The Embarrassment of Being a “Gamer”

Metro: 2033 was an Xbox game I played last year and enjoyed. I’ve been wanting to get its sequel, Metro: Last Light for some time. I’m not so sure I still want it, though. One of the complaints I had about Metro: 2033 was that this post-apocalyptic world was seemingly woman-free. Everyone I interacted with was a man or a monster (in fact, sometimes I wonder if the “men” were…worse than the “monsters”! There were no women at all who I spoke with or even shot. That just seemed weird to me, and I hoped it would be addressed in Last Light. Turns out, it was!

In Last Light you get to go to a post-apocalyptic strip club and have a no-doubt strong and empowered female character give you a topless lap dance! Progress!

I found this out when I watched the latest in Anita Sarkeesian’s “Tropes vs Women in Video Games” series. It’s the second part of a look at women used as background decoration in games, where female characters serve no purpose beyond sexual titillation or gruesome murder victims. Or, often, both at the same time.

I’ll be honest, I’ve played and enjoyed some videogames that had some distressing material in them. Probably the most notable is Red Dead Redemption, which took some time out from sending wolves after me to threaten an actually up until that moment pretty decent female character with rape and to send me to a nearly game-ruining racist caricature of Mexico for its entire second act. The game I’m currently playing, Dishonored, seems to be wanting to fill a Sarkeesian bingo card with its portrayal of women. It’s maddening and insulting.

Fortunately for me, I’m a straight white guy. I can point these things out and the worst I’ll be called is a faggot or “white knight”. For Anita Sarkeesian and other women who dare to do the same, they get hatred, vitriol, rape threats, and death threats. For some reason merely bringing the subject up is perceived as a call to arms for a certain section of the gamer audience if the messenger is a woman. As Darryl Ayo put it,

It doesn’t seem like it should be that controversial to ask why a videogame needs to be advertised with a photo of a dead woman wearing lingerie with her legs spread apart, but apparently doing so gets some people just poison mad.

I’m assured it’s only “some people” by folks who argue that this bunch is only a small yet vocal minority and don’t represent “gamer culture” as a whole, yet those extremists are not operating in a vacuum. The crux of Sarkeesian’s argument is that the games themselves — the vast majority of them — either ignore women altogether or include them solely as property, toys, or prizes for being the manliest man (it’s quite telling that the endless parade of prostitutes shown in the videos all have the same line: that for you, the player, they’ll give a free sample because you’re such an Adonis). Her claims are that this creates an environment which is hostile to women. Sarkeesian isn’t pointing out problems in the hooligans that are threatening her, she’s pointing out systemic issues within the entire industry, and she makes a convincing point.

This allegedly vocal minority seems to think that games exist solely for them, and that anything which threatens their hegemony must be viciously opposed. This is Sarkeesian’s actual point, that the console videogame industry is by and large a place by men and for men. It seems clear that the assholes aren’t the sole problem, they’re the most visible signs of the problem. They were created by an industry that caters to them and a community that allows them to grow and fester unchallenged in their anonymous comment pools.

To deny that the vile children who want the world to conform to their immature tastes are representative of the larger gaming environment is to ignore the vast number of incidents that are regularly reported from events like PAX, from sites like Kotaku, and from the releases from the companies themselves. You can’t look at a parade of scenes from AAA titles all featuring prostitutes cooing at the protagonist and/or lusciously draped female corpses and say there’s no pattern here. The stories of a woman who dared to have an opinion about videogames (or exist in that world) being harassed and hounded are so common and prevalent that the reaction isn’t “what happened?” but “what happened this time?” This Sarkeesian situation followed hot on the heels of the Zoe Quinn situation, where a legion of male gamers have felt the need to defend the “integrity” of “game journalism”, which is akin to defending the intellectual foundations of the Tea Party.

These are not the actions of a small, embittered minority. This shit goes on too often and to too much of an extent to just wave away with #NotAllGamers. The game releases are tilted towards a stunted, juvenile sort of heterosexual male, as is the marketing and the discussion. Anonymous, unmoderated comment sections give an unchallenging echo chamber for these degenerates to grow and flourish, eventually bursting to release their toxic spores elsewhere. And meanwhile the same people who demand that videogames be treated as art get angry when its critiqued as just that, limply replying that it’s just a game, just for entertainment, don’t get so upset, as though “art” means something is just admired and respected and never ever questioned or challenged.

The fact that “Mature” rated videogames feature nothing actually mature, just titties and cussing, shows that the industry needs to work on its idea of maturity. Not catering to and acting like 13 year old boys would be a good first step.

I’ll pass on Metro: Last Light. I don’t need to be a party to, “Oh, you want women in this story? FINE, here’s some strippers and prostitutes.” Don’t save the last lap dance for me.

Posted in Videogames | Tagged , , ,

Imperial Settlers: An Apple With a Razor Blade Inside

The game I was most looking forward to at Gen Con was Imperial Settlers, the new game from Ignacy Trzewiczek. Not only is he a designer whose games I like, Imperial Settlers is a lighter, cleaner version of The New Era, one of my favorite games. It was designed to take the core tableau-building concept from The New Era and make it more streamlined and accessible, shedding the dismal post-apocalyptic theme in the process.

As a result you have the box cover above, in which a jolly little guy and his dog caper under the marshmallow title. That’s a major difference from the Neuroshima universe of The New Era. This continues on the cards, full of roly-poly little cute citizens inhabiting the Roman, Barbarian, Japanese, and Egyptian worlds. The worker tokens are plump little pink figures, “food” is represented by charming red apples, and even the raze tokens, which are swords, have a chunky cartoony look to them.

Yes, raze tokens. As in razing something to the ground. Because you’re going to be doing that. You’re going to be attacking your opponents’ tableaus and hoping you’re wrecking their plans and bringing ruin to their nation. Imperial Settlers is like one of those adorable red apples, only filled with razor blades. If you prefer your games to be ones where you try to build the best civilization in order to win a ribbon from the magistrate, you might want to pass it by.

just hell of apples up in this piece

Be aware, this game is more confrontational than it appears on the surface. It also has a thing where, to build most faction buildings you have to get rid of an already built building. A lot of players don’t like this because they want all their stuff to last forever, and you’re not always getting a direct upgrade (i.e., trading a building that produces one food for one that produces two). You also get resources by razing cards out of your hand or making deals with them, which means having to give up a potentially good building later for a stone now, and that seems to bug some folks. Your settlement will change. Cards will come and cards will go, sometimes through the actions of others and sometimes through your own.

I’m not going to go into the rules, but there are some details to know. There are four factions, and they are not identical. Your settlement will consist of two types of cards: common cards, drawn and drafted from a single deck, and faction cards, which are specific to that faction. Faction cards usually require destroying one of your own buildings (probably a common one) as part of their cost. In addition to what the buildings do as themselves, common cards can be razed to provide one-time resources and faction cards can be used as “deals” that provide ongoing resources. Cards that can be razed can be razed from your hand (for one raze token) or from other players’ tableaus (for two or more), and in the latter case the victim receives a wood token and flips the building over, allowing it to still be used as a foundation for a faction building. At the end of the game common buildings are worth one point, faction buildings are worth two. Both types of buildings generate resources or victory points during the game.

From what I have seen so far in my plays, the Romans are about building synergy; they have a lot of buildings that work together to score big points. Barbarians do a lot with workers and generate tons of them. When they get going, they are all about razing. Japan has a weakness in that its faction buildings can also be razed, but it can deploy workers as samurai to protect them. Egypt has a lot of just straight up VP point buildings.

Whenever a game has asymmetric factions, there are immediate complaints about balance, and Imperial Settlers already has been accused of having overpowered factions. It’s true that each of the factions has some buildings that are powerful. For example, Japan and Rome each have cards that can take out any opponent building. They’re not completely unstoppable, as they are a little expensive to use and can only be used once per turn (of 5 turns). Egypt has a building that “steals” buildings from others for the round (again, once per turn). I’m not sure what the Barbarians’ killer card is. They seem fairly well balanced, but here’s the catch: it’s one card out of a deck of 30, and you aren’t going to draw a ton out of that deck. So if someone else gets their biggie and you never see yours, I suppose there’s a chance for some balance issues.

Romans gonna Rome

I’ve only played 4p games twice now, but in each one the killer card didn’t win as much as building synergy did. You want to get your faction buildings built, period. They’re where the points are. In my most recent game, I was Japan and did really well and never used my killer building. Rome lagged behind and then got its faction buildings going and zoomed past everyone. But Egypt took it and only built their big building at the end and used it once. Egypt got a lot of its faction stuff built, allowing it to combo into tons of points. (When I won as Rome, Egypt was my big threat and I *did* use the Engineers to take out its point-generating cards.)

I do have a couple of complaints. The card text and icons are tiny, which is a problem considering you will want to know which of your opponent’s cards across the table you hate the most. Thematically, some of the factions don’t really add up for me. The Romans can store raze tokens while the Barbarians can store workers. That seems opposite to me, though I guess I can see the argument for how they are. Some of the card names are misleading: there’s a “Wood Storage” building that does not, in fact, store wood.

On the other hand, it’s nice to have a New Era-type game that is easy to teach and plays briskly. The design has some great elements, including a clever method for guiding you on how to arrange your tableau. The artwork is delightful, and the rulebook, unlike many of Portal’s previous releases, is well done.

I’m only a few games in and already I’m a fan. Although I prefer the grit and depth of The New Era, I feel there’s definitely a place for Imperial Settlers on my shelf. I’m looking forward to getting new factions to play with.

You’re going to have to make some tough choices in this game, and you’re going to have some of them made for you when your opponents decide to come wreck your stuff. That little guy on the cover isn’t coming to give you a hand, he’s coming to beat you with his shovel. Don’t let the fluffy package fool you; this kitten has claws.

Posted in Boardgames | Tagged ,

I Got a Bad Case of The Star Wars

Long time Star Wars fans know that George Lucas didn’t start messing with the movies in 1997, he had been messing with them for years before and after the original movie debuted. Indeed, the 1977 movie was a moment trapped in time like an icicle in the sun, not the same as a moment ago, not the same as a moment from now.

We all know what happened to the movie afterwards, but until recently what happened to it before was open to some speculation. Various early drafts and fragments popped up, often of dubious provenance, but enough was there to know that the concept underwent many drastic changes as Lucas tinkered with it.

Now Dark Horse comics has released, “The Star Wars”, a graphic novel based on “the original outline” for Star Wars. I finished it last night and let me tell you, it is something else.

Like a game of telephone, there are some original elements, but they’ve been greatly distorted. You have Artoo and Threepio, though the former has little arms and can talk. You have Han Solo and Chewbacca, though one is tall and green and the other is Chewbacca. Also they don’t know each other. The Death Star is here, and so is Darth Vader, except he’s not the Sith Lord in the mask, that’s a different guy. Princess Leia is still the only woman in the entire cast, and she doesn’t do much of anything.

Other familiar elements are peppered into the work. You’ll recognize names of people and places, though in different contexts. Some plot elements show up again, such as the trash compactor and the cantina. There are lines of dialog that even survived the trip from this draft to the final one. (It helps that the artist, Mike Mayhew, fits in familiar items when they are functionally equivalent to later hardware.)

The thing that stands out the most, however, is how terrible this thing is. The plot is confusing, with the heroes constantly going from place to place with no seeming plan. The heroes themselves are confusing, with four similarly named and looking white guys all running around challenging you to tell them apart. The bad guys, too, are overstaffed, with at least three different ones all serving the same purpose and having interchangeable lines. Absolutely none of the characters have any personality whatsoever. The nature of the threat is never clear; Aquilae seems to be the only planet holding out against the Empire, but they aren’t really too alarmed about it. The dialogue is filled with oddball pseudo-military jargon that does the opposite of what it seems like Lucas thinks it does.

What “The Star Wars” reminds one of the most is not Star Wars but The Phantom Menace and its disjointed, half-baked plot and shallow, lifeless characters. It’s a story of exposition with no heart at the center of it.

“What happened to George Lucas?” fans said after the original trilogy finished. He was silent for a long time, then returned with the much-maligned special editions, and then put out the Prequels, which left a lot of people baffled as to how the same person could have cranked out such tone-deaf junk. Speaking for myself, the more Star Wars there was in the years after 1991, when Heir to the Empire, the first of the new books came out, the less interested I became, to the point where I’m now satisfied with the first movie and don’t care much about any of the rest. What “The Star Wars” shows us is that what happened to George Lucas was that he got very, very lucky with the 1977 movie, largely due to the influence of his then-wife Marcia Lucas, who helped edit it. Every single wrong turn that Lucas made since then is evident in “The Star Wars”; it was all right there from the beginning. Very briefly there was a person who could tell him “no” who he’d listen to, who turned his ideas into a coherent, entertaining movie.

George Lucas has always reinvented this story, as well as the stories about this story. At one point it was a “trilogy of trilogies”, though that was then retconned into there always being just six movies. It was always about Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, who was always Luke’s father, even though there is plenty of evidence of that not being true, as well as Leia being Luke’s sister. All the fans knew of “The Journal of the Whills” and “Luke Starkiller” and such, but what “The Star Wars” reveals is that Star Wars itself was the outlier, a movie that just happened to be fun and captivating despite, not because of its creator’s vision.

So thank you, Marcia Lucas, for helping to give me a movie I truly love.

Posted in Comics, Movies | Tagged

I Had That! #27: Dark Tower

Last week’s edition of “I Had That!” was pre-empted for Gen Con, a huge boardgaming convention. I’ve been playing boardgames for almost all of my life, and this is a good time to talk about two notable ones.

The first is Dark Tower. There are things kids want, and then there are things kids will beg and plead for, offering all sorts of bargains and extra chores and sacrifices to get. Dark Tower was the latter. It was as pricey as an electronic, computer-controlled boardgame would have been in 1981, but to a 13-year old, it was so very worth it.

It was an epic game. You searched the lands for three keys that would allow you to enter the eponymous tower, all the time building up your soldiers for the final battle and food to feed them. The computer, which was housed in the large plastic central tower, kept track of it all, spinning wheels with pictures on them that showed what was going on and playing sound effects and music. It was advanced for 1981, and there’s no boardgame like it on the market today, 33 years later.

We played the hell out of this thing, and I loved every single bit of it. Not just the tower, but the plastic buildings that fit into the board, the pegboards that you kept track of supplies on, the plastic dragon, it was all amazing to me.

Alas, my Dark Tower suffered the fate of many electronic devices back then: being stored with batteries in it, which ruptured and corroded, destroying the tower. No tower, no game. Much later in life I found two copies at tag sales that I was able to combine into a single working copy. However, the lure of cash was too much and I ended up Ebaying it.

One thing that helped Dark Tower was the incredible artwork, done by Bob Pepper. His artwork also showed up in another Milton Bradley game, Dragonmaster.

This was a trick-taking game with oversized, lavishly illustrated cards and cool interlocking plastic gems. It was a gorgeous looking object and I found the rules of play to be absolutely impenetrable. I never played it a single time. I was fascinated by the art, though, and I thought the Runesword was just the coolest thing ever. I didn’t play it, but I still remember it fondly. Now that I know and enjoy trick-taking games, I’d love to get another copy of it. (It’s based on a game called Coup d’Etat, which I do have a copy of but come on, I want those great cards!)

When did I get it? Both of these came out in 1981, so probably around then.

Do I still have it? I don’t have Dark Tower at all, or any of the Dragonmaster cards. I do, however, still have two of the red plastic gems from Dragonmaster.

Posted in Boardgames | Tagged

This Delicious Week

Shared bookmarks for delicious user

Posted in Delicious

Thoughts on Ferguson

The situation in Ferguson, MO, has gotten incredible. What started as a tragic and calamitous incident has blown up into a firestorm of jaw-dropping outrageousness. At every single decision point the authorities in the city opted to take a path of ridiculous escalation, as though doubling down on their original missteps would somehow justify these ill-advised decisions. The actions of the police in Ferguson have blown up and they’ve come to unfortunately be taken as representatives of police throughout the country.

I grew up in New Orleans in the 80s, so I know what a corrupt, racist, and abusive police force looks like. Despite being a white middle-class suburban kid who didn’t drink or smoke pot, I was pulled over and hassled by cops who flat-out told me they picked me because I was a “college kid” with a WTUL bumper sticker and therefore a good target. I read the newspaper reports of the things they did to people who weren’t as white as I was and it was appalling. At the time it was one of the worst departments in the country. I got just a tiny taste of it, but enough to know it was much worse for other people. At the time I remember thinking that I would rather pay the Mafia for protection because hey, at least if you pay them, they leave you alone.

Despite my and my friends’ experiences with Louisiana cops, I didn’t grow up despising the police. On the contrary, when I moved here and became best friends with a cop I got to see that side of the experience. I know it’s a difficult, stressful, and thankless job, trying to keep safe a community that has nothing good to say about you. I now have a nephew and other friends who are police officers and I want them to be able to help people and stay safe.

I want to say that the problem in Ferguson is not cops per se, but a specific group of cops who seem to have lost their fucking minds. Hopped up on authority, fear, and a ton of surplus unnecessary military hardware they have cast themselves in some kind of action movie video game where only bigger and bigger guns can keep back the subhuman plague. LARPing as soldiers but with more weapons and less training than the real thing, they are doing everything they can to look ridiculous and appalling to everyone except the white people who are also terrified of angry black people. I want to say that but I know that there are plenty of folks out there who know that Ferguson could be their own community, given just the right spark to ignite it.

The attitude of the authorities in Ferguson is disgusting, as already thinly-veiled racial disgust has bubbled up to the surface. Yet it continues to manifest itself proudly and defiantly, as if wanting to use that old racist chestnut, “we’re just doing what everyone is thinking”. What worries me is not that only a small percentage of the Ferguson police department is non-white, but that an even smaller percentage has opted out of participating in this act of besieging their own town. It’s difficult to imagine what endgame they see to this situation, where they think the city and its police force can go from here.

We don’t yet know what actually happened with Michael Brown. Stories are circulating that sound dubious at best. The story on the police department’s side — which has changed repeatedly — is supposedly confirmed by witnesses, an odd attempt to validate it considering no one there was interested in talking to several witnesses who were there at the shooting when it happened (and who told a different story). It remains to be seen if the FBI can piece together a reasonable narrative at this point. I suspect it was, as these things often are, a case where something dumb escalated into stupid violence, resulting in a situation neither side wanted. But again, as before, the seemingly deliberate choice to choose the explosive, aggressive path every time led us to where we are now.

We keep hearing how the police in Ferguson are disobeying the number one rule of the firepower they wield: do not point a gun at someone unless you’re willing to shoot them. Based on what we’re seeing, they aren’t breaking this rule; they very much are willing to shoot their own citizens. These are no longer police, and police officers should not be rallying around them. They are an embarrassment to their badges, thugs and bullies and fascists, exactly the image they are usually trying to dismiss. No amount of looting, of which there was not much, can justify the mentality of these people. This is a perversion of their sworn duty.

It should also be noted that this situation — men from the government trampling on the rights of citizens with only guns and badges to support their side — is exactly the nightmare scenario the NRA types regularly trot out to explain why they need to own a closet full of semiautomatic rifles. This is why dozens of them went to the Bundy Ranch earlier this year and set up snipers against government agents. Yet in this case they are nowhere to be seen, their voices unheard. Why do you think that is?

Whenever an Islamic organization or individual does something awful there is a chorus of people demanding that the reasonable Muslims (as though doubting even the existence of such people) loudly denounce them. I don’t think this sentiment is necessarily wrong, and I’d say this is a good opportunity for police officers in America to distance themselves from the fascists in Ferguson. I understand why they might not want to do so, but hope they understand why those soldier wannabes in the above photo are making their job more difficult and thankless.

I don’t know the way out of Ferguson from here, and I’m afraid, literally, that it’s only going to get worse.

Posted in Politics | Tagged

Gen Con 2014!

This weekend I went to Gen Con, the hugenormous gaming convention in Indianapolis. I flew into Champaign and rode there with Dave T., who was a veteran.

It was…it was somewhat overwhelming. Crowded, noisy, confusing (I’m not sure how they were able to compress the 8-dimensional structure that is the Indianapolis Convention Center on to a 2-dimensional surface for the map of it), it was often more than I could handle and I frequently migrated out into the hallways to find some semblance of quiet. It’s all relative, though, since the hallways were where “wacky” shenanigans were usually taking place.

Not having been before, I imagined it as Unity Games writ large, with a dealer’s room attached. That was not completely accurate, as playing games (other than in paid-for sessions) wasn’t easy to do. I had bought tickets for the pick-up-and-play room, but that seemed more like folks just playing the games they’d bought with their friends instead of a social thing. Even so, the amount of noise and crowd and chaos had me in full-on new person panic mode for most of the time.

This isn’t to say I didn’t have a good time. I liked wandering through the vendor’s hall, looking at stuff, demoing games, buying some, and often just watching people demoing games. I met up with some friends from online there, and even saw local pal TJ, who I hadn’t seen in ages but got to say hey to in a different time zone. I played some social games that normally I don’t really do too much of and had a good time.

And did I mention I bought some games?

Here’s a comprehensive list of what I played (P), demoed (D), bought (B), and otherwise there.

Imperial Settlers (B/P) – This was the game I was most eagerly awaiting. Designed by Ignacy Trzewiczek, it’s a sort of stripped-down and streamlined version of 51st State/The New Era, which I love. I had pre-ordered it and picked up my copy there. Played a two-player version with a guy I met there and we both really liked it. I especially liked that I had an engine going early and it looked like it would be a runaway victory for me, but then his kicked in and he zoomed past me. It’s got some great art design and is a lot of fun. It plays quicker than New Era, the theme is lighter and more readily graspable, and it’s far easier to teach and learn, so even though I prefer the more complex game this is a good one to have at hand.

The Battle at Kemble’s Cascade (B/P) – I grabbed this one first thing because I was afraid it would quickly sell out (I don’t think it did). It’s a board game based on a (nonexistent) shoot-em-up arcade game and looked completely new and different. It wasn’t on a lot of folks’ watch lists for the con, and I didn’t see it being demoed or played too much. Dave and I both bought it and we played his copy Sunday night after we got back. It’s good, and it’s neat, but I’m kind of on the fence. It just didn’t get as exciting as I hoped it would, and as I think it should have been for its theme. I’ll need to give it more plays.

Star Realms (B/P) – I’d heard a lot about this little deckbuilder game, but it’s been sold out everywhere. They had a booth at the con, so I bought it from them. It’s a lot of fun and packs a lot of play into a small box. The iOS app has finally been approved, and even though it’s kind of sketchy, I think this will get a lot of play.

Relic (P) – This was one of the game sessions I bought a ticket for in advance. It’s essentially a Warhammer 40k version of Talisman, an old 80s game I love. It’s very much like its predecessor except with some nice twists. I like Talisman, but it isn’t one that gets any play anymore, so this was a chance to revisit it and I was glad to do so. Unfortunately there isn’t much point in me buying Relic, as I already own Talisman and it never leaves the shelf.

Space Cadets Dice Duel (D) – I was hoping to demo something else at this booth (I don’t remember what) but ended up trying this instead. It’s one of those frenetic dice games with everyone rolling dice and yelling simultaneously and it didn’t do anything for me.

Pandemic: Contagion (P) – Z-Man is turning Pandemic into a big franchise and this is one of the spinoffs, a non-cooperative game in which you play the part of viruses. IT wasn’t bad, and I’d play again, but I didn’t see a need to own it. (Also, it came in a clear plastic bag that said “Biohazard” and come on, guys, most of us were going to fly home.)

Galactic Strike Force (P) – This game, by the guys who made Sentinels of the Multiverse, was kind of a hot mess, and it didn’t help that the representative teaching it to us was just kind of winging rules at us, so none of us knew what we were doing or what was going on.

The Witcher Adventure Game (D) – This almost counts as a play, since even though it was truncated, the rest of the game would have just been more of the same. The other game I registered for in advance, it was also by Ignacy Trzewiczek. Unfortunately it fell completely flat for me (and, I think, the other guys playing). Just a big, dull snoozer of a game, with very little going on that was interesting and most conflict being provided by a deck of “foul fate” cards spitting out garbage on all the players. It was still in beta, so maybe they’re going to pump it up, so the final version might be better. For instance, in the final version, players may not be attacked, as I was, by a “Rouge”.

Boy, is Fantasy Flight’s face red.

Funemployed! (P) – this is a social/party game, of the Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity type. One person is hiring for a job (Pirate, Psychic, Game Show Host) and the others have cards they have to incorporate into their interview. My shining moment involved a simultaneous play of the cards “moist” and “cougars”. It was a lot of fun and hilarious, but not the sort of game I look to play too often, so no buy for me.

Cypher (B, P) – AEG had a huge hit with Love Letter, so now “microgames” are all the rage. This is a new one from them, with a cyberpunk theme. I bought it not knowing anything about it because it was cheap and small (I was concerned about luggage space at this point). Dave and I played it and it’s not bad, but would probably work better with more people. Still, not sure I’d play it over other games of its type.

Equinox (D) – I wanted to demo Impulse by Asmadi, but to do so you had to pay to go to their demo area, which was bullshit. Instead, at their booth, they were demoing Equinox, which didn’t seem too interesting, and every time I saw people trying it out, no one was saying a word during it, which didn’t bode well for me. I eventually gave it a try and yeah, it’s just dull.

BraveRats/R (P, sort of B) – Speaking of Love Letter, its designer has funneled its success into getting pretty much everything else he’s ever done published. R is a two-player microgame of the same bent which is being published as BraveRats in the US. At their booth you could play BraveRats against them and, if you won, win a copy of R. I won, got a copy of R, and didn’t see the need to supplement it with the American version. It’s not too bad.

Draco Magi (D) – I’ve backed this on Kickstarter and should be getting my copy soon, but one booth had it for demos. I tried it out and while I was again not sure what I was accomplishing (once more, not a great teacher), I saw enough that I’m looking forward to getting my copy.

Battle Merchants (P) – Gil Hova is a designer I follow on Twitter, and Battle Merchants is a game he just got published through Minion Games and Kickstarter. He was a great guy and I was eager to try out his game. Guys, it’s really good, and I regret not getting a copy there (I was out of luggage space at this point) but I will be picking it up soon. It’s a game in which fantasy races are battling but you don’t care who beats who because you’re an arms merchant selling them all weapons. You can even arm both sides of the same battle with no problem. Dave and I played against Gil and both liked it (Dave bought a copy.) Check this one out. We also playtested another design of his, Prime Time. It’s still in progress and needs work, but there’s a lot of potential there.

Gil Hova and Battle Merchants

But Wait, There’s More! (P) – Another social/party game, this time you’re pitching products with spurious features. In our game we were in teams, and one person would start the pitch and then say, “but wait! there’s more!” and the other would take over. Neither one knew what the other was going to do. Again, a ton of fun, but I just don’t get the occasion to play these sorts of games. It is currently available for backing on Kickstarter.

Star Wars: Empire Vs. Rebellion (P) – Dave bought this one and neither of us had heard of it. Turns out it’s a re-do of CIA Vs. KGB, which is a game I already own and like. The rules are a touch different, but it’s still essentially the same game and looks nice. I’m happy with the version I already have, though.

Zeppelin Attack (P) – This is another one Dave bought. It’s a small deckbuilder with a sort of steampunk theme. It does some different stuff with the mechanism and the art was gorgeous. We had already left by the time I played this, but if we hadn’t I would have probably bought a copy myself.

Other transactions I made: Bought Boss Monster and Coup, neither of which I’ve played, because both were cheap and small. There was a good price on Eight-Minute Empires: Legends, which I have played, so I got a copy of that. In the math trade I picked up Thunderstone: Numenara, Ground Floor, and Lost Valley: The Yukon Gold Rush (I gave up Manhattan Project, Invaders, and Firefly). I also had bought Arctic Scavengers off someone in an auction.

I had a lot of fun at GenCon, but it was a bit too much for me in a lot of ways. I’m not sure I’m up for another trip, but I’m glad I tried it out.

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