Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Con of the North: LEVEL 1

This past Saturday I enjoyed my first venture to Con of the North, the big gaming convention here in the Twin Cities. I've been to many a comic convention and Convergence (the geek culture con) but this was my initial foray into the gaming crowd's natural territory.

Saint Dave of Blackmoor
If you weren't aware, Minnesota--and particularly the Saint Paul/Minneapolis metro area--has a thriving game community. I'm sure some credit goes to Dave Arneson (Saint Paul's patron gaming saint) for his involvement/innovation in the early days of wargaming and roleplaying.

Whatever kept the die rolling in this town has really taken permanent root.

The con was Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and I'd signed up for a few games on each day, but I didn't get to any of them. Both as a consequence of an unusually hectic work week and the fact that I wanted to polish the Rad Astra adventure I ran for X-plorers on Saturday night.

But I didn't miss out on gaming.

Gaining XP as a First-time Con-goer
One of the great things about Con of the North is that everyone is gaming everywhere--including the hallways! One game I stumbled upon was a tricked-out version of Aliens!

Now, I'm not even a huge fan of the film (I like it just fine, but I'm not an Aliens fanboy, per se) but this was not to be missed. It used 6" action figures for the marines and aliens and a TON of scratch-built debris as the terrain.  See if you can identify all the sci-fi references built into the game (click on pics to embiggen):

Everything from Star Wars to Doctor Who action figures were used--in some creative way to be in scale. The gameboard itself was at least 6 feet long and each space about 3"x3" (possibly larger).  

The guy behind this fantastic setup is Steve Bauman--he built the game and drew up his version of the rules. I don't know if playing with action figures as pawns is a relatively new thing at cons, but this was just pure fun. Steve called his version "Aliens: Escape from the Robotics Lab".

There was another game with a different board set up going on at the same time and due to a mix-up (that there were two of these Aliens games going on simultaneously but in different locations) Steve's players all ended up at that other game table. So I got to join in along with a few other passerbys. 

It's been a few days since the con, but I believe the gameplay went something like this:

The objective is to get at least 7 of 9 marines across the board, regardless of whether they're healthy, wounded, or incapacitated (carried by other marines). Sequence of play (as best I can recall):
  1. Aliens move (they move 4)
  2. New aliens appear (always 3)
  3. Aliens attack (they "grab" prey, leaving them unable to fight)
  4. Marines move/attack (up to 3 actions, depending on character)
  5. Repeat!
Each marine has a card with the number of actions they can take and their weapon determines their range. So Apone has the flamethrower (I got to play him!) and he can fry aliens without dealing with splashback from acid, but the fire only goes up to 4 squares away. Meanwhile Hicks (has, I think a pulse rifle? shotgun?) can hit foes even farther away.
 Apone and his flamethrower! 


"I'll...be...right...here...attacking from behind!"

The game uses d10 (10 = zero) and you want to roll lower (generally). It's based on line-of-sight and they even had laser pointers to help judge angles. 

Seriously, without exaggeration, this was one of the coolest games I've ever played!

Sadly, I didn't get to finish since I had to get to my table for the game I was running. But Steve didn't let me leave without a parting gift. See, we here in Minnesota, live in the Land of the State Fair (our largest, longest, and most fattening tradition).

So, of course, I took home one of these:



(Pics were kinda' fuzzy, sorry about that!)

There also was one game I didn't get to play but looked amazing.

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