The games were afoot

Random observations from the Strategicon gaming convention in Los Angeles

As we’re cautiously re-emerging from our pandemic cocoons, my fiancé and I spent a couple of days over Memorial Day weekend at the Strategicon tabletop and board game convention in Los Angeles. The last time we did anything like that was a few years ago at KublaCon in the SF Bay Area, so it was nice to feel like things are slowly returning to The Old Ways.

Overall, my take was pretty similar to how I feel about much of Los Angeles at this point: there were plenty of really good people in a not-so-great venue. I’m still not at all a fan of the LAX Hilton, but the vast majority of people I met at the con were friendly, gracious, and welcoming.

A list of other random observations:

  • I don’t want to brag, but I’m kind of a big deal in Dominion circles. Or at least, I got a sweet first-place ribbon in a tournament while I was wandering around looking for something to do. (The “tournament” was two games between about twelve players, where I came in second place in the first and won the second, after two players dropped out from lack of interest).
  • The game I played most was Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game, which I bought at the con and played for the first time in a mini-tournament. (I won a tumbler for coming in second place). I like the game a lot! It reminds me most of Ascension, with some clever changes to emphasize the theme. I’ve only played four games total, but I can already seen larger strategies making themselves clear: the Empire wins by being huge and setting up blockades; the Rebellion wins by staying smaller and more agile, with a few heroes that have the Force on their side and do a lot of damage. The criticisms of the game are totally valid, and it’s already clearly in need of an expansion, but my first impression of the game was fantastic.
  • We also played a short introduction to the second edition of the Pathfinder tabletop RPG. I’ve never been huge into RPGs, and in fact I had to bow out of a D&D game with a group of friends because work had become overwhelming. But I was tempted to dip back into it with Pathfinder just from seeing the character options available. My favorite was a class called “Investigator,” kind of a high fantasy Sherlock Holmes, which I would play in a heartbeat if I had the time to devote to another RPG.
  • I got some rad nerd earrings that are probably age-inappropriate but I DGAF. They were from a vendor called The Guild House.
  • We didn’t play either at the convention, but I realized that while I’ve been out of the loop in regards to board games, a couple of must-plays were released: Prospero Hall’s Rear Window, a Mysterium-like adaptation of the movie; and Clank: Catacombs, a new version of one my favorite games of the last decade, this time replacing the fixed board with a Betrayal-like mechanism of building the dungeon as you go. When/if I get a chance to play them, I’ll review them here if there’s any interest.
  • Not to harp on it excessively, but I really disliked the LAX Hilton. Parking was cramped and kind of difficult, and the hotel itself seemed hostile to a convention based around encouraging strangers to hang out together. It’s possible I was just spoiled by trips to Kubla Con, but that convention always seemed to have big, open gaming spaces where you could just wander up to a group and ask to join in. Or at least you could better see what was going on. The LAX Hilton often felt like mazes of dark passages spread across multiple floors. On top of that, there weren’t any reasonably-priced food options nearby, and the line for hotel registration somehow seemed to always be at least 12 people long, even past 11 pm at night.

We were lucky that our friends in the Bay Area hosted a long-running, monthly game night that gave us the chance to meet other people into the hobby, and to try out a bunch of games. I’m hoping that we’ll get the chance to get back into it down here. Especially since so much of the past few years seems to have been dominated by solitude and screens.