Now that CanGames for 2014 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 done what I did at the convention this year, heck, I might not have gone to the convention this year! Between the back spasms that I was suffering, the pain of whatever is going on in my left ankle and leg, and my upper left chest problems, I could not have carried half the gaming stuff that I would have needed for the convention. While I didn't take a lot of pain medications and the like during the convention, what I did take made me a bit...woozy at times, so it's a good thing I didn't drive to the convention either! While the chairs at the Curling Club were adequate, they weren't really all that comfortable. Anyway, I'm just grateful that spross was willing and able to give me a hand with carrying stuff around.
I also want to thank the CanGames 2014 convention committee for all their hard work and dedication in bringing us this installment of Ottawa's gaming convention. These folks work hard every year to make sure that the convention runs as smoothly as possible, and while there were a few glitches from time to time, this year's convention went pretty smoothly, with a couple of exceptions that I'll get to in the course of this post.
The Command Centre, specifically the Cash and Trophy area
As a general rule, I go to CanGames every year for a variety of reasons, the gaming of course being primary. It's fun to play rpgs that you're familiar with with strangers, as you get to see different ways of playing characters, views on the game in question and its world and mechanics, and I find it a challenge to play with people different from those that I game with in my Friday and Sunday groups. Another reason I go to CanGames is to renew friendships and acquaintances, and to make new connections and ties to the gaming community. While I've known many of the CanGames organizers for at least a decade (possibly three) or more, there were a few new faces this year, and that's always a good thing - gaming conventions and sf & fantasy conventions need new blood among the organisers to keep them fresh. Among the friends I met there this year, there was spross (of course), dewline from Smith Falls (who was only up for Saturday, due to a series of poor timing and coincidences on Friday and Sunday) with his band of cronies, tashiro and his lovely wife, shiftercat, my friend Douglas (whom I've not seen for some time), and several others, to name a few. (If I've forgotten you, please accept my apologies.) I saw a lot of other acquaintances at the convention and chatted with them, as well as a few new folks, and I want to say that if you're a LiveJournal subscriber please post a comment here and say "Hi". I met and talked with a few new folks as well, including some who played in the three games that I ran this past weekend, and I hope to see more of them at future incarnations of CanGames. Overall, it was a pretty good weekend from a social viewpoint, as well as the gaming aspects of it.
A game of Railways of England at the convention
From the perspective of the roleplaying games that I ran at the convention, I had a good time. "The Medallion of Ssthauga" is an Atlantis: The Second Age RPG game scenario that I wrote which takes place in the city of Atlantis; hardly the site of a usual Sword & Sorcery scenario, but to be honest, the players played this game with a disregard for the seriousness of the situation, concentrating on their own characters and being totally selfish and "sticking it" to one another. Add to this the fact that I'd not really run the game for "real" in some time (and that with the playtest rules), and I wasn't feeling confident about the running of this to begin with. There were some interesting moments in this one, but not one of my better or interesting game runnings. "Mist Over Storforshei" is a Yggdrasill RPG scenario that I had come up with based on a French scenario for last year's Hammercon, but the running of the game there was a total disaster for reasons best left alone. I have to say that the running of the scenario Saturday at CanGames was a very good session of the game, rejuvenated my faith in the scenario itself, and gave the players a pretty entertaining time, based on their comments to me. There were some neat moments in this adventure, and I had a terrific time running this one. However, the third game that I ran on Sunday was the highlight of the convention for me. "The Curse of Maugr-Threnn" is a second scenario that I wrote for Atlantis: The Second Age and in direct contrast to the urban scenario in Atlantis proper, this one is set in the wilderness of the Nubian jungle. This scenario running is one that I'll remember for a long time; there was just so much enjoyable stuff with the players from this adventure running. There was a bit of humour, a modicum of seriousness, some creativeness on the parts of the players, and some inter-character conflicts that made the scenario all the more enjoyable for all concerned. Lots of fun had by me and the players in this one.
Running Atlantis: The Second Age at the convention
I have to say that one of the things that surprises me at CanGames every year is the sheer number of kids and youngsters that play in various games. There was a very nice variety of games available for the youngsters to play in (ranging from the annual Clay-o-Rama to Pathfinder, Hero Kids, The Trouble with Rose, Pitchcar, and Little Wizards)and there was no lack of older children to be found in some of the more mainstream games as well. As per last year, the convention folks set up the games for the Children's gaming out on the curling sheet area in a central section that was walled off somewhat, surrounded by the various miniature games and other stuff going on out on the curling sheet surface. A good move again this year.
As per usual, there were a lot of games of various types going on at the convention this year, and while the gaming tables away from the curling surface were put to good use this time out, I found that given the sheer size of the curling sheet surface, there didn't seem to be as much gaming out there, as plenty of tables seemed empty throughout the convention. From a gaming point of view, there was a lot of cool stuff out there on the game floors being played. While I can't discuss the miniatures games, not being that up on them, there were lots of board games, roleplaying games, and miniature games on display this year, as well as sveral card games. I'm not going to go into the detailed list of games this year, but there was a good selection and choice, and there was more roleplaying games at CanGames this year than I've seen in several years. There was a lot of variety this year, even with the more "mainstream" rpgs being run (such as D&D and Pathfinder), and something for everyone to play. I was pleasantly surprised once more to see the willingness on the part of some folks to play new games and to try new things this year. My own games of the Atlantis: The Second Age and Yggdrasill were good examples of that, with folks with no experience with the system (and in some cases, no experience roleplaying at all!) playing both the former and the latter. Of course, there were the players who stuck to the rpgs that they knew and GMs with whom they felt comfortable. The main rpg area on the main floor near the convention Registration area was full of games.
Some Settlers of Catan play at CanGames 2014
One of the things that bothered me about the roleplaying games this year was the fact that there were so many folks GMing games this year. While you wouldn't think that would be a problem, it was. While the D&D, Pathfinder, and a couple of the other mainstream rpgs were booked or overbooked, there were other rpg game sessions (such as spross's Thousand Suns) where there was no one signed up. I was glad that I could recruit enough players for my games as needed, but I saw several other gamers annoyed and disappointed that they couldn't get enough players to run their games, let alone fill their tables. I don't know what the solution is for this, but... It's going to make me think long and hard about how many games and sessions I plan to run at at future CanGames.
I can't say that I was disappointed too much in the CanGames Marketplace. While I didn't pick up a lot of stuff at the convention, only copies of Worlds Beyond and Arcova (the latter not being out yet in revised form), there wasn't a lot of stuff that I was looking for this year at the convention. I had hoped to find a copy of some Atlantis- and Sword & Sorcery-oriented stuff, but didn't see any copies of them. A couple of other board games tantalized me, but I was trying to save money this year and went into the Marketplace with a small budget. I took a modicum of stuff to sell at the CanGames Booth this year (I wrote a separate journal entry about this before the convention, several actually), and while I did pretty well this year (which actually surprised me), it seemed that everyone did well this year in this regard. Once more, the real problem with the CanGames Marketplace this year, beyond the small size of it that is expected at a venue such as the Rideau Curling Club - there were eleven dealers this year, including the CanGames Booth - is the fact that Ottawa ComicCon was the week before, and I can only assume that this affects the buying and selling at CanGames since many folks who might have gone to both likely spent more at ComicCon than at CanGames. But different market, too, so who knows? Attendance seemed to be up somewhat this year, though, so that's a good thing. That said, CanGames does pretty much no advertising for the convention, so there's some food for thought in that, for sure.
Like the last few years, however, my biggest gripe about CanGames 2014 has to be the food. If one can call it that (from my perspective). While the prices on the food did go down somewhat, the convention committee and the Curling Club folks seem to think that if they offer salads, that's healthy eating. While the roast beef sandwich that I had for supper on Friday night all right, there's nothing really healthy to eat on the menu at the Rideau Curling Club during the convention, and being diabetic just makes it worse. I'm glad that I had a decent sandwich for lunch every day from Tim Horton's but... I think the CanGames folks really need to provide a few more choices, make the food fresh and provide healthy choices. The Curling Club regular season menu would be a good place to start, because I suspect that other folks besides myself wouldn't mind paying $12 or $13 for a decent, healthy meal. Or maybe not, given the nature of gamers.
Overall, I have to say that I was pretty happy with this year's incarnation of CanGames. I saw friends and acquaintances, and made new ones; I ran three games (two Atlantis and one Yggdrasill) that went very well for the most part, and had full tables for them, and hopefully will see some of these gamers at my tables next year; I took care of my health as best I could; and had a great time in the Ottawa gaming environment that is this convention. I mean, yes, there were some minor glitches and a headache or two, and I had some health problems that were a bit disconcerting at times, but such is normal for the convention (at least for me).
Heck, I'm already looking forward to CanGames 2015! :) And I hope that some of the folks reading this journal are already planning for the convention, and I'll see you there! :)
And that's it. The final post about this year's CanGames gaming convention in Ottawa. Hope everyone enjoyed these four journal entries about the convention, and please remember that comments are welcome. :)