Catch up with the story by reading the first part here (well, just to the right of here): The Spirit of Geekway to the West (Pt. 1)
Day 3, Saturday
Game Design contest games: Aquaducts, Smoking Gun, Yaogui, Communism: The Game
Family games dominated our Saturday morning. For me, a lot of what I wanted to do this year was afford the rest of my family the opportunity to experience Geekway to the West as my oldest daughter and I did the year prior. I had Thursday and most of Friday to play the games I wanted to check out and as mentioned in my first post, this was my wife and youngest daughter’s first experience and I didn’t want to press any agenda or game on them. We did get to try Fluch Der Mumie, per the recommendation of a friend. It was a really entertaining and interactive game where a mummy is chasing explorers as they try to find and acquire treasures from the pyramid. The game plays on a vertical board and the players are opposite the mummy, so the mummy cannot see the players location or movements. We had several people stop to watch and ask about how to play the game. A family game at heart, I was convinced it would be big fun for adults as well. That thought was validated on Sunday when I saw a group of gamers playing, laughing, and making terrifically entertaining mummy sounds.
One bummer was that I didn’t get a chance to play 1775: Rebellion on the large-scale board. It’s a 4 foot by 9 foot recreation of the game board, complete with lifelike scenery and 6mm painted soldiers. It is a game that I own, but have yet to get to the table and it’s supposed to be a really compelling game experience. The level of detail and scale of the table is admirable. The game must have appeal for someone to dedicate the time it must take to build what could only be considered a labor of love. I believe they were at Geekway the year before and I hope they return next year so can play on the table.
There were two activities that created excitement for us on Saturday. For the kids, it was the indoor pool. Although not specific to the convention, for a child there exists a mystical quality about a pool. Whether it be a vacuum-formed, hose filled backyard wading pool or a grandiose, Vegas style pool. Either and anything in-between is its own mini-vacation to a kid. My excitement was around the opportunity to be a judge for the BoardGameGeek sponsored Microgame design contest.
It was decided we would split the party. The family headed over to the indoor pool and I made my way to the room where the contest was held. Chad Krizan, from BoardGameGeek, was the head judge. Zev Shlasinger, President of Z-Man Games also helped judge the competition and the other two, Mike and Tony, are veteran gamers and have judged previous competitions. I’ve had previous experience judging other type of competitions, for a few years I was a certified BBQ Judge for the Kansas City BBQ Society, but never a game design contest and being in such elite company, I was a smidgen nervous. With 15 game designs making the final cut, and four judges, we were assigned sections and each, with the exception of the head judge, would play-test four games. Chad floated the field, observing, listening, and taking notes for all the games. Volunteer play-testers were plentiful and two hours rolled by before we knew it.
After a short break, the judges reconvened off-site to discuss each game. All games were reviewed, with the contenders being demoed by their respective judges. The games that made last cut were all play-tested thoroughly. The discussions were lively and intensive, with the process taking over three hours. To get an insider perspective to the thought process of people in the industry was very enlightening and to be a part of the competition was not only a highlight of Geekway, but also a personal highlight and something I am honored to have been part of.
The winner, announced during Sunday’s Closing Ceremonies, was Dave Mansell’s Smoking Gun. A fast paced crime noir card game, Dave utilized some innovative mechanic’s to create a variety of gotcha moments and victory conditions.
You can check out all finalists, including Dave’s winning game, by clicking this link: BoardGameGeek & Geekway to the West’s Microgame Design Contest Announcement
When I returned to my family, they were deep into a game of Takenoko, which went over very well with all parties involved, and shortly after the convention, was purchased for our game collection. There were late night rounds of the Pokemon card game and yet another hotel room round of Monopoly Junior as we attempted to stave off the end of the night, knowing that tomorrow brought with it the last day of Geekway.
Day 4, Sunday
Sunday sneaked in and dropped off a mixed back of exhaustion, revelry, and melancholy. Over breakfast, the conversation began to drift back to responsibilities. When are we going to leave, what needed to be done when we get home, so on and so forth. Housework, pick up our dogs from the kennel, start getting things ready for the work week. No one really wanted to begin thinking about what existed outside of the convention.
Geekway had become a bit like Narnia, this fantastic world in which we lived for a couple days. Time outside of the convention felt like it stopped, but it was waiting.
I wanted to stay long enough to hear the Play and Win drawing, as well as the announcement for the winner of the Game Design contest. It was decided that my wife and our youngest would head out a bit early to get a head start on things. Our oldest daughter and I would follow immediately after the announcements.
I took the kids down to the library, where we promptly checked out rat-a-tat Cat again, as well as another cat-themed, bluffing/auction game from Friedemann Friese, called Felix: The Cat in the Bag. Felix was a relaxing, family-friendly game and a good way to shake the cobwebs. The announcement came over that the Flea Market was opening up, so we scurried up to the main floor and got in line. The Flea Market was only open for a limited time this year. In speaking with one of the sellers after it was over, they felt this was a win-win for both the sellers and the buyers. Not only did it gave the sellers the opportunity to get back to gaming instead of having to work a table for long periods of time, but it created a sense of urgency for both sides; the buyer not wanting to miss out on a deal, and the seller being more willing to negotiate since they only have a limited amount of time for customer shopping. I experienced this first-hand as I initially passed up a copy of Caveman Curling, only to find it being sold to the guy right in front of me when I decided to go back and buy it. As good fortune would have it, my daughter spied a copy of rat-a-tat Cat on one of the tables and we were able to pick it up new for only $3.00 (which works out to about a penny a play since purchase…)!
We were attempting to push reality off as long as possible. However, I needed to go do a room walk-through and officially check us out for the weekend. Mentally, this marked the beginning of the end and reflection took over. Going through the routine, I also took a mental walk-through of the weekend. What we played and did, what I wanted to play but didn’t. It’s that moment of reflection when you try to pull all those memories to the front of your conscious, like it will slow down time or make it real again. Walking from the front desk to the stairs leading down to the main library, I looked out the window and to the patio. There was a fellow sitting at a table, grabbing a smoke. He had a stack of games in front of him and his head cradled in his hand, looking down at the ground. I knew that feeling. It’s a steamroller of good times that finally hit a wall it can’t go through, but is unwilling to stop in the attempt. It was one of those moments where you could feel time slow and I noticed everything around me. The music playing over the hotel speakers was The Cure’s Pictures of You. It was fitting. A recognition that it was all over, but that manic desire to keep the moment for as long as possible. My wife and our youngest were the first to go back through the wardrobe and off to our regular lives. Only two of us left.
The last game we played was Harbour. Prox bought a copy and we settled down to play it in the Play and Win section room. Harbour is a worker placement game that is a much bigger game than it seems. We were just getting ready to start when someone strolled up and asked about the game. We offered up a seat and he sat down. This was his first convention and he spoke about the great time he was having. In my mind, it felt like it had come full circle from my first time last year. A shared experience with people familiar and not. A willingness to include others and to share your time. After all, isn’t that ultimately the spirit of Geekway to the West?
As I reflect back on the convention and the writing of this story, I have questioned myself as to whether it was written through rose-colored glasses. I think to some extent, that would be fair accusation. After all, only a fool would think that the entire weekend went without incident or negative experience. Since the first post published, I have heard of at least one library game with broken pieces. With over 2000 games checked out through the library over the course of the convention, it’s a risk taken and hopefully a rare one. That doesn’t remove the jaded feeling that accompanies that discovery, I’m sure. I should hope that if I am the person that accidentally breaks a piece, that I would address and rectify the situation as best I can.
I am also fairly certain, and I hope it wasn’t either of mine (or me), that there were obnoxious kids, as well as adult gamers. Any time you put 1400 people in a small area, all trying to do the same things, there are going to incidents. Go back and read my very first post on this blog. That is part of the reason I don’t go to many festivals and conventions in general.
Here is the thing, though. The posts may have sounded a bit like a love letter, because in the end, that is what they are. Geekway to the West didn’t give me any experiences that were so unpleasant that they stick in my memory. Even with pause, I can’t come up with any meaningful complaint. It gave me those rose-colored glasses, and a reprieve for four days from the daily grind. It provided my family an environment where we could walk through that wardrobe and into another world, at least for a few days. It was a place we could meet people and families with like interests, where we could play new games for free and enjoy friendly competition. It provided us events where we could dress up fantastically and compete in total silliness. All of us.
I had a writing teacher in college that believed a really good story is one that pulls you in so close, it coaxes you into forgiving it for its weaknesses. It carries you on a ride that is so engaging and fulfilling, that you don’t mind that some of the pieces don’t end up fitting perfectly. Geekway does the same for me, so this is how my story is written, through rose-colored glasses.