When we found out that there wouldn’t be V:TES events down South, we audibled to DunDraCon.
I realized I’ve been to about 20 DDCs. This one was unique. I had never stayed at another hotel than the convention hotel. Before I knew people, I’d just drive back and forth. Once I knew people, staying with them was easy. What was hilarious was that I could have stayed in at least two different rooms and ended up napping in a third room.
I saw sticking with the plan of staying with the Haases .6 miles away to be a learning experience. What did I learn?
Never stay at an Extended Stay “Hotel”. It looks like a hotel. But, the false front for the secret alien base underneath the closed pool and the treasure trove of fresh towels and blankets on the fake third floor should not fool you, not even the door knocker artwork.
I might consider staying at the Courtyard Marriott, if for some reason I couldn’t stay at the con hotel, but I actually really don’t mind driving. See, as poorly as I sleep in general, I sleep even less during cons because roommates are unusual and gaming is on the mind and whatever. Sleeping at home provides a similar level of sleep, even if I have less time to do it.
Of course, I’m perfectly happy to stay with the regular crew, who kept offering over and over again … I guess I’m not truly a pariah … yet.
Get to con early enough to get dinner at Hopyard and make 6PM game. Get into my first choice of Izakaya, a Japanese fantasy setting using the FATE system, a system I kind of despise but am perfectly happy to work with in one-shots.
Why do I kind of despise it? Because I played FUDGE. I ran FUDGE. If you never have to deal with combat, FUDGE is superlight and reasonably intuitive. FATE tries to do something to promote storytelling. It goes way, way overboard in pushing role-playing through mechanics. It’s also incredibly fiddly for a game that shouldn’t be remotely fiddly given its parent and what it seems to want to be.
Anyway. We are in the town of Izakaya on the island of Hokkaido. The evil Southerners coming up from Kyoto are looking to conquer are happy and virtuous island that has Japanese and Ainu. Our party consists of a samuraiko, a 73 year-old priest, a giant woodsman, and a “ronin”, some peasant who looted a samurai’s daisho. Then, there’s me, town mayor, the Honored One, all 74 years of leader.
Other than the priest, the others all converge on town during a snowstorm. The ronin is warning people about the invasion. The giant is bringing a new beam to the temple. The samuraiko is coming to visit her father who is recuperating at the temple. We have a pretty sweet temple, as hot springs are totally things in our neck of the valley and Monkey Valley nearby.
Speaking of Monkey Valley, the Monkey God is peeved about something, which spells disaster for us unless we fix the problem, so I gather up the priest and the younguns and we head East through a lava tube. We note monkeys that are *not* hanging in their usual hot springs spot. We pop out and find brigands populating the hot springs area. Most have already been slain by the wrath of the Monkey God. We help their leader out from under a tree and basically conscript them into not being evil for a while.
We head back to Izakaya and find the enemy army’s advanced forces scouting. We set up various battle plans, including a planned withdrawal to flood the lower regions. The enemy commander gets taken and I’m just about to face a not 74 year-old swordsman when I activate “Oh … The Old Wounds” and collapse into the temple’s springs, letting the brigand leader convince the guy to check for new orders.
Decent game. I was already way too tired because old folks like me need to nap during the day to stay up past midnight. It got me thinking about how the Sunday night game I preregged for started at 8PM. Then, Brandon and I needed to get back to the hotel at 2AM and didn’t realize the Marriott shuttle would drop us off since I had never used the shuttle before, never having any reason to, so we Ubered (something else I’ve never done). Yeah, with no clear transportation plan and with it unlikely I was going to get much sleep, I was already on the path of dropping Sunday night’s plan.
Roommates head out. I plan on using Marriott shuttle to go .6 miles since I have luggage full of boardgames. Takes 45 minutes for shuttle to get to my hotel, including going to incorrect Extended Stay no matter how many times I mentioned “East” and “on Camino Ramon” when explaining where I am. Still, I have plenty of time before my event, if not enough time for me to consider getting my usual pastrami sandwich breakfast at the Bagel Street Cafe.
I’m running Rio Grande games from 10 to 2. I have Ranking and O Zoo Le Mio with me but don’t encourage them and just end up running Loch Ness, Cardcassonne, and Assyria. People like stuff well enough. We run an hour over, but that’s perfect as the table becomes open gaming and I can’t play in anything until V:TES at 7PM due to my event overlapping two sessions.
I get food at the Muscle Maker Grill that opened before 2014 DDC but which I had no knowledge of since I was in SoCal last year. Only thing I have any interest in on the menu is the premium burger. It was okay, kind of dry.
We play V:TES. We have six, so one big game … times two.
Eric (Tzimisce + Ravnos precons) -> Brad (Flung Junk) -> Andy (Malk SB) -> Brandon (Hektor Eats the World) -> Kevin (borrowed !Toreador + random) -> Ian (Porphyrion Does It All)
One of Andy’s minions gets dunked. Eric rescues. Andy gets two VPs. I have way too much pool and Sensory Deprivation Bloody Mary to not oust Eric and survive until time. Brad rushes me somewhat.
Andy (Malk Vote) -> Brad (as above) -> Ian (Diamond Thunderbolt Vote) -> Kevin (borrowed 4/5 Brujah Royalty) -> Eric (borrowed !Ventrue combat) -> Brandon (Horde of Ass Beating)
Kevin tries to Parity Shift Eric. It does not happen. Andy Parity Shifts Brandon twice, for 12 pool. Brandon also gets hit by Neonate Breach by Kevin for 4 pool. Eric still doesn’t oust. I’m not sure what’s wrong with the deck. It’s not a grinder, as that would be mindnumbingly boring. It does a touch of rush. It certainly has no vote defense, not even when it has Demonstration in play, but that wasn’t the problem. It can’t seem to push through. But, then, Eric got no DOM minions in his crypt draw, which hurts.
Andy doesn’t get ousted even with limited minions and a bunch of dudes behind him. Brandon keeps Priority Contracting to gain pool, though that has nothing to do with ousting. Brad plays Specialization which only has one possible result – he must crosstable rush Kevin, get into combat, play Zip Gun, which Kevin DIs. Because … V:TES. (Actually, because … CCGs – this is why CCGs rule).
I get ousted. Eric gets ousted. Brandon gets ousted. Brad ousts Kevin and Andy. All of this happens after 2 hours, so Andy is the event winner.
We head over together. We stop at Bagel Street Cafe where I get my usual sandwich and peach smoothie. I sit with some other friends as I need to get my boardgames out of someone’s room for my duplicate event.
I get different players for my Sunday event, which is just a dupe of Saturdays and also runs an hour over. I give away a copy of Ranking, never having played the game, as it was something my friend Cedric said was a prize. Unlike Saturday, where I played in the games and generally crushed people, I realized I should not play to let newbs contend with each other. I spent a lot of time going from table to table to chitchat with people I know.
All of the standing at an angle to show things was hard on my legs. But, I survived. I ate at Pasta Pomodoro which I hadn’t been to in ages and which had a really different layout inside. My lasagna portion was tiny, which means I can never eat at this place ever again. I ended up taking a nap in someone’s room.
We got up and headed to Baja Fresh, which used to have only one thing on the menu I would ever order, since I wasn’t hungry, I only ordered some stuff for people back at the con. We gathered for some A Game of Thrones CCG four-player play. I actually like this much more than the two-player play I have gotten pulled into in recent years as I finally had some sense of what was going on.
See, I have played A Game of Thrones a tiny amount … like 10 years ago. The game was so derivative of Precedence games with its abilities and challenges and so forth, that it was notable. But, I never really learned anything about the game from a card pool standpoint or tempo standpoint. It also doesn’t help that I know virtually nothing about the books/show.
This game saw a ludicrous number of characters in play, meaning endless special abilities. I had the Dothraki setup I wanted for a while, but I became irrelevant as others kept putting more stuff in play. One of my dudes got stolen by Kevin (not to be confused with other Kevins) and he won after gaining crazy power that turn and not being beatable downable afterwards.
I still have no sense of strategic or tactical play. But, then, in decade plus or whatever, I’ve played like 4-5 games.
We busted out V:TES decks for a late game (well, it felt like several hours later for me all of the time since I took my nap). Brandon had some demo decks, using Jyhad crypts. He bought a Gangs precon off of me. Shuffle up and deal.
Jeff (Gangrel) -> Brandon (Gangs) -> Andy (Nos) -> Ian (Trem) -> Eric (Malk)
I have a crypt of Jing Wei, Dr. John Casey, Merrill, and Ignatius, so they all come out. I decrypt and get Sarah Cobbler. I’m not the only one to put out five minions. Brandon’s deck doesn’t do anything, so Andy brings out five Nos, including Sheldon, and rushes and bleeds but has no ousting power. Eric stealth bleeds but runs out of stealth. Jeff puts out Angus, who grows +1 bleed, and Roman, who grows +1 intercept. Jeff stealth bleeds Brandon out, doesn’t get ousted somehow, stealth bleeds Andy out. I oust Eric with a swarm, down two minions who get eaten, but with Dollface Graverobbed to the side of justice.
Then, we endgame. Oh, do we endgame. With small decks, mine was 55 cards, we don’t have much left. Jeff has Angus, Camille, and Gunther. I have Jing, Merrill, Sarah, and sort of Dollface. We play wakes. We play intercept. We plus bleed. We fight slightly. We play cards. We have no libraries. We have hands that shrink down to … 1. And, Jeff ousts me. Our final two cards? I have Telepathic Misdirection. Jeff has Sense the Savage Way.
Andy and Eric bitched and moaned about this game. Eric because he ran out of stealth. Andy because he could get five minions in play and still not oust. But, before I get into something more profound, this is exactly why you don’t give someone a Nos deck when teaching them the game. Nor do you give people Brujah. You have to give them clans that have real discipline combinations so that they can actually do stuff and not die. That Jeff didn’t die to Eric was amazing, but Jeff had intercept, plus bleed, and stealth, so he had a real deck. I had intercept, bounce, bleed, and Bonding, so I almost had a real deck.
As for profundity, this game was actually a really good game. It was how the game used to play. It was strongly Jyhad like, but even throw in DS/AH/S, even SW, and that’s how the game played. I bled constantly. I never bleed constantly anymore. People got hit with Walk of Flame and Blood Fury and Torn Signpost without Immortal Grapple. Gangrels tool up with plus bleed and stealth bleed. Malks just hammer people without bounce. Forward motion was constant. There weren’t all sorts of control plays. There weren’t all sorts of cards with unknown or esoteric effects. People just did their thing and people got ousted and, yet, decisions still mattered. Well, maybe not for Brandon, as he was playing the unmodified Gangs deck.
Btw, V:TES precons are dumb. The HttB ones are much, much better, but they still fail to have a coherent purpose. The only thing remotely interesting (and it’s not that interesting) about them is figuring out how to adjust them to optimize them, so I never see the point in playing an unmodified precon. It’s just going to be an inane deck.
Back to that game. If V:TES played more like that game, it might be a game more appealing to those who don’t already play. Seriously, the game could really use a reboot. You can reprint a lot of basic cards so that people’s collections aren’t worthless, but no more bloodlines, no more anarchs, no more events, no more Laibon. Return the game to its roots and focus on developing varied play out of a much tighter, more elegant, less confusing game.
We eat at Kathy’s Korner. I get a bacon cheeseburger because that’s real breakfast food, not sleep inducing sugar. It was much better than the Hopyard burger, the Muscle burger, and a lot of burgers you get at places that feature burgers. See, coffee shops and by coffee shops I mean dinerlike places often make far superior burgers for reasons that are not remotely clear. I grew up going to Lyon’s, eating at the Hyatt’s restaurant across the highway, and the like and those burgers are so much better than Five Guys, Smashburger, et al. They are cooked better. They are not overly dry or meaty or whatever. While my salad could have been better without olives, this was a much nicer meal than the other sit down meals I had.
We hit the flea market. We head out. Andy’s and my peach smoothies are way too icy this day. Sunday’s was way better.
If I would have been up for it, I would have tried to play Torchwood Sunday night. But, I had played a Torchwood game run by Matt before, so, while I wanted to do that, I didn’t need to do that. If I was around all day Monday, I would have tried to get into the Barbarians of Lemuria game as people keep mentioning it as a preferred swords and sorcery system, with Changeling as a backup. I couldn’t do Feng Shui because of my events, though Andy played it and he thought it went off the rails of what was an interesting game to start out. There were a few other things I had interest in I couldn’t sign up for.
The grade? I don’t feel like I can grade the con. I feel like incomplete is the word, but it’s really not. I was a part-timer at the con. I didn’t feel that engaged gamingwise. On the other hand, part of why I care less about playing in things at the local cons is because I enjoy more the talking with people I know and rarely see otherwise.