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Geekway to the West 2017, Day 3 - Zombie Actual

Geekway to the West.
Day 3.

So after the Pandemic Legacy game was finally over, I found myself with nothing to do at 5:00 am. Even though the gaming hall was open 24 hours throughout the convention, we had actually shut it down. Melissa, the person who played the last 6 or 7 games with me, and I were the only ones left playing, so I had this giant hall with absolutely nobody in it except for the security guards employed by the convention center.

I was extraordinarily tired, but couldn't feel like I could function enough to drive 45 minutes home for no more than 90 minutes of sleep before coming back for my 9:30 am game.

This is where I pause to give you all some advice. If you're going to game for 24 hours, make sure you tie in a purpose behind it. The Extra Life fundraiser that takes place across the country every year is a great cause, but I know several people that can't take the full 24-hour regimen and have to get a nap in. But me, I couldn't stop.

Still, I had to get some kind of rest.

So I found a couch and sat down for about 30 minutes, catching a light snooze. Then I trekked over to Denny's, where I could sit in a comfortable booth and get some breakfast, then made my way back to the convention center, found a place to plug in my phone and laptop, and rested a bit more before I had to set up shop for the next game.


One of the games I Kickstarted, the amazing Brian Suhre-designed game Coldwater Crown was next on the docket. I'd put it up in the Game Planning Geeklist, and enough people signed up at one point to set up multiple games. 

One of the cool things about Geekway is that because it's a St. Louis convention, there are a lot of locals. One of the guys I was playing with this morning was Joshua, someone that I'd connected with over Facebook for more than a year, but we've never met in person, and never had a chance to share in a game together. Well, as luck would have it, we were scheduled to play 3 games together this fine Saturday!


I spent some time teaching Coldwater Crown it to the uninitiated, and we set to it with a table of 4.

And as you can imagine, I lost. You know, I love strategy games, and I love puzzle games, but I can't seem to do much to win them if I'm not playing solo. But then, I've never beaten the Silent Player in solo mode of this game, either.

Whatever the case, it was a great game, with a lot of fish going around, master angler fish being caught, and the turns in this game are quick and easy. It's a simple light Euro-puzzler with GREAT theme that you can teach to just about anyone.

I had a little bit of time before I had to rush off to play Captain Sonar, so a couple of us stuck around to play something short and light. But first, we wanted to hit the vendor area and see what was shakin'.

I picked up Kodama: The Tree Spirits from Indie Boards & Cards, who had a booth set up, and I was able to get it for $20, which I thought was a great price. I had played this once with someone at my local board game night, and it was a cool game with neat tree cards that you use to build trees with different little sprites on them. Easy to learn, but strategic enough to give you options, and plenty of replay value.

Didn't play it, though. I went for something else. Fuse!

I bought Fuse at the Renegade Game Studios booth. It was between this and Lanterns, but Lanterns was $35.00, this was $30.00, I got some really cool promo dice to go along with it, as well as the promo card Renegade made for International Tabletop Day.
Brought Fuse back to the table, and the 3 of us tried our hand at the Training stage, which was a deck of 18 cards to get through.

We failed thoroughly. Ten minutes seems like a long time, but it is definitely NOT long when you're trying to defuse bomb cards. Especially when you can't roll the one type of die you need to roll, or you keep having to put dice back into the bag. Also, one thing about this game is the handing off of the bag from player to play. The rules state that each player has to reach into the bag to roll, going around the table, which means you need to work out a good system of making sure the bag gets passed to the next player right after you take your dice out to roll them. We didn't do that, so we lost 1-2 seconds each turn just in getting the dice bag from the previous player.

In the end, we didn't last the 10 minutes. Fuse is NOT easy, but it is a lot of fun, and one I highly recommend if you're looking for a light filler game that you can play 2 or 3 times without it getting boring.

Ever since watching the Shut Up & Sit Down review on Captain Sonar, I knew I had to find a way to play this game. I also knew that because it's a party game, and that it works best with 8 players, that I probably wouldn't be buying it myself. I have so few opportunities to get together with people to play, and while this game looked like a blast, it appears to be one of those games that people might have a hard time wrapping their head around. Kind of like a team version of Battleship, but there are more moving parts. I got it, but I wasn't sure many others would.

So when I saw the game listed on the Game Planning Geeklist, I knew I had to jump in and give it a shot.
By the way, FORGET what the Captain Sonar rulebook says. Make sure you play this with 8 players if at all possible. It makes for a very rich experience and gives you that really cool feeling of collective work. There are two ways to play -- turn based, and real time. We played in real time, because it was more frantic that way, a bit more fun. Turn based is a great way to play if you want to get used to the mechanics and you really want to take your time to think, because your teams aren't acting at the same time.

But when it comes to pure pandemonium? If you want the actual feel of being in a submarine, tracking the enemy while trying not to get shot at yourself, and keeping your systems operating optimally? Go with the real time game.
So there are 4 stations on each sub. The Captain shouts out the heading, the Radio Operator records the OPPOSING team's Captain's orders on their map, the First Mate records how soon the different operating systems -- like sonar, drone, weapons, silent running -- are ready to use, and the Engineer lets the First Mate know IF the systems needing to be used are available, or if they need to be reset by the Captain travelling in a specific direction, or by surfacing the ship, which resets everything, but also means that everyone has to complete a dexterity minigame before submerging again.

I set up my laptop and found a submarine sonar ping sound effect that had an infinitely long loop, so I set that at one end of the table and turned it up while we played. Even in that crowded hall, it added quite a bit of ambiance and texture to the game.

Our team won 3 games in a row -- 2 with me in the Engineer's chair, and one with me as Captain. It was a good day to NOT die.

I met up with Joshua again once Captain Sonar was over, and we picked out a table for our next game.

Qwixx Deluxe was one of the Play & Win games, and while we were setting up for Battlestar Galactica, Joshua ran and checked it out so that we could get a play in before our game started. I'd seen it before, but had never played it, and I'm glad I hadn't bought it, because I thought it might be a game I'd play with my wife . . . but I don't know if she'd care for this one. I could be wrong.

Let's just say I didn't win this in the Play & Win raffle, and I'm okay with that.
For a filler game, it's great. It's light, it involves rolling dice and adding up numbers, and coordinating colors, and managing your hand (as it were) on your score sheet. The deluxe version comes with scoreboard that you use dry erase markers on, which means that if you play this version a lot, you'll save money by buying the Deluxe version rather than playing the regular version and having to buy more score sheets.

Besides, it's rolling dice. Seriously, how can you not have fun with that?
Unless you're playing Bunco.
Or Farkle.
Except Dragon Farkle. That one's okay.

We were able to sneak in two plays; I won one and Joshua won the other. What I DON'T like about Qwixx is that it's not a gateway game. It's an easy game that non-gamers can play, but it doesn't really bring them INTO the modern hobby. I might buy it for someone as a gift, but if I think that person will benefit from a game like King of Tokyo or Pandemic, I'd rather not force a game like Qwixx on them.

Finally, after buying Battlestar Galactica at Geekway 2016 and never having a chance to play it, I set up a game for this year's convention and got it filled with 5 people.

Everyone at the table knew how to play except for me, so I think the rules explanation got taken for granted just a little bit. For instance, I didn't know what the human's win condition was, but I knew how the Cylons could win. Which helped, since I was given a Cylon card at the very beginning.

#dramachord.

I did the best I could to lay low, but when it turned out the humans had traveled 6 distances, I felt it best to act. Questions had arisen already as to whether or not I was loyal, because one of the crises had failed, and skill cards had been put in to make it flop. I argued the best I could to convince people that I was loyal, and oddly enough, with 3 turns left before my next turn nobody sent me to the Brig.

On the turn right before mine, though, someone lay down a card indicating that everyone had to reveal their cards face up, and I determined it was time to reveal myself before the humans could travel further. I lay my cards out to tank the mission, face up, in full view of everyone, which caused everybody at the table to tense up, even though they had already suspected me.

This is such a cool game, and even better if you're a fan of the show, because you get caught up in the world of BSG, in the cat and mouse game of Cylon/NotACylon, etc. but our problem is that we didn't read the rules closely enough for when the game actually ends. Galactica was down to only 1 fuel prior to this crisis, and when the jump occurs, you lose 1 fuel. That would have taken it down to 0, which means the humans would lose, but the destination card said that Galactica would gain 2 fuel by traveling to that destination. So even though fuel would go down 1, it would immediately go up by 2 by the end of the turn. And the Cylons only win if any of the important items are exhausted at the end of the turn.

We didn't make sure of that before calling the game, and while we were putting it away, we discovered our error. We called it anyway, because we might have been playing for another hour, and we all had other games to get to.

Man, what a cool game.

According to one of my blog entries earlier in the yearDead of Winter was my #1 ranked board game of 2016. And for good freaking reason. This game is absolutely amazing.
A game of zombie survival, there is so much replayability here that you will never, and I mean NEVER, play the same game twice. The Crossroads cards add so much to the storyline, and things can look like they're going your way, the swing wildly the other direction very quickly.

For instance . . . in our game, we had 7 rounds. I immediately lost one of my survivors by rolling for exposure and getting a bite. Morale down 1, less 1 survivor.

Things just went crap from there. Our main objective was easy enough, but a Crossroads card added conditions to the final objective. Then we kept rolling bites and wounds on exposure rolls. Finally, in the 3rd round, it looked as though we were going to prevail, because we needed a bunch of food to resolve the crisis, and not very many survivors were hanging out in the colony. But one by one, we began to draw more survivors cards, and fewer food cards. It looked pretty bleak, and with all the murderdeath that had been happening at the hands of the exposure die, we couldn't afford to not feed the colony AND not resolve the crisis that round.
Fortune, however, smiled upon us as our final player was able to move the last survivor he controlled out of the colony, giving us exactly enough food to feed everyone. So even though we didn't resolve the crisis that round, and our Morale was brought all the way down to 1, we did achieve all the victory conditions on the Main Objective, along with the additional objectives on the Crossroads card that came up early on, and we were victorious. One of us did not fulfill his individual Secret Objective, so he was cast out into the freezing cold. Everyone else, however, sat back, fat and happy.
We had such a great time with this game, and I knew we needed to get a zombie selfie before splitting up.
It's no longer my #1, but it's still up there for me, and I will never say "no" if someone asks to play.

I had a little bit of time before heading into Fancy Gaming and running a Fiasco game, so I stopped in the Play & Win area to see if there was a short light game I might be able to play solo, or possibly rope someone into playing with me.

Let me just say thank God for Scott Almes. This dude has done a bang-up job of making simple-yet-complex games that are easy enough to catch onto, but take some doing to master. Starfall is his most recent published work, and I have his Kickstarted Problem Picnic: Attack of the Ants dice chucking game, as well as the first 4 Tiny Epic games, and Martian Dice.

This is definitely not a solo game, but I couldn't find anyone to play with me, so I sat down and played by myself, acting as two opposing players. The problem with playing a bidding game like this is that you're always going to favor one of the players when you're playing solo, so I didn't get a full experience of the game. But I would love to give it a shot with a full table, because this looks like a really cool, challenging little game.


Fancy Gaming started at Geekway in 2016. One of the organizers thought it would be a great idea to get all dolled up in fancy garb, your best finery, even black tie or white tie, or perhaps even cosplay, and . . . get this . . . play games.
And the first year, it was a hit! Of course, others were welcome in the Fancy Gaming room, whether they looked fancy or not, and games were had. Last year, I played a few light games with some people I'd never met, but we still had a great time.

This year, I was planning a game of Fiasco, and as it turned out, the best time and place to hold it was during Fancy Gaming.

As we were setting up, Kathleen, the organizer, asked me if I'd brought any music with me. As luck would have it, I had my laptop and my hard drive with music on it, and she pointed out an audio connection point in the room that tied into the internal P.A. system, and asked if I, being a DJ, would supply some music for the evening. I was happy to oblige.

I will never not love Fiasco. The game that bridged the gap for me between working improv comedy and scenework to RPGs, Fiasco was also my introduction into the world of gaming in general. I have Jason Morningstar and Wil Wheaton to thank for that.

We had 5 players signed up to play Fiasco, but at least one or two didn't show. However, I ran into someone in the room who was dressed in an R2-D2 style gown, and she asked about the Fiasco game I was setting up. As it turned out, we had space at the table, and she decided to join us. Like me, she was flying solo, and as we talked, we found out that we had actually met each other a few years prior . . .

In 2015, I was on tour with a Trans-Siberian Orchestra tribute band, and we made a stop in Cape Girardeau, Missouri for a 2-night gig at a casino down there. On the 2nd day, we had time between checking out of the hotel and arriving for soundcheck, so I searched for a game store to see if I could get in a game with someone. I found one near the main strip, and walked in to find 3 people playing a Pathfinder session. Jessica was the game master, and now, here she was, standing before me, ready to play Fiasco.

After a short bout of reminiscing, we figured out our characters, and one of our players showed up after we had all rolled up. So we rolled additional dice for him, and he created a character that had a single connection to one of the characters in the story. It's not exactly how Fiasco rolls, but when you have things happen like that, you roll with it, and you make it work.

We made it work.
We used a playset that I wrote, Reunion: Class of 1994, and set up a pretty cool story that went a little bit gonzo, but also completely plausible. We had 2 actors who never succeeded at any of their auditions, a female student who had a relationship with a teacher, and an awkward character who stayed in the shadows a bit, but still had a pretty good hand in driving the action forward.

For some reason, I like to play characters that go insane at the end of the story . . . even though you'd never suspect it from them. I could have chosen a different aftermath, but one of our Tilt elements was:

Innocence  >  Someone is not so innocent after all

. . . so I took it upon myself to make my character the not-so-innocent one. It kind of fit, because everyone else seemed to have some kind of selfish ambition, and my character, up to that point, did not. I love the reversal.

I also got to play with Chris, one of the gentlemen that I've played with at local St. Louis area board game Meetups, which was cool. Some people gravitate towards one or the other, but the reason I set up a Fiasco game is because I know people exist that really enjoy both, and the organizers at Geekway are awesome about allowing whatever games to happen wherever you can find space to run them.

I was SO TIRED after Friday, and having had less than an hour sleep, and the having some AMAZING gaming experiences on Saturday, that the end of the game hit me hard. It felt like it took forever to grab my stuff and make my way to the car, and then forever to make the way home, but I got a few hours of much-needed sleep before heading back for Sunday.


And so closed the most exciting day of Geekway . . . but not the last day. Part 4 still to come.

There Is No Box.
Zach

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