Sometimes it’s not about slaying monsters, or resource acquisition, or worker placement, or even building railroad lines. Sometimes a board game is about relaxing with friends and loved ones, taking it easy and having a good time doing something as simple as watching the flowers grow. I’m working through the list of board games I came across and snagged copies of at PAX Unplugged 2019, and I decided something like that would be just the thing to start. Place tiles, build a beautiful array of twisting vines, and watch the flower (pieces) bloom with Trellis, a game of zen and blossoms designed by Teale Fristoe, illustrated by Vikki Chu, and published by Breaking Games!
Pick a card, any card, any card at all . . . and it’ll tell you what kind of story you’re in and what your characters can do. Despite walking around a convention with Unplugged in the name, there were a fair number of plugged-in offerings. It could actually be called one of the motifs of the convention: games crossing the border between physical and digital games (going both ways), digital enhancements to traditional games, and games that blend the two from the foundation up. Among the latter is Weave: Storytelling Redefined, a game that’s half tarot, half roleplay, and all story.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with Keith Baker at PAX Unplugged 2019, and was doubly so that he was able and willing to take the time to sit down with me for an interview! What follows is our conversation as Baker talks about the Eberron setting, Rising from the Last War, exploring things further, the DM’s Guild, telling stories in The Adventure Zone with Twogether Studios, his favorite among a wide variety of hats, and what he finds most compelling about the roleplaying game experience.
Aki might have had the brainpower to check in every day of PAX Unplugged, but I . . . didn’t. There was a lot to do and see, however: board games, events, roleplaying games, accessories, actual play opportunities! I came home with . . . a lot to write about, and more than a few review copies, but there are plenty of things that would get missed by doing things one article at a time. So here’s my PAX Unplugged Roundup of some of the things worth checking out, whether they’re things to look for next con or something worth chasing right now!
Well, I have a moment before things might be getting hectic, so I wanted to share some overall impressions and observations about the totality of PAX Unplugged so far. First, I want to say that overall I see a vast improvement in organization from last year. Lines are shorter, and there are more options and backups to keep people happy. The decision to keep one main entrance seems to be paying off dividends, in that people are processed a lot faster to get in the action. Do I miss being able to pop out exits for a bite at a local market without walking all the way back around? Maybe a little, but the overall wait time is shorter, and the end result means that I am hanging around the con and exploring more.
Well, today was a lot quieter and casual for me. I was doing today with a group of friends who…well, were less interested in cramming into events. And you know what: there is no wrong way to enjoy a con. People come for a variety of reasons, and while I had effectively jam packed myself yesterday, I wound up enjoying different parts of the con that I had actually missed out on. One of the nice things about PAX Unplugged is that there is a wide breadth of things to try, and while some require the dedication to be there at signup at the moment the doors open, there’s plenty to enjoy for people who just want to show up and have fun Continue reading PAX Unplugged: Day 2 Log
This article is a log updated periodically throughout the day, and then published when complete.
Arrival: 8 AM
First of all, an update and correction from my last scouting report. While we had been warned off the changes in entrances previously, for some reason it hadn’t sunk in. For those of you taking a train in, stops around 14th -16th streets will be superior than hiking over from elsewhere. In addition, Will Call has moved from the location originally sent out by email, and is now by the entrance hall. This means that everyone is all going to the same location, which, well…
This is the sight of the entrance hall at 8:00, two hours before the con is supposed to open, and an hour before event registration was set to begin. I had already picked up my badge, and I knew where I was going to RPG registration, but I was far from the first.
To reiterate, this is an hour before registration opens. If anyone thought I was overstating the morning pileup, things look like anything but right now.
However, in spite of the backup I did it! After striking out last year, I managed to get into one of the Star Wars modules run by Fantasy Flight Gaming. There is also a neat change from last year: along with Games on Demand, people have games that they are offering to run that have been included on the docket. I am seeing some people are using it to demo games they have/are developing, which seems like a great way to generate interest and stress test.
10 AM – 2 PM
“Begun the Clone Wars Have” was a fun module, and I know enough about the system that I can see the hallmarks of a module designed for this kind of event: early rolls to get people used to the system while getting them to use resources, challenges that stretches people out of their niche followed by a finale that left two thirds of the party down for the count.
I won’t say to much about the events, because I really don’t want to spoil it for people, but I think FFG is definitely leaning into the Rise of the Separatists and Collapse of the Republic splat books on this one, and that character choices heavily come from those books: Clone Commander, ARC Trooper, Jedi Master, Jedi Padawan and Senator were all included in the group of up to 6 players with an Outlaw Tech to round it out. Considering Seamus’ work on both of these books, I was excited to play, and I think I can definitely say that a full Clone Wars campaign seems really viable. I even got to take a look at some of the squad combat rules from Rise, and they could really do nicely in an Age of Rebellion game to make being a Diplomat more interesting in combat.
As an observation, the time slot bills itself as four hours for all of the games FFG is running (also Legend of the Five Rings and Android: Shadow of the Beanstalk). My group was one of the first to let out, and the other two games were still going strong, so I would say that four hours is indeed the expected time.
Finally, I learned something cool! There is a fan community run version of Pathfinder Society for Star Wars: Legends of the Galaxy. It has a shared, generally running plotline for GMs and players, along with resources for both (including hosting the Oggdude character builder!). The creator and head of the site was actually one of the GMs, and hopefully I will get the chance to sit down with him and learn more.
Ignores his own advice, quickly scarfs down crab fries in the cafeteria while typing updates
While signing up for events, I had seen something that piqued my interest: a recently Kickstarted (though not yet released) game by the name of Zafir. It’s billed as a tactical RPG along the lines of X-COM, but set in an alternate Earth where an industrial revolution has been set off ahead of schedule with new magical ores. It sounds like an interesting idea, but I’ve signed up for a card game tournament, so I can’t stay for the whole time. Still, I manage to chat with the developer, watch character creation and plan to meet up to find out more later in the con.
There’s a cool little racket being set up in the tournament center, a soft drink tavern. You buy your mug and have free refills for the day. It’s great for people here for the whole day, especially as you get thirsty, and they seem to be making bank.
Oh, and I got bounced from my tournament in about 15 minutes. *sad trombone music*
Well, the Zafir game is still running. Fortunately, they are still in combat, and I get the chance to see how combat works over a few encounters. It seems pretty intuitive, but I hope to go over things a bit deeper in another article.
I catch Seamus between Transit sessions and check in before I prepare to leave. Yes, it’s early, but I’ve been going at this for 10 hours now, and cons are marathons and not sprints. I plan to be back tomorrow with friends, and I have the whole expo hall to explore!
Ho adventuring gamers! We are on the eve of PAX Unplugged in downtown Philadelphia, and two of us fellow Cannibal Halflings will be lurking about. It seems that event organizers have failed to learn their lesson, and allowed Seamus (2017) and I (2018) to return for our second years in attendance. While both Seamus and I are excited, I have the advantage of actually living in the area for the last five years. It has been helpful for planning on my end, and it’s time to turn over some of those nuggets of wisdom to you dear readers to act as your man on the ground in advance to the upcoming invasion of gamers into the heart of a major American city. Hopefully these tips will help make your experience more enjoyable!
Today, we have a special PAX Unplugged Edition of A Glimpse Into the Vault, with a special roundup of board games of interest I came across at the con! Now, this is a little unfair, as this is a grossly cursory look at only some of the many games and vendors that were on display, but with the extensive number of products available I only had so much time and attention to really dig in. Luckily, I managed to get on the media list for PAX Unplugged, so I was fortunate enough to be solicited by a number of people interested in getting attention for their game, and from that I managed to schedule a slew of interviews about different games. We previously chatted with Brendan Conway about Unbound, the latest supplement for Masks: A New Generation, but today we’ll be tackling the board games I got to see in greater detail, and the creators who I had the chance to interview.
In case that is wasn’t obvious from our Reviews, Adventure Logs, and Table Fiction, many of the writers here at Cannibal Halfling gaming are huge fans of the products from Magpie Games, Masks: A New Generation in particular. Seamus previously had the opportunity to interview the developer, Brendan Conway back in 2017, but since then Magpie has released several new supplements that fleshed out the universe, added new playbooks for players, and even offered new storylines to match different genres. With all these changes, we wanted to know more about what went into them, and what fans might see in the future. As luck would have it, Brendon was attending PAX Unplugged to help promote the newest expansion, Masks: Unbound, and he was gracious enough to take some time to speak with me.