GenCon Day Four, Little Kae’s Button Quest

Little KaeToday was the last day for GenCon for me, but it was the first day and only day for my son. This is his actually his third GenCon although I doubt he remembers the first one since he was only three. He’s five now, nearly six, and just starting to get to the point where he really gets something from the experience.

We got to the convention about 10:30. I had planned to hit some of the kid’s games booths in the Exhibit Hall first and then figured we would wander a bit and check out some of the family activities. That changed though when a the first person we see after entering the convention center was a man handing out buttons. We found out that there were eight more people scattered around GenCon with more buttons and that became the quest for the day.

We did still manage to hit the big children friendly publishers: Blue Orange, IELLO, and HABA. I also found a new one call Out of the Box which had several fun (and cheap) educational games. The big purchase in my son’s opinion though was the latest Tales and Games volume: The Hare and the Tortoise. Which I realized after about the fifth time he asked to go somewhere and find a spot on the floor to play.

The other big hit for him was the food trucks next door to the convention. He couldn’t believe that there was a whole street blocked off for people to walk on, or that there were real trucks with people inside of them cooking food for him to eat.

I’m never sure how plans will turn out, but he did a great job walking all over the convention center and following directions. We made it until 3pm before he decided he was ready to go home, which was two hours longer than I expected. He’s still not real sure about cosplayers. On the way down he was talking a lot about wanting to see Darth Vader, but that changed once we actually started seeing people in costumes.

Day 17 of Blaugust

GenCon Day Three

Today didn’t zip by quite as fast as yesterday but it was still a very good day. I took the morning off from GenCon to follow my usual Saturday morning routine of taking my sons’ for their swimming lessons, so I didn’t head downtown until about 11:30. That meant there was zero parking in any of the usual places and I ended up walking a half dozen more blocks than usual. My feet weren’t too pleased about that, although my wallet was happy since it was half as expensive as either or the previous two days.

IMG_20140816_124830I spent the first couple of hours in the Exhibit Hall, which I’d barely seen much of before then. I scouted out a few children’s games so I knew where to take my son tomorrow.

I got to see a prototype of the app version of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game being developed by Obsidian. The prototype itself was very good looking. I was slightly disappointed but not surprised that they’re current initial target platform is just iOS but it is being developed in Unity so an Android version shouldn’t be more effort. It’s relatively early in the development process for them so that could easily change between now and the release sometime next year.

After cruising the Exhibit Hall, I played some more Golem Arcana, which was a lot of fun even though I lost the match, before heading out to dinner with friends.

I got to wrap up the evening by seeing a writer’s session on storytelling in new media (mostly games) which had Christine Thompson, aka Kestrel, the lead writer for Star Trek Online on it. Afterwards she hung around for a bit with her husband, Frost from STO’s QA team, to chat with me and two other STO players. She was nice enough to sign the Path to 2409 appendix in my copy of Needs of the Many, and gave out Delta Rising t-shirts and Holo Leeta codes to the three of us. Made my night.



Day 16 of Blaugust

GenCon Day Two

You know you’re having fun when the time jumps from 10 am to 5 pm in the blink of an eye. What turned out, I thought, to be a mostly free day to cruise the exhibit hall got surprisingly busy. I only managed to demo one game, Sentinels Tactics, which was a ton of fun and was an opportunity to have someone teach me a game I already own and avoid reading the rule book. But I also got to play a prototype that my friend Todd’s been working on and I’ve been playtesting off and on, which was a blast to see the progress that he’s made.

I also watched two writing panels that had Jim Butcher on them, one on adapting story series to games and the other on how to write long running series. Both panels covered topics I was interested in but it was also great getting a chance to see Jim talk live. Ed Greenwood, of Elminster and Forgotten Realms fame, and Bill Willingham, Fables comic series, were also on the second panel and very entertaining.

I’m having a great time at GenCon, but I’m really going to pay (already am paying) with my feet and legs all next week I think.

Day 15 of Blaugust

GenCon Day One

I’m hanging out in a playhall late on day one of GenCon watching a board game while I wait for the Shadowrun: Crossfire event, blogging from my phone. Like just about every instance in the past all of the social anxiety I’ve been feeling was unfounded. Today was a lot of fun, and busy.

I had a little adventure finding a parking space in the morning, followed by a massive line at will call to pick up my event tickets. I figured I’d be smart and spend an hour in the dealer hall so the line would go down only to have it get even longer. It ended up being about 40 minutes to get through which left me some time before my first event. Conventions are an odd mix of fun and waiting.

Playing some Star Realms and Golem Arcana was great but the highlight so far was getting to have beers with friends at dinner.

My gaming budget for the con is already busted too, I think. I’ll try to avoid paying attention to that until Monday.

Day 14 of Blaugust

Zen Cardboard

With GenCon coming up this week I’ve been thinking a bit about why I play both board games and computer games. The obvious difference is of course with board games you’re sitting across the table from people you’re playing with, but that’s been changing in recent years. Solitaire gaming has been popular for a while and is starting to become more accepted. Some games include solo variants in the box, like the re-release of Merchants of Venus, but there are also lots of games with good player made variants on BoardGameGeek. The rise in popularity of cooperative board games has helped a lot with this as well.

So why play a board game by yourself? Why not just sit down at the computer? For one it means instead of gaming in my office, I’m sitting at the kitchen table. More importantly board gaming is a zen experience for me. Putting decks of cards together and getting things shuffled well. Setting up the board. Not just thinking about strategy during the game but keeping track of rules, trying to make sure I don’t make any mistakes. The experience tends to be quite a bit like reading as part of my brain usually starts making up a story about what’s happening in the game. I do that a bit in MMOs as well but I tend to get more vivid pictures from board games because there’s no other visual or auditory input.

Board games don’t have to be something you only get into if you have the time to dedicate to getting together with friends once or twice a month to play.

Day 10 of Blaugust

Books and Board Games


I’m up to 10 books read for the year so far, which puts me 3 ahead of schedule for my GoodReads goal of 50 and leaves me with 152 (I moved a few books from the wishlist over and added a few shorts, so the math doesn’t match up with my last progress post). Looking at a big number like that, 10 books read doesn’t seem like a big deal except I’ve finished two series in those ten, Lindsay Buroker’s excellent Emperor’s Edge series and Glen Cook’s wonderful Garrett P.I. series, which actually makes it feel like a lot of progress.

Board Games

I bought Pathfinder ACG last October and wasn’t really impressed with my first two plays. My first game I made the mistake of playing solo using only one character, which really limits game play. I also made the mistake of using Ezren (a human wizard) and one of the first cards he encountered was a barrier requiring a strength check which was impossible for him. My second game was with a buddy where we each ran one character, and that was quite a bit more fun, but it wasn’t until I recently got the game out again and played with four characters that it was really fun.

The other game that’s been sitting on my shelf for a long time which I finally got out is Thunderstone Advance. This was fun but very difficult at least for the card draws I was getting. I need to play some more but right now Pathfinder is keeping my interest much more.

Before my recent resurgence of interest in Pathfinder, I’d been playing either Marvel Legendary for the Online League I’ve been participating in on BoardGameGeek or Sentinels of the Multiverse.

Other Stuff

I’ve unfortunately done very little with my comics or movies lists, I’m still working on training myself to switch back and forth between my different goals for the year. Multitasking like that is not something I’ve ever been good at. I’m much more of a serial obsessive, where I go on a month-long kick of just reading or just playing games.

I have been playing some MMOs a bit more regularly though. Star Trek Online has been a nearly daily thing. I’ve been making sure to at least hop in long enough to do the daily for the Anniversary ship. While I prefer the old way where you just have to finish a mission, I do understand that it makes more sense for Cryptic to entice people to logon more regularly. At least the Q daily missions are quick so it’s a pretty painless grind.

I’ve also picked Neverwinter back up, it was surprisingly easy to pick back up where I left off.  This is one of those games that I don’t think I stopped playing for any particular reason other than I got distracted by something else. I started back up both because of that and because the Multiplaying group is having a weekly Wednesday night game. In typical fashion though I’ve not actually joined in on a Wednesday night yet.

Despite getting back into two MMOs, I still don’t feel like I’m really back into the genre and I’m ambivalent at best about the new games that are supposed to release this year.

Firefly the Game

Firefly BoxMade by Gale Force 9Firefly the Game let’s you return to the ‘Verse to “Find a Crew, Find a Job, Keep Flying.”

What’s in the Box

Let’s talk about the physical bits first. There are a lot of parts. A lot. Starting with cards there are two decks for events while flying (forty cards each), one for Alliance space and one for Border space. There are five decks for contacts to pickup jobs, and five decks for supply planets where you can hire crew and buy gear and ship upgrades (25 cards for each deck). There’s a deck of forty “Aim to Misbehave” cards for use with completing illegal jobs. There’s a small deck of eleven setup cards with ship captains and starting equipment, and there are six oversized an oversized story cards with game goals. That’s two decks for setup and 13 for use while playing. Besides cards, there are also tokens for passengers/fugitives, cargo/contraband, crew morale, parts, fuel, warrants/goals, and a dinosaur marker to pass around to whoever’s turn it is. There’s also money in four credit denominations: $100, $500, $1000, and $2000. There are four ship cards, four ship models, an Alliance cruiser model, a Reaver model, a dinosaur token, and finally the game board itself.

It is a lot of stuff to get out of the box and get set up. Generally it’s been taking me between 15 and 20 minutes to get from opening the box to starting my first turn.

Full four player game setup.

Full four player game setup.

Despite how much stuff comes with the game it is extremely well made. The cards, money, and tokens are all printed on heavy stock. It looks and feels very durable. The art on everything is straight from the TV show and includes quotes to add context. I wanted to specifically highlight the money as it is gorgeously detailed with vibrant colors. As a fan of the show, the game is so well made that I would’ve been happy just as a collector.

Alliance Cruiser Firefly and Reaver Cutter
Alliance Cruiser, Firefly Class, and Reaver Cutter

Gorgeous Credits
Gorgeous Credits

The rulebook is eighteen pages, full color, and includes more photos and quotes from the show. The directions are decent although like any game I ran into some details I wasn’t sure of when I sat down to play. GF9 has been super communicative though and has been answering questions on the Firefly forum at Board Game Geek and has published an FAQ on the site for the game (you can also read the rulebook online).

Travel the 'Verse!

Flying a Firefly

I’ve play four times so far since I picked up the game from GenCon. Three times solo and once with a friend.

My first solo session that game was everything I wanted as a Firefly fan, but when I think solely about the actual game play it’s just a standard pick up and deliver game. So probably not worth getting if you’re not a Firefly geek and already own similar type games.

My first group session was more fun, although it felt a little too short to me. Partly that was because my friend and I were using a newbie friendly Story Card GF9 had on their site [link] which was intended for only an hour session instead of the normal two, and partly because I played the same way in that game as I did in my first solo. Taking legal shipping and transport jobs.

I had a much better time on my third play session (and my fourth). I used the same solo card as the first time but instead of trying to win by finishing 20 turns with $15,000 credits I decided to try the goal where you win by getting solid with all five contacts, meaning you’ve successfully finished a job for each one. Because of this I had to work for Niska and Badger, both if whom I’d been avoiding since all of Niska’s and most of Badger’s missions a free illegal. Doing these jobs required passing challenges from the Misbehaving deck, and that’s really where the fun part of the game is.

Taking legal jobs makes for a pretty basic logistics game. Finding the shortest route, trying to optimize by picking up multiple jobs starting close to one another with destinations along a consistent path. Playing this way you don’t really need much crew outside of a pilot and mechanic in order to avoid Reavers. The illegal jobs however require more planning as you need to try and find crew and equipment to cover all of the different possible challenges that will come up. This means hitting certain planets known for equipment or crew of a certain type, and balancing those expenses against the payouts for the jobs. Hiring crew also means keeping track of if any of them are wanted by the Alliance, and making sure contraband and fugitives are in your stash in case of a customs check. Knowing which crew are moral and handling morale if doing an immoral job. Plus, illegal jobs also pay a lot better. Seriously.

Mal Inara Misbehaving

Mal armed with a Pistol & Inara Misbehaving on a Job


If you are a fan of the TV series and like board games, buy it. GF9 did an incredible job translating the experience of being a Firefly captain to a board game. It’s well worth the $50. By the way, there are no references to the events of Serenity which is a major plus in my opinion.

If you aren’t a fan of the show it really depends on what games you already own and enjoy. As a pure delivery game it is pretty shallow until you get into the illegal jobs. If you’re interested in the outlaw side of the fame, I think there’s enough there to keep the game interesting even ignoring the theme. You’re still missing out on a major part of the experience though.