Holy Crudstunk! What a convention. I’m still mentally and emotionally recovering from an awesome convention. We arrived mid-day Thursday and it was packed (61,423 unique attendees for the entire con).
My highlights and observations, as usual, are in random order:
No Wizkids this year and Wizards of the Coast was not there as a floor presence. Wizkids once more found ways to alienate its core fan base by simply not showing. D&D was moved to the Hyatt ballroom, which actually was much better (and quieter) than in the past. What it meant was more symbolic – the game that was the impetus for the convention was off-site.
There were a lot of kids games this year – more than ever. It is great. Start ‘em young and they will stay I say.
GaleForce Nine released Star Trek Ascendency. We did a short demo-ish round of the game and my thoughts were twofold. One, I love the idea. Two, this thing is a beast to run, probably shorter set-up time than Twilight Imperium, but nearly as complex to play (if not moreso). Some of the game mechanics are cool, like how you connect the ever-growing map of exploration of the various empires. The pieces were attractive, but, as Andrew (one of our band of merry men) said, “This would be awesome on a computer where it could manage all of the logistics.” Playing time, I was told, was around 45 minutes per player for the full game (thus two people is 1.5 hours). It was advanced, cool looking, but you need to be pretty hard core for this to be fun. I may yet pick up a copy for review.
A lot of companies didn’t have produced product – but were demoing future Kickstarters. I played Heavy Hitters (big jumbo robot combat) for a round or two. We are talking Godzilla-size big. Kind of cartoony of a feel – much more beer and pretzels than what I expected. That could be a good fit for this in the market.
I met with a lot of industry folks. One of my favorites was touching base with Jolly Blackburn at Kenzer Co. They sold out of the CattlePunk graphic novel after two days at the con! A lot of companies had that issue – things just sold out quickly.
Warlord Games released Konflikt 47 and the starter sets. I did sit through the demo and my thought was Bolt Action takes on Dust. I liked the demo enough to purchase the rules (which they sold out of twice) and I hope to do a detailed review on this in the future. This is so compatible with Bolt Action that they should release a separate book for Bolt Action owners.
I stopped by Black Book Editions and thanked them for re-releasing via their Kickstarter, the Polaris RPG. Not only did they deliver the Kickstarter ahead of schedule, it was great quality and exactly what they promised. How rare is that?
I swung by Ironclad Games and was pleased to see All Quiet on the Martian Front with actual product. These guys salvaged the battered remains of the game system. I had a long chat with one of the staff and they are looking at fixing the glaring rules issues and are working on creating new product! It is a great visual game that still packs a crowd in on the demo floor.
A disappointment was that Delta Green released its Player’s Handbook. Yes, it gives you everything you need to play the game – just none of the background information. When is that coming? December (ish). Given that it took them three years to produce the player’s handbook, I’m surprised they didn’t have something that would have inspired me to purchase the book. What good is it if I don’t have the background of the universe? Even if it is good – it’s a fumble in my eyes.
A super-neat concept was Privateer Press offering you a full refund or exchange if you sat through their demo of WarMachine. Gutsy move on their part. There was paperwork involved but I was awfully darned close to purchasing two factions just for grins (when would I have time to paint them though?). The rules are much more streamlined than the last time I played. I have to admit, I’m weakening here…what was that website?
Mantic Games had Deadzone and I sat through a demo of it. I loved the minis and the terrain. The game was solid, though I felt like it too had a Dust feel to it. That’s not a bad thing, just my observation.
The lines were much smaller this year at Fantasy Flight Games. I tried out the new Game of Thrones game and liked the photos from the TV series, but didn’t like the physical game elements or the play. Fantasy Flight had a standing demo of a new fantasy game that looks like it leverages their Star Wars movement system and dials and such. It looked impressive – but wow, another fantasy miniatures game? That could be a tough nut to crack given the market.
My troop played the D&D intro event (now a regular thing for us). It was a good scenario but we took zero damage for two hours of play. I grossed out everyone after my character (a Dwarven fighter that brewed beer I named “Tipsy McStaggers”) killing a goblin and licking the goo off of my Warhammer (ala Ghostbusters). Apparently I was the only one who made the connection to the film. People moved away from me after that.
I played in the ‘Mech Pods as usual. I know the tech is getting old but that never stops it from being fun.
The Pokemon Go players were a bit goofy. Seriously, you are in a game convention – you can play with your phone anytime.
The entrepreneur section of the hall was great, lots of new companies. I played Mindworm Games Exiles, an old-west shooter. It all came in a wooden box with lead miniatures, branded on the outside to the point where you could smell the burned wood still. It was a neat concept but a little pricey for me.
I picked up IDW’s Back to the Future dice game for my grandson. I haven’t played yet but I have to tell you, IDW is putting out some quality stuff out of their portfolio of IP’s. I’ll review this later.
On the BattleTech front – I signed a lot of Betrayal of Ideals and one of my stories appeared in Front Lines giving me two books released at the convention. By the early afternoon Saturday Betrayal had sold out (winning!)
That led up to Masters and Minions – the annual tournament between the BattleTech creativity and Catalyst business team against the uber-fans. This year my ‘Mechs were an Executioner pained as Iron Man and a new Warhammer painted as Dead Pool. Colin Duffy painted my ‘Mechs and is one of the best I have seen. In the last two years I was wiped out by Death From Above. This year the battle was brutal. I lost the Warhammer to a massive golden BB shot to the head that caved in the cockpit. I felt the pain coming back, that nagging feeling of defeat. Better yet, the shot came from a ‘Mech that was falling prone. That’s right…a killing shot to the head from a downed ‘Mech. Go ahead and chuckle – we all did.
James Miller, my partner and clearly the brains of our outfit, guided me to not doing something stupid…”James, can I do Death From Above now?” “No Blaine, you still have all of your weapons.” “Grr…” James is one of those guys that knows all of the charts and modifiers in his head. Jacked up on caffeine infused Canadian Bacon illegally smuggled across the border and cannoli’s he sucked down during the game – James kept us alive. There were moments when it was touch and go, but we finally redeemed ourselves.
We all piled on a Wolf’s Dragoon Marauder just because we could. Those Dragoons hate to hear, “Feels like Outreach all over again doesn’t it?”
In the end we had three battered ‘Mechs upright while the opposition had a Wraith, which kept on winning damned initiative rolls. We took him down, honorably. As always the fans got to keep our ‘Mechs (though I had a set of extras painted up for my personal collection).
The BattleTech fans cornered me for many side conversations about upcoming books (remember, you are sworn to secrecy) and a lot dropped by for autographs on Betrayal. It is all about the fans and the players.
Overall, it was a great convention. Now to recoup for Gen Con 50 next year!