Wednesday, January 26, 2011

SCARAB, Part 2: Travel and the Show Itself

SCARAB 2010 143
What's the first thing you do when you decided to take a trip? Find the cheapest rates.

The convention had made arrangements with a local hotel for a special rate. We gladly took advantage of that, and Stephanie immediately started checking out airfare.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, it was cheaper to fly into Raleigh/Durham than it was to fly directly into Columbia. A lot cheaper. Part of this is because we flew Southwest Airlines - it's no-frills and cheap. And the flight attendants aren't afraid to demonstrate their personalities.  Which is nice.  It makes for a flight that's entertaining and a pre-flight briefing that isn't completely generic.

Our first flight was early.  Our second flight was late.  When we got off the plane, I called Geoff. We then headed to his place for the evening. And by "evening," I mean "late night."  Geoff had a spare room, and we crashed there overnight before driving down the next day.

The drive was ... well, it was a drive. Nothing particularly good or bad happened. Well, other than breakfast at Chick-Fil-A. That was good.  And we saw two accidents. Those were bad.  But that's a typical drive, right?

We arrived a bit later than we'd planned to.  We had no problem checking into the hotel, and the convention was very conveniently close.

SCARAB 2010 009
Registration was fast and easy.  We got our badges and our swag bags and headed to the open game area, where Geoff and I set up and started running demos (and playing games).

It wasn't a big convention - I'd guess just over 100 the first night, and 150-200 at its peak, but that's just a guess.  I haven't seen any actual numbers anywhere. But what it lacked in numbers, it made up for with enthusiasm. It's worth noting that I've attended smaller conventions here in Seattle.

At one point that first evening, we started a game of Dungeon Twister: Prison, but didn't have the time to get through it.  That's for the best, though, as he was beating me quite badly.

Geoff, you see, is better at the game than I am.  It's like I tell people in person: I understand the game. I know the theory. I know why characters are set up as they are. The balance makes total sense to me. I also have an excellent objective grasp of the strategy. That is: I can tell you (by watching you play) where you're going wrong. I can help other people improve.

What I can't do is put that strategy into practice for myself. Most of the time.

We had a small but enthusiastic group there playing DT late into the night.  Most of them had come down from North Carolina for the convention. There was a mini-tournament/training Friday night. It went well - Geoff has posted the results on Boardgamegeek and on the official League website.

The next day started early, with more play.  I got in a game of Paladins and Dragons with Geoff, and I won - you see, Geoff's weakness is that he gets flustered when his opponent does something stupid.  I'm not making this up, either.

I teleported my Red Dragon and fireballed his Dragon and one other character - but it left the Dragon within reach of his Dragonslayer.  Which was stupid, as it gave him his third or fourth point, and he had superior board position at the time.  He got flustered, and then took the bait - he immediately killed my Dragon, allowing me to walk my Illusionist up to Charm his character into some falling rocks.  One AP later, and my Night Elf was in the Pentagram Chamber for a fifth point.

Saturday was spent playing more games of DT, and teaching more games. Later in the day, we broke out the 3/4 Player Expansion (even if you already own it, you should click through and check out that price), which went over like gangbusters. And by "gangbusters," I mean "we had to break out multiple sets for the players, as they were having so much fun."

On Sunday, we had the tournament for the big prizes.  Ten players total - we used Swiss Perfect to handle pairings.  We ran for three rounds (before running out of time - a fourth round would have been a good idea).  When the dust had settled, I wound up doing much better than I had anticipated. Second.

The biggest deal for me this weekend was something that may not make sense to some of you.

SCARAB 2010 164You see, I've been writing and posting this blog for more than five years, now. If you check back through the archives, you'll find more posts about Dungeon Twister than about any other subject.

Hundreds of posts. Analysis, strategy tips, pointers. Overviews.  The works. Lots and lots of strategy tips.

As I mentioned previously, I have trouble actually being able to put these tips into practice. I rarely win the game.  Sometimes that's deliberate - the point of a demo is to give the new player the flavor of the game. A five-minute game doesn't even come close to the full experience.  But usually (for me, at least), it's because I can't seem to make it work.

This weekend, however, something finally clicked.  I stopped struggling with some of the pointers I've dished out, and managed to get a few of them in play. Some of those multiple uses I've been talking about actually saw play.  It was a good feeling - and it led to my winning. Or being in a position to win.

I'd also been a bit burned out. Somehow, with all these pages and pages and pages of writing, I forgot that DT is a game, and games are for fun.  This weekend, I managed to rediscover the fun of the game.

Thanks, Geoff, for introducing SCARAB to me. It was a weekend well-spent.


  1. Great article on SCARAB, Eric.

    A few comments:

    A fourth round on Sunday would have been great - and warranted, since we had 10 players. Perhaps we should schedule more time for the finals next year, or carry over the results from Saturdays opening rounds somehow.

    I've been playing so much base game and Prison that I've forgotten strategy for Paladins and Dragons. That's good -- as it leaves me more to look forward to learning and playing in the future.

    Dungeon Twister is an interesting game -- because there are so many possibilities I'm not sure that I'll ever be happy with my play. I can always look back and see something that I should have done differently. It's great to always be learning something new -- especially from losses. Playing DT is a very humbling experience.

    One last thing -- you mentioned that many of the players were from NC. So I just wanted to let any readers of your blog know that I'm planning many more events in the Carolinas. I'm going to have 2-4 more local tournaments in North Carolina in 2011. And... I'm going to try to have a North Carolina Open tournament at MACE in November ( and return to SCARAB in January 2012.

    Happy Twisting,


  2. We were real glad y'all were able to make it down. We really hope its the beginning of something real big. We're striving to be the best cheap con in the country. Thanks for the good review.