Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Origins 2010 Breakdown

Returned, caught up on sleep, returned to work, and pictures have been uploaded to Flickr. Time for the final debriefing! I've decided it would be easier to follow categorically rather than chronologically this year, so here goes:

In years past, I've cheaped out and stayed at the Hotel with the lowest price tag. I figured that I just needed a place to get a shower and sleep for a few hours before heading back into the fray, and it's not like I'm going to be there for longer than that. So why blow the budget on accommodations?

Last year, I found out why: the cheap places are ten miles out from the Convention center, making runs back and forth difficult with parking garages, and eating more of your time navigating through traffic that should be spent in the convention center. This is my vacation, I've already jumped on two planes each way, I want to do as little traveling as possible once I'm in town.

I also found that the little niceties are worth paying for, if you can afford it. I'm not picky about staying at places that are spotless, staff that's hospitable, or located next to a strip club, but when you advertise a continental breakfast, I expect more than a a bagel, a half eaten blueberry muffin and cold cereal with warm milk. This year I was at the Courtyard by Marriott, and instead of providing a complimentary continental breakfast, they had a proper breakfast buffet for $10. Eggs. Bacon. Biscuits and Gravy. Home Fries. Waffles hot off the Iron. The stuff of life! I was a little worried that my cohorts would find paying for breakfast not worth their while (they are still playing it cheap, with good reasons) but even they found this expense not only acceptable, but well worth the money. Indeed, it is the most important meal of the day, especially when the rest of that day will be spent walking around a convention center until 10 or 11 pm.

Another small thing I noticed from staying here is that they leave the Air Conditioning on right where you left it. Cheap places cut corners by turning off the AC when housekeeping arrives. Annoys the snot out of me, because I want to come in from the hot and humid outdoors and into an environment that is suitable for keeping fruits and vegetables fresh for a few days. I likes it cold. Don't turn off my AC! If I wanted it off, I would have done it myself!

Being as close to the convention center as we were, we were also able to partake of the shuttle service that GAMA had arranged for four of the hotels. Wonderful!

Air Travel
I purposely stagger my flights with 1-2 hours of layover between them so if the first one is delayed, I can still get on the second one and maybe even have my baggage follow me. This kind of backfires when the 2nd flight gets delayed and forces me to wait 2-3 hours for my next flight. Like what happened on this trip. Both ways.

Something must be wrong with Chicago Midway. From now on, it goes on the avoidance list with Atlanta.

After last year's debacle, I started flying Southwest Airlines exclusively. As much as I like not having to pay to check bags or having my flights totally screwed with and not told until two days before the trip (bastards) I don't like the non-assigned seating. I always end up at the end of the line which means I'm in the bitch seat the most (for the few of you that don't know, the bitch seat is the one that's between two other people). I have a friend who loves it, but that's only because they seat families after they seat section A (the A section are the people who paid extra to avoid the bitch seat) which means they still get prime seating options. Next time I'm at the ticketing counter I'll ask politely who I have to blow to get put into group A seating.

The Games
I wrote enough in the descriptions of the photos on Flickr, so I'll keep these brief.



Here's a peek at Fantasy Flight Games' R&D discussions:
Allen: "How did the playtesters like it?"
Bob: "Pretty good, I guess. But there's still some things we need to work out."
A: "Oh? Did we not add enough game bits? I'm sure we can toss in a few tokens an counters in there somewhere..."
B: "No, it's not that. We have plenty of pieces. The problem is that the players all had a pretty good grasp of the rules by round three."
A: "Round three?!? I'd have thought they'd have that dull stare like a dairy cow that early into it."
B: "Yeah, I know, but they're getting the hang of it pretty fast. How can we add more complexity to this?"
A: "Well, we've been working on adding a subset of rules and mechanics for each player that work completely different depending on which of the starting pawns the players take."
B: "That might work! Let's try it!"

Car Wars

Car Wars: Rouge Arena

This is an adaptation of a miniatures game created by Steve Jackson Games, and is run at Origins and Gen Con by a gaming club that calls themselves the "Rogue Judges". They've adapted the rules to be slightly less complex (just slightly) and is played by moving around your little Matchbox car that has plastic guns glued onto it, and then shooting any other player's car that has the audacity to get within firing range. Fun times!


Illuminati by Steve Jackson Games

Have your Illuminati add ten powerful (or not so powerful) groups and/or organizations to it's power structure to control the world! There was one game where I had the KGB attempt to take control of Texas. Good times!

Magic: The Gathering
If you like sealed deck style play, but don't want to drop close to $30 for an event, you can play Mini-masters. Basically, it's sealed deck with two booster packs. And yes, you still have to make a deck that's at least 40 cards. This means you'll be playing 4 or 5 colors, have about 18 lands, and instead of choosing what twenty-three cards to play with, you'll pretty much be choosing which four cards NOT to play with.

Mini-masters is played single elimination style, and after each round, the winners receive one more booster pack to improve his or her deck, hopefully paring it down to a more managable three color deck.

The Red Dragon Inn
A quick and easy little game about a party of the common D&D archetypes celebrating at the local inn, having defeated the Dragon and ending the campaign. The goal is to be the last adventurer standing in the inn by not running out of money, and not getting so drunk that you fall on your ass. Not easy considering your companions will be buying you round after round, and occasionally roughing you up.

The mechanics are nothing especially memorable, but the theme and humor of the game is priceless. The Female Warrior will typically beat you up by playing cards like "It hurts more if you do it like this!" or "No more chain mail bikini jokes!". The Wizard's familiar (a white rabbit named "Pooky") will run around causing trouble or go on a drunken rampage. Or buy you a drink ("Pooky says you look thirsty!"). The priestess and rogue have similar functions with different jokes "The Goddess told me to do it!" or "I'm saving that money for the poor!" or "Uh, I think you made an error in dividing the treasure". Good stuff.

The Food
I've mentioned the benefit of eating a decent breakfast above, so I'll not belabor that point. Instead, let me tell you if you do breakfast right, on most days, you can get away with bottled water, Cliff bars, and beef jerky and not be hungry the rest of the day. But still, you'll want those few good meals with your cohorts to unwind, so let me tell you that across the street from the side entrance to the Convention Center, there is a great little brew pub called Barley's. Actually, I think I mentioned this last year, so let me just point out that it's still good, they still make their own beer, and is still worth the money. This year, they had a brew called Bloodthirst Pale, a wheat beer for the Summertime that's flavor with blood oranges. Yummy.

In spite of moving from the homemade limoncello to DeVito brand rotgut, we still decided to do the final wrap-up meal at Buca di Beppo. The Chicken Carbonara is EPIC, and puts mine to shame. Good sangria too.

About as much gaming as I could fit into four and a half days, meeting up with old friends, and Good Times all around. That should tide me over for a while... at least Until January when early bird registration for 2011 starts winding down, and I start counting down days again... Hooray!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Origins 2010: Travel and Day One

Writing this on my netbook, waiting for the next shuttle so I'll keep this brief:
  • While driving to the airport, I passed a military convoy on I-80 that was pulled over. Wasn't sure what they were about, but they had two tanker trucks with the contents marked as "Flammable". Interesting...
  • Flight was overbooked. Thank you, anonymous lady with the two kids, for taking the discount offered by Southwest! The connecting flight was delayed an hour for for "maintenance". Better than the wings falling off mid-flight, I guess.
  • The Hotel is a BIG step up from the roach motels we've picked in years past. It's the little touches, such as housekeeping not turning off the AC when they clean in order to save a buck on the energy bill. I walk in and it's delightfully cool. Especially after walking around a humid Columbus, OH. The staff is pretty friendly, too.
  • One odd design flaw about the hotel is that you have to climb a flight of stairs to get to the elevator. Like a staircase that leads to a handicapped access ramp. Silly.
  • The bag o' schwag that was way too light last year is back with some decent things from WotC, including a whole starter for their Axis and Allies miniatures game. I guess they're desparately trying to push the game. looks neat.
More later. Shuttle arrives in 5 minutes.