So on the weekend past, I was at ConPulsion in Edinburgh, Scotland’s largest tabletop gaming con.
Reflections on ConPulsion 2016 and Worries for 2017
I went to ConPulsion last year, and though I had decided to return again, I was not entirely sure if it would be a repeat thing. Conpulsion was massively useful to me last year, but mainly due to a panel I ended up attending (rather by accident) and meeting Scott, one of the artists who helped me early on with both I Love the Corps art, and advice on art directing. Though I enjoyed one of the games I ran, I felt the other was not so great, and didn’t get the other two games I had booked, and was left with large periods of time with little to do, due to no sign-ups for sheets I put out last minute and there not being a huge amount of other things I wanted to do that had space. So it was hit and miss, leaving me a bit apprehensive for this year. My apprehension was enhanced a few days before when I saw the programme, and that one of my 4 games I had booked wasn’t present. However, at least I noticed beforehand this time. Not wanting to be left without anything to do again, I decided to sign up to play a game in the slot I had free and hoped the rest would go well. It so turns out that it did.
ConPulsion 2017- the General Experience
When I first got to ConPulsion, I was near to the start of the queue and got signed up quickly. A good sign of improved organisation. Other signs of that over the weekend included being given free water at my gaming table, and receiving free cake not once, but twice! I also left my table plaque (made by one of my groups, which says ‘Chris Dean- GM. Abandon all hope’) on the Saturday, but it was kept for me at the sign up table. And of the three games I had, I got one with five players and two with 6… so yeah, other than missing a slot, it all went well on the organisation front. I also didn’t have the problem of the previous year of struggling to fill time. Two more friends of mine attended this year, and lots of people I met last year appeared at convenient times, and I easily filled time via an arranged lunch meet up with fellow brummie and game designer, Simon Burley and otherwise randomly bumping into people who remembered me from last year. Also filled some time with game demos of ‘In a Bind’ and ‘Wreck and Ruin’ and chatting a lot to their lovely creators. I was certainly not bored across the weekend and fully attend to return next year.
Good work ConPulsion, good work. Now, onto the games themselves.
Game 1- I Love the Corps: Sweet Dreams
I ran one of my Jurisdiction squad Missions. This was the half X-com, half Halo, ‘raid the alien spaceship’ scenario. Of the five players, two were old friends, one of which I haven’t seen for six years. Neither have played ‘I Love the Corps’ before. Joe was raving a lot about it afterwards, including what he wants to GM for me in the future, and Phil seemed to certainly enjoy it as well, being very creative with his Sensitive powers, and playing the controversial mercy of the character well, without breaking any rules. The other three players were entirely new to the game and myself. They dived into their characters beautifully, matching the write-ups really well. It was a very character-acting heavy game, with lots of overly gung-ho heroism which resulted in two suitably impressive deaths, and an equally impressive rescue that prevented a third death. Only thing close to a criticism I got was being asked if it was more normally so deadly, to which I gave the honest answer that it can be fairly easily scaled, and I tend to ham it up for certain one shots, which the player seemed satisfied with.
- The combination of the work of a crazy Aug with an axe and telekinesis to pry open the enhanced chassis of an alien robot drone.
- The fact that three of five marines ended up attached to said drone.
- The balls of the Sarge resulting in grappling to the robot with grapple gun in one hand, firing assault rifle in the other, just as the robot is firing lasers right at him.
- The nonchalant shrugging off of a laser to the chest by Judge.
- When Bailiff realises even the Black Hole Gun can’t take down a robot with one blast… and then is saved by an AI Guided Plasma Launcher.
- The most amazing EMP grenade throw ever (via Glory Point), taking down ten robotic soldiers at once.
- The look on Verdict’s players face as the EMP grenade he throws at the mysterious alien deactivates after it lands.
- Getting to describe the thoughts of an intelligent but nonverbal alien to the Sensitive in the form of glimpses of memories that are bits of dialogue and description from earlier in the game.
- The look of remorse of the player of Arbiter as he is powerless to stop the alien being killed by his more unthinking order following fellows.
- The plasma launcher being used to blast said (plasma) grenade to kill said alien.
- The dramatic flare gun blinding of a three hundred foot high robot guardian… alas, I rolled a 6, which is even with the -4 penalty, was still enough for the Sarge to get struck and killed by a torrent of lasers.
- Verdict launching himself at the blinded robot eye and cut his way into the robot head.
- Using telekinesis to throw robotic drones into the plasma stream, and teamwork to knock the giant guardian into it… with Verdict still inside.
- The overloaded Black Hole Gun being thrown into the plasma generator to implode the ship.
- Arbiter lying prone, with no ability total to oppose being pulled into the plasma stream… cue Inquisitor flying his mech in, with dramatic timing.
Game 2- I Love the Corps: Search and Rescue
The second Jurisdiction squad mission, the affair involving the mysterious Drogan observer and the crashed human spaceship in the jungle of deadly horrors. Three of the six players all played together in a game in 2016 (the one I actually thought went well, so guess I was right!), and this game was prebooked before the event itself. Four of the six were teenagers too, and one of them was another old friend of mine who had yet to play the game. So a very different group dynamic. I was a little worried at first, just because the Sarge was so much more animated than the rest to begin with and seemed to be leading a little too much, but as they all got into it, there was more discussion of their actions, and it became more of a team effort. Then the Sarge did a very stupid thing and got in horrid peril, causing the others to frantically try and save him. My worries were assuaged, and the game also finished a few minutes before the scheduled time, and paced incredibly well. Again, it seemed well received, and four of the players in particular spoke to me about it later in the weekend, and were very complimentary about the system and I’ve had many promises for more returning players next year. Having a younger player determined to GM it when its released was particularly flattering.
- Whilst everyone else was scrabbling down a hole dug through fallen trees made by Verdict’s axe, Arbiter was serenely floating down and entirely showing off.
- The only time someone has ever successfully mind read the Drogan and learned anything about the mysterious alien ‘ally’…
- The first time players have ever reached the first airlock and decided to keep digging!
- Actually saving the first survivor by digging parallel to their location, and shooting through the hull with a railgun.
- When you first enter a crashed spaceship, what do you do when you hear a weird clicking sound coming from the vertical shaft that was the corridor and find a survivor screaming ‘it’s coming!’? You stick your head through the hole leading into the corridor, of course! Slow golf clap everyone for the Sarge, and his very horror movie action!
- Of course, the Sarge got dragged through the hole. Certain traditions have to be stuck to.
- Repeated attempts by the other players to save the Sarge, including throwing grenades and firing various kinds of weapons that had no chance of beating the immense Freakin’ Ninja of the alien, and it kept using their negative Success Levels to leap further and further up the shaft, eventually depositing the Sarge in the room.
- The Glory Point spent to stop the railgun shell shot straight up the shaft from hitting the nuclear reactor…
- Verdict, scrambling up to the room above where the Sarge was taken, slipping, nearly falling, then throwing himself across and into the room to the rescue… only for the Sarge to Glory Point to rescue himself, after many beats of tussling with the creature.
- After all the problems the Sarge had, the grin on Inquisitor’s player’s face as he slapped an alien aside during its surprise attack, and his AI Guided Plasma Launcher effortlessly disintegrated it.
- The final team-up moment as four of the team rappelled, floated and climbed down the ship, making loads of noise to attract the last beast, as the two brainiacs got to engineering, turned on the lights and cameras and lit up the creature, as Bailiff easily killed it, and others blasted it to bits.
- All the squad survived, and found two more survivors… unfortunately no-one was watching the first survivor… who escaped out to the jungle alone and got himself killed.
Game 3- Is It a Plane!?- Good Guy City Adventures- Christmas Special
So, this is the first time I have mentioned my next game in the works on this blog… suiting, as this was the FIRST PUBLIC PLAYTEST! In short, its a super hero game where instead of rolling dice, you draw panels to dictate your actions in the story. All players get the same amount of time to draw their actions, and can draw as many panels as they want.
I was already nervous, as it was the first public game. Nervousness increased when I realised I had forgotten my panels (laminated card cut into various sizes for reuse.) Oops. However, I bought post-it notes, which did just fine. In fact, due to having a long table, and having to lift up the pages to show players and see them clearly myself, the post-its worked better than my usual panels would have done. This got us into discussions about how the panels could work, and I plan to try out velcro to attach the cards I have made, having had similar suggestions.
The game went down a storm, and people were asking how and where they could buy it, surprised I had made it myself, much as first happened with ILTC when I first took it to a con a few years back. All the players seemed to really want to play the game again, and one even said they wanted to GM it. A very good sign for my future as one man game team PSYCHIC CACTUS GAMES!
- Seeing a character with movement-based abilities largely dealing with situations through well illustrated dramatic close ups and uses of punctuation!
- Waking up the sleeping giant robot by using Super-Boxing’s power to take weapons from his box head, by producing a megaphone.
- Knocking out the giant robot by building an ever-increasing wall of lego bricks as it falls.
- Dropping said wall of lego on the character on the head at the time, who then escaped with dramatic LASER EYE CLOSE UP.
- Using the ability to create ‘super cars’ to create flying cars to hold up buildings and laser wielding rovers.
- Using long stretchy arms to pull the giant robot’s foot onto another villain.
- Revealing the invisible villain by blowing Christmas card glitter onto them.
- Forcing me to make the master villain sing by featuring him in a panel with musical notes.
- Using the glass from the windows of a city street to create a giant Glass Man.
- Using the giant glass man to cap a volcanic eruption.
- Dedicating several pages of panels to give Christmas presents, decorations, foods and greetings to the villain to show him the meaning of Christmas.