Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,
Rowyn
rowyn

KC Game Fair

Because last weekend's con was not enough (or something), I decided to go to the KC Game Fair. I was vaguely aware that there was a gaming con in Kansas City -- the gaming group brought games to ConQuesT one year -- but I've never attended. A couple of weeks ago, Randy Milholland of Something Positive tweeted that he'd be there and that it was this weekend. My first thought was "The week after Contra?" I figured I'd still be recovering.

Instead, I felt rather like what I really needed was MOAR CON.

A gaming con is a completely different creature from an sf&f con. At a gaming con, I can play games, which is more or less my favorite thing in the world. This means I don't need to spend the con changing clothes to keep myself amused. I figured I'd only go up for Saturday (because I didn't need that much more con) and skip the whole packing/costuming thing. I'd play some board games and meet Randy and buy some graphic novels.

The website had four-hour blocks for gaming slots; I signed up online for Agricola in the morning and Roborally in the afternoon. When I showed up, the section devoted to board games was fairly small, so I just sat down at the first table with a person who looked friendly and a game that looked interesting. The game was Mice and Mystics, a board game/RPG hybrid: you play through cooperative scenarios, with no GM required. The scenarios are serial, following the characters through various adventures. The mechanics are simple and easy to use, but nothing spectacular in themselves. The theme is that you are various members of the palace staff -- the prince (who's a warrior/leader), a healer, a tinkerer (also a warrior), a mage, etc -- who are loyal to the king that's under a spell of the evil queen. The evil queen threw the party into the dungeon, and the mage used a one-way transformation to turn themselves into mice to escape. The opponents are things like rats, roaches, centipedes, and The Cat. The Cat is so terrifying he is represented by a giant pawprint marker instead of a miniature. The game is adorable, which is its primary virtue.

We played the first scenario of Mice and Mystics with four players -- myself, Kevin, Arthur, and John -- and the man who brought the game, Tyson, moderated. We succeeded! Without too much trouble. Tyson and I were game to try to cram through the second scenario, even though there was only officially about an hour left in the time slot and we'd been about two hours going through the first scenario.

We took a break and I hunted down Randy, which was not too hard since all the dealers were in the same room with the board games. I bought all the "Super Stupor" comics (four of them) and made him explain for the thousandth time why he doesn't have any "Something Positive" books despite having done the comic for 11+ years and having what must be at least 3000+ pages of material. (The original files for the first year or two of strips were lost, so he needs to virtually re-create them in order to make a print edition. YIKES. He has been working on it for a year. I am not surprised he is not done yet.) Randy was thinking of running a game of Little Fears "sometime after 8PM". It's an RPG where the PCs are young children (ages 4-12) and the monsters they fear are real. It sounded pretty neat. He said he'd decide around 4PM whether to run or not.

After a break, I went back to the M&M table and waited to see who would return. Tyson came back but the other players didn't. Tyson and I had just decided to play it two-player when two men (Steed and Alden) wandered up. They both said "Oh, we'll just watch." We got them to sit down to "watch" and then, somehow, without them quite realizing it, we had them start playing.

The second scenario had three of the players trying to rescue the fourth, who was stuck in a mousetrap. The stuck-in-the-mousetrap-by-herself player is, as one might imagine, really boring, so Tyson handled it. Unfortunately, she died before we could get her free. This was especially frustrating to me, because my character -- the healer! -- was able to get within range to heal her before she died (but did not have the ability to free her). But the rules inexplicably forbid the healer from healing the trapped player. Because she's 'not a member of your party yet'. What? Alas. Anyway, it didn't take us much more than the remaining hour.

I ran out for lunch and came back to search for a different game to play in the afternoon. Fred was running "Age of Inventions", which turned out to be a worker-placement/resource-gathering/building style of game, similar to Agricola or Caylus. It reminded me much more of Caylus than Agricola, mostly because it was not a miserable game of starvation and poverty like Agricola is. (I have an inexplicable love for Agricola, but it really is rather frustrating and depressing to play -- you always feel like you're struggling just to survive never mind prosper, even when you're winning.)

I came in last on the first game of Age of Inventions, which Fred won with Nik coming in second and Jenon coming in third. We took a break, after that, and I went to see if Randy had decided to run Little Fears or not.

"Well, I'm thinking I'll run it, but it'll be late. Here, you can sign up here." Randy handed me a card; Corryn had already signed up.

I started to write my name down. "Sure, what time is 'late'?"

"11PM ... " He took in my expression. "I'm sorry, is that too late?"

"Errrr ... I went to bed at 10PM last night." I stared at the sign up sheet and thought, you know, I get to sleep every day. When am I going to get another chance to be in a RPG run by Randy Miholland? "... but I can go home and take a nap and come back. Will you promise that if I come back at 11PM you will actually run it?"

"I'm planning to run it, but tell you what -- I'll post on Twitter by 10PM if I change my mind. So check Twitter before you head back."

After that, Fred and I played a second game of Age of Inventions with two new people who had showed up, Melinda and Corryn. This time I managed to win. Even though starting player varies every turn and each player gets two turns total as the starting player, being the player who goes first at the start of the game seems to be a big advantage. It means you can be the first person to build two new factories (everyone starts with one), which means that for the next few turns you don't really have to compete to produce in your factories (because for at least two turns you will be one of only two people with three). The game has rather intricate resource management -- you're always paying something to get something else; there's only a few actions where you can get something just for taking the action. It was a neat game overall; I'd be happy to play it again.

After the second game, it was about 6PM. Fred was talking about playing more games later, but I figured I'd better head home and try to get some rest so I could be alert for Little Fears later.

I went home, forced myself to lie in bed not-really-dozing for a couple of hours, and then got up around 10PM, checked Twitter, and puttered around getting dressed. I hadn't dressed up for the con, of course, but that was board-gaming. This was roleplay. And I could put together this little-girl lacy black skirt and frilly white shirt and black scarf and jacket into an ensemble that looked distinctly anime-schoolgirl-ish. And bring my plushy Cthulhu. To the horror game about kids. I had to.

Just before I was going to head out, I checked Twitter again and discovered that somehow I'd missed the tweet saying "Readers at KC Game Fair who asked about tonight's Little Fears game: midnight, not 11. 3 open spots". I was too awake now to want to try napping for another hour, So I dinked about instead, then headed out.

I arrived around 11:50PM to find Randy walking Corryn and one of the other players through character generation. Randy was still waiting on another person who'd signed up to arrive, too.

Then three more people walked in, who announced that they had two more people who wanted to play. Then some of them said they didn't want to play and left. Then another few people arrived, and Randy said he could manage seven people. While who was playing and who was leaving to go to IHOP was still being sorted out, we moved from the dealer room to the hotel lobby so the constaff wouldn't have to kick us out in an hour in order to lock up the dealer room. The corridor was full of people, and someone bellowed "Make a hole! Coming through!" for reasons not actually clear to those of us trying to get through. But I strutted boldly through the hole like royalty, then turned and held aloft plushie Cthulhu like a beacon for my fellow players to follow. I really wish I had thought to hold plushie Cthulhu before me when I walked through initially. Hee!

When we finally sat down in a group of couches and comfy chairs around a coffee table in the lobby, there were eight players plus the GM. It took around an hour to get through character generation. Char gen was pretty neat, actually. We were playing the 2009 version of the game, which is the current edition (although the 2001 version was recently re-released with minimal editing.) In the 2009 edition, char gen emphasizes 'pick things you are good and bad at, and situations where you will excel or fail'. So it encourages you to think about what your character is like as a person rather than as an assortment of skill points. Your age determines two things: how many ability points you have and how much belief you have. Young kids got more belief; older kids got more ability points. Belief lets you do things that might otherwise be impossible -- if you successfully believe that your blanket will protect you from monsters, it will -- and lets you influence what monsters can do -- if you successfully believe that monsters are less scary in the beam of your flashlight, then they will be. I played the oldest kid at age 11, because I did not think my RP skills were up to portraying a little kid.

The party's combat monsters were the 4 and 6 year old, who put pretty much all of their very limited supply of points into Fight. It was pretty funny.

My experiences with one-shot and guest roles in tabletop RP has varied from 'that was AWESOME!' to 'I was bored most of the game'. I had no real idea where this particular game would end up falling on the spectrum. It turned out to be high on the awesome side: I did not feel like I turned in a particularly good performance myself, but the other players and the GM were terrific. It was sufficiently cool that I am going to do an in-depth write-up and post that separately.

Possibly as multiple posts in story form. With dialogue. Some of the participants had great lines.
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