Gencon 2015


I flew into Indianapolis Wednesday, leaving straight from work and getting in around 11; I stayed at the airport Ramada since Alison wasn't going to get in until Thursday and took a taxi in early Thursday morning.

Gencon 2015 was pretty much like the last two, other than swapping out a lot of game playing for a shot at "True Dungeon," which is a combination of LARPing, D&D and EverQuest. 

We did two runs in True Dungeon, each for about two to three hours at a cost of about $100, and it seemed very interesting when we started.  The huge hall it used in the convention center was converted into something that could have been a movie set, cool and atmospheric.  The actors and props were good, and the mechanics worked. 

One of the actors, a dark elf / Drow, asked "from where do you hail?"  And I said Boston.  "Ah, yes, the next territory I am going to conquer."  I was very excited with the waiver we had to sign:

But the actual experience was a letdown.

The reason was because there were no moderate electrical shocks.  No shocks at all.  Plus, we had hooked up with a friend of a friend who'd done it before, which sounds like it would be great but wasn't. 

Before we go there, a few things on how "True Dungeon" works in theory.  You join a group of ten people in a "prep room" where you are given a sheet that provides "slots" for armor, weapons, and items for different areas of your body (like a "hands" slot and a "body armor" slot etc).  You get twenty random tokens to fill those slots (like you might get a "sword" for your weapon slot).  Then you each take one of ten character classes, and you trade tokens around so the things that work best with each character class end up with the person playing that class.

The reality; the "friend of a friend" shows up, and I remarked to Eric that he must have come directly from the airport, because he's got a rolling suitcase with him.  And Eric says "I think those are tokens, Dave."  Which I don't believe because this is a full sized suitcase with enough room to hold thousands of tokens. 

Eric won that bet.

Not only did he have thousands of tokens, which he'd mostly purchased, he had his best tokens... some of which, based on the price set by the guy who runs "True Dungeon," were worth $1300... sorted into albums by each character class.  "Don't bother trading tokens or putting them on your character sheet" he said, "just show them in the folder to the judge; I've already pre-calculated all your resulting stats, and we should be able to just walk through this no matter what they throw at us." 

As the cleric, my big task was healing people with spells, and with my special abilities due to the esoteric tokens I was healing twelve times the normal amount of damage, which didn't matter because people had so many points from their esoteric tokens no one needed it.  But it was my main function, so I dutifully went to heal a party member, until I was told  "Don't bother, I have an entire sack of cure light tokens we can use instead."   

So that left the puzzles (the rooms where half combat, half puzzles).  Which were so insanely hard that, on the second run, out of seven puzzles, we almost solved one of them. 

So it was combination of too easy and too hard that made it a little anticlimactic.  It was still fun but I think it would have been much more entertaining if it had been a bit more balanced. 

OK, so, the games.  Because of True Dungeon, I didn't play as many as last year, but here's the list and my comments on each game:

Isle of Skye:  A Carcassonne meets Aladdin's Dragons game, half bidding/auction, half tile placement.  Tile placement was very, very, Carcassonne like... that is, you could rotate them but had to match terrain on all sides.  I'm not very good at that kind of visualization, and don't really like Carcassonne, and knew before we started I wasn't going to like the game, which I didn't.  But it's not bad if you do like that sort of thing.  Recommendation:  pass.

Imperial Settlers:  This sounds like a Settlers of Catan wannabe, but it's not.  It's a chaining card game with just enough complexity to make it a real pain in the ass to figure out how to chain things together in the best fashion, uninteresting cards and artwork, and some arbitrary and meaningless back story around the competing civilizations (Egyptians vs Romans kind of thing).  Overall it just wasn't fun.  Pass.

Suburbia:  This is an older game we played while waiting for "Castles of Mad King Ludwig."  Interesting, but way to many twiddly little mechanics.  However, Alison played with us and I liked that.  It's a chaining / tile laying game (tile laying mostly in paying attention to the types of tiles connecting to the placed tile) where you have to balance two different resource types, prestige and money, to win.  I got a couple of seemingly unbalanced tiles that let me run away with the game.  Even without that lack of balance, however, there were just too many random little things to keep track of to be that much fun.  If you've been drinking.  But, hell, it's a GAME.  You're supposed to be drinking.  Pass.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig:  After playing "Suburbia" for an hour and a half, the "Mad King" table opened with five minutes left until the vendor area closed, so we got a fast overview.  It seems to be half resource collection and half tile placement and looked interesting, but we didn't get enough of a feel for it for me to recommend for or against it. 

Splendor:  I actually ended up buying this game and playing it before Gencon, and ran away with this one too because the winning strategy is not obvious until you play it.  Once.  It's a deck building / pattern matching game where you buy jewels that add to your purchasing power to get more expensive jewels that give you victory points, with a few "match this pattern to score extra victory points" thrown in.  I liked it but having played a few times, if everyone follows the winning strategy, it comes down to what order the cards come out in, so I'm a little less enamored of it.  Still, it's fast, easy to understand, and generally fun.  Recommendation:  Marginal buy.

Favor of the Pharaoh:  This is a Tom Lehman game, a new version of "To court the king," which is an excellent if stats-heavy game.  You roll dice to get cards that let you roll more dice or futz with rolls (like "add one pip to any number of dice") to give you better results to get cards that give you even more dice.  "Favor" ups the anty on Court the King, going from a set of regular dice where you start with three and have to get to rolling seven of a kind to win (or most likely win).  In Favor, there are four flavors of dice, plus little tokens that are weaker versions of the roll futzing cards.  All in all, it seemed to add a lot of complexity without adding a lot of additional game play, so Court the King still rules in my book.  But it's that is of print, so "Favor" is all you can get.  Recommendation:  Marginal buy.

Dixit:  This is an older game as well, and more of a party game, but it was great fun.  Play a card with a odd picture on it, and give a sound bite.  Other players play cards they think matches the sound bite.  If no one guesses your card, you loose.  If everyone guesses your card, you loose.  If you are one of the "guessing" players and your card gets a vote, you get a point.  You have to tread the fine line between too specific and too vague.  I could, without exception, always find something that let Alison find my card, which says a lot about us as a couple, I'd say.  

Cosplay was, as usual, awesome.  The costumes speak for themselves.
Likewise, the miniatures were stunning:
So that only leaves where Alison and I stayed, which was the Alexander.  The Alexander was a bit of a hike, a little over half a mile from the convention center, but it was a beautiful, ultra modern hotel with a fantastic restaurant (Cerulean) next door and a built in modern art gallery with lots of "art" to mock.