I spent yesterday at the home of my former WotC co-workers Gwen Kestrel and Andy Collins for their annual “GwenCon” event. This is a weekend long mini-convention (with formal events, registration, and the whole shebang) slanted towards industry folk in the area. It’s a good excuse to see old friends and play lots of games in a relaxed atmosphere. I’d guess at least 50 people came through over the course of the day and there were games going on in every room of the house, including a walk-in closet. Our hosts provided us with drinks, snacks, lunch, and dinner. All in all, a fun affair and I’m glad I had a chance to go. I was there from noon until midnight and in that time got to play:

·Betrayal at the House on the Hill: This is one of the newer Avalone Hill titles, a horror-themed board game with a mid-game twist. The players are characters exploring a supposedly haunted house. You lay tiles as you explore the house, creating its geography while finding items, experiencing omens, and triggering events. At a certain point in the game, the omens overtake you and one of the players is revealed to be a traitor. The fun bit is that there are 50-odd different evil plots and which one you trigger depends on the final omen and where it occurred. This gives the game quite a bit of replay value. The traitor player goes off and reads about his evil plan and resources, while the remaining players get some info and can try to plan counter-strategies. The rest of the game pits the traitor and his minions vs. everyone else. We played two games and the end games of each were quite different. The “good guys” won the first game, but the traitor got us all in the second.

·Live Action Robo Rally: Jennifer Clarke Wilkes pulled out all the stops for this event. She created a Robo Rally board that took up the entire backyard using artificial turf, tape, traffic cones, and paper plates. She had gotten big blow-ups of the robot ID cards done up at WotC on their large format printers and we hung these around our necks. Each had five card sleeves attached down the bottom to slot in our cards each turn as we programmed ourselves. Jennifer even provided a laser pointer for each of us, so we could shoot other players with our laser attacks. She then adjudicated the whole thing, as we “robots” tried to navigate the board in a race to the three traffic cones. I think 8-10 people cycled through by the end of the game and it was a lot of fun.

·Axis & Allies Miniatures: Sparky had the contents of two starter sets for us to work with, so we gave the game a shot when a table opened up. It’s a pretty simple game and it was easy enough to pick up but I was lukewarm on it. Because it’s collectible, you can end up with weirdly random and a-historical forces. My German force, for example, had only one rifleman. The rest was made of specialist troops like machine teams, tanks, and anti-tank guns. I may want to try it out with a better selection of minis, but I suspect it won’t hold much interest for me except as a quickie beer and pretzels type game. If it serves to introduce a bunch of new people into historical minis gaming though, that’ll all be for the good.

·Secret Playtest: After dinner James Ernest taught me a new game he’s working on and we playtested it with Tim Beach and an attendee I didn’t know. Since it’s still under development, I can’t say much about it except it was fun and has potential.

·World of Warcraft RPG: I ended the evening with a roleplaying session GMed by James Wyatt. He was running White Wolf’s World of Warcraft RPG, which is a variant of the D&D; rules. I haven’t played the computer game and I expected I’d be the only one. Amusingly, only one guy besides James had played it though, not that this mattered in the slightest. It was a big dungeon bash and I played a dwarf fighter with some funky war cry abilities. Whacking up on some demons and nagas was a fine way to end the evening.

It was nice to have a chance to just sit around and play some games. Robo Rally I had played before, but everything else was new to me. My only regret is that I didn’t get a chance to talk to many of the folks there because I was jumping from game to game. But hey, that’s what parties are for. This was a con.

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