MACE Report 2008 (Saturday and Sunday)


As I mentioned before, I drove home on Friday night after finishing my game of War of the Ring.  Thankfully, Gwen’s eye was a little better on Saturday morning, so we didn’t have to go to the Emergency Room.  I did, however, take Samantha to get a flu shot (which Gwen would have done had her eye not been horribly infected) up in Burlington, so my morning was shot (causing me to miss the game of Battlestations that I really wanted to check out).  With Gwen’s mom coming back over in the afternoon to help her out again, I was able to once more return to High Point in time for my afternoon session of Fury of Dracula

Fury of Dracula

Fury of Dracula has become of one my favorite games as of late, and I was really thrilled to get another chance to play it.  By the time we were ready to start, I had four other players joining me, all of which were new to the game.  They were Carl, Jim, Clarance (who all knew each other previously), and Henry.  I took the role of Dracula, of course, and explained the basics of the game to them, as well as a few basic strategy ideas (mainly to always hold a Good Luck card for some game-changing event).  

We got started, and within a few turns the hunters had already tracked down my location using Hypnosis.  As I was escaping into the sea, they also enlisted Rufus Smith as an ally, which caused me to lose blood for every sea location I travelled through (normally you lose blood for every other sea location).  We circled around Europe time after time, with the hunters hot on my trail and with me bleeding myself to stay a step ahead of them.  

The cards were very good to them the whole game, and when my Evasion card hit the table, they were ready with Good Luck as I had instructed them to be.  Eventually, they found me in Spain, and using resolve to spark a Sense of Emergency, teleported there to confront me.  Having reduced myself to only 5 remaining blood by that time and being pinned in by Garlic (which kept me from escaping), it took only a few turns for the hunters to end my unlife and win the game.  I was at 4 Vampire points, but it was nearing dawn on the next day.

I was really amazed at how quickly this group of new hunters figured out the event cards and overall strategy, as well as how well they worked together.  The game, though frustrating for me this time, is still absolutely excellent.  Every time I play, the game is close and tense right to the end.  If Dracula wins, it can drag on a bit, but in this case of abject Dracula failure, we were done in about 150 minutes.

Charity Auction

On saturday evening, the annual Charity Auction was held.  Proceeds this year went to the North Carolina Zoo, and the selection of items was pretty good.  Unfortunately, with the way the lots were grouped (items I wanted being grouped with things I already owned or didn’t want), I wasn’t able to bid high enough to win many auctions.  I did walk away from the weekend with a copy of Toledo (which Ron had reviewed) and a copy of The Chain Game, a new Out of the Box party game.  I also picked up Tribune: Primus Inter Pares from the dealer’s room later on in the weekend.  

And while I’m taking a break from talking about my gaming sessions, I just wanted to mention how awesome the convention food service group, the Grinning Goblin, was.  They were open all the time, had lots of fresh pizza, sandwiches, drinks, and other snacks available, and even brought a travelling cart around to the gaming areas so we didn’t have to interrupt our games.  Plus, they were really friendly and helpful all the time.  They definitely enhanced the whole experience of the weekend, and exemplified the positive, friendly spirit of the whole MACE convention! 

Jason Morningstar Playtest!!!
        
With the auction ending a bit late, I moved quickly over to the next thing I had signed up for, which was supposed to be a player’s choice indie RPG session run by game designer Jason Morningstar (author of The Shab-al-Hiri Roach and Grey Ranks).  Instead, we were treated to trying out a new game that he’s working on, called Fiasco.  Since this is a prototype game, I won’t go into many details, but basically it provides a dice-based system to design a story from lists of pretty constrained choices.  It’s a GM-less game, and Jason mainly just explained how it worked and helped us along with the mechanics (he did jump into the action a time or two, especially in playing Grandpa).  Other players included Andi, Chad, Clarance, and James (who was in my Primetime Adventures and Shab-al-Hiri roach games last year). 

The story basically revolved around two estranged brothers who were both fighting over being in the will of their Grandpa, a character that had to die in order for either to come into the cash they so desired.  I played an abusive drug-dealer pharmacist who sold drugs to and had an affair with one of the brothers’ wives while having a life-long crush on the other brother’s ex.  Being slightly outside the main conflict of the story, I had to work hard to insert myself here and there, and ended up in jail for my actions.  As is apparently common in Jason’s games, several characters ended up dead or otherwise miserable, but it was a lot of fun to play. 

I have so little time or opportunity to play RPG’s these days, and my experience with story games is still so limited, that I continue to feel very unsure of my skills in role-playing and especially scene-framing these days.  Maybe I will be able to get together a few one-shot indie RPG sessions this coming year at Hypermind.  We’ll see…

War of the Ring (Again)

On Sunday morning, I set up for my game of War of the Ring.  I had three other players (and had to turn away one other), with Larry joining me on the side of the Free Peoples this time and Robert and Tom sharing responsibility for the Shadow forces.  None of them had played before, so I explained the rules rather extens
ively before we got started.

This game went very differently from the one I played on Friday night, and the Free Peoples were able to be a lot more aggressive.  The shadow forces were a bit slow to get started militarily, allowing us to advance our political tracks and get ourselves into a better defensive position.  While the orcs from Mordor flung themselves at the strong gates of Minas Tirith and my Gondorian armies, a force of Uruk-Hai eventually moved down and attacked Rohan.  While the Isengard army was involved in a war of attrition at Helm’s Deep, the Rohirrim, aided by Gandalf and Boromir, mustered its forces at Edoras.  Helm’s Deep was lost for the moment, but the Uruk-Hai had been all but destroyed in the process.  Before a new army could be grown in the depths below Orthanc, the horsemen swept up north and took Saruman’s long-held stronghold.

With Minas Tirith still holding strong in the south, elves began to muster and pour out of of both Lorien and Rivendell to lay seige to Moria.  Before long, it too fell as the Free Peoples fended off the forces of evil and won a military victory!  

It’s pretty obvious how widely different this game can play in comparing this session to the one I played on Friday night.  It also shows how much a part experience/skill with the game can play a role in doing well.  I do admit that the shadow forces had a few bad turns with lots of dice ending up in the hunt box, but for the most part they had all the same opportunities my side had in the first game.  War of the Ring is so deeply thematic, but it still allows for “history” to be rewritten depending on the choices and particular results in a specific game.  Once again, my enjoyment with and respect for this game continues to grow the more I play and think about it.  And I really can’t wait to play this with my brother Tony, who is mostly responsible for my love of both gaming and the Lord of the Rings! 

Open Gaming

I had thought about playing in a game of 4th Edition D&D on Sunday afternoon, but just didn’t feel up to shifting gears back into role-playing, so I instead hung around and played another couple of games with the boardgaming crowd.  The first one we decided to try was recent Essen-release Dominion.   I picked this up the week before, and hadn’t had a chance to play it yet (nor had any of the other players).  Larry, Jim, and (my other brother*) Jim played, and we went with the “standard” selection of kingdom cards recommended for your first few games. 

I didn’t really know how useful the different cards were at the start, so I began with picking up things like Woodcutter and Workshop to enhance my buying power in future turns.  I then tried to enhance my money supply, while picking up a few other cards as well.  Larry bought tons of Village cards, and would have turns where he would be taking 7 or more actions.  Overall, however, I don’t think that he was really doing much with all those actions until the very end of the game.  Jim #1 invested in some several Militia cards, and began to irritate the rest of us with them, making us start to pick up some Moats.  He also bought up a few of the Duchy and Province cards, obviously making the transition from engine building to VP generation.  Once we had run out of three kingdom card supply decks and the game ended, however, it became obvious that the other Jim (Clark) had been quietly buying more of the VP cards all along, and ended up winning.  

I didn’t do so well, but still enjoyed the game a lot.  Our game actually drug a little bit, taking 45+ minutes when I expected it to be around 20 minutes, but I can see that playtime would drop and fun would increase with further play.  I’ve thought a lot about it, and have some ideas about what I could do next time to perform better…  

After that, Jim Clark, Larry, and I pulled out another game that I’ve never played before, Saint Petersburg.  This game hit before I was really in the modern boardgaming scene, and I had just never had the opportunity to play it before.  After fumbling around for a few turns, I finally figured out what was important.  Unfortunately, Jim was already a couple of turns ahead of me in terms of money and VP generation, so I really had no chance to recover at that point.  Larry looked to be mostly out of it as well, but then had a strong showing with Aristocrats to close within 4 points of Jim by the end.  

I liked the game, but there was just too much slow play going on in this session for my taste.  Our game took a little over 2 hours, which was a little too long for a game that I knew I couldn’t win after about turn four.  That being said, I’ve played the free downloadable version avaiable from the Westpark Gamers several times, and I think that this could be a really nice game for Gwen and I to play at home.  It’s on my wishlist now, and I’d like to get it over the holidays (one way or another).  

Wrap-Up       

I’ve already given my overall impressions of the convention, so I’ll be brief.  MACE is a great convention with a lot of variety for almost anyone.  Hopefully, attendance will improve next year when President Obama fixes everything**, but I’ll be coming back (barring further familial illness) either way.  I greatly enjoyed all the games I played and all the people I met, and the only real problem with the weekend was that it ended way too soon.  So, I hope to see y’all there with me next year!



*Newhart reference, in case you didn’t catch it
** Mostly sarcasm… but with a little bit of hope that it might be true


 

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