AcadeCon is a gaming convention based in Dayton, Ohio and was established in 2013 by the RPG Academy. This convention leans heavily toward RPG games, but also has room for card and board games as well as offering some seminars and unique attractions. The convention is a 3-day affair for a regular attendee, but if you get in on the Kickstarter there is a VIP event that takes place the evening prior as well as a gaming retreat held separately from the convention that VIPs are invited to. VIPs also get to schedule their events a week before regular badge holders and as such, the most in-demand games can be filled up before the scheduling opens up for us regular Joes. Because of this, I couldn’t get into some of the games I was really looking forward to, but I still count myself lucky that everything I got to play was with a great gamemaster and quality players.
In their own words, the RPG Academy says: “AcadeCon is specifically designed to be a smaller, non-traditional convention. We are not trying to (nor do we want to) compete with or replace the huge conventions that attract a national audience. At our convention, you’re going to get access to 24-hour gaming hall, a better chance to play in the games you want, the opportunity to spend time and game with special guests, and time to hang out with some of the best gamers in the world—the fans of our show!”
On my trip to AcadeCon the convention had a discounted rate for the Crowne Plaza Dayton. From there it’s a quick walk across the 3rd-floor walkway right over to the Dayton Convention Center — so one 4 hour drive later Gamer Girl and I arrived, checked in, and began attending stuff. On arrival, we noticed how much less crowded the DCC was compared to when we went to Origins in Columbus earlier this year. The RPG Academy had a very friendly staff in place to get everyone checked in and off to the games with lanyard and name tags in hand. We passed the raffle table next which was full of donated items from vendors and sponsors. A walk around the main event hall showcased the gaming tables set up for free play and scheduled events, and these were surrounded on 3 sides by vendor tables that ran all around the walls. Folks were milling about and checking out wares both home-made crafts and products by all the major publishers like Magic, Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, 13th Age, etc.
AcadeCon: The Beginning
Our first event was a nice, cozy seminar hosted by Will Hindmarch and Kenneth Hite about having fun and moving the game along as players in RPG games. They had an hour and covered a lot of ways to involve other players in everyone’s actions and scenes. They outlined how to use teamwork to share the spotlight and move the story forward while making the game more interactive and involved for everyone at the table, including offloading some of the GM’s work to the player-side like spell descriptions and damage effects. Well worth the time; I was already a fan of Ken Hite but this was my first exposure to Will and I must say that they played well off of each other and had a lot of interesting techniques and stories to share.
The first game we played con was Robots Rise, a card game by Happy Harpy Games — one we had played at Origins and backed on Kickstarter. In this game, you and 1-5 other players are mad scientists who each have three secret lairs that act as your life. The other players try to destroy your lairs to knock you out of the game. Last mad scientist with a lair left is the winner. Cards are used for offense, defense, or both depending on what information is printed on each card. Most cards do something by themselves, but there are also robot parts cards in the mix. If you can assemble a robot head, legs, and body then you can use that robot to either attack or defend on your turn — very handy! Players can ask for alliances if they are only one part short of completing a robot ,and if someone will give them the missing part then they are immune to attack from that robot and it will be used to attack one of the other scientists. So it’s always useful to jump in on that if you can spare the part. It’s a fairly quick-paced game once you get the rules and card types explained to you, and it’s very fun and challenging to play.
We split up after that because I was going to a seminar by Craig Campbell of Nerdburger Games and the Nerdburger Podcast, and I just knew this was not going to be up Gamer Girl’s alley. The talk was titled “Designing an RPG while holding down a day job,” and I was interested in whatever Craig was willing to talk about so I was in for the duration. It was a small gathering of 9 folks there to learn about how to take their game from imagination to implementation to publishing if they chose to pursue it all the way. There was lots of networking advice and how-to’s on the specifics of narrowing down a vision into an actionable plan as well as some steps to achieve that plan. Craig shared his experiences being a solo game designer and how he went about getting friends and acquaintances to help him find editors, playtesters, graphic layout and art folks; all needed to transform his ideas into reality. Overall, an entertaining and informative hour and ten minutes of gaming design shop talk.
Time for dinner and the DCC has only one concession area. Neither of us felt like prepackaged salad or hot dogs, so we braved the walkway back over to the hotel and devoured the subway sandwiches we had brought. Then we had some relaxing quiet-time before heading back over for our last event of the day, an RPG game called Dreamchaser ran its creator, Pete Petrusha. Now as a bit of background: This was Gamer Girls first RPG game and my first game in quite a while. There are 4 players for Dreamchaser, and it is a game heavily dependant on player input — not just in character creation, but for determining the goals of the game at hand and a lot of the details of the scenes as well. It’s a really neat open system of setting up goals for the game as things the players want to accomplish – one per player – then the group determines in which order they will be addressed before moving on to the next until everything can be accomplished. In reality, that could really take several sessions, so we went as far as we could in our 3-hour time slot. Dice played a part whenever a challenge was attempted, but you had several strategies that you could try to apply to increase your chances of success and lots of evocative actions took place. It was a difficult game to get into, but we were lucky to have the creator and 2 players who were familiar enough with it to help us through the game and have fun. All in all, it was a lot of creative work on our end to get the game rolling, but a rewarding experience at the end. Still, it was mentally draining for someone not used to really flexing that creative side of the brain very often!
Saturday we got a late start due to some hotel shower issues, so we decided to have an early lunch downtown at Smokin Bar-B-Que. I’d recommend that place to anyone who enjoys Texas style BBQ or meat in general. I know, a little off topic but they are well worth the plug — down on East Fifth street, just a block from our hotel.
Next was our first time to play a big board game at Acadecon and we chose a scary one: Cthulhu Wars! This was a 4-player game with a 2 piece board that represented the world with regions delineated on it and starting areas for each of the 4 factions in the game. Each of the factions has different ways of accumulating power, and they can each achieve victory in different ways. Every faction will need to gather all 6 of their spellbooks as a victory condition in addition to amassing points for controlling territory, along with other specific goals that need met. Setup was quick, there are quick rule summary cards, and thank goodness we had Ariel as our game guide to offer clarifications and tips on playing our factions. She really made it a fun game instead of an exercise in futility.
Cthulhu Wars is an expensive game to get into. The core set runs about $200+, but you get a lot of stuff for that including sweet little models of Great Old Ones and lots of monsters and cultists to scatter around the world. And who hasn’t wanted to make Cthulhu devour someone at one time or another? It is definitely a complex game and not one I’d buy as a spur of the moment thing, but a great addition to a gaming group that likes a variety of games.
The last game of the evening for Saturday was a superhero RPG called Icons Superpowered Roleplaying: the Assembled Edition. This game had pre-generated characters that we looked over and picked out one we wanted to play as. My choice was Dart: a reformed cat burglar with paralytic spittle and extreme nimbleness. Gamer Girl chose Nan-ette: a power-suit wearing daughter of superhero parent scientists. Our group also included a shadow investigator whose powers helped him track down fey creatures and occultist, a street magician who fights crime with cards, a well-meaning hero called the GroundHog that tended to break things and finally an Official badge wearing, certified crime-fighter fresh from the hero academy that could fly and trade punches with the toughest of us.
Our task was simple: Our friend and fellow hero Dan Bigelow — Play Through Man, master of luck and golf — was getting married and asked us to be part of the wedding party. Sounds great, but it seems like Dan and his fiance are in a hurry! Brunhilda — the soul mate — only recently met Dan and they immediately fell for each other. Trouble is, the Storm Maidens don’t think mortals are worthy to wed one of their own, so we end up getting dragged into a multi-dimensional familial spat. Hijinks ensued.
The theme of this game was loose and crazy: people stunting powers off each other and trying wacky combos to overcome challenges and enemies and boy, were there enemies. We entered combat with a lightning wielding storm maiden (older sister of Brunhilda) and she was a handful! But with trickery, fighting skill, and brave, almost bardic regaling of tales proving Dan’s worthiness and true heart, she eventually found him worthy of a storm maiden and we were able to win her over to our side — or so we thought.
The problem was, she decided she would take Dan as her husband and whisked him off to her realm. We gave chase and brought Dan back to get him married off to Brunhilda, but her father Hrothgar Skyhammer shows up to stop the ceremony. We barely manage to keep him busy and complete the wedding and get everyone settled down by the 4-hour mark. Long adventure, but so much fun; lots of action, powers, and screwball antics in that time. I definitely give up major kudos to our DM, Chuck Moore — very well ran. Time to go to bed now.
Sunday was a day for rest, honestly had a game scheduled for 9 am, slept in and wandered over for a last go-through of the vendors and gaming area. Stopped by the demo table Craig Campbell had set up for his Nerdburger games and got a copy of his upcoming Capers game that will be going to Kickstarter in early 2018, as well as getting the pitch for Die Laughing! We picked up a couple premade Magic decks, a sweet wooden dice chest, and a couple leather bracelets before heading out of town and back towards home.