On Saturday I went to Trashfest Northeast 2013, an all-day gaming ruckus down in Vernon, CT.
Jeff made these buttons as swag
Why “Trashfest”? Welcome to the premiere turf war/slap fight in boardgaming! When people like me talk about playing boardgames, they’re usually talking about German/European designs, referred to as Eurogames. These games feature playing times of about 2 hours, nonviolent themes, low randomness, wooden and cardboard pieces, and mechanisms designed to keep scores relatively tight. They’re often low on interaction so that another player can’t screw up your carefully built plans. A while back a few revolutionaries on BoardGameGeek got tired of the Eurogame hegemony. These folks preferred and promoted what they dubbed “Ameritrash” games, which found their roots in the 70s and 80s from American and British publishers. Ameritrash games were sloppy, random, and long. They emphasize theme over mechanics. These were the games you played for hours in your dorm room. The themes are usually violent and usually every player is in every other player’s face. If you’re looking at a boardgame with hundreds of plastic miniatures of ninjas, tanks, or spaceships, it’s a good bet you’re looking at an Ameritrash game. Eventually the Ameritrash folks started up a site called Fortress: Ameritrash (F:AT), and I’ve been hanging out there recently.
The “divide” between Euros and Ameritrash is mostly sound and fury, and most gamers enjoy some of both. There are a lot of games now that cross the line. In a sense the split is not so much about the type of games as the attitude towards gaming.
Trashfest was organized by F:AT user “repoman” (this name is important) as it turns out a lot of the F:AT folks are in this general area. It was 30 minutes from my home and I would get to meet a bunch of new folks; I couldn’t not go.
As you know, my friends and I always look forward to and enjoy Unity Games. When I go there the goal is usually to try as many new (to me) games as I can. With Trashfest there were some new games I wanted to check out, but I was more interested in meeting new folks, and it didn’t matter what we played too much.
I started the day with Ascending Empires, a game I already love. I played this with repoman himself (whose name is actually Jeff), Chris, and Saul. Jeff had a gorgeous plexiglass custom board for this and it was awesome. It was hilarious because the other game going on this early was High Frontier, a long, complex, scientifically accurate space exploration simulation, whose owner also had created a custom board for, which was enormous. On their table they were calculating thrust and figuring out water expenses; we were flicking our spaceships at each other and researching space battleships.
High Frontier (pic by Shelley Rose)
More folks showed up and other game started, so when we finished Ascending Empires, everyone else was already into something. No problem, the same four of us then played City of Remnants, which I had brought and was glad to get to play. I’d bought it based on the review of one of the F:AT guys and it had gotten one play where it fell kind of flat. Unfortunately, it fell flat with two of the guys from the folks I play with whom it had the best chance, and was actually on the sales block. But I thought there must be something to it, so I wanted to try it out. It went better this time, and everyone, including me, seemed to enjoy it. The game is sloppy and rough-edged, but it has a charm to it that I think brings it together (though I’m still baffled by that damn chart.) I’m glad to have gotten another play out of it, though I’m still not sure if it will get table time again.
Me playing City of Remnants (pic by Shelley Rose)
My friend Chris W. showed up then and he and I played some Crokinole (by as much as I could remember of the rules). Then he and I, along with Bernie, Chris, and Seth played Kemet, which would be the only new boardgame I’d play. It’s a type of “dudes on a map” boardgame that I’m usually not that good at, but I held my own in this. (I won, but only because Bernie and Chris W. were pounding on each other and I managed to keep my head down and sneak in between them.) Kemet isn’t a game I’m looking to won, but I’d definitely be up for playing again.
By this point my allergies were acting up and I was tired, but wanted to last until closing. I offered to teach The New Era/Winter to Chris W. and Chris, and didn’t do a great job explaining it, which I usually do fairly well. That’s a shame because I am a huge fan of the game and don’t want anyone to be put off by it just because I taught it poorly.
After that it was time to leave. As with any big game event, I didn’t play nearly as much as I wanted to. I got to see a lot of things being played, like Firefly: The Board Game (which I’m curious about), Sekigahara, Dark, Darker, Darkest, and Jason Lutes’ incredible-looking prototype, Thrilling Tales of Adventure. More importantly I met a bunch of great new folks, though again, not as many as I would have liked to (I’d like to have done more than just say, “Hey, I’m Dave”).
As I headed out to my car I reached for my keys and couldn’t find them. I realized that I had locked them in the car earlier like a dumbass when I went out to grab something. It was now close to midnight and I had no idea what I was going to do. Fortunately, remember how I said that Jeff’s F:AT username was “repoman”? That’s because he’s a for-real repo man. I called him and incoherently babbled my situation and once he figured out who I was and what was my deal he sent his guys out to open up my car for me. I am HUGELY grateful for that.
But I’m also thankful to Jeff for organizing this whole thing. It took place in a swank-ass Elk’s Lodge with a bar and everything. His wife cooked a incredible spread of food for us. Every single person I met and saw was friendly and fun, despite the reputation of Ameritrashers for being a bunch of boorish louts who are just jealous that they can’t adequately impress the Provost.
I had a great time, and if there’s another Trashfest Northeast, I am already down for it.
Thrilling Tales of Adventure (pic by Shelley Rose)
(Thanks for taking pics, Shelley! Hope you don’t mind that I snagged them!)