Tuesday, August 4, 2015

GenCon 2015 AAR-A mostly minis perspective

Last week I attended GenCon 2015 in Indianapolis.  It had been at least 6 years since I had been to a major gaming convention outside of Historicon.  My intent was to get in as much gaming as possible, though the extremely crowded nature of the event made that somewhat difficult both in the pre-registration phase and at the event itself.  I did manage to pre-register for a MERCS tournament, a DUST tournament, and a Paranoia RPG session, as well as buy some generic tickets for ad-hoc event attendance.  

I arrived Wednesday night and checked out the convention site.  Not much was going on and "Will-Call" was a nightmarishly long wait, so I did not pick up my Paranoia and generic tickets.  So much for coming early!

On Thursday morning we arrived bright and early.  The first this I did was get some generic tickets at the registration and ticket line.  Will call was still a nightmare!  Ironically it was easier to get through the event and registration line, although not many events were available, I am sure.  

Here are the pods!  I managed to do respectably in my outings as a mech-jock.

The Exhibit hall opened at 10 AM on Thursday and there was a massive crowd waiting.  Here is the scene. Inside were all the vendors, selling product and providing demos of their latest and greatest offerings.  

Obligatory selfie with friend.

My first stop in the exhibit hall was to play Shadows of Brimstone, a steampunk/Western-themed dungeon crawler.  The demo table was gorgeous.  Our intrepid party managed to make it through the otherworldly catacombs, battling strange creatures, until...

...we ended up fighting a mechanical monstrosity.  We prevailed in the end, my shotgun-toting nun surviving to fight another day.  Not a bad game but not compelling enough to make me want to buy it, either.

I then tried a demo of the "Wrath of Kings" fantasy skirmish game.  There are so many of these games out now it is hard to keep them straight.  This  had nice miniatures, but the game play seems a bit bland.  My Ashmen defeated my friend's Deep Ones (?) in a big brawl.

I then had a chance to try the Conan board game which I had backed on Kickstarter last winter.  We successfully eliminated the Pict Chieftain and rescued the princess, mostly thanks to the thief Shevetas' really fast feet and Conan's sword!  I am really looking forward to this one.  The miniatures are top notch and the rules are interesting without being cumbersome.

On Thursday night, I played in my first big event, the MERCS tournament.  There were 16 players representing many factions.  The creator of the game decided to spring the "2.0" rules set on us, and provided new unit cards for the game.  This was unanticipated but certainly made things interesting. I ended up taking 3rd place, and will be putting up a separate tournament AAR and will link to it here later.  Suffice it to say I had a very good time!  I also ran across a great deal at the MERCS booth, 2 metal Megacon squads for $80. This beat the discount retailer price, and there were several squads on offer not yet in stores, so I bit and picked up 4!  I got the judges, GCC, the East India Company, the EU, INC. and the FCC (anarchist) House 4 boxes.  So, yeah, I like MERCS.

Thanks to Games Workshop deciding to literally and figuratively blow up Warhammer Fantasy Battles, I really wanted to try Kings of War, which has a second edition coming out.  So after playing a very mediocre Paranoia RPG on Friday morning, my friend and I played a 1000 point game of Elves vs. Orcs at the Kings of War demo tables.  We played a classic "shooty vs. hitty" matchup, with the Elves doing a fair bit of damage but the Orcs managing to overwhelm them in the end.  I also watched some KoW championship games, two of which were fought by the two-time champion Kara Brown.  Kara is a fantastically nice person, and from what I saw a very pleasant opponent.  She encouraged me to come back next time to play in the tournament.

My overall view is that KOW can fill the hole left by WFB.  There are some things missing, such as panic checks, that I miss.  But overall, it is a very efficient and sleek regimental combat design, and with the Mantic team allowing any models to be used and making army lists for all the now-abandoned factions of WFB, this one looks like the best option for mass fantasy battles unless you plan to stick with the old 8th edition.

Here is the view from my side after I set up my Orcs.

Still looking energetic after a day at GenCon, right?

There were many beautiful innovations on existing games, such as this amazing Game of Thrones custom board.  Wow!

By basically camping out at the Privateer Press demo area, we got in a game of their new dungeon crawler, "Undercity",  I really enjoyed it and ended up buying a copy.  Our heroes have to retrieve the corpse of an informant.

Even an Ogre boss can't stop our march to victory!

Below is a shot of a fantastic mega-game of Warmachine form the Privateer Press tournament area. The models are gorgeous.

I also ran across a functioning Astromech droid.  Not sure if it was remote controlled or had a chip inside, but it moved and chirped without hitting anyone.

On Saturday I played in a three round DUST Battlefield tournament.  We had 4 teams of two players each.  It was a lot of fun.  Full AAR to follow which will be linked to here.

Spoiler Alert!  I won Best Painted, and my team took 2nd place. And here's the proof: Me with Signore Paulo Parente, creator of DUST, himself.

On Saturday evening, I decided to join in a foam sword tournament.  Here is a shot of what that means:

And, thanks to my many years of fencing, I took 3rd place and got a free weapon!  I would note I was certainly the oldest competitor by far, [probably twice the age of most competitors.

Here are a few more gorgeous models I ran across.  These were promoting the Relic Knights game, a favorite of mine which unfortunately did not have any official events at the con.  The large robot behind them was actually built by the right-most lady, Marie-Claude, with some help from her friends.  

I also saw a custom version of the War of the Ring game done with miniatures, which I found impressive.

On Sunday, I tried a demo game of MERCS: Recon, which involves leading your team on a mission to infiltrate a enemy facility and complete certain missions.  In this game we needs to download some intel.  The squad has to use a mixture of stealth and force to navigate the area and find their objective location.

Our squad were from the EU, Inc. faction.  Note the jaunty berets!

We quickly found the terminal room we needed, and then we engaged in a "Breach and Clear" operation which involved rolling lots of dice.  There was no tactical maneuvering, however, as line up and shoot was the order of the day.  Sadly, we lost.  It was hard to say from this if Recon is a good design or not.  The infiltration aspect seemed well done, but the deathmatch nature of the "Breach and Clear" event seemed simplistic by comparison.  I will need to play this again to make a more solid judgment on its quality.  Luckily a friend Kickstarted it so, I am sure to play it more.  It has promise, though.  

One of the more interesting sights was the Halo table, complete with cosplayers.  I did not get a chance to try the game, however.

On Sunday night, we busted out Undercity for a couple of games to cap the weekend of gaming madness.  We found it to be an enjoyable, cooperative light dungeon crawl.  One player found it a bit easy, but the rules include difficulty adjustment options.

As you can see from the variety of different games shown above, there was a lot to take in at GenCon. Maybe a little too much.  Even if one counted only niche genres like fantasy miniatures gaming, there were at perhaps a dozen systems to choose from, all vying for your attention and dollars.  There were endless numbers of board games on offer, some forlorn and others backed by juggernauts, almost assured of success.  And that's not even considering all the card games and family or Euro-style games that were present.  This was all confirmation to my mind that we are living in something of a golden age for gamers: there is literally so much variety one cannot do it all.
I really enjoyed the convention, however.  I got to play a number of great games, participate in tournaments of more "niche" games that I love, and do a bit of shopping, too.  not to mention spending time with some good friends.  So, I am chalking this up as a success!  It may be a few years before I get to go again, due to family obligations, but who knows?  Maybe my sons will enjoy coming with me some day.