Monday, January 25, 2010

2.4: Know your Gamer - Conventions

I mentioned in this post what a convention is, and since I have some family members attending their first boardgaming convention in February, I decided to go through some suggestions for them and any other convention newbies.

1.  Bring snacks and water.  You'll be indoors for an unknown period of time, and if you're unfamiliar with the area or building you're in, there may be no water faucets or food-providing venues nearby.  If you're attending an event at the convention, it may be scheduled for two hours and run for four.  You may be heading out to eat, and find a "can't miss" even that you pass by and find you're interested in participating in.  Best to be prepared, even if it's just a few granola bars to tide you over.

2.  Parking.  Find out as much as you can about parking, before and after arriving at your destination.  Some parking lots may be closed on the weekend, or cost a stupid amount to use.  You may find, as a few of my friends did too late, that the parking lot with the suns painted on the wall is closed at night, and the one with the owls painted on the walls is open late.  Because there wasn't anywhere actually informing them of this, they had an ordeal finding someone who was able to open the garage and let them out.

3.  Events.  You're probably going with something in mind, but don't be afraid to try something besides this.  Many conventions will have a schedule or program, online or on-site; glance through this, see if anything catches your interest.  Likewise, if you're walking around the convention, and see something interesting, don't be afraid to stop and watch--no one is going to yell at you for watching, and they may invite you to participate.  And if they do yell at you, you have my permission to kick them in the nuts.  Also, keep an eye out for special guests--you never know who may have been invited to attend the convention.

4.  Walk the convention.  There is probably a lot to look at, participate in, there may be convention-specials on games, game demonstrations, whatever.  Don't just stay in the main hall, either--there are probably a number of other events going on in nearby rooms. 

5.  DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING!  Okay, perhaps not so serious, but some people are a little too anal-retentive about their gaming.  It's generally best to engage in conversation or simply ask if it's okay to look at whatever may have caught your eye.  Also, some games (particularly miniature wargames--if you see dozens of inch-tall models on a table, that's probably what you're looking at) are very measurement-sensitive, and moving a model even a quarter-inch could alter a game.  This isn't meant to scare you, but to try to ease you into the convention experience.  Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

6.  Socially...akward?  Gamers are brilliant, sexy, well-groomed, charismatic orators.  Perhaps not--not all gamers are as lucky as I am.  Most are just normal people, and then this wouldn't even be worth mentioning, but...some gamers.  Let's just say someone may approach you and tell you about their D&D character.  This may mean nothing to you now, but if it happens you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.  I do my best to take it in stride; my suggestion is to handle it as positively as possible--you're all at the convention to have a good time, you don't want to ruin anyone's day.

7.  Make...friends?  Years ago Brian, Joseph and I attended Origins in Columbus, Ohio.  While eating lunch, we gestured at a girl sitting alone with this really pissed-off look on her face, and made comments about how friendly she appeared and such.  We also mentioned that she probably had no MarioKart skills, and would suck and the Metroid video game series.  Joseph was the one to introduce himself later, and now I consider her and her group of friends (whom we met the next day) my convention family, and great friends.

8.  Participate in a demo.  There may be individuals or even a publisher giving demonstrations of their games.  Give it a shot--you may find something you like.  Or, just as good, something you don't like, and perhaps save yourself a purchase you'd regret.  

9.  Have fun.  Or don't.  I really don't care.


That's it for this week, for those interested, my sister D is participating in the Ticket to Ride tournament in February.  Wish her luck--or don't.  I, personally, am somewhere in the middle, only because it frustrates the poo out her when she loses that game.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

2.3: AGE!

Alas, the streak is broken.  Now we'll see how long it takes before I miss a week's post.  We've been getting a surprising amount of gaming in during the last week, despite our newly busy schedules.  We even goaded Jackie into "spending time with the family," and got her to join in a game of Stone Age recently.

Stone Age has been getting a lot of play around here lately--At around two hours a play, I think it needs a review here. Also, if you take a look at the picture, you'll see the jazzy Chief's crown I'm wearing, which, unfortunately, I've recently had to surrender.  You may recall that my brother David declared himself Chief after our New Year's game, but within a few days of that, I beat he and Danny in a rematch, and then followed that up with a slaughter of these two and Robert; this picture was sent in an email to both David and Danny.  Unfortunately, all that mocking brought me was failure, as recently we played another game where I defeated Danny and my sister D, but was finally defeated soundly by Danny (a 40 point loss) in a 4-player game.

Stone Age was designed by Bernd Brunnhofer and Michael Tummelhofer.  It was released in 2008 by several publishers; domestically the publisher is Rio Grande Games.  It plays 2-4, and though it's play time is listed as 60 minutes, it's more like 90-120 minutes.

The primary mechanism of Stone Age is worker-placement--you begin the game with five meeples (wooden people), the allocation of which determines what you are able to do on your turn.  Players alternate placing groups of their meeples to collect the four resources (lumber, brick, stone, gold), to collect food, hut tiles or cards, to advance agriculture, build tools, or make babies.

Really, that's one of the actions--you can place two meeples on the love shack, er, hut space; strangely, a fully grown, able-bodied person is formed by this union.  I guess this is the stone age, there really weren't child labor laws, so I guess it could be a working-age child.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2.2: What is this gaming thing? Part 5 - Where did I go wrong?

That's right, two, count them, two posts on time in a row!  Time for a new "What is this gaming thing?" segment, and now there's an end in sight.  This is part 5 of the ongoing series, "What is this gaming thing?"  Click here for parts One, Two, Three, and Four.

There used to be stores in the mall called either The Game Keeper or Wizards of the Coast--here they sold, obviously, Wizards of the Coast products, but also products from other companies.  The walls were filled with wargames, modern and traditional boardgames, collectible card games, dice of many types, and other gaming related paraphernalia.  I don't recall how I found this place, it's very possible my best friend Brian took me along to this place of wonder; inevitably, this became a place I'd regularly visit on any trip to the mall.

My spending was meager, I'm sure; I was in high school and college when the stores were open, and though I got my first job as soon as I graduated high school, most of the money I made went to tuition.  Still, I picked up a few things--Lunch Money, a card game about fighting on the playground; Knightmare Chess, an addition to standard chess that makes things really chaotic; Plague and Pestilence, a game about, well, plague and pestillence, and which is now strangely worth $200-300; and a game that remains among my favorites, RoboRally, a race game where you program robots to navigate a dangerous factory floor.  There were other purchases, including some of the "collectable" variety--we won't talk about those.  Let's just say new gamers are often excited to play whatever they can get their hands on, and when your game group consists of three people, you're going to have to take some chances.

My collection was small, but even if it was at 25 games, it crushes that of the average household, where ten games would be a large collection.  But one day something horrible happened.  The last months of 2003, Wizards of the Coast announced they would be closing all their stores...and I had saved up a little money.

Monday, January 4, 2010

2.1: A most unwinning beginning of 2010

or "Starting the new year in the middle of the Stone Age"

It's been a busy holiday season; I wish I could say it was 100% restful, but it seems that being away from work brings with it a whole new set of obligations.

On the plus side, time off and time with family means more time for gaming.  We did a bit of gaming on the 25th, had friends and family over for a game day on the 26th, and after an exellent dinner of roast beef on the 31st, we brought in the new year with a game of Stone Age, followed by a very close 5-player game of Small World, where we had a tie for first at 66 points (Jackie and David), a tie for last at 62 points (D and myself), and Danny sitting in the middle with 64 points. 

I should also point out that of the four games played during the transition from 2009 to "Twenty-ten," not only did I not lose three of the four games, but I came in last in every one of the games I lost.  My lone victory was in a filler, a ten minute game called No Thanks!  The biggest loss was a game of Stone Age that began in 2009 and ended in 2010--okay, it was actually two hours, but I lost to two people that had never played the game.  I don't expect to win every game that I play against inexperienced players (though experience can be an advantage), but it's not even as if I can say it was a close game.  Well, it was a close game, for David and Danny, who took first and second, each having around 160 points.  I was around 40 points behind Danny.

Perhaps the worst part, however, was my brother David proclaiming that he was the Chief for the next few days.