Mar 142011
 

PAX East has come and gone.  Throughout the entire convention we only managed to get out one extremely small podcast.  Why?  Because we were having too damned much fun, that’s why!  Here’s our first in a series of PAX East related posts. Today I’m going to highlight my experiences at PAX East, touch on the games we played, the people we met and what you can expect in the near future.

Inside the BCEC

Friday

Our first day at PAX East and it was raining cats and dogs!  We arrived at the BCEC bright eyed and bushy tailed.  Then came our first line.  Actually, we had to stand in two lines as we arrived.  We asked the first Enforcer we bumped in to where we needed to pick up our media passes and were promptly directed to the wrong line.  After a few minutes, we realized that things didn’t look right.  Searching out another Enforcer, we confirmed that the media line was not what we were in, and changed lines.

Waitin' in line - a PAX tradition

There was a bit of confusion on the first day as to where to go.  Lots of 3 day pass holders were in the media line and lots of media folks were in the standard line.  About 15 minutes later, a bunch of Enforcers came by and started clearing things up.  About 45 minutes later, we had our media badges and set off to take it all in.

The very first thing we did was head up to the press room to say hello to Tracy, who’s been working with me on this site for quite some time now, but who I’ve never met.  I’m quite sure Tracy will have a ton to say about PAX East as well, not to mention the folks he met, the items he has for review and lots more.

PAX East - the video game side of things

Next we spent the first two hours simply wandering around, looking at vendor booths in both the video game and tabletop game areas.  There was a lot to see and a ton of people seeing it.

Lunch was in order at this point.  We went to the secondary food court area and were greeted with carnival trucks and fried dough.  More than anything else at PAX, that took a moment to adjust too.  After we came to terms with carnival food crammed into an indoor food court (which was HUGE by the way) we found the other side, where such fare as cheeseburgers and pulled pork sandwiches could be found.

Tabletop area, from the skywalk

After eating, we wandered back in to the tabletop area, found an open table and sat down.  Being conference attendees and gamers, we broke open our swag bags and found the free, 30 card pre-made decks of Magic: The Gathering inside.  We broke these open and began to play a few hands. At that precise moment, I rediscovered my enjoyment of a game I haven’t played in 16 years. That is a story for another article though.

Heading back in to the tabletop area, I then participated in the largest game of Munchkin I’ve yet been able to play in.  Sadly for me, it was also the only game of Munchkin I’ve yet been able to play in.

Munchkin!

Again enjoying the utter disregard for the other players in the party feel of the game, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.    More magic was also played, with Scott and I expending a few bucks to increase our meager collection and constructing some of our own decks.

Then it was dinner time, and because we’re on the cusp of becoming old fart gamers and we wanted to make an early appearance the next day, we headed out to eat, collect our thoughts and get some sleep.

Saturday

Back just after 10am, this was our day of interviews, demos and podcasting!

Heading back in to the exhibitor hall.  The first booth we headed to was the Smirk And Dagger booth.  There before us, Curt of Smirk and Dagger fame had laid out a demo game of Cutthroat Caverns, and no one was playing!  Down we sat and play we did!

Cutthroat Caverns!

Cutthroat Caverns is a cooperative backstabbing game. The more of this type of game I play, the more I like general backstabbiness in games!  This game is built to simulate that strangling fear you first feel as a role player when you realize that your party may be more dangerous to you than the monsters you’re fighting. I didn’t win, but I did assist in getting the creator of this game killed of in our second encounter, which left me with a warm glow and a gentle love of Cutthroat Caverns.   So much so that you’ll be able to read a full review of the base game here on this site in the near future.

In short, it’s a game of balance – you’re attempting to be the party member who scores the killing blow against an interesting host of monsters, but you also have to ensure that your party survives, because without them, you aren’t going to survive to exit the dungeon with your new fame and treasure.

Cutthroat Caverns

Later that day I had the chance to sit down with Curt and record 15 minutes for an Old School podcast which will air a bit later.  We discussed his other games, including his line of parody games which I found to be hilarious.

Shootin' Ladders Frag Fest

Having children of my own young enough that I still log an hour or three a week on Candyland, I found these games refreshing – something I’d look forward to playing.  Shootin’ Ladders Frag Fest particularly appealed to me.  Billed as Halo meets Candyland, I’ll be reviewing this game for TC as well.

Wizards of the Coast had a huge presence in the tabletop area, with Steve Jackson Games, Fantasy Flight Games and Z-Man games also adding to the floor.  Speaking of Steve Jackson, did I mention Axe Cop Munchkin?  Can’t wait for that one!

Later, we wandered over to the Duke Nukem Forever booth and watched the playable demo for a while.

Come get some

It looked like some fun, but struck me as a day late and a dollar short.  Or perhaps, 10 years late and $60 too much.

We looked over the shoulder of people to see the Nintendo 3DS. It looks interesting but it’s not on my must have list of electronics.  Then, we found our way to our next interview.

We stopped by the Don Gusano Games booth and were able to snag Chris for a quick podcast about their new game, Quack in the Box.  This is a cool card game, written by an honest to gosh MD, which has the players as quacks, looking to make a quick buck and then flee to Switzerland with their ill gotten gains.

He doesn't just play a doctor at cons, he's the real thing.

The aim of the game is to earn as much money from your patients by ‘treating’ them for their maladies, without killing them off. Or at least, without killing too many of them off.  Kill to many and your reputation proceeds you, ending the game.  Don’t issue enough ‘treatments’ and you won’t make much money – cash is what you need to win.

Quack in the Box

We’ll have an in-depth review of Quack in the Box in the near future.

The rest of our day was spent gaming in the Tabletop area.  We met up with Wayne from Sages of RPG and a fellow gamer to play a quick round of Survive, played some more magic and generally soaked in the atmosphere.

Sunday

Sunday was our free day.  We arrived a bit early, and waited by the media entrance with six or so other media types.  It was odd that they wouldn’t let us in at the same time as the general public.  There were seven of us, I don’t think we would have overwhelmed the general public.  Be that as it may, we got in about 10 minutes after everyone else, and headed right to the Z-man Games booth.

We got to chat with the guys from Z-man for a few minutes about PAX East and the general state of gaming, and talk quickly about Trollhalla, Alf Seegert’s newest concoction!  Again, you’ll be reading more on Trollhallah here in a bit.

Omegathon Iperation!

After that, we hit up the Omegathon for a bit, to watch folks get suited up for the Operation tournament.  Yes, Operation.  And yes, they were made to wear masks, wash their hands and wear rubber gloves.  It was unspeakably awesome.  Seriously, don’t read this out loud.

Sunday was a day of wandering through the exhibit hall, seeing the sites and checking out everything we had missed previously. We took it easy, played a few tabletop games, grabbed some lunch from the carnival truck crew and due to family engagements, had to leave just after lunch.

My new friend

Critical Hits

  • First and foremost, the people at PAX East.  Everyone was just very cool.  There was some of the typical con behavior – people sitting in the middle of a walking area, some BO or just general uncaring about others. Honestly though, this was kept to a real minimum given the number of attendees – far smaller than other cons I’ve been to.  Just about everyone we met, vendors, booth personal and gamers were polite, inquisitive and out to have a great time.
  • I got to game for the majority of an entire long weekend, an experience I haven’t had in years. It was wonderful!
  • PAX East has a lending library of tabletop games.  Use it! It’s awesome!
  • The BCEC was a huge win for PAX East.  It may even have been a bit too big!  But I expect next year that won’t be the case as further word gets out and more people attend.  There were places were you could sit down in relative quiet for a few moments and gather your thoughts (or Magic cards) without interruption.
  • The Enforcers were, almost without exception very helpful, fun and enjoyable to work with.  Great job!
  • The lines.  Yes, the lines.  It’s part of the PAX experience I believe. While we elected not to wait in any of them, those who did, did so cheerfully!  Games were played, naps were taken, conversations struck up and most everyone seemed to actually enjoy their time spent in line for panels.  The official PAX Twitter feeds did a great job of informing everyone just how full the events were ahead of time as well.
  • PAX East is a great con to attend if you’re a video gamer, a tabletop gamer or some conglomerate of both!

Fumbles

  • The media treatment.  This was a bit strange.  Media pass holders had longer lines and strange restrictions on entering the floor causing at least a few media folks we met to miss interviews.  We all understand that Media pass holders did not get special treatment with concerns to panels and lines, which is perfectly fine.  But restricting 7 media badge holders from entering the floor while thousands of non-media pass holders stream by just seems kind of silly.
  • Tabletop gaming needs a bigger space!  Not a major fumble by any means but Friday and Saturday saw the free play tables overflowing, with lots of lost souls wandering around in a daze looking for a place to sit down and game.

What I’ll do differently next time

  • Next time I’ll take more pictures of the cosplayers.  There were some great costumes there!  Also add to this list booth folks, both men and women.
  • I’ll be a bit more willing to sit in a line for a while to see a panel.  Perhaps.
  • I’ll bring less netbooks and more games with me.

A gallery of PAX East

Here are a bunch of photos we took at PAX East. Check them out, if you were there, you may be in them!

[tags]pax east, pax, cons, conventions, rpg, role playing games, video games, console, 3ds, duke nukem[/tags]

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About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

  7 Responses to “PAX East in review – my side of the table”

  1. [...] the original: PAX East in review – my side of the table Related Reading: 10 Critical Thinking Card Games: Easy-to-Play, Reproducible Card and Board Games [...]

  2. When tabletop space filled up, we migrated to the food court. That worked great and was also much quieter.

  3. We played Cutthroat Caverns together! Great game, I ended up buying it. Hope it’s cool I steal my winning pic for my facebook page. Hope to see you guys at Unity!

  4. @Tresi – we considered doing this too. Honestly though, it was more fun for us to wait for a table so we could game and still feel ‘in the thick of things’.

    @Klunka – Hey! I’m hoping to go to Unity so you should see me there. It’s certainly cool for you to steal the winning pic. :) That was a lot of fun, I’m glad you sat down with us. Even if you did win. ;)

  5. Great article. Much appreciated by a guy who couldn’t go. You gave me some fun holiday gift ideas too.

  6. [...] To read more about PAX East, check out what Tracy had to say and also my review. [...]

  7. [...] a closer look, see my post from Pax East 2011 where I detailed my Cutthroat Caverns experience.  For us recently, there was plenty of fast [...]

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