Shadowfist Tournament Report: GenCon 2004

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Home > Tournaments > Reports > GenCon 2004
[posted 26 Aug 2004; updated 26 Sep 2004]

Z-Man ran a bunch of tournaments at GenCon 2004. I don't have all the winners' names, but here is what I do know:

"World Championship" Final Brawl (multiplayer, constructed): Jan Malina [decklist]
Who's the Big Man Now? (dueling, constructed): Jan Malina [decklist]

Sunday Final Brawl (multiplayer, constructed):


Whirlpool of Blood (sealed, drafting):

Tie: Jan Malina, Kyle Bahr, Allen Hege

Comrades in Arms (multiplayer, constructed, theme deck):

Julian Lighton [decklist]

One Hundred Names (multiplayer, constructed, 1 each):

Allen Hege [decklist]

Both Guns Blazing (speed dueling, constructed): Kyle Bahr
Who Wants Some? (sealed, convention-long): Jan Malina ~9 wins

A couple of reports and some photos for you to start. Please send in deck lists, reports or photos if you were there!

Report from Jan Malina

Long, rambling report from Stefan Vincent, with a few photos.

Pictorial from Stefan Vincent

GenCon 2004 Report by Jan Malina
Originally posted to the Shadowfist Forum on Yahoogroups on 30 Aug 2004 by Jan Malina. Republished with permission. If you're a member, read the original in the archives.

For those that are interested I thought I would write up a bit about my GenCon trip. It has no real point and goes off track in many places so if you are weary it is best to skip it. I won't thank everyone individually but needless to say GenCon was a ton of fun and it was awesome seeing those people that I knew again and meeting a bunch of great people too.


I get up early, too early. It seems like I didn't even sleep cause after Max and I finished building a deck and he left I only had a couple hours to pack my bags and sleep before getting to the airport. I try to sleep on the plane, it doesn't really work so well. I read The Score, which I find to be good but a bit rushed at the end. I wonder why I am getting there so early, then realize it is because it was one of the few direct flights that day. I get to the airport and start looking for a bus to take me to the convention center. I get out to the transit area and I hear a call of, "Hey, there's Jan." I look up to find Zev, Julian, Paul, and a friend of theirs from NY. They have a limo lined up and I couple up with them. It is nice to see Paul again, been a couple years. We catch up briefly and I exchange greetings with everyone else. On the limo trip Paul goes on and on about H&K go to White Castle, something that is frequently discussed throughout the weekend, and highly recommends it. I want to see it already but Paul hypes it so much I resolve to do so after I get back. Zev admits he wants to see AvP, I say I would like to do the same but secretly cringe at the prospect. One of those things there you do want to see a movie but you know it will be terrible when you do, alas I will likely catch it on video. We get to the hotel and I drop off my stuff. Julian jokes which of us will die over the weekend. I remark that unless he crushes me in my sleep I don't think it will be an issue. We meet up with Paul and Zev at the booth to setup. Setup is fairly long but not too bad. My name tag reads David Eber, several people call me Dave at the con. I correct them that is it in fact David. I am very hungry cause I haven't eaten anything other than plane nuts. We head to the restaurant to find the two hour wait waiting for us. Along with it is Alan and gang. Alan is always so happy, robin would say he is the opposite of me I think. We resolve to sit in the non-dining area with no wait. Me and Paul split some deep friend pickles. I have never heard of them before but they are pretty tasty. The rest of the people make fun of me for not knowing what a loaded potato is, I feel shamed. Stefan shows up with his want-to-be drunkard kids. Stefan and family are so nice it hurts, I still feel bad for letting him down the first time I met him and hope he has forgiven me for it. After food is eaten we head back to the hotel to play some cards. Alan points out David Carradine sitting at the bar. He and Zev are afraid to go up to him. I choose a card for him to sign and go up with Alan to say hi. We are snubbed. He doesn't even say anything as his one man entourage dismisses us. I resolve to hate David Carradine for the rest of my life. I never liked Boxcar Bertha that much anyway. During the games Julian complains the near siteless deck I am playing is degenerate. I point out that it would be best to print cards not to help it out but get no real response. After a couple more games with different decks we turn in for the night. Julian says Zev snores like a moose and I wonder how Julian knows what a moose snores like. I drift off to sleep thinking of sugar plums, whatever those are.


First day of the con and I am anxious. Julian and I eat breakfast in the hotel. This is the smallest buffet I have ever seen, but the oatmeal is good and I fill up. Man I wish my oatmeal was as good as you can get in restaurants. I have been keyed to work the movie room today, something which I don't look all that much forward to. It however was a good time and let me plan out my next couple of days in my mind and build my Who Wants Some? deck while watching the flicks. Before I start the movies I head around the dealer room. I want to see Mark Poole cause I have been wanting to get a Gunman print for longer than I can remember and he has always ignored me. He says he has them but not with him. He gives me a card with an email address. This is far better than snail mail. I note to email him after I get back. I also remember that I need card sleeves. Not just any sleeves, but FunYet Polybags. There are the holy grail of sleeves and I need more. None of the stores in my area carry them anymore. After getting blank stares from everyone I ask the entire con I realize I will never find them. I must kill another player and take theirs, it is the only way. I also see Gavin again, it was super nice meeting him last time and I realize how envious I am of his job after just a few moments. I hope to score a copy Godspeed You Black Emperor's first tape but he says he doesn't have one. Damn the lack of distribution for that release. Oddly enough I come home to a notice that my subscription to Rolling Stone is expiring, ironic. We speak of random bands throughout the con and Gavin brings up Neutral Milk Hotel, who I also like. I think of this card along with one for Two Headed Boy, which I won't reprint here.

King of Carrot Flowers
Earth Spirit
Cost: 4 Hand Chi Chi Chi
Provides: Chi
Fighting: 6
Text: Unique. Regenerate. At the end of any turn you may redistribute all damage on this card and sites you control as you wish.

I am reminded once again how damn cool Mark E. Smith is. He should have had a card in the 70s set. Oh well, a good opportunity wasted, at least we still will all feel the wrath of his bombast. The Both Guns Blazing event starts. There are only five people and I hate the format but I play anyway. I try out some Dragon jank which turns out to be very bad against most of the other decks. I should not have played and I remember again how much I hate this format. Kyle ends up taking it. I did ok, which in this format means I didn't do good enough to win or bad enough to win. I mill around for a bit and wait for the other event, Comrades in Arms, to start. I am playing the Fire deck I played at GenCon SoCal cause I was too lazy to build another deck and the rest of the decks that I have built that qualify suck. I take the first rounds easily. Then in the final the much discussed Gavin thing happens. I predict Julian will win and sure enough he does. After I made an attack on a Puzzle Garden, which of course I could have taken had I known it was a Puzzle Garden or if it was any other site. I am upset until I realize it is just a game and doesn't really matter. Still, letting Julian win seems like a tragic event none the less. I drift off to sleep thinking of what I should play in the other events. Oh, I forgot, I also met Ben today. I have talked to him a bit online and he is a super nice guy. He is also in really good shape. I need to get into better shape.


Ben, Julian, and I get a decent breakfast at a Denny's style diner. It is a lot better than the previous day. I look forward to seeing Bryant again cause it has been a really long time. He says his Fu is week now but he still kicks ass and is a great guy. I am fooled by his new short hair as I sit down to play in the Whirlpool of Blood. Tor is there as well, it has been many years since I have seen him and we catch up briefly. Both he and his wife are a real pleasure. My starter sucks because I am super short on foundations of all types. I make some bad choices but still end up with a moderately rocking Monarch/Architect deck. It could be better but I am pretty darn happy considering how bad it looked going into the last couple packs. I upset Julian during the draft by asking if he could ask Zev if we can draft 7 Masters as well, I don't know why this upsets him. I take the first three games with a good bit of luck. Oddly the deck tends to steamroll or get steamrolled if it can't draw its resources. The last game I play against Kyle and Chris and get beaten up on pretty bad, still make the final though. It is getting super late and I suggest to the other people we skip the final in favor of food. They agree and food is had. Chris makes an odd confession to me after the game while eating but I don't really care. He is a nice guy, and it didn't end up mattering. He says I am too serious, I quip that his jokes need to be better. He says I am much nicer than my online rep. I don't know what that rep is but I am guessing it is bad. I say those people have likely never met me, which seems to largely be the case. I remember the Dan situation and can see why I guess. I have nothing again Dan other than the fact that he can't take a joke. Oh well, I guess if he has decided to dislike me there is nothing I can do about it. Still I feel bad 'cause I thought we got along pretty well the one time we met. The dueling tournament is the only one I have a deck for that I think is really good. It is not as trixy as the other decks I have played but it is a very solid Architect control deck [decklist]. I was right, the deck is pretty good as is proved by play. Josh cheats a couple times but I win anyway. He needs to build another deck but his jammer deck has gotten a lot better than before. Lotus speed seems to be the theme of the day. My deck kicks ass against that one. Julian should have beaten me after a really bad draw on my part, no sites in the first four turns, but I get by with DE, Neutron Bomb, and a few key loyalty officers. I win six in the opening rounds and make the final. The final is two out of three, I like that format a lot better, but soon wish it was just to one win after my games with John Merrill. He is playing a slow Monarch deck with does pretty good against mine 'cause it isn't fast and has lots of tricks. I take the first game without too much problem. John takes the second after a lot of back and forth. This mostly is due to a CHAR getting taken out by Dark Sacrifice fairly early in the game. The third is a real brow whipper but I manage to take it. These games where slow and fairly grueling. Everyone is asking if we are done, I think the three games took upwards of 90 minutes, very long for dueling games. John goes off to get drink with his friends. I promise myself to drag Erik, Steve, Pete, or Jeremy with me to one of these things next time I go, if I do, as to have someone to drink with. I envy John but go on to play in the final. The final is super quick, he is playing a Lotus speed deck which can't deal with my Whirlpools or Imprisons. But he did very well considering it was his first dueling event ever. I wish I had been more properly introduced to him cause I forget his name now and he did very well in the multiplayer event as well [Bill Palecek - ed.]. Definitely someone to watch in the future. Julian says there is a trophy in the booth somewhere for me I should pick up. We end up going out for a late bit of food and me and Paul play a T3 pinball machine well into the night. The waitress counting the money in the back is very pretty, I need to meet more pretty girls. Must expand search past confines of In-N-Out. I mock Paul for not being able to beat the RPG aspect of the game, he curses me for my ability to do so. We end up playing four games on under a buck 'cause we are playing ok, either that or the game is easy. We walk back to our respective hotels and I stagger over Ben on my way to sleep.


The big event is this morning. I still am planning to play the deck Max and I built the night before we left [decklist]. I need to think of more original ideas as this deck is pretty much stolen from Erik, except with very heavy tweaking. The first round goes my way but the second is a long drawn out game. The deck doesn't do well in character stalls and this game is stalled big time. Oddly, if I remember correctly, three of the four finalists are in this game. Gavin ends up taking it on tiebreak 'cause Never Surrender is ridiculously broken. I promise to practice what Joe preaches and attack Gavin until he has no cards in play and no power in his pool should I ever play him again. I say I am going to do so but end up failing in my goal in the final. Gavin's deck is a Dragon toaster deck that is pretty tricky but seems a bit low on denial. Julian was playing one like it the other day so it must be a New York thing to play. I manage to win the next two games and make it into the final. Let's just say Evil Twin and Tortured Memories are my friend, as they would be in the final. The final is Tor, Gavin, the guy who took second in dueling who's name I didn't catch, and me. The game is pretty fast paced but not a lot of sites end up being taken. The unspeakable name is sadly sort of hosed on his draw a bit and never manages to get going all that much. Gavin keeps playing characters I try to kill off and sitting on his Mine and the Jade Palace of the Dragon King. Hacker is my MVP as it is used to cancel both a Bite and a Fighting Spirit, which hampers Gavin considerably I think. Tor has built up a strong power base with four sites and a Genghis X, he also has a back row Fox Pass, which was played as his last site. I get back a Verminous Rain in hopes of being able to win. I draw my cards and sadly there is no way this is gonna happen with the jank I drew. I still have a City Park and a Tortured Memories, both of which I have been holding for a while. Tor's forces are too great though as he plays a Corliss. The good thing is that he has no more power in his pool and won't be getting any next time. Gavin looks to take a site but can't do it from me because I have Puzzle Gardens in my front row. Tor pretty much sits with his hand. I draw my cards and come to what I wanted to see last turn, a Golden Comeback (to get back the Evil Twin I played a few turns back) and a Whirlpool (I had used up the Rain to make sure I drew more cards). I play the Whirlpool front row in my third column, Evil Twin Genghis X, and then Torture the true Genghis. The board is clear of debris because of a Brawl I played on the turn before. I attack for the win only to see two Drop Troopers fly out at me. These add to the damaged Corliss that is in play. Tor tries to Fox Pass and I cancel. Because Genghis has guts with three or more damage on him I hit for enough to take the site, breathing a sign of relief that I was right about Gavin playing low denial and no real stoppage by the other two players. It was a really grueling event and a lot of excitement was to be had, but I am all fisted out. I tell myself it would be best not to play in any more fist events and so don't. Lots of other things to do and so little time to do them. Me and Zev head out for a chili place Ben recommends. The chili is pretty bland but good and filling. What makes Midwest food generally bland? It seems like the closer you move to the center of the country the less spice the food has. I hang around the fist area to play fun games while yakking it up with people. Robert calls me over for a game of Tichu. We have all never played but it doesn't seem that hard, aside from all the rules we forget. After a couple games me and Gavin are slamming (it is a team game). Julian complains we are getting all the good cards, there may well be something to that. I think I will buy a copy when I get home as it is a lot of fun. I need to do a couple things and want to be rested for my trip so turn in a bit earlier than normal.


This day mostly consisted of me running around getting cards signed. It also involves an incident which ends up turning out ok but makes me feel a little bad 'til I realize it is all right. I get lots of cards signed and buy a sketch from Prof to give away, color me happy. Randy Gallegos recognizes me and says I should buy my card art. He has dropped the price to $100, which I don't have at the time or else I would have done it. I tell him to bring it to GenCon SoCal and that I will buy it then. Hopefully noone else buys it before then. I see the finals of the Sunday Brawl and wish everyone a good trip home. I am sorry I miss out on Alan and Cliff. I hope they got home safe. I go to the both to say bye to Zman and get my prizes and trophies. I decide on some uncut sheets which are to be sent to me and just manage to fit the trophies in my bag. I question if carrying an additional twenty pounds on my back is a prize or a punishment. Of course they later give me problems at the airport and have to search my bag because of them. I have nowhere to put them at home. Anyone want to buy a set of cool Shadowfist book ends or something? They are one of a kind. Just let me know. I head to the airport right on time and discover the book I was going to read I had already read and had no desire to reread it. I have to go to SF by way of Atlanta, go figure. On the long flight the person in front of me has his seat back the whole time, I am very uncomfortable. The movie is Mean Girls, which I wouldn't mind seeing but I can't get a good view of the screen so decide to pass on buying the headphones. I will spare you the details of my long Bart trip back home and my fun with late night drunkards in SF. I get home starving and munch down what little food I have right before I fall fast asleep. The trip was a ton of fun, many thanks to all involved. I just wish I had gotten to meet the Canadians, maybe they will come to GenCon SoCal or KublaCon. I can hope they will anyway. A huge thanks to anyone who bought cards from me to make my trip possible. If anyone wants more let me know. Sorry to the people who I was delinquent in responding to, I will get around to it shortly.

I am sorry for all the errors in the above. Thanks for reading I guess. I hope you learned something about my deranged mentality or found it at least slightly informative or amusing. I will likely post the deck lists in the Ki-Yaah! if people are interested or here if there is demand. I also want to post my Who Wants Some? deck to see what decks people would make with the cards I had, just 'cause I think it will be interesting. Expect that in a couple days. Hope everyone got home safe and thanks again to all those that made it possible.


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GenCon 2004 Report by Stefan Vincent
more photos (and larger versions of these) are in the pictorial. Links last checked 15 Mar 2007.

Click. Click. Clickety-Click. Click.

Not the sound I wanted to hear at 6am on Sunday morning as we were trying to get on the road.

I had to work on Saturday, then we spent the evening packing and doing various house chores, finally wrapping up around 2am with the van packed and everything ready to go. We got up at 5am (yes, three hours later) with the brilliant plan of taking the kids directly from bed into the van and getting an early start while they (hopefully) went back to sleep for a few hours. The brilliant plan, of course, failed. We had everyone loaded before 6am, including two groggy-but-not-quite-awake-yet boys, but the van wouldn't start. I sat in the driver's seat as the starter just clickety-clicked, and I laughed out loud. Needless to say, the jump start process was too interesting for the boys to resist, so they woke up completely and our road trip officially got started :)

We spent a few days Elsewhere in Indiana visiting Lissa's family, then rolled into Indianapolis on Wednesday afternoon. Thus we hit our second snag: where was our hotel? We found the address, it seemed to be in the right spot, but where the Adam's Mark should be, the Hilton was. After navigating the one-way street ring around the hotel to take a second pass, we discovered that Hilton had purchased the Adam's Mark and changed all the signage about a week earlier. Would have been nice to get that info before arrival, but we survived.

The check-in line at the hotel was about 20 people deep, but they were very efficient and got us through in less than 15 minutes. The hotel even had a souvenir key card done up with Pokemon advertising. The room was nicely appointed and reasonably sized. No real complaints, although we discovered later that the soundproofing couldn't quite deal with our gamer neighbors at night, but I'm sure they equally appreciated the boys running around at 5:30am so it all worked out.

After we unloaded the van on Wednesday, we went out in search of dinner. Paul Gerardi happened to be crossing the street in front of us (what are the odds?), carrying some last-minute booth supplies he'd picked up at Kinko's. We chatted with Paul for a while, then walked with him toward the convention center and checked out the restaurants along the way. Paul directed us to The Ram, a local microbrewery which would later be the meeting place for Allen Hege's traditional Shadowfist dinner (2 being the minimum number of annual events required to qualify for tradition status). The Ram was on the ball—they were open 24 hours during the convention, had a gaming room, and were selling souvenir GenCon t-shirts and mugs. They even had a special Ravenloft-flavored menu insert with stuff like The Hand of Vecna (fried pickles), Ebard's Black Tentacles (calamari) and Heroes' Feast (a huge pile of appetizers). We were on the kids' schedule so we couldn't wait for the crew to arrive before starting. The place was quite popular with the gaming crowd, but we were early enough that we were seated immediately. The food was very tasty. Thumbs up. As we were leaving, we saw Zev, Allen, Paul, Julian Lighton and Jan Malina sitting in the bar area. We swung around to say hi and chat for a couple of minutes. A waitress thoughtfully pointed at the two kids in strollers and said "No one under 21 allowed." Must have been specially trained to keep out young gamers during the con :)

After dinner we wandered over to the convention center to check the place out. The registration lines were about 100 people deep; we found out later that the lines had been a lot longer earlier in the day, but nowhere near the nightmare of last year. But the event ticket lines were ridiculous, snaking around a big portion of the building and not appearing to move much. We picked up our on-site schedule books and freebie bags (ooh! Bratz CCG preview cards!) and took a look in the exhibitor's hall. We couldn't go in, of course, but the doors were open and the guards let the kids take a look from the doorway. Jorin got very excited when he saw the life-size Spiderman hanging from the ceiling over Upper Deck's booth. We walked back the long way around the RCA Dome to get a little exercise, then put the boys into the pool to tire them out :)

GenCon 2004 exhbit hall crowd
Thursday morning crowd at the exhibit hall entrance

Lissa had arranged for daycare on Thursday and Friday at a local daycare center, so we had to squeeze in all of our non-child-accompanied con activities between 9 and 5:30. We dropped the kids off on Thursday morning, then went back to the hotel for a leisurely buffet breakfast. Thursday's Shadowfist activities were all after our hours, so we planned to spend the day in the exhibit hall checking out new games (well, new for us, anyway). The registration lines weren't insane, but the event ticket lines were, again. Note to self: if you want to play in events on Thursday morning, get your tickets by mail in advance. We took a look at Kim Graham's huge dragon sculpture in progress (she was planning to finish it by Saturday night) then joined the crowds waiting for the exhibit hall to open. The crowd was a bit lighter than I expected, but the Indianapolis public schools started their fall session that day which likely put a crimp in attendance. Doh. We spotted John Seavey, author of Gorilla Warfare and other fine Feng Shui RPG books, and chatted with him for a while. We walked around to the second, less crowded, door that we had scouted the night before, and since we were waiting anyway, we got in line for a raffle-ish ticket to buy a Galactus figure for Heroclix. Not that we play Heroclix, but what the heck, we were waiting anyway, and the Galactus figure is about 3 feet high!

Kim Graham's dragon sculpture at GenCon 2004
Thursday morning (bulking up the frame)

Kim Graham's dragon sculpture at GenCon 2004
early Friday morning (most frame work done)

Kim Graham's dragon sculpture at GenCon 2004
late Friday morning (starting to put on clay)

Kim Graham's dragon sculpture at GenCon 2004
Saturday afternoon (finishing up)

Kim Graham's dragon sculpture at GenCon 2004
Sunday morning (raking in the dough)


Z-Man Games, booth #1501. Zev talks to a customer as Jan "David Eber" Malina (right) awaits his booth monkey assignment for the day.

We let the initial rush disperse before going into the hall. It seems to be a little bigger than the hall in Milwaukee, but that might be because none of the exhibitors had any grossly overpowering displays like the old TSR/Wizards castle. Wizards had the biggest area but Upper Deck wasn't far behind them. We found Zev's booth right outside the women's bathroom. He was sharing with Comic Images (WWE CCG) as usual, plus another company was using the corner of his booth, although I didn't have a chance to meet them. The booth was on the end of an aisle which was great for visibility, but limited the signage space—Zev was advertising his non-CCGs rather than Shadowfist, although he had a big pile of Shadowfist for sale. The promo cards from 7 Masters were free for the taking, which was a nice touch. I took photos of the slick Flying Tricycle power counters, and Zev also had some 7 Masters power tokens. Apparently Flying Tricycle couldn't match the card border color, so they Excellent. Jan "David Eber" Malina was working the booth along with Zev and Paul. I also met Gavin Edwards; as we were leaving the current and former world champs were sitting down to work on their Who Wants Some? decks.

We spent the rest of the morning walking the exhibit hall, declining demos until we'd seen the whole thing. The exhibitors seemed about equally divided between game companies and retailers (mainly the millions-of-single-cards style of retailer, but there were a few used-and-new boardgame specialists too), which is about the same as the Milwaukee cons. Videogames had a notable representation too: PNY Technologies (nVidia video cards) and Microsoft had large and popular booths—gamers always willing to play free video games on top-notch hardware—and EverQuest II was making a splash with their scantily clad booth babe. (tangent: the number of booth babes seemed to be down this year; EverQuest and the Vampire TCG folks being the exceptions; may have something to do with the apparent increase in female attendees...) The full cruise took a couple of hours, so we picked up lunch at the food court in the mall a block away, then returned to the exhibit hall in the afternoon for some demos.

First we tried Perpetual Commotion, a new card game from Goldbrick Games. It was sort of a combination of Brawl and Solitaire, only with more than one person :) You build up piles of cards in sequence, starting with a "start" card, then progressing from 2 to 12 and ending with a "stop" card. Once a start card is on the table, that pile is fair game for any player. It starts slow as people find a few start cards, then gets progressively faster as more and more piles get going. The demo was fun and it's the kind of game we can entice non-gamer gamers to play, so we bought a copy on the spot.

Our next stop was Slugfest Games, where Fishing for Terrorists had caught our eyes on the cruise through. It's a non-collectible card game that involves capturing (matching) pairs and quads of terrorists. Essentially Go Fish with some cards thrown in that can mess with your opponents. The cards are done in black-and-white cartoon style and are reasonably amusing, but the game itself wasn't very interesting and wouldn't get much replay in our house. We tried another Slugfest card game called Kung Fu Fighting, which was along the lines of Lunch Money. Each player has 20 chi points and you play various kick, punch, etc. cards to knock the other guys out. There are a few twists—modifier cards like "Flying" and "Spinning" to improve your attacks (so you can perform a "Leaping Flying Kick" by playing the appropriate cards) and Stance cards that give general bonuses. The cards are done as black line art on a yellow-ish background, not bad but not great. Overall much better than Fishing For Terrorists but not quite good enough to entice the cash out of the pocket. Lunch Money has much higher production values, not to mention the Pimp Slap. Hard to compete with that.

Speaking of Lunch Money, we stopped by the Atlas Games booth to check out their new offerings. I finally picked up a copy of the aforementioned Gorilla Warfare for the Feng Shui RPG to read the background material. This is the first RPG book that pulls ideas back from the Z-Man cards; nice to see that John is paying attention (I think he's one of the few RPG authors who plays the card game). We looked at the Lunch Money expansion and at Beer Money, a similar idea, but neither of them pulled off the excellent atmospherics of the original (i.e., that guy's daughter has gotten older, and the photos aren't as creepy any more). I wanted to try Dungeoneer, where you build and explore a dungeon by laying out cards, but they weren't running actual demos, just talking people through a turn. Better things to do than stand and listen :)

Upper Deck was clearly trying to rule this convention, and doing a reasonable job of it. They had a big promotional push for the Vs. CCG (Marvel and D.C. flavors) and their $1 million "pro circuit", so we decided to try it out (the game, not the pro circuit). The art was surprisingly hit-and-miss for a game based on comics; I'd have thought they'd get the comic artists to do the cards but apparently they hire a lot of freelancers like other CCGs. The game wasn't bad; I especially liked the anti-stall mechanic they built into their power-generating cards ("resources"). These are normally Location and Plot Twist cards which are played face down, to be revealed later if you want to use their abilities (sound familiar? :) but you are free to play any kind of card face-down to count as a resource, so it dramatically lessens the probability of a deck stall. On the minus side, there was no explanation given for why the player is in the game—each player has an endurance (life) value that gets knocked down as your opponent's heroes whack you; you lose when you get to 0 or less. But who are "you" in game terms? And why are these superheroes beating on you? Anyway, it's hard to get a true feel for a CCG in a quick demo since so much depends on the card pool and the rules that they don't bother to tell you about, but at least it didn't stink right out of the box.

I was surprised at the large number of new (or new to us) collectible card games, most of which we didn't have time or opportunity to try. AEG was pushing their Spycraft CCG [link check 15 Mar 2007: this is RPG info only, the CCG has died...], with packed demo tables all day. WizKids had Pirates of the Spanish Main, their new "Constructible Strategy Game" (CSG) where you build little foam pirate ships from punch-out cards; that was popular with the demo crowd too. And there was a new Call of Cthulhu CCG from Fantasy Flight Games (the folks who publish A Game of Thrones CCG, among other stuff), that had some nicely done art but we didn't have time to try that either. We picked up some promo cards for a CCG called Final Twilight from Neo Productions; the booth monkeys described it as a roleplaying and card game combined which was enough to drive us away :) As if Dragonstorm did so well that it needed competition? (but that game is still going, selling cards like Floppy Hat and Frying Pan for $3 each, so my opinion may not be relevant in this case). Decipher planned a big splash for their new CCG called WARS [link check 15 Mar 2007: WARS CCG has died...], but they weren't running demos until Saturday so we couldn't check it out yet. Wizards was running demos for their stable of card games, but didn't seem to be pushing them very hard. They had much more space devoted to the D&D and Star Wars miniatures games.

Upper Deck dominates the CCG hall. One of three large displays they had set up...

We took a spin through the main CCG tournament hall, where Upper Deck had a huge display (including Adam West's Batmobile) and presence, followed by Decipher and AEG in about equal measures. Magic was not front and center, surprisingly (or maybe not, given that Wizards doesn't own the con any more). The room was big and noisy, as usual, but having it partly segregated by publisher seemed to help the organization a bit.

Our timer expired for the day, we picked up the kids, got some pizza at the mall and hit the pool again to tire them out. This trip was Camber's first time sleeping outside of his crib, and he did reasonably well but woke up a lot during the night whenever he thrashed himself off his sleeping bag. So we didn't get a lot of sleep, despite going to bed at a reasonable hour :)

Our second child-free day was slotted for the Whirlpool of Blood, the only Shadowfist event that fit entirely within our daycare hours. That didn't start until noon, so we wandered through the art show first. The setup was significantly different than the Milwaukee shows—no security and bag check at the entrance, and each artist had their own cubbyhole to display their art. Size-wise it seemed a bit smaller overall; the general display area was much much smaller. The lack of security made it more pleasant to go in and browse, but the arrangement with the artists was a bit intimidating; no one wants to lean over an artist in order to take a closer look at a painting hanging on the cubbywall behind them. A fair number of Shadowfist artists were on hand, including Randy Gallegos, April Lee, David Deen and Prof Herbert. A few more had booths in the exhibit hall: Ed Beard, Mark Poole, L.A. Williams, Susan Van Camp, Heather Bruton and Nene Thomas. We chatted with April and Heather who have seen us around enough times that they recognize us now, and even remarked on the lack of children today :) I regret not having an opportunity to talk to Ed; that's always fun but he was deep in conversation every time we wandered past his booth.

After the art show we hit the exhibit hall again for more demos. We picked up some freebie cards and shirts from Upper Deck (a promo card for Marvel Vs. featuring Rocket Racer, whom I've never heard of. Been out of comics for too long, I guess) and then sat down at Bandai's booth for a demo of their new collectible miniatures game called Navia Dratp [link check 15 Mar 2007: this game has disappeared, link changed to Wikipedia entry]. This suffers from a severe case of Horrible Name Syndrome, which the staffers shrugged off with "It's based on a Japanese show." When it's not obvious how to pronounce the name of the game (we heard "Drap", "Drat", "Draf", and "Dratup") you're in trouble. The game itself was essentially chess with collectible pieces, each of which had a special ability or unique set of permitted moves and a difficult-to-pronounce name. I've forgotten the goofy name they had for money (gyullahs or something like that), but as you move your pawns forward you collect this money in the form of little plastic crystals, and you can pay to activate your pieces' special abilities (to "Dratp" them; apparently it's a verb). You can also win by accumulating enough crystals to "Dratp" your "Navia" piece (your king, although it's an anime-style woman in this case). I tried a money accumulating strategy; Lissa went for a crush-all-the-pieces strategy, and that was clearly stronger although afterward we could see ways to improve the money gathering that I hadn't taken advantage of. Overall not a bad game, but the regular pieces aren't painted out of the box so Bandai is at a significant disadvantage relative to Heroclix and its ilk. And there's the price tag: a boxed starter set is $30; each player needs one so you're looking at $60 just to get in. When we commented that it seemed a bit pricey, the booth monkey said "Well, but you get the crystals and playmat in this box too." We took our free figure and moved on.

We picked up some lunch at the snack bar next to the football stadium. The RCA Dome is attached to the convention center; the playing field is on the same level as the TCG hall with its doors directly opposite, so you could walk from one to the other. Surprisingly they didn't have anything other than a couple of standoffs set up; we didn't try the doors to see if they were locked :)

We took our lunch to room 145 where all the Shadowfist events were taking place. The banner was up outside the room. It was nice to have a dedicated place to play—certainly much more quiet and calm than the big TCG hall. But there was absolutely no walk-by traffic as there would be in the big hall, which significantly reduces the game's visibility. During the big tournaments in Milwaukee, I'd always get several people who happened to walk by a game, and stop to chat about how they used to play, or would bring their deck over, or wanted a demo. Oh well.

We caught up with folks we knew and met some new folks although we didn't get a chance to meet everybody. I met Bryant Durrell who has much shorter hair now than the pictures I've seen :) I got the scoop on the winners from the night before, and Julian related the story about Gavin's deck self-destructing during the Comrades in Arms final. (Gavin posted his story to the Shadowfist Forum on Yahoogroups; members can read the archive)

21 people showed up for the draft, a pretty good turnout. Julian divided the group into three tables for drafting. I was seated next to Jan. I've never actually gotten to play against Jan and tonight was no exception. But we got to chat a bit during the draft, and discussed whether Moose Fools the Squirrel or Squirrel Fools the Moose would be most appropriate. (note to self: I need to put up the Moose vs. Squirrel cards). We started with the usual Standard starter, and as usual I got a rock (only 1 rare in the box, and Red Lantern Tavern at that—ironically, I got stuck with another Red Lantern during the draft, and Lissa got one in her starter too!) but it wasn't altogether hideous: a Cellular Reinvigoration, Imprisoned and $10K Man were enough to start me on the Architects road. No other standout cards in the other factions but enough variety that I could make a call between Lotus (Tortured Memories) and Hand (Rig Dis and Confucian) depending on how the drafting went (i.e., which of those I could grab more foundations for).

Empty boxes give silent testimony to the huge pile of cards we drafted

We drafted a huge stack of cards, many more than I've ever tried before, one from each Z-Man expansion on top of the starter we already opened. I realized after the first three packs or so that I was not drafting properly with the large number of cards in mind—you can actually make a reasonably good deck with that many cards, even if other folks are drafting the same factions you are. Rather than hoping to pick up a few decent cards to supplement my starter and ending up with a three faction hope-it-works, I should have been much more focused on getting a single-faction or two-faction deck working. I started picking up more Jammers since it seemed like no one else was drafting them, and managed to get a barrel full of hitters (Gorilla Fighter, Deep Cover Rebels, a pair of 401K Squads, Napalm Addict and a couple of Flying Monkey Squads), seven 1 and 2 cost foundations, but not quite enough Events to justify a Jammer-only deck.

We got about 15 minutes or so to put decks together. I supplemented my Jammers with the Architects where I'd also pulled a Fire in the Sky and more foundations (DNA Mage!), and threw in a Wah-Shan Clan Warriors and Monsoon that I'd picked out of the 7M boosters that went by. What the heck, it was worth a shot—the power of a Superleaper in this format is amazing even though I hadn't gotten any good states to pump him up.

My first game was with Bryant and Eric (whose last name I didn't catch). Bryant looked to be playing mono-Monarchs and I've already forgotten what Eric was playing but I think it had Lotus. Both of their decks started faster than mine; I had trouble getting the second Jammer resource to play any of the hitters I was seeing. Bryant's second site was a Proving Ground, which is pretty much game over in sealed as neither Eric nor I could deal effectively with it. Bryant popped out a Chamberlain very early but couldn't quite take a site. We managed to get rid of Chamberlain with a dogpile of little guys but it was only a matter of time with that Proving Ground running unchecked. Eric took a Jagged Cliffs from me with the help of Sacred Heart Hospital (I was seriously feeling left out of the cool site business by now :) before Bryant got another big guy, although Ice Totem hit the table as another big threat (thankfully, after we had dealt with Chamberlain, but now they both had healing!). I foiled Eric's attack on Bryant by 1 point, hoping to follow up and finish it, but instead ended up in the oh-so-enviable kingmaker position, where I couldn't win in one turn but any significant move on my part would destabilize the table enough to let either Bryant or Eric win. Yay. It led to what I imagine Bryant and Eric thought were really odd plays on my part, as I tried to inch forward while keeping them both unstable but not unmatched (the 401K Squad dumping Eric's hand, then going after Bryant's site almost worked, but at least it also left both of them unable to capitalize on the vacuum I left when I didn't quite make it). Over several turns I managed to inch up to four sites, but not soon enough: Bryant finally got going and grabbed his fifth site from Eric, which left me in second place. We were close to the last table to finish; the fastest had been Allen Hege's steamroller win at the table next to us.

Jessica Swanson vs. Tor Swanson vs. Jim Pai in round 2 of the Whirlpool.

My second game was a bye. 700 miles of driving, I have time to play three games of Shadowfist during a four day period, and the second is a bye. Blech. I did get to eat lunch though, and took a few photos, and chatted with Julian for a while. I also mulled over my deck and streamlined it a bit, taking out a few of the higher resourced characters like the Flying Monkey Squads (Superleap, good. Too many resources, bad). I still had hope for Monsoon though, so he stayed in. Table 3's game ended really fast; I'm not sure who won but William Byrd's quote was priceless: "I've lost 2 games and I've only played 9 minutes!" I watched Lissa's game end in about 30 minutes; she got the King out but Allen Hege used the Blade Palm to deal with him, and it was downhill from there for her and Kyle Bahr. I joined them for a four-player fun game where Allen dropped a Peasant Leader on the second turn to grab my Displaced, then ran them into Lissa's foundation and used them to toast my only Jammer resource, leaving me in a pretty poor position for most of that game. Doh.

My third game was with Jessica Swanson and Gordon Savage. This did not start well for me—no Feng Shui in the initial draw. I discarded four cards (I kept Just Another Consumer and DNA Mage in hand) and dug up...Primeval Forest. I've never played with this card before, and had been stuck with it in the draft as last card in the pack. That is usually a very bad sign, but I thought I'd be able play it in the mid game to get a turn or two of the bonus power before it got pinged. I didn't want to lead it, but had no choice. I also played both the spuds which looked good enough to keep my Forest unpinged for a turn, but turned out to be a mistake. On Jessica's turn, she drops Arcanogardener and pings my site and Gordon's. Doh. So there I am with no Power, and a Forest that won't generate anything because it's been damaged. I have one Scrounging in the deck, so there is a slim chance I can get back in the game. I dug hard for it over the next two turns, discarding my entire hand each time. I was lucky enough to draw it the second turn after The Ping and tried to get back in the game on the following turn. Meanwhile, Jessica has been building up faster than Gordon, so he's been trying to hold her off and I haven't really been a factor although I do manage to help stave off an attack that just barely misses taking Gordon's lead site. I Scrounge and start to get back into the game, using the few options I have to keep Jessica from rolling over Gordon, and either of them from rolling over me :) Fortunately for me, Jessica's deck seems to run out of steam and slow down, and I manage to get a big Police Station out to hide stuff behind (Gordon also has a few Hoods running around, so their days are numbered). I eventually get to the point where I drop Wah-Shan Clan Warriors, followed by Monsoon (!) the next turn. He leaps over the detritus that Gordon has protecting his weakened site, and I nab it, burn for Power so I can use the bigger Jammer dudes that I have in hand. The following turn I drop a Deep Cover Rebels, and they and Monsoon take Jessica's back row site (a Temple of the Monkey King) which puts me at 3 plus 1 BFV, with a decent shot at a win next turn. Jessica gets nothing and holds her Alpha Beast in an Attack 'copter for the intercept (attacking me would have set up Gordon, and vice versa). Unfortunately, time is called during Gordon's turn. The turn is allowed to finish (despite the floor rules on stating that play stops immediately :). He lays down a bunch of 4-Fight guys and goes for the win, attacking my undefended face-down Feng Shui Site. Jessica intercepts, and then drops two (!) Final Brawls, wiping out everything on the table except Deep Cover Rebels. I got the win on the timeout since I had one BFV, then Lissa and I had to run to pick up the kids from daycare. Julian had planned four-five rounds plus a final, so the tournament actually needed a lot more time than was scheduled in the brochure.

It's a bit after 6 when we hit the street looking for a restaurant for dinner, and learn another valuable lesson: get to a restaurant before 6 (when the exhibit hall closes), otherwise the exhibitors flood the immediate area looking for food and beer. All places within two blocks of the convention were completely packed, with waits over an hour. So we walked a little further past the mall and noticed a Hard Rock Cafe two more blocks over, which had no wait. I guess the crowd hadn't had time to walk that far yet. The kids zoned out watching TV and we had good luck that no hard-to-explain-to-a-four-year-old videos came up in rotation while we were there. Back to the hotel for more swimming, and another restless night for Camber.

Lissa with Jorin (4) and Camber (2)

On Saturday we brought the kids into the con. They were excited to get their own badges, although Camber didn't really appreciate something hanging around his neck so he had a tendency to jettison it from the stroller. We stopped by the Shadowfist room in the morning to get the results of the draft and dueling tournaments, and to say hi to more folks. I met Chris Turner (of littlemute fame) and Rebekah Derrick (I found out later that they have recently gotten engaged—congratulations!) and also met Bill Palecek who is a fine upstanding example of humanity (he complimented me on this website :) We took a few photos, then swung through the CCG hall to take photos of Jorin with the giant Batman statue. After that we went to the kids' room where Jorin played a Clay-O-Rama game (make monsters out of play-doh and fight with them) which he seemed to enjoy, especially after he won. Camber liked the play-doh part but squished his own monster before combat started, so he went off to work on a puzzle, and later tried Donkey Kong Country on Gameboy. He tried different combinations of buttons, and managed to figure out how to move the monkey, more or less. He had a tendency to fall off cliffs and bridges and such, not having figured out how to jump. "Oh man, monkey!"

We spent the afternoon with Lissa's aunt, cousin and three-year-old second cousin who drove in from Fort Wayne. We had lunch at The Ram, then the ladies and big boys went to the pool; I got to relax in the room while Camber napped :) In the evening we swung through the con again to let the kids play more in the kids' room, and I checked in at the Shadowfist room just in time to see the finalists getting ready to play. Couldn't stay to see the game, unfortunately. We did notice that all the parking fees at all the nearby facilities seemed to have doubled since the morning. Turns out there was a Colts game that night; nice of everyone to gouge the fans like that. Also heard a radio blurb that the Jets had a hard time finding hotel rooms because of the "Star Trek convention" in town.

Sunday morning rolls around and everyone is getting worn out. It's plain to see that the kids are wearing down after a week away from home. We packed the van in the morning and checked out of the hotel, then headed back to the con, with today's goal being the exhibit hall with the kids. First we swung past the Shadowfist room to get the scoop on the Brawl winners. The Sunday game appeared to be about 8 people, not highly unusual for a Sunday 10am game. More photos, then off we go. Jorin is wowed by the stormtrooper at the door (not the convention lackeys guarding the entrance; a person in full Star Wars stormtrooper armor) but Camber is a bit overwhelmed by the noise. We visited Zev at the booth, Lissa convinced him to store the strollers for us, and then we went wandering around. We talked the folks at Mayfair into letting us try The Kids of Catan as a demo with the kids. This is a pretty pointless game, even as kids' games go, and worse yet the nicely made wooden pieces must be balanced on a precarious disk that each player must rotate on his/her turn, so the kids (and us) upset the whole thing quite often. It's pretty to look at, but definitely not a winner at $50 if you actually intend to play it with kids.

The lads were getting restless so we headed back to the kids' room to let them play for a while before we got on the road (departure goal is just after lunch today). Lissa foolishly volunteered to watch them for an hour so I can go back and check on today's Galactus raffle and make one last cruise. Of course I accepted :) We missed Galactus by 1, but I managed to find an open table for Decipher's new WARS CCG demo. Decipher is starting a big marketing push, with a $1000 tournament on Saturday and a big $10,000 tournament set for Essen in October when the game is actually released. The demo cards were marked "beta" and many had partly finished concept art rather than full paintings; they gave the demo decks away after the demo which was cool. It's essentially Star Wars CCG, without the Star or the film footage (which is a departure for Decipher - working with artists rather than grabbing what they want from film frames). The rules seem to be nearly identical except for a few tweaks. One notable addition is the concept of a faction precondition to play some cards, a bit like resources in Shadowfist but more like the dotted cards in On The Edge. If you like Decipher's Star Wars CCG, you'll like this, and if you don't, avoid it. It is also suffering a bit from Horrible Name Syndrome, with a faction called "Gongens" just evoking Jar Jar Binks the whole game (they are humans living on Mars, but with that name, who cares? Meesa, Meesa). And the really amusing part seemed to be with all the hype and effort they are putting into it, the best name they could come up with was "WARS"? Wow, the all-caps thing is brilliant! I finished the demo, got the freebies, then swung past the booth to say bye to Zev and Paul. When I got back to the kids' room, Jorin had imploded (not totally surprising; we were expecting it to happen sometime today). When he calmed down enough to leave, we traveled via skywalk to the mall and had lunch, then back to the hotel to get on the road.

The drive home was relatively pleasant. The kids both imploded when we stopped for the night in eastern Ohio, and there was some shenanigans about getting a room where our keys actually worked, but other than that it worked out well. We got home on Monday in the early evening, and headed out immediately to do the various chores that accumulate after a week away (grocery shopping, etc.). Vacation? What vacation?

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