Planet Comicon 2017: Blood, Honor, Board Games
Planet Comicon was this past weekend and while I was there I dropped by their casual board gaming room. While I was there, I chatted with the guards manning the gates. I also listened in on a couple of the pen and paper role playing games. The table top games were listed on the Planet Comicon schedule.
The game room was bigger this time around that from year’s past and situated closer to the convention’s front entrance that ever before. As a couple of the convention staffers manning the room mentioned, in previous years, the gaming room had a tendency to be located a little bit out of the way, or among other gaming rooms making it a little bit harder to find than this year. With a more visible location the room received more traffic and they had the board games to spare!
I sat down with Christopher, T.J., Caleb, Lora, and Bill, Planet Comicon’s Dungeon Masters of Board Game Mountain, and asked a couple of questions to get a better feel for the ambiance the board game room had to offer. While we were talking, I noticed that some staff responsibilities, like checking board game in and out of the vast library, had “who would do it” decided by games such as “Rock Paper Scissors”.
Amongst the conversation, they told me that the game room had been a part of Planet Comicon for a number of years, but this year they had gotten the largest room so far. Last year, the previous room had gotten so packed that the area had to be expanded this year to accommodate more guests. The larger room had a great set-up. Plenty of tables and chairs for avid gamers, and even spaces for custom set ups which included a custom gaming table that was equipped with a special flat screen embedded into the table’s surface. There was also a long table set up with a custom 3D printed miniature dungeon.
I also questioned the staff about their favorite board games:
Christopher, whose favorite game is Betrayal at House on the Hill, was really impressed with the game’s newest expansion pack. His favorite thing about it was that the expansion includes the house’s bathroom (the main game apparently didn’t come with one)! We also talked a little on the game’s mechanics. Christopher reminisced on the scenario he liked the most where a Roc lifted a house with 6 players while only 5 parachutes, leaving the players to scramble Musical Chairs to escape.
T.J. recalled his favorite game that he played at a different convention. He had picked up a card game that was launched on Kickstarter. The person he had bought it from had a booth at the Mid-Americon he attended. Even though T.J. had trouble recalling the name of the card game he remembered that it was something between a card game and an RPG. The cards create characters and give room to create custom player driven stories for these new characters. The game is organized with cards for characters and a special “peg based system” that is for combat among “good guy” and “bad guy” pegs. T.J. commented that it “was a pen and paper RPG without all the entrapments of D&D. Fast set up and neat.”
Caleb had a different approach to his favorite game. He had fond memories of a game with a more casual party nature. Caleb said he liked Clue, the “original” game, for its nostalgia. He liked the mind games that came with like the psychological mind games about it, especially when you are the killer. Caleb also commented that the game Connect Four conveys an unusual air of despair yet people constantly check it out.
Lora chimed in to state her appreciate for games that require points (like victory points), or racing to build the biggest kingdom, to win. They pit players against each other; working to get scores higher than each other’s to claim victory, games such as Dominion. Lora also said that her competitive nature and love of boar games lead her to victory in a charity tournament of Dominion.
Bill likes pen and paper role playing games, especially Pathfinder. He liked the exhilarating stories and being able to build custom characters however you’d like along with the game’s neat mechanics. In our conversation we traded stories about characters we’ve both created in this game. He recanted about mixing and matching abilities of an old Dungeons and Dragons rogue to create a medieval version of D.C.’s Batman. He played this character in a “Play-by-Mail” game that’s similar to another title, Chess-by-Mail.
I also posed some more general questions to this circle of staff magi.
One of the reasons they were board game henchmen was that it was a cheap way to go to the convention. They all agreed that working in the game room is a remarkable job. They enjoy leading people to play new and different games that they may not have played before. The group enjoyed seeing player’s faces light up while discovering and playing a game.
Sentinels of the Multiverse, was a big hit with new players discovering new games to play. Together they talked about how there are many games in the massive board game library that people probably would generally pass by, not knowing the magic the boxes contained. But once players were exposed to them, they would find a new love. Ask players what they are into is really cool as it is all helping to spread the board game culture.
For a brief moment, I also sat down with the two gaggles of players playing the schedule pen and paper games that were notated on the official Planet Comicon schedule.
The first game I sat down with was the Star Wars RPG ran by Sterling Hershey. The game was of his own design. Hershey was also a game developer who worked on the Star Wars RPG by Wizards of the Coast.
When I sat down at the game table, a droid announced over the space ship’s intercom “master your steaks are here” putting the table’s players on edge. The ship they have found themselves on seemed to be of some grand importance. Maybe it was a flag ship, or held some well-respected, yet malevolent, dignitary (or Sith Lord, same difference).
The rag-tag band was in the middle of fighting brutish aliens called “Gamorreans”. You can think of them as big barbarian space aliens that semi-sort of resemble pigs. “Good thing gamorreans are stupid” remarks a player nervously to the others. This was just after the team narrowly escaped detection while the group sneaks (albeit narrowly) around the alien occupied ship. The player’s then accessed the ship’s computer to check its schematics. The schematics helped them to scheme against the malevolent actor and maneuver themselves undetected through the ship which they trespass.
This is a small snippet of Sterling Hershey’s “convention campaign” titled Force of Destiny. For this game, there were a total of five players. GM Hershey let me know that the player’s goal was to obtain the passenger list, hopefully while remaining undetected.
Next up was the good old fashion Dungeons and Dragons with the sparkling new 5th edition. I sat around the table and listened to the players fight off a band of highwaymen and goblins. This was part of something called, Adventure League. I was informed by the Game Mistress that this adventure was from the previous season.
The troupe was hired by a caravan to help deliver a statue. They had to go from Vurthyl, a city in the East, to the more mountainous western city of Parnast. The players had taken a captive and were in the middle of questioning them. The captive was a goblin who was left on the brink of death after the combat. Given a chance, he tried to make his escape, freeing himself from his rope bonds and runs from the team. He dodges a harrowing swinging spear from one of the player’s vein attempts to stop him. After a few moments, the players succeed in stopping the goblin’s escape. They did this by pinning him to the ground by his cloths with an arrow.
In the excitement of combat, one of the player’s shouts “I’m going to loot the looter”! The highwaymen’s corpses left a pile of loot in the manner of weapons, armor, and gold coins. While the more meat headed muscle brained characters argued about who gets what swords and, more importantly, who gets to prove their brute and manliness by interrogating the goblin, one of the sneakier women upstages the arguing men and interrogates the goblin quite handily. All that happened while a more magical inclined player finds a strange “healer’s bag”. It was filled with valuable magical creature potion ingredients. The ingredients turned out to be the toenails from a giant!
There were some great things I saw in both of these games. Interestingly, the character sheets that were laminated. The maps were drawn on with dry-erase markers for easy clean-up. Players had name tags in front of them that helped the game masters remember what player was what character. Also, my favorite moment was the discussion of “fist-a-clease” a player created wrestling contest they used to make decisions.
The board game room was a place of glory, honor, winners, losers, and fun to be had by all.
All images were taken by me, Casey Shreve.