Now that HammerCon 2013 (also known as HammerCon V) is a wrap, I thought that I would write a post with some thoughts and observations about the convention this year. I'll start this off by saying that without the assistance and help of spross, I could not have actually attended the convention in Hamilton. Aside from the fact that he did the approximately 6 hours driving each way, in many ways he was my strength for this convention, as I could not have lugged around the weightiness of the gaming stuff and the suitcases and the like for the most part, all due to my problems with the ankle. I'm extremely grateful to him for his efforts in all of these endeavours.
I also want to thank the HammerCon V committee for all their hard work and dedication in putting this convention together. From what I was able to tell, these folks worked hard to make sure that the convention ran smoothly, and while there were a few glitches here and there, this year's convention seemed to have gone pretty smoothly.
As a general rule, I go to gaming conventions when I can for a variety of reasons, the gaming of course being primary. It's fun to run and/or play rpgs and board games that you're familiar with with strangers, as you get to see different ways of playing characters, strategies in the board games, views on the game in question, and so forth, and I find it a challenge to play with people different from those that I game with in my Friday and Sunday groups. Since I didn't attend GenCon this year, I had the hankering to go to another convention other than CanGames, and HammerCon fit the bill nicely, though it was a pretty far "commute" to the convention. Another reason I go to conventions is to renew friendships and acquaintances, and to make new connections and ties to the gaming community. This was my first HammerCon, so I didn't know anyone there (other than a couple of folks I've seen at a few CanGames and even one or two GenCons), and I knew that was going to be one of the challenges for this convention. Among the friends I met there this year were doc_mysteryHammerCon</a> experience. (With the exception of the hotel experience, but that's somewhat biased by the whole problem I had with my ankle which prevented a lot of walking, but more on the hotel below.) HammerCon is a small gaming convention, and is more intimate and friendly than some gaming conventions I've attended; indeed, it was one of the most friendly gaming conventions that I've ever attended. The staff was very friendly and helpful, the gamers themselves were willing to accommodate new players and attendees at the convention, and as a general rule the people at HammerCon are somewhat nicer than some of those one sees here in Ottawa at CanGames. That said, the hygiene element made me want to cringe at times. There were several folks that I encountered at HammerCon who obviously hadn't heard of the 3-2-1 (convention) Rule. Peee-ewww! One of these people was at my gaming table, and several others were at game events that I sat in and watched, but for the most part cleanliness was the rule at HammerCon.
As mentioned, HammerCon is a small gaming convention, with about half the attendees that one sees here in Ottawa for CanGames. Held in a hotel as opposed to a curling venue, the membership price for the convention is more in line with that of a small three-day science fiction/fantasy convention, but that is more due to the expenses of having it in a hotel. HammerCon does not charge its membership fees for playing in various games, with good reason: when I asked about this, it was explained to me that the purpose of the convention is to encourage people to game; charging people to enter games doesn't encourage people getting into games. Perhaps a lesson that the folks at CanGames could learn to their benefit? That said, in the various time slots, there were a lot of games that got no participants signed up to play, and that suggests that there may be too many games being held at the convention to match the smaller number of convention attendees. That ties in with the fact that HammerCon seemed a tad empty at times. The various rooms where the convention was being held - the Pavilion ballroom/hall, Cabinet, and Victoria rooms - seemed more than adequate for the events, as lots of the tables in the Pavilion and Victoria were not in use during the convention. I'm just not sure the convention size justifies the amount of space in terms of room size and the number of games being run.
Pavilion Room gaming
Victoria Room gaming
I also rather enjoyed the Silent Auction that was held at the convention. I think it was quite effective, though I don't know whether everything at the silent auction sold or not. I think it would make an interesting change to add to CanGames, but don't know whether it would work there or not. And the CanGames booth has been an institution at the convention for some time, and usually sees a lot more games and other stuff put up for sale, so perhaps not.
On the subject of the games themselves, there was a lot of stuff going on at the convention, and a good variety of games for the most part. Roleplaying games included Dread, Fate Core, Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok, Primeval, Superheroes Unleashed, A Penny for My Thoughts, Fiasco, Shadowrun, 7th Sea, Yggdrasill, Annalise (which I had wanted to check out but couldn't, as it was being run in the same time slot I had on Saturday), Call of Cthulhu, D&D, Night's Black Agents, Pathfinder, Cyberpunk 2020, and others that I've forgotten. There was a good representation of board games as well, including 1856, Avalon, Mansions of Madness, Tokaido, Galaxy Trucker, Le Havre, Creature Crawler (a new game in development), Pandemic, Settlers of Catan, classic Advanced Civilization, Empire Builder, Puerto Rico, Ticket to Ride, Small World, and others. There were also miniatures games (though not as many as at CanGames) and at least one LARP (Monsterhearts) that I know of. A good selection of games, just not enough players for everything, sadly.
Star Wars: X-Wing Game Demo
BattleTech HeroScape Terrain 1
Blingtoof Gitbash Blood Bowl
As for the hotel, well... The Crowne Plaza Hamilton is not a large hotel, nor is it one that I can say I enjoyed staying at. If you've read my earlier posts about the convention stay (notably the one about arriving at the hotel), then you know that I felt the room was somewhat cramped, the bathroom was definitely a bit on the small side and... uncomfortable. From a perspective of food, the hotel restaurant was adequate, but to be honest, the menu choices were somewhat limited and overpriced, though breakfast was a highly enjoyable meal. I suspect that if I had been able to walk normally, I would have gone out for meals most of the time (and not just to O'Neko Ramen), but it is what it is. The hotel offered a food service to convention goers on the convention floor, but when it came right down to it, the prices were a bit outrageous and there were no real healthy choices in that regard (other than a straight salad). The Executive Lounge on the 7th floor (where our room was) had a nice continental breakfast on offer free in the mornings, but nothing there was hot other than the tea and coffee, and while I would have liked to have eaten some croissants there, I was trying to take care of my health to the best of my ability while there. The staff of the hotel were relatively friendly (notably the cleaning staff), but the social etiquette seemed to be lacking somewhat, and there was the whole pot smoking business in the lobby that turned me off quite a bit. So about the hotel, 'nuff said.
So, would I go back to HammerCon? I would say that with reservations, "yes". The convention is certainly friendly enough and offers a good variety in games being run, it's well organised (other than the problem with opening registration being delayed, I didn't see any other glitches), but the number of gamers attending the convention is somewhat limited. It would mostly depend on my health and the weather around the time of the convention (as November is known for its snowfall in the Ottawa region), as well as whether I felt I had something to contribute to the convention as a gamer when the time comes.
And that's it. The final post about this year's HammerCon gaming convention in Hamilton. Hope everyone enjoyed these six journal entries about the convention, and please remember that comments are welcome. :)