Gen Con 2009 Report –The Games We Played Part 2

This is the second part of my post on games I played at Gen Con 2009. Tomorrow I talk about my True Dungeon experience in detail.

Aces & Eights

Aces & Eights is an Wild West RPG from Kenzer and Company. We saw this RPG at Origins last year and were amazed by the books quality and comprehensiveness. Well there were events at this years GenCon, so we had to try it out. The amount of rules seem overwhelming at first, but are easily managed as they are broken into specific “occasions”. Well the GenCon events were basically mini-games showing off some of these occasions. The LivingDice team tried out the Bar Brawl, Courtroom Hearing, and Gun fighting components.

Trask: Aces and Eight uses a variety of mini-games for various parts of the game rather than a unified mechanic. Gun fighting is similar to other games with bonus+dice mechanics, but adds a “shot clock” overlay to determine hit locations. A&E is the deadliest game I ever played! One shot one kill is incredibly common, even when shooting “to wound.” Given the lethality, the players really have to focus on the role-playing aspects to make the campaign move along. I also participated in a bar brawl which uses dice and a poker chip bidding mechanic to determine the outcome. A&E lived up to and exceeded my expectations. It is a great game, but you really need an amazing group to pull it off. I already reviewed this game, so check out a more in depth report on Aces and Eights.

Haaldaar: In addition to the Bar Brawl and Gun fighting that Trask mentioned above, I also got to try my hand at the Courtroom Hearing. I found that the old west courtroom created a spectacular roleplaying opportunity. There are mechanics for how the prosecution and defense (each a different player) can impact the Jury and their decision. I ended up being a witness for the prosecution, but the defense shot a lot of holes in my story. But, I shot a lot of holes in the defense when I took my shotgun to him in the gun fight after the hearing was over.

The Rules of Writing Seminar

This seminar, by author Michael A. Stackpole, was a brief 1 hour look into his book “The Rules of Writing”. Out of his 20 rules, we touched on about 8.

Haaldaar: Stackpole was an amazing speaker. He was focused, precise, and right on target. Though his “this is the only way you do it” is not necessarily true in all cases, his ideas are important and great tools for the new and amateur author. He states that his rules of writing will take “3 years off a new authors development”. I tend to agree with him.

Trask: Haaldaar and I both seek greater skill with the written word, so we added this non-gaming seminar to our activities. Mr. Stackpole delivered useful advice and real-world examples that I will apply to just about everything I write. I cannot stress enough how useful this one hour seminar is for an aspiring writer. I consider this one of the best educational experiences in my recent memory.

National Security Decision Making (NSDM)

NSDM is a geopolitical LARP where players take a high ranking role in a countries government. We played a four hour Cold War Era version with the USA, the USSR, and China.  It is based on real history, but the outcomes are, for the most part, decided by the player.

Trask: Every convention has one event that stays with you always and for me that is NSDM. Initially, all was well. A very energetic, knowledgeable and invested moderator spent about 30 minutes explaining the time period (early 1960s, Cold War in full swing) and that we would be randomly assigned different nations. Within each nation, players received government positions, like President, Head of the KGB or NORAD Commander with assigned goals we needed to achieve. They passed out the job/nation cards to each player and moved us to three different rooms, one room each for China, USSR and the US.

Then he said, “Go.”

Experienced players quickly jumped in to action, running about on various missions and scheming to get their goals approved. The rest of us were utterly clueless about what we should do. Literally, I had no idea what was going on. Eventually, I got the hang of it (not worth explaining the mechanics here, go to the website if you want to know more). Once I started playing another major issue cropped up: historical ignorance. Many players lacked basic information about the period. In fact, there was major confusion during the entire game about the difference between North Korea and North Vietnam. This game only works if you have at least a rudimentary understanding of early 1960s Cold War politics. It was billed as an introductory game and probably should focus on modern issues. At least CNN provides enough information to play the game.  I played this sort of thing in political science classes in college, but only  after a month discussing the time period. Without that baseline, I do not think this style of game works, especially at a convention. This event was easily the worst game I played at Gen Con 2009.

Haaldaar: My role was the Propaganda Agency of the Russian KGB. My cover identity was an Information Minister for the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). I agree with Trask that this game was not the highlight of our convention. However, I feel that it has potential. It is one of those games that if you don’t have the right person at the helm of your country, you will be trouble. I don’t feel the game organizers/judges did a good enough job explaining exactly what to do and how to do it, and to make sure things ran smoothly.

More to come tommorow!

Trask, The Last Tyromancer



Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.

2 thoughts on “Gen Con 2009 Report –The Games We Played Part 2

  • August 21, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    I’m glad to see a review of Stackpole’s seminar. I’m signed up for the DragonCon sessions (the entire sequence of 12 one-hour seminars). I’ve always enjoyed his talks before, and The Secrets newsletter is well worth the money.

    • August 23, 2009 at 8:02 pm

      It was a great seminar. I am considering taking his class at the local college.


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