This is the first post in a series covering the epic gaming carnage that was Gen Con 2015. As usual, I begin with the games played, both by myself and my cohorts. They are presented in no particular order.
After a strangely on-time flight arrival and marginal quality sleep, we started gaming bright and early-ish Thursday with
I played the game at Phoenix Comicon and got my ass handed to me. Not just defeated, utterly crushed. I had concerns that the game was too high luck/low strategy for my taste, but thought I would try it again.
After fumbling around in the dark, scary house for a bit the “haunt” activated and the “betrayal” element started, except this time there was no betrayer. Instead a giant bird picked up the house and we then went on an internecine scramble for three parachutes. It was during this phase I hypothesized why this game has such longevity; it convinces strategically retarded players that their “skills” somehow resulted in their victory. Here is a clue, if you randomly draw a gun and I am unarmed and you kill me, that is not strategic acumen. Betrayal is mildly amusing, but its luck elements pushes it down to the level of Monopoly for me. I might play on Halloween as a themed game night, but it is off my list otherwise.
“By the Light of the Blood Moon Dresden Files LARP”
LARPing and I have an uneven history. I rarely partake because LARPs, much like a black hole, draw in too much of the gaming world’s human detritus and mutant gamers. I have had fun at LARPs, but that is the exception. Regardless, four hours LARPing in the Dresdenverse was just too tempting to pass up. ( I would follow Harry Dresden to the Outer Gates and beyond. He is a magnificent bastard).
Roughly 15 people showed up and we chose characters from Dresdenverse factions of note, Black Court, White Court, Monoc, Fae Courts, etc. We attended a mysterious dinner party to achieve our various goals. My orders were to discover what happened to the Red Court and preserve black court power in Manhattan. The players were all quite good and the guy playing the Monoc representative had an amazing Scandanavian accent. Organized by twin sisters from Australia, the LARP preparation was quite good and everyone knew their goals. Sadly, the key element of a good LARP was missing. Leverage.
Money, blackmail photos, trade goods and power are all leverage to get what you want from other players. Unfortunately, several PCs had nothing listed and trying to get anything done was tough. It was a four hour event and at hour three I decided my only solution was to go off the rails and set my own goals that did not require any leverage. So I completely abandoned the Black Courts control over Manhattan to the White Court and backed a peace treaty in return for control over New Jersey. Simultaneously I made a deal with the Winter Court to destroy a five-block area of downtown in return for a favor to be named later. Basically everyone thought I failed to meet any of my goals until I announced in the post-mortem that the five blocks I wanted destroyed at a specific date and time was the location of the servers driving Wall Street. I wanted New Jersey to access the backup location so I could short sell the White Court’s holdings by manipulating high-frequency trading opportunities and foreknowledge of the “natural disaster.” Keep Manhattan you perverts, I will take all your precious money!
It took a while to explain my plot to the other players.
This is a “Story” RPG with low rules and high crazy. Playing a crew of marginally competent heroes, including a beefy, but dim captain, a crazy cyborg navigator and my PC, a weapon smuggler. “Cosmic Patrol” is pure beer and pretzel gaming with no aspirations to verisimilitude. Small ship tokens we earned by using phrases listed on our character sheets like ” I have that right here…,” You are not doing it right!” and my favorite for the cyborg, “It is time to violate the third law of robotics!” allowed us to alter the story. There was a plot involving pirates, but it really does not matter because when one can throw some tokens at the GM and say ” I want a Mark-22 Genocidal Peacemaker Nuclear Torpedo” in the cargo hold because, well, just because. Nukes always make things more interesting.
“First Exposure Playtest Room”
Gen Con has a special area set aside as a ticketed event for you to play prototype games before release. I checked this out last year, but I found it poorly organized and attended by developers. This year’s organization was significantly better and the demand to enter high! People with real tickets got a queue number to pick which game they wanted to play. Most of the games on offer were board and card games with a couple of RPGs. I finally landed on “Central City” a cooperative superhero board game.
Players become teenage superheroes with amazing abilities and serious social issues that face a dark adversary (actually, a deck of cards). It plays much like other co-op games like “Pandemic” with players moving around a board to complete missions while facing random setbacks and constant attacks from enemies. Unlike other games, there is an upgrade mechanic so as you fight you become a better hero. The theme is also well done with the teenage heroes facing issues like dates and incomplete homework while saving the city. It was fun and took about two hours to play. Some of the images were placeholders, but the “Central City” kickstarter is nearly funded with 22 days remaining, so it looks like this one will be coming to stores soon.
Puzzle rooms are something of a fad these days. Basically you and a few friends go into a room where the entire room is a multi-layer puzzle. You search the room for clues to open boxes, solve riddles, unshackle combination locks and decode esoteric clues in only one hour…or die! The Austin Puzzle Room brought their setup for their puzzle room called “Escape from the Super Villains Hideout.” We infiltrated the lair of the dreaded “Befuddler” and had to escape to thwart his evil plan. This event was sold out, but I got lucky and jumped in when someone did not show.
I cannot really talk about what we specifically did without spoiling the room/game, which would just be rude. It was funny, most of the rest of the players scuttled around, but I just methodically tore each element of the room apart that no one else was looking at and personally cleared several of the puzzles myself. There is central table to help gather the clues and no on really noticed I kept throwing solved puzzles up there. It was actually quite amusing that no one really noticed where the clues were coming from because of the panic. That said, it was a group effort because there are simply too many puzzles to solve by a single person.
Since this is a new event at Gen Con, I feel obligated to review it. Is it fun? Yes, it was a good time for puzzle geeks, but with some caveats. First the $20.00 per session per person price tag is steep for what you get. Also, the puzzles were not particularly challenging, with most of them solvable by anyone with a pulse. I especially disliked the final puzzle as it was less logic and creative thinking and just an organizational exercise. It was a bit anti-climactic. I also took issue with some of the puzzle equipment being either non-functional or hard to use just because of low quality. One element involving an iPod was pointlessly hard due to legendarily cheap-ass headphones and a dying battery. We also wasted several minutes on a lock that requires some special shackle jiggling before it would open. That cost precious time not because we had the wrong answer, but the lock would not work. Annoying.
Oh, your next question is did we make it? Behold.
Yes, the Befuddler fell before our intellectual might. If you can con your company into going to a puzzle room as a team building exercise and get in for free by all means go. Otherwise, think twice before paying out of pocket.
I will return tomorrow with more Gen Con 2015 game reports!