So if you’ve been hiding under a rock this weekend, the Scrum Club put on a virtual convention (Scrum Club 2021). It was (to some extent) a success, in that most games had people ‘in seats’, though not all of them filled up. My own game included. I volunteered to run a game on Sunday, which proved to be my Raid on Taranto project that I have been fiddling with for a long time (evidence suggests six years). I also signed up to play in a few, Battle on the Borderlands run by the excellent Eric Hoffman. Due to the assist of John Sears and Josh O’Connor, we did some streaming of events live and they are archived on Youtube. Here is Saturday’s Border on the Borderlands run by Eric:
This is a reasonably good recording of the game. Eric is a practiced user of Zoom and how it works for gaming. He understands the little touches — naming your cameras, making breakout rooms called “Commander’s Tents” etc. They provide good atmosphere.
As for the game itself and the outcome. Well, it did play well– Eric has this down to an almost exact science. Another great example of how modern technology makes old imponderable games more playable then when they were new (I’m thinking of how our group plays MERP these days using Roll20 here). The combination of Google Docs, Zoom and webcams made Eric’s hybridized version of Chainmail a breeze to play. With all that said.. I’m still tempted to ponder how Law could possibly win this thing. The Evil side had the “Law” side hopelessly outclassed. They had a spell caster (equivalent to a light cannon) who could literally cast a firebolt or fireball every turn, and that player (Paul) found the range early. Every hit decimated our ranks. I suddenly felt that nagging sense of deja vu, like this had happened before– and it had, when I played in the Battle of Thraya, where I was, once again, on the forces of Law taking on Chaos (well, undead) and we were overwhelmed by hordes of creatures that fought better, shrugged off hits and could reach out and touch someone. Coincidentally that also was using Chainmail. There really wasn’t much we could do once our most elite troops got shot to pieces from ranged fire. The other side wasn’t going to cross the river– why should they? They were winning without even going into melee one time. We opted to end it our of frustration– declaring, just like at Thraya, that we were in an orderly retreat off the battlefield with the remnants of the army. With that said, I’d definitely play Chainmail again, but likely with a look towards redressing the balancing issues.
Saturday, I worked on some other issues at home and feverishly put some effort in to finishing off, you know, actually writing the rules we’d be playing the next day. So I missed Howard Whitehouse’s talk on how Gaming Should be Fun (it had filled up quickly actually). The game “Stringbags out of the Darkness” was workable in bits and pieces mostly on spreadsheets and needed some organization in a bad way. So although it had been tested as a series of disconnected mechanics, I put in some effort and finished it. I did start the game with a real rulebook in my hand, just in time.
More on that later In any event, we did run it, we played it, and the feedback was very positive.
My final act of ScrumCon 2021 was to have another go at Ambush in Provence, a What a Tanker! scenario I played last year at virtual recruits convention. It left a favorable impact on me and I suggested the “Brothers Jay” be recruited to run a game. It really worked out well. I love the WaT! system myself for its rugged simplicity. I plan to run a version of it, myself. It’s funny how we spent a lot of the time in idle chatter about how we would change the game, as you can see here:
One of the less upbeat moments of the convention was taking a moment of silence to reminisce over the recent passing of Mike Hobbes, the Welsh Wizard from the long running Meeples and Miniatures podcast. Jay Arnold, the GM of the Ambush in Provence game, was a friend of Mike’s and held a short memorial of sorts reminding us all that we’re in a hobby because of the people we meet along the way. I didn’t know Mike but I had been listening to him for years, and it feels like I knew him.
So that was, roughly, my convention, less my learning piece about how to run a game over Zoom, which I’ll post probably Tuesday. It was a great little convention. Obviously we’re not doing as well in the virtual venue but the flip side of that is we are now communicating with and getting GMs from people all over the world. It’s a hidden strength. Perhaps future conventions will be some form of hybrid remote and in person gaming, who knows?? Special thanks to the two gentle alpha dogs of this convention John Sears and Joe Procopio, for putting in the effort to make this happen.
Other Notable Events at ScrumCon 2021