MEPACon is a fair-sized role-playing convention held in eastern Pennsylvania, and despite my best intentions, I’d never managed to actually attend it. This year, I decided to change that, and to help my resolve, I volunteered to run a few miniatures events.
Friday was the first night of the con, and I headed up after work, carpooling with James, a member of my regular gaming group, and a fellow game master at MEPACon. We arrived too late — 8:30 p.m. — for the first evening slot, but hey, who cared … we were at a convention. It had been years — specifically since 2001 — since I’d been at a con, and then it had been GenCon. Walking into the Clarion Hotel in Scranton, I was impressed at how professional and organized they were. Granted, the staff knew James on site from previous cons, but within two minutes of our arrival we had our GM packets.
I was also impressed by the number of gamers there Friday night; I’d guess there were probably close to 100, between the RPGA and free game rooms. I was also happily surprised by the quality of the hotel (though I shouldn’t have been, given what my friends had told me about the previous con) It was clean, well-lit, and well-staffed, with nice looking rooms with comfortable beds. We were even able to get a cot for our fifth man in the room, and we were happy to discover that the Clarion offered free WiFi access, allowing me to post this story before Sunday.
We quickly found the other members of our group: Lance, Jon, Bob and Jess, and after 15 minutes spent deciding what we’d do next, Bob and I convinced Jon to play a quick game of Star Munchkin. The game’s a sci-fi themed version of Steve Jackson Games’ very funny hack’n’slash card game.
After that, Bob and I had a Steve Jackson Games slot, which turned out to be Munchkin Bites, a horror-flavored version of the aforementioned Munchkin card game. It had some interesting variant rules: like other Munchkin games, it had races your character could become (Werewolf, Vampire and Changling) but there were no classes. Instead there were “powers”, special abilities broken up by ranks. You could have as many ranks in powers as you had levels, and if you lost levels, you had to lose powers (unless you were a Changling, who’s special ability was to be immune to power loss).
Speaking of special abilities, Vampires found that when they leveled up using one of the “Gain a Level” treasure cards, they could force another person to lose a level as they gained one. Nifty. And evil! Werewolves got a bonus against demonic enemies (of which there are many).
Another nice touch were the “Bat” rules, which allowed you to harass your fellow players by playing any bat monsters from your hand when they were fighting another of the creatures. Again, nifty. And very evil!
The game was brutal and vicious; in short, everything you expect from Munchkin. Bob won the event, and because it was an official Steve Jackson event, he got to pick out a prize; he chose a copy of Munchkin Bites.
When Gods Strode the Earth
At this point, it was midnight, and other, perhaps saner gamers (particularly those with 9 a.m. slots on Saturday) would have gone to sleep.
We were not those gamers.
Instead, we got out Risk: Godstorm, another of the backup games I’d brought along. After a few delays (in which we tried to convince Jon to join us) and finding two guys interested in learning the game, we finally launched into the mythology-flavored Risk variant at around 1:30 a.m. And then played until just after 5 a.m.
As we discovered in our earlier playtests, Risk: Godstorm is an intense, fast moving game that’s hard to develop a strategy for. The various miracle cards (read this preview for an overview of the game and its elements) can radically change the course of the game, and a person who was sitting pretty at the end of his turn could be at death’s door two rounds later.
It was a great game, augmented around 4 a.m. with an spirited — and very loud — debate at another table over the glaring plot holes and idiot decisions made in the various Star Wars movies (particularly the ability of rabid teddybears to take out a legion of the Emperor’s best men.
And yeah, when it was finally all over, Bob won.