July 8th, 2005

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Origins: Day 3

So I had a slightly late start for my Friday's events. I had been signed up for a munchkin qualifier but it just wasn't to be. Not only was I sleep deprived like crazy, but when I arrived at the convention center the parking lot I preferred was full. The next lot I tried was all the way on the other side of the convention center and, no surprise, also at the opposite end of where my event was supposed to take place. I scampered along to the room only to find a note that the qualifier had been shifted. By the time I finally tracked down the location it was around 20 minutes after the hour and the game had already started. A woman who looked like broomhilda said that no, they could not fit me in, but signed the back of my ticket so I could have it refunded.

After getting a generic token in trade, I went and tried to find an event that I could squeeze into. I finally settled on a small board game called King Me!. I had actually taken a look at the game before, thinking about purchasing it, but some negative boardgamegeek reviews had turned me off of it. Since I had nothing better to do, I figured this was an oppertunity to confirm their opinion. To my surprise, I liked it. I also ended up winning none of the three games that the two other girls and I played, but I still liked it. The mechanics were easy and involved minor amounts of strategy and guile and the game ran fast, being able to be completed within 15-20 minutes or so. Perfect filler material as far as I was concerned. It was also expandable up to 5 or 6 players, and with more people the strategy would certainly become more complex. In short, King Me! made it back onto my purchase list and is currently sitting on my wishlist at thoughthammer, waiting for my next game order.

Even after playing 3 full games of King Me! we still ended earlier than the 2 hour limit scehduled for the event. I took the oppertunity to wander the dealer's hall in search of swag and that's when I really realized how few people there were at origins. Certainly, I had remembered greater throngs of people the year previous even though origins claimed more people had purchased badges this year. It was like a ghost town in the exhibit hall at times. This made it easy to get into demos and the like, but it left you with a slightly eerie feeling too.

As I've complained about previously, there simply wasn't much swag to be had. Even for demo'ing a game, the most you could hope for was a booster pack of cards. Part of the swag defecit was caused by wizkids, who obviously scaled back their operations, big time. Not only was their booth area far smaller than in previous years, but they had eliminated their stamp and roll promotion, meaning it was no longer possible to walk off with 2 copies of various axis and allies games like I had done the previous year. I was really quite disapointed about that. I was really looking forward to picking up axis and allies d-day and risk godstorm if I could. Oh well, que sera, sera I guess.

There were still plenty of things to see in the exhibit hall, though I wasn't planning on buying anything. I knew that I could get anything I saw there much cheaper online and there were very few things I simply had to have right then and there. I figured the only thing I would pick up were some t-shirts and the killer bunnies twilight white expansion, the later ecspecially if they had one of the super limited promo cards with it. In previous years I usually picked up one of those cards through purchasing a booster pack and then would pay 2 bucks a pop for another 3 or 4. But I'll get to playroom entertainment in a bit...

I saw something at one booth I thought Mock would have loved and actually snapped these two pictures just for him.

As you can see, they're rollers and stamps to be used with ink pads for doing dungeons. It seemed like an absolutely fabulous idea when I saw it and while I had no use for such a thing, I thought about picking up a set until I saw the pricetag on them. I think the dungeon set was retailing there for something like $35! Yikes. Anyway, here you can see what the rollers and stamps can accomplish.

Not only was there a dungeon set, but they had a wilderness and river set as well. Each came with additional stamps like doors, tables, corpses, and other things you just have to have for dungeon dressing. It seemed like a nice and quick way to be able to do a battlemat setup with a bit of flare and artistry instead of just drawing lines and boxes like most do now.

Roaming on, Days of Wonder had a beautiful large-sized Pirate's Cove game set up. No one was playing it at the time and if I could, I would have loved to have given it a whirl. I bought a copy of the game a couple months ago but haven't done more than open it and read the instructions a couple times. It's always hard for me to introduce games to others when I don't feel I have a handle on it yet, and nothing gives you a handle on the game like playing it once through. Anyway, here's the pirate's cove setup.

Spiffy eh? I love how they managed to get the water with all the various swirls of blue in it. It would be a fab thing to own.

Anyway, after looting for swag for 3 hours or so, it was time for my game of killer bunnies (all expansions up to white and steel) at playroom. So I bought killer bunnies at my very first gencon. I demo'ed it and while I didn't love it at the time, I felt sorta obligated to buy the thing. It ended up being a sorta kismet sort of thing. Over the course of the next origins and gencon, I got pretty familiar with the guy running playroom's booth. He never failed to recognize me, and I spent more time there as I liked their games and he was always genial and more than happy to get me into a demo for whatever their new product was. The one thing I have to say about Tony is he is a master salesman. Remember how I said I had planned to buy NOTHING gamewise except perhaps a white booster and then only if it came with one of the limited promos? Well, there was no rare promo this year, and I still got talked into buying $70 dollars worth of playroom product, a good chunk of it I wasn't certain I wanted, and a small chunk I was sure I didn't want. I demo'ed a few of the games and then Tony began his hard selling sales pitch. Before I knew what was happening, the stack of games he was prepping for me had grown into a small mountain. It was a lot of 'And do you have this yet?' and at my headshake of negation 'Oh, well you'll love it, it's a fabulous game' and on the stack it went. 'Have you seen this? Origins game nominee. You'll love it.' and onto the stack. At one point I found my tongue and balked at a game called kitty chaos, a boardgame that I hadn't yet demo'ed that frankly looked a bit childish to me. 'You like killer bunnies, right? Well this is killer bunnies but a board game.' and onto the stack. I think I sputtered out a few 'but, but, but...''s at this point but he came back with 'have I ever steered you wrong before?'. This continued for what seemed like forever until I had a small mountain of playroom games in front of me. The only thing I managed to turn away from buying was their calender. I repeatedly stuck to my guns when he tried to sell it to me, saying I didn't use calenders and had no use for one. 'But look at the art! Some of it is unique to the calender and nowhere else.' and 'You can hang it up just for the decoration.' or 'Everyone needs a calender.'. I stuck to my guns, stubbornly clinging to the idea of not taking the calender, like a man holding on to a piece of driftwood after realizing he's already been washed overboard, the ship's sunk, and there's no land anywhere in sight.

In the end, I ended up with Sitting Ducks (which frankly, I love and was one game after the demo I seriously was considering buying even before being talked into purchasing everything there), Sled Dogs (a bidding game that I don't like all that much but at least it's quick, it's easy, and it'd be nice filler material), Kitty Chaos (which I eventually demo'ed and hated, but found that some of my intense dislike was partly due to a few rules issues that can be resolved. I'm still not sure I like the game and I'm absolutely certain I'd be mocked like crazy if I took it to a game day and tried to get people to play it.), Strategem (a game I haven't tried yet but at least it was cheap), Space Shuffle (a game that once I demo'ed I really didn't like at all. the scoring process practically requires you have a calculator on hand. This was the game that had been nominated for an origins award too), and the twilight white killer bunnies expansion sans any special rare promo card. I also picked up a killer bunnies Lord of the Bunnies t-shirt, which you'll see in pictures later on.

Anyway, it was after this that I went to my killer bunnies game in which both Chelle and her husband were playing. It was a pretty good game with one exception. The guy sitting to my right (and thus going right before me) was driving me crazy. He......was......playing......very......very......slowly. Add to this that through the game he had 2 super bunnies during the game and ended up with every single zodiac card but two. He was thus taking double turns the entire game and had a red timid bunny and pawns to boot so he would often be re-rolling die after die after die. It was enough to drive me absolutely crazy. I would sit there waiting through an amount of time in which 3 people could have had their normal turns completely only to hear 'and now for my second turn'. ARGHHHH! I wanted to rip his head off and dance around with it in a mad fit. In the end, I would actually just put my forehead on the table during his turn and try to think happy thoughts. Chelle's husband ended up winning the game on one of those little randomized flukes that KB is so notorious for and that put the painful ordeal to an end.

It was then off to the Journey to Jupiter game. While we were sitting around waiting for the game to start the obligatory storm troopers came marching through and they had a remote controlled droid unit.

Now, I'm not sure exactly why R2 is red/orange nor while he has a balloon taped to the top of his 'head', but since I haven't seen the last movie, I have to assume the answer must be in there somewhere.

Maybe the stormtroops put the balloon on his head so they could use him as target practice to site in their blasters or something.

Anyway, the journey to jupiter game was the first chance I had to meet Jeffrey Neil Bellinger, the creator of Killer Bunnies. I left the game with a pretty ambivalent impression of him but I'll get more to that later.

Journey to Jupiter is the next expansion of the Killer Bunnies Franchise. It's a boardgame of sorts where now the goal is to collect carrots from space and then speed them in your bunny rocket ships to jupiter. The game plays much like the original killer bunnies game with the added feature of tactical movement on a board of space hexes. The earth, mars, and jupiter all move in their orbit and it becomes an interesting game of strategy to either chase after jupiter or try to intercept it/let it come to you. The game also had some shortcomings, but I'm hopeful those can be fixed or corrected for in the inevitable flurry of expansions to come. I of course snapped a buncha pictures, though since we were asked to not post them online, most of what you'll see will look like this.

This was the back of the prototype cards for the game.

And this is the board with all the various game bits.

I'm not actually how strict the no-show policy is since I've seen a couple pictures on the official KB site showing off parts of the journey to jupiter game. I simply figure better safe than sorry in a case like this. If you're really curious in how the game looks, just drop me a comment and I'll send you a copy. I'm pretty sure the admonition was against just plopping up pictures on public sites.

Anyway, one major problem with JtJ is that the first person into space has an amazing advantage. To activate weapons or other attacks that target a bunny in a spaceship, you first have ot have a bunny in a spaceship. That means that if someone gets into space first, they're mostly free to do whatever they want for a period of time until someone else manages to launch a ship. Chelle was the first one into space and she ended up scooping up carrots left and right. She had packed away like 3 of them before I had even made it into space, having had a bunny shortage. There was also more money than we knew what to do with. All the supplies were purchased before the game was even 1/3 over, and after that there was simply nothing to do with all the cash.

Here you can see a picture of Chelle on the left, another JtJ player on the right and Jonathan Young in the middle. He's the artist who drew most of the killer bunnies cards and seemed like a nice guy though we didn't get to interact more than me having my oversized KB cards signed by him.

So remember when I said I was sorta ambivalent about meeting Jeff afterwards? He was a nice and funny guy, but there was a snappish undercurrent to him. At one point, I sent one of his ships on a trip directly into the center of the sun with a PAL attack card, and he didn't seem to like that at all. He turned a bit snide when just a couple rounds later chelle's husband ended up kicking my ass and blowing up my ship, after I failed to get my carrots to jupiter. I dunno, I was just getting some negative vibes off of the whole thing. It was one of those situations where you get the impression you have to tiptoe around someone because you're not sure if they're going to simply go boom. Maybe he was just getting irked the game run for much longer than anticipated or it was something else. Who knows. Certainly the masters game the next night went much better and did a lot of mollify my feelings about the whole thing. It turns out that Jeff used to teach at a highschool less than 10 minutes from where I grew up, the next town over. I'm planning to trek over there for him one day to see if the old principal he knew is still there and then get them into touch with one another.

Anyway, here's a shot of me with him.

So since the JtJ game had run so long, I ended up missing my next event, another game of Dread (the jenga roleplaying game). I struck up a conversation with Kat, the girl who had ran the killer bunnies game I had been in earlier in the afternoon and her husband, the guy who had been driving me bonkers with how slow he was playing. It turned out that they had known Jeff for years and we chatted a bit about him and my ambivalent feelings. The hubby turned out to be a nice guy btw. He's an engineer and just tends to do everything in a strategic manner, and that means a slow and steady sort of play style. For him, it's all about playing the odds to victory, a more serious point of view than that adopted by most killer bunnies players, I'd imagine.

Anyway, they had known Jeff for years and both acknowledged he had that snappish side. For them, it was part and parcel of the fact that he's a math teacher. They just seem to be those sort of people. Thinking back in my own past of certain math teachers it certainly seemed to mesh up. There are just some things that push their buttons and apparently I stumbled over a couple without realizing they were there. It was like tap dancing through a pet peeve mine field. We ended up chatting for something like 3 and a half hours and by the time I left them it was midnight.

Here's a picture I snapped of Kat with Jeff.

Anyway, it turns out that playroom entertainment didn't have a special prize set aside for the JtJ game, which apparently irked Jeff. He took Agent02 aside and seemed to be unhappy about the whole thing. I had though that Jeff was the head of the company or something, since he had created the game after all, but that apparently wasn't the case. There's apparently some friction there which Kat and her hubby later commented on. Still, even if there was no specific prize, everyone did get an oversized and lamenated killer bunnies card. I, of course, chose the Djarnak, though it was a close call. I'm not even sure I remember what the other card I wanted was now....all I know is that by tomorrow and the master's game it was gone and I ended up with making another choice.
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Ravage the land like never before, total destruction from mountain to shore

Welp, it's been storming pretty good all morning and early afternoon here and it looks like the storm just took out the cable connection. The tv went kaput and it looks like the internet line is down too. Since I've got nothing better to do at the moment, I figured I would make a quick offline entry here for later posting and then go and sort my killer bunnies cards. I'm going to trek down to the game store despite the rain and cram a demo down the throats of those little kids. Well, it shouldn't be as necessarily violent as that but if I just sit around they'll do nothing but play magic the gathering for the entire open gaming period. I've got players to win over and carrots to accumilate.

I figure things will go better when I try to run the demos at dexcon in less than a week, though I have no clue when I'm going to receive my demo kit in the mail. If nothing else, I have enough dago promo cards that I can offer those up as prizes to lure people to the game, and even a lord of the bunnies and hare e potter or two. Since I've never been to dexcon, I'm not sure how many people simply hang around the boardgame room there and are interested in pickup games at any one time. I've already decided to ditch more than a couple RPG events I had lined up in order to devote more time to demo KB there and I'm hoping that everything goes over well.

I think what I'll do to make it easier on myself is run the blue/yellow decks only, and then only after people have finished that or if experienced players show up, toss on the rest. God knows it could be a mass of confusion to simply toss newbies into a game with this many damn card combinations. I don't even feel like I know all the rule quirks that seem to pop up in every other game, though I'll be brining all the various instruction books and if all else fails I can always mail in any questions to the KB staff I'm assuming. It'd be too late to resolve the current game but I figure the newbies won't much care.

Hmmm, still no internet and it's only 90 minutes or so before I have to leave for the game store. Better resort the decks like I wanted to and pack up a dago bunny to bring with me as a prize.
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A pox on all children

Feh. Well I'm back from the game store having demo'ed my game of killer bunnies. I really have to find a better store where the average age is just a weeeee bit higher. This is getting farging ridiculous. All these kids are really interested in is playing magic. It's hard to put together enough people to try anything, though once you get them into it, the game runs pretty well. I didn't end up winning the game which is also good and someone else picked up the dago bunny as a prize. Maybe that will spark some interest but I'm not really holding my breath. I remember an old game store near here that I haven't been to in years that was right by the college campus. I really should trek over there and see if 1) they're still in buisness (a questionable state considering how fast game stores seem to shut down) and 2) if they have an open gaming night. They're also much closer than the other store and I'm sure they have an older population with the university so close.

Ah screw this. I've been saying I was going to check that store out for weeks if not months now. I might as well bite the bullet and go take a look tonight. I've got nothing else interesting going on and it would certainly solve some problems for me if it worked out.


Blah. Nothing there. Store is gone.
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