Now that CanGames for 2013 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, simply because of the problems I had with my back starting on Saturday. While I didn't take my cushion (the one that I had used at the convention in 2011), the chairs at the Curling Club were adequate, and the Robaxacet helped eased the pain of the tweaked bulging disc, but to be honest, made me a bit giggly and light-headed, so I wasn't really trying to take it regularly at the convention. Didn't want to come across as too crazy! :) 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 2013 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 there are 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.
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 two) 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, my friend knightbane from Smith Falls (who was only up for Saturday, with his band of cronies), tashiro and his lovely wife, shiftercat, my friend Douglas (whom I've not seen for some time), and jagash, 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 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.
From the perspective of the roleplaying games that I ran at the convention, I had a good time. "The Infection Factor" was a breath of fresh air due to the presence of the young gamer, Elena, and the players had a memorable game dealing with the cow! (among other things). Saturday afternoon's "Message in an Anomaly" was marred only by one player not being able to get into the "reality" of the Primevalverse, but the players' approach to the scenario and their completely ignoring the "HELP ME..." message changed that scenario around and made it interesting. "Earth Serpent" on Saturday night was a refreshing change for a Primeval RPG scenario, and I had a blast running it, despite the nerves because of the lack of playtesting on that one. Finally, Sunday's running of "The Na'Gira Gambit" Rocket Age RPG scenario was also a pleasant surprise, and very much a fun time for all, with lots of under-the-surface tension going on.
One of the things that surprises me every year at CanGames is the large contingent of kids and youngsters that one sees, and this year was no exception. This year's children had a good variety of games they could play in (ranging from the traditional Clay-o-Rama, Snowball Wars, D&D, Race to Adventure!, Aberrant, and Dinosaurs of the Lost World (a board game that I would love to acquire at some point)), so there was some good choices for the kids to play in. 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. I also had a couple of children playing in two of my games this year, the Friday night session of "The Infection Factor" seeing a young girl who got in a lot of time also playing Fox Magic with tashiro, and a young lad who played in "Earth Serpent" on Saturday night. It's great seeing some of the kids playing in my games, and they are so well-behaved when they do so.
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 were 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 Primeval RPG and Rocket Age RPG 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.
What bothered me about the roleplaying games 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 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 CanGames 2014.
If there was any disappointment that I had with the convention this year, it was the Marketplace. While I picked up a copy of Ticket to Ride: Asia, 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 the old Atlantean Trilogy game material and GURPS: Atlantis there, 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 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 didn't make a killing or anything, I was disappointed in how little I was able to sell. 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 ten dealers this year, including the CanGames Booth - is the fact that Ottawa ComicCon was the week before, and this was the first year that that convention affected selling and buying of merchandise at CanGames. And possibly attendance, since it didn't seem like there were a lot of gamers at the convention this year. But that's another matter... However, the fact that CanGames appeals more to gamers than the comics/media folks (so the theory goes) may offset that somewhat. But it does raise the question of how viable CanGames is in future, given the proximity of Ottawa ComicCon to it.
My biggest gripe about CanGames 2013 has to be the food. If one can call it that (from my perspective). While the manager of the Curling Club promised me some changes to the menu last year and a better choice of healthy foods for folks like me, nothing changed this year. Although the prices on what was being served did go down. This was due to the convention committee wanting to keep the prices on food down, but you can't do healthy food for $4.50 in a cafeteria style setting. It was a good thing that I managed to eat Subway sandwiches for lunch, Swiss Chalet chicken for supper on Friday, and so forth... but the less said about the Chinese beef with stir fried noodles and spinach, the better. 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 $10 or $11 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; ran four games (three Primeval and one Rocket Age RPG) that went very well 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, but such is normal for the convention.
Heck, I'm already looking forward to CanGames 2014! :) 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. :)