Strategicon Gateway 2016: Sunday, Monday, Familyday

Sunday sleep-in

By this time in the con I'm sleep deprived, so always opt for a Sunday sleep-in. I never get as much sleep as I want, but it's my winning strategy.

Jen and Nova, the wife and daughter, were scheduled to come out around 11am. I got them situated.

One of the first things we did was go to the Paint and Take. Saturday and Sunday, all day, they have a table set up with free miniatures, with paints and brushes and help at the ready. Everyone can have a miniature to paint and take, and the three of us sat down for some painting. Highly recommended for downtime. The staff are super friendly and helpful, and happy to give painting tips to pros and newbs alike.

It was also nice running into Jonathan, a first-time con-goer who I had many chats with in the prior days. He joined us for the painting and various chats. I make mention of Jonathan here because he reminds me of something. I met Max up at Go Play NW 2015. Max was super friendly and just set the tone for the entire weekend, with how welcoming he was to new con-goers. At the end of the weekend he mentioend that he was actually quite an introvert, but was working against this to try and welcome others, the way he was welcomed in the past. He was an inspiration then, and continues to be today. Be the Max I want to see at the con. I invoked his memory by welcoming Jonathan and others, this con, and got to meet more than a few new faces.

Sunday 2pm: Animalia playtest

Nova had recently showed more interested in RPGs after some decent experiences at the last 2 conventions, and Animalia was listed with "Playtest small furry animals (ala Zootopia, Redwall, Mouse Guard) in a fantasy world as adventurers setting out to on your first adventure." I got Jen's buy-in, so the she and Nova signed up. 

Ben (who I played with Friday night for Delta Green) was the GM and game designer. Due to his kids' love of books such as Redwall, and a request by his daughter to create a game around such a feel, he has been working on Animalia.

Unfortunately no other kids or families showed. I decided to jump in there and play with Jen and Nova. Although there are definitely aspects I liked about the game, I think the game mechanics were too crunchy and complex (especially with a 7-year old). That could be mitigated with materials (well designed character sheets, for example), but Ben wasn't planning to run this for another month, and so it wasn't in a manicured state. That caused a few complexities up front in regards to having to write down stats and skills, many of which are a bit heavy handed for a 7-year old. Don't get me wrong, it isn't a problem teaching words like Intelligence and Prowess, but 6 stats and 9+ skill types, and it was overload too quickly.

That said, Ben himself was a great GM, and Jen was impressed with how he incorporated things that Nova brought to the table, and his overall patient demeanor. He had a rough outline for a story that worked. We ended up cutting down the story severely because Nova was only so patient, so ended with about 1.5 hours of pay time. 

I gave some feedback, mostly around cutting down the various stat+skill choices. This didn't mean he had to remove them from the full version of the game, but when running with toddlers, he could reduce the 9 skills to just 3: physical, mental, social, and leave it at that.

The wife, the Ben, the daughter.

The wife, the Ben, the daughter.

Sunday 3pm: Rolling Dice seminar with Jim Pinto

I was able to duck out for about 20 minutes during the prior game to check out Jim's seminar on dice rolling. Just a few of us there, but I so wish I could have spent more time hanging out. Great dice-rolling wrist skills were displayed. No, not really.

Some good discussion of the role of dice in RPGs, with a focus on the failings. I wish I had a doppelganger to both hangout with the family and keep hanging with seminar, but such is the way...

Sunday 2pm: The missed Hero Kids game

I had already sold Animalia to Nova prior to con, and so that's what we did. But simultaneously, Stu Venable (per Happy Jacks RPG podcast) was running Hero Kids. He ran this in the family area on an open table, and had some younger kids there, including his son Zack. I got to see it as I passed them to and from the Jim Pinto seminar. 

The props looked cool and kid friendly, and the character sheets were nice and simple and the kids looked invested. Wish we could've sat in on that as well; need 2 doppelgangers. Another time...

Hero Kids by Stuart Venable

Hero Kids by Stuart Venable

Sunday evening gaming

We had some mixed success with the rest of the day. The three of us headed to the game library and the family area, borrowed a few games that were too complex to learn quickly with a 7-year old (much less 40-year olds), and then were approached by an older lady happy to teach us Fluxx. For a game she loved, she didn't know how to teach it very well, and we had a mediocre time.

Fortunately, we ran into 2 younger kids (who were nonetheless well versed in gaming) with One Night Ultimate Werewolf, and grabbed my friend Mario along the way. We found a quieter location, and had a blast playing a few rounds.

After that we had a fun round of King of Tokyo, which we taught to Mario. Nova and I were the last two standing, and then she destroyed me with her vicious claws. 


At one point, Jen and Nova and I met in the grand ballroom where all the board game tournaments and miniature craziness occurs. Jen found a Stone Age 101 session, and wanted to sit in. I took Nova and went around wandering for an hour.

Convention with Kids Pro-tip: Taking kids to game conventions is not just about formal games. You must find the game you want in the convention. In this case, the convention was winding down. Many rooms were empty. And I decided to pitch a dungeon crawl to Nova: The search for the missing dice

We ended with all sorts of goodies, and yes: a single, black d6. It was a lot of fun, and for those with kids, look for opportunities like this when you can, if needed.

Nova with her finds... writing tools, unused tickets, paper clips, empty badges, Happy Jacks flyers in 3 flavors, 10 cents CRV, a map, and the holy grail: a die.

Nova with her finds... writing tools, unused tickets, paper clips, empty badges, Happy Jacks flyers in 3 flavors, 10 cents CRV, a map, and the holy grail: a die.

And that pretty much concludes this years Gateway. On to home, naps, and two days of recovering the lost sleep.