Gaming Night in Canada: The Gen Con Thing

By Todd Secord

Ah, Gen Con!  Fabulous time of the year for all things gaming and geeky, my friends.  In past years, Gen Con was a working vacation for all of us here at Fiery Dragon.  Not long ago we’d truck down from Canada with smiles on our faces and a song in our hearts, as evident from the picture below…

From the start of the D20 OGL, and our first product NeMoren’s Vault, we’ve been using Gen Con as an excuse to have a good time.   Whether in those final years in Milwaukee, or the last 10 years in Indianapolis, we’ve broken bread, ate, drank, laughed, and drunkenly stumbled into some pretty cool stuff.  BUT more importantly, somewhere between the Hyatt, the convention hall,  jumbo shrimp dipped in crazy sinus-raping horseradish, and a whole lotta Tequila and Gin, we somehow made some pretty cool friends as well.

As you first look at the following picture, the label “Elite Fighting Force” likely comes to mind…

Although they may look like trained killers, what we’re really doing here is gearing up for some Rock Bottom, Chicken Fried Chicken.  At the far left is our main man, Claudio Pozas,  artist extraordinaire for our counter products, and on the other end, our other main man, and an actual trained killer, black belt and game design guru, Scott.  Back in the day this would be an example of us making friends.

Now-a-days, with the American economy being what it is…or was (we hope), our trips to Gen Con are more civilian-like, more touristy, more GAMER! There’s no booth, but we’ve been bringing The Crew instead to share in all the crazy fun…

Last year, we discovered something about American History that modern culture is only really delving into now – that Abe Lincoln is a wicked awesome ass-kicking icon of geekdom.  Maybe around Maryland he’s a Vampire Hunter, but in Indiana he’s worshiped as a Hobbit.  Seriously, how many societies can this guy not free?

Two of our favourite strongholds while in Indy are the Rock Bottom for food, and for drink, Nicky Blaine’s.  Nicky’s has become so near and dear to us that sometimes we forget that we’re in Indy for a gaming convention at all, focusing rather on the great, great atmosphere that the coolest bar we know offers.  It is there that much of our Gen Con lore has been forged, a Canadian vanguard that revels in the soft glow of American liquor laws.

Meanwhile, at the Convention…

The Dealer’s Hall for us has become an arena where the opponent is self-restraint.  It becomes a battle of attrition that is waged between our powers of observation and the accessibility of whatever form of currency is in our wallets.  Only a champion knows to spend beyond his means.  In this sense we are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes; yes, we are The Avengers, this reference being eerily accurate if not timely.  And I do have the Blu-ray.

I think one of my favourite moments happened on the last day.  We were in the dealer’s hall as usual, scanning the situation for any last minute deals and bits of coolness that may have escaped us. Suddenly, we snapped out of our daze long enough to realize that we had lost Mario.  Although he was missed, we continued with our shopping.  It’s a good thing too because moments later Rob had purchased a game called FLASHPOINT, and, as usual, the guy who sold it to Rob saw the leaking drool from his mouth and deftly pounced, selling him 2 other games as well.

Then Rob’s phone rang and it was Mario.  Ironically, despite the fact that the rest of us had been throwing money around like monkey stock brokers on a coke binge, Mario had yet to spend a dainty little cent on anything.  Well, apparently, that had changed drastically while we weren’t looking and now Mario had removed himself from the convention hall.  Cold and shivering in the street, unsure as to what to do next, Mario had clearly gone bye-bye, desperately calling Rob for the reassurance that spending a ridiculous amount of money on Steam Punk attire was, indeed, ok.  Both Rob and I fielded the call, showing restraint in the face of our friend’s apprehension, and preceded to do what any good friend would do – we convinced him to come back to the hall and spend more money.  Little did we suspect that Mario was harboring a “thing” for Steam Punk stuff.  Little did we realize just how expensive that stuff is.  And yet, leading him from Steam Punk booth to Steam Punk booth, suggesting a pair of customizable goggles to go with his newly purchased top hat, or trying to convince him that if he buys the replica hold-out musket pistols, he can have them shipped back to Canada rather than risk the twitchy border, we embraced Mario’s new found super fucked-up hobby in the spirit of geekness found around the world – that no one shall be judged because, who the hell are we to judge?

Heck, it even suits him.

As for gaming, we really didn’t hit the gaming halls this year.  In fact, we thought it would be way cooler to find a comfortable little nook in a hotel lobby and game there.  Sounds fabulously hot, I know, but this is Gaming Night in Canada, and we go where we fucking please.  This particular night, Scott had a couple of buddies, Chris and Gord, join us from Canada who were drinking buddies of ours from one of our first Gen Cons that we had attended as Fiery Dragon many, many, many moons ago.  It was great to see them!  Seeing as James was off play testing Numenera with Monte, it was a lot of fun to hook up The Crew with the aforementioned Canadian buddies, and our good time friend Rich, and play some Crazy ass 4th Edition madness.  Check it.

I found myself breaking out a fresh set of pink dice that I had just purchased as a gift for my girlfriend that day.  Aside from the fact that I was playing pink dice, I knew that she was going to get upset that I opened her gift ahead of time.  I get her point, but they killed a boat load of goblins that night, so, go pink!!

All in all, a very enjoyable game, and a cozy warm-up before we headed over to Nicky Blaine’s and tore shit up.

The very last night of the weekend was spent quiet time with yet another one of our most excellent friends, Steve.  This was the night that we first broke out FLASHPOINT.  If you’re not familiar, it’s a co-operative board game where you play fire fighters tackling a fire.  Each player is a specialist within your team of firefighters as you all put your heads together to get the most out of each player’s turn.  Efficiency is a factor because the rules for fire spreading can be downright bitchy – right when you think you have it under control, you could suffer a chemical explosion and have the fire race through the entire building.

This is a great game.  We played it 3 times that night for its addictive quality.  Because we’re all big shot game designers and publishers, we insisted on playing FLASHPOINT on its hardest “setting” and repeatedly found ourselves going up in flames despite our collective greatness.  But we didn’t feel cheated.  We really liked the rules on how the fire could ignite and worsen.  We liked what each of the specialists could do, and we liked that smart team play was rewarded.  I personally love games where you’re playing against the board, and for FLASHPOINT you can flip the board over in order to play a second scenario.  That and all the various difficulty settings makes replay value high.  All in all, we thought it was very cool.  A week later in Canada, we played it again with all our wives and girlfriends who also found it a lot of fun.  So, a Cheers to FLASHPOINT.

I should also proudly plug our own SMOKEJUMPERS game found on this very website.  It’s similar to FLASHPOINT in that you play against the board, but where FLASHPOINT focuses on structural fires, SMOKEJUMPERS is about fighting forest fires.  Yeah, it’s awesome too.

Once we got back to Canada, it was off to Fan Expo the next weekend, and it was just as crazy big and packed like it’s grown to be over the years.  Being a guest of the convention, our buddy Monte Cook followed us back to Canada to trade in his Starbucks for a good ol’ Tim Horton’s (but we’ve got Starbucks too). FanExpo caters to everything nerd; horror, gaming, comics, movies, and anime.   My only advice concerning FanExpo would be this:  Don’t think you’re being all Johnny Cool by buying your girlfriend a pink Catwoman T-shirt as a surprise geek gift only to have a little too much to drink at the Hard Rock, then lose its bag on Yonge Street, spend a half an hour re-tracing your steps coming up empty handed, just to be late for diner reservations.  In that scenario, nobody, and I mean nobody, wins.

Needless to say, the whole experience was overwhelmingly geek, way too much time to play with, and downright cool.   I would like to say thanks again to Monte, Shanna, Rich, Steve, Scott, Claudio, Aaron, Chris, Gord, all the significant ladies in our lives, members of The Crew that stayed back in Toronto, and the guy who played the Cleric during True Dungeon.  See you next year y’all!

Next:  Dorky Must Have Dice Towers and Halloween approaches!

Posted in BLOGS, Todd Man Out