Friday, July 31, 2015

Day Two

Still here.  Still alive.  Still loving it.

I was right about Metal Adventures, I think.  It's not a bad game, but it has a narrow target audience and it's a difficult game to demo because there are a ton of things you need to explain before game start.

Starfighter continues to be (IMHO) the best game in the booth.

Met a handful more people in person for the first time.

Acquired Chill (the new one), some dice, and a bunch of t-shirts.

And one can of real Canadian Maple Syrup. And one jar of Bacon Marmalade. Now, if only I had some decent pierogies to put the marmalade on ...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Day One: Survived

I demoed Starfighter all day.  The game is better than I had expected, and I had been really looking forward to it.  It's a game that received little or no fanfare or buzz - but which needs some. It's phenomenal. No-one that I demoed it to seemed to dislike it.

The team is better than I'd expected, too. More organized, just to start with.  The choices they made as team leads were good ones. Pete and Liz and Alex are all really awesome people.

There was some PR event this afternoon, so all of the teams were running a tiny bit short-handed, but you really couldn't tell. No PR tomorrow, so we should be at or near full strength all day.

As expected, Mysterium sold out.  Well, today's batch of it did.  They are doing one batch per day on Friday and Saturday, as well. It will almost certainly sell out.

Discoveries sold out, too, which I think caught everyone off-guard.  It's a dice game themed around the Lewis and Clark expedition. I've read the rulebook, but not had a chance to take it for a spin, yet.

I saw David Miller of Purple Pawn today. Chatted for a few minutes (which was all either of us had). I also met Tim Norris of Grey Elephant Gaming. He seemed to enjoy Starfighter.

This is the first GenCon since Asmodee bought Days of Wonder last year. The DoW games have been smoothly integrated into the booth. I realized that there aren't many Asmodee games in the booth.  It's nearly all Asmodee partners - Ludonaute, Matagot, Repos, Queen, Ystari, and so on.

The booth is huge. And it didn't click with me just how huge until after the show had started and the stampede began.

Barony was in the booth right behind me.  Demos for it seemed to go well.

And now, I need to go track down some food.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Day Zero: Complete

The booth is set up.

My head is packed with game rules.

My stomach is full of PF Chang's (because we had a gift card and there is no way we are going to suffer through the hour or more's wait we can expect tomorrow).

I had three Random Encounters with people I know in the convention center. +Erik Jensen+ASH LAW, and +Wolfgang Baur.  One of those three is not extended-local to me when at home.

Tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM, the VIGs are let loose upon the exhibit hall. An hour after that, all the Hounds of Hell the rest of GenCon's attendees are allowed in.

It's going to be a ton of fun.

A ton of work, yes, but also a ton of fun.

I look forward to this moment every year.

Mostly Done

Setup is mostly done. My part is done.

Time for about fifteen showers and 10,000 mg of Ibuprofen followed by alcohol and/or dinner before being on location by 7:45ish tomorrow morning.

Big team this year. Enthusiastic team. There are people I'll miss from previous years, but this team has as much (if not more) potential for greatness as last year's team did. And last year's team was phenomenal.


They never turn the AC on for setup.

We all look about like this.

Game of the Year

Before I get too deep into this, let me remind you that my Game of the Year isn't necessarily the best game I played that year. It's not necessarily the deepest or the simplest or the zaniest. It's the game that, when I'm getting read for GenCon, I look back on and say, "I can't wait to get home and play that some more."

It was a tough decision this year - there were some really good early front-runners and some really good games that appeared late in the year.  In fact, this is one of the best years for games I've seen in a long while.

This year, the winner is the game that best filled an odd gap in my collection.

This year, Nations: The Dice Game best fit the needs of my regular Wednesday group.

It scales well from 2-4, takes a surprisingly short amount of time to play, is easy to learn, and everyone seems to like it.

It's not the deepest game in my library - but it's a LONG ways from being the shallowest, because there are decisions that need to be made and they're not all as easy as you'd expect given its ten-twenty minute play time.

The rules are straightforward with no edge cases that we've been able to find so far.

There are multiple paths to victory, and most of the die colors emphasize two of these paths.

Dice - for the record hate me.

Like crazy a lot.

But these dice?

Well, I don't win very often, but I've only felt screwed due to die rolls once. Most of my losses, I can point at decisions I made. "I should have drafted [Tile] instead of [Tile], so that [Player] didn't have a shot at it." And the like.

All in all, this game was a pleasant surprise - especially when compared to its (much) heavier older brother, Nations (which is phenomenal, but not nearly as fast or easy).

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

GenCon: The Plan

So here's what'll be going on in this space next week:

Wednesday - Setup day. At the usual time, I'll post about my Game of the Year. That evening, I may have something to say about setup or the team.

Thursday - Day one.  I'll post as often as I can during the day via my phone, with a (probable) longer post in the evening to wrap up my impressions.

Friday and Saturday - I'll try to keep the same basic schedule as Thursday, but these days are busier.

Sunday - On Sunday, the exhibit hall closes earlier, but then we get into teardown, so don't expect much from me until late, when I will post my overall impressions of the show.


Next Wednesday - Nothing. I'm taking a week off.

This year, the Asmodee crew is huge.  As in "Roughly 50 people," huge. And I don't know even a fraction of everyone there. Most of last year's truly excellent crew have signed on for another year, and we have a few new faces as well.

I'll admit that there are a few faces I'll be missing from the last year or two, but change is inevitable.

They also posted a (very brief) preview of some of the games and events we'll have in the booth over on Facebook.

From the look of things, this will be the best-organized GenCon for me so far. Of course, I've said that every year - Asmodee's management team has been slowly adjusting things just a little bit more every year.

With as many people as we have, it needs to be the most-organized ever.

I. Can't. Wait.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Game of the Year Front-Runners

GenCon is a few weeks early this year, which has thrown me off schedule-wise.

As long-time readers know, every year, I crown "Gamethyme's Game of the Year" for the best (for me) new-to-me game played since the start of the previous year's GenCon. Note that these are not all "new" games of the last year - they're just games that I had somehow managed to not encounter previously.

Some years, there is a clear (and easy) winner.

This year will be a bit trickier. Here are the games I consider the front-runners:

Star Realms. A small-box deckbuilder that I've played a ton of via their app. I think that it's a bit too random, but my regular defeats (and all-too-rare victories) tell me that there is definitely a skill component in play here,

Hyperborea. A "bag-builder" with a conquest theme that seems to be trying to bridge the gap between Euro-style games and American-style games. I liked it a lot, but it takes just a hair too long for my regular Wednesday group to bring it to the table very often. It also feels like the game often ends just as your "engine" is getting started.

Machi Koro. Another engine-building game. That seems to be A Thing with the games I've played this year. You know how we tend to describe games in terms of other games? This one reminds me of "Strategy Craps." Solid knowledge of probability will definitely help players at this one, which is very random in the early game. Mid-game and late-game, however, that randomness flattens out.

Witness. Speaking of describing games in terms of other games: This game is really good, even if it is "Logic Problem Telephone." Each test provides a puzzle that must be solved by passing information to other players verbally, without writing anything down.  The first few cases do a great job of teaching how to play, but some of the later cases are crazy-hard. This is not an easy game, despite the simplicity of the rules.

Cutthroat Caverns. How had I missed this for so long? I'm a sucker for a good semi-cooperative game, which this very much is. Players need to work together to beat the monsters, but they also want to be sure to be the one to get that last hit in so that they can claim the glory for having killed it. There's a fair amount of trash-talk and screw-your-neighbor in this, both of which I love in a game. And there are multiple expansions which shake it up without screwing it up.

Nations: The Dice Game. I'm always looking for a game that's fast. And this definitely fits the bill. In fact, it's fast enough that I'd throw it into the "Filler" category time-wise. But there is some meat in there, and there are decisions to be made that do impact play. And a two-player game takes just over ten minutes.  What's not to like?

Now it's possible that something else will hit the table in the next two weeks that will knock these off of my "best games so far" list, but it's probable that one of these will wind up being my Game of the Year (which will be announced in two weeks).

Also on the list but just barely shy of this short list:

Argent; The Consortium, Council of Verona, and Ca$h 'n Gun$ 2nd Edition. In nearly any other year, I suspect that these would have made my short list, but this year has been filled with really good games.  Argent takes up just a bit too much table space to be a regular game on Wednesdays,  Council of Verona is fun. It's solid. I don't crave it.  And Ca$h 'n Guns requires the right crowd for me. There are people that I just can't play this game with, either because they're too random as players or because they don't grasp that there is a ton of strategy in this game.

The winner will be announced in two weeks, while I'm in Indianapolis.

Like previous years, I'll be trying to post my GenCon impressions in the evenings.  There will be nearly fifty of us there this year in three different demo areas, so that'll be interesting.

I can't wait, and I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Old Favorites

Short post today - prepping for a business trip. Next week may be similarly short.

I'll admit it: I'm a member of the Cult of the New.  New Game! Wooo!

This means that dozens and dozens of really good games unfortunately spend time sitting on my shelf instead of being played.  This is a real shame.

So I'm going to be spending the next few weeks playing "older" games that have been idle on my shelf instead of new things.

Partly because I need to get back into the teaching rhythm for GenCon (which is crazy-early this year), and a game I know backwards and forwards is ideal for that.

And partly because I do so love so many of these games.

And I haven't played Acquire since 2011! I should definitely remedy that ...

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Obsidian Portal

The more I use Obsidian Portal, the more potential I see in it.

I'm using it for my L5R game that (finally) got started last weekend, and we're going to have a sizable gap between sessions, because July isn't looking so good (sorry, guys).  And August is 100% up in the air.

I have a notoriously bad memory, but Obsidian Portal lets me hide pages (or parts of pages) from the players. And what I'm choosing to hide is reminders and suggestions.

For example, Session One has the events from this session. And the players can comment and add more info (and add poetry, because even bad poetry is usually a good thing). But if you scroll down, there's something you won't see, there. And neither will my players.  Because every single page on Obsidian Portal has a "GM Only" section which only that game's GM (or GMs) can see. So I've been stashing notes for the next session in there - planned events, characters I hope to introduce, and so on.

Most pages also have a "Player Secret" section, where I can choose players and allow them (and only them) to see that secret. In fact, I can use multiple Player Secret sections and share different secrets (or disinformation) in each one. It's really cool. Players also have the ability to add secrets - and they can decide who (other than themselves) can see these secrets.

There are games where player secrets are more important than others. This isn't one of them - but I can see this sort of thing working really well for a Paranoia game. Or some espionage-themed games. Or games where the PCs are rivals as well as a team (Smallville springs immediately to mind as a possibility for this ... ).