Mere days after the conclusion of the second PaxEast gathering of gaming geeks, I still struggle to reinsert myself in that pre-formed vessel that we call “normal life” (for a given value of normal).
As you may know, Dave and I obtained Media (and Speaker) passes for the event so why not meet the requirements of “talking about the show” by writing about the highlights of the time I spent there?
After a day-long ride from frigid, stormy Montreal we made our way to the Intercontinental Hotel in South Boston. I had organized an evening of board game in the hotel lobby and, like last year, it was an instant hit.
Here are some of the games I played or recognized:
I ended the night talking to Tavis Allison (long time RPG Freelancer and blogger at of The Mule Abides) where we remade the RPG world from both ends of the Old/New school spectrum. The night was a blast and I already knew I’d spend too little time sleeping.
Friday: Convention Center, Keynote, Q&A and Showroom
The Premise was just plain gigantic and perfect. The Boston Convention Center is light years beyond the one we were last year. I wished there were nearer food outlets, but we made do.
The keynote, by game designer Jane MacGonigal was one of those life changing mind-rewiring events. My mind is abuzz with new game ideas that have real-life, practical applications.
We even broke a world record playing a 5000 players game of massive multi-player thumb wrestling , that was surreal… and plaguetastic!
The following Q & A with Mike and Jerry was icing on the cake, with a roomful of geeks sending waves of admiration, adoration and shameless gushing (and empty calories) towards our Maitre’d.
I mean, what the hell is Irn Bru?
PM: I don’t care if it’s all downhill from here, this was beyond awesome.
We walked the floors of the convention center after and realized just how immense it really was. And there was stuff to do everywhere. As it will likely grow from year to year, PaxEast will be one of those monster events you will never tame, experiencing only a tiny slice of it at every year, much like Gen Con.
I also made a quick tour of the exhibit floor with Yan and PM and we all agreed that it was way better than last year. Yes, there were some very long lines, but we managed to see some very cool stuff.
Friday: Return of the “Be your own Hero” (e)book
During my visit of the expo all, I made my way to the thin slice reserved for indie game developers and met with Neil from Australia-based Tin Man Games. They showed us their iOS-based Adventure gamebook applications. I hope to get a copy in the next few weeks and put up a review but suffice it to say that the 10 year old boy in me was filled with nostalgia and wonder at the sight of that beautiful game.
- Each game has roughly 8 times the number of entries than the 1980’s UK books pioneered by Steve Jackson (no, not that one) and Ian Livingston
- The game has an integrated character sheet that tracks stats, equipment and knowledge acquired.
- Built-in dice roller.
- Gorgeous artwork and a huge game world and accompanying ever updating gazetteer.
Plans are in place to port the game to Android and possibly the PC in the near future.
Friday: It all makes Sense Steve!
- Ogre Boxed set: A large box set with map tiles, 3D double-sided Ogres and superstructures. The increase in size of the Hex map and the beautiful art of the playing pieces made me want to own yet another version of that game.
- Axe Cop Munchkin…
(Record scratching sound….)
Yes you read that right, Axe Cop, where a cop kills bad guys with his axe and a flute cop gets turned into a gun dinosaur and Unibaby has a horn that makes him super smart and evil Santa turns into…
Yet this addition to the increasingly out of control line of games now makes EVERYTHING make perfect sense… A Dutch accented level 6 Ninja Psionic Thief with a +4 Chainsword and a Cape of Invincibility? Perfectly logical.
This is a refreshing take on a franchise I found was getting a little on the stale side.
You can follow the story of it just here (and even listen to it). Suffice it to say that we went from nervous, to terrified, to engrossed, to relieved, to satisfied. 🙂
I will never again try to describe a full Fiasco game but here’s the elevator pitch.
“A lesbian couple of Russian Spies decide to wreck vengeance on the small scientific community of McMurdoch Antarctica. They plan to poison everyone with a secret drug that turns people into zombies after death. As the infection spreads, the sole spy survivor leaves on board a Russian trawler, leaving undead ex-lovers and collaborators behind. The station, then the whole world, falls to a Zombie Apocalypse. She dies in the “loving” embrace of her zombified ex-girlfriend, on the front lines of a loosing war to save the fatherland”
I LOVE this game beyond belief. I was officially dubbed the “Craziest player ever” when I had my character say, while standing beside a 55 gallon barrel of urine : “time to remove that catheter Dr. Johnson”
Saturday: RPG day!
Saturday was all about RPGs… I played about 9 hours of them!
Dave ran us through his homebrewed hack of Mage the Ascension using the Leverage ruleset. It was awesome to play modern time reality-bending wizards with such a clean set of simple, yet rich rules. We invaded a tacky run down casino held by a Frank Sinatresque Vampire and brought the whole thing down (as well as one player’s clothes).
Dave (Playing our patron): Nice job…. Hey, what happened to your pants?
Made of win if you ask me.
Mike Shea (of Sly Flourish fame) ran us through a hyper rapid Gamma World adventure where we made characters (I was Le Grey Pupa, Cockroach Giant) and had 4 combat encounters in less than 2 hours. Quite a feat and quite an enjoyable game. I’m slowly warming up to Gamma World. I’m not quite sold but I could be after a few more games with GMs as awesome as Mike was.
My last RPG of the day was a Mouse Guard game with some Twitter friends I made over the last year. The game was my classic “Beavers and Bandit” adventure and it was beyond fun.
During an argument between the PCs and members of the city’s organized crime who wanted them to butt out of their business, I had scripted a Feint argument. I had to go for the throat of the opposing team…
Crimelord (to ex-con mouse Guard): So, your mom still lives around here ya know? She’s doin’ real good, in fact Moe over there just had tea with her last week, such a sweet lady huh Moe? Nice to know she’s still so healthy for an old broad like her…
Player (eyes and nostrils flaring): You did NOT just go there!
The whole game was awesome but this exchange is why I GM!
Sunday: Gifts and goodbyes
On Sunday, after a stupidly short night (thanks to spring time and a late late Magic the Gathering game), I did a rapid last tour of the exhibit hall, bought gifts for my family:
- Stone Age for Alex
- Ascension for Nico
- A Skele-Pirate vs Skele-Ninja T-shirt for Rory
- Dixit 2 Extension for Rory
I then said my goodbyes to the awesome people I met and those I had seen again for a few short days. I already look forward to seeing them again in a few short months.
I left Pax with the certitude I’d be there next year. Better prepared… ready for even more fun.
A special thanks
I got to meet some very special fans this year. It was the first time that people stepped up to me and shared, in their own words, their appreciation for my work. While I have not yet mastered the way to gracefully accept praise, especially from shy people, please know that I was truly touched. Your nice words and courage strengthened my resolve to continue doing such cools things in our little corner of geekdom.
For those who could not quite work up the courage, I noticed some of you, know that there’s always next year or Gen Con, I’ll be happy to spend a few minutes talking to you.
Thanks again! All of you.