camel Punching: 5 to go to waste for two years!

((Addendum: Now that we are playing HEX for real, the thing that we played at gencon resembles the real game like hedgehogs resemble porcupines))
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12. RPG Item: HERO System Fifth Edition [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:2064]
J Boyes
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I wandered all around gencon looking for a 5th edition hero book, there are none to be found anywhere. Lots of individual hero source books but nobody selling Hero 5.

I went into the Champs online area and watched people messing around with the game throwing barrels, watched the game glitch on the guy running the demo which is fun. I see in the middle of all the displays they have a table with a pre press version of the new Champs rpg or Hero 6 as it were. I picked it up and flipped through it a while, It looks like it is going to be Hero with the alphabet soup removed and replaced by other words. After about 3 minutes of flipping through the book I decide I'm going to ask those guys at the booth if they know where I can find a copy of Hero 5. I set the book down and check the badge name on the staffer. Steven Long. The guy who wrote Champs 6.

I just smiled and nodded to him and walked away.

I never did get my copy of 5
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13. RPG Item: OGL Steampunk [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
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You wanna be stempunk? Apparently all you need is crazy goggles. Lots of places selling them, lots of people wearing them, no girl with pink hair in goggles though.
 
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14. Board Game: The Fate Of Our Food [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
J Boyes
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Care and feeding of gamers.

We ate, Yum!

I had calamari twice, once it was ok and once it was ok. I had some really good curry noodles.

We go to buca de bepos every year. This year was no exception. I was disappointed to see that they had a very corporate style menu, heavy laminated paper with bold advertisements of their stuff. They also had a big cut out of danny devito selling booze in the front. The schtick of buca's is that it pretends to be a laid back family style restaurant and not a giant chain, which it is. The food was good as usual and we all ate until we were ill. When it came time to order our traditional lemoncello we were informed that they just sold it by the shot now and you couldn't get a whole bottle of it like we used to, this was a result of some deal they signed with.....Danny DeVito! That booze that cardboard cutout out front represented the demise of a gencon tradition! Curse you DeVito. Our waiter finally relented and he said that the bar had a final batch of the old stuff and he would give it to us.

Currito is my favorite thing about the mall food court, I can't get enough of these damn burritos. I ate there twice this year, I wish we had curritos in pittsburgh.

We also went to pfchangs which was a big meh for me, the food was ok. Except for the seared tuna salad which was really good.

B made it a minigame of taking an artifact from every place we ate and sticking it into his badge cover, making a food packaging collage, it was neat.

This year we went with a hotel right downtown, which was nice but expensive, at least for me!
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15. Board Game: Classic Battletech: Tech Manual [Average Rating:7.37 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.37 Unranked]
J Boyes
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Battle tech

S and J played in the battletech canon event all day Saturday. They got several of us to agree to join in on the last session. I haven't played battletech in years. So I was looking forward to it. We had several completely new players among us, including B, D, and other S. As it turns out we were getting annihilated. J over the course of the day had gotten 9 hits out of something like 34 attempted shots. The GM of the event even went so far as to give him a mech with a crack shot pilot after his 3rd mech wipe and that didn't' help.

I at least got to blow the hell out of someone, so that was fun, I miss the old days of filling in circles on mechs and hoping for crits and stuff.

The scoring was something like +10 for every mech killed, -10 for every mech lost. It was a three way battle. The other teams had scores in the 100-300 range, ours was something like -160...ouch!

Catalyst, who publishes Shadowrun and Battletech now have really picked up. Two years ago they had a fairly small booth and not much to show off after they sold out of shadowrun 4th. Now they have an impressive product line, a big booth up near the front of the exhibition hall, and a strong group of dedicated GM's. I am glad that they seem to have picked up where FASA left off, even with a few years gap in the middle. Now if only they would pick up earthdawn.
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16. Board Game: Farewell to Flanders [Average Rating:6.75 Unranked]
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We bid a fond farewell to gencon for another year. A good time was had by all. I can't wait for next year.
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