Article by: Jillian Schmett
If you’re friends with me on Facebook or in some of the groups I post to, let me apologize in advance for yet another PAX related post, but I just can’t help myself. This was the first con I ever attended and it was both as awesome and as overwhelming as I expected. After months of anticipation I was so excited when the day finally arrived and I could find out just what exactly this whole con experience is all about!
We drove the hour from home and arrived in Boston Saturday morning (a little later than originally intended, since I took forever to get ready… as usual…) and stayed overnight at the Omni Parker House hotel since we also had Sunday badges. I was pleasantly surprised to learn upon check-in that there was a shuttle service running from the hotel to the convention center, because when I had called to inquire about overnight parking and such the person I spoke with said the convention center was a little over a mile away and we would be able to walk there (apparently he was unaware of the shuttle at the time). We arrived at PAX around 11:30 Saturday morning and promptly assumed our positions at the end of the queue to get into the building. This was about the time that I realized that I had left my notebook, in which I had a carefully planned schedule of things I wanted to be sure to see, and my business cards, which I had printed especially for PAX, in my bag in my hotel room (anyone who knows me well won’t be surprised by that). Oh well, nothing to be done about that at that point, so forward we marched... Ever so slowly…
OK I am exaggerating some there, the lines really weren’t that bad at all. It probably helped that we were so late arriving. We were outside for probably 20-30 minutes and if it wasn’t for the freezing wind there would have been nothing at all to complain about (New England in April...Third winter is upon us, amirite?).
Finally, we made our way through security and into the main hall. As I said, I expected it to be overwhelmingly huge, but it was still an extraordinary sight to see as we made our way to the escalator and down to the exhibition hall. Thousands of people milling around excitedly, with cosplayers peppered throughout, made for an incredible first impression. We had always fully intended on spending the bulk of our time in the tabletop area, and since we were completely ill-prepared thanks to me leaving my notebook at home and the fact that neither of us had any idea what we were doing, we started scanning the room for something that would indicate where we needed to go. The first helpful thing we spotted was a large White Wizard Games sign hanging from the ceiling. (Tips for exhibitors- if you can do that, do it. It meant that White Wizard was the first thing we went looking for as soon as we reached the ground level). So we were off and on our way to find the White Wizard Booth. On the way we noticed the tiny “Tabletop HQ” sign way off in the distance in the back corner so now at least we had our bearings.
The White Wizard booth was surrounded by people and tables, exhibitors, game instructors, and players, and had a nice display setup. I was taught Hero Realms (an easy pick up for me since I already play a lot of Star Realms), and we played a game. (I will be reviewing Hero Realms and it’s character packs in a later blog so stay tuned for that if it interests you).
Next we hit the Unpub proto-alley where people had their games set up to playtest. We played a fun little deck builder called Abandon all Artichokes which focuses on culling your deck quickly, starting with a hand full of artichokes and trying to draft cards that would allow you to trash them from your deck. It was clever and simple and had cute art.
After that, we headed back to where we had heard the Fireball Island table was set up, with the intentions of just checking the game out, fully expecting all the game sign-ups to be full already. We were correct in that assumption, but luckily, Victoria from White Wizard Games was kind enough to introduce me to JR Honeycutt of Restoration Games, and he agreed to squeeze us into a game at the end of the night! This was really exciting for us, since we were already all-in backers of the Kickstarter and super awesome of him. More on my Fireball Island experience is coming up in a special bonus post later in the week. Spoiler: it was awesome!
I had posted in a Facebook group asking if anyone else was at PAX, and a great couple who were also there commented on it so we could meet up. Together we played Unlock!, Smash Up, and Survive! Escape from Atlantis. It was awesome to meet up with other gamers and get a chance to play together.
Next, we headed over to a table in the back corner that caught our eye with it’s large grey banner that read, “Blood on the Clocktower.” This turned out to be a social deduction game in the same vein of Werewolf and similar games, but with some extra player powers and other aspects that really set it apart. This was one of the highlights of the con for me and we ended up going back to play 3 times! This is yet another game that I plan on giving a post of it’s own. (You’re probably sick of hearing that by now but if I told you all of the good stuff now this blog would probably be a million words long and I’m not even sure how many of you have hung on this long to make it this far already ;) ).
We headed back to the hotel that evening exhausted but happy with all the excitement and the whole experience of our first day. We probably should have gone right to bed, but how often do we get the chance to be spending the night in Boston with a babysitter for our kids? Short answer: never. So, we headed out and walked to an Irish pub a half a block away and stood in a line that took longer to get to the bar than the one to get into PAX, ordered 3 drinks each so we would never have to go back up there again, paid our $60 for said 3 drinks, and went back to our table to enjoy them. Basically, a night out in Boston in a nutshell: wait for drinks, pay an arm and a leg for drinks, drink drinks, go back to the hotel and wonder if that was all really worth it. (It was worth it). The hotel lobby was full of people sitting in large winged armchairs, playing games at little tables, and generally enjoying the post-PAX buzz. We chatted with a few of them who had traveled in from different parts of the country and it was a nice end to the evening.
Sunday I tried to sleep in. Again, not often I am without my kids and have the chance to do so. Unfortunately I have apparently lost that ability so we were up and at ‘em relatively early. When we arrived at the convention center for the second day the lines were about the same length, but seemed more organized and there was a security team making sure everyone had their pockets empty and bags open before getting to the door so it was faster to get through the checkpoint and into the hall. Pro-tip: everyone do that. Please, just do that preemptively. These lines could always move much faster if everyone got themselves ready in all the time they’re waiting to get up to the door.
The first thing we did Sunday was head over to the Kickstarter lounge, which was a really cool little dimly lit room. There were comfy couches to sit on, a TV on one side with video games being played/showcased, a speaker giving a talk in the back right corner from a cushy armchair with people gathered around on more couches, and a game table in the back left corner. Now that I had my trusty notebook with me (and a helpful reminder from a friend on my Facebook status about the article I had shared a few months previously about wanting to attend this), I knew that one of the things I was most excited for out of the whole con was about to be at that back right table. TROGDOR the board game! Having been a fan of Homestarrunner.com, especially Strongbad, since I was about 17 (after aforementioned friend left a 3 DVD set of Strongbad e-mails at my house, which I still possess- sorry Dan!), I was super excited for this. I stood in a small group around the table and watched the end of a game of Secret Hitler that was being played, and was informed by someone that after this, people would be picked from the crowd to play Trogdor with the Chapman brothers (AKA The Brothers Chaps-creators of Homestarrunner.com) themselves. I had actually not even realized that they were going to be there running the game, so that was an excellent surprise. I didn’t have high expectations for the game, to be honest, and was mostly there for nostalgia and novelty. I am happy to say that those expectations were completely exceeded and there really was a good game there! It’s a co-op game, where all the players control Trogdor and try to burninate all the peasants and thatched-roof cottages while avoiding knights and archers with their pointy arrows. If you’ve seen the Trogdor video, you’ll understand what I mean when I say they incorporated all the important parts, such as the big beefy arm on there, the wingaling things since he’s a wingaling dragon, and of course the consummate v’s. I’m sure a big part of my enjoyment of the game stemmed from the whole environment, playing with Matt Chapman puppeteering and voicing a Strongbad puppet and providing hilarious commentary the entire time, and everyone around the table chanting and cheering along with us as we burninated, but I still stand by my opinion that it is actually a good game and not just a gimmick! I will definitely be backing when it comes to Kickstarter in, as Strongbad said, “Like two years or whatever it takes.”
We spent the rest of Sunday wandering around, jumping in games with random people, checking out anything that caught our eye. In those two days we saw merely a fraction of what there is to see and we barely ever ventured outside of the tabletop area but we had an absolute blast! I officially am hooked and can’t wait to get to more cons! If you’re still reading, thanks for sticking with me for what is definitely my longest post to date! Have you been to any cons? If so, which ones? Which are your favorite? If you haven’t, do you plan on any in the future? Leave me a comment and let me know!
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