Wednesday, August 29, 2012

City of Horror vs Mall of Horror

Six or seven years ago, Asmodee released a game called Mall of Horror.  It was a game where your party of three (or four) characters ran around a mall trying desperately to stay ahead of the Zombie Horde which was trying to break in and eat your brains.  Eventually, the zombies would break into each location, and the players present in that location needed to vote for who they were going to toss to the zombies.

It was a cutthroat game with a good premise that played well to its theme.

But the end of the game could really drag. It was sometimes longer than the rest of the game combined.  And there was a potentially broken strategy - hang out in the Parking Lot and collect cards.

And the rule book ... *sigh*

It went out of print a few years ago, and hasn't been reprinted.  The secondary market for it has blown up. If you can find it, expect to pay a good-sized pile of cash - because it's an excellent game, despite its flaws.

Earlier this year, I saw rules for a new game: City of Horror. It fixed the problems that had plagued Mall of Horror. And it looked to be a lot of fun.

At GenCon this year, I managed to play a few games and it fulfilled its promise.

The first significant change to the game is the characters.  In Mall of Horror, everyone had the same three (or four) characters - the Blonde, the Brute, and the Gunman (in a 3-player game, you also had a Little Girl).  And I know that he wasn't called the Gunman, but I don't have my rulebook handy, so I can't check his actual name.

In City of Horror, there are twenty four different characters, and each player will control a random batch of them (the number of characters you get depends on the number of players there are).

In Mall of Horror, each location was basically the same. In City of Horror, there is a reason to choose one location over another (and it's not just counting zombies). And there's no "hang out in the Parking Lot to gather cards" issue, either - you can hang out in the Crossroads and gather food if you want to, but it won't do you any good if none of your characters survive.

In Mall of Horror, every survivor was worth points.  In City of Horror, only the vaccinated survivors are allowed on the helicopter. And you need to gather vaccine during play.

Remember that late-game slog I mentioned?  It's not there, anymore.  City of Horror ends after four turns. Period.

In short, City of Horror has a very similar feel to Mall of Horror, but with none of the drawbacks.

And so I was heartbroken when we couldn't sell the copies we had at GenCon. Because the cardstock was wrong, and it was already warping. I was caught (pleasantly) by surprise when I was told to take a copy home. "Just write about it," I was told.

When this appears in game stores in a few months, check it out.  Seriously.

If you want an early preview and you're in the Seattle Area, come to Phoenix Games on a Wednesday evening.  We'll be playing it.  And other games.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Tale of Two Kickstarters

Ten years ago, I started hosting game night at my apartment.

Well, nine years and eleven months.

At the time, I had Settlers of Catan, and a few other games.  Not much of a selection at all.

Then the FLGS owner put this paper envelope in front of me. The front said it was called Kill Doctor Lucky and warned us that we'd need to supply our own pawns for the game.

I remember thinking to myself, What kind of publisher is so lazy that they don't bother including pawns?

Other games in the line required the addition of dice. Or of decks of normal playing cards.

It was ... weird. But that's how Cheapass Games did it. After all - which of us doesn't have a dozen or so games with pieces we can raid for use as playing pieces?

It was a good idea, once you got past the weirdness of buying a DIY set. And the games ...

None of them was especially deep, and there were a few I didn't actually like. But very few - and I didn't mind.  Because it was five bucks. I think I have about a dozen of them.

James Earnest had one goal with Cheapass: Get the games into the hands of gamers. A worthy goal, which I support wholeheartedly.

And then he found a job elsewhere, and Cheapass slumbered.

Until now.

They have a Kickstarter up for a new edition of Unexploded Cow, which was one of their later productions, and one of their most fun.

It's already at 150% of goal. And there is time left.

At the other end of the spectrum, I haven't talked much about 13th Age here. Yet.  It's a game that feels like it's destined to become one of my favorites. We have the pre-order PDF, and it's very, very good.

And now - for a game that isn't even out, yet - there is a supplement being Kickstarted.  This is a tougher sell than Unexploded Cow.  For one, the campaign started during a time in which the vast majority of your target audience is watching Indianapolis for news.  For another, the target is ... it's not low.  I don't think it's unreasonably high, but they definitely have their work cut out for themselves to hit this goal.

And - finally - it's a supplement for a game that isn't even out yet.  This, alone, makes it a difficult sale.  It's like trying to sell someone dessert before the entree has arrived. No matter how many times you tell them how good your chef is, they won't fully believe it until they've tasted the entree.

But, in this case, I've had a taste.  I've snacked on 13th Age and it's tasty, with a number of bits that I can easily steal for other games. And you know I like Jonathan Tweet's work. And Rob Heinsoo's work (although I'm less familiar with his stuff).

All in all, I don't envy Fire Opal Media their Kickstart - but my household did back it. Because it looks awesome. And you should buy 13th Age and then back this one. Or back this one first and then buy 13th Age.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

GenCon 2012: The End

Just like that, we're done.

Exhausted, but alive.

And done.

Today, I played Seasons, City of Horror, and Fame Us.

I helped run demos of Evo, Mundus Novus, and Timeline.

I acquired the new Edge of the Empire game - Fantasy Flight's Star Wars RPG, for which they released a surprise beta at GenCon.

We also walked out with Shadowrun: 2050, Libertalia, Rise or Fall, Marie Andre's Bonbons, and City of Horror. Even though that last one is being reprinted due to a problem with the cardstock which was used.

At the end of the day, David Miller with Purple Pawn came by the booth.  He's done so on the last day of the convention for the last few years, and he's always good to see. We chatted for a few before the exhibit hall closed for the day.

Two good friends became engaged today. And, let me tell you, IT'S ABOUT DAMN TIME, YOU TWO!

And then we went for a team dinner at the Weber Grill. It was a bit weird for me, because my day job in a warehouse deals with a lot of Weber grills.

And now, I'm getting ready to crash.

It was a good year. A successful year.  And I've been told that next year's booth will be bigger.

We were completely slammed all weekend long. This is not surprising. Many gamers have started to see Asmodee as a destination rather than just a waypoint.  It started with a few regulars who sought out Stephanie and/or myself, but, over time, more and more gamers have discovered just how many really good games are in the booth.

And this year had three big releases in theory.  7 Wonders: Cities, Libertalia, and Seasons. We were hoping for FOUR big releases, with City of Horror.

In practice, we had two big releases - the Seasons release was delayed at the printer, and City of Horror had a cardstock issue.

And now, I'm going to collapse.

To those of you who stopped by the booth to demo a game or just say hi: Thank you. There are thousands of games at GenCon, and you have limited time in which to play them. Thank you for spending that valuable time in our booth.

We'll see you next year.

Day Three (Evening) + Day Four Preview

After the dealer's room closed last night, Stephanie and I met with our good friend Wade for dinner.  Then we wandered back to our room and chatted with him for several hours.

He cursed our name several times when we said, "X game is really good."  Because he then added it to his shopping list (Sorry, Angela!).

There are exciting things happening today.  Mayfair is reportedly live-streaming some sort of raffle this afternoon/evening, and you should totally watch it - because why would you live-stream a raffle if nothing new and/or exciting is going to be announced?

If you hadn't heard, Wizards announced that their D&D back catalog would be available electronically.  We don't know, yet, if they're going back to DriveThruRPG/RPGNow or if they'll be creating their own format tied to DDI.  Given how paranoid they are about piracy, my money says they do their own thing.

Given their past history, my money says it flops at first.  Nothing personal, WotC, but your digital initiatives have always been lousy for the first six months to a year.

Today is the slow day. In theory.  Today is the day the big vendors (us included) take longer breaks and do most of our shopping.  We've been hitting booths before the exhibit hall opens, so we're basically done.  We may grab one or two more items, but I'm already hoping we're not well over the weight limit for luggage.

The 7 Wonders tournament finals are in the booth this morning. One table's worth of players, so there will be demos going on all around them.

Also: Back home, it's 4am. And the Washington State Department of Transportation's official Twitter feed is already telling me that there are traffic problems and backups. At 4:00 am. On a Sunday.

Tonight, after the doors close, we start tearing down.  It'll take an hour or two. At the end of that time, the team will go out for dinner. For the last few years, we've gone to the Weber Grill in Indianapolis. This year, they made reservations well in advance of the convention. You pretty much need to when you have a party of 25. And this year's team is the strongest we've had so far.  By a lot.  I still got yanked from game to game a little bit when one of the "older" games needed a demo, but, for the most part, everyone in the booth knew almost every game.

Stephanie spent most of the convention playing City of Horror.  It's a good thing she likes the game.

Tomorrow, we fly home.  GenCon is wonderful and amazing and very very exhausting. Home will be wonderful and amazing and ... and will have my day job waiting for me. I'm actively afraid of how many voice mails and e-mails I'll have to deal with.

Another highlight of yesterday that I'd missed was the change to meet Jonathan Franklin (who is not related).  He's another Seattleite that I met through BoardGameGeek, and his game, A Fistful of Penguins, is selling at this convention. Apparently it's selling well, which is good.  I've read the rules and have a copy waiting for me back at my FLGS.

... and now, I need to go prepare for Sunday.  More later, probably after our tasty, tasty dinner.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

GenCon Day 3

If you can live through the Saturday of GenCon, then you can survive nearly anything.  We were busy from the word "go," this morning.

Sunday usually starts similarly busy, but dies down relatively quickly (and ends earlier).

I only played two games today: Ca$h 'N Gun$ and City of Horror.  The rest of the day, I was teaching games.

Oh - I did play one game of Skull & Roses.

I am continually shocked at how few people wandering by are familiar with Cyclades and Claustrophobia. I both saw (and ran) a number of demos for these today.

I'm not saying they're not great games - they are - but they're two or more years old. It just ... it surprises me that they're as little-known as they seem to be.

Today's Loot:
The Strange Cases of Rudolph Pearson - Apparently, Chaosium is publishing a Cthulhu fiction line, now.
Yggdrasil - I was a huge fan of Qin.  I still am, actually.  This is from the same French publisher and is translated and sold by Cubicle 7.  A very dangerous mix for my wallet.
The Smoke for Victoriana.
Cthulhu by Gaslight for Call of Cthulhu
The Mythos Dossiers for The Laundry RPG.
Outbreak: Wild Kingdom for Outbreak: Undead - Stephanie has a weakness for Zombie games that aren't All Flesh Must Be Eaten.
Outbreak: Undead .. The Gamemaster's Companion - It was free with purchase of the other one.
The Edge of Midnight, The Naked City, and Gaunts and the Underworld - While paying for the Outbreak: Undead books, these caught her eye.  They caught mine, too, in all fairness.  But she was carrying the money at the time ...

Tomorrow: We finish selling out the booth, we collect our loot, and the team goes to the Weber Grill for dinner.

Monday: We fly home.  I'm really looking forward to it. Not because I dislike it here - I don't.  I really really don't - I just miss my cats and sleeping in my own comfortable bed.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Post-Dinner Drinks

Anyone who knows me well is aware that I have three favorite RPG designers:

Jonathan Tweet
Robin D. Laws
Kenneth Hite

I learned about a week ago that Jonathan Tweet works at the same company as my wife.

When I geeked out in her direction, she looked him up. "Ooooh. Yeah," she said, "I've met that guy!"

I about died.

Then she did something I'd probably never have done in a million years - she contacted him and said, in essence, "My husband is a huge fan. Are you willing to sign autographs on product you've written?"

And he agreed, but noted that it would need to be soon, as he would be leaving for GenCon.

What a coincidence!

Tonight, Stephanie took me out for drinks. With Jonathan Tweet and two of his friends (no, not Robin D. Laws and Kenneth Hite).

It was surreal for me. And really awesome. Even if I did more or less lock up.

But, once I was able to loosen up enough - and was guided by his friend Danny - I was able to ask some questions that I'd wondered about for years.

Like "How did you convince Wizards to publish Everway?" and "Are you familiar with Talislanta, and how did it influence your design of D&D?"

I hadn't realized: Jonathan Tweet had a hand in Talislanta 3rd Edition. Enough so that he's credited alongside Stephan Michael Sechi on the title page.

Which, in turn, explains why 3E reminds me so strongly of Tal, because Tal 3 was the version I first saw.

All in all, it was an amazing time.  I'm still a bit twitchy.

... and I need to dig my old copy of Talislanta out, now, and send it with Stephanie for an autograph ...


And yes, I am geeking out.

GenCon Day Two: The Haul

Today's Haul:

Chronica Feudalis
Don't Lose Your Mind for Don't Rest Your Head
Wolsung: Steam Pulp Fantasy
Cthulhutech Quick Start Rules
Cthulhutech GM's screen
Cthonian Stars
Cthulhutech Core book - I like having multiple copies, so I have one and my players can also reference one.
Vade Mecum for Cthulhutech - it's basically a core book, honestly.  It's essential for play.
Dark Harvest: The Legacy of Frankenstein - Resistance
Laundry Files: Agent's Handbook
Clockwork and Chivalry Core Rulebook (The 2nd Edition which uses its own system)
Marvels of Science and Steampunk for Victoriana
Tales from Wilderland for The One Ring (which is amazing)
Loremaster's Screen and Lake-Town Sourcebook for The One Ring
Two sets of the custom dice for the Mistborn RPG, including the promo 11th die.

GenCon Day Two

Tomorrow is the busy one. Today was a good warmup.

Bruno Cathala displayed a wicked sense of humor this morning while teasing one of the other demo-monkeys.

We also finished most of our shopping for the trip today. I will post that list later when I am on my computer rather than the phone.

GenCon Day Two (Morning)

Indianapolis has a few things I like that we don't have in Seattle. But you have to be up really early to get into some of them, because they get mobbed by gamers.

I'm speaking, of course, about food.

We don't have Steak 'n Shake. And it's the closest fast food to the convention center. Because of this, it  has a long line nearly all weekend long.

Indianapolis also has at least one White Castle. I ... I occasionally crave the stuff, revolting though it is. Because - let's be honest, here - White Castle makes terrible food. Terrible food which is weirdly addictive.

And Chick-Fil-A. I get this one time per year - at GenCon. It's one of the odd highlights of my convention. I just love their food. My wife is less-impressed with the food. That's okay - she's allowed to be wrong occasionally. As an added bonus, GenCon happens in the midst of the Peach Milkshake season at CFA.

Many of us who are experienced GenCon folk have found our own quiet little watering holes here in Indy.  Last year, the Asmodee crew stumbled across a bar that no-one else at the convention seemed to know about. I'd tell you where it is, but that would mean giving up the secret and possibly fighting the two-hour-plus lines that the rest of the restaurants in the area seem to acquire around this time.

I"m not kidding, either. For my third GenCon, three of us went to P.F. Chang's, because we love the food. When we arrived, they quoted a two hour wait time for us.  The lobby was packed with people, and it was a fight to get to the desk to put your name on the waiting list.

I felt a little bad for some of the non-gamers who were just trying to have a good night out on the town, because many of them don't keep track of the local conventions and when they are. And GenCon is one of the larger conventions held locally.

So that leads to it being 7:30 am Eastern Time (Back home, it's 4:30 am), and I'm already up and getting ready to leave so we can get our morning Steak 'n Shake breakfast.

During the day, I eat the convention center bratwurst.  They're terrible, but they also haven't killed me yet. Four of them per year is about all I can handle.

After the convention shuts down on Sunday, Christophe has made reservations for the team at the Weber Grill, which is both very expensive and very tasty.  It's also within walking distance of the convention center.  It's expensive enough that you don't get two hour wait times during the show.  Don't get me wrong: You still get some significant waits there, but it's not as bad as, say, The Old Spaghetti Factory (where we ate last year).

... and now I need to go.  I don't eat breakfast regularly at home, but I never miss it at GenCon, because I need the energy to get through the day.

I'll post tonight with my daily aftermath.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

GenCon Day One

As usual, my wife and I were the first ones to the booth.

"You know," I told her, "We won't have enough of anything."

We sold out of Seasons and Seven Wonders: Cities pretty early today.  We may have more later in the weekend (I hope I hope I hope), but I'm not holding my breath.

We had City of Horror in the booth, but weren't able to sell it.  The cardboard for this print run is ... substandard.  So they're ditching the batch and have already re-ordered. Hopefully it won't take long.  We do have a demo copy in the booth, and it's very good. I like it a great deal.

We also have some copies of Eclipse in the booth. I don't expect them to last, but the $90 price point may prove me wrong.  Time will tell, I guess.

Ever demo a game with the designer hanging out looking over your shoulder? It's a little nerve-wracking. Especially when it's a designer whose work you respect a great deal like Bruno Cathala.  The guys I was demoing it to had no idea who he was, so I headed to the 'Geek and started listing his games for them.  The other players realized that they owned half a dozen of his games and were appropriately awed.

Meanwhile, I was a nervous wreck, what if I messed a rule up? Thankfully, I didn't.  Bruno Cathala is one of the nicest folks around, too. And he set all of us at ease very quickly.

I say that a lot.

One of the designers in the booth - Jean-Louis Roubira - grabbed me at one point to introduce me to Regis Bonnessee. "He really wants to meet you," I was told.  And Regis was extremely nice and thanked me for my work on the translation.  It was a good feeling.

Both Jean-Louis and Regis are extremely nice, too.

And Pierre Poissant-Marquis is working the booth again this year - again: A very nice guy and very pleasant to be around.

Also working the booth are Matt Drake from Drake's Flames and Giancarlo Caltabiano from

So it's an all-star crew in a lot of ways.

Played Today:
Evo x3

Acquired Today:
Shadows Over Filmland and Out of Time for Trail of Cthulhu
The Book of the Smoke - for any Mythos-based game set in and around 1930's London
Blue Planet Player's Guide, Revised Edition
Fading Suns Player's Guide, Revised Edition
Our Last Best Hope - Stephanie had KickStarted this, and picked it up here.
Night's Black Agents - Another preorder pickup.

We even had a few of them signed.

Tomorrow, we will brave Cubicle 7. They are holding a copy of Yggdrasil for us, because C7 is one of the nicest publishers around.

Blister Count:
One. By the time Stephanie and I arrived, setup was basically done. Normally at this time, I'd be at two or three, all of them severe.  This year, I have one and it's not that bad.

Other milestones reached:
I had my annual Chick-Fil-A.  You can laugh all you want, but we don't have it at home, so I only get it once per year.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

GenCon Day Zero

The booth is set up. And it's HUGE.  I can't wait to see the crowds tomorrow.

Played City of Horror.  I enjoyed it. It reminds me of Mall of Horror, which should come as no surprise, but it's very different from its predecessor.

The flights here were uneventful, other than the fact that I've never flown through Cleveland before. Numbers apparently work differently in Cleveland than in the rest of the world - Gate 28 was down by Gate 2. It was all the way across the terminal from Gate 26, as near as I could tell.

Had dinner tonight with John and Katie - two good friends who moved to Vancouver BC a few years ago, so we see them less than we would like to.

It hit me tonight - the 10th Anniversary of our Game Night gathering is one month and two days away.  We'll be celebrating in one month and four days.

I had a chance to read some of the rules to the Eclipse expansion, Rise of the Ancients.  Along with some techs that will make missiles less useful, there are things which make the Ancients more terrifying, including the regenerating dreadnought.  Not sure when it drops, but I'm looking forward to it.

Scouted a few locations today. As in "This is the route I need to take to reach the booth so I don't spend every last nickel I have ever earned."

Purchases today: None.
Games played today: City of Horror

More tomorrow.

Gamethyme's Game of the Year 2012

This last year has seen a lot of new-to-me games hit the table.  It was a big year for 4X games, too, if you look at what I've played. But, despite the appearance of Eclipse this year, the winner is not a 4X game.

Don't get me wrong: Eclipse is every bit as good as you have heard it is.  If, for some reason, you hhaven't heard how good it is, do some research. In all honesty, it is probably the best game of the last year.
So how can I say that and not give it my Game of the Year?

Because it's too long a game for my usual group, so it only hits the table on full day game sessions or special occasions.  It's a stellar, amazing, stunning game that I can't play regularly enough.

Much like last year, I spent hours going over my games played and notes I'd taken. I played so many games for the first time this year, that it genuinely wasn't easy - especially given how many of the games that were new to me are so very good.

So which game wins?

My Game of the Year this year is Shitenno.  It's a relatively fast-playing game that is equally as good with two, three, or four players.

And it still (so far as I know) lacks a US distributor, which is a shame.

I hesitate to call it a resource allocation game, but it is.  Resource allocation and set collection.  There is a huge degree of player interaction, and it has a real cutthroat edge to it - but it's a very subdued cutthroat.  While my group enjoys this game a great deal, you could easily play this game with your family - a rare combination.

The ease of play should not be mistaken for a lack of depth, however.  Experienced players will have a definite edge over beginners, because they'll know the value of the various bundles.  And your first few plays will involve a great deal of fumbling as you try to figure out what's going on.

But once you (and the other players) know what the relative value of the various items are, this game really starts to shine. And it scales very well - too many games are great with two and terrible with three. In fact, "three" seems to be a very tough number to write a game for.

Three player games tend to turn into two players bashing on the leader - Shitenno, on the other hand, makes it very difficult to bash the leader, because they are the ones assembling the bundles.  By the same token, the leader needs to assemble decent bundles, because if the other players all refuse the bundle, then the leader is stuck with it. And what I want in a bundle is different from what you want in a bundle, making it entirely possible that every player will get what they are after in a given turn.

It's a fascinating way of balancing a game, and I think it's fully deserving of more recognition (and is also in need of more play).

I'd like to play it more, and I will be easily able to do so. That is why I've chosen Shitenno as my Game of the Year.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Over The Edge

A few days ago, I received a comment on an old post - it was in reference to the list of traits my players had come up with for Ghostbusters International when they didn't even know what the game was going to be.
It's my working theory that, when given unbridled opportunities for creativity, a group of players will invariably come up with something to equal or exceed anything the designers of a game could ever achieve alone.
This comment led me to wonder: What if there was an entire game built around this idea?

And then, within a day or two, I received a package in the mail. My 20th Anniversary Edition of Over The Edge.  This game is a shining gem of minimalist design.  It takes five minutes to make a character (ten if you're thinking too much about it), and you can be up and playing in less than ten minutes.

And it fits exactly the theory - you see, players can be anything.

The game is an odd melange of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, espionage, and conspiracy - in all honesty, the game tends to reflect what the players bring to the table.  Do you want to play a three-armed blue alien who is stranded on Earth and trying to find a way home?  You can do that.  Want to play an innocent tourist caught up in events beyond his control? Easily done.  Are you interested in playing a hive-mind from the future possessing the body of a homeless drunk?  You got it!

I think one of the greatest things about the game is that all of these things are handled seriously. Yes, you can play Al-Amarja for laughs with its bungling Keystone Kops-esque Peace Force constantly arriving too late to prevent actual mayhem - but you'd miss part of the point.

Al-Amarja is an island where nothing is right.  That three-armed alien? He'll be mugged within two hours and the Peace Force won't help him without appropriate documentation proving that he has a right to be on Al-Amarja.  The hive mind? He'll have to deal with Throckmorton, especially if his vision of the future is somehow different.

Al-Amarja is an oppressive regime under which anything goes, as long as you don't rock the boat too much. And then they bring the hammer down - and you do not want to be there when the hammer falls.

And did I mention that the rules can be summarized onto a single page?

As a GM, there is an additional bit of fun available for the game: they did a collectible card game version called On The Edge. You can use the CCG as a story generator - grab a random bunch of cards, and flip them up one at a time.  The MacGuffin is ... [CARD], it's being looked for by [CARD], and is currently held by [CARD].  Also pursuing it is [CARD]. If you decide to do this, I do suggest having at least one starter deck.  Steve Jackson Games used to sell a "Burger Box" that was a good start.

All in all, it's one of my all-time favorite games. I own every product ever produced for it (including copies of Edgeworks, the FanZine). And it is one of those rare games with no limit to what you (and your players) can do.

I heartily recommend tracking down a copy.

Next week, I will be in Indianapolis.  Wednesday morning, you should see my Game of the Year post. Then, starting Wednesday evening, I will update sporadically with thoughts on the Con and how it's going and what I've seen. Expect a smattering of small posts with occasional longer thoughts as time allows.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Prepping for GenCon

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine referred to me as being a, "walking, talking, living, breathing Wikipedia of games." And several people nearby nodded in agreement.

I have a reputation locally as being That Guy when it comes to games.  And it's not a bad reputation to have - when there is a rules dispute, I am occasionally called in as arbiter.

I know for a fact that I'm not the world's Foremost Expert on All Things Game. There are numerous folk whose knowledge far surpasses mine, both in terms of active rules content and game history - and you can find their blogs all over the internet (thank you, by the way, for reading my random scribbles when you could be reading something else).

So why do I get to go to GenCon instead of some of these other guys?

Let me rewind to last year.  Briefly.  Last year, I posted an entry saying, in essence, "please be kind to your demo folk at conventions."  I know it was read, because it receive more hits than nearly anything else I've had to say here.

This year, I want to talk about how I prepare for GenCon.

I'd throw in some training montage video, here, but ... it'd be wildly inaccurate.

Generally, I receive shipments of games from Asmodee at several points over the year. They're nearly always games I had a hand in. When they're not, they're games that I will be demoing at the next convention.

The very first thing I do is record them as 'Owned' on BoardGameGeek.  Yes. Really.

Then I'll pick one game from that shipment, crack it open, punch the bits that need punching, do any necessary assembly, and I'll read the rules.  I shoot for three games per week of learning like this.  That following Wednesday, I'll bring them to Game Night, and try to teach (and play) a full game of each.

The Game Night crowd is well used to me bringing new games and using them as a training test bed, so they know that I'll probably miss a rule or two the first time out.  Sometimes, if a game is particularly difficult, they'll try to help me figure a way to make it easier to teach.

But we'll play.  And I'll take mental notes on what I said and what confusion it caused, and I'll try to think of a different way to say the same thing to avoid that issue. After we play, I'll talk to Stephanie on the way home. "Rule (X) seemed to trip people up. I need to highlight that one when we are at GenCon."

And I keep reading the rules.  In fact, when we hit the point roughly one month before GenCon, I grab as many rules PDFs as I can find and throw them onto my Kindle. I read rules on my breaks at work. I read rules at night. I read rules when Stephanie is driving us somewhere.

It's like cramming for Finals, only it lasts for a full month.

And I'll keep talking to Stephanie. "Oh! We missed a rule.  Did you know ... ?"

I focus on games I expect to be especially hot that year.  Libertalia and Seasons are the games I expect to spend the most time demoing this year - and neither one is available, yet.  But I have the rules PDFs.

I even study games that were big a few years ago, just in case. Occasionally, I'll study out-of-print games (I had a handful of Mall of Horror rules questions come my way last year, for example).

I don't usually study expansions in depth. Since so few people in the booth have regularly played the base game (regardless of which base game we're talking about), it's a lot easier to demo the base game and then tell them, "and the expansion adds ... "  Obviously, with the popularity of 7 Wonders, this may not apply to the expansions.

This year, we were sent a list of focus games - games I need to be prepared to demo.  It contains no surprises (with the possible exception of Eclipse, which is ill-suited to demos due to length).

In fact, with a brief refresher, I think I'm prepared to demo every game on the list. And the refresher, by the way, will be for the games that are releasing at the show - City of Horror, Seasons, and 7 Wonders: Cities.

This year, we'll be flying out on Wednesday rather than on Tuesday. Apparently Christophe decided to spare us the setup - which is a mixed blessing. Generally, we are given more games during setup to learn, and sometimes we'll get to play them that evening.  The last few years, I've been able to play a quick game with David Miller of Purple Pawn, and I don't know if that'll be a Wednesday option this year or not. Which is a shame, because it's been a highlight every year.

I am occasionally asked how I can handle the rude and otherwise difficult customers we run into at GenCon every year. It's easy. See, I deal with a couple of very difficult people at work. Every day. And, when things get rough at GenCon, the usual thought is, "At least it's not X." or "... and then I never saw them again."  You'd be amazed at the abuse you can handle when you realize that. And - in all honesty - the crowds at GenCon tend to be pretty good-natured. You get occasional jerks (like the guy who screamed at Stephanie because Mission: Red Planet wasn't in the booth due to shipping delays), but most people are there to have a good time.

I also expect more people this year will seek Asmodee out as an early source - partly due to the awesome games, and partly due to the awesome guests.