Friday, December 3, 2010

The Stars Have Aligned

It's been a while since I've posted and a lot has been happening gaming-wise for me. Since my last blog post I've attended my second gaming convention. It was UberCon XIII held November 5th-7th in Edison New Jersey! Had a blast but didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked! Played lots of different games from minis, boardgames, console games through RPGs. UberCon didn't seem quite as big as DexCon but it had a very friendly vibe and I will probably attend again next year.

I also got a chance to play a demo game of Ex Illis while at that con and I've got to say I think it is a fantastic game, especially when used as a gateway game to introduce new gamers to the world of miniatures war gaming. It really abstracts the rules of the game and allows you to concentrate on strategy instead. The content-to-price value of the starter set really eases the start up cost of getting into this hobby and the hybrid use of computer software and physical miniatures is an interesting approach. I will be posting pictures and battle reports as soon as I'm finished painting my starter set.

The biggest news for me is that a brand new local hobby shop opened up! It's called Close Encounters Comics and is located in the Toms River New Jersey area. The proprietor, Marc, is an avid board-gamer and has opened the store with the goal of making it a place where people gather to play games of all sorts. He's been very amiable and open to new gaming suggestions which leads me to the biggest point of my post. I'VE GOT A NEW GAMING GROUP! Finally, after a ton of failure-to-launches, it looks like I've found a place and group of people to game with!

After a flurry of email exchanges we all met at the store (see pic below) and decided that we would start with Shadowrun. We are playing Saturday afternoons and once I get this group established and rolling I want to start another gaming group on Sunday afternoons!
I will be posting details and session notes from our games in the future so stay tuned for more!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Confessions of a Game Convention Newbie

I call myself the resurrected gamer because for all intents and purposes my gaming life had truly flat-lined. Not long ago after a lengthy hiatus—and much to my shock—I discovered that my love of gaming had not died completely. The path back has been long and twisting but I’ve slowly nursed that initial spark of life into a steady flame. Bearing this torch of gaming desire I continue on my journey seeking gaming nirvana. I knew that any real gaming revival would be incomplete without a visit to a gaming convention— the mecca of all true gamers.
I felt it was important to start with a smaller con, I’ve heard about the masses of gamers that attend GenCon and Origins and how it makes those cons into less intimate affairs. I knew this was not for me; I did not want to get lost in the crowd, I wanted my first con to be a more personal gaming experience. I was originally aiming to attend two very small cons: MEPAcon and then Fear The Con 3. In both cases scheduling conflicts kept me away. It looked like I was going to be out of luck again when another July con approached but at the last minute my schedule cleared up and the way was paved for me to get some time off.
This past week I attended DexCon 13 held at the Hyatt hotel in Morristown New Jersey on July 7th through the 12th. I had done a little anecdotal research about cons and prepared myself for the worst case scenarios: toxic body odor, poorly air conditioned rooms packed with gamers, throngs of black t-shirt clad elitist gaming system fanboys, poorly scheduled or over-crowded events, loud boisterous hammerheads and, dare I say it…..over-zealous LARPers!
The convention started on a Wednesday but my adventure began that Thursday. I packed up myself and my eldest daughter, Emily, and we made the commute upstate to see what we might see. I planned this initial excursion as a scouting mission; I wanted to test the waters and see if this was really something I wanted to invest my gaming time in. We arrived around noon and after struggling to find a parking spot we tentatively entered the lower lobby of the hotel. We were immediately surrounded by conference rooms filled with miniatures war gaming tables and I felt giddy at the sight. My daughter looked over at me and grinned. We were at a con! Thumbs up!
We rushed upstairs to the main lobby to register. I expected a long line but there was almost none. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to attend for just a day or the full week but when I got there I made a spur of the moment decision and decided to buy week long passes. Donning our freshly printed convention badges, we grabbed an event guide and began flipping through them. We were like kids in a candy store, pages full of so many events we wanted to try and disappointed when we saw timing conflicts.
I believe there are tons of gamers like me that have shelves full of gaming books and board games that they’ve never even played. Well I was determined to fix that. There were two RPG gaming systems I had my heart set on trying: Shadowrun and CthulhuTech. There were others, like Burning Wheel and Dog’s in the Vineyard, but those were the two I was dead set on experiencing. In miniatures gaming, I wanted to try Flames of War, Firestorm Armada and Malifaux. As for board games, there were a ton of them that I was looking forward to playing like: Tannhauser, Descent, Battlestar Galactica, Wings of War, Horus Heresy, Shadows over Camelot and Battlelore.
As luck would have it, there was a Malifaux demo scheduled for that very afternoon. We rushed downstairs to the wargaming section and after being helped by several courteous and friendly gamers we made our way to the gaming table. There we met Matt and Tyler Steele (a very cool name, we joked about whether he was a super hero or a porn star). For our demo match, the Guild faction would be taking on the Neverborn faction. Initially, there was a lot to take in regarding the fluff of the game. The characters are very unique and there is really no cookie-cutter faction to make it easier to start with. After some initial hiccups we started to get the hang of the game and when the final turn came we ended in a draw. I’m not sure if I like the card flipping mechanic of the game, but we both had a good time trying it out.
After that we decided to have a look around while we waited for the next block of events to start. We visited the vendor room and ogled all the merchandise on display before we headed back out to the main areas. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and I have to say that was one of the downers for me. The food provided by the hotel catering was horrible and way over-priced. I know next time I will go outside of the building for food, but we were starving and naïve and so it was what it was.
Our next event was a Tannhauser board game demo presented by Stephen Rogers. This man was very prepared and after some initial setup and rules explanation had us fighting through Hellboy-esque World War II action sequences. I was soundly beaten by Emily and at that point we decided to call it a night. We had an hour and a half commute back home full of excited geek chatter about what we had seen and the possibilities for the rest of the con.
We arrived home and regrouped and I decided that my fourteen year old soon would be right at home at the con. He had already flipped through the event guide and had his heart set on playing in a Star Wars Saga edition session. He owns most of the RPG books and has read through them several times. We had earlier noted that several of the Star Wars sessions looked full, but we decided to wait and see how it would work out.
By this time I had decided I should get a hotel room instead of heading back home each night. Unfortunately, only Friday night was available at the Hyatt and I had no wish to stay in another hotel. So I made the reservation and we headed back the next morning three strong!
We arrived in the afternoon and missed the morning schedule of events, but I saw that a Firestorm Armada demo was scheduled to begin and we hurried down to find it. Much to my disappointment, the event was overbooked but a friendly guy by the name of Chris offered to demo Warmachine for us. We gladly accepted and he quickly ran Emily and Devin through a game of Khador versus Protectorate of Menoth. We have all been painting up Warmachine armies but haven’t had a chance to play through a game yet, so it was nice to get a feel for the rules. Devin made us laugh when he turned to us and asked, “How do I move the guys?” You see he was looking for a grid. He’s only played in the current d20 system or board games and he had no idea what the tape measure was for.
After this we headed back to our hotel room for snacks and a quick power nap. Then we set out for the next round of gaming. At this point we split up. Emily and I heading for a Mage:The Ascension campaign and Devin happily making his way to a Star Wars Saga Edition game. I have to say I was surprised to find we were using the old edition of the Mage rules and I found them a bit clunky to use. It’s my fault for not noting the “Ascension” part of the title in the game listing. I own most of the new White Wolf game books and was hoping we were going to use that system. Still we had an entertaining time and finished our game with nary a party member death!
We headed over to Devin’s table but his group had not yet finished their session. I brought along Monty Python Fluxx for just such an occasion and Emily and I played a round while we waited. Things worked out in my favor and I pulled off a last minute upset victory, driving my daughter crazy. I seem to be unusually lucky when it comes to Fluxx and my whole family usually teams up against me when we play. They don’t care who wins as long as it’s not me!
Devin’s game ended and we decided not to try and catch any of the later games and headed back to our room to crash. We had to be up bright and early the next morning because Emily had signed up for a Firefly LARP.
The next morning Devin and I decided to tag along with Emily since we hadn’t found anything on the schedule yet. As were passing by another LARP room, Devin saw they were conducting a Boffer tournament and his eyes lit up. He looked up at me and I nodded and he took off for the room with a grin. I spent the next few hours traveling back and forth between the two LARP areas and was having so much fun watching them I decided not to try and find an event myself.
While I was waiting for them to finish I happened to be passing by a table and I saw all of the CthulhuTech RPG books laid out on it. Then I saw a sign-up list for demos! This was one of the games I badly wanted to take for a spin. So I went ahead and put all three of our names down and I’m glad I did (more on that later.)
I caught up with Devin and Emily as their sessions ended and as we were heading back to the signup area Devin caught sight of what looked like another LARP in progress. It turns out that Mystic Realms was running a demo of their sci-fi themed LARP. Devin and Emily were approached by one of the LARPers and they were immediately hooked. She gave them a quick rules run-down and they spent the next couple of hours fighting their way through an alien infested ship, escorted by androids and shock troopers. They both had a great time and were sad to leave but we had to make an early departure because I did not want to miss out on the CthulhuTech demo.
Next we met with a gentleman by the name of Bob Arens who would be running the demo for us. He quickly gave us some background on the CthulhuTech universe and handed out character sheets and we were soon fighting our way through Esoteric Order of Dagon mechs in our very cool bio-mechanical Engel mechs. Bob was hands down the best GM that I gamed with at this con. He knew his stuff inside and out and knew what to leave out and what to include while still delivering a thrilling and compelling game experience. I would later find out that this was none other than the infamous Martian Bob I had heard about on many Fear The Boot podcasts. I can see why there is always a clamor for games run by him. I am going to make it my goal to find his games whenever I can at future cons. Bob even showed us some very cool artwork on his signed copy of one of the books. The unique artwork and interesting concepts are what drew me to purchase a copy of the main RPG book and now that I’ve played through the rules I am very interested in starting or joining a CthulhuTech campaign. I have to say this was the highlight of the con for me.
Having no hotel room for Saturday night, we knew our con experience was coming to a close. We made one last pass through the dealer’s room and purchased some t-shirts and souvenirs for family left behind and headed off for the next round of gaming. Devin had signed up for another Star Wars Saga session and Emily and I headed off to a game of Rogue Trader.
Our Rogue Trader group was a great one and we had a blast. The GM knew several of the players already so maybe this contributed to the lighter atmosphere but I don’t think I laughed more in any other group than this one. There was a lot of good natured banter going on the whole night and when the game came to a close I left the building wishing I had a gaming group like that one a regular basis. We were all sad we had to leave and I missed out on a Flames of War demo scheduled for Sunday but it was time to call it a con.
It was my first time experiencing a gaming convention and not knowing what to expect I have to say that I was very satisfied with the whole event. Much to my relief, I have to say that I encountered almost none of the terrible things I had heard about at other cons. Sure I caught the occasional whiff of some foul body funk, but in most cases the rooms were very well ventilated and the temperature remained very cool. There were a few loud boisterous convention goers but they seemed to be in the minority. In general, everyone was kind and courteous and it appeared that they all shared the common goal of just having a great time gaming.
I would have to say that for my first con experience I had a tremendous time, in fact, my son and daughter gave it a hearty thumbs up and I would have to agree! Who has two thumbs and enjoyed DexCon 13? This guy!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Springtime is in the air and my inner geek is stirring

I've been in a board-game frenzy lately, mostly inspired by listening to the excellent Game On! Podcast! Much to my surprise, my wife and children have also been very enthusiastic about this recent trend. We've played quite a few different games but our current games of choice are Pandemic, Red Dragon Inn, Dominion and the various editions of Fluxx. We've played both cooperative and competitive games. The competitive games are especially tricky for me, for some unknown reason my wife has convinced friends and family that I am not allowed to win and so most of the time they team up against me. But that which does not kill me, makes me stronger or at least (I hope) a better gamer! Soon I intend to introduce them to some of the more rules heavy games like Descent or Runewars.

I've also made my way to what appears to be the online mecca for board-gamers: I took a perverse joy in cataloging my games for my profile. My collection is not that large by any means, but hey we all know it's not the size of your collection but how you use it! (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). I do have some (what I consider) vintage games like the original Space Hulk and Advanced HeroQuest mixed into my collection. I also have quite a few party and traditional games. I have to say that among the traditional old school boardgames like Monopoly,Clue and Life, my all time favorite is Risk!

As for my other geek hobbies, I'm still working on my series of fantasy novels and trying to put together some D&D 4th Edition gaming groups. I actually have one group almost ready to go, we are just trying to work out the scheduling problems. As usual I have too many geek distractions vying for my attention and the end result is that they all suffer!

I'm still playing World of Warcraft, although it doesn't consume as much time as it used to for me. I absolutely love the new LFG tool. I can just pop in and run a random dungeon and I get my WoW fix for the day!

On top of all this I want to start actually painting and gaming with the uncountable horde of miniatures dwelling in my basement! I've decided to stick with the systems that are smaller in scale so I won't have to paint battalions of minis. I am currently working on Khador & Cryx battlegroups for Warmachine and I plan to start painting some of the minis that came in my Battletech boxed game (I love you Catalyst Labs).

Well I've run out of things to say for now, I'm itching to go play a game or paint something! I also want to mention that you can follow me on twitter as ResGamer and I'm also on formspring as well.