Strategicon Feb 2015

Now that I’ve nearly recovered from my con crud induced illness, it’s time for a little post Strategicon review.

For pictures of the con, you can check out my Flickr link over on the right, or click here.

Our games:

9 Realms ran at half capacity, but we’re play-tested a home brew hack of the GURPs character gen system, so I was actually okay with that. The hack actually worked out pretty well, thanks to Wildcard skills and a “menu” of stat arrays that kept the math to a minimum. Everyone seemed to have a good time with our zombie themed game. In which, plot twist, they actually protected a group of non-aggressive people infected with the zombie virus from being attacked. Spoilers – the PCs won.

My Hunter scenario had a full table, which was nice because I think after this a 6 player Gen Con run will be a snap. Again, everyone seemed to enjoy the set up – an eclectic group of Hunters gathers to take down vampires at a Halloween carnival. We could easily have gone another hour, which is always a good sign.

Every con we like to try out some systems we haven’t played yet to see if there is anything we are missing out on. Some games we are ready to play again:

The Quiet Year. This is actually a collaborative storytelling game in the vein of Fiasco, except it involves a deck of cards, which provides a general sense of structure and direction to a game in which you are working together to set up a post-Apocalypse civilization. In many ways the game play felt like a table top version of a Civilization or Tropico game. In some ways more Tropico than Civilization. Maybe even a table top version of Sim City back when everyone used to always destroy their cities with the the “Godzilla” option. Players love destruction.

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. I really like what Fantasy Flight has done with Star Wars. Star Wars based RPGs are always going to have a soft spot in my heart since the very first RPG I played with other people was the West End Games‘ version, which was, not coincidentally also the system I chose for the first campaign I ever GM’d. We have history. Yes, the Fantasy Flight game uses “funny dice”. I’m not going to lie – that has been a big hurdle for us actually doing something with the rule book we bought months ago. But we played in a game at con and we got the hang of it after a few rounds of play. It’s definitely an interesting change of pace. I look forward to finally cracking open our copy and making a character of my own.

Strategicon survival tips:

If you go in February, be warned that currently Strategicon and Gallifrey One are housed next to each other over President’s Day weekend, so there is a more of a fight for resources like foodstuffs, parking, and elevator usage than the other two. On the upside – way more cosplayers, and this is one of the few Strategicons you are likely to walk away with at least one badge flag. Wear it proudly.

Fold Up Backpacks/duffel bags – I picked up a couple of these from Ikea and they are amazing for the price ($5!) and perfect for conventions. They fold up small enough to easily fit into your purse or stow away in your luggage, but then fold out into a thin (but surprisingly well constructed) backpack or small duffel in which to lug around your books, dice, pencil box, and other geeky accessories. Also useful if you are in the habit of purchasing things from the dealer room which then must travel home with you.

Water bottles – Water is expensive in it’s prepackaged form, but the tiny cups at the free water stations placed about con will not get you through 4 hours of bad guy slaying. I recommend bringing a small water bottle of your own. Also, you never have to have that awkward – who’s cup did I just drink from? – moment of terror.

Snacks – Again, food is going to expensive. You would do well to stock that fold up backpack with some trail mix, cookies, oatmeal bars, what have you. But remember, snacks are not just tasty, they are excellent social currency. Bring snacks to share with your table mates and reap the rewards of bonding over sugary goodness.

My personal GM survival kit (Because why carry a box of minis, a ton of books, and a giant roll out map if I don’t have to?)

1 box index cards (or just put a rubber band around a pack of them, but Staples sells neat plastic boxes for $2 and it keeps them from getting folded/spilled on/etc.)

1 pack dry erase pens

1 pack mechanical pencils

1 quart sized bag of Blue Dungeon Tiles – These things are amazing and modular and I cannot recommend them enough

1 quart sized bag of various Dapper Devil tokens – Are they as cool looking as minis? No. Are they tiny, cheap, easy to carry, and get the job done? You betcha. Added bonus – these guys usually have a booth in the dealer room, so if I need to pick up more, or need something specific, or just straight up forget mine, they are easy to pick up at the con.

1 box dice – What? You don’t use a bag!? Nope. I have slowly replaced my bags with “Really Useful Boxes” in various sizes. They snap shut so my dice don’t end up all over my bag, it’s easy to organize my dice by type, and it’s easy to sort through my dice to get the exact ones I want without having to dump the whole bag on the table. And the cover doubles as a little dice rolling area. Win win. Added bonus – they are super easy to stack and organize on my bookshelf.

Tablet – I am between tablets right now, and I was seriously missing mine at this last con. Carrying one tablet with digital copies of my game library, along with PDFs of all my game notes and character sheets, is WAY better than lugging around a bunch of heavy books and folders and whatnot. When we go to Gen Con, which will involve plane travel, the tablet is going to be a must. (Side note – invest in a reliable travel charger in case there is no where to plug in when your battery gets low.)

My last item is digital – Google Drive totally saved us this past weekend. We uploaded all of our game notes, character sheets, etc to our Drive before we left, and it was a good thing we did, because I had failed to pack an entire stack of handouts for our 9 Realms game. Between Google Drive and the hotel’s handy dandy office center, we were able to recover said handouts and get them printed in time for the game. Crisis averted. (Any cloud service or thumb drive will do here – I just happen to be a fan of Google Drive right now.)

For us, Con season is now officially in full swing. Game on.

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Walking in LA

Not much news to report this week. We turned lunch with a friend in Burbank into an extensive day trip to Los Angeles this past weekend and continued with our overly ambitious plans for our Strategicon games, which will also likely keep us busy through this weekend. Although at the moment plans are being made to watch Jupiter Ascending before the reviews convince us to wait until it comes out on Blu Ray. Although…. our copy of Afflicted just arrived and there is a Mad Max boxed set on it’s way to us right now, so we might get distracted.

Things I’m Geeking Out On This Week: Los Angeles

I had a great time with our LA visit, as my new Flickr account will attest. The thing I love most about LA is that even though I was born in LA county and have lived within a couple hours drive pretty much my whole life, I find something new and fun about the city almost every time I visit.

One thing I’m not sure even locals appreciate about the city is that the public transportation system in LA is actually surprisingly awesome. Combined with the weekend Metrolink pass (if you happen to live beyond the Orange Curtain like we do), it’s amazingly cheap to get around to most major locations in the city. More than once it’s been cheaper for us to take the train and the metro rail somewhere than the cost of gas and parking. The trains into and out of the city can be a little tricky to navigate, but working your way out from Union Station, the Metro runs regularly, is relatively clean, and the stations are actually pretty cool. Plus they have stops by most major tourist destinations, with trams to more out of the way places like Griffith Observatory and Universal Studios. It requires a little more work than just driving, but it was nice to go to lunch in Burbank without having to navigate the 5, or deal with construction, or trying to find a place to park. Plus, since we don’t have to worry about paying for parking again, and the stops are so convenient, it’s encouraged us to branch out to try other places.

Which leads me to geek out # 2 – The Last Bookstore. As a lover of books and art, this place was amazing. Part bookstore, part museum, part art collective, the place is just crazy with creative energy. There are art installations, a gallery, a used book section called the book labyrinth that is so much fun to explore, and even art that involves books like their book tunnel. Plus they have a little stage where there are regular performances. So much fun. They even have a section for SciFi/Horror/Mystery/Weird Stuff that appears to be an actual old timey bank vault, and a “Dungeon Dungeon” which houses a pretty impressive collection of graphic novels. Seriously, this place is like nerd nirvana. I could have stayed there for hours.

Lastly, the Umami Burger in Burbank is way cooler than the Umami locations in OC. It’s in an old timey looking hot dog stand place, and as such serves hot dogs as well as burgers. I didn’t think it was possible for Umami to out hipster itself. I was wrong. Deliciously wrong. (Much as I love to mock hipsters, their food is amazing.)

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