Game and story-shaped designs
I was in Dallas this past Thursday through Sunday for BoardGameGeek.con, a fantastic board gaming convention. It was a smaller, more laid back type of con than your GenCon or ComicCon, with perhaps only 700 attendees.
I cajoled Cory into going at the very last minute, so he, Nukes, Majcher and I headed up there Thursday morning. The con was at the Westin near the airport. The only thing nearby was a Denny’s and a Shell station. That Denny’s must make bank as it was the only source of reasonably priced “food” within several miles, as we found out.
The con itself was spread out between a large ballroom, a smaller ballroom and an overflow room. Plus there was a foyer area and a games library. The games library was this heavenly wonderland where you could find every game you had ever heard of, no matter how rare or out of print. Games that would cost you $300 on eBay could be checked out and played, even taken up to your room overnight. That right there should tell you about the top shelf quality of people at this convention.
I got to see Mischa again! Mischa is a gaming dynamo. I came down one morning, at what I thought was an early time (maybe 7:30 or 8AM) to find Mischa embroiled in a game of Galaxy Trucker. He had gamed through the night with no signs of stopping. Later that afternoon, I began to suspect the use of illegal stimulants, or, at the very least, a clone. How could someone do this? The secret to his staying power was revealed a few days later, but I shall take it to my grave.
I had the most fun playing obscure games, out of print games or games designed by my friends. Kapitan Wackelpudding left a deep impression. Shipping a stack of coffins and video games to Dracula land is no easy task. Tales of the Arabian Nights stole my heart. It is a game I should have been playing during my childhood at the same time as Talisman or Cosmic Encounter. It is essentially a Choose Your Own Adventure board game with role-playing elements. Thankfully, Z-Man is coming out with a new version next June. I learned the ferocity of soccer moms vying for the best looking garden in Garden Competition.
I played Dan’s Monkey Lab again, outwitting my opponents. I also had a chance to play Majcher’s Honeypot, which is a brilliant abstract strategy game. I was also delighted by his prototype of Fluffy Bunny Tea Party. It involves bunnies sitting around eating cakes, drinking tea and being horrifically polite to each other. Dan sold out of Chains of Fenrir, Majcher sold out of Honeypot and Ian sold out of Taktika. We were all really happy for Ian. He walked around in this kind of daze, unprepared for how well his game would be received.
I brought 12 units of House of Whack and managed to sell 6 of them! At first I was really overwhelmed. I felt kind of stunned by what it was I was trying to do and a deep terror grabbed hold of me. I didn’t think anyone was going to like my game. I wanted to give up and run far away. But on the morning of the flea market, I went down to the show room, claimed half a table, and set up a display for House of Whack. When the browsers flooded in like a Zerg rush, I kept my head and hyped the game to everyone who came by. My very first sale was to Aldie, one of the guys in charge of the convention. That was cool.
Friedemann Friese, a famous game designer was there as the guest of honor. He hung out and played games with everyone like a regular guy. You could always spot him in the room due to his shock of bright green hair. He always looked like he was searching for something, entering a room, head craning about, trying to spot something just out of view. I talked with him about what it was like when he had finished his first game and he said that he felt like he had no idea what he was doing, but, after the first game, nothing else quite gives you the same feeling. I get that.
Sunday morning found us packing up our massive hauls of treasure gleaned from the math trade and the flea market. If I had an extra $100 (and more trunk space), I would have matched Jake and Jen’s impressive finds. I think they got Arkham Horror and Descent for $40 total. Nice.
And then we came back to Austin.
Today I enjoyed a rare treat. I recently learned that a friend of a friend had a copy of Talisman, the board game which inspired me to become a graphic artist. As a kid, I was in love with this game and I made all kinds of cards and house rules for it. But my friends always teased me about my scribblings on index cards. I learned to draw and eventually make computer art so I might one day make better cards.
So today a bunch of people came over to play Talisman. I hadn’t seen it in about 15 years and it was a tear-inducing experience to hold this near mint copy in my hands. I remembered the rules like I had played it yesterday.
Talisman had a powerful influence on House of Whack and it was neat to see some of the cards and compare them to their House of Whack counterparts. As I sat there playing, I remembered being a kid and coming up with new cards and new rules and eventually coming up with a whole new game. And I realized that House of Whack is a million times better than Talisman. I’ve essentially created a game for people who enjoyed Talisman when they were kids but now want something more. I think those people will appreciate the homage. Still, House of Whack makes Talisman look like Candyland.