Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mepacon, Gnomes, and Mice, oh my!

I have returned (and survived) from Mepacon (Mid-Eastern Pennsylvania Convention) in Clarks Summit, PA. What's that you say? Why is the Mid-Eastern Pennsylvania Con in one of the most northern bastions of civilization in Northeast PA? The con originated ten years ago in the Slate Belt between the Lehigh Valley and the Poconos, spent a few years at different locations (Easton, PA/Phillipsbug, NJ) until it moved up into NEPA, first in Scranton, then Dunmore, until this year's move to the top of the Northeast Extension.

Although the bi-annual con goes by seasonal nomenclature (Mepacon Fall 2009), Convention Director Ed Lehman reminded me that this would be Mepacon 17 if they enumerated the title. Seventeen cons of gaming, fun, and most importantly seventeen different t-shirts that have been printed in sizes small to large to gamer's small (3x). I still believe I have the my original t-shirt, a simple black tee with "Witness the Resurrection" on the back. This year's shirt was a pumpkin carving-esque design on an orange tee with "Grin and wear it" on the back. I managed obtained two of them, which I'll explain later.

I offered to run a full schedule of Gnome Wars games from earliest time slot (3pm Fri) though Sunday morning. Different scenarios would be run each slot, and, despite my panic from earlier in the week, these local gamers are perfectly content as long as most figures have at least a base coat. Christ, I've had regular players before for Burning Players and that uses green plastic army guys!

For the first time ever, I took enough time off of work to arrive at 3pm for the frist game. I know a certain type of gamer (RPGA/Organized play) is willing to travel some distance (Connecticut, NYC, Philly) for certain games, and I think that first slot is dedicated to them. RPGA/Organized play had a few packed games running, but everyone else sort of wandered around. My GW game "The Wishing Well" had one player, was full of tactical blunders, and was quite fun, despite that the fact that the last two turns I left essential figures exposed to artilery.

The evening slot brought a few more players for "The Farm" and utter chaos as the large table allowed some devastating flanking maneuvers, and the random deployement of reinforcements set-up a second battle on the one corner of the table. The Swiss player lost the only Alphorn, so all Swiss units hunkered down, either in the barn, or they jumped into a truck and sped off. The Swiss tank, on loan from the French, arrived on the final turn of the game, preventing a complete German victory.

Little Maja had a bad night, so I arrived about 30 minutes late on Saturday morning, proceeded to grab breakfast and finally lugged my stuff onto a much smaller table. There was a 40K Rogue Trader tournament slotted for the morning and they got the "big table". Most 40K con tournaments have zero players and this one was no exception. Even with larger conventions, it doesn't bode well (Historicon, I'm looking at you). Now for the afternoon and evening session the big table was given to Mike Sarno, who ran a very nice Modern Ops games. Modern Ops is an off-shoot of Savage Showdown, which in turn is a variant of the Savage Worlds RPG. Very nice vehicles and figs with basic terrain so the Americans, contractors, and local insurgents can duke it out:

The only game I got to run on Saturday was an impromptu "!!!" scenario. I had snagged up a rocketship birdhouse at Michaels for a few bucks which was perfect size to allow the Germans to begin the space race. The entire League of Gnomes mobilized to stop this violation (or lack thereof, no gnomish treaty covers space). The German crack marskman and top-notch medics held off most attacks, and some unfortunate tunnel collapses for the sneaky Swiss almost guaranteed victory. However the arrival and subsequent all-out charge by the Irish overwhelmed the 27th Leinekugels defending the left flank. The Irish seized a machine gun the Germans just pulled out of the barn and began firing it at the rocket which had just finished fueling.

The crater was quite impressive, and after the smoke cleared, the few survivors of the Swiss Ministry of Science could examine the site and hopefully picked up some information.

Between the afternoon and evening slots, there was a games raffle (for charity) and an auction (for charity and for profit). They did manage to sell over $450 in raffle tickets. It appeared that most people who bought the advertised "6 for $5" won at least one book, supplement, or pack of minis. By the time one of my numbers were pulled, the pickings were slim. I snagged "The Stars are Right," a modern day Cthulhu book with a pile of end-times related adventures. My players can hate me even more.

The auction isn't like it was in the days of yore, when the sheer weight of auction items could collapse a banquet table. I snagged up couple random books and Dragon mags that didn't get higher than a buck or two. The charity auction, I'm proud to say, was insane.

  • Box of Twinkies? $10

  • Cthulhu Print $10

  • Hollow Chocolate Duck $6

  • Mepacon T-shirt $16

  • Glass Bead necklace $10

  • 250 Issue run of Dragon, in two nice wheeled totes $40

  • and of course the "Mepacon Mystery Box" $25.

I won the Cthulhu Print (always goes between $5 and $15, I yelled out $10 to start to shut people up. Charity or not, I wanted one). I also split the mystery box with my friend Brian. Inside was a randome assortment of gaming goodneess: A pack of Star Wars minis, Three Dragon Ante (wotc), a pack of Pirates of the revolution, some beat-up 2nd Edition mods, Goatwood for Coc (good thing I didn't grab that at the raffle), some dice and other various things. The SW minis found a new home, Brian took what he wanted, and I took the rest. Oh yes, the mystery box also included a ticket for a free t-shirt, my second of the con (The first one I receieved for running three games).

The two other high points of the con: After 15 years in print, I finally played Robo-Rally. Ridiculously simple game that gets ridiculously hard. I love it!

My major purchase of the con (beyond the rocketship birdhouse). Was a copy of Mouse Guard:

Based off of a series of comic/graphic novels, you play the Mouse Guard, the defenders of the Mouse Territories, fighting against all enemies foreign, domestic, and weasel. Simple mechanics wrapped into a gorgeous hardcover book. The Mouse Guard don't fight orcs, they fight marauding weasels. You don't save the princess, you save the mouse village from the flash flooding of the spring thaw. What we see as fast moving runoff is utter death to a mouse! Of course the Mouse Guard don't slay dragons, they figure out ways to keep black bear away from the town's winter stores. I finished it last night and I can't think of anything bad to say. And yes I paid full price for the book! ($35)

1 comment:

  1. One day I'll have to get back to the Upper Delaware Valley for one of these cons. Glad you're liking Mouse Guard, its definitely getting a lot of attention lately. I don't know is you're familiar with Burning Wheel, but MG is essentially the basic version of that system (also Burning Empires). The writers are native NY'ers, so I've gotten to try BW a few times.