First time I ever stay at KublaCon. Thanks to Jeff for the use of his hotel room.
Pick up Andy and get there Friday afternoon. Look over the schedule of events, have some interest in a 6PM Godlike game but decide that I’m in the mood to relax and an 8 hour game doesn’t set me up well for being chipper in the morning.
Talk to some folks I only see at the cons, which is really becoming the most interesting thing to do. A former coworker of one of my friends is demoing a card game she designed. Electronimoes is a circular card/tile game of forming molecules by bonding atoms together. The double and triple bonds score 2x and 3x points, respectively, with points being determined by the atomic number of the element, e.g. Hydrogen 1, Silicon 14. Closing off all of the bonds means you get to also take the molecule’s cards into a victory point pile, one card equals one point. Noble gases can just be played by themselves. Some other things going on. Cards in hand at the end of the game subtract their atomic number in points. I won one of the games to get a free copy, signed by the designer.
So, the RPG schedule just wasn’t to my tastes. It was a lot of the same thing, mostly Pathfinder, but also a number of games that I’d be okay with playing yet have no enthusiasm for – 7th Sea and Buffy, for instance. Too much been there, done that. There was only one game on the schedule (ignoring Sunday night when I was running V:TES) that I cared to sign up for – At The Hands Of An Angry God.
But, first, I looked to other gaming channels. Boardgames looked boring, except for a lego thing that was in the young players’ room. CCG stuff had Shadowfist events run by Merlin, which I noted and, then, forgot to actually think through what that meant. I looked through other stuff, and I noted BattleTech. Four events were being run on Saturday based on the adventures of Clan Snord (or Rhonda’s Irregulars or Snord’s Irregulars). I keep forgetting that I actually enjoy BattleTech. For some reason, I don’t get that excited to play it, but I’ve been deeply into thinking about it, at times. Just weird. Well, prioritizing RPGs over BT makes some sense, but why prioritize doing nothing over BT?
So, 9AM, I play a Clint (piloted by Sharonus Wayne) and a Phoenix Hawk (piloted by a suck pilot). Our mission is to raid the Mariks to get some ancient coins and to nuke some factories along the way. We come up with a plan where better pilots of slower mechs go down the middle of the board to cross the river while a Marauder and the jump mechs go through a swamp on the side of the board to cross the river. This turned out suboptimal. A few turns in, while still trying to consolidate forces and with the Marauder barely progressing, we get reinforcements behind enemy lines! Then, the enemy springs a trap and ComStar shows up behind us. A player new to the system gets lucky and finds the coins right away and her two mechs go into factories and one of them has to fight out. My mechs engage a Catapult a bit and keep firing on a factory because my crap pilot couldn’t hit a moving target. Actually, forgot to mention that we had Star League level tech in our mechs, so I actually had tons of range – three ER Large Lasers between my two mechs, yet it hardly mattered.
As one of the ComStar mechs is a King Crab, there’s beatdown to our rear. Our Archer, Warhammer, Jenner, and Marauder were all firing on the King Crab, while the ComStar group fired on our Warhammer. Both were virtually toast by the time the scenario was called. I took out a factory and we got the coins out, around a third of the way home (off the edge of our entry board) when time was called. We won as it was fairly likely we would have escaped with the coins as our Thunderbolt had jump jets to get by the river/swamp faster. In our neck of the woods, we also pretty much took out the Catapult I was fighting.
The next scenario was completely different. Rather than over a dozen mechs of all sizes spread out over multiple boards, we had assault lance versus assault lance with our objective to head hunt Waco (of Waco’s Rangers). We started right next to him, so the scenario lasted two rounds … four mechs of 70+ tons all firing on one mech, even a Battlemaster, from the first round with short range weapons and even getting a kick!! in is a brutal scenario. I was Sharonus Wayne again, only in her Spartan that ran 7 hexes right in front of the enemy and fired three Medium Pulse Lasers and two Streak SRM-2’s from 4 hexes away on the Battlemaster. As a prime target, a lot of shots came my way. A lot of the big ones missed, including a Gauss Rifle and various PPCs. I also maneuvered into a position where an enemy Banshee couldn’t target me with a Gauss Rifle, instead hitting our Victor’s SRM ammo and blowing its torso off. I never took internal structure damage. A mass of attacks on the Battlemaster left it a complete wreck, multiple gyro hits, unconscious pilot, no torso on one side, barely any on the other.
Lasted maybe an hour of actual play and an hour or so of setup. I got into my Saturday night RPG, so I bailed on playing the two-part finale. Went to my favorite Chinese place, got the tan tan mian, which is so good, if kind of challenging to eat when gotten to go. Thick layer of hot oil sits on top and the pork falls to the bottom, have to feed the noodles in in bunches to not overflow the sauce container.
Anyway, there’s so much that could be said about ATHOAAG. The GM was the designer doing testing. He told us that it was based somewhat off of Microscopic, a game I had never heard of. The core idea is that you are colonizers leaving behind a lame world to build a utopia. While obviously patterned on colonists from Europe going to the Americas, the genre could be anything. In one game he ran, the “families” (factions) were different animals with the squirrels creating religion, etc. We decided to go with steampunk alternate Victorian England where the English lost the opium war to the Chinese leading England to be a druggee state. So, we took our space zeppelin and spent multiple generations finding a new world. Our core beliefs started with Straight Edge (not that people really new what it was), Just Say No To Drugs, indolence is a sin, the Babbage Engine was our people’s oracle. We were split by job role. So, I played the crafters. We also had educators, scientists, artists, security, and Babbage engineers, though the last person left early. You could detail out individuals in your “family”, but we didn’t bother role-playing individuals, just factions. The resolution system involves d6’s and some card play. “Fate”, the GM, starts out strong, but the player factions get stronger, typically, as the game goes on and it starts becoming easy to roll Fate.
Really, I’m not inclined to go into all of the details or all of the postgame analysis Andy and I had (he played the artists). Major takeaways were: GM said there were two things notable about our table – our dystopic old world was the most dystopic, which is bizarre as I don’t think druggee world, especially when it’s only part of the world, is that dystopic, and, while other tables had much more contentious groups from the outset, our table had the biggest shift from cooperation to conflict; I think our table was a rather typical experience with the game, where players would want to undermine their own utopia and where the players, looking for a challenge, would tend to fight each other more as the game went on due to the GM getting weaker; it’s a really interesting concept and the ideas could be used for other premises, but I have serious doubts about replay value. I think there’s a way to spin the game differently that would make it more positive, but I don’t know if it would be as interesting.
Sunday, I sleep in. And, make a mistake. I finally remembered that I wanted to talk to Merlin about both Feng Shui and Shadowfist, as I’m not terribly opposed to getting into the latter at this late date and struggle with some of the challenges of the former in campaign play. The mistake was not in playing in his Shadowfist tournament. I didn’t have anything else going on, and I just ended up watching a lot of it, anyway.
Example of my weird life – I’ve spent far more time watching people play Shadowfist than play Shadowfist myself. Not watch while doing something else but just sit at a table and watch people play.
I talk to Merlin some, almost get into a pickup game of Shadowfist but don’t (winning!). I get dinner (same tan tan mian) before my V:TES event. Recent years, decent number of V:TES players, if not enough to hold a real tournament (plus, people come and go at the con). This time, only four of us. But, more morale breaking was who didn’t show up this year. After I found out that a couple of folks came to the con because of my event (to whatever degree), I started using that as the basis for doing V:TES. Without the hot blonde to ogle, might as well go down to LA and play V:TES with folks who don’t qualify as hot blondes.
Didn’t do any other gaming at the con, so easy to follow up on that last statement. While seeing people I only see at cons is good and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with KublaCon, there’s also not anything really left that I feel is essential about it. There’s no convention campaign with Brad, et al. There’s no CCG thing that matters. Why not go to LA and play in their events over their qualifier weekend? Maybe I liked going down there last Labor Day so much because of novelty, and my enthusiasm will wane when it becomes more common, but right now, I’m just not that into any of the local cons. The ones I go to are adequate.
Which brings up something else. I was asked about the fairness of grading a con when I don’t make that much effort to do stuff at it. I could make an argument that it’s the con’s responsibility to entertain the people who attend, to offer the events that the con goer wants to participate in and to be able to get into those events, something that wasn’t the case for a couple of years in a row with DunDraCon, but I’m okay with saying that the reason I don’t get more out of cons is because I don’t make as much effort as I once did.
So, assigning a grade to KublaCon probably has no real meaning. I didn’t game much. I found my RPG interesting and decently enjoyable. I liked playing some BattleTech. I enjoyed playing Electronimoes, though that was probably less the game, which was a bit too party game to really pull me in, and more hanging out with people I know. I’m on the fence about trying to get some BattleTech going (lack time slot during a typical week) and about getting into Shadowfist. Now is not a bad time for the latter due to it going to a LCG model, though it’s hard to find the sets for sale. V:TES was disappointing, but, on the other hand, I was surprised at how well attended it was in prior years. If I was more into doing stuff, maybe it would have been a B+ or A- con, but again, what’s the context anymore?
I would, of course, go to KublaCon next year; still like it better than any of the other local cons. But, SoCal seems the better choice, at the moment.