Forge Midwest in Madison, Wisconsin, remains one of my favorite cons. Small, great people, and always a lot of excellent games to choose from. Here’s a bit about what I got to play this year.
Day 1, Friday
Got to FMW around 2, which was a bit after the afternoon slot starts (at 1). Said hi to a few folks then played a couple games to kill some time. Someone broke out a little board game called Tiny Epic Kingdoms. It’s a cute little game. It was immediately obvious it was a Kickstarter games. Just had that slightly un-polished, not-thoroughly-playtested feel that a number of Kickstarter board and card games have. That’s not to say it was a bad game. It was fun and easy, with a very small footprint. A great way to kill some time. It has a number of mechanics that a lot of gamers will be familiar with. There’s some worker placement (meeples!), territory conquering, exploring, resource management, improvement. It’s even possible to broker peace with another player and share some territory. Each round the active player gets to choose from a list of actions (that get marked off until all the markers are used — 5 markers, 6 actions — at which point the next player clears the board), everyone else can either take that action or collect resources based on their meeple placement. There’s a few ways to trigger end-game conditions, at which point play continues until available actions are used and Victory Points are counted. The differences in races seemed pretty wide in that some seemed obviously better than others, so I’m not convinced they’re balanced really well, but it’s honestly hard to say after only playing once (and watching one more round of other people play).
In the evening I got a chance to play Traverse, a new game that Paul Czege is working on. It revolves around women soldiers that have some control over reality in a world where reality has, in some way, been broken. It was a bit rough, but it was also the first time Paul had actually playtested it. But there’s definitely some awesome things in there. I’m looking forward to seeing what Paul is able to coax out of it. One of the most compelling things, to me, is that there’s a page of skills/moves that you can take. Paul pointed out that as soldiers/humans there are a lot of things that are easy and there’s no mechanics needed for those. The things on paper are hard to do. And then you look at the paper and you see things like “Fall in love” or “change your mind about a belief.” I felt like that was a pretty powerful statement.
Late Friday night I got into a short session of 3:16. I’ve played before and really enjoy it. We went a bit zany with it, but it was late and everyone was on board. Lots of aliens slaughtered. Good times and laughs were had. One of these days I really want to play through more than a couple planets of 3:16. Let the game build up a little momentum and then get into the meat of what makes it more interesting.
Day 2, Saturday
Saturday morning I got into a short session of The Clay That Woke, another game by Paul Czege. I own the game through the Kickstarter, but I hadn’t had a chance to play or even read through it yet, so I was excited to give it a shot. On the surface the game is about being a minotaur (all male, all naked) that’s pretty much seen as a second-class citizen. Digging deeper into the game it’s a game about masculinity and society’s views there of. Even within a short 2ish hour session, I definitely could see that coming out. I’m extremely excited to sit down and read the book and hopefully run and play more in the near future. I really enjoyed the token mechanic of the game. Everyone has a set of tokens based on a character archetype. And when it comes time to accomplish something the GM throws some number (hidden from the players) of tokens into “the krater” (use a box or bag or whatever). Then the player can place however many tokens in as well. Four tokens get pulled and the combinations of tokens pulled determine what happens (there’s a table to consult). Another thing I really liked is that Minotaurs have silence. Which is almost like a code of conduct. Including things like seek justice, don’t display emotions, do not want, etc. In other words, be the strong silent type. And breaking silence has mechanical weight. Also, for anyone buying that game or that already has the game and doesn’t have the tokens I highly recommend contacting Paul. As of this weekend he still has some sets available for sell. they’re a really awesome tactile artifact. After playing I tracked down Paul and got a set, since I hadn’t opted for it in the Kickstarter. Definitely worth the money. And, of course, easier than trying to make up your own.
In the afternoon I played a couple short LARPs. First was unheroes. A game about super heroes that broke reality, and now they’re here, in this reality, like perfectly normal people, not knowing how they were. As the game progresses weird things start to happen as people’s abilities start to manifest. Eventually people start remembering more and the tension goes up pretty quick until it comes to a defining moment of what to do. Create a new reality, stay in this one, go to the old one, or maybe something new entirely. It was a really heady LARP and I greatly enjoyed it.
After that was Juggernaut, which I’d gotten to play before at Origins last year, but this was the official published version, so I was excited to see some of the changes. Juggernaut is about a computer that can tell the future with 100% accuracy. It’s really fun, because as players whenever a prediction comes out it’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure the predictions come true (or at least aren’t 100% contradicted). It can be a lot of fun to play a hardcore skeptic, but as a player make sure predictions come true. Overall it played pretty much the same as the version I’d played before. Some of the characters had been cut-out/combined and some of the predictions were removed/changed. Definitely a bit of a mind fuck, in the best possible way.
Saturday evening I got to play a session of Holmes Basic D&D (the blue book). I’d been wanting to play for years. I tracked down a copy a while back and have been looking forward to seeing what it was like in play. It’s basic, old school, and pretty unforgiving. I had a really great time with it. The simplicity of it all was partly refreshing and partly frustrating. It was kind of like playing a historical artifact, playing such an early rpg. Really makes me want to run a group through Keep on the Borderlands some time.
Day 3, Sunday
Sunday morning I got in a session of Doctor Xaos, a new game Ron Edwards is working on. Doctor Xaos, as Ron puts it, is about a super-villain who isn’t stupid. It’s a lot of fun and has a lot of clever rules. Like there’s a “no camp” rule for Doctor Xaos that players can invoke, but there’s no such rule for superheroes that are created. It gives a very distinct feel to the game. Doctor Xaos sort of keeps everything grounded while the Superheroes go all crazy. It really is about the supervillain and, in fact, there are mechanics that purposely humanize the supervillain. I really think that this is a game that anyone that’s into any sort of comics will enjoy. And I mean comics in any form (as someone that doesn’t really read print comics). If you like superhero movies, TV shows, or whatever, you’ll have a good time with this game. I can’t wait to see the final version.