Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Conquest San Francisco 2006 (Fri/Sat Report)

Well, it's been about a week and a half since I returned from Conquest SF over Labor Day weekend and I wanted to write down some of my thoughts and experiences for the 3 days I was there before they faded away. I was fortunate to be able to attend the con for most of the day Friday, and all day Saturday and Sunday (well, until about 8pm actually).

First off, I want to thank some of the Conquest staff for getting my Man O War game into the schedule at the last minute. I realized that I had missed the deadline for GM submissions a few days after the cutoff and I sent a frantic email to Kevin O Hare asking about the possibilty of squeezing me in somewhere. Kevin was very helpful and assured me it wasnt a problem and then put me in touch with Maksim-Smelchak who was in charge of the Fantasy/Sci Fi miniatures games. "Max" went above and beyond the call of duty to fit me into the Sunday morning schedule. When I showed up, he gave me one of the most prominent tables at the entrance and then even helped me arrange the tables to suit my needs. Max is a very friendly fellow and he has a great Blog of his own at 6mm Minis. Stop by, check it out and say hi. Finally I need to also thank Kevin Ellingson as he read about my scheduling issue at BGG and sent me a private email making sure someone had helped me. Thanks again Guys!

I also found the staff at Conquest to be very helpful and friendly, everyone seemed to be having fun keeping things organized and on time for those at the con. Unfortunately, my impression was that attendance was down a bit this year for reasons that may be simple to explain (or not). The most obvious one was the closure of the Bay Bridge for earthquake retrofiting over the weekend. This probably scared away many attendees from the east bay (and beyond) and I can think of quite a few regulars I know from those areas that were not in attendance.

The bridge closure is only part of it I suspect however and the rest is purely speculation as to what the cause(s) were. I heard several people complaining about the high price of getting a spot at the flea market ($20 for a 10'x10' area PER day). Several sellers commented on this being their last flea market if that was going to be the policy next year. The other was the auction. I may be wrong, but I heard that there was a bigger cut to the con for items sold than in previous years, which also steered several of my local gamers away from bringing things to sell at the auction. The overall impressionI got from those buying/selling at Conquest was that it was no longer desirable to do so and the con had been turned into a money making venture instead of a gaming venue.

In defense of Conquest however, I think that at least they have the seller's in mind when scheduling the flea market(s) (even if overpriced) as there was one every night, unlike KublaCon over Memorial Day weekend, which from some strange reason picked Friday nite (late) as the only time for a flea market. Their thinking was to "reward those that came to the con early" and give people a reason to show up on Friday. As a seller, I wouldn't have been too happy having a limited customer base on the slowest night of the con myself, and I told some Kublacon staff members that are friends about my opinion.

At any rate, the flea market had a decent turn-out and my friends sold almost everything they brought, I just think that some kind of multi-day discount would have gone a long way to mend some of the ill feelings I observed about the flea market policies. Was this a reason for low attendence however? I doubt it.

Regardless of how many people were there, I still had a great time. I've been going to gaming cons 3-4 times a year since the last few years of Pacificon at the Dunfy Hotel and I have made a lot of friends and gaming aqquaintances over these past 12 or so years. It is great seeing them in a familiar venue and catching up on what they've been up to since I last saw them. In fact, most of my Friday night was spent being social and wandering the con talking to people I knew. I can't recall playing a single game that night.

I do recall having some appetizers and drinks with my friends John (from Modesto) and Kris (who works up at the Lick observatory). We sat in the lobby and yapped and drank and ate for at least an hour and a half. Good stuff.

Friday was for socializing... Saturday was for some games!

Having already perused the dealer's room on Friday night, I didn't feel the need to be there right at 9am when they opened again so I was able to check out some of the games being played. The Miniature's room always has a treasure trove of things to see and today was no exception. For the history buff, there were games of Flames of War, Brother Against Brother, Tactica and Fire and Fury (among others), while the fantasy and sci-fi buff could get into games of Starguard, Full Thrust, Babylon 5, Star Blazer and a large Warhammer 40K Tournament. I missed most of the start times being a bit late in getting up so I headed down to the Boardgame room to see what was goin on there.

Brother Against Brother Miniatures on Saturday morning.

A beautiful set up for some winter action in a Flames of War game.

Boardgames take up much less space and consequently there were a lot more scheduled for Saturday am. I saw games of Age of Steam, World of Warcraft, Caylus, a Diplomacy Tournament, a Victory in the Pacific Tournament, Shadows Over Camelot, Wellington, an on-going drop in game of Down in Flames, Advanced Civilization, Command and Colors Ancients, an Axis & Allies Tournament, and the game I ended up starting with, Thurn and Taxis.

Two other BGG'ers were playing, (both named Greg if I recall correctly) . I had seen both of them at the various cons over the years and the 2nd Greg had played in the HUGE Starship Troopers Miniatures game I was in at KublaCon. I really enjoyed getting to know them a bit more and I had a lot of fun even though I was trounced. Thurn and Taxis is definately one of those games I want to play again as there is alot going on and many ways to score points. After this initial game, I gave up my spot to watch them (and two others) play a game of Reef Encounter. I have this game and have attempted deciphering the rules a few times, but it REALLY is much easier to learn this from someone who already knows the rules pretty well - which Greg #1 did.

Reef Encounter made sense after a few turns and I think I could now get the game out and muddle through it well enough. Unfortunately, I was supposed to meet some friends and I couldn't stay to watch the rest, but they were having a good time when I left.

It was now about noon and I was supposed to go to lunch with some other members of the Central Valley Wargamers in attendance. John's game of Victory in the Pacific was taking a bit longer than he had expected so I went upstairs to kill some time while I waited. I came across several cool games being played in the open gaming area in front of the registration desks.

First up was a game of Firefly- the RPG. The guy running it had a very cool set-up with props, sounds, music, detailed maps, a 3-d deck layout of Firefly and miniature terrain for the planet. My wife is a big Firefly fan and I know she would have enjoyed playing in that one. I saw them playing for at least 6 hours that day but I think it must have been more like 10. They were having a GREAT time and whenever I saw them I thought that that was what game conventions were all about... passion for the games you love. The Firefly GM obviously loved the show and the level of detail he went to for the enjoyment of his players was astounding. I'm sure the game was the highlight of the con for most of them.

The 2nd game I saw that blew me away was simply a boardgame. Not just any boardgame, but a game of War of the Ring... FULLY painted. I'm talking detailed painting too - authentic colors from the movie, washes, drybrushing, the whole nine yards. I have painted a lot of miniatures for Man O War and I can appreciate how long it must have taken them to paint all those. It was definately a labor of love for these guys, but you could see how much it increased their enjoyment of the game. Many people came by while I watched for a few minutes and commented on how cool it looked. I wish I had taken more than just a few pics of it.

This is a close-up of the fantastic War of the Ring game I saw being played. Those plastic miniatures don't come that way!

Actually there was a real cool 3rd thing too, The Battle of Squidway Island, a PIRATES! game by Flagship Games. Think "The Battle of Midway" with Dwaves, Orcs and Elves on large scale fantasy ships. This was both visually stunning and hilarious to watch. Check out these pics:

One of the Dwarf Carriers in The Battle of Squidway.

Dwarf carrier about to take a hit from a Goblin cannon.

One of the big Dwarf Battleships.

It's weird how time flies at the cons. One minute it was noon and I was just wandering about seeing all the cool things, the next it was almost 3:30 and John had finished his game. Bob (also from the CVW) joined us and we took a short walk down the street to The Elephant Bar for lunch and watched the planes land at SFO while we ate. I think Conquest is the best of the 3 major Bay Area Con's for local scenery - Kublacon is across the street btw , but you can't really see the bay or the airport at all.

Around 5:30 we headed back and realized it was nearly time for the Flea Market. John and Bob shared a booth and I helped them get set-up in the half hour we had. The Flea Market was fairly well attended and I picked up a bunch of stuff at fairly good prices.

We had all signed up to play in a Dune game at 7, but didnt make it in time because of the Flea Market. John and Bob went off to play other things and I hooked up with some other friends to play the classic Con game of all...Cosmic Encounter! Kevin had played before, but the two Andy's hadn't and I took a few minutes to teach them the game (I dont know what it was with all the double names in the games I played).

We used double powers (hidden until used) and ended up with a joint win between Andy 1 and I after 90 minutes or so. Feeling that they now had a good grasp of the game's possibilities, everyone wanted another game right away and we increased the number of Alien powers that were dealt to us to increase the chances to get some powers that would be really interesting. We got them!

If you have ever played CE before, you know that there are certain powers that are very powerful unless you have other powers to stop them. We had 2 of them. Void was picked by Andy 2 and he immediately started winning challenges and sending the rest of us to the Void. Luckily, Kevin had Silencer and used it effectively to limit Void's power as best he could. Andy 1 had Changeling which then confused matters more as he swapped for Void, who then swapped back as the game went on. My powers were Deuce (play a 2nd challenge card) and Sniveller (whine about being behind to catch up), which were fun, but not the kind of powers that the current owner of Changeling ever wanted. Ultimately, Void was in Andy 2's control most of the time and he and Kevin eventually made a deal to get a base for a base and win the game. The guys LOVED the game and asked me to bring it next time.

It was now about 11:30 and I wandered around the Con until about 12:15 before I headed up to the room to recharge for the night.

Overall, Saturday was a blast for me, not too many games played, but again, I hooked up with 3 different sets of friends and had a lot of fun. Sunday was to be my game of Man O War, and I'll detail that a bit more next time.

See ya at Dundracon!

1 comment:

MaksimSmelchak said...

Hi Scott,

Thanks for the compliment... glad you had a good time!

I pretty much agree with all of your points.