This past weekend was the date of my usual gaming high point of the year, MACE. Unfortunately, due to the inherent obligations and responsibilities involved with having a new baby in the house and a wife who is technically still recovering from major abdominal surgery, I was only able to attend on Saturday. I made the most of it, however, showing up right at 8am (when registration began) and hanging around until nearly 1:30 the next morning.
Much like last year, some of the highlights this time were tied to all of the cool people that I met and/or got to spend time with. I had a great time playing with Will, Doug, Tom, Sceadeau, Jim, Jason, Steve and Darren, seeing Jodi in person (instead of just interacting with her here at GamerChris), and meeting Chris (even though I wish I’d been able to get in a game or two with you).
Since I was still unsure about whether or not I’d be able to attend at all until very recently, I missed preregistration and obviously didn’t volunteer to GM any games. This also pushed me towards making the convention mostly about boardgames this time, and most of what I played were pickup games rather than scheduled events.
For the first time in forever, I even skipped the charity auction to play more games. Being limited to one day, I always felt an internal pressure to maximize my time, and doing so helped me to get in plays of 9 different games throughout the day. So I’ll start with my general thoughts about the con this year, and then get into the games I played.
I haven’t heard much about attendance (other than it was “fantastic”) or other numbers yet, but Saturday definitely felt very busy and energetic all around the convention. There were lots of people in all of the gaming rooms when I’d walk around, and the dealer room was more cram-packed (both with dealers and customers) than I’ve ever seen it.
The biggest change that I noticed this year was the move in location for the boardgame activities. The hotel closed up its crappy restaurant since last year, and the boardgame library and events were moved into that space for the first time. Personally, this change made a huge difference to me in the quality and cohesiveness of the boardgame community at MACE, and will hopefully encourage more alpha boardgamers in the region to come to the con.
It was a lot easier to interact with other boardgamers and put together pickup games than I’ve ever seen it, and it felt like boardgames had just been given a bigger role in the convention, since they now had their own space rather than being squeezed in with the miniature games in the great hall. The only real issue with the space is that the restaurant-sized tables weren’t necessarily as conducive to some of the really big boardgames, but I didn’t see much of that anyway, so maybe some of those games took place in the great hall anyway.
But the boardgame room was definitely my home for most of the day. It was so easy to find games and get in open play, and it just felt like a nice place to hang out. While I always play boardgames at MACE, it’s still mainly been an RPG con for me in the past (since I play boardgames on a weekly basis already), but if the boardgame community continues to grow and get stronger, it’s going to be very hard for me to leave that area much at all in the future as well.
And like I said above, it was also nice to get to meet Jodi Black again in person at her Beautiful Brains booth in the dealer’s hall. I was looking to pick up Happy Birthday, Robot! (which she sold out of on Friday night, but I was able to preorder for the next shipment), but still got to talk with her some. Go and check out her online store, or look for her at the conventions where she sets up shop.
I’ll start with the one RPG session that I attended, which was a game of Fiasco run my its designer, Jason Morningstar. In addition to Jason, my good friend Tom was in the game, along with Steve Long and Darren Watts from HERO system fame. Jason laid out several playsets for us, and we decided to go all noir with Los Angeles 1936 as our setting.
Tom, Jason, Steve, and Darren play Fiasco!
We did the setup phase (which is always a lot of fun), and came up with this web of sorrow: I was Lenny Leslie, a retired LA cop who owned the Eiffel Tower Club, a seedy Paris-themed nightclub (despite hating Paris and the French in general). Darren played Lola LaMontagne (her stage name, of course), a young ingenue singer at my club with dreams of making it big in the music business. Lola’s father-in-law was Sergeant Phil Resnick, played by Steve, a dirty cop who was under the thumb of Jason’s character, Janine Devereaux. Janine was a heartless, evil witch married in name only to Tom’s character Harry, who was also my insurance agent.
In my first scene, I walked into Harry’s office and plopped down an envelope containing evidence that he had committed insurance fraud in the burning down of a motel outside of town. I said that all the proof would go away as long as he would approve a new $1 million policy on my club, which he did. This, of course, set off a series of machinations for the rest of the game about who would burn it down first and who would be locked inside when it happened. There was also a bit of struggling about who would be the beneficiary (ending with Lola, which I authorized in a fit of remorseful benevolence), but in the end, she and I (and her husband, Sgt. Resnick’s son) were locked inside when Sgt. Resnick finally torched the place. Harry tried to stop him (despite being shot by his wife just before she turned the gun on herself), but the dirty cop killed him before he could do anything.
As it turned out, Lola managed somehow to escape, but ran back to her hometown in Kentucky before Sgt. Resnick realised that she had survived. And even though he stood to inheret the money from the insurance policy, it got held up in all the suspicion concerning the fire and he barely escaped jail time.
Just as always, Fiasco was a blast. It’s a gem of dramatic brilliance, and I if you don’t know a lot about it, I encourage you to click on the Fiasco tag down below.
And like I said, I usually get in a lot more roleplaying at MACE than I did this year. I can’t say that I was at all disappointed in how I spent my time (in the boardgame area), but I just wish that I had more time to play more RPG’s and connect with more of my roleplaying friends from past years.
For a rundown of the boardgames I played, check out part 2 of my MACE review!