Thursday, November 18, 2010

MACE convention

MACE (Mid-Atlantic Convention Expo), proclaiming itself "the largest gaming convention in the Carolinas", met for the 14th year on November 12-14 in High Point, NC. I was at MACE only on Saturday.

MACE is an offshoot of science fiction and fantasy conventions. There are lots of SF/F conventions, often with comics and costuming and lots of other things including games thrown in. I haven't been to one of those conventions since the world science fiction convention that was in Washington DC about 35 years ago. I have a friend who attends many conventions of this kind, and he finds most of them are not very interesting from a game point of view. He has the same to say about his experience in the past with MACE. But he is interested in boardgames and non-collectible card games, and offshoots like HeroClix. He has played D&D for more than 20 years but isn't interested in playing some other RPG.

Not surprisingly, SF/F convention gameplaying emphasizes individual role-playing, as this is the kind of tabletop gaming that most emphasizes story. MACE follows that tradition. Although it was possible to see several board games going on at any particular time, and although there were miniatures games and some CCG's, most of the gameplaying was role-playing. I think a lot of the people came to try role-playing games that they don't have the opportunity to play at home. I talked for a bit with the owner of the convention, Jeff Smith, and he emphasized how much he likes to introduce people to new games and get them out of their ruts. The convention does that well, and people were obviously having a good time which is what counts.

He's tried tournaments, but they don't get much interest. He has never been to a game convention that derives from game traditions, such as PrezCon, WBC, Origins, or GenCon. Two of those are entirely board and noncollectible card games, and the others are much less heavily role-playing.

The small vendor room also reflected the ancestry of the convention, as there were lots of nongame items such as clothing, and the only well-established game publisher was Hero Games, which specializes in RPG's.

In the middle of the day Saturday there was a "chat with the pros panel," which the convention does each year. At a convention where most of the people are relatively local-I drove 104 miles each way which is probably one of the longer trips-I wouldn't expect there to be many people who are interested in the professional side of game production, and so it proved to be. I think they were four spectators and eight pros, all in the RPG business except for me. But it was a lively two-hour discussion, and I learned a lot because I haven't been involved in role-playing gaming for quite some time.

I don't know what the convention attendance was but it appeared to be several hundred.

I had volunteered to talk later the same way I do at WBC and Origins and there was one pro (me) talking to one person who was interested in role-playing game design. Which was alright because I had to think about what to write in my game design book to say how role-playing game design differs from other kinds of tabletop game design. It does show the nature of the convention which was a lot of people wanting to play games and most of them being role-playing games.

I've been inspired by what I've heard at the convention about game distribution to go back to working on my Aetherships game. It's fantasy ships in outer space, kind of like SpellJammer. I originally devised it in 2003 but didn't write the rules in detail and didn't test it. Now I'm going to make it a standalone game with two parts, one a tactical ship to ship/fleet to fleet game, the other a game with boarding actions and individual characters using a very simple RPG system I devised for another game that has sat gathering dust.

If that goes far enough, I may go back to MACE next year to look for playtesters. Otherwise, there doesn't seem to be anything to really hold my interest. I don't follow RPGs any more, and don't usually play; and certainly don't have any interest in trying new ones.

I'm going to list game conventions here in case anyone is adjusted in trying one of the more prominent ones. I'm going to include the distance from my place which is a bit north of Fayetteville, NC.

MACE--100 miles, High Point, mid-November, 3 days, 400? people.

PrezCon--250 miles, Charlottesville Virginia, late February, 4 days, 500 people. This convention is all about boardgames and noncollectible card games, and is organized in tournaments with plaques as prizes. It is a convention for people who want to play their favorite games many times. My friend who didn't find much at MACE played nineteen games of Roborally at the last PrezCon!

WBC (World Boardgaming Championships) -- 450 miles, Lancaster Pennsylvania, early August (beautiful weather), six days, 1500 people. This is the granddaddy of PrezCon. As with PrezCon, you rarely see anyone playing see CCG's or miniatures or RPG's. (There's a huge miniatures convention, Historicon, at the same place a week or two before.)

Origins-- 500 miles, Columbus Ohio, late June/early July, four or five days, more than 10,000 people. This is a much more diverse convention (there's even an art show) and does not have tournaments. It is the main awards and famous guests convention for boardgames and noncollectible card games.

GenCon-- 660 miles, Indianapolis Indiana, early-mid August, four or five days, nearly 30,000 people. GenCon having originated from Dungeons & Dragons, RPG's are much more prominent here, but there are also comic fans and Cosplay (costume) fans and movie fans, and it's more like a SF/F convention that the preceding three game conventions. There are some tournaments, but usually not ones that extend over several days as at WBC or PrezCon. The exhibit hall is awesomely enormous, with "booth babes" yet (no, the others aren't big enough for that expense). Unfortunately, next year GenCon is scheduled at the same time as WBC, just as it was this year.

There are lots of local/regional game conventions on this side of the country that I don't attend, and some larger conventions west of the Mississippi. But if I were to name the major hobby board and non-collectible card game conventions in the US, GenCon, Origins, and WBC would be the only three I would name.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At this year's GenCon, boardgames dominated the exhibit hall and many of the activities. That was certainly a pleasant surprise.