Winter War 38 Con Report

Well, dear readers, that time of the year has come and gone wherein I take the time to appreciate gaming by worshiping at one of it’s multitudes of public gatherings, otherwise known as a Gaming Convention.   But not just any gaming convention, friends. No, I attended the much loved and adored Winter War, now in it’s 38th year!  Now, you may find more comprehensive con reports from other sources, with lots of pretty pictures (such as, for example, over at Dave Hoover’s blog, or over here where Mysterious Bill resides, and even over with Jeff’s Gaming Blog) but here I’m just going to go over what I did and how I felt about it.

Being a member of the convention committee has some perks, I admit, but it’s also a whole lot of work.  Day 1 of the con started off seeing the preparations, putting up signs, making sure tables were in the right locations, lugging in boxes of supplies and program books, etc. until everything was finally ready to get jumping by the time the front registration desk finally opened.  After a quick breather, some idle chatter and a bite of lunch, it was then time for the games to begin!  So I hunched my shoulders, gritted my teeth, and let the weekend commence!

Rockwood’s Ultimate Nightmare! (Friday afternoon slot)

So there’s this town, right? This town, it’s your normal town full of normal people doing normal type things, except when each year in late winter, it gets invaded by several different types of aliens, mutants, zombies, and dudes with guns.  It has a name.  That name, is Rockwood.

That pretty much sums up the idea behind the ‘story’ of the game. The system is a home-brew minis/squad combat system.  The mechanics are surprisingly easy to learn and to work with.  There are multiple factions, and the players at the table are split between them, with each player controlling a set of squads for their faction.  Turn order is determined by drawing playing cards from a deck, and the value of the card determines how many actions a player may take during a turn.  2-9 is 1 action per player (not squad), 10/J/Q are 2 actions, King is a whole three actions. On an Ace, each player gets a single action, but on a roll of a dice, reinforcements arrive for that faction.

The actions a player can take for a squad on a turn are simple, Move and Shoot.  A move action is either into/out of/on to a building, or a distance as determined by a ruler across the board.  Shooting is line of sight, and each player rolls a number of d6 equal to the number of still living squad members in the currently controlled group.  Depending on cover and range, the target can be anywhere from 6 to 12 to kill a member of the targeted squad. This sounds confusing, but isn’t really as odd as it seems. So, if a player rolls 5d6 for their squad, and the total is 24 with a target difficulty of 6, 4 opposing squad members are downed.  Points are scored for number of kills, most points at the end of the session wins.

Sounds simple, right?  It is, and it is actually lots of fun.  I guess if there’s any real argument I have against the game it is how horribly skewed the system is against the human faction.  The humans had no heavy weapons and were intensely out numbered. Sure the other 3 factions should have been fighting between themselves, but with the humans in the middle, each side was forced to fight through the humans to get to each other.  Needless to say, it was a human blood bath.  No worries, I’m a huge fan of Call of Cthulhu and Arkham Horror.  I know what it’s like to know from the start that you’re in a losing situation and still fighting back anyway. Miraculously, in a last minute reinforcement draw, the humans actually ended the game with living squad members still on the board!

Are You A Werewolf (Friday night slot)

No one showed up to, or signed up for this game.  I was sad.  Then I realized it meant I could get more sleep.  I was happy.

Hollow Earth: Nuclear Family (Saturday morning slot)

My second day of the con started with a Hollow Earth adventure.  Now, for those who are not aware, Hollow Earth Expedition is a pulp roleplaying system by Exile Games, and the focus of the system is on quick and easy pulp adventures. I have to say, that going into this session I already knew that I was going to be comparing the game system to Savage Worlds, the system I’m most familiar with at the moment (as it is the system my local group plays).  The biggest question on my mind was “Could this be something to play along side SW”, and I’m going to have to go with ‘No’.

Don’t get me wrong, the system isn’t bad, but it shares the same flaws as Savage Worlds, so why trade one system for another with the same flaws and same benefits?  Hollow Earth is a very broad system, being able to cover a wide variety of different scenarios and settings with ease and imagination, but it isn’t very deep.  And I guess that’s the issue.  You can build a character in a small amount of time and jump right into a game, but once you get going you start to realize that there really isn’t anywhere to GO.

Having decently powerful characters in any stat simply makes your bad-guys look like a bunch of tu-tu wearing pansies.  Even in the introductory campaign we were in, the group ended up defeating the “big bad guy” with a single good roll of the dice, and to me that seems a bit broken.  You can argue “GM should have…” all you want, but the game system is inherently broken in certain aspects.  Still fun, though, don’t get me wrong, as you can jump in and go in and have TONS of fun, but for long-term campaigns, I prefer something a little more hefty.

Small Game Grab Bag (Saturday afternoon/evening slots)

So, this was a shock!  I decided to run an event to give people a chance to play a wide variety of small games, despite the fact that everyone said it was a bad idea and that these types of events weren’t very popular in the past.  To be quite honest, heading into Saturday, the event had a grand total of three players signed up, but as the day wore on, more and more people showed interest.  By the time the event started, I was full with a good 16 players ready to play their brains out!  At the start of the event, the players separated themselves out into four different groups, each group picking a different game from my rather extensive selection.

I’m not going to drill into the details of who played what here, but instead I’m going to tell a tale of gaming inspiration.  Within the group of players, I had a father, his two sons, and one of their friends.  None of the kids could have been older than eight, and were all very interested in games.  At first, the father was at a loss with his kids, trying to find games they would like out of the, admittedly, mature titles.  Nuclear War was a little too advanced for the little ones, and after a while the group decided to ditch that for Fluxx.  This went well, but I could tell that the kids weren’t really into it, and the dad was a little restless, trying to find something to keep the kids occupied.  It was then that they happened upon my copy of Dixit.  I helped them set up, and explained the rules which aren’t complex, but given the abstract nature of the game, I had reservations as to whether or not it would go over well.

Color me surprised, the kids LOVED it.  They played (I think) three or four games, and loved every minute of it.  No wonder this game won the awards it did. It reached out to the kids, and even though I feel the game is abstract enough to keep even older gamers occupied, it was also open enough that the kids took it and made it their own.  Everyone left the event with smiles, and I hope felt better about finding games for kids out there.  As for the rest of the groups, they each played three or four games each before the event was over.  Near the end, I was able to actually able to sit down and play as well, instead of helping with setup, and had a good time playing some games I’ve had in my collection for some time that I haven’t had time or opportunity to sit down and play.

Fun times had by all!

SLEEP! (Saturday twilight slot)

Sweet, sweet sleep.

RoboRally [CUBED] (Sunday morning slot)

This was my reason for existing at this convention.  I ran a game of RoboRally, the fun and fast board game of robot combat, on a series of boards made into a giant floating cube.  Damn, this game was sweet, sweet joy to run and watch the players in.  I filled the entire game, and despite some misgivings and small fears on my part, it became clear during the playing that everyone “got” it, and had a great time getting it!  The only tough part was trying to get everyone’s moves done in a timely fashion.  There was a learning curve to figuring out how to navigate the corners and edges of the cube, as well as the cooperation of people on opposite sides of it to help move pieces.  Once all that was settled, the game went smoothly and I believe everyone had a great time!

What more can anyone ask for in a game other than a good time? Oh. Yeah. This:

Cubey Death

That's right. Roborally Cube before playing.

Thunderstone (Sunday Afternoon slot)

Okay. Nothing new here, except the new expansion, which was ballz awesome.  Not much else I can say about that.

In Conclusion…

Winter War 38 was totally awesome, and I can’t wait for next year!

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