Monday, June 22, 2015

Cirque du Soleil: Koozå

Last Saturday Mom and I went down to Columbus to see Cirque.  Mike was good enough to put us up for the night, which was very nice of him.  Mike's mom was in town, and the four of us went to see Cirque du Soleil, the Koozå show.

Cirque Tickets
The Cirque is magnificent, so much so that I'm unable to describe it with anything close to adequacy.  If you haven't been to see Cirque du Soleil, or Circus of the Sun as we'd say it in English, save up your pennies and go.  Our tickets were $90 each (ouch!) and worth twice the price.

In the Koozå show, the clowns spoke English and were actually funny.  The clowns bear no resemblance to traditional circus clowns, either in costume or in humor; rather, they are comedians.  Generally, the clowns don't speak, or don't speak English.  They may speak in a foreign language (likely an obscure Slavic language spoken by 37 people living above the Arctic circle), or they will make speech-like noises.  In the Koozå show, they made jokes.  They also played with the audience, selecting a few people for special attention.

The performers in Cirque are all Olympic class athletes, and the acts they do reflect that.  The aerial acts required a huge amount of upper body strength, along with exceptional coordination.  You won't see these acts anywhere else in the world, and they are well worth seeing.

Cirque du Soleil is a circus for adults.  It isn't that children are not welcome.  It's that most children are too immature to enjoy the show, and the tickets are a bit pricey.

Since we saw the afternoon show, which started right on time at 4:30 PM, we all went out to dinner afterwards.  Mike suggested we go to the Bonefish Grill, which is an excellent restaurant and is close to home.  I had shrimp and scallops, which were very nice.

Mom and I drove back Sunday, sadly missing church services.  Too bad, but the show was worth it.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Origins Gaming Convention, Part 4

We signed up for a session of Arkham Horror on Friday, but our event was canceled due to the fragile constitution of the game master (mistress?) who, we were informed, was in the ladies worshiping at the porcelain altar.  Too much holy water the night before, I'd guess.

Event Ticket
Note that the event ticket shows the name of the event, the day and time for the event, but as for the location - forget it.  You have to track down the location for yourself, which Mike did.  I'm told that a key individual quit last year just before the convention started, which means that GAMA had one year to get their act together and couldn't manage to pull it off.  Good job, GAMA.

Canceled Due To Lack Of GM
Note that Mister Big Wheel is using the British spelling for the word 'canceled'.  I prefer the American spelling, mainly because I'm living in the United States.  I suppose it could be argued that the idiot doesn't know how to spell, but that's almost impossible seeing as how he's in management and his team are all university students.  I need a tag for sarcasm.

On my way around the dealer show, I happened across the booth for Mayday Games, who were touting their new game, Viceroy.  Viceroy is not for sale, as it's due to be released in August at Gen Con.  When I asked if they would demo the game, there was a quick huddle, then I was informed that they would demo the game if I could provide the players.  As it happened, I knew of three gamers with nothing better to do.

New Game
As it turned out, Viceroy is an outstanding game. It took us about an hour to learn and play the game to completion. Setup time is minimal, and the play is mechanically easy and done at a fairly fast pace.

Viceroy Setup
The Winner!
As you can see, Mike won the game rather neatly.  Dave beat me by one point, but I'm told that 59 is a respectable score, especially for someone who is unfamiliar with the game.  All I can say is that this was a test round, and Dave didn't watch Mike closely enough.

Here's the board at the end of the game.

My Pyramid

The Winning Pyramid
Cards are turned over four at a time and players bid on the card of their choice, using tokens as payment for the card - if they win the bid.  Cards are assembled into a pyramid structure, which determines how points are scored.  Players can contest each other for a certain card, thus preventing another player from scoring points.  This is an oversimplification of the rules, as there are a myriad number of ways to score victory points in Viceroy.

Our game master for the session was none other than Seth Hiatt, owner and founder of Mayday Games.  Seth is an affable, high energy man who is used to dealing successfully with too many irons in the fire.  By his own admission it had been some time since he'd had to teach Viceroy to anyone, so his explanation was frequently punctuated with "before you do that" caveats.  He also made a few observations about strategy during the game, which was a help to us.

Seth Hiatt, Game Master
We had a great time playing Viceroy, and were so impressed with the game that both Dave and Mike each bought a copy in advance of the release in August.  Their games will ship when Gen Con opens.

The playing time for Viceroy is around 45 minutes, and the optimal number of players is three.  Although we didn't try the game with two players, it was easy to see what would likely happen.  Four players is the maximum number allowed, and would provide for more conflict between opponents.

The design for Viceroy is solid, and I recommend it to anyone searching for a board game that is not in the same category as Monopoly.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Origins Gaming Convention, Part 3

On Friday we were scheduled to play Arkham Horror by Fantasy Flight Games at 10:00 AM.  We endured the snipe hunt, found the correct table - and settled down to wait.  The point of playing this board game is to enjoy ourselves, and part of that enjoyment comes from not having to set the game up and put it away afterwards.  For those who have never played Arkham Horror, the setup takes time.  Then there's the fun of looking up obscure rule exceptions and keeping track of a myriad of play exceptions.

On the way to the table we got waylaid by a pert, young co-ed who, upon learning we were playing Arkham Horror, exclaimed! that, "Your game master is Kim!  She's awesome!".  Yeah, she really did talk that way.

The game is being hosted by Gamers of the Apocalypse (GOTA on Facebook), who are being compensated for their efforts.  About 15 minutes after the game was due to start, a morbidly obese man in a motorized chair wheeled over to tell us that our game master was in the ladies' room throwing up, so the game was canceled.  Clearly, Kim's awesomeness didn't extend to limiting her liquor intake to something she could manage on the morning after.

Mister Big Wheel (I never did get his name) signed off on the cancellation at our insistence.  We went over to the manager's kiosk, where we were given a somewhat surly reception when we had the audacity to ask for our money back.  Officialdom finally signed off on the refund, and we were directed to go to customer service.  The lady at customer service was nice about the whole business, apologized and gave us a refund.  So we now have a six hour time slot that is empty.

But this gets better.

The following day we showed up for another event for which we had registered and bought tickets.  Again, it was Arkham Horror, only this time with all the expansion sets.  The game board is going to take up more space than a large dining room table, and the complexity is significant.  Once again, Gamers of the Apocalypse was in charge, and once again they failed.  This time the game master showed up, but the game was missing.  The game master signed off on the cancellation under the direction of Mister Big Wheel, again we went to the manager's kiosk where the reception was a good deal less salty than our previous experience, then over to customer service where the same nice lady refunded out money and issued the standard apology.  Now we've got another six hour time slot empty.

This is not our first experience with GOTA.  Last year they hosted Arkham Horror, and the game master was an hour late.  When she finally showed up, she was so hung over that she was shaking so badly she had trouble holding a cup of coffee.  I don't know what she was taking besides liquor, and I don't think I want to know.

I think that in the future we'll just skip the events hosted by Gamers of the Apocalypse.  I also think the Origins management team should do a better job of vetting the staff.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Origins Gaming Convention, Part 2

On Thursday, June 4th, the three of us played our first registered event: Elder Sign.  I mention this as a point of interest for two reasons:
  • We won, which is rare with Elder Sign.
  • The other events we registered for were canceled.

Here is a shot of the winning board, which looks fairly chaotic.  The game is complex, and the players must cooperate if they are going to win.

Elder Sign - The Win!
After the game, we walked around the dealer show a while.  The crowd on Thursday was a little sparse by comparison with the weekend, but there was traffic.

Dealer Show
I have no idea what the vendors pay for a booth, but I gather that Origins sold out of booth space.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Origins Gaming Convention, Part 1

I'm a gamer.  I make no bones about it.  I enjoy fantasy role play (FRP) games, as well as board games.  About the only thing I don't enjoy (game-wise) are head games, especially with members of the opposite sex.

So last week I, along with my two brothers from other mothers, attended the Origins Gaming Convention in Columbus, Ohio.  We've all attended Origins before, and so understand the dysfunctional system that the organizer mistakenly calls registration, but this year the glaring errors in the process were worse than ever.

The Origins Game Fair is organized by the Game Manufacturers Association, or GAMA, a non-profit organization based in Columbus, Ohio.  Origins is held in the Greater Columbus Convention Center Hyatt Regency (GCCC/Hyatt). About 15,000 people attend the convention over five days, June 3rd through June 7th.  Given the number of people, online preregistration is strongly encouraged.

The problems we encountered at Origins started with the online registration system, which might have been designed by an SJW suffering the effects of mescaline and PMS.  The design is just this side of completely dysfunctional, but the worst part about the design is that one person isn't able to register several people for an event at the same time.  So if you have a group going to Origins and you all want to attend one particular event, good luck.  You must all register separately and hope that available slots don't fill up by the time the last person in your group registers.  Making things worse is the downloadable event grid, which is in an *.xlsx format.  If you don't have an up-to-date version of Micro$oft Excel, forget about trying to open it.  Mind you, GAMA could have published this as a PDF file, which everyone can read, but I guess they didn't like that idea.

When you have trouble with the online system, you can try emailing GAMA.  They won't answer any emails, but you can try.  Mike sent GAMA four email messages and was ignored all four times.  While one email message might get lost in the shuffle, two is improbable and four is just plain rude.

The three of us managed to register more by luck than anything else, and received an email message confirming our registration and providing us with a barcode that we will presumably scan when we get to the con.

The registration line at the convention is long.  It's always long, and this year is no exception.

Registration at Origins

The Long Line for Registration
I'll give GAMA credit where it's due.  Although the line was long, it moved right along and about 15 minutes later we had tickets to the three events we'd registered for, along with our badges and passes for the board room, an exclusive gaming area.

The printed version of the events list is not organized correctly.  GAMA separates the list by genre, then by date and time.  So, if you're trying to find out what might be available on Saturday morning, you end up flipping back and forth between sections of the program and getting more frustrated by the minute.  Again, this is a simple fix that GAMA refuses to provide.

As I looked through the program, I noticed that several authors I admire were going to be present at Origins, but that none of them were holding a seminar.  In particular Timothy Zahn was here, but he wouldn't be speaking anywhere. All the seminars were being held by someone whose name I didn't recognize. Then I discovered that Michael A. Stackpole was here, but not listed as a speaker. I found that very odd, as Stackpole is a high-energy sort that will hold a seminar for anyone.

I made a few inquiries and found out that the man in charge of printing the program had quit in 2014, just before the convention opened.  His replacement was responsible for the myriad errors in the program.  This is something that GAMA had one year to fix, and they couldn't even get this one right.

Then Mike pointed out the problem with the tickets.

Event Ticket 2015
This is a ticket for an event at Origins.  Note that the ticket displays the name and number of the event, the date and time the event is held - but where, exactly, are we supposed to go?  The locating is listed as the GCCC/Hyatt, but the room number and the table number are conspicuously absent, as is the name of the game master (who supplies the game, does the set up and teaches the rules as necessary).  We went from the customer service booth to a large gaming room where we spoke with another official, who cheerfully admitted that GAMA screwed the pooch on this one and directed us to the correct table.

I mean, tickets, right?  You'd think that someone would have proofed the tickets before printing and spotted this little error.

Tomorrow I'll be writing about the gaming experience we had at Origins.