I just returned from Pacificon Game Expo, a game convention hosting ~1250 attendees for four days over Labor Day Weekend at the Marriott in Santa Clara (Just a 20-sided dies throw away from Great Adventure).
First let me say that Pacificon is a very good area game convention. It hasn’t quite caught up to my favorite, Kublacon, which
is held near the San Francisco Airport over Memorial Day, but if I could only pick one, it’d be a VERY tough pick.
One thing that makes it tough is that comes to Pacificon and not to Kubla. VPG –”The Little Game Company that Could” – is my favorite “David” of game companies, an industry where there are plenty of underdogs hunting the several Goliaths gallumphing about. Their CEO, Alan Emrich, is a funny, genuine, appealingly unexpected combination of warmth and classic gamer ascerbic wit. VPG is, as I
understand it, an offshoot of Alan’s work teaching game design at Art Institute of California. He wanted his students to be able to build a professional resume, so he started a game company for them to intern at and has invited us all along for the ride by accepting pitches for games from amateur designers and allowing said amateurs to retain the ownership rights. I’ve had two pitches shot down by VPG and my new life’s goal is to have them accept one for publication.
Highlights from my con experience:
I ran my Desperados, Dudes
& Deputies Wild West minis skirmish game in 1/32
scale with seven players. I ran a scenario called “3:10 to Folsom” which recreated, with some liberties, the climactic scene in the 3:10 to Yuma remake starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe.
In the con game, the outlaws shot up the heroes before they ever got near the train. The photo above shows the
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heroes holed up in a farmhouse with their prisoner as the outlaws surround them.
I ran my game in costume, but I didn’t get a picture of myself. Hopefully they’ll put me on their website for next year.
played with the creator, Joseph Goodman. The game was super fun, even though we didn’t lose many party members (DCC is known for
a high rate of TPK: “Total Party Kill.”) Joe Goodman was not at all what I expected from the guy largely credited with the OSR (Old School Renaissance) in role-playing games. Whatever contempt he has for new RPG systems, it doesn’t come across in person. He’s friendly, unassuming and is a really good DM. He evidences so little ego, I actually asked him to sign my copy of his book – something I NEVER do.
I attended two seminars by Joseph Miranda, game designer, historian, writer and editor at Strategy & Tactics. One lecture – on key WWII decisions and turning points – gave me an idea for a new card game where players try to pull off an assassination of Adolf Hitler. After the other seminar – about “what’s new in wargame design” – I showed Joe and Alan Emrich my prototype post-oil, post-climate change riff on Axis & Allies. They didn’t like it, but Joe saw something in it and encouraged me to try and adapt it as a modern insurgency game.
I also played in the funniest game I have ever been in, a DCC adventure run by Ed Allen (who one-upped me with his story of playing D&D with E. Gary at a midwest con many years ago). Two of Ed’s long-time gaming buddies, Martin and Barry were in attendance and are they funny! Martin was loud and brash and Barry was slyly droll.
I like to think I held my own and no one called security
Finally, I played in Greg Marker’s GIANT, 18-player, 15mm Pirates of the Carob Bean Sea game. I’ll let the pictures do my talking: