Thursday, April 01, 2010

GameStorm 12, Day 4 and Thoughts

Unlike the previous two nights, I didn't sleep nearly as well on Sunday morning. Maybe it was post-traumatic stress, I don't know. I do know that I'd agreed to play in Dave's unscheduled Nautilus game that morning at 9am, and I still wanted to get my stuff out of the room before that time, as I suspected I wouldn't be able to get it if I got into a long game. After eating some dry Apple Jacks (they had run out of milk in Hospitality), KC, Rita, Dave, and myself went fishing.

Nautilus is one of those games that I've always had a soft spot for, despite the garish colors of the various bits. It's like there was jail for Crayolas that were a *bit* too much for the general public, and they had a breakout and used the game box for their getaway. That said, the bits are otherwise fabulous, the game has both a building *and* a discovery element, as well as progressive improvement as in a role-playing game, and the board looks a whole lot different when you're done than when you started. There's something really satisfying about a game like that. However, I've felt that the game takes far too long when played with four, with too much downtime. This game proved all of that wrong - we finished in 90 minutes when you took KC's involvement in getting other GameLab sessions started and stalling our game, not to mention the 'splainin'. Frankly, this is one that will come out on the table more often.

I won't go into too much detail on how the game works. Suffice it to say that the outcome will generally hinge on two things - were you able to get the lion's share of the five bonus point chits (in a four player game, getting two is very good), and also generate enough points on the other "side" of the point scale, scored through finding the right tiles on the ocean floor. My multiplier on that side was nine to Dave's eleven, and we each scored two bonuses to get a 9 on the researcher-manned station side. When you consider that up until the very end of the game, I had found exactly one useful tile, a 1 that was upped by my "bonus" tile to 2, and three Atlantis tiles that got me third place and two more points. The other five came in the last three tiles I flipped, two gold worth two points and a zero that was upped to a 1. Dave, on the other hand, had four of the 1's that would have upped to 2's had they been mine, but he also had the symbol.

It was great to play at a table with nothing but people I knew and enjoyed playing games with, and in some ways that was the end of the con for me. As it was, I got in a game of Settlers of Catan with the con's chair, his good friend (now my good friend) Terry, and David - like the game the night before, it ended with three people in a row having the ability to end the game and win, but in this case it was the first person who got what they needed. One other note: we used a Deck of Dice with a rule to reshuffle near (but not at) the end of the deck. I may never play Settlers any other way again.

I also got in an aborted game of Galaxy Trucker, using the XL expansion. Suffice it to say that I am better off not touching this expansion until I've gotten a chance to play the base set about twenty more times. The increase in potential choices completely overwhelmed me to the point that I constantly forgot that I needed living quarters in order to house aliens. It was not pretty, and we left after the second rig in order to go to the con feedback session.

I came away from the con with the sense that from the member's point of view, the con was a great success. Given that every table in B was in constant use from 9am until midnight from Thursday evening to Sunday early afternoon, I'd say that was true. We had almost no mishaps after the first few hours on Thursday, and I made it a point to meet as many of the GMs as I could and met some very nice people.

Where the con needs "fixing" is very simple - almost any staff position is hard work, and unfortunately made harder through a lack of communication channels. Given that the staff increased around 100% this year (I believe we had close to 50 staff, most arranged in "triads" to try to spread the work out better), this isn't a big surprise. What needs doing is making being staff as much fun as being a member. To this end, I've already proposed that we have a Scheduling "Chair" that works with all of the schedulers and the schedule programmers to make sure we are doing things consistently, especially where it comes to the member experience. I'm also going to take a stab at capturing not only the timeline of what needs doing when, but also to help nail down the various roles and tasks involved with each aspect of the con. It will be a big job, but I think it's necessary for the committee to function as it needs to now that there are so many people involved. This is one of the challenges that companies face when they grow out of their startup phase, and one that many stumble over, some rather badly. My hope is that while we may not have everything nailed down, we will have the mission-critical elements captured by the next con, as well as a good chunk of everything else.

I am completely out of my mind.


dave said...

"I may never play Settlers any other way again."

And thus ends the play of another game system, wherein folks cannot agree which set of rules to play with.

Dug said...

I'd hardly say that guaranteeing a more statistically distributed set of results (while avoiding an exact curve) could be called a set of rules. It's simply a different way of implementing a basic mechanism, sort of like pushing a button to start your car instead of turning a key. The game itself doesn't change - you still base your choices off of probability. If you card count, then you can always change the exact position of the joker (which triggers a reshuffle of the dice deck) to adjust just how close to the ideal probability curve you wish to get.

My desire to change the physical mechanism (as opposed to a game mechanism) comes from my experience with Express at the con, where the dice played a rather critical role in who won the game. As with all games that take more than an hour, I prefer to have less chaos and more control, especially in a 150 minute game. Given that the common complaint of Settlers (even in our own group) is the statistical distribution of dice, I don't see this as a bad thing at all.

I will note that I was ambivalent until playing with the dice deck, but it only took one game to make me a convert.

dave said...

I know why people prefer the deck, there is no need to defend it. But do you know why people prefer the dice?

"I'd hardly say that guaranteeing a more statistically distributed set of results (while avoiding an exact curve) could be called a set of rules."

It removes the valid strategy of over-investing in a particular number, gambling that it will come up more often than not.

But, more importantly, part of the fun of Settlers (for me) is the hope of getting a run of good number, even if that hope doesn't pan out.

I'm not expecting either of us to convince the other, hence my original comment. :-)

Chris Shaffer said...

I am completely out of my mind.

Yes, you are.