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Geekway To the West 2017, Day 1 - Free Games & Fast Cards

My trip to Geekway to the West 2017 was my 2nd Geekway experience, and it was phenomenal! The convention had moved into new digs this year, which allowed for more attendees than before. Still, it had sold out by the end of February (the fact that it has sold out every year has made it a huge draw), and the St. Charles Convention Center probably could have held a few hundred more people than the 2,200 passes that were sold.

Still, the main gaming room was large, and a grid system layout was utilized, Battleship-style, to identify rows and columns where games were taking place. A Slack channel was used for announcements and to allow people to look for others to join games that were seeking players. The game library was back, and contained a HUGE selection of games, both new and old, for the discerning (or not so discerning) gamer, and the Play & Win area was hopping all weekend long, this time with 5 copies of each game to give away, up from the previous year's 3 copies.

There were other activities that took place throughout, but the number of "officially" sanctioned games and events sponsored by Geekway was down this year, leaving the format of the convention largely Open Play, which is what the con started as in the first place. So while there was some variety, this convention was all about the gameplay.


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DAY 1. GET THERE, PREPARE, BEWARE.

Like every good adventure, you've got to start somewhere. With me, it was back in October 2016, when the dates for Geekway to the West were released, and I had to make sure I could get off work from my weekend job as a DJ . . . in the busy month of May, no less. Which I did.

Then, I subscribed to the Geekway Guild on BoardGameGeek and kept my eyes open for when the Geeklists would eventually go up. The Virtual Flea Market, the Game Planning thread, even the hotel room sharing thread, even though I didn't need to look through that one, being a St. Louis area native. Still, it was interesting to see what people would look forward to, and through the Game Planning thread, I was able to plan out my games for the weekend . . . which you will read here, along with the other items.


Fast forward to standing in line. Or as the Brits call it, the "queue".


When you first arrive at Geekway, especially on Thursday, you get in line. But first, you have to find the right one. The St. Charles Convention Center is open on both the front and rear sides of the building, and I came in through the wrong side. So when I got in line, I thought it was for Registration, but it was actually for the Free Games line. Stupid me, and I thought signs would help. Unfortunately, there were only a few signs, posted at very minimal spots.

No matter. I had gotten there right around 8:00 am, so I didn't have to wait long before realizing I was in the wrong queue . . .

. . . and I quickly corrected that mistake.
I confirmed my registration, and got my badge . . .
. . . then I headed over to the free games area to pick up my commemorative 6-sided die and my free game! 3 free games, actually. This year, Geekway had received an influx of 2 additional games from a couple publishers to add to the free game giveaway that everyone normally got, so I ended up with 3 free games right off the bat!

Bargain Hunter was my draw-and-win game. Designed by Uwe Rosenberg, it wasn't exactly the one I was hoping for. But, it's a trick-taking game, and I grew up on games like Hearts and Spades, so I'm willing to give anything a try. It wasn't Praetor, it wasn't Progress, and it wasn't the old hotness, but it wasn't something I had to pay for, either. Who knows? Maybe I'll like it.

A set collecting game with pretty cool artwork, Fish Frenzy was one of the free games that EVERYONE at Geekway walked away with. Interestingly enough, I hardly saw it out on any tables. Like, at all. Which is a shame, really, because I'm curious how well it plays, especially with families.

Backyard Builders Treehouse was the 2nd free game given to everyone that attended Geekway. I'm very surprised that we all walked away with 3 games, but again, very surprised that so few of them were cracked open and played on the first day. Since Geekway, I've had a chance to break this out and play a couple short games with one of my nieces.


One of the purposes of me attending Geekway was to raise money for Pat Roper, a St. Louis area gamer, husband, father of two, and one of the rotating hosts of the RPG podcast Fear The Boot. In fall 2016, Pat was diagnosed with stage III pancreatic cancer. Pat had insurance, and was able to be treated right away, but with medical insurance being medical insurance, Pat's medical costs weren't 100% covered by his insurance plan. So he and his family would have to come up with roughly $60,000 to pay off what the insurance company won't.

One of Pat's friends set up a GoFundMe page to raise some money to help the family out, and I wanted to help, but I felt compelled to do more than just give some token donation. I mean, Fear The Boot, and people like Pat and his wife Beth, are a big part of the reason why I'm a gamer today. I listened to the podcast for months before getting into a roleplaying game, and their yearly gaming convention, Fear The Con, is where I played my very first RPG. So I owe a lot to the community, and especially to Pat and the other hosts.

I sat on this for a while, wondering what I could do. Meanwhile, I had set up a game on the Game Planning Geeklist. It was an ambitious feat -- play through Pandemic Legacy in one sitting, and do it at Geekway. Well, with the convention being what it is, nobody took the bait.

But I realized that something like that wouldn't get much attention, unless a cause was tacked to it. Eventually, I decided I would play Pandemic Legacy through in 24 hours as a charity event, and I would donate the money I raised to Pat and his family, to go into their medical expense fund. 


So . . . 


I set up shop at one of the more easily-found, high profile tables in the gaming hall, just a quick walk down from the concession stand. This put me in a good place for people to see me, see the sign, and see what I was up to. I figured, the more eyes on where I was, the more money I could collect for Pat and his family.

Then, on to gaming.



5-Minute Dungeon is an AWESOME real-time set matching game, in which you and up to 4 other people play cards to match symbols on boss cards and door cards, trying to defeat obstacles, monsters, and people until you get to the dungeon boss. I received this game through winning a contest, and it featured some of the Kickstarter exclusives given to backers. 
It's a fast-paced game with a lot of humor, and I was joined by 2 young men who thought the concept was interesting. Not long after that, we were joined by a 3rd young man. Not long after THAT, we were joined by a young woman, and before you know it, we had 5 at the table playing this amazing game.

We played 6 times total, winning 5 and losing one. There was plenty of carnage, plenty of laughs, and it was a great way to start the weekend.


After 5-Minute Dungeon, the 3 young men playing with us left to find another game, but Kayla, the young woman, stayed and played some more before she had to go meet up with some other people. The first game we took on was a short round of Martian Dice.
I love this game. Similar to Zombie Dice, but with a few more scoring options, the dice are fun to roll, and there's more to do in order to score points. So a regular game will likely go longer than a game of Zombie Dice, but without the possible endlessness of the press-your-luck mechanic.

We played. I won. She opted to stick around and play another game.



Student Bodies was the next game played, one I acquired earlier that morning from someone I connected with through the virtual Flea Market Geeklist for a very low price. Brand new, still in shrink.

I wasn't sure what I was expecting, because I already own Dead of Winter, which is a phenomenal zombie survival game. This one is a tad different in the sense that you don't just survive, you try to get out of a high school before everyone else does.

Well, I discovered just how FUN this game is! You're high school students trying to make your way down the hall towards the science lab, find an antidote for the zombie virus, then make your way back down the hall and through the exit. First one to do all that wins.
Fun artwork on the standees, great information on the playing cards, and a simple movement mechanic that makes sure all the zombies attack somebody, whether it's you or someone else on the board. Again, you don't have to just survive, you only have to beat everyone else.

Rules are pretty simple to figure out, and I ended up winning. Yay for me.



I chose to volunteer once again at Geekway this year, and I chose Registration. Once the link for volunteers went open, people flocked to it like bees to a hive, so the only 2 shifts that I could work back to back that I also didn't have a conflict with a scheduled game were in Registration on the first day. It worked out for the best, actually, because Registration closed at 8:00 pm, and I had signed up from 4 to 8.

So I familiarized myself with the system, grabbed a bottle of water, put on my Geek Guide shirt, got my $10 gift card to Game Nite, a game store in St. Louis for volunteering, and settled in to welcome people to Geekway!


You can probably see from the picture that I was in a box office area, complete with the little Darth Vader metal things in the window that nobody can hear through. But, the center had a little intercom thing with a mic that I could talk into, and I could hear people responding, so I was able to give them some basic information about what to expect while at the con. 

I got to see first hand how easily things can go when running an event like this, and some of the things that were missing, like extra signs letting people know where Registration was if they came in the back way, like myself.


While working registration, there were moments of downtime. Sure, several people showed up after 5:00 pm because of the workday, but there were many points where I was waiting 5 to 10 minutes at a time for someone to show up.  So I dealt myself a solo hand of Paperback, the awesome word building deckbuilding game. Several people who came to the window complimented me on my choice of game while working, and I got to introduce the Tim Fowers classic to others.

I lost to myself. Chose the wrong Fame card, and couldn't come up with a high enough point value word in enough time.


#sadtrombone

Someone I was buying a game from on the Virtual Flea Market Geeklist knew I'd be working Registration, so she came by to deliver my copy of Tiny Epic Defenders, making this the fourth acquisition in the Tiny Epic line. Haven't had a chance to play it yet since the convention, so we'll see what kind of play I can get out of it in the coming weeks. 

Oh yeah, another purchase made through the Virtual Flea Market Geeklist . . . or VFMG for short. I already owned Star Realms: Colony Wars, but I didn't have the original, and I couldn't find it at any of my local game stores. Like, ANY of them. So I found a copy of Star Realms for $8.00, and had it delivered while working Registration.

As my shift was ending, I made my way into the Gaming Hall to set up for my next scheduled game, the Brian Suhre designed Paradox from Split Second Games.
Man, I love this game so much! I got to play it with a full table of four, and we had to teach 2 of the guys how to play, but we got through the full game in just under two hours, which went by quicker than we thought it would. I'm going to have to develop some player mats for the matrix area, because it can be hard to keep the energy discs in straight rows and columns, as we kept finding throughout.

And I lost. Oh, well.

One of the gentlemen I played Paradox with stayed behind to get in a couple rounds of Star Realms: Colony Wars with me. Man, what a cool game.

He'd had some experience playing, obviously, as he beat me soundly 2 games in a row. I just couldn't get those Machine Cult cards so I could cycle through my deck fast enough, and he had a TON of firepower. Ourch.


At the end of the day, I traveled home. I really didn't want to leave, but I wasn't with a group of people, so all the games going at that point were people settling back into their normal circles of friends. Besides, I had a huge day ahead of me on Friday, so I needed to get some rest.

Click here to go to Part 2. Curing Disease.

There Is No Box.
Zach

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