The Walking Eye Con Breakdown

This past weekend was The Walking Eye Con in Des Moines, hosted by my friends over at The Walking Eye podcast. I had a great time — hung out with friends, met new people, and played games.

I got to play some new games, some games I’d never heard of, some games I’d been wanting to play and some games I always enjoy playing.

Now for the breakdown!

Friday started with a 10-person game of The Resistance. Basically like Mafia or Werewolf if you’re familiar with those. You’re in a resistance group — you can decide what you’re fighting against. You go on missions and there are spies in the group that try to sabotage it. It’s pretty hard to win if you’re not a spy. Each mission each person going on the mission secretly decides whether to sabotage or not. All it needs is one sabotage for the mission to fail. Three failed missions and the spies win. There’s a little more, but that’s the gist. It’s very much a social game, because you need to figure out who you can trust and who you can’t. It’s usually not too tough to figure out one or two of the spies, but figuring out all of them can be tricky. Anyhow, not really my kind of game. Was a fun diversion and the social aspect was more i interesting than the game aspect, but it’s not something I’d really elect to play if I have an option.

I got to see a very very small bit of the new Marvel Heroic RPG (we just had a quick battle with 6 PCs vs the Hulk). I don’t really have enough to go on to form a solid opinion, but it was fun and I like the way dice pools are built up. Also, my understanding is you don’t really make characters (although I believe there are options to). I think the standard mode is just to play as an existing hero in the Marvel universe, most (if not all) of whom are all statted out. I’d like to give the game another try at some point, but I’m not in a huge rush. I’m not a big superhero/comic book fan, so it’s not something I absolutely have to try.

I also got to break out my newest card game, Cards Against Humanity. It’s pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. It plays like Apples to Apples, but the combinations are a lot worse. You’ll definitely want to play with the right group of people, because the humor gets to be quite awful. Seriously, when you have cards that say something like “jerking off into a pool of children’s tears” you know it’s going to make for an… interesting game.

I tried out a game called Puzzle Strike. It’s a Dominion clone. Instead of cards it uses chips, which are kind of a pain in the ass to handle. It’s suppose to simulate those sort of Bejeweled-like fighting game. With gems falling down and using them to do stuff and the like and burying your opponent under gems. I’m not a big Dominion fan, so this gets a big “meh” from me. But I did like that there were different characters you could be, each of which had some abilities that only they had, so it certainly changed things up a bit. Some of the rules were written pretty poorly and it took a bit to really nail down some things. But, aside from chips being a pain in the ass to work with, I think most people that enjoy Dominion might enjoy this.

Last game of the night was Tales of the Arabian Nights, which I’ve already mentioned. Still one of my favorite games at the moment. Although this Tumblr definitely has a point. The winning rules do feel a bit tacked on and aren’t terribly satisfying. On the other hand, I really never bother using them when I play and we just play until we’re ready to do something else and we don’t really care much what scores people have at that point. I’m fine with having win conditions, but they do definitely feel pretty tangential to what’s going on in the game. His complaint about the morning/noon/night mechanic is also spot on. There’s a large chunk of the book unavailable to you because you start in the morning, then if the deck of encounter cards is exhausted, they’re reshuffled and you play in the afternoon. Another time in the night. Even with a 4 player game we never got through the entire deck. One game I played we said “screw it” and just started in the night. Right now that seems the only feasible way to get to those stories.

Saturday morning those of us that are early risers were just killing time. We played some Nuts, which is always pretty amusing and invariably turns everyone’s sense of humor into that of an adolescent boy. Nothing like a table of adults making jokes about touching each others nuts.

Then, someone broke out a Jenga tower. I decided to get a bit of practice since I knew someone was planning to run Dread later in the day. I’d never played actual Jenga before (I once played a hack of Dread, but that was the first time I’d touched a Jenga tower). Probably the best part is simply the trash talking and the occasional amazing pull when someone gets a block out that no one thought possible. We played a few rounds of that before we got bored and moved on.

After that I played a cute little game called Get Bit. This was actually pretty amusing. The premise is each player is a robot swimming through the ocean trying to escape a shark. As the game progresses the shark bites the rear-most player and they lose body parts. And there’s little lego-esque pieces that you rip limbs off of. The gameplay is pretty basic: each player has a hand of cards numbered from 1-7. Each round you choose a number and everyone reveals. The lowest non-tied number gets to move to the front of the line. Then the next lowest non-tied goes to the front, etc. So, you don’t want to tie someone, because you won’t move. If you choose too low and don’t tie, someone that chose higher will probably end up in front of you. But if everyone goes high, you’re more likely to have a tie. After all the movement is settled the rear-most person gets bit and then gets to move to the front. Also, you don’t refresh your hand after playing unless you’ve played your whole hand or you just got bit. So everyone else can keep track of what you’ve played and try to play against you. It’s very simple, but some interesting strategy comes out after a few rounds. For instance, if someone is behind you, it might be in your best interest to tie them so they don’t move ahead of you. It’s also fun to leave all the discarded pieces on the table as a wake of destruction behind the shark.

Then I got a game of Zombie Cinema together, which always makes for good fun. We broke away from the standard present-day zombie survival story and went with a fantasy setting and a zombie horde. It was a lot of fun and we actually managed to have two people escape (my priest and another player’s farmer — we ascended!). Two people were lost to the horde (the guard captain and the old, retired adventurer), and at the end the last player (sword maiden/blood mage) “sacrificed” herself to go to the dark side, so to speak. A very satisfying conclusion. I’ve only played 3 games of Zombie Cinema, but it’s never failed to deliver a great game.

After lunch I managed to squeeze into an Apocalypse World game. I always have a great time playing AW. This time around I got to play the Touchstone playbook, which is pretty interesting. I don’t feel like I quite got to explore the playbook fully, but I enjoyed what was there. The session climaxed with confronting a bat-spider queen. Yes, that’s right, bat spiders. They were spiders with bat heads and bat-like skin between their legs. and they could fly. We killed off the queen and our Gunlugger used his grenade launcher to bust a hole through the top of the cavern allowing the rest of the bat spiders to get away, which was apparently all they really wanted.

Finally after wanting to play for some time I got into a Dread game. I’ll go into it more in a later post, but I absolutely loved it. Every single pull from the tower was a tense moment no matter who was doing the pulling. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat and holding my breath a lot. It was really amazing. I doubt there’s any other tabletop game that prompts such a physiological response — the increased heart-rate, sweating, the tension. Absolutely perfect for a horror/suspense game.

That night I got into playing a bit of The Wrath of Ashardalon board game. It’s one of 3 (I think) board games based on D&D4e. I haven’t actually played 4th edition, but I know a little bit about it. The board games appear to be a stripped-down version of the rpg rules. I had a pretty good time with it. I don’t think I’d ever buy it, but it was fun and distilled the game down to a dungeon-crawl. There’s a randomly generated tile map, random monsters and loot. Everything you need for that D&D experience. We even accidentally had to fight Ashardalon (big red dragon) — apparently he’s only supposed to be shuffled into the deck for certain quests. Oh, well. We took him out and good times were had.

The last day of the con, Sunday, opened with a few of us early risers (mostly the same people as the previous morning) playing a round of the Lords of Waterdeep board game. It’s a bit of a resource-management game centered around the Forgotten Realms city of Waterdeep. Everyone is one of the masked lords (hidden from everyone else) and there’s 8 rounds. Each round everyone is trying to get people into their tavern (fighters, rogues, wizards, priests), send them on quests (which uses the personnel up), buy buildings (which can bring in resources) and make money. At the end points from various things (money, people, quests completed) are all tallied and a winner is made. Pretty fun. Again, not really my sort of board game, but it was a nice diversion for an hour or so.

For the last game of the weekend I got to play Monsterhearts, a hack of Apocalypse World. It’s meant to revolve around teenage monster stories. Like Buffy. So you have character types like Werewolf or Chosen or Hollow (like Dawn). I really enjoyed this game, so I’ll dedicate a full post to it. Also, I’m very sad that I just became aware of it, because there was an IndieGoGo page for it (here). The pdf is available on the website, but without any pre-order perks, unfortunately.

So, yeah, a weekend full of gaming. I had a blast. I do wish I’d gotten into more actual rpg’s. I do enjoy board/card games, but I was hoping to get a bit more role-playing time in. No matter, I played some great games and met some awesome new people. Really hoping this happens again next year for sure.

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