My Annual Gen Con 2019 After-Action Report

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Don’t tell me, there’s a ‘Mech behind me isn’t there?

For me, this year’s Gen Con was BattleTechlicious! I saw a lot of stuff, played a lot of games, and reconnected with the fan base.  I made new friends, connected with others, and fought glorious battles and secured hard-fought, yet honorable, victories.

Man, I need a beer…

So, this will seem a bit rambling…I’m coming down after the insanity that always is Gen Con.  But for those of you that could not attend, I assure you some interesting tid bits you might have missed.  First, let’s dive into non-BattleTech stuff.

I came to Gen Con with the intent on securing three products which I will review in other posts.  I got two of them.  First was Green Ronin’s Modern Age.  Don’t ask why, let’s just say I love Green Ronin’s production values and game quality.  Second was Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist Board Game.  Why?  Because nothing say Christmas and the holidays with family like Die Hard.  I am embarrassed that no one had produced this game decades ago.

The third one I wanted was the Gale Force Nine Aliens cooperative mini’s game.  That wasn’t at the con.  I pressed someone at the booth, “What the hell dude?  This is months overdue…”  What I got, informally and unconfirmed of course, was that they would be issuing a press statement on the game in September and that the issue has something to do with licensing.  I have this feeling in the pit of my stomach that we aren’t going to get that game, which leaves me bummed.  I really wanted to play Hudson…

There IS an Alien RPG coming out soon.  https://alien-rpg.com/  This was a bit of a surprise.  From the web site, it looks awesome.  Free League publishing is putting it out.  Oddly enough, I can’t wait.

There was a new Marvel miniatures game previewed at the con as well from Atomic Mass – Marvel Crisis Protocol.  The minis looked awesome and they were two deep for the demos.  At $99 – I’m hesitating order a copy…but not for long.

Fantasy Flight Games released the Star Wars Legion big-ass boxed set for the Clone Wars.  It looked great.  I saw some other Star Wars miniatures stuff, including my first viewing of the campaign system for Star Wars Armada…at least that’s what I think I saw.  Far too many people crammed in to get free demos.

CMON – who are awesome, released a House Baratheon Starter Set.  I was going to pick it up because it was big and had a lot of minis – but I’m still painting minis from the original Kickstarter. Since I am retiring from my day job in October, I anticipate breakding down and ordering this in November.

Paizo released the much anticipated and nerd-bantered Pathfinder new edition.  People were complaining about it while loading up copies in their arms to purchase.  Gamers will complain, then hand you their credit cards.

Funko released a game system.  You had to get a ticket (free) to go through a demo to buy it.  My grandson and I played the Batman version and enjoyed it.  The system is simple making it perfect for kids.  They have a Harry Potter, a second Batman one, and, brace yourself, The Golden Girls.  Yes, you can pit Blanch up against the Joker!  I struggle with the mental image of that last one, but the games are interchangeable.  With four Funko figures, you can’t buy the figures alone for the price of the game – so for my grandson, it was a win-win.

Tons of other game products were out that I either missed last year or were released.  Let me just say that the industry is alive and kicking.

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6mm minis – fighting Antietam.  Very cool!

In terms of games I played, my grandson and I played his first game of D&D.  I enjoyed a chance to play the game rather than DM.  He had fun.  Though he enjoyed learning and playing Pokemon a lot more.

As it turns out, my grandson loves playing the BattleTech pods – which made my day.  We also did our annual Paint and Take.  My wife painted a pink Space Marine, an image I cannot purge from my memory.  It was fun, and that was all that really mattered.

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My buddy Kevin “Dude” in his pod.

BattleTech garnered a lot of attention with the Kickstarter.  I will tackle the elephant in the room. “Where were your novels and the ilClan sourcebook?” This was covered in the “What’s up with Catalyst?” event.  The books have been done for a while. They are going under a pretty in-depth review with the powers that be.  We are setting the stage for a lot of fun stuff to come, as such, scrutiny will only make the products better (I hope.)  If it comes down to rushing a product out vs. getting it right, I’ll error on quality every time.  So stop asking me about release dates.

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From the diorama this year, the Wolves Assault on Titan.  Note the graffiti of “Wolverines!”

I was invited to sit in with some of the backers Thursday to talk shop with Randall and Loren.  It was a stroll down memory lane for all of us.  I think what most people forget is that we are all fans of BattleTech too. We have been with it a long time and to us it is a precious thing that we care about.  I joke a lot about being a mercenary writer, but in reality, I love the game, characters, and the universe I play in.

Jason Schmetzer, Mike Stackpole, and I had a good chuckle at the booth talking about BattleTech, which I enjoyed.  We never get a chance as authors to simply sit and talk BattleTech.

I spent some time with the infamous Krull Brothers at the Wolfnet gaming session Thursday evening.  I loved talking the game and universe with them.  I also got to pop in on the Battle of Thorin and saw Archer’s Avengers in action.  For an author, seeing your stuff being played is a real reward.  I tried to get to the Snord’s Irregular’s game, but could not find it.  Dang it!

This year some fans gave me some nice gifts.  It is never expected but always appreciated.   One fan delivered a bottle of bourbon for my upcoming October retirement from the corporate world.  I received a special rock from the Tait factory in Limerick where they made Confederate Uniforms.  Someone whose name I didn’t get, got me a nice BattleTech shirt too.

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A fan modeled Pentrator – specifically Archer Christifori!

The week was capped off with Master’s and Minions.  Craig Gulledge, Mechwarrior extraordinaire and a fellow Scotsman was my partner.  I piloted a Savage Wolf and a Marauder, and he piloted a pair of Penetrators – which opened up an endless series of jokes about double penetration.  It was fun playing with ‘Mechs I actually designed in his case.

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They went that way…
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I swear, my Wraith is in this fight!
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This is the Capellan stance for “I surrender.”
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“You’re not going to put this in a novel are you?”

We waged a battle based on bad jokes, intimidation, and a dollop of sheer arrogance. We had a lot of fun, and were one of the last groups to wrap up at 1:00am.  My Savage Wolf was lost, but I took tons off of the opposition before I went down.  Victory?  Aff!  Fun?  Absolutely!

The fans that went up against us enjoyed themselves, at least I hope so.  I did not go down from Death from Above this year, so that alone made it a good run for me.

So there you have it…another successful Gen Con.  Seyla!

Gen Con Survival Tips – Updated for 2019

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Yes, those are Superman and Batman BattleMechs

Yes, it is that time of the year again – time for my unsolicited updated list of Gen Con tips survival.  These are to be treated as tongue and cheek – intended with a hint of a sense of humor.  If you’re offended, well, suck it up…this was intended to be useful and hopefully funny.

So, here’s my annual tips – updated where appropriate.

#1:  Plan in advance.  Go online, figure out what you want to do.  DO NOT try and figure all of this out while you are at the counter buying tickets.  This is like that person standing at line at Starbucks for 15 minutes, getting up there and going, “Hmm…I’m not sure what I want…”  Don’t be that guy.  Everybody hates that guy.

#2  Getting into the city.  Indianapolis is easy to navigate. It is hairiest to drive into the city on Thursday and Friday because of the locals who work there. The good news is that rush hour in Indianapolis is not horrible. The locals think it is, but it isn’t (I live outside of Washington DC.)

#3  Parking.  Okay, this is tricky.  Thursday and Friday, you have to compete with the locals for parking spaces.  Many lots fill up by 10:30am.  In other words, be prepared to walk some distance on those days.  I have a secret place or two for parking – which I won’t reveal.  The key is, get there early before the garages fill up.

#4:  Pack as if you are going to be at the convention center for 16 hours straight…because you are.  Slip in some snacks because let’s face it, convention food is expensive and sucks.  Bring pencils, pack your lucky dice (you know the ones!) graph paper, phone charger, a small tape measure (for miniatures games), aspirin, you know – typical geek gamer survival gear.  Think over seriously if you need to bring all of your rules books and game manuals.  Chances are the guys running the game are going to have a copy there.  Don’t over pack.  You don’t need to bring your PC with you, I’m almost positive.  Keep it simple, keep it light.  Pack what you need but remember, you’re not setting out to climb Mt. Everest (or Mt. Doom, your choice.)

#5:  Be prepared for the rush to the main hall when it opens.  Yes, when the balloon goes up and they open the doors to the sales floor, it is a geek equivalent to the running of the bulls in Spain (albeit a little safer).  Don’t fight the masses, ride it in.  Also – DON’T RUN.  The convention folks really hate people that run.  To answer your question now:  Yes, it’s that crowded every year.  You can’t get in without a badge, have it out and visible.  The Stormtrooper Door Guards will stop you dead in your tracks, meaning you are subject to being trampled by the crowd surge.  Also, nothing sucks more than being in a crowd of 2000 only to find out you have turn around and run back to the hotel room through a sea of angry and exited geeks.

#6:  Get generic tickets. Events are sold out, but people don’t show.  When they don’t, you can use generic tickets to get into anything.  They are wonderful little gems to have tucked away.  Don’t worry about having leftovers, you can go to the BattleTech pods and spend ‘em.

#7:  Cosplay is part of the experience and is encouraged.  If you are going to do it, don’t design a costume that is going to injure passersby.  Think it over.  No one is more of a douche-bag than a guy that has designed a costume that is hard to get around or trips/blinds people when you pass.

#8:  If you’re going to be one of those people who stop in the middle of a crowd to take a picture of the booth-babe wearing a chain mail bikini, do it quickly and don’t clog up the corridor.

#9:  Bathe and use deodorant.  This shouldn’t have to be a tip, it should be common sense.  Based on my own experience moving through the crowd, I had to include it.  Look, you paid for a hotel room right?  Go back at some point and at least use the shower.  Foot powder, toothpaste, and clean clothing (a fresh set for every day) shouldn’t require mentioning – yet here I am doing it.  Why?  Because people don’t do it!

#10:  While you have no adult supervision and can do what you want, be respectful of others.  In other words, bringing your leftover Taco Bell burrito from dinner to that 8am gaming session and eating it during the set-up is just wrong.  You do know that their meat isn’t real meat, right?

#11:  For your meals eat outside of the convention center.  First, convention food sucks and is expensive.  My memory is that a single, room-temperature, piece of convention cardboard pizza runs around $425.  I don’t blame the folks in Indianapolis for this, it sucked when the convention was in Milwaukee too.  I also like the brisk walk to the attached mall.  They have a food court, variety, better prices, and it’s a hoot watching the locals interact with the convention attendees.

Go only five blocks away and there are a LOT of eating places.  Pita Pit is great.  Gamers hate leaving the convention site, even for an hour for food, so if you are willing to walk, downtown has a LOT of eating options and the further you walk, the smaller the crowds.  I recommend taking the stroll.  Ten minutes of walking gives you a few minutes of peace and quiet.

The Food Trucks are your best friends.   I only discovered where these vendors parked four years ago and found their offers to be a much better alternative to eating on-site at the con.  Let’s face it, everything is better than the food in the convention center.  While we’re on it…

#12:  Don’t frighten the locals.  Look, Indianapolis really seems to like having Gen Con in town – well, at least they like our money.  Don’t try and frighten that family on the sidewalk with your Orc costume waving a sword and cursing in Orkish.  A lot of locals come down town to look at the cosplay folks – don’t add to their stereotype images of us.  Not cool dude.

#13:  While I totally appreciate Cosplayers, sometimes the costumes are confusing as all hell.  Don’t be insulted if people ask you, “who are you trying to be?” Obviously show the cosplayers some respect.  While you may think their costumes suck, they put some work into them.

#14:  There is always someone that knows the rules better than you.  He’s arrogant, overweight, and wearing a black tee-shirt (then again, who isn’t?)  Nothing kills a game faster than two guys trying to prove who is smarter about the rules regarding the splatter effect of a Mark IV plasma rifle in zero-G.  We get it, you read and memorized the rule book.  Stop ruining game play for everyone just to demonstrate your incredible powers of memorization…please.   We refer to these individuals as Rules Douches, or the more French- La Rules Douchebag.

#15:  Don’t just sit around.  Go and check out the miniatures games, or some of the big events like the Live Dungeon.  You didn’t shell out all of that money to sit and read a catalog you picked up did you?  The convention won’t come to you – you need to move.

#16:  Do some prep work if you are planning on buying some specific products.  Some companies are bringing limited quantities of games to the con for each day, or a certain day.  If you aren’t in line at the right time, you’re hosed.  The short version of this:  Make up your mind on what you are going to purchase and do it.  If you wait too long that newly released product can/will sell out.  Check the web sites and Twitter feeds of your favorite companies to see if that new product will be available and when.

#17:  Wear comfortable shoes.  Preferably shoes that do not have a predetermined aroma.

#18:  Go back to your hotel at night and get some sleep.  The convention is not designed as an endurance test.  You’ll need the energy.  All night gaming is great, if you’re young, but even then you need some sleep.

#19:  Attend the auction.  You’ll be able to tell your wife/mother/cat/significant other than that shelves and containers of games you have ARE of value.  You’ll be surprised at what games people collect and what they will pay for one.  It’s also kind of fun to see last year’s hot products being sold for a pittance of what people paid for them a year ago.

#20:  Play the demo games.  Look, games cost money – a LOT of money.  I sit in on demos, watch tournaments, etc. to figure out where I’m going to spend my cash.  I recommend you do the same.  Try some things you’ve never played before.  Think of this as a chance to test-drive new games and systems.

#21:  Don’t insult your favorite writer or game designer intentionally.  These guys work hard to produce your fun.  Don’t be “that guy” that shows up to tell someone how horrible a product they wrote in 1992 was, or how they made a mistake in an out-of-print 1989 book.  We get it, you can read.  If you’ve traveled all of this way to show off your knowledge, you’re a decade or two off.  If you meet writers, authors, artists, designers – be cool and respectful.  As a writer in the industry, I welcome comments from fans…but there is a limit to critique that I will endure, and I am not alone.  As a corollary – there is a limit to the number of things you want autographed.

#22:  Go early to the con.  Get out of bed and get to the convention early.  There’s a lot going on and the lines are significantly shorter.  I hit the MechWarrior pods usually at 8-9am when the convention hall is empty-ish.  They are a tradition I am addicted to.

#23:  WIN.  Savor your victories.  Cherish the lament of your foes as they are crushed under the weight of your killer die rolls and strategy!  Don’t rub it in, but enjoy it.  Serious dude, don’t rub it in when you win.  You didn’t travel all of this way to lose did you?  Hell no!  In other words, have fun!

#24:  Don’t wear costumes that are designed to deliberately upset people.  Skip the political stuff.  Someone is going to be upset and that isn’t the intention of going to a convention and having fun.

#25:  Wear something other than a black tee shirt.  At Gen Con, black tee shirts are like camouflaged ghillie suit for snipers.  Everyone is wearing a black tee shirt.  Someone someday will earn a PhD studying why gamers are drawn to black tee shirts.  In the meantime, I recommend wearing something else (something clean), in a color other than black.  Corollary:  Reading the hilarious tee shirts is one of the more phone things about the Con.

#26:  Don’t abuse your demo time in any booth.  Okay, in the main showroom, the vendors often offer short demos on their products.  These are a major part of the experience.  Don’t abuse the privilege.  I saw one guy camped out a table last year for four hours.  There were a lot of people wanting to sit in, but this guy had decided to turn a demo into a full-fledged campaign.

#27:  Remember the Gen Con food groups.  Caffeine, Chocolate, Salty Snacks, Caffeine, Pointless Carbs.  Beef Jerky, while not a formal food group, is also permissible but please be discreet when eating it – no one looks cool tearing into a piece of jerky.  Yes, Caffeine is listed twice because it is that important.

#28:  If you want to do free events plan on a wait or get there early.  A good example of this is the Paint and Take event Reaper puts on.  It’s cool to get a free mini you paint there, but everyone wants to do it and there’s usually a line.

#29:  If you want the Convention giveaways – go to those booths first thing when the doors open.  A lot of these vendors run out in the first 20 minutes.  They often have more of the freebies, but limit the number they give out each day.

#30:  Con-Crud – prepare for it.  Con Crud is not a new module release of Pandemic – it’s the social plague that hits thousands when they return from Gen Con on the following Monday.  Use hand sanitizer (you have to bring your own on this).  Load up on vitamins and other legal medications aimed at reducing colds, flu, or whatever it is that morphs into Con-Crud.

#31:  Patronize the places the support Gen Con.  If they support Gen Con, support them.

#32:  If you have a young one with you, go the Lucas Oil Stadium.  I took my grandson last year and there was a ton of stuff for us to do together.

#33:  Don’t overschedule.  This one came from my compadre Scott.  Leave yourself some time to soak it all in.  Otherwise you miss a lot of the convention just bouncing from one event to another.

#34:  Meet the celebrities.  I’m not just talking about the “name” celebrities.  This is a chance for you to track down that favorite author or artist and shake their hand.  I make a point at every Gen Con to network and meet people (and re-meet people I met years before).  Mingle and be social.

#35:  “Language” I’m noticing more and more kids at the Con which is great.  I bring my grandson.  If you feel the need to curse, make sure only the adults are around.

#36:  Take advantage of the crowds to do things you want to do.  Look, at 10am, everyone is lined up to get into the main hall.  That’s the perfect time to do things that otherwise have long lines.  For me, that is when I hit Paint and Take.  Understand the masses, don’t always be part of the masses.

#37:  If you are in a wheelchair, it is not a weapon to clear the crowds.  I got hit by someone in a wheelchair last year just standing still.  He just plowed into my ankle because he wanted to get through.  I’m understanding, but not that understanding.

#38:  You will get a book of freebie coupons.  If you plan on redeeming them, you need to do it first thing in the main hall.  Some of that stuff disappears in a matter of minutes.

#39:  Some booths have a line.  Paizo, Fantasy Flight Games, CMON, Catalyst…they all have lines.  Lines just to get into the booth to look around.  Lines for the demos.  Don’t get discouraged, it is almost always worth the wait.  If these guys are high on your list, go straight there when the doors open.

#40:  Play some things you never have before.

There you have it guys – GAME ON!

#GenCon

Gen Con 2018 After-Action Report

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I am writing this in that post-con haze, so if it seems jumbled, it probably is.  This was a Gen Con to remember.  It was the first time that I brought along a true sidekick, my nine year old grandson Trenton.  I’ll talk about Gen Con for kids a little bit at the end of this blog, so read on.  Also, as a proviso, I am a freelance writer in the industry, pretty much writing only for Catalyst Game Labs right now on BattleTech.  So there is going to be a lot of BattleTech in this post.  No apologies…

This year there were more exhibitors than ever.  The exhibit hall is becoming massive which is fantastic.  Some notables were not there.  Reaper Miniatures once again did not show.  I love their product and they contribute to paint-and-take, but no booth.  Wizards of the Coast may have been there, but I never found them.

My first stop was Catalyst Game Labs.  One word: Wow.  An awesome (pun intended) seven foot tall BattleMech loomed over a demo game with massive twelve inch tall miniatures on a map you had to walk on to play!  My novella (combined with Phil Lee’s outstanding work) sold out half-way through the first day.  Awesome sauce!  I saw a lot of fathers and grandfathers scoring copies of the Beginner’s Box Set for their kids.  The boxed sets sold out day one.  Saturday they released Catalyst energy drinks – Coolant Flush and Dragon Piss.  I thought it was a whacked idea – until I saw people purchasing them by the case. Then I saw my son buying some.  Sometimes I am just totally wrong. It’s rare, but it happens.

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This is not the right cover for this book.
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I actually heard a fan demanding the STL files so he could print his own ‘Mechs out like these.  I have to admit, these look awesome.

I played some demo games – which is one of the reasons I go to Gen Con.  I purchased the Game of Thrones minis game from CMON but hadn’t played it yet.  So I got into a demo of it.  Great game.  A lot of the mechanics relies on the NPC figures and their powers as well as the character cards.  Here’s a tip, don’t ride your cavalry into the Mountain and his men.  Wow, I devastated a full-on House Stark cavalry charge…panicking them into a rout.  I enjoyed it, but have come to the realization that you have to understand and really think through your cards for a round in order to be victorious.

 

A Lannister Always Pays His Debts

Steamforged Games really has a strong following.  I watched a round of Guild Ball and was very tempted to pick it up – but I am behind on my miniatures painting as it is.

Modiphius Entertainment had the new Star Trek RPG supplements, one of which I picked up (The Beta Quadrant).  Yes, there will be a separate review of this and all the neat stuff I bought.  They had a coupon deal where if you spent 30 dollars, you got a miniature.  Mine was Khan.  Could this mean we are finally going to get a Star Trek II set of miniatures, the ones with the cool red and white uniforms?  Fingers are crossed on the part of this fan.

Fantasy Flight Games released the conversion kit for X-Wing and the thing few out the doors.  I was skeptical when they announced a new set of rules for X-Wing.  I spoke with some fans during a demo though and they assured me that FFG handled this perfectly with the conversion kit.  Lots of praise from the die-hards on this one.  As it was, I picked up the Rebel Commandos and Han Solo for Star Wars Legion.  The legion demo tables were outstanding.

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Hoth.  Love the crashed snow speeder.
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I love Star Wars Legion (I will be doing some posts on the game soon) but if they put out Ewok miniatures, I will go ballistic on FFG… Just sayin’…

I played the new Warhammer Kill Team. I went in pretty open-minded.  To be honest, I REALLY liked it.  The miniatures and terrain quality were top-notch and the play level is perfect, squads against squads, man-against-man (as opposed to full-on unit actions).  They sold out on Friday because they have a winner.

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My guys all just stood and fired, wiping out all but two of the enemy in the first round with the loss of only one of my troops.

Paizo sold out of Starfinder Armory too.  I saw a copy of it and was impressed enough to add it to my wish list on Amazon.  One of the guys at Paizo complimented me on my blog which was a pleasant surprise.  Hey, Paizo, I would review more of your stuff if you sent it to me.

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I got to watch the Gaslands Tournament.  I love the heavily armed semi-war-rig.  

I got to watch a demo of Battlestar Galactica from Ares games.  Love the concept – love the mini’s.  I can almost feel the drain on my wallet that is going to come from this.  I’m a big fan of Ares Games.

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One thing that really stood out was Miniteman Miniatures over at Lucas Oil Stadium.  They scan your head to render a 3D image that you can get put on a miniature ranging from 28mm to 60mm.  My son, grandson, and I all did this and when they get their site up, we’re ordering minis of ourselves.  I was told it would run about a $1 per mm.  Totally worth it.

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Great concept
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My son getting his head rendered.  It took around 3 minutes tops.

I always take shots of the terrain when I am wandering around.  Some of it is outstanding.  I always think the guys that do good terrain get overlooked at events like this by the fans of the miniatures themselves.  I loved this Privateer Press fortress assault game board, as an example.

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I played in the ‘Mech Pods, as always. I even got in a round with my son and grandson, which was a blast.  You want to hook a kid on gaming, start them with the experience of gaming.

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I saw one game coming I must have.  Aliens.  This is right from the movie.  You play the Marines fighting off wave after wave of aliens.  Cooperative play, death is assured.  I am SO onboard with this game concept. Gale Force Nine released a Firefly tactical game at the convention that looked great (I watched a demo of this one.)  But this is Aliens.  Ripley and Hudson and Hicks.  All before they mucked up the Aliens universe.  Oh yes, this will be mine!

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“That’s it man, game over…”

I heckled the Catalyst Games Lab forum from the front row.  We got a commitment from my editor, John Helfers, that yes, my novel, Forever Faithful is coming, “soon.” BattleTech is back. One person told me, “Brent (Evans) promised us fiction, a boxed set, and movement on the timeline last year.  He totally delivered!”  Next year is the 35th Anniversary, so plan on a LOT of stuff.  My running joke was I was going to get a red hat that said, “Make Wolf’s Dragoons Great Again,” but I didn’t want the political backlash. Snicker…

Funny side story.  Outside of the lecture before it started I was talking to some fans.  My name badge was flipped.  One guy railed about Betrayal of Ideals (which I wrote). “The politics were good but the action scenes were horrible.  The author really doesn’t know much about BattleTech or how military actions go.”  Another fan, who knew who I was, pointed out that I was the author of that book.  Debate ended.

I capped off the con with Masters and Minions.  Ray Arrastia got stuck with me against four players.  This year I had my ‘Mechs painted as Batman and Superman (a Gallowglas and Atlas (old school) accordingly.)  I would love to tell you that we devastated the enemy, but lying is not good.  On round one, my Gallowglas was downed and Ray’s Warhammer took two shots to the head from a light ‘Mech that turned his pilot in a scorched pile of goo.

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“Do you bleed?”  Yes, Yes I do.

I have come to hate the partial cover rules.  I had a gauss rifle and large laser hits on the enemy that ended up tearing up a level one hillside.  Robbed…robbed I say!

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Batman go boom.

I avenged Ray’s headshot death by unleashing the same rage and fury on that tiny little Firefly that killed ray.  I got him with headshots as well.  Seyla!

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The image at 10:45pm.  Looking awefully damned lonely out in the middle there.

I had a hard stop at 10:45pm, and when I left, Ray’s ‘Mech had toilet paper for armor and my Atlas was going to get hammered from two sides.  I am sure Ray gave the good fight…but in the end, the odds were not in our favor, nor was our skills against these guys!  Well fought!

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A well earned victory by these guys!

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Taking a Kid to Gen Con

I was unsure how my nine year old grandson would respond to Gen Con or how it would affect my own experience.  Trenton was great and the crowds were very cautious of kids.  Gen Con is VERY kid friendly.  We signed him up for his first RPG at the Kid Zone at Lucas Oil Stadium and he is now hooked!  Watching BattleTech demos, he went and purchased his first ‘Mech, “just like the one on Pop-Pop’s book.”

Trenton picked up Teen Titans from Cryptozoic and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure from Steve Jackson Games.  He really wanted to meet Steve Jackson just to say he liked his games.  I introduced him to Mike Stackpole, and scored some great brownie points there.  “He’s famous Pop-Pop.” “I know, he’s a New York Times Bestselling author.  So I am and your mother.”  “Yeah, but he writes Star Wars.”  I swear, I can’t win.

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I picked up this RPG for my grandson.

Lucas Oil Stadium’s kid zone was perfect for younger gamers.  I took Trenton over to build a TARDIS too – and he enjoyed it.  He loved doing the paint-and-take too, as did I. He loved looking at the demos of Star Wars Legion.  It took some pre-planning to make sure he was prepared for the con, but he came away a true gamer and fan.

And that’s a wrap.  Another successful Gen Con under our belts.  Now we can begin planning next years anniversary celebration!

#gencon

#BattleTech

My List of Gen Con Survival Tips – Updated for 2018

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Thursday morning, 9:50am, just so you get the idea about the whole crowd thing. 

Yes, it is that time of the year again – time for my unsolicited updated list of Gen Con tips survival.  These are to be treated as tongue and cheek – intended with a hint of a sense of humor.  If you’re offended, well, suck it up…this was intended to be useful and hopefully funny.

This year I am bringing my grandson Trenton and my wife.  For my wife, it will be a shock.  She attended Gen Con back in the day in Milwaukee.  I would try and prepare her for the sheer mass of people, but where would the fun be in that?

So, here’s my annual tips – updated where appropriate.

#1:  Plan in advance.  Go online, figure out what you want to do.  DO NOT try and figure all of this out while you are at the counter buying tickets.  This is like that person standing at line at Starbucks for 15 minutes, getting up there and going, “Hmm…I’m not sure what I want…”  Don’t be that guy.  Everybody hates that guy.

#2  Getting into the city.  Indianapolis is easy to navigate, but this year, I-65 (one of the main roads in) will be under construction.  Allow yourself some extra time.  It is hairiest to drive into the city on Thursday and Friday because of the locals who work there. The good news is that rush hour in Indianapolis is not horrible. The locals think it is, but it isn’t (I live outside of Washington DC.)

#3  Parking.  Okay, this is tricky.  Thursday and Friday, you have to compete with the locals for parking spaces.  Many lots fill up by 10:30am.  In other words, be prepared to walk some distance on those days.  I have a secret place or two for parking – which I won’t reveal.  The key is, get there early before the garages fill up.

#4:  Pack as if you are going to be at the convention center for 16 hours straight…because you are.  Slip in some snacks because let’s face it, convention food is expensive and sucks.  Bring pencils, pack your lucky dice (you know the ones!) graph paper, phone charger, a small tape measure (for miniatures games), aspirin, you know – typical geek gamer survival gear.  Think over seriously if you need to bring all of your rules books and game manuals.  Chances are the guys running the game are going to have a copy there.  Don’t over pack.  You don’t need to bring your PC with you, I’m almost positive.  Keep it simple, keep it light.  Pack what you need but remember, you’re not setting out to climb Mt. Everest (or Mt. Doom, your choice.)

#5:  Be prepared for the rush to the main hall when it opens.  Yes, when the balloon goes up and they open the doors to the sales floor, it is a geek equivalent to the running of the bulls in Spain (albeit a little safer).  Don’t fight the masses, ride it in.  Also – DON’T RUN.  The convention folks really hate people that run.  To answer your question now:  Yes, it’s that crowded every year.  You can’t get in without a badge, have it out and visible.  The Stormtrooper Door Guards will stop you dead in your tracks, meaning you are subject to being trampled by the crowd surge.  Also, nothing sucks more than being in a crowd of 2000 only to find out you have turn around and run back to the hotel room through a sea of angry and exited geeks.

#6:  Cosplay is part of the experience and is encouraged.  If you are going to do it, don’t design a costume that is going to injure passersby.  Think it over.  No one is more of a douche-bag than a guy that has designed a costume that is hard to get around or trips/blinds people when you pass.

#7:  If you’re going to be one of those people who stop in the middle of a crowd to take a picture of the booth-babe wearing a chain mail bikini, do it quickly and don’t clog up the corridor.  She’s not going to go back to your hotel room with her because you’re taking her photo and you don’t need a photo to prove to your buddies back at the office that there were indeed females at the convention.  Okay, that last point – I may be wrong.

#8:  Bathe and use deodorant.  This shouldn’t have to be a tip, it should be common sense.  Based on my own experience moving through the crowd, I had to include it.  Look, you paid for a hotel room right?  Go back at some point and at least use the shower.  Foot powder, toothpaste, and clean clothing (a fresh set for every day) shouldn’t require mentioning – yet here I am doing it.  Why?  Because people don’t do it!

#9:  While you have no adult supervision and can do what you want, be respectful of others.  In other words, bringing your leftover Taco Bell burrito from dinner to that 8am gaming session and eating it during the set-up is just wrong.  You do know that their meat isn’t real meat, right?

#10:  For your meals eat outside of the convention center.  First, convention food sucks and is expensive.  My memory is that a single, room-temperature, piece of convention cardboard pizza runs around $425.  I don’t blame the folks in Indianapolis for this, it sucked when the convention was in Milwaukee too.  It is something of a tradition to stand in line at the nearby Steak N Shake for 20 minutes at least once during the con for me, but that’s just me.  I also like the brisk walk to the attached mall.  They have a food court, variety, better prices, and it’s a hoot watching the locals interact with the convention attendees.

Go only five blocks away and there are a lot of eating places.  Gamers hate leaving the convention site, even for an hour for food, so if you are willing to walk, downtown has a LOT of eating options and the further you walk, the smaller the crowds.  I recommend taking the stroll.  Ten minutes of walking gives you a few minutes of peace and quiet.

The Food Trucks are your best friends.   I only discovered where these vendors parked five years ago and found their offers to be a much better alternative to eating on-site at the con.  Let’s face it, everything is better than the food in the convention center.  While we’re on it…

#11:  Don’t frighten the locals.  Look, Indianapolis really seems to like having Gen Con in town – well, at least they like our money.  Don’t try and frighten that family on the sidewalk with your Orc costume waving a sword and cursing in Orkish.  A lot of locals come down town to look at the cosplay folks – don’t add to their stereotype images of us.  Not cool dude.

#12:  While I totally appreciate Cosplayers, sometimes the costumes are confusing as all hell.  Don’t be insulted if people ask you, “who are you trying to be?”  Corollary:  Taking any other costume and tossing on a Deadpool mask is not as innovative as you like to think it is.  (We call these folks “Douce-pools”)  An unspoken rule at Gen Con is that you will see a lot of costumes based on whatever hit movie just released.  Always anticipate a lot of Joker’s and Harley Quinn’s.

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#13:  There is always someone that knows the rules better than you.  He’s arrogant, overweight, and wearing a black tee-shirt (then again, who isn’t?)  Nothing kills a game faster than two guys trying to prove who is smarter about the rules regarding the splatter effect of a Mark IV plasma rifle in zero-G.  We get it, you read and memorized the rule book.  Stop ruining game play for everyone just to demonstrate your incredible powers of memorization…please.   We refer to these individuals as Rules Douches, or the more French- La Rules Douchebag.

#14:  Don’t just sit around.  Go and check out the miniatures games, or some of the big events like the Live Dungeon.  You didn’t shell out all of that money to sit and read a catalog you picked up did you?  The convention won’t come to you – you need to move.

#15:  Do some prep work if you are planning on buying some specific products.  Some companies are bringing limited quantities of games to the con for each day, or a certain day.  If you aren’t in line at the right time, you’re hosed.  The short version of this:  Make up your mind on what you are going to purchase and do it.  If you wait too long that newly released product can/will sell out.  Check the web sites and Twitter feeds of your favorite companies to see if that new product will be available and when.

#16:  Wear comfortable shoes.  Preferably shoes that do not have a predetermined aroma (see Tip Six.)

#17:  Go back to your hotel at night and get some sleep.  The convention is not designed as an endurance test.  You’ll need the energy.  All night gaming is great, if you’re young, but even then you need some sleep.

#18:  Attend the auction.  You’ll be able to tell your wife/mother/cat/significant other than that shelves and containers of games you have ARE of value.  You’ll be surprised at what games people collect and what they will pay for one.  It’s also kind of fun to see last year’s hot products being sold for a pittance of what people paid for them a year ago.

#19:  Play the demo games.  Look, games cost money – a LOT of money.  I sit in on demos, watch tournaments, etc. to figure out where I’m going to spend my cash.  I recommend you do the same.  Try some things you’ve never played before.  Think of this as a chance to test-drive new games and systems.

#20:  Don’t insult your favorite writer or game designer intentionally.  These guys work hard to produce your fun.  Don’t be “that guy” that shows up to tell someone how horrible a product they wrote in 1992 was, or how they made a mistake in an out-of-print 1989 book.  We get it, you can read.  If you’ve traveled all of this way to show off your knowledge, you’re a decade or two off.  If you meet writers, authors, artists, designers – be cool and respectful.  As a writer in the industry, I welcome comments from fans…but there is a limit to critique that I will endure, and I am not alone.  As a corollary – there is a limit to the number of things you want autographed.

#21:  Go early to the con.  Get out of bed and get to the convention early.  There’s a lot going on and the lines are significantly shorter.  I hit the MechWarrior pods usually at 8-9am when the convention hall is empty-ish.  They are a tradition I am addicted to.

#22:  WIN.  Savor your victories.  Cherish the lament of your foes as they are crushed under the weight of your killer die rolls and strategy!  Don’t rub it in, but enjoy it.  Serious dude, don’t rub it in when you win.  You didn’t travel all of this way to lose did you?  Hell no!  In other words, have fun!

#23:  Don’t wear costumes that are designed to deliberately upset people.

#24:  Wear something other than a black tee shirt.  At Gen Con, black tee shirts are like camouflaged ghillie suit for snipers.  Everyone is wearing a black tee shirt.  Someone someday will earn a PhD studying why gamers are drawn to black tee shirts.  In the meantime, I recommend wearing something else (something clean), in a color other than black.  Corollary:  Reading the hilarious tee shirts is one of the more phone things about the Con.

#25:  Don’t abuse your demo time in any booth.  Okay, in the main showroom, the vendors often offer short demos on their products.  These are a major part of the experience.  Don’t abuse the privilege.  I saw one guy camped out a table last year for four hours.  There were a lot of people wanting to sit in, but this guy had decided to turn a demo into a full-fledged campaign.

#26:  Remember the Gen Con food groups.  Caffeine, Chocolate, Salty Snacks, Caffeine, Pointless Carbs.  Beef Jerky, while not a formal food group, is also permissible but please be discreet when eating it – no one looks cool tearing into a piece of jerky.  Yes, Caffeine is listed twice because it is that important.

#27:  If you want to do free events plan on a wait or get there early.  A good example of this is the Paint and Take event Reaper puts on.  It’s cool to get a free mini you paint there, but everyone wants to do it and there’s usually a line.  See #30 below.

#28:  If you want the Convention giveaways – go to those booths first thing when the doors open.  A lot of these vendors run out in the first 20 minutes.

#29:  Con-Crud – prepare for it.  Con Crud is not a new module release of Pandemic – it’s the social plague that hits thousands when they return from Gen Con on the following Monday.  Use hand sanitizer (you have to bring your own on this).  Load up on vitamins and other legal medications aimed at reducing colds, flu, or whatever it is that morphs into Con-Crud.

#30:  Meet the celebrities.  I’m not just talking about the “name” celebrities.  This is a chance for you to track down that favorite author or artist and shake their hand.  I make a point at every Gen Con to network and meet people (and re-meet people I met years before).  Mingle and be social.

#31:  “Language” I’m noticing more and more kids at the Con which is great.  If you feel the need to curse, make sure only the adults are around.

#32:  Take advantage of the crowds to do things you want to do.  Look, at 10am, everyone is lined up to get into the main hall.  That’s the perfect time to do things that otherwise have long lines.  For me, that is when I hit Paint and Take.  Understand the masses, don’t always be part of the masses.

#33:  If you are in a wheelchair, it is not a weapon to clear the crowds.  I got hit by someone in a wheelchair last year just standing still.  He just plowed into my ankle because he wanted to get through.  I’m understanding, but not that understanding.

#34:  You will get a book of freebie coupons.  If you plan on redeeming them, you need to do it first thing in the main hall.  Some of that stuff disappears in a matter of minutes.

#35:  Play some things you never have before.

There you have it guys – GAME ON!

#GenCon

Review of Star Trek Adventures RPG

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Put on your red shirt and prepare to beam down

I have to admit, I was excited that Modiphius Entertainment was putting out a new Star Trek RPG.  This stems from a few places.  First, I have been a Trek fan since the original series (yes, I’m that old.)  Second, one of my first writing projects in the gaming business was for FASA’s Star Trek RPG back in the 1980’s (yes, I’m that old part II.)  I wrote support books, rules, and scenario packs back in the day. I’ve even gotten to write game walk-thru books for several of the computer games for Star Trek. Third, we’ve been in a weird glut of Star Trek RPG’s.  There have been some good attempts in the past to rekindle this franchise into a game – but they all more or less fizzled.

So I pre-ordered the game and slotted some time to play at Gen Con. I lightly read the rules before Gen Con and I’m glad I played the game to clear up some of the ambiguity in the book.  That brings me to one point, some of the rules and examples are not entirely clear.  I struggled a bit with some of the core concepts until I played.

The rules can be a little confusing.  So if I made any mistakes, those are on me (and the gamemaster that led us on our adventure).  Once I got into the game there were some bits of brilliance here along with some, “what the hell?” moments reading/playing this as well.

Something brilliant – the use of momentum and threats poold.  This is a pool of points that you build by over-succeeding on tasks.  They are a group pool you can leverage to roll extra dice to try and succeed, or to up the ante (so to speak) on a certain situation.

The counter to that is the threat pool which his owned by the gamemaster.  This is the ying to the momentum pool’s yang.  The gamemaster can leverage this pool to his advantage, allowing him to toss in complications such as NPC’s recovering faster from damage.  The two pools interact with each other but are critical to the play of the game.  It does open up some questions from time to time as to whether a character should leverage the pool or not – but this forces good teaming with the players.

The game system itself is very simple.  But there are some strange things embedded in here.  For example:  The damage your phaser does is not just the weapons listing, but factors in your Security Discipline.  So if you are a red shirt using a phaser, you might do more damage than someone who has a low Security Discipline. This makes sense on a “to hit” roll, but not on damage.  Weird eh?

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Starfleet needs a new crew because these guys are dying

There were other things that seemed a little lopsided in play.  I had an Advisor Talent with my character, which meant I could lean over your shoulder and help your character perform a task. The thing was, there’s no real limit to it.  So I helped a pilot navigate an asteroid field, helped coach a fellow officer in disarming a bomb, and even acted as an Advisor when someone was shooting.  It allowed players to re-roll a die for a task but this simple Talent feels like it needs some boundaries.  There were only so many times I could say, “Atta Boy!” while being an Advisor.

The game isn’t about killing but incapacitating.  I am changing that with my players.  Red shirts die – look it up.  It’s an easy hop to turn the damage into hit points.

The rules have a lot of fluff text (easily 1/3 of the book).  It safely presumes you know the Star Trek universe.  While the system is set up to play in all but the new films eras, there’s not a lot of guidance about what is different from a gameplay perspective.  The fluff text is great stuff, wonderful little nuggets for Trekkers, but these nuggets take you all over the place.  There’s no comprehensive timeline to help players only familiar with one era to jump in.

The rules for starship combat work but are pretty abstract. Your skills apply to combat situations, so it does work.  I still long for the old FASA system and may revert to that for my players.  The needs of the many outweigh the needs of Modiphius Entertainment – or the one.

Some rules seem missing – or at least I haven’t been able to track them down.  When they talk about Reputation for characters, they have a table listing the number of Responsibilities that a character has.  They never really explain this and the table seems contrary to Star Trek, “I have the lives of 430 crewmen I’m responsible for!” According to the table Captain Kirk, you’re only responsible for 17-20…17 to 20 what, I have no idea.

Go to the index you say?  Yeah, good luck with that.  The index is one of the biggest weaknesses in this rulesbook.  It is only four pages-ish long and far from complete.  I hope Modiphius releases a comprehensive one online soon. As it is, this index is worthless and frustrating.

The book is graphically laid out with good artwork and a LCARs Star Trek interface.  That’s nice.  With a black background the white lettering can be a little hard to read at times.

One minor nit – there’s no ship blueprints here.  I don’t need a Constitution Class ship – I’d setting for a Danube Runabout.  Yes, you can score these things online with no problem, but it seems lacking. As a sidebar, the Danube Class ships are shown as a graphic image, but no game stats for them appear in the book – another minor nit.

Star Trek Adventures is destined to be hard to run.  Players that know Star Trek can go down a lot of rabbit holes and whip out a lot of technical stuff that can imbalance play (I know, I’m one of those people!)  It’s a big universe so things can get out of hand quickly.  This is one of the few games where your inside knowledge of hundreds of hours of TV and films can force your gamemaster to pull out his/her few remaining hairs.  This means you have to craft your adventures very carefully.

So is it worth $58 dollars US for the book.  I think so.  I heard a lot of people griping online that the game is too pricy.  It is no more than any other high end RPG.  There’s 384 pages of stuff here, so there is a bulk value.  I love the star maps in the end pages, which is very useful and kind of fun to read. You will pay this much for almost any game system out there these days and this is on-par with the Star Wars RPG, though I found that system more technical than Star Trek – which favors true role playing.

The manufacturer is releasing miniatures for the game – but seems to be skipping the Star Trek II Wrath of Khan figures, which easily had the best uniforms we saw in Star Trek.

I have already prepped two adventures for my player group to go through.  So I like the system enough to continue to play it.  I hope they (Modiphius Entertainment) are planning some good sourcebooks to refine the rules for the eras.

Red Shirt 2

Out of five stars, I would give this 3.9.  I love the momentum/threat pool system and there’s a lot of simplicity here that makes it relatively easy to learn.  I am hopeful they will supplement this system to fix some of the rough edges.

Gen Con 2017 After-Action Report

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“No running,” was the warning we got Thursday morning.  Not a problem.  It was physically impossible.

It’s time to summarize my Gen Con 2017 experience.  It was the 50th Gen Con and for some reason I expected something special.  Oh, there was some stuff different.  They have a museum of gaming, which is cool.  There was a concert this year.  Honestly though, it seemed like a typical Gen Con, only bigger.  There was a lot of walking this year because things have spread out across the city.

There was a lot of Gen Con 50 merchandise, that was for sure.  I doubt any of it will be collectible – I mean there were well over 60k attendees.

My buddy Kevin picked up the Bob Ross – The Art of Chill game.  Yes, that guy from PBS that painted trees is the subject of a game…a game about painting.  It sounds crazy, but it totally worked.

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What was amazing is that everyone knew who Bob Ross was.

StarFinder was the big “must buy” RPG of the convention.  It’s Pathfinder in space.  Paizo was good at forming a line for purchase, but lousy at processing them.  Two guys that came with me were in line for almost 1.5 hours.  I got in line (and got an autograph – which was nice) and then a guy from Paizo came buy saying if we were paying cash, he could take care of us.  Granted, it could have been some dude with a Paizo shirt, but it got me out of line before the other guys by 45 minutes.  Mental note – next year find out what Paizo is wearing (and Fantasy Flight Games) and run the same scam.  I could have paid for the next three conventions collecting cash that way.   I’ll review the game in an upcoming post.  My initial thoughts were that it looked awesome.

FFG’s big hit was the Legend of the Five Rings game.  Wizkids made an appearance but only brought a few products.  No Star Trek Attack Wing.  What the hell Wizkids?  I came with money – and you managed to just make me get more frustrated deep down inside.

I was geeked about Modiphius’s Star Trek RPG release.  I purchased the book a few weeks ago and I wanted the miniatures and dice.  Dice were on hand – but nothing else. That left me a little frustrated as well.   It was my hope to review them here – well that’s not happening – not yet.  I will review the game system later.  Suffice it to say I like parts of it, dislike other aspects.

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Pickle-Rick is here because he’s Pickle-Rick

Steamforged Games had a big presence.  I had never really taken a look at them before.  I watched a demo of Guild Ball and was actually impressed with the quality of the minutes and the fun of the game play.  I am already regretting not picking it up.  Argh!

Catalyst Game Labs released the other big hit – Dragonfire.  This is a cooperative card game based on their Shadowrun Crossfire system.  Pure D&D carnage with cards.  I have a copy and will be reviewing this later.  I have to admit, it looked great.  They also had some aircraft aluminum dice (I scored some Smoke Jaguars) for BattleTech and they had previews of the new ‘Mechs for the BattleTech boardgame release.

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A balloon dragon.  I was expecting something more I guess.

I got to see the minis from Cool Minis or Not for the Game of Thrones miniatures game.  I did the Kickstarter for it but it was very cool to play the demo.  Those miniatures are awesome and the game play is pretty smooth.  As Jamie Lannister I took out Rob Stark – ending the young wolf’s life.

There was a new game Wild West Exodus that had an impressive line of miniatures.  It looks like cowboys, Confederates, steampunk, aliens and other weirdness.  They had a lot of minis, but no rules or starter sets.

In terms of playing – we did the BattleTech pods (as always).  These never get old.  They had 14 this year and they had been upgraded!  The graphics were crisper.  Nothing says fun like an Alpha Strike to the rear of your enemy.  Seyla!

We signed up for the Gorn game of the Star Trek RPG.  That went okay…we ran out of time to complete it.  What sucked was that we had geared up for the Gorn and got the Romulans instead.  What the hell?  At the end of the game I finally asked, “Where were the Gorn?”  We got an excuse that the Gen Con folks had pressured them to do a tourney so they went with some material they already had.  There were some funny moments despite this being a clear bait and switch.  We beamed down and sent the ship away.  Twenty-five minutes into the game we called them to come back, only to be told they were 12 hours away!  The best was playing the Galaxy Quest theme music during game play.  Well worth the download to my phone before the session.

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The costumes were over-the-top cool this year

We played the D&D tournament as well, at least I think we did.  There was no combat and only one spell used.  We ended up in some dinosaur race and could only use quarterstaffs and no combat spells.  It was two hours of dino racing rather than D&D.  I came away confused as all hell as to what we had just done.  I wanted to swing a sword, go into a dungeon…you know, play D&D.  This was lame.

As one of the BattleTech insiders, I got invited to a super secret BattleTech strategy session.  We used to do these things at Gen Cons. It was great to be back at it.  I cannot share the details of the meeting (for free at least.  I am a complete mercenary otherwise.) I have included these photos simply to whet your appetites as to what is coming and how cool it is going to be…

After this I capped off Gen Con playing in the Master’s and Minion’s tournament.  Colin Duffy got stuck with me as a player on his side (pity his soul).  Colin paints a lot of the minis and did a great job.  True story – I told them I wanted Clan Wolverine paint schemes.  Somewhere along the way they told him “Wolverine.”  Well, in past years I had Captain America, Deadpool, and Iron Man painted ‘Mechs, so he painted my Wolverines as Wolverine from the comic books.  It was funny and oddly they fit my collection perfectly.

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My ‘Mechs and dice.  Wolverines!  No, wait, Wolverine!

My favorite paints (other than mine) were the Suicide Squad (shown at the bottom)

The battle left Colin saddled with a crappy player who refused to follow plans and went after every shiny object that caught his attention (that’s me of course).  I lost, two killer head shots.  Honorably defeated it was a lot of fun…as always.

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This is not going to end well.

So there you have it – another Gen Con under my belt.  I have a ton of booty to go through and material for game reviews for the next six months.

My 2017 Gen Con Survival Tips

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Game on! 

Yes, it is that time of the year again – time for my unsolicited updated list of GenCon tips survival.  These are to be treated as tongue and cheek – intended with a hint of a sense of humor.  If you’re offended, well, suck it up…this was intended to be useful and hopefully funny.

#1:  Plan in advance.  Go online, figure out what you want to do.  DO NOT try and figure all of this out while you are at the counter buying tickets.  This is like that person standing at line at Starbucks for 15 minutes, getting up there and going, “Hmm…I’m not sure what I want…”  Don’t be that guy.  Everybody hates that guy.

#2:  Pack as if you are going to be at the convention center for 16 hours straight…because you are.  Slip in some snacks because let’s face it, convention food is expensive and sucks.  Bring pencils, pack your lucky dice (you know the ones!) graph paper, phone charger, a small tape measure (for miniatures games), aspirin, you know – typical geek gamer survival gear.  Think over seriously if you need to bring all of your rules books and game manuals.  Chances are the guys running the game are going to have a copy there.  Don’t over pack.  You don’t need to bring your PC with you, I’m almost positive.  Keep it simple, keep it light.  Pack what you need but remember, you’re not setting out to climb Mt. Everest (or Mt .Doom, your choice.)

#3:  Be prepared for the rush to the main hall when it opens.  Yes, when the balloon goes up and they open the doors to the sales floor, it is a geek equivalent to the running of the bulls in Spain (albeit a little safer).  Don’t fight the masses, ride it in.  To answer your question now:  Yes, it’s that crowded every year.  You can’t get in without a badge, have it out and visible.  The Stormtrooper Door Guards will stop you dead in your tracks, meaning you are subject to being trampled by the crowd surge.  Also, nothing sucks more than being in a crowd of 2000 only to find out you have turn around and run back to the hotel room through a sea of angry and exited geeks.

#4:  Cosplay is part of the experience and is encouraged.  If you are going to do it, don’t design a costume that is going to injure passersby.  Think it over.  No one is more of a douche-bag than a guy that has designed a costume that is hard to get around or trips/blinds people when you pass.

#5:  If you’re going to be one of those people who stop in the middle of a crowd to take a picture of the booth-babe wearing a chain mail bikini, do it quickly and don’t clog up the corridor.  She’s not going to go back to your hotel room with her because you’re taking her photo and you don’t need a photo to prove to your buddies back at the office that there were indeed females at the convention.  Okay, that last point – I may be wrong.

#6:  Bathe and use deodorant.  This shouldn’t have to be a tip, it should be common sense.  Based on my own experience moving through the crowd, I had to include it.  Look, you paid for a hotel room right?  Go back at some point and at least use the shower.  Foot powder, toothpaste, and clean clothing (a fresh set for every day) shouldn’t require mentioning – yet here I am doing it.  Why?  Because people don’t do it!

#7:  While you have no adult supervision and can do what you want, be respectful of others.  In other words, bringing your leftover Taco Bell burrito from dinner to that 8am gaming session and eating it during the set-up is just wrong.  You do know that their meat isn’t real meat, right?

#8:  For your meals eat outside of the convention center.  First, convention food sucks and is expensive.  My memory is that a single, room-temperature, piece of convention cardboard pizza runs around $425.  I don’t blame the folks in Indianapolis for this, it sucked when the convention was in Milwaukee too.  It is something of a tradition to stand in line at the nearby Steak N Shake for 20 minutes at least once during the con for me, but that’s just me.  I also like the brisk walk to the attached mall.  They have a food court, variety, better prices, and it’s a hoot watching the locals interact with the convention attendees.

Go only five blocks away and there are a lot of eating places.  Gamers hate leaving the convention site, even for an hour for food, so if you are willing to walk, downtown has a LOT of eating options and the further you walk, the smaller the crowds.  I recommend taking the stroll.  Ten minutes of walking gives you a few minutes of peace and quiet.

The Food Trucks are your best friends.   I only discovered where these vendors parked four years ago and found their offers to be a much better alternative to eating on-site at the con.  Let’s face it, everything is better than the food in the convention center.  While we’re on it…

#9:  Don’t frighten the locals.  Look, Indianapolis really seems to like having Gen Con in town – well, at least they like our money.  Don’t try and frighten that family on the sidewalk with your Orc costume waving a sword and cursing in Orkish.  A lot of locals come down town to look at the cosplay folks – don’t add to their stereotype images of us.  Not cool dude.

#10:  While I totally appreciate Cosplayers, sometimes the costumes are confusing as all hell.  Don’t be insulted if people ask you, “who are you trying to be?”  Corollary:  Taking any other costume and tossing on a Deadpool mask is not as innovative as you like to think it is.  (We call these folks “Douce-pools”)

#11:  There is always someone that knows the rules better than you.  He’s arrogant, overweight, and wearing a black tee-shirt (then again, who isn’t?)  Nothing kills a game faster than two guys trying to prove who is smarter about the rules regarding the splatter effect of a Mark IV plasma rifle in zero-G.  We get it, you read and memorized the rule book.  Stop ruining game play for everyone just to demonstrate your incredible powers of memorization…please.   We refer to these individuals as Rules Douches, or the more French- La Rules Douchebag.

#12:  Don’t just sit around.  Go and check out the miniatures games, or some of the big events like the Live Dungeon.  You didn’t shell out all of that money to sit and read a catalog you picked up did you?  The convention won’t come to you – you need to move.

#13:  Do some prep work if you are planning on buying some specific products.  Some companies are bringing limited quantities of games to the con for each day, or a certain day.  If you aren’t in line at the right time, you’re hosed.  The short version of this:  Make up your mind on what you are going to purchase and do it.  If you wait too long that newly released product can/will sell out.  Check the web sites and Twitter feeds of your favorite companies to see if that new product will be available and when.

#14:  Wear comfortable shoes.  Preferably shoes that do not have a predetermined aroma (see Tip Six.)

#15:  Go back to your hotel at night and get some sleep.  The convention is not designed as an endurance test.  You’ll need the energy.  All night gaming is great, if you’re young, but even then you need some sleep.

#16:  Attend the auction.  You’ll be able to tell your wife/mother/cat/significant other than that shelves and containers of games you have ARE of value.  You’ll be surprised at what games people collect and what they will pay for one.  It’s also kind of fun to see last year’s hot products being sold for a pittance of what people paid for them a year ago.

#17:  Play the demo games.  Look, games cost money – a LOT of money.  I sit in on demos, watch tournaments, etc. to figure out where I’m going to spend my cash.  I recommend you do the same.  Try some things you’ve never played before.  Think of this as a chance to test-drive new games and systems.

#18:  Don’t insult your favorite writer or game designer intentionally.  These guys work hard to produce your fun.  Don’t be “that guy” that shows up to tell someone how horrible a product they wrote in 1992 was, or how they made a mistake in an out-of-print 1989 book.  We get it, you can read.  If you’ve traveled all of this way to show off your knowledge, you’re a decade or two off.  If you meet writers, authors, artists, designers – be cool and respectful.  As a writer in the industry, I welcome comments from fans…but there is a limit to critique that I will endure, and I am not alone.  As a corollary – there is a limit to the number of things you want autographed.

#19:  Go early to the con.  Get out of bed and get to the convention early.  There’s a lot going on and the lines are significantly shorter.  I hit the MechWarrior pods usually at 8-9am when the convention hall is empty-ish.  They are a tradition I am addicted to.

#20:  WIN.  Savor your victories.  Cherish the lament of your foes as they are crushed under the weight of your killer die rolls and strategy!  Don’t rub it in, but enjoy it.  Serious dude, don’t rub it in when you win.  You didn’t travel all of this way to lose did you?  Hell no!  In other words, have fun!

#21:  Don’t wear costumes that are designed to deliberately upset people, unless those people are politicians.  You can abuse them all you want – they deserve it.

#22:  Wear something other than a black tee shirt.  At GenCon, black tee shirts are like camouflaged ghillie suit for snipers.  Everyone is wearing a black tee shirt.  Someone someday will earn a PhD studying why gamers are drawn to black tee shirts.  In the meantime, I recommend wearing something else (something clean), in a color other than black.  Corollary:  Reading the hilarious tee shirts is one of the more phone things about the Con.

#23:  Don’t abuse your demo time in any booth.  Okay, in the main showroom, the vendors often offer short demos on their products.  These are a major part of the experience.  Don’t abuse the privilege.  I saw one guy camped out a table last year for four hours.  There were a lot of people wanting to sit in, but this guy had decided to turn a demo into a full-fledged campaign.

#24:  Remember the GenCon food groups.  Caffeine, Chocolate, Salty Snacks, Caffeine, Pointless Carbs.  Beef Jerky, while not a formal food group, is also permissible but please be discreet when eating it – no one looks cool tearing into a piece of jerky.  Yes, Caffeine is listed twice because it is that important.

#25:  If you want to do free events plan on a wait or get there early.  A good example of this is the Paint and Take event Reaper puts on.  It’s cool to get a free mini you paint there, but everyone wants to do it and there’s usually a line.  See #30 below.

#26:  If you want the Convention giveaways – go to those booths first thing when the doors open.  A lot of these vendors run out in the first 20 minutes.

#27:  Con-Crud – prepare for it.  Con Crud is not a new module release of Pandemic – it’s the social plague that hits thousands when they return from GenCon on the following Monday.  Use hand sanitizer (you have to bring your own on this).  Load up on vitamins and other legal medications aimed at reducing colds, flu, or whatever it is that morphs into Con-Crud.

#28:  Meet the celebrities.  I’m not just talking about the “name” celebrities.  This is a chance for you to track down that favorite author or artist and shake their hand.  I make a point at every GenCon to network and meet people (and re-meet people I met years before).  Mingle and be social.

#29:  “Language” I’m noticing more and more kids at the Con which is great.  If you feel the need to curse, make sure only the adults are around.

#30:  Take advantage of the crowds to do things you want to do.  Look, at 10am, everyone is lined up to get into the main hall.  That’s the perfect time to do things that otherwise have long lines.  Understand the masses, don’t always be part of the masses.

#31:  If you are in a wheelchair, it is not a weapon to clear the crowds.  I got hit by someone in a wheelchair last year just standing still.  He just plowed into my ankle because he wanted to get through.  I’m understanding, but not that understanding.

#32:  You will get a book of freebie coupons.  If you plan on redeeming them, you need to do it first thing in the main hall.  Some of that stuff disappears in a matter of minutes.

#33:  Play some things you never have before.

There you have it guys – GAME ON!

#GenCon

RPG Humor – Famous Last Words

tpk

I remember seeing some lists out there years ago, so I thought a fresh perspective might be in order.  This applies to a wide range of role playing games (with an emphasis on fantasy games) and is provided solely to give you a chuckle.  I didn’t cheat and look at the old lists out there, so any similarities are coincidental.

He’s got to be out of offensive spells at this point.  Let’s rush him!

He’s probably only got a few more hit points.

No, I’m not familiar with a polymorph spell.  What does it do to me?

They will never expect us to come at them from this angle.

We can survive in a vacuum long enough to pull it off.

They’ll never see us coming.

That dragon is bluffing.

Don’t worry – we’re well out of range of their (fireballs, catapults, arrows, trebuchet, ballista, machineguns, BattleMechs, lightning bolts, spears, lasers, missiles, etc.)

We have them right where we want them.

Ignore them, it’s a diversionary attack.

Gas?  No problem – we’ll just hold our breath as we fight.

The only thing these guys understand is brute force.

If we run fast enough through the fire it should minimize the damage.

Let’s pile all of the ammo crates in one spot, real close to our position.

Liches are not nearly as tough as you might think.

If we rush them, they can’t possibly hit all of us.

I don’t know what this wand does, but we’re about to find out!

I thought you said it was just a bunch of farmers in this village?

Freeze.  If we don’t make a sound or move, they’ll go right on by us.

We’ve got to win…we’re the good guys.

Don’t worry, it can’t get any worse than this.

What do you mean, “That’s no moon…?”

I’m only a little bit on fire…

Why yes, I give that lever a good hard yank.

(To the enemy) I dare you to use that wand again!

He’s not so tough now…wait…what do you mean he stands up and starts grinning?

We’ve taken out all of their heavy hitters.

He’s just a tiny dragon.

I disbelieve!

What do you mean it’s no longer in my backpack?  Where did it go?

Those are just statues – not everything is a golem.

We’ll let them have the first shot, just to show them what badasses we are.

For the record, they started it…

I’m out of arrows…I didn’t know you were keeping track.

I moon them Braveheart-style.

I get a running start and jump the pit/gap/chasm.

I wonder what this rope is attached to?  (Tug)

I spit in Zeus’ face to show him I’m not afraid.

We have them surrounded – so why are they laughing?

As long as they don’t have a magic user, we should be safe here.

It’s storming?  I move under the tall tree for shelter.

You’ll never take us alive!

I bitch-slap the head of the Thieves Guild, just to get my point across.

We don’t have time to make the light speed calculations — punch it!

I wonder what that whooshing sound is?

I take off my armor to intimidate them and show them I am not afraid.

I kill our hostage – that should prove we were serious.

No, I didn’t take off my armor before I jumped in…why?

I never would have set it on fire if I’d known that was the only exit!

The dragon’s asleep?  This is going to be a cake walk.

What do you mean ‘that’s the controls to the airlock?’

Owlbear?  That sounds more cuddly than dangerous.  How tough could that be?

I drink all of the unmarked potion – what happens?

It’s just fog guys.

Don’t waste your time burning those trolls – we need to see what is in their den.

What do you mean I don’t see the pin on the grenade?

I’m not going to waste time checking for traps.

We can relax, this room is secure.

(To the DM)  Blah, blah, blah.  Skip the flavor text and start rolling some dice.  Daddy needs the EP’s…

I look that Medusa right in the eye and I tell her…

Who was watching the horses?  Where is he?  Where are they?

I thought you were keeping the map so we could find our way out!

No problem – I’m invisible.

It’s probably a bad time to remind you that I was against this idea.

That has to be an illusion.

(To the DM) No, I’m not familiar with Greek Fire.  Why?

What do you mean he shrugs off my 18 points of damage and winks at me?

When you say the cave floor is moist and squishy, what exactly do you mean?

The only way I can miss is if I roll a one.

Watch out for that crossfire!

They’re not fooling me with that diversion.  We stand our ground here.

Guys, this probably is a good time to point out that we apparently are standing on a pentagram.

Kevlar stops everything – right?

For this plan to work, I need a volunteer to act as bait…

(To the DM)  Did you say thirty orcs?  I thought you said thirteen.

Where’s that guy we just killed?

I smash the dragon’s eggs.  How does that leather-winged bitch react to that?

I make a run between the giant’s legs.

When you say I detect a trap everywhere…what do you mean by ‘everywhere?’

What kind of a sick bastard fills a pit with acid?

Why are you handing me a blank character sheet?  You haven’t even rolled for the damage yet.

Of course I’m reading the scroll out loud.

What do you mean my sword is missing?

Split up – they can’t possibly follow all of us.

I swear to God I didn’t know those things could fly like that.

I just start randomly pushing buttons – does anything happen?

Why do you want to know if I have swimming as a skill?

Liche?  No problem, I can turn the undead.

Quick mix all of the potions together and drink them.  It’s do or die time!

Did their captain just yell, “Leave no one alive?”

I’ve got a 17 charisma, so I naturally put the moves on the princess…

I saw this once in a Roadrunner cartoon…we can do this…

There’s five of us and one of him…this should be easy.

How was I supposed to know she was married/intended as a virgin sacrifice/possessed by a demon?

I wonder why they are all chanting?

We run across the rope suspension bridge to get away.

Don’t worry, we’re safe here in this keep.

We can do this, I saw this scene in (Insert movie or TV show)

We torch the forest/town/tavern/castle – that should get their attention.

I climb into the catapult and give the signal…

What do you mean fireball’s expand?

This is usually the part where they break and run…but this time they’re not.  Hmm…

You’re darned right I refuse to bow down to the king.  I didn’t get to fifth level by being a wuss.

If we don’t move, they’ll never spot us.

I’m hearing his voice inside my head?  That can’t be good.

Yes I AM trying to jump wearing full armor.  Why are you looking so puzzled?

I don’t know if the spell needs components.  Is that important?

(After ten minutes to hacking through the door) Do we surprise them?

What do you mean I am out of ammunition?

I quickly dive out of the window…wait…what floor were we on again?

I told you that it was a waste of money to pay for maintenance on the ship.

I run across the flowing lava really fast so I don’t sink in.

Why yes, I am holding the torch while I prepare the oil flasks to throw them.  Why?

I start the auto-destruct sequence to bluff him into standing down.

What do you mean you need a shit-load of D20’s for the damage?

I’m low on hit points, I’ll take the rear guard.  There’s no way they will hit us from there.

We’ll be safe in that cave/up those trees/in that house/etc…

Of course we have a campfire going, why?

Don’t worry, if these guys were any good they wouldn’t be city guards.

It’s just a ballista…it’s probably like being hit with an arrow.

(To the DM)  Why are you checking the starvation tables?

Yes, of course we are still tied to each other in case one of us falls off the cliff…why do you ask?

I don’t have to take that kind of backtalk from a wizard.

I yell to the angry mob and tell them to bite me.

You didn’t just kill the pilot did you?

It’s almost as if they are acting as bait for us.

(About the DM) When I said, “what else could he throw at us,” I didn’t mean it as some sort of challenge.

That bright light in the sky is getting bigger and brighter?  Hmm…

Slow down, what plane of Hell did we open a portal to again?

The vampire turns into a cloud of mist…so we won, right?

I told you it would be easy…look, they’re running away.

How many spears are incoming?

Avalanche, smavalanche…

The crew abandoned ship?  How hard could it be to sail a vessel in a storm?

He’s just a little Beholder.

I cross the rope tightrope-style.

How many vampires coffins are in the room with us?

Everybody try and hide!

The only way to get his respect is to insult his wife.

Sure, I agree to a battle of wits with him.

Which colored flare do I use to call off the in-bound air strike?

We leap off the cliff and aim for the lake.  Wait…how deep is that water?

We’re safe.  You’d have to be a ninja or a monk to climb those walls to get to us.

I’m telling you, that dragon has breathed its last blast of fire.

I’m calling in an artillery strike – danger-close!

Wait…how many giants did you say were running at us?

It’s just an earthquake.

Damn right I’m going to mock that stupid bard.

This is a hell of a time to be getting a physics lesson.

That’s not how you desecrate a temple — THIS is how you desecrate temple…

I think we lost them.

(To the DM)  What do you mean there’s no point in me rolling for initiative?

Screw the druid…torch the forest.

I stick my head above the battlement walls to see if they are still there.

I discrete their temple…that should get their attention.

They’ve walked right into our trap.

I’m sure we’re out of the blast radius.

Did he really just yell, “Release the Kraken!”?

I’m counting on it swallowing me whole so I can gut it from the inside…

I know I’m blinded – I’m casting the spell in the direction of his voice.

Everybody spread out, it will force them to divide their fire.

Yes I did just refer to the Drow queen as a ‘Hot Black Chick’…why?

So shaman can cast spells?

Stop wasting time in looking up its stats and let’s just get on killing this thing.

Why is that goblin hoard laughing at us?

I’ve worded this wish so well there’s no way the DM can screw with us…

So that’s why they call it the Prison of Souls…

I’m pretty sure we aren’t all in its cone of fire.

I’m taking it off, armor just slows me down.

(To the DM)  When you say ‘tornado,’ what exactly do you mean?

(After five days of desert travel)  Look, and oasis….we’re gonna make it!

Who cares what the impact is – I’m changing alignment right here and right now.

Give me a hand prying open that coffin.

Mindflayers sure don’t look very tough.

We will never surrender!  You’ll have to kill us first.

What do you mean there’s a duration on that spell?

No one brought flint and steel?

Which walls are moving?

I really wish I’d bought a copy of the Monster Manual.

(To the DM) Of course I’ve seen the movie Alien.  Why do you ask…ut oh…

Alright, I sit down to barter with that Devil.

Before you throw the switch, what is the percentage chance that the noose/rope will break?

I don’t care what’s carved on the floor, everybody into the room.

What do you mean he’s kicking that grenade back at me?

Yes I’m putting the moves on the barkeep’s daughter.

Then I say, “Are all the city guards as stupid or ugly as you?”

I can’t believe that none of us bought rope.

I can’t parry a lightning bolt?  Are you sure?

It’s never too late to beg for forgiveness.

(To the DM) There’s a chart for explosive decompression?  Why are you asking for it?

Dive into the sewer, we’ll be safe there.

These guys only respect you when you respond forcefully.

How close is that star?

Why are our scouts running back towards us?

When you said the Thieves Guild was coming after us, I didn’t think you meant the whole guild.

When you said the ship lost power, you didn’t mean the whole ship, did you?

When you say the room is getting hot – how hot is that?

This isn’t the time to get all Paladinny on me – kill her.

Why do you want to borrow my copy of the Dungeon’s Master’s Guide?

If Butch and Sundance can make it – I’m sure we can.

Was that a “morpal” blade he’s swinging at me?  Oh crap…

They’ve stopped chasing us, we’re in the clear.

What do you mean I didn’t damage him with a roll of a 20?

When you say “transporter malfunction,” what exactly do you mean?

I’m beginning to think someone switched that road sign back there…

I have not begun to die!

Our line of retreat is blocked by what?

I ignore the radiation warning alarm and enter the room.

So that’s why they call them blink dogs…

Don’t listen to him, he’s just a bard.

I’m sure the “Rapids of Death” is just a name the locals use to scare travelers.

The joke’s on him – I cast featherfall.  No, it’s not slotted, why is that important?

That’s got to be the last charge on his wand/staff…

A demon – no problem – magic missile.

Who cares if they have the high ground?

These guys aren’t beating us – they’re tenderizing us.

Everybody into the portable hole!

I switch to my old trusty bronze sword.

I break the wizards staff over my knee.

I don’t need a physics lesson – just tell me how much damage do I take after a 300 foot fall into the river?

What do you mean I hear the sound of wheels?  They can’t have any siege equipment…

Don’t worry about him…he’s dead.

Why are you rolling that many dice for initiative?

(To the DM) I call foul.  That’s not in the Monster Manual.

They’re immune to fire?  Are you sure?

Bob – why are your eyes glowing?  Bob??

Wow…that was easier than I thought it would be.

Why is our scout running back to us so fast?

Set the self-destruct for a twenty-second count down.  That should be plenty of time.

I have a two for driving skill – why?

Hey guys, I think we’re standing in some sort of oil.

Yes I do remember being bit by that wolf…why bring it up now?

The ring can only be used once a day?

We can make it – I saw this on Survivor once.

On the count of three…one…two…

Finally, a safe place to camp.

That noise in the bush is probably just another rabbit.

I can’t be dehydrated…my character has been drinking regularly from his wineskin.

No my sword isn’t magical or silvered — is that important?

Death Stare – that’s a real thing?

Weapons lock?  Who’s locking onto–

What do you mean they can see in the dark?

I’m not wasting power on the cloaking device.

When you say giant snake – how big is giant?

I don’t care if he is standing in the same pool as the rest of our party – I fire lightning bolt!

Fine, leave us!  We don’t need your cleric anyway.

He gets how many attacks per round?

Who drank the last of the healing potion?

I taunt them, their mothers, and their sisters.

Is that incoming artillery barrage ours or the enemies?

Don’t bother me with the details.

Hey, why are our hirelings running?

You guys will back me up…right?

That abandoned mine should give us cover.

None of our spells or magic weapons work?  That’s impossible.

Who cares what my character smells?  Tell me something important.

Does anybody have any silver weapons?

Summoning that fire elemental may have made things worse.

The joke’s on you…I took my armor off to fight this rust monster!

Everyone run through the portal!

Ramming speed!

My ribs are now poking through my back?  That doesn’t sound good.

So he pulled the battle axe out of his chest and licked the blood off of it?  That can’t be a good sign.

What do you mean, I don’t detect that statue moving?

I’m tying the bag of gold onto my belt so I don’t lose them while swimming the river.

Boy, you kill one High Priest and the whole temple takes it the wrong way.

We’ve been fighting for an hour.  Maybe I can convince them to negotiate now.

I stand before the charging cavalry like Jon Snow and draw my sword.

If the dwarf thief says he’s disarmed all of the traps, then he’s disarmed all the traps.

Yes I’m concerned, that giant just sprinkled me with seasoning salt!

I’m not pulling the ripcord until the last possible second.

Quick, dive into this old lava vent!

It’s just a tiny hole (in a spacesuit, in a vacuum).

Did he just say he was calculating the in-flight velocity and splash radius of a fully armored dwarf?

They get how many attacks per turn?

Wait – did he just say that the mountain moved?

There was only one hag here a minute ago.

The joke’s on them.  It’s going to take a lot more than that to knock down that castle wall.

Sure it’s a 200 foot plummet but I’ll survive – I’m wearing armor.

I don’t have time to confirm the coordinates of that air strike.

You suck as a dungeon master…

zombie

Gen Con 2016 Battle Damage Assessment

IMG_1259
Only at Gen Con will you see Kylo Ren force choking Dead Pool.

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).

No matter how cool you are, you are never Stormtrooper in a kilt cool.
No matter how cool you are, you are never Stormtrooper in a kilt cool.

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.

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D&D Saturday AM.  Fun on a bun

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.

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This had the potential of being a bit complicated…

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.

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Some of the miniatures game boards were spectacular

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.

A German Walker enters the fray!
A German Walker enters the fray!

 

 

An American Sherman with a Tesla Cannon maneuvers for a shot!
An American Sherman with a Tesla Cannon maneuvers for a shot!

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.

Deadzone carnage.
Deadzone carnage.

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.

Fantasy Flight's new minis game promo
Fantasy Flight’s new minis game promo
A home-brewed 3D Game of Thrones game that was frankly pretty awesome.
A home-brewed 3D Game of Thrones game that was frankly pretty awesome.

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.

Exiles!
Exiles!

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!)

Surprise - I had two books out!
Surprise – I had two books out!

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.

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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.

Brent Evans and Randall Bills' force
Brent Evans and Randall Bills’ force

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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?”

Before that head shot that took out my Dead Pool Warhammer
Before that head shot that took out my Dead Pool Warhammer
Sometimes the answer is to just pile on
Sometimes the answer is to just pile on

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.

The Wings of Glory big tournament
The Wings of Glory big tournament

 

Incredible miniatures set-ups are a tradition at Gen Con and this year did not disappoint.
Incredible miniatures set-ups are a tradition at Gen Con and this year did not disappoint.

Overall, it was a great convention.  Now to recoup for Gen Con 50 next year!

Clan Wolverine News!

CAT36044_Betrayal of Ideals Full Cover POD copy.pdf
Seyla! 

Just posting that headline I can almost hear the audible groans and resounding cheers.  I am pleased to announce that the novel, Betrayal of Ideals, will be available in BOTH print and ebook form for GenCon this year.  For many of you this is a new BattleTech novel which may or may not be exciting.  It is for me so allow me to bask in it.  

Over the years I get at least two emails a month asking if this saga, the true story of Clan Wolverine’s downfall, would ever be in book form.  Originally e-published on BattleCorps, this book has never been in print before.

I proposed this idea to John Helfers, the BattleTech editor last year at GenCon.  We both conspired to see this come to life along with some fans who kept prodding.  John hit me out of the blue a few weeks ago with an editorial pass of the manuscript and I realized that there was more we could do.  I wanted to provide some new material to the book so that the readers from BattleCorps would have an incentive to take another look at this important book.  So I crafted two new chapters, at the beginning and end of the book – leveraging some of the newer source material from the Operation Klondike Sourcebook.  The results is a very cool and robust book.  The Klondike sourcebook is one of those things I wish I had available when the story was originally written.  Great stuff!  John told me it was okay to pop the news.  

Sidebar:  I had to take a break from working on my current all-new BattleTech novel to pull this off – time well spent I might add.  Yes, that’s right, another BattleTech novel (all new) is in the works.    

When I originally wrote the book it was the subject of Internet Trolls claiming I had retconned the history of the Wolverines.  Not true!  It has been said that history is written by the victors and what we know about the Not-Named Clan came from sources that were party to their destruction.  They revered Nicholas Kerensky as infallible.  The Wolverines were the boogeymen of Clan history, an evil that had to be eradicated.  Mass murderers driven crazy with power. 

I came at it from a different angle.  What if everything printed thus far was only one side of the story?  What if the reality was something else?  What if Nicholas Kerensky was an egocentric madman who allowed the Wolverines to be set up to keep the rest of his people united?  (I know, this is sacrilege to Clan fanboys).  What if the early days of the Clans were more politics and petty jealousy than honor?  That is what Betrayal digs into. 

For the record, Nicholas had a bit of a screw loose, we pointed to that in the sourcebooks.  I mean he used the Monguls as a model for his new society iconized with animal totems.  It’s either visionary or the acts of a nut-job.  

I’m not implying that the Clans are not great.  As with any successful culture, they rarely live up to the image they like to project.  Yes, there are stalwarts who live up to those high-and-mighty ideals, but often they are not the dominant voices that are echoed through history.  I wanted to explore that with Betrayal of Ideals

I make no apologies for this book.  Personally, I think it is one of my better efforts.  The internet trolls will wail in false agony at this canon, which only makes me smile. 

This is an epic tale of a proud warrior culture painted unjustly as demons, who were brutally hunted down by their own people. It was a strange book to write since we all know essentially how this story ends (essentially).  I wanted to include some elements that would be a treat for BattleTech readers/players.  So, some new ‘Mechs were needed…and the SLS McKenna’s Pride (just because).  There had to be a flight from Clan Space because we all know the Minnesota Tribe has some connection to the Wolverines – right?  The Wolverines are fighting the ultimate lost cause and the readers know that from the very start of the book.  That means this had to be a grand story. 

Some of the scenes are chocked full of symbolism and that was all very deliberate. I really wanted to explore those early years of the Clans in a dangerous and formative period of their history.  With all enemies defeated, it was only natural for them to turn on themselves.  

The characters were an ensemble cast.  The story could not easily be told from one character’s perspective.  I wanted to make sure that the full ramifications of the Clans turning against the Wolverines were made clear to the reader.  One of my favorite scenes (and there are many) is with the Ghost Bears near the end of the book.  It was something that had impact all the way into the Jihad era.  There had to be a cost to the Clans for cutting off one of their own limbs.  I personally like the main characters and the turmoil I was forced to put them through. 

The new epilogue – well, that is something that I think people will be buzzing about for a while.  He he he. 

One of the big advocates of this book was Brent Evens at Catalyst.  Brent went out and got a new artist to do a cover for the book that I absolutely love.  The Wolverine banner in the background in flames – perfect. 

For those of you that read the story on BattleCorps, there’s some new stuff here – so check it out.  For those of you that never read it, saddle-up.  It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.  WOLVERINES!!!! (think Patrick Swayze or Charlie Sheen)