A periodic blog about Games, Books, Movies, Pop culture, Technology and whatever else I happen to feel like writing about...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cangames 2006: GURPS Traveller, Junta, 1313 Dead End Drive, Fantasy Battlegrounds

As is usual in Ottawa, Canada, the May long weekend brings dubious weather, hopeful campers and Cangames. Now in its 30th year, Cangames is the perfect place to play games and meet new gamers of all types: Grognards, Miniatures, CCG'ers, D&D and, of course, Eurogamers.

This year, I volunteered to run a game for the 8-12 year olds. Last year, I ran am impromptu game of 1313 Dead End Drive, and it was so popular I decided to run another. My four young charges proceeded to lure each other's characters to the mansion's many traps with glee, and I had to remind them many, many times that the best way to win the game was to escape with some money, and not to rack up the highest body count. Last year, the winner had escaped with one bag of loot, and I am happy to say that that total has been significantly improved: This year's winner had two bags (and 6 knocked off heirs!).

Seeing as I needed to be at the convention at a certain time to run 1313 Dead end Drive, I decided to try an book some games around that schedule. I also decided that I would try and get some RPG'ing in, as it has been many, many years since my friends and I had played AD&D, Traveller, Space Opera, Top Secret and The Fantasy Trip together.

Now, I might be colouring my memories with too much nostalgia, but I seem to remember that the role playing aspect of our games was one of the driving factors, and, indeed, one of the best parts of the game. My childhood buddy Colin could mug it up with the best of them, and even Burgess the Bold (otherwise known as the Well-Done Dwarf) would put some real heart into his character, even if his cleric was more about the smiting than the praying.

Maybe it was because I was playing with a group of people that I did not know, or because we were at a convention, but I found that the actual role playing was at a minimum. I have always found that the tactical aspects of small group combat are better handled in dedicated games, and they are usually more useful as ways to advance the narrative. In the end, our small band of stalwart space rogues was successful, but it left me wanting a little bit more from the experience. Maybe next year, I can get Colin to help run a real adventure so that we can show what role-playing can really be like...

Because of conflicting time slots, I was not able to sign up for Settlers or Caylus (being run by Uber Spielfriek Mike), but I was able to participate in the Junta tournament. While I had read many articles on Junta, this would be my first actual game, and I was looking forward to the experience. Luckily, I was able to convince my fellow powermongers to elect me El Presidente in the first round, and I was munificent to my supporters, and frugal to my detractors in the first round of Aid Budget allocation. I promised prosperity for all (loyal) supporters, and my reign would be looked on fondly during the harder years as the good times.

But, when the powerful Ricardo family swept to power, over the still-warm corpse of my late uncle, it would show the elite that times had been better under my family's beneficent rule. Indeed, the first counter coup would have succeeded, had not two of the generals been shot down by loyalist assassins. But, fear not, as I knew that the people would support another coup, and 4 of us were finally successful in deposing the tyrant Ricardo.

The four of us were deadlocked on choosing a new El Presidente, and I, for the good of the people, nominated a new El Presidente, and selflessly threw my support to him. He rewarded my loyalty with the post of Minister of Internal Security, and a generous budget allocation. Alas, my secret police informed me that El Presidente was planning to loot the country and deposit all of the Aid Budget into his Swiss account. What else could I do as a true patriot but to arrange his sudden retirement at he the bank, using my official assassins. And since I was already at the bank, I was able to deposit his ill gotten gains into my Swiss account, purely to safeguard them for the good of the country.

This proved to be the move that secured me the game, narrowly grasping victory from the clutches of the now second-place Ricardos. I pledge, my people, that when I come back from the Cayman Islands, my rule will be as munificent as the paltry Foreign Aid Budget allows. But, as you all know, it has been a very bad year...

I also was able to play in a demonstration game of Fantasy Battlegrounds, which I found to be a very good miniatures game in cardgame format. I played the Men of Hawkshold versus the Undead, using two of the suggested 1500 point starter armies. As I familiarized myself with the system and the abilities of my units, I realized that the difference would be the Undead ability to ignore morale checks. Even though I was able to stiffen some of my troops with my command ability (+3 morale), the unceasing onslaught of the undead hordes proved to be too much. As my last valiant swordsmen finally succumbed to panic, I began to withdraw my archers in good order. While I was able to inflict some damage, I knew my archers would be destroyed once their backs were up against the wall (table edge), and I reluctantly surrendered the field to the undead.

I had never gotten into Warhammer or Heroclix, but I can see the attraction in Fantasy Battlegrounds. You can play on an average-sized table, you can carry an army in a card box, and you can do all your stat tracking on the cards themselves using a wipe off marker. As a participant in the game, I was given my deck to keep, along with 9 dice, and I picked up another deck before leaving Cangames to get some more variety. I had wanted to pick up the Orcs, but the game proved to be almost sold out, so I got the Elves instead.

And so, another Cangames came to a close, and I would say that it was definitely a success, due to the hard working volunteers, especially Mike and Julia who must have spent almost the entire time at the con. I am already looking forward to next year, where I will probably run a few more games, and where I am looking forward to again attempt to lead my people into an era of peace and (personal) prosperity.