Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Please Be Kind To Us At GenCon

And by "us," I mean, "the people who are demonstrating games."  By "GenCon," I mean "at conventions, game stores, in libraries, and elsewhere."

I'm going to use the Asmodee booth as an example throughout.

Expect Rules Mistakes and Omissions
New games since last year (games marked with an asterisk are games I don't have, yet):

*7 Wonders: Leaders,Double Agent,7 Wonders,Expedition Altiplano,Dice Town Extension,Felinia,Gosu,*Claustrophobia: De Profundis (expected to release at GenCon), *EVO (a re-release with some rules tweaks), *Dixit Odyssey*FabulaIntrigo,*Quebec, SobekTikal II: The Lost TempleWater Lily ...

And  that's not including the last-minute surprise games that they inevitably spring on us and the games from previous years that we'll be expected to know. Or the games I have inevitably forgotten.

For obvious reasons, not all demo teamers are expert on all games.

Some booths will have specialized team members - "You get Table 1, and will teach games X, Y and Z."  Some booths will have team members who know every game. Some booths will have a bit of both.

What it boils down to is this:

When you visit a booth at GenCon that has multiple games, you may have to wait to learn a second game (or a first game if there is a game that is more popular than expected). Or you may receive a partial demo. Or a demo with an incorrect rule or two. If a game has multiple levels of play, don't expect to learn the deeper game. Felinia, for example, has a basic game and an advanced game. The basic game is not bad, but the advanced game is much more interesting. The advanced game is also slower to teach.

We're Volunteers, Most of Us
When I go to conventions other than GenCon, I usually do so on my own nickel. And then I spend that time teaching people to play games because it's what I like doing, not because anyone is paying me.  At GenCon, it varies booth to booth who are company employees, who are paid volunteers (like me), and who are unpaid volunteers.

This means that a not insignificant number of people working in the Exhibit Hall don't do this for a living. We don't know why Game X was delayed or what the release date for Game Expansion Z is. We're not the people to look at your portfolios (but we may be able to point you at someone who can). Don't ask us about the metaplot of the game - we may be passionate enthusiasts, but that doesn't mean we know everything. Are you an unpaid freelancer? We're not the people to scream at (this hasn't happened to us, but I've heard of it happening at other booths).

In general, please remember that we're there to help you have a good time. While we may be having a good time ourselves, that's secondary to our goals.

That's right: I'm not there to have fun. I am there specifically for you. This doesn't mean I'll necessarily let you win, but I will show you why I do what I do (for some games), and make suggestions for you in other games.

If They're In Uniform, They're Usually There To Work
Not all booths have uniforms, it's true. In the Asmodee booth, we've gone through a variety of T-shirts. One year, they were construction-worker orange and spray-painted. One year, they were maroon with the Asmodee logo in front.  We got Repos T-shirts one year, too.

My wife works the booth, too. She demos games just as well as anyone else in the booth (better than some, actually). All too often, she'll offer to demo a game and be ignored. Or someone will ask her when one of the demo guys will be available.

This happens less and less, but it still happens. And it's frustrating for the whole team, not just Stephanie - it's work for us that she could do. Better than most of the guys in the booth.

We May Not Remember Your Name or Face
Believe it or not, we see a lot of people. I know. Shocking.

There are people for whom I have run at least one demo per year for the last seven years. There are people who seek me out. There are people who seek Stephanie out.

We still don't always recognize them.

That Doesn't Mean We Don't Remember You
Because we sometimes do. But don't count on it.

There is one group who comes by every year - we don't know their names. We recognize their faces by now. During most of the year, they are "The Canadians" to Stephanie and myself. We look forward to seeing them every year, because they remind us of the groups we game with - they spend the game loudly deriding one another's abilities and generally just laughing their way through the demo.

But I wouldn't be able to pick them out of a crowd.  I didn't see them last year - and Stephanie only saw one of them. "I saw the tall guy," she said, "but the rest of the group was missing."

This Doesn't Necessarily Mean We Don't Know Who You Are
I read a lot of blogs. Too many blogs. I listen to a few podcasts. I'm active on BoardGameGeek.

What does this mean to you? If you're a blogger, a podcaster, or a BGG regular then there is a good chance I will recognize your name. And I'm not the only one in the booth who does.

Don't expect special treatment just because your badge says "Press" - if you push it, we'll hand you off to the full-time Asmodee employees and go back to running demos for the general public. If one of the full-timers hands you back to one of us, it means that they trust us to run the demo right. And your demo will be the same demo any attendee will get.

There's more, too, but it feels like I've already written a novel, and I have things I need to get done before we leave.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

More Games for Creatives

A lot of my friends are writers. Some of them are poets, some of them are fiction writers. Some of them are game masters. Others write games. One even writes ad copy.

A lot of them ... no, scratch that.  ALL of them struggle with writer's block from time to time.

Just over a year ago, I wrote about some games that could be used to spur creativity.

I have a few - and I recently acquired another few. And another one will be on its way soon.

Rory's Story Cubes is fascinating. There is some argument over whether or not it's a game - and I understand the argument. It's more of a randomized storytelling tool than a game. The game consists of nine dice with a variety of things on their faces - pyramids and cats and houses and trees and arrows and ... yeah.  The rules are simple: Roll the dice and use the rolled elements to create a story.  There's an expansion, too, but it's not as readily available in North America. The expansion dice all show actions when rolled.  Together, they are a great tool for getting that story started.

I mentioned Dixit in my last post. Well, Dixit Odyssey is now out. If you were already using Dixit as a storytelling tool, this gives you 84 more cards to put to the same use. If you Dixit, Dixit 2, and Dixit Odyssey, you now have 252 cards to use.

Fiasco is a cooperative storytelling game.  Moreso even than Polaris. I really liked Fiasco, and the Fiasco Companion which is now available has some absolutely fascinating interviews with several teachers, authors, publishers, and others about how they've used Fiasco in their daily life to strengthen their creativity (and inspire it in others).

If you're using these tools specifically to drive creativity, you can combine them, too - use the Story Cubes as required elements in a Dixit-inspired story. Or use Fiasco, but roll the Story Cubes (or flip a Dixit card) at the Tilt instead of using the normal Tilt table.

Next week, I'll be posting about Demo Games and Demo Teams.  Yes. Again.

The following week, I'll be at GenCon. I've written the post for Gamethyme's Game of the Year already, but it'll go up after GenCon. During the convention itself, I'll be making numerous small posts from my phone.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Friendly Local Game Stores

I'm a big fan of supporting local game stores.  Always have been, always will be. They've always been the center of my gaming life.

But I don't suggest blindly just going to whatever store happens to be closest.  Find a store where you're comfortable. And, of course, make sure that the store suits your needs.

I'm very lucky.  Living in the Seattle area, there are a number of good game stores. I've visited most of them, and I've very rarely been disappointed.

For me, I need a game store with a good board game selection. Ideally, the store will either have a decent RPG selection, too, but that's secondary.  If they can order games, that's usually good enough for me.

Phoenix Games in Mukilteo suits most of my needs (and has the added advantage of being close). I've also bonded well with Uncle's Games (which has multiple locations).

Recently, however, I was reminded why I like these two stores so well. You see, a new game store opened close enough to my office that I can visit on my lunch break and still have time to eat lunch.  So I went to scope it out (which I do every time I find out about a new game store). And I was unimpressed.

When I walked in, there were three people in the store. Two of them were chatting at the counter, and the third was lounging against the counter, listening to the conversation.  It was a couple of minutes before I was greeted, and the greeting was lukewarm.

Their selection also left me underwhelmed.

I am of the opinion that a game store should have a few copies of Monopoly. Maybe a variant or two. Copies of Sorry or Aggravation are also good ideas, even if they can't compete with Target's pricing on the mass-market games - these games help non-gamers accept the legitimacy of the game store. Yes, I'm serious.

This store? It had at least thirty different Monopoly versions. And three versions of Jenga and four different Yahtzee versions.  And some chess sets, helpfully labeled, "Do Not Play With The Chess Sets."  They had some more modern games, but the selection underwhelmed. Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and a smattering of expansions for the games, and a small handful of other games - all of which were either popular mass-market games or are extremely popular on BoardGameGeek.

Their RPG selection was also odd ... they had a full shelf of Wizards of the Coast-produced 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons books (which went out of print in 2007). And a smattering of other RPG supplements (and an odd shortage of core books).

I didn't see any demo copies. That doesn't mean they weren't there, mind you. But I don't think they were.  You see, the tables in the back had a little sign on them. "Tables are for scheduled demos and events only."  And the chairs were all up on the tables.

Demos and events are the lifeblood of a game store.  Phoenix Games has a different event nearly every day of the week. So does Uncle's. But when there's not an event (or when a scheduled event isn't using all the available table space), the tables are available for open play.

All in all, the experience was unwelcoming.

I wasn't sure if it was just my own prejudices affecting my perception, however, so I sent my wife in to check it out. Her perceptions almost perfectly mimicked my own.

If it were the only game store in town, I might frequent it. Maybe. But I'd probably still be hosting game night in my apartment. And I'd buy a lot more games online than I do now.

Which is to say: I don't blame people for buying online. Sometimes there just isn't another viable option.

But I still suggest buying local if at all possible.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Dungeon Twister: Updates

It's been a while since I had anything to say about Dungeon Twister, hasn't it?

I have a few small updates for you, both on the video game and on the board game.

The next expansion is tentatively titled Dungeon Twister: Traps. It will follow the expansion plan laid out before Prison was released - that is, rather than one box of eight rooms, eight characters, and six objects, it'll be released in blister packs.  Each pack will have one or two characters, some rooms, and an object or two.  I don't know, yet, how many packs or what the exact makeup of each pack will be.

Why the long wait?  Chris has specific artists he likes working for for each project.  The artists he's worked with since the original Base Set were occupied with other jobs. They are now available and are reportedly starting work.  Personally, if we can maintain consistence from the (now five-year-old) Base Set and the newest expansions, I consider that a thing worth waiting for.

As to the video game - I know that I showed you the dance video a few months back.  There is another video out there - a gameplay video - if you know where to look. I can't share it, yet, as I don't have permission to do so. Rest assured that, as soon as I can show it off, I will do so.

I've had e-mail from Hydravision - if you check the website, it's slowly being updated, even if the Contest link is two years old at this point ...

Why the delays on the game?  There've been a number of reasons.  Hydravision had to change publishers, for one.

Rumor is that the latest delay is reportedly because of the recent Playstation Network security breach - Sony put approvals of new games on hold, and is now working through the backlog.  Oh - and they apparently have some new security and privacy requirements. Since Sony and Microsoft both get touchy about publishing games that were available on the other system first, it's holding up the XBox Live version as well. I got this info from several sources, none of them at Hydravision, Ludically, or Asmodee.

The current release date for the game is September 14th. But that may be pushed back, too.

I opted not to run for re-election to the LIDT board this year. When I was initially asked to join the board, I told them I was in until they found someone capable of taking the reins.  Geoff Heintzelman has more than stepped up in that regard.  I am still a member of the League - and I intend to continue as a member - but I don't have the time to devote to the League that I wish I had. And that's even with my priorities set close to how I want them.  I'll still share information as I receive it - it's just that I won't be the primary source anymore. Instead, I'll be quoting Geoff as the source. Or other members as appropriate.

Geoff, by the way, has been nominated for Vice President of the LIDT. And he definitely has my vote ...

And that's about all the news I have at present.