Tuesday, April 9, 2013

GaryCon V - Day 3

Here’s the thing about GaryCon…it just keeps getting better….

Friday, Day 3, and we were up and at ‘em again. The kids and I were registered to play Tower of Gygax – a real death machine where you are lucky to last 15 minutes. It’s meant specifically to chew characters up and spit them out in a never-ending march of death.

But I knew about this Aliens game from previous years. AllanGrohe (grodog) has this amazing setup in which he runs several different scenarios from the Alien movies. Remember that friend I mentioned who was supposed to run a game on Thursday but who had to back out? Well, I knew he and his kids were signed up to play…and that he wouldn’t be there. Three of them…three of us…

So I lit a fire under my kids, got them up, fed them, showered, and out the door in the miniatures room by 9:30 for a 10 AM game. I would not be denied!

I should also mention that Allan, who is also (in)famous for his Grodog’s Castle Greyhawk games that run every year, is one of the nicest gentlemen I’ve met at GaryCon and I’d already mentioned my desire to take these spots on one of the message boards. So I was pretty confident I and/or my children would get to play, but I wanted to be sure.

Sure enough, getting there early was a good thing. Allan needs to clone himself (and his setup!) and run a while slew of slots of this game. Everybody seems to want to get into it, and they are right to want to do so; it is a blast. And this is why…

If Allan wants to jump in at any point and comment, it would be an honor. What I understand is that each of these three setups is a different scenario…and that you can essentially walk through the entire Aliens movie using these setups.

Colin inspects the setup while Storm anxiously waits to see if we get to play.

We lucked out and got to play. It was a full table, I think eleven in all including three kids under the age 13 – two of them mine. One of the gentlemen playing was very familiar with the game, so we let him kind of set up who took what roles and what our overall strategy would be. He really set us up nicely and made one of the most important decisions off the bat – we’d all stay on the same side and move up (as opposed to splitting around the “stairwell” opening in the center of the board).

I could, really, go on and on about this game. We were very lucky to be playing with a few experienced players who really knew how to take advantage of the various tactical abilities of the different characters.  In the end, I think I’ll just post a bunch of pictures…

In the end, we were extremely, surprisingly lucky. We only lost Apone, my son’s character… and that only about 20 minutes from the end – from an acid splash! Everyone else made it out OK. Somewhere I have a picture of the brave colonial marines that made it out that day.

After such a harrowing event, we rushed back to our room for chow. We brought a microwave with us. I know, crazy, right? But we live so close and it’s not that difficult to just throw it in the van. This way, we saved some money by having simple lunches every day. And it’s quicker than driving into town which, while it isn’t far, doe eat up some time. And we only had an hour or so before…

The Haunted Keep.
The Haunted Keep is an introductory adventure using the Moldvay Basic Dungeons & Dragons rules. This event is suitable for all age groups and welcomes players 8 years or older to come and explore the Haunted Keep. Adults must be accompanied by at least one kid! Pregenerated characters will be provided, so just bring a writing instrument and your dice

I wanted to provide the actual description of the event because this is becoming very common at GaryCon…games geared towards kids. And I love it.

The second thing about this game that really needs to be given a shout out is the gentlemen running it – Paul Stormberg.

It was Friday afternoon, and I can tell you that Paul was already making CON checks. He runs events for something like two or three hundred players across all the days of the convention. One of the things he runs that gets tons of people involved – even wives and girlfriends and kids of your standard attendees – is the jousting tournament. And this is tough because anyone can walk up and play at just about any time during the convention. I have not done it to date, but I’m in it next year for sure.

Paul also runs Battle for the Brown Hills, the original Chainmail…in a sandbox…

Most amazing, Paul is the same nice guy whether he’s dead tired or spry as spring, running the Haunted Keep for me and my offspring, or the finals of the Jousting Tournament. He’s just one of the Nice Guys who also happens to be keeping the memory and legacy of those seminal games alive.

The things I recall about this game focus in my mind around how carefully my kids explored this place. I don’t want to give away spoilers (heck, I hadn’t even played this!) but they were cautious and thinking their way around obstacles like seasoned veterans. I was so proud. But I also know that as a convention game, that can sometimes get in the way of moving things along. So there ended up being some hand-waving and such as we neared the end of our time.>

And I hope we weren’t too much trouble for Jason Azze.

This event ran right up until 6PM and I was the only one scheduled for another game. Though my game was scheduled for 6PM, there was a note that it was starting and ending later. So I was able to squeeze in a bit of time with the family before they headed off towards the pool and I hustled to the next game, “Quondam Fount”, run by none other than Frank Mentzer.

Frank runs a great game but here’s the thing. You have to be prepared for a crowded table and a certain amount of…well, I wouldn’t call it gawking, but there’s a definite novelty thing going on. And Frank is gracious to everyone – which is the way we’d all want it or there would be nerd rage all across the Internet about how Frank dissed someone at such and such table of Whatevercon.

The game itself was pretty cool and had some really interesting things to figure out – only time was limited, it being a con. So just when things were starting to heat up (or cool down as the case may be), it was time to call it.

It was still early, so I trundled off to the Open Gaming area and ran into Doug Kovacs who was in a game of The Red Dragon Inn with some friends. They allowed me in, but it was clear early on that for various reasons we would not be ending the game in the normal fashion. So we packed up and got everyone home safe and sound and then it was off to bed to get some sleep for Saturday’s adventures…


  1. Jim, your posts on GC5 are great, and I appreciate the perspective of attending with the kids. I'm looking forward to having my wife and son (he'll be 7 1/2 for GC6) join me for the weekend next year.

    Anyway, it looks like you had a really good line-up of events. Allan's Aliens setup is most excellent. I had the pleasure of playing in his session (Hunt the Queen senario) on Saturday morning. Coincidentally, I ran Apone and was also the only fatality, though mine was unfortunately early in the session and was due to my own lack of vision (really, I did not see the alien behind a wall that I could have flamed had I seen it). Even so, I would highly recommend any of the scenarios if Allan runs them again next year. As you commented, we need to clone him. He truly is gentleman and a scholar! I make it a point to sign up for his Castle Greyhawk session as well.

    I'm looking forward to reading your post for Saturday, particularly the Walking Wet.


  2. You guys did great, and it was a pleasure to have your children playing in the game, Jim. had several kids play over the course of the con, and I think the game is well-geared toward them. It was also notable that both teams at GaryCon who had children playing got out mostly-intact with only 1 or 2 casualties, while the team that Luke Gygax played in---which was heavily staffed by his ex-military buddies---got wiped out in a TPK :D :D

    Next year I'm planning to have a new board built which will allow me to run the Operations and Air Ducts scenarios (Air Ducts is part 2 of Operations, but I don't have an Ops board built yet).

    Once I have the Ops board, then you'll be able to play the classic flow of the Aliens film: The Reactor --> Operations --> Air Ducts --> Rescue Newt/Hunt the Queen. I'm planning to make some special modifications to the Ops board to allow the players to patrol the perimeter corridors, which will also allow use of the sentry guns, too. I'm probably going to have a MedLab area built adjacent to the Ops Center too, where there's the possibility of playing a Ripley + Newt vs. 2 Facehuggers with no guns scenario (there will be a time delay where the Colonial Marines cavalry can't engage for N number of turns). If it comes together as I'm hoping, it should be quite fun, although it will probably be the largest board set up too (once you add in the Air Ducts boards).

    Both of my boys are interested in attending a con next year (they'll have just turned 10 and be almost 6 by then), but I think GaryCon is probably too far for them to drive, unfortunately. So they'll probably have to try out NTX or KantCon instead, even though there are definitely more kids at GaryCon than the other two cons.

    Anyway, I'm glad you and your family had so much fun, Jim---and you too, Dex, of course :D