Thursday started off with “Firefly Hero.” We hopped aboard “Serenity” and tried to make a living being bad men while avoid the Alliance. By some miracle I wound up with Mal. Putting me in charge of any group is a recipe for failure, but we did quite well despite my poor leadership skills. High point was the (male) player running Zoe dead-panning “I am right here” after the Wash player said something foolish. Also notable for the most appropriate player/PC assignment ever. A girl sits down, looking very much like Kaylie and asks to play Kaylie. The resemblance was close and it was a bit disturbing. The DM did a great job of creating a new adventure from some classic moments in the original episodes and we even had to deal with one of Mr. Universe’s sex-bots that had a crush on Wash.
Zoe kicked it out an airlock.
We followed up with a “Champions” game that is in its third year. It is an ongoing storyline involving the Champions having freed a villain to prevent a murder and the aftermath of that event. This is my second year playing, so I knew the characters and jumped right in. A great game, but it is a two round game and you have to be invited to the second round on Sunday. I did not make the cut, but still had a great time.
That killed most of the day and after dinner we had a quick run of “Artemis: Green and Gold.” “Artemis” is a video game system that is a starship bridge simulator. Each player works a station, weapons, communications, science, engineering etc and one player is the captain. The captain does not have an interface of any kind and relies on his crew to follow his orders. You zip around fighting, doing repairs after battles and “pushing the engines just a wee bit harder” to defend some space stations. The interface is a bit clunky, but the game play is a hoot. Shouting “Raise the shields!” was just too cool. I will probably play again next year if I can get in.
Due to jet lag, I blew off my “Legends of Arcanis” game and crashed for the evening.
Friday kicked off with a quick, but fun game of Deadlands: Savage Worlds. It was the first time I played Savage Worlds or Deadlands and it was a quick, elegant system with a lot of potential. We had a great time fighting underground creatures on a mining claim and the “Tremors” references were flying faster than the lead!
Though not a miniatures player, I dropped into a “Monster Mash” last man standing game using D&D miniatures. 15 monsters enter a maze and only one monster leaves. Strategy was practically non-existent and luck was the main component. Many of the monsters require flanks or other units to reach their full combat potential. Taking these minis was suicide against the strong solo monsters. The game was fun, but I am not sure I will play again.
Playing at a convention is a great opportunity to explore new and exciting games you do not play at home with your regular game group. You really go out on a limb to try games outside your comfort zone. Often you find something that is just amazing…
…and sometimes the limb breaks.
Steampunk Supers meets this criteria. We sat down and received a one page character description. I was a voodoo priestess with a torture fetish and Werlen got a closeted homosexual super-hero from Australia that was dating Oscar Wilde. Ok, a little out there, but we could work with it. The DM explained this was a “high role-playing game” and we would use the Hero system when we needed to roll for something. Problem was, we had no stats of any kind. We got character descriptions, not character sheets. Hero system needs numbers and we had zip, nada, nothing to roll with/against. I grew worried at this point.
What I describe to you now is my best recollection of the adventure. It is probably wrong, but it is the best plot I can cobble together. A rich woman hires us to go to India in an airship to witness a British rocket launch. We swallowed the plot hook and got on the airship. Two and a half (real) hours later, we arrived in India. It is only a four-hour slot and we wasted most of it getting to the adventure. Not sure where the time went, but it was not having fun. The GM just could not advance the plot at all. We finally arrive and discover a plot to kill all the visiting dignitaries. Actually, the GM just told us because there was no way to figure it out in-game. The plot was so hard to find only a railroad plot could lead us to it. NPCs were non-existent and the GM just lead us around by our noses for four hours. There was a fight and then we discovered that one of the party was stronger than the rest of us put together and he won the fight. We did not know this because the did not have any stats. The GM announced this fact during the fight and that was that. Fini.
As we fled the room of pain, I told Werlen that the session worked for the GM because he automatically filled in all the story gaps in his head and to him it was a great gaming experience. Sadly, he lacked any sort of empathy to understand he bored the players to tears. Awful.
Saturday began well with the “Wings of War” Battle of St. Mahiel Salient. 50 players skirmishing in the skies over WW1 France. This is my fourth year and I will keep playing this game until I die. Really a blast, even though I went down early.
A “Legends of Arcanis” battle interactive consumed the rest of the day. A battle interactive pits several adventuring party against a common foe or goal. In this case, we had to rescue a town overrun with undead. Different tables had different missions and their overall success determined the outcome. I enjoyed this a lot and may get back into the Arcanis campaign.
Now it is time. The time to describe the worst game session I ever endured at a convention. I present “Sailpower:Age of Sail.”
Before the rant begins I want you to know that I considered just letting this awful experience pass in to history, forgotten to the greater Internet. I know small game companies work hard to run events and most are a labor of love for their creators. That said, this game slot epitomized a poorly run convention game slot, so I think of this more of a teachable moment.
“Age of Sail” uses large ship miniatures (6-8 inches long) and a large table to simulate naval battles. I looked on with envy for years wanting to play, but my schedule never seemed to work out. This year I made it happen and sat down with Werlen for a three-hour slot. We got ships and a brief explanation of the rules. It seemed a bit complex, very old-school grognard rules, but doable. We had rule sheets, but it looked like most of them were just reference and we were only going to use part of the rules.To win we needed victory points earned by fighting or exploring islands for treasure while fighting the British. The first two rounds passed without much excitement. Werlen and I scooped up some treasure and our pirate brethren moved to engage the British fleet. Cutthroats closed on the British fleet, the first volley loosed and then it all went very wrong.
Wrong in the sense that the rest of the slot, about two hours, disappeared in a flurry of increasingly complex rules that just seemed to come from nowhere. The “relatively simply” game became a nightmare of rules minutiae. Every time we turned around a new rule popped up and towards the end the game master was measuring with tape measures to get angles on each cannon. When a ship has eight cannons, this takes a while. Meanwhile, Werlen and I are twiddling our trigger fingers because we started on the far side of the board and never got close enough to shoot. One of the pirates managed to capture a ship before the slot ended. We counted up victory points and I won because I found the most treasure. The look on the player’s face that just spent two hours getting raked over the hot coals of complex rules to capture a ship while I did virtually nothing was priceless.
You may ask why this is the worst game I ever played at a convention? Because it has all the elements that drive me crazy at a convention. Complex rules are for home games. Strip out everything but the bare essentials to play so new people can enjoy the core of the game. Complexity comes later. Couple this with a poor explanation of the rules and goals, a total lack of awareness that two of the people who paid to play your game are not, you know, actually playing and a complete inability to realize your game rolled off the rails two hours ago make this an all time loser. Perhaps others had a better experience, but for me this is my first and last time playing “Sailpower.”
So, this completes my coverage of Gen Con 2012. I will be back next year!
Trask, The Last Tyromancer