Sunday, February 12, 2006

OwlCon, re-visited

I went to Rice University today to do Cheapass Games board and card game demos. I had signed up for 2 four-hour sessions, with an hour break in between.

Summary: My morning session was great, and my second slot had everyone desert en masse.

In the morning, I ended up with at least one of Richard and Hilary Trapp's kids at my table. I've played lots of board games with them at a couple of different conventions. They taught me Apples to Apples, and Reiner Knizia's Gold Digger, and I was glad to be able to return the favor (plus everyone walked away with PRIZES, courtesy of the fine people at Cheapass Games). I also had one of my long-time fans, who's played in my games at every OwlCon I've been to. Rounding out the table: A weird guy! I also took on a walk-on guy halfway through the slot.

My friend and fellow Houston Gamer Amy Pike ran some Days of Wonder demos, and agreed to run another special session for some players who missed her Sunday morning session. I lost most of my afternoon set of players to her. One person signed up but never showed, and one guy wandered up, said he was trying to get into other events because they were better.

I also saw these two kids, a boy and a girl, maybe 8 and 10, whose dad was showing them around the convention. I ran into them 3 times at various places, and never managed to get them at a table. Kids that age can easily play and enjoy The Big Cheese, and I felt bad that they never seemed to get to sit down and join in.

After my second session completely faded into midair, I was left with an empty table. I ended up spending some time talking with Kevin Nunn and Lewis Wagner, saw Kevin Brusky demo an Order Of The Stick game that looked cool and had a lot of people interested, drifted around the dealers' room talking to the various people. Several of the game store owners know me and are cool.

I turned in my remaining prize support at the registration desk... which worked out nicely, since there was still a final Sunday afternoon session. I was free to roam! I got to try one of Kevin Nunn's prototypes, and played through a demo of Hunting Party, which seemed interesting, but not the game for me.

Kevin Nunn and Lewis Wagner found me at the Hunting Party booth, and convinced me to go learn how to play Age of Steam, which is quite involved. I know it's highly-rated on, and it's been on my list for a while. The time and complexity has been an obstacle before - I kept showing up at Houston Gamers meetings an hour after a game had started.

I dropped by the Days of Wonder demo game and gave my "missing" players some small freebies and tchotchkes.

Later on, I heard that my friend Larry, completely independently of me, ended up winning a series of Memoir '44 games run, I think, by an Army recruiter. He had already won a copy of Steve Jackson Games' SNITS!, a two-game-in-one-box reprint of a couple SJG classics, and when he went to claim a prize from the box, he was happy to learn that there was still a copy of Unexploded Cow for him. He had paid for a friend's admission as well, so Larry got his money's worth.

My final gamecount: Give Me The Brain Deluxe Edition, The Big Cheese, Unexploded Cow, Jacob Marley Esquire, Kevin Nunn's Hamster Race Prototype, Hunting Party, Age of Steam. Seven games today. Running total for the year: Gamecount = 29. Ohh, dang. I am pretty far behind.

New games learned: Kevin Nunn's Hamster Race Prototype, Hunting Party, Age of Steam. (Learned = 3). Running total for the year: 6.

Impressions: I can see why everyone likes Age of Steam - playing it is a brain-burning workout, but was fun somehow. Hunting Party seemed interesting, but at $40, there are better choices for me, at least so far.

Back when board games at OwlCon were mediocre and marginalized, the Houston Gamers stayed away to play at their really great venue that they were at every week. That was back when the Houston Gamers had a true every-week hangout, which isn't true anymore. The current multiple-location system prevents the overwhelming groupthink that kills innovation, I think.

I saw a lot of Houston Gamers today at OwlCon having fun running or playing games, so I think they're acclimated to the idea that OwlCon rules. If it had only free, up-close parking, it would basically be my idea of the perfect convention.

Steve Jackson himself was basically hanging out yesterday, and I am sorry I missed him. I've met him at other conventions and found him to be a neat guy who was fun to chat with. He was supposed to be testing Munchkin 3.

As a side note, there was a Munchkin game of some kind or another in every single slot in the convention. Every slot! It's an okay game, and a couple of the versions can be a lot of fun with the right group. It was nice to see lots of families out playing games together, and if Steve Jackson, or anyone else, helps them do that, more power/money to 'em.


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