20 May 2014

Cangames 2014

The Victoria Day long weekend brings two elements.  First, it is the first, much appreciated, long weekend since Easter.  Easter's date is far too variable, occurring in March or April depending on the phase of the moon.  As a contractor who doesn't get paid vacation days, that long stretch of winter is a pain and the May long weekend is most welcome.  Second, it's the weekend of CanGames, Ottawa's gaming convention and oldest in Canada, and the one con that I make an effort to get to every year.

I arrived at the Rideau Curling Club at seven, running a bit late but still able to get to my first game.  The con's first games start at 2pm, but I must work, and work added complexity that prevented an early departure*.  This isn't normally a problem for my; I plan on starting in the Friday evening sessions anyways, and take early departures as a bonus.  I had pre-registered for Tom McCambley's Top Secret game, "Operation Jotunheim".  Top Secret was an early TSR role-playing game focusing on then-modern espionage instead of fantasy.  Characters could be from one of three branches; Investigation, Confiscation, or Assassination, and experience points were awarded according to branch.  I played Trine Austerhof, a Dutch agent from the Confiscation bureau, codenamed "Lupin".  Naturally, this meant I got involved in the first gunfight.  On the plus side, the Assassin was also there, but my goal was to get the hotel door open.

The wonkiness of the hand-to-hand combat also became apparent.  The game design of the early 80s usually resulted in separate mechanics for separate approaches.  Shooting a gun meant using a character's Offense value, modified by gun and range.  Physically smacking someone around involved charts.  The designer, Merle Rasmussen, was aiming for an air of realism tempered by what was shown in the spy movies of the Cold War era.  Mixing a gunfight with hand-to-hand weirds the game.  The end result was two of our target's minions dead, one of our Investigators badly wounded, and our Assassin roughed up.

Planning and taking out our first target took up most of the session.  The second part, the infiltration of a research facility and the theft of a quantum-entangled communications device.  The team was separated; four took the place of our first target and his minions while the other four took a van and the first target and raced over mountain roads to get as close as possible to assist in the exfiltration.  The lack of time** meant that we had to work together to come up with a narrative that allowed the teams to perform the theft and escape with no one the wiser.

Who knew there was an eight in the morning on Saturdays.  That's about when I was finally able to get out of bed and get out to the con.  And out to the con I had to go.  For my first game Saturday morning, I was the Gamesmaster.  However, one bus, mostly direct, gave me time to stop at a convenience store to get a bottle of Coke to sip on over the morning and still arrive with plenty of time to spare.

The 9am game I ran was FluxxFluxx is a deceptively simple game.  The basic rules are: Draw a Card, Play a Card.  Each card played, though, may change a rule, allow the person who played it to do something weird and wonderful, or change the conditions needed to win.  It's also a fast game; most games take from 30 to 45 minutes to play.  I didn't care about who signed up; my idea was that anyone could join or leave at anytime as needed.  Perfect for people running late to the con, and perfect for people who wanted to play something for a bit without having to commit to a full four hour slot.  I had players who were there for the entire time, players who had to leave early, and players who joined later.  Of all the Fluxx decks I had with me, with Stoner Fluxx being the only one left at home, only three decks were left untouched; basic Fluxx, Family Fluxx, and Cthulhu Fluxx.  Even the board game came out.

I ate during the Fluxx game, taking advantage of being close to the kitchen and avoiding the upcoming rush.  Afterwards, I talked with friends and got back into Tom's Top Secret game at 2pm.  He had made a few changes, starting after acquiring the first target.  For whatever reason, both tables wanted to interrogate the first target, who had never met the owner of the research lab.  Personally, I didn't feel he had any information we needed, especially after we hacked his accountant's laptop to get his Swiss bank account numbers.  I started feeling like Scott Evil; "Just shoot him already."  But, being the Canadian Investigator, codenamed "Drebin", I left it to the Assassin to deal with it.  This time around, the team didn't split up.  A team of five infiltrated, adding the fifth as the art expert.  We ran into the issue of the problem of stealing an item without causing the target to believe that there was a security issue.  We missed a few clues, though, about disloyalty in the ranks where we could have pinned the theft on an insider.  We were considering who to pin the job on with the other invitees.  Then things went south.  One of the invitees didn't recognize who we were supposed to be, having known the first target.  One gunfight on the ski slopes and one fist fight in the labs later, and we were running, though with the data needed to recreate the communication devices.

During the session above, I spotted two of my younger players from the morning Fluxx game showing their friends how to play their new copy of Pirate Fluxx.  You've done a great job of showing a game when you see a new player with her own copy teaching the game.  It helps that Fluxx is a fun game that can be easily replayed without getting dull.

Dinner was a chicken salad, which was dinner sized.  I had nothing planned for the last slot, the 7pm slot, but a couple of friends suggested getting into the Junta game.  One goal I have for CanGames is to try something new each year.  While I hadn't played Top Secret in a very long time, it still wasn't new.  Junta, though, was.  The goal of the game, which is a mix of boardgaming and RPG, is to lie, cheat, steal, and backstab your way while embezzling as much money as possible from an island dictatorship.  The winner is whoever manages to embezzle the most money into a Swiss bank account by the end of the game.  Very 80s, and the game was indeed released in 1985.  After El Presidente is elected, he gives out ministerial positions, then he promises budgets.  He can't renege on the amounts, but he can give more than promised.  Any budget left over goes into his pocket.  The other positions can vote the budget up or down, adding voter influence from cards drawn.  If the budget is voted down, the Minister of Internal Security can force the issue.  That same Minister can also target anyone he wants for assassination without needing a card.  Sadly, in the game I played, the Minister was also the most assassinated position.  There is irony there somewhere.  The table I was at had all rookies to the game.  Once we got past the learning curve, we got right into playing our parts.  Bad spanish accents were the norm.  Negotiations, pledges of fealty, assassinations, coups, everything came up.  The Admiral of the Navy and the Marshal of the Air Force, combined into one position because they have the most problems during a coup, became the kingmaker at times.  After all, when one has a gunboat and a Marine, one can shell whoever one wants and occupy a key building.

Alas, Sunday turned out to be a wash.  My body rebelled against me.  I woke up with a stiff neck, then developed a headache before I could roll out of bed.  I needed back pain reliever with Tylenol, which got fun to take as my stomach decided that anything inside might not remain.  I woke again at 11, having missed the morning slot.  I still got to the con by 12:30 and looked around the dealer's area.  I even picked up a pair of Imperial Aces for the X-Wing minis game.

Still feeling fuzzy, I wandered through the curling floor and found the Kanata Board Gamer's Club, where another friend*** was setting up Road Rally USA.  It seemed like it would be a fun game to try.  It was a fun game; the goal was to collect points along the way.  Finishing first gave a bonus, but getting to most of the markers along the way counted for far more.  Definitely a game I'll be looking for.  After that, Sentinels of the Multiverse, a superhero non-collectable card game.  Each player took the role of a hero, fighting together to defeat the villain.  The heroes Legacy, Tachyon, Bunker, and Tempest (that's me!) teamed up to defeat Omnitron, the rampaging robot, in the Ruins of Atlantis.  The great thing about the game is that it is cooperative.  The players work together to win as a team.  Tempest has a card, Vicious Cyclone, that allows everyone, not just him, to discard a card to deal damage to whichever non-hero target the Cyclone is attached to.  Tempest also took the most hits, but had some nice ongoing effects by the end of the game.  Omnitron, though, had repair drones, smaller robots that needed to be destroyed to prevent Omnitron's resurrection and healing.  Tachyon got the defeating blow in, after discarding a card to trigger the Cyclone and then smacking Omnitron several times to finish him.  But, without Legacy providing damage bonuses, we might have been smacked around instead.  I shall be looking for this game, too.

After Sentinels of the Multiverse, my stomach had had enough of the day.  I left, after taking time to sit and drink half a bottle of Coke, to find lunch.  When I wake up with a headache and nausea, chances are that I need to hydrate and eat.  I did stop for a light lunch before getting to CanGames, but it wasn't enough.  A leisurely second lunch at PizzaPizza helped immensely, allowing me to recover enough to get another Tylenol in me before catching a bus homeward.

Despite my body's annoying reactions to the lack of food, I enjoyed the weekend and will be going back.  Next year, the theme is Elements, and GMs are encouraged to work that into their games if possible.  I have a year to figure out a My Little Pony: Friendship is Wibbly-Wobbly game featuring the Elements of Friendship.

* Plus, I don't work the hours, I don't get paid for the hours.
** Each slot at CanGames is four hours, either from 9am to 1pm, 2pm to 6pm, or 7pm to 11pm.  Double-length slots are rare, though have been done in the past for massive miniature games.
*** I am amazed at the number of people I know at CanGames.

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