Scott Hardie | October 26, 2003
I'm pleased to report, after spending two days at a sci-fi & gaming convention, it wasn't nearly as embarassing as I had anticipated. A friend proposed the idea, and I figured why not; I had been to plenty of comic book conventions in high school, but this would be my first of either of the other kinds. Frankly, I always wondered how people played RPGs at a convention, since creating a character takes upwards of half an hour for some games. (Pre-generated characters? Oh well, now I know: You create them really damn fast.)

The highlight was getting to play two games. One was Thieves' Guild, a well-designed board game from two guys my age in Nebraska, who were there to demo it and generate sales. I normally dislike fantasy board games, as most suffer from mini-RPG syndrome by getting too complicated with the numbers, but this one had simple rules and a quick pace. After thinking it over for a night, I bought it on the second day and got it autographed. The other game was Car Wars, run by John Gunter as an official game in the competition. You race little Micro Machines around a track, trying to be the first to the top of the central hill, then you blast the shit out of each other until only one is left. In the first battle, after I mercilessly destroyed John Edwards's car in a moment of vulnerability, and the other car got permanently stuck in a ditch, I was urged to stop playing since I was the only one left. Trusting my instincts, I drove back down the hill to attack the immobilized car, and after trading some machine-gun fire with it, I wound up destroyed for the effort. But you know what? I did enough damage to that car that I won the game; which wouldn't have happened if I had quit earlier. So nyah. In the second battle, I started in a Destruction Derby mindset and immediately started ramming other cars (we couldn't fire our guns until we passed a certain point on the track), which caused general chaos as the other players' cars tumbled over, spun off the track, and knocked each other aside trying to break free. Man, chaos is fun. :-) After I survived a protracted face-off with John Gunter, and John Edwards had gotten killed through his window, it came down to me in my smashed-up car versus this teenager in his flawless one, since he had been the only one to make it to the top of the hill. I took the time to pull Edwards's body from his car and start driving that instead, but in the end it proved fruitless; his lucky roll at the start of the game meant that he was just plain faster than me, which gave him the ability to shoot first, and that's what settled it. I still had a good time, and for my first victory I won John Gunter a new 2003 supplement for the game.

The other stuff at the con was not as interesting. There were some writing panels with published fantasy & sci-fi authors, but the advice was about as helpful as a 100-level college course. A movie-quote game would have been fun if not for people talking so much that the re-enactors had to repeat their quotes several times each. (Why do audience members shout "That's so easy!" when they hear a quote in such a game? It's not easy if you haven't seen the movie!) I caught the last few minutes of a really grainy VHS "Spider-Man" in the movie room when taking a break between panels. The buffet dinner was good, at least: Bow-tie pasta with shrimp, beef-and-cheese tortellini, and mostaccioli alfredo with a creamy, buttery sauce. I thought I'd died and gone to Scott heaven.

If what I saw in the crowd was any indication, Captain Jack Sparrow will be the costume that you'll see everywhere this Halloween.

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