Now that CanGames for 2011 is over and done with, 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 attended CanGames this year, let alone run the games that I did and sell the stuff that I did. His help and assistance mean more to me than he'll ever know in this regard. To be honest, I had considered not going to CanGames this year because of the very bad case of sciatica that I have, but went to the convention because a) I really wanted to go and socialise a bit there; and b) I didn't want to let people down who might have pre-registered for my game sessions. That and because the doctor and chiropractor told me that it was important to move around, and I would have just moped at the house all weekend long! :)
I also want to thank the CanGames 2011 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 smoothly, and while are a few glitches from time to time, this year's convention was as smooth as I've seen CanGames run over the years.
From my own point of view, the lifesaver this year for me at the convention, given that I went and ran four games at the convention with a serious case of sciatica was two-fold: the pillow that I brought with me, and the comfortable chairs in the lobby that were part of the new look of the Rideau Curling Club. The chairs that were used for actual gaming were not as comfortable, but the cushion that I brought with me served to ease that somewhat, and so was a double blessing in itself. Walking around the convention site was, admittedly, difficult for me at times, but the fact of the matter is that I was advised to move about and not stay too sedentary, so this was a good thing. The Curling Club had put in a new air conditioning system, and this was excellent in terms of the gaming areas (although I didn't actually spend all that much time on the upper levels of the convention this year, so don't know how warm it was up there during peak convention periods. That said, the convention lobby and where the roleplaying games took place on that floor was comfortable, if a bit cold at times, and the area for miniature gaming out on the curling sheets area was somewhat warmer, given that there's no a/c in that part of the building (for obvious reasons!) and a bit stinky. (You can read gamey gamer into that if you want.) In addition, the convention organisers at the con had new, distinctive red-and-black outfits this year that made them stand out and noticeable (I wish I had a photo of some of them), as well as having banners indicating where certain things were at the Command Center and Convention Desk.
One of the things that surprised me this year was that there was a larger contingent of kids and youngsters at the convention. While CanGames is known for the attendance of children and several kids games (ranging this year from the Clay-o-Rama, to a Fudge RPG adventure ("The Muppets Dragon Adventure"), to D&D, and Ticket to Ride), there were a lot more of them than I expected. Given that I tend to see a lot of the same, familiar faces from year to year at the convention, it was nice to see that there was new blood both on the CanGames convention committee and out on the gaming floor. Another thing that surprised me this year was the fact that there seemed to be a lot more roleplaying games and board games this year at the convention, and less miniature gaming. The curling sheets surface of the Rideau Curling Club is huge, and it seemed that much of it was unused this year. No idea what that means, but to be honest, I've thought over the last ten years or so that miniature gaming had taken over the convention, so this was a pleasant surprise. 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 out and on display and being played, including Tigris and Euphrates, Agricola, Junta, Railroad Tycoon, Britannia, Dominant Species, Conflict of Heroes, Axis and Allies, Grand Imperialism, History of the World (which I want a copy of, but haven't found one yet), Leaping Lemmings, and a host of others too numerous to count. From the point of view of roleplaying games, while D&D (in its various incarnations) and Pathfinder were well-represented at the tables, there was also some other cool stuff - Mongoose's Traveller, Gamma World, 7th Edition, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Marvel Super Heroes, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Lady Blackbird, Dogs of War, tashiro's Fox Magic, jagash's Spark RPG, The Dresden Files, Mhar, Shadowrun, Feng Shui, several variants of Savage Worlds, Conan 2nd Edition, Werewolf: The Forsaken, Hounds of G.O.D. (run by my friend, knightbane, my own games of Desolation and Primeval, and so many more. Lots of variety this year at the con, even with the main rpgs of the time, and something for everyone to play. Something else that was a nice surprise this year at CanGames was the willingness of gamers to try new things. My own games of Desolation and Primeval were good examples of that, where only a couple of players had played the former game in the two sessions that I ran, and of course no one had ever played the latter game since it's not out yet. Sure, there were the players who stuck to the rpgs that they knew and GMs they felt comfortable with (and apparently I have a good reputation as a GM at CanGames, so this is nice!), but a lot of folks played in games that were new to them this year, and that makes for a nice change compared to the last few years at CanGames. Shift in the gaming tide, as it were, perhaps?
I come 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. While I've known many of the CanGames organizers for at least a decade 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), jonaskaufman, tashiro and his lovely mate shiftercat, knightbane (whom I saw for a little while on Saturday afternoon, but had such a hectic Saturday that we didn't get to chat for as long as I would have liked), and jagash. There were other friends and acquaintances that I saw and chatted with at the convention, and to them, I want to say that if you're a LiveJournal subscriber please post a comment here and say "Hi". I met some wonderful new folks who played in the games that I ran, and I hope to see more of them at future incarnations of CanGames, so it was a pretty good social weekend for me, even though I wasn't all that mobile.
On the Marketplace front, there wasn't a lot of stuff that I was looking for this year at the convention. While I hoped to find copies of the game products and supplements for Fantasy Flight Games' Blue Planet 2nd Edition, there wasn't anything I went in looking for. I managed to find all the Blue Planet stuff except for Fluid Mechanics and Ancient Echoes, so if anyone knows where I can get copies of those relatively cheap, please let me know! I was also intrigued by a board game that I read about in the convention schedule called Dominant Species, and after seeing the game in action, getting a few comments and thoughts about it, and reading the blurb on the game on the box, I willingly spent what I consider a huge sum of money to purchase the game. Having now played Dominant Species last night (more on that in a separate journal entry later), I can say that I give this game my highest recommendation. Fabulous game, and well worth the money I paid for it! I took quite a few games and stuff to sell at the CanGames Booth this year (notably all my Tekumel stuff, a bunch of old I.C.E. stuff, The Edge of Midnight line, my copy of a|state and its supplements, some Savage Worlds stuff, extra copies of Hollow Earth Expedition game material, and other things, and while I didn't make a killing or anything, I broke even pretty much with the stuff that I purchased at the convention. The real problem with the CanGames Marketplace is that it is somewhat small - a total of nine dealers, including the CanGames Booth - although quite varied in the type of merchandise that one can find. However, the prices seem to me a bit high (or perhaps I just don't understand the pricing of games these days), and while I would have liked to have bent down and rooted around in some of the piles of gaming stuff, my back/leg/hip problems prevented me from doing so. While I know that spross spent more time than I did rooting around and all, he didn't mention much about what he saw, so perhaps he'll comment here about the Marketplace a bit. :)
I only have a couple of gripes about the convention this year. First off, the parking. It is always very difficult to park at the Rideau Curling Club during CanGames, unless one shows up every morning for 8:00 am or so. This was mitigated this year in that spross didn't seem to have as much trouble finding parking spaces as we've had in previous years, so perhaps the convention has addressed this issue. Or we just got lucky. Still, it can be hairy at times. Secondly, the food. The Curling Club has a licenced bar and kitchen, and while they serve decent food, there's not a lot that is healthy for a diabetic unless you want to eat lots of rabbit food. That said, this year I rather enjoyed the salad with Greek dressing, and spross and I ate a lot of Subway sandwiches during the weekend. The bar, of course, serves alcohol, and while I have no objections to people drinking during games, I do expect them to stay sober and not spoil the enjoyment of other gamers at the table. I'm pleased to report that this wasn't a problem for me this year at any of the games that I ran, so it wasn't an issue. Third, I wasn't really happy with the fact that, due to the way the convention lobby was organised this year, I wasn't able to fill in the forms for the stuff I was selling in the lobby as in years past, and thus folks couldn't come by, see what I was selling, and make me offers on stuff; that way, I would save on the costs of the forms. But as you can read about in the CanGames 2011, Day 1 entry, it meant spross had to lug all the stuff out to a table in the area of the curling sheets, and then had to carry all the ticketed items back to the Cash Desk for submission. Not cool.
That said, I was pretty happy with this year's CanGames here in Ottawa. Despite physical adversity, I was able to attend the convention and run the events I was scheduled to (with the assistance of spross. The two games each of Desolation and Primeval went off better than I expected, I had full tables of players for each game, ran some interesting scenarios, and hopefully made acquaintances that I will see at games I run at future CanGames. I took care of my health as best as I could, and with the exception of the Saturday, didn't overdo things. I chatted with old friends, made new friends, and had a great time in the gaming environment that is this local convention for three days. When it comes down to it, I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Heck, I'm already looking forward to the 2012 version of CanGames! Hope to see some of 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. :)