Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Adventuring at Cons – Coblin Style!

By Andrew Burkett

Well, another Con on the Cob has come and gone, and Andy Hopp and his staff have exceeded my expectations yet again.  This was my fifth time attending this “off the cob” art, sci-fi, and gaming convention, but my first time as a member of the press.  As usual, both the staff of Con on the Cob and the staff of MSTB Gaming (they handled registration and event ticketing) were welcoming and helpful throughout my experience this past weekend. 


Andy Hopp

My Thursday began by helping Michael Mirth, president of Spellbinders, set up his booth.  Seeing I have never been on the vendor side of a convention before, this gave me a new view of a con.  The staff in charge of the exhibitor hall was very accommodating of Mirth’s every need.  I was very pleased in the layout, flow and variety of the hall, both as a vendor and a shopper. There were plenty of game, clothing, jewelry, and other geeksential vendors to choose from.


After Spellbinders was done using me as a pack mule, I started to wander through the artist hall.  Both well and lesser known artists were displaying their pieces under the direction of Heather Krieter.  Heather is a very well known fantasy artist in her own right (Legend ofthe Five Rings CCG, My Little Demon) and does a wonderful job overseeing the art fair.  I thoroughly enjoyed bidding on some of the fantastic pieces of art.  Then I spent some time meeting the other artists who spent the weekend talking to fans and signing autographs.  Famous artists like: Tony Steele, Ed Beard Jr., and Aaron Acevedo not only spent hours in their booths, but also could be found playing games and attending parties with their fans.

Gut Bustin' Games' Redneck Life

Of course, there was tons of gaming throughout the entire weekend.  There was Savage Worlds role playing with Sean Patrick FannonSilvervine RPG was out in full force with John Arcadian, Ed Yarraus, Alec Stringer, and Ryan Rawlings. Gut Bustin’ Games was also there in their Full redneck-trailer park glory.  I was able to get a game of Sutakku, by Smirk and Dagger Games as well as play testing Karesansui, by John Hazen along with my menagerie of prototypes


The Truely Talented Destini Beard

The truly unique thing about Con on the Cob is the vast variety of events.  There is literally something for everyone.  Music was preformed nightly ranging from the comedic to the enchanted.  I personally was enthralled with the amazing vocals of Destini Beard.  Contests of all sorts were being held at the show's main stage.  Favorites of mine included Quick Draw, a 3 minute sketch of the audience’s choosing, and Iron Artist, famous artist and a secret ingredient. 

Cheese Fountain by Gut Bustn' Games

To top off each night are some crazy parties.  Thursday night brought me to the artist’s Drink-n-Draw. This was the featured artist time to see how well they could apply their trade while inebriated.  Friday night I wandered into the AnCon Ale House, a beer soaked, gaming soirĂ©e hosted by the fine people at AnCon; Another Game Convention.  Then Saturday the cocktails flowed at the Savage Saturday Night Bar and Grill, hosted by Sean Patrick Fannon, and the Barfleet party (think if Star Trek was filmed at a bar.)  Saturday also brought me to the NEO Witches Ball, another great event full of belly dancers, psychic readers, drum circles, magic and so much more.

My Chevy S-10

To wrap things up, Con on the Cob is an awe inspiring event well worth the price of admission.  If I had one complaint, it would be that they have outgrown their venue.  The Clarion Inn Hudson is a nice place to have a convention, but when Con on the Cob is tipping the scales at over 700 people, it might be time to venture out to bigger and better venues.  Needless to stay, whether they stay put, or find a larger convention hall, I will definitely be attending all of Andy’s future Cons.  I might even throw a few people in the bed of my 1999 Chevy S-10 and drag them along too! 


 This Convention Receives Andrew Burkett’s Seal of Approval.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Adventuring at Cons

By Andrew Burkett

As most of you know, I have recently been appointed as NorthCoast Gamer’s Social Media Manager.  In reviewing the social media outlets that NCG have been using, I came a crossed a rarely used Blogspot account.  To remedy the lack of use, I decided to start my first blog.  With a trip to Gamerati Jamestown looming, I figured reviewing game cons would make a good subject for said blog.

I set off Saturday morning, a couple of weeks ago, East through the Ohio country side.  It is a great time of year for a drive.  Thanks to some detailed directions via Facebook posts and a few well place signs, I arrived at the well hidden Jamestown Fireman’s Banquet Hall with no issues.  The Firemen’s hall was a great venue for a small game day.  They welcomed us gamers with tasty, yet very in expensive food and opened their doors to their otherwise private tavern.

I checked in at registration and was greeted by PeteFigtree, the show’s host and organizer.  He personally walked me through registration and handed me a heaping pile of swag.  He also answered some of my questions about Gamerati and its first year in Jamestown, Pa.  There were about 50 people in attendance and a slew of different games in 3 blocks of 4 hours each.  Of course there was plenty of open gaming, play testing and demos though out the entire day. 

I surveyed the room and saw many familiar faces.  Andy Hopp, of Con on the Cob and Mutha OithCreations and Heather Hopp of Surreal Siren, had a both set up in the back.  John Hazen, of Undercity Games, was in the midst of a game of Risk 2 with his wife.  Frank Belter and Dan Britt, of MSTB Gaming and AnCon, were conversing over lunch.  Dan Cetorelli, of GaspCon, Tracy Barnett, of Sand and Steam Productions, and Paul Stefko, of Nothing VenturedGames were waiting anxiously for the comedic rap stylings of 2D6.  And at final glance I saw Tom Flanaigan, of Knights of the Night actual play podcast, and Brie Sheldon, of Gaming as Women in some heated roleplaying.

I found my way to the table provided to me and joined the other Game Master setting up their favorite games.  I had my screw you neighbor game, aptly named Screwed; the winner of AnCon 2012 Iron Geek, John Hazen and Tim Jesurun’s Karesansui; and my latest and greatest prototype, ThermoNuclear War on today’s  agenda.  For such a small con, it wasn’t hard to find players.  Pete guided a few people my way himself.

After much gaming, it was time to see who won the slew of games generously donated to the raffle.  Coincidentally, my team won the “Best Poker Hand” event which netted me a copy of Eaten by Zombies.  Fortunately for the other attendees, the prize table was so deep, almost everyone walked away with a prize.

My 1988 Mercury Grand Marquis
At the end of the day, I felt that Pete Figtree and his team of volunteers reached their goal to bring gamers together and promote regional geekery very well.  I will defiantly be attending next year’s game day and bring as many people that I can squeeze into my 1988 Mercury Grand Marquis.


This Game Convention Receives Andrew Burkett’s Seal of Approval.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Convention Survey Results

Each year our organization does a survey of its members and a comparative survey of other attendees of conventions.  We usually publish these as separate blog posts, but we decided this year to publish the results on the Social Interactions website (the nonprofit organization that sponsors the North Coast Gamers program) and then we can add the links on the blog as needed.  Happy to have any responses from folks!

Convention Survey

Those of you who followed our posts in previous years will notice that we asked the same questions but instead of posting them in a somewhat whimsical way as we had traditionally done, we thought posting the formal result and our summaries would allow you to take whatever whimsical path you wish to take in the comments!

The purpose of the survey is to understand the opinions of the attendees of local and regional conventions that provide a means for people to interact on an interpersonal level rather than virtually through social media or other online activities. Conventions offer a different paradigm for social interaction in the way that smaller, more local events cannot accomplish. On a much larger scale, conventions offer the opportunity for individuals to interact with people they are not familiar with, and voluntarily interacting socially with other individuals, drawn together by common likes. The success of such conventions is seen as very important activities that continue to draw individuals together and forge new friendships. The survey provides feedback to the organizers of such conventions with the hope that they can take advantage of the opinions of the attendees so that future events are even more successful.  The survey results are shared with teh event organizers but it should be noted that the survey is done completely independent from the convention organization itself.  Social Interactions does not take any form of payment for the work that has been put into the survey itself.  All comments are appreciated.

Origins 2012 Survey:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Reality Makes all the Difference in your Worlds

 All gamers like to suspend reality to some extent while playing games.  This suspension of   disbelief brings the entertainment value to the players.  That's why we say 'do you want to PLAY a game?'  It's a type of play to be sure, but you don't need me to tell you that.  However, as we get older, we need to move away from the complete suspension of belief for our entertainment.  Wile E Coyote is still funny for many of us, but reality (typically gravity in his case) kicks in at just the right time.  Like any good movie, you can't completely suspend reality otherwise it becomes a bit absurd and boring.  This applies to any entertainment, especially games.

Back when I was a kid...I couldn't have been more than 10 years old... I remember playing a board game with some friends.  I don't recall the name of the game, but I do know they were teaching me the rules as we went on.  I became so frustrated with the game that I never played again because the devices in the game had nothing to do with the game itself.  The devices I speak of were:  elbows on the table caused you to be penalized, rolling dice with your left hand rather than your right caused you to be penalized, scooting your chair during the game caused you to lose your turn.  There was literally a booklet of ridiculous and unrelated rules that frustrate me to this day.  (Yes, I am still receiving therapy from that game).  The reason I bring this up (besides being therapeutic) is that games need to be tie relevant things together in order for it to make enough sense to be fun while keeping the entertainment value going.  Said another way, don't have irrelevant things impact the playing of the game.  It becomes 'noise', and noise is often annoying.

If noise is annoying, then what is music?  Ahhhh...now we are getting to the heart of it!  Making music is choreographed noise.  I mean really, who enjoys the sound of symbols all by themselves?  But, bring them into a larger orchestra, and they sound great if played at the right times.  The same is true with orchestrating reality and the suspension of reality in a game.  The cartoonist can suspend gravity for a certain amount of time, but if it was suspended all of the time, then Wile E Coyote would never make his perfect dirt plumes when hit hits the canyon floor.  A good game...any type of game...has a balance of reality and suspension of reality.

Let me give you what I think is a good example..in fact, now that I'm thinking of it, I might apply it to a future game!  (I call dibs!!).   Imagine a miniature or RPG scenario where a group of terrorists sneak into another country, set up their secret base, secretly detonate a nuclear bomb and design chemical weapons, in order to end the world to set up their own on their own rules.  OK, it's a little far fetched, I know.  Some people might play a scenario or two but they really need to put the reality check far back in their brain.  However, let's bring some reality to it and it would not only allow that reality check to come a bit more forward.  Let's place a real name to this terrorist group and call them the hmmm...how about the "Aum Shinrikyo"?  Let's timebox this for reality sake into a period we've all lived.  Let's say the mid-1990's or even today.  OK...next, let's pick a location.  Certainly can't be any place well populated or so extreme...having it as a moon base would be suspending reality too far.  How about the unpopulated areas of Australia...the deep outback.  Put a specific name to the place...something Australian sounding like "Banjawarn Station" in the Great Victoria Desert.  There.   Now you've just given enough reality to add spice to the scenario(s).   What would make it really, REALLY interesting?  Well, basing it on true events would certainly make it fun, but we'd need to change this story line a bit....or would we?  What if the players were given newspaper articles or a story synopsis of real, true to life, events and they then had to disengage reality only for their role on the event.  Would knowing that the above events really happened make the scenario more fun and interesting?  I can say first hand that it makes all the difference in the world.  Do some research on the Aum Shinrikyo...you wil quickly remember who they are.  You will also find some incredibly interesting, and little known facts about this Japanese terrorist group activities such as them having a 1/2 million acres of property in the Great Victoria Desert of Australia, them mining their own uranium, their partnership with former Soviet scientists, their detonation of the worlds first privately developed atomic bomb, and so much more.  Reality is the spice of life, and reality makes all the difference in your gaming worlds as well.

Modern news is one thing, but the applicability of this approach to gaming really adds credibility and more entertainment value to the games themselves.  Sure it takes a little more research for the game designer, but you will have a better end-result.  Good luck and I'd love to hear more about how you've used reality in your games and the responses of the players to it.  


Friday, June 15, 2012

Three Cigars that Changed the World

I love historical games.  There is something about imagining to put on a king's crown, general's feathery hat, a commander's cluster, or a sergeant's tin pot.  That 'something' is to see if you can have a different outcome than what really happened.  A different decision of troop placement, an additional disruption of supply lines of the enemy, or a feint attack could have turned the tide of not just a battle, but a war, and quite possibly the world itself.  The Weather Channel has had some really interesting episodes on how weather could have changed the world...D-Day is a perfect example, but there are hundreds more.  It's amazing how many trivial things can change the outcome of the world.  McClellan's receiving of the enemy's Special Order 191 that was found at Antietam Creek in 1862 wrapped around 3 cigars altered the battle and possibly the war itself.  World War III was possibly avoided when the fuel gauge of Soviet jets mistakenly showed low fuel causing them to turn back when they were on an attack run on US planes.  Even Napoleon's hemorrhoids possibly changed the world when he couldn't mount his horse to survey the battlefield of Waterloo.  It's pretty amazing how things could have turned out.  So, pull up a chair, keep your cigars in your breast pocket, double check your fuel, and bring along some Preparation H, and see if you could have made the world different if you were in command!


Monday, January 9, 2012

An Unique Challenge: A realistic Dungeon Crawl.

We've all been there a hundred times. An elaborite maze, with dozens of traps ranging from pits to magical fireballs. Secret passages, random teleportations, and a host of creatures that seem to live there, yet never wander their home. They seem content to just live in a room till a random party opens the door.

This beg's the question; who builds such elaborate dungeons to the point where it seems almost impracticle that anyone could make use of it. Who sets and resets all those traps? How do the Orcs eat? Where is the bathrooms?

 Spring this on your players. A realistic Dungeon. Here's how you prep it.

1. Backstory: "Legend tells of a (insert quest item of moderate to high temptation) That lies at the center of a Labyrinth. None who have entered have ever come out alive. They say a great (add a single encounter creature, yet keep it vague) lives there guarding the (quest item).

2. Warning: Upon entering the labyrinth for the first time, there needs to be a warning, perhaps etched in stone above the entrance. "Be warned, once you enter, you cannot leave until you reach the center of the maze/labyrinth/dungeon, etc."

3. Inventory; Once the party enters, the entrance seals behind them. It becomes indistinquishable from any other hallway/dead end. In the center, they can trigger a magic stone or simple lever to re-open it. At this moment, call for a comprehensive list of EVERTHING the party is carrying with them. Pay careful attention to food/water supplies. If they don't mention it, they don't have it, and here in lies the danger. Also, how many torches do they carry? How long do they burn for?

4. Encounters: Not a damn thing. No orcs, beholders, trolls, zombies or lizard people. No pit traps,magic missles, fireballs, poison darts or collapsing ceilings. Nothing, save the single encounter monster near the center of the labyrinth.

5. Setting; It's dark, very dark. Even with torches, one can barely see no more than 20 feet ahead. a dense layer of fog covers the ground up to the knees.

I guarantee you this will be the most dangerous maze they've encountered. Why? because of realism. First, you might get that player who wants you to draw the map out as they go along. Don't. Just descibe the scene, and any forks or intersections they come across.

Another player may take the inititive to map it out. He'll pull out a sheet of graph paper and insist his character will map it out. If a player does this, refer to the inventory sheet. Are they carrying parchement and writing tools? If not, too bad. Yet, a player may still insist it's part of his "rogues kit" or something. Fine. Ask him how he intends to map it out. Perhaps a tried and true method. He walks the length of a cooridor, walking heel to toe to measure it out, then returns to his parchment to draw it out. That's fine, as it will only serve to slow the party down.

Realistically, it still isn't that easy. When he draws it out, have him make skill checks against an undisclosed DC#. if he fails, he fails. Tell him the cooridor is 6 squares long when it's only 5, or something. Eventually, his map will start leading to dead ends and not make any sense.

How's the food and water holding up? What? They forgot to pack rations? Perhaps CON checks are needed and penalties applied as malnutrition and dehydration sets in.

What about sleep? Perhaps, as a means to set a mood, occasionally the great beast's cries can be heard echoing off of the walls. Even those on watch will wake the others for fear it may be close. Again more penalties and CON checks as fear, paranoia, restlessness and fatigue set in.

I think you see where I'm going with this. The real challenge is the maze itself. Why treat dungeons as cash cows of XP and magic items, when the real challenge lies in just surviving the encounter? I'tll be a long time before they willingly trapes off into another crawl without proper planning and supplies.

NEXT: A Realistic Dragon Encounter

Friday, January 6, 2012

Games Workshop moves up a level

Games Workshop has been a mainstay of my personal gaming.  I've been a huge fan going all the way back to 1977 with the first publication of White Dwarf.   Many thousands of dollars later (I'm afraid to check how much I really spent on their products over the decades, continue to have a love/hate relationship as so many gamers have with GW:  price increases, new versions of the game, the fluctuation of new products, etc.  I'm sure there is more.   I have a business background, and expected the worse when GW went public in 1994.  Typically, when companies go public, their products lose a bit of the 'personal flavor' they once had in exchange for meeting the needs of its shareholders who are interested more in the short-term gains.

It would be interesting to see the demographics of the players since the 1980s compared to today's players.  I can surmise, from my personal experiences of managing game shops and the players in the area that the players have shifted in their interests, age, and income.

I saw a number of posts on this on various groups and thought I would post this on our blog.   The following article was published on January 5th and thought I would lend some commentary to it.   I'd love to hear other thoughts from other folks.

Games Workshop moves up a levelBy John Harrington
Thu 05 Jan 2012
[Games Workshop moves up a level] LONDON
(SHARECAST) - Fantasy and science fiction tabletop war gaming firm Games
Workshop saw growth in sales, profit and return on capital from its core
business in the first half of its financial year.

The Warhammer 40k miniatures gaming firm saw revenue rise to £62.7m
in the six months to November 27th, 2011, from £60m at the interim
stage the year before, although the sales total was boosted by £0.7m
of gains from favourable exchange rate movements.

Profit before tax surged to £9.1m from £6.8m the year before,
while earnings per share climbed to 22.1p from 15.6p.

This is a heck of a profit for a game company, particularly in an industry that has a direct correlation on the health of the economy.  Gaming itself typically increases when the economy drops, however new sales of games typically decreases (just as other hobby purchases).  This is similar to more people wtching TV rather than going out to dinner, but fewer people typically buy new TVs to do so.  With the collapse of the Euro and the poor health of the US Economy, one would think that the exchange rates would also have an even heavier weight against the British company.  It will be interesting to see how this would play out if the economies were healthy.

The company has only recently resumed dividend payments, but has done so
with a vengeance; the interim dividend of 29p is not fully covered by
earnings per share, but with net funds of £15.9m, up from £11.5m a
year earlier, the company feels able to return cash to shareholders.
Unfortunately, this is the crux of it.  Although dividends are increasing, so are the price points for their products.  A recent purchase of a pricey Dread Fleet of $115 is a large pill to swallow.  The other thing I find interesting is the increase in Warhammer 40K figures.  Certainly there have been new releases, but 40K has not been a big seller for us.  In fact, checking with GMT, their 40K sales were down significantly for the past 2 years.  It might be just a US slump in the intrest of 40K.

The UK, North America, Asia, Emerging Markets and Capital Cities plus
its two specialist businesses, Forge World and Black Library, all
delivered constant currency sales growth. Continental Europe was down
slightly in constant currency with strong performances from Italy and
the Netherlands unable to offset declines elsewhere.

Increase sales in Italy does not surprise me.  Italy has been slow on the up-take of GW products and over the past couple of years Italy has had some really significant increase in the number of game clubs and conventions.  On the downside, Italy's economy is about as good as Greece's economy and dare I say a similar attitude on entitlements from the government.

Gross margin was maintained despite increased costs. Other than the rise
in raw materials, however, the management sounded sanguine about the
impact of the "real world" on the fantasy milieu in which the group

Bla bla bla....  this is corporate-speak. 

"As a niche business, we, in general terms, neither benefit nor suffer
from macro economic factors as our current results show. The Hobby is
healthy and the challenge is to stay focused on what needs to be done to
service it efficiently and cost effectively," the company statement

Well, it seems healthier than I thought it would be.  I just don't get it myself.  Let's just hope that GW doesn't experience a 'Jordache moment'...those of you from the 80's know what I'm talking about!  Go look in the discount stores and see if you can still find any Jordache jeans.

Shares in Games Workshop shot up 40p to 490p following the release of
the results.

As of this post, Games Workshop stock is up over 5% since yesterday's article selling at 515.00 GBp. 

What are your thoughts?