I was invited to CONlo (abbreviation approved), run by some friends in Boulder. Stras and John have been running this show for a few years with extremely small numbers, but this year Andi was invited to take some reigns, and it got just a wee bit bigger. (And that includes me, yay!)
I took a direct flight out of Burbank. Fortunately my friend Sean also thought he was taking a direct flight (incorrectly), and grabbed me on the way. Props for getting all those dirty looks saving me an exit aisle seat during boarding. Well worth it, as we got to chit-chat, but more importantly, eventually got to the work at hand: a game of Star Crossed (Alex Robert's 2-player game of forbidden love, and Jenga).
Because of Andi's excellent organizational work, we were able to converse about the idea of playing this game on the plane. It started as a bit of a joke, and also some talk about how smart it would be to play a scenario with a sky marshal and a terrorist on a plane. (Answer: not smart.) But because of this planning, I specifically brought a miniature "block tower" that I'd found for $0.79 at a thrift store.
Here is Sean's actual play report, which does a good job in giving you the low down. So good, I'm gonna do a straight-up rip, and quote him directly (just in case the link breaks at a later point):
We played Jaime, the idealistic son of a dictator of a small island, and Marco, the house butler that served in the war with the now-dictator and took a bullet for him. Knowing that we were about to wage yet another war, in the middle of the night Jaime convinced Marco to steal his father’s greatest weapon (works left unsaid we because we were flying, but the implication was that it was a WMD) and fly away in the night.
Marco had been the man to see Jaime’s education and his upbringing. While most of the people on the island, including and especially the dictator were expressive and rash, Marco was patient (that’s one of the things that made him so attractive) and reserved. His attention to detail, especially his perfectly trimmed beard were all signs of his control and thoughtfulness. In fact, many years ago Jaime learned to shave from Marco and tried to model the perfect precision that he used when drawing the razor across his skin. Marco was Jaime’s godfather. He was also totally hot for him.
Jaime, in his mid thirties, was erudite, privileged, and idealistic. Though he often argued with his father, he had know idea the extent to which the despot oppressed both the people of his island and threatened his neighbors. Brash like his father, when he learned of the dictators plans, he found the only man he could trust not to betray him (and that could fly the small plane they escaped in) and set off with him to deliver the dangerous cargo to his father’s enemies. He needed to prove this was a mission about political ideas. He needed to prove he wasn’t just flying away to be with Marco!
Pilot and Co-Pilot sat side by side (as Tomes and I did on the plane) and flew from the dictator’s island. They wanted each other but their beliefs and the need to safely pilot the plane trough a deadly course held them apart!
That summarizes it pretty well. He forgot to mention things like how the word "crash" and "WMD" would come up, and how we'd have to quickly tweak all that to ensure we made the rest of our journey unscathed. We joked about passing X-cards around to our neighbors. Honestly, having to be that cognizant of what words we were using added a second level of intensity and tension to the game.
Airport shuttles to Italy-food
We met at the Super Shuttle desk as Andy did us the solid of organizing one shuttle for the 6 of us that landed roughly the same time. We headed on to the YWCA, after passing the evil incarnate which is Blucifer, on the way in.
From there is was on to Pearl St, which is 2 blocks away from the YWCA, and houses the majority of food that was consumed on this journey. We hit Sforno, an Italian joint which was completely devoid of people at that early afternoon hour, and had a delicious family style feast.
Edit: I forgot that Nadja was debuting her show (she is the Talent Manager!) called "Stream On", a reality show that's pretty much the Twitch version of Survivor. So we got to actively see parts of it during our din-din.
Our gaming home for the next days would be the YWCA in Boulder. It's amazing what a great location this turned out to be: custom keycode so we could get in anytime, a couple of conference rooms, miniature kitchenette, proximity to tons of food options, and supporting a great organization. Everything was so seamless that it just makes me want to run a house con like this around my home.
The Whiteboard Schedule
Being such a small convention, of about 25 people, I got to see yet another way that games on demand and scheduling can happen. We'd just fill these out little game signup sheets, and tape them to the game time slots they'd created on the white board (three slots a day: 3 hour morning slot, 4 hour afternoon slot, 4 hour evening slot). The only oversight was leaving a spot for players to sign up, but that was quickly rectified.
The Big House
Andi and crew planned accommodations for the majority of us foreigners around two AirBnBs, colloquially called The Big House, and The Little House. I was in the former with about a dozen or more of us. It worked out surprisingly well. It wasn't too close to the YWCA, but was a quick $6+ Lyft ride, or a 20+ minute walk (which I did at least 4 times).
Atrocities: The Queen's Receipts
Back to the Y for gaming. First thing I signed up for was Alex Robert's pitch for "Unnamed Game Playtest". The description: "You are a Queen's retinue on a perilous journey. Answer a deck of question cards to find out who you are and how you really feel about the Queen." I'm in. Players included Sean, Eric, Nadja, Andy, myself, and Alex.
The premise was that the Queen chose us because she knows we love her. Who are we? Why are we doing this? What's our relationship to the queen and each other? This is a game where your character gets formed in the journey, much like Fall of Magic or Protocol, however there you at least start with a name and a title or something... here you start with an empty canvas.
A deck of cards. That's it. They get drawn, one by one, one person taking a turn at a time, and you just answer the question. That's all. But holy shit was that game intensely good.
Again, Sean does one of his Actual Play reports. (Which just makes me wonder if I should always play with Sean not just because he's amazingly good fun to play with and a generous co-player, but because then I no longer have to blog about my games, he just does it for me!)
I was the bodyguard. The Queen had cut out my tongue, or more accurately: she'd had her last bodyguard do it, before that bodyguard slit her own throat. I took on the role. I was from a foreign land, brought over as an emissary, but also a spy. The Queen was onto me. And she had my sister in the jail beneath the castle. (There's a word for that, right, Andy?) And she'd let my sister live, as long as I served. If I betrayed her? Well, I had no choice.
One of the fantastic mechanics was the ability to "pass", if you didn't want to answer a question. Or if you wanted to possibly see the next character do so. Of course they could pass too. Everyone could. And if the question got around the table? You just discard and move on. Worked really well for various reasons (safety, narrative flow, and more).
Seriously though, you can just play this game for an hour, or more, depending on how many cards you want to play. Standing in line? Play an RPG. Driving for an hour in traffic with a few friends? Play an RPG. I want this.
Late night ramblings: Part one of many
And then it became the first of many, many nights, of late night hanging out and talking, and staying up way too late. The first of 4 days of too little sleep, and too much adrenaline. Can't complain, so much love.