Tuesday, January 31, 2017

PAX South Was a Blast!

The main impetus for going to this con was taking my nephews along for the ride. Ross and Derek are hitting their 16th birthdays this year, and Cameron is in his first year of college. I'd never been to a PAX, and my only convention touchstone was GenCon, which is bigger and focused more on tabletop games than videogames. The boys had never been to a con before, so had no idea what to expect.

Day Zero - Thursday

Ross and I flew in early Thursday (I actually picked him up in El Paso the night before to save Julie a very early morning drive) and that is def something I don't think I'd do again. Not that we didn't have fun but unlike GenCon there wasn't much going on con-wise the day before. Or at least nothing that I was tuned into. We ended up touring the Alamo, playing a bunch of Swords & Strongholds in the hotel lobby, walking the riverwalk, and drawing up a post-apocalyptic map for a later game of Rad-Hack while we had pizza at a bar.

Cameron and Derek got in late, around 10, and after a trip to Whataburger we hung out in the room, played some Nidhogg and Jackbox, then crashed out.

Day One - Friday

We hit the convention center right around the time it opened. I had considered getting over there a little early, but between the luxury of sleeping in and wrangling three teenagers I decided to just coast a bit more. In effect this meant we cruised into the expo hall after the early queue had cleared out and didn't end up standing in a line first thing in the morning. As soon as we hit the expo hall I stopped to play a game demo and lost the kids immediately.

The game was called Think of the Children, and consisted of playing a parent trying to keep a bunch of small kids from killing themselves while also trying to complete a bunch of mundane tasks. I didn't do great. Fifty percent casualties on the first level, 75% on the second go. Was fun though. They did a decent job of capturing some of how frantic it is to parent in certain situations.

With the boys off who knew where, I wandered the expo hall for a little
while then remembered that Chris Perkins (from WotC) had a panel that was starting in few minutes. I decided to head over and see if it was full. It was not. Again, no standing in line, and I just walked in and got a seat. Not a great seat, but the main hall was equipped with large screen so you had a decent view from wherever you were sitting.

After the panel I headed back to the expo hall and found Cameron and Derek had gotten into a Rocket League tournament. I scooped Ross up and we ran into and chatted with Adam Koebel for a bit before hitting the G-Fuel booth. G-FUEL! became the refrain of the con after all the jokes about how over-powered it made you as a gamer after you drank it. We stopped at the Reaper Miniatures booth and sat down for Paint & Take. They give you a choice of one of two minis and you get to sit down for about 45 min and paint it. I have little to no experience with painting minis but is was fun, and I didn't think I did a completely awful job. After that we wandered around more in the expo hall, demo-ing and buying Three Cheers for Master at the Atlas Games booth and wandering upstairs to get a better feel for the layout of the place.

Around then Cameron and Derek had wrapped the tournament for the day (not doing quite well enough to get a bye round for the next day) and we headed out to Schilo's for lunch. Schilo's is a german deli that's been around in San Antonio forever. When Carrie and I had visited a about a decade ago we'd liked it well enough to visit it twice.

Back for the afternoon we hit the expo hall some more then made our way over to the tabletop area. The tabletop area has a boardgame lending library that was pretty impressive in size. We grabbed Takenoko and sat down in the huge free play area. Derek decided he would rather wander the expo hall so Cameron and Ross and I spent the next hour learning the game, with Cameron coming out on top.

From there it was more expo hall followed by Adam's Office Hours Live panel. He did an excellent job of dispensing advice to the gms who had questions. I was glad the kids seemed entertained by it.

It was edging on late by then so we hit the mall food court for dinner (Cameron: Ugh, Taco Bell. They put too much sour cream on their food. Me: Why don't you order something without sour cream on it? Cameron: I did.) then retired to the room. We made some Rad-Hack characters, played some Swords & Strongholds, then called it a night.

Day Two - Saturday

I split ways from the boys right when we got into the convention center to go get a cup of coffee. Then I headed over to the main hall for the Penny Arcade Make a Strip panel. Beyond the entertainment of listening to Gabe and Tycho answer questions, it was pretty interesting to watch Gabe draw an entire strip (this one, in fact).

I hit the merch booth for a PAX t-shirt and pint glass, bought some gifts for the family, and met up with the boys after that (Cameron and Derek didn't make it through to the end of the Rocket League tournament) and we headed out to get some lunch. The mall food court was jam packed, so we hit the Tony Roma's next door. We probably spent about twice as much money on lunch but we were out of there in about as much time as it would have taken us with standing in line at the food court.
After lunch we headed back to the con just in time for the Acquisitions Incorporated show. I was a little worried it would be jam packed, and there was an 'oh noes!' moment when we got to the theater door and they stopped the line right where we were. But we got in and got pretty good seats for the show. I was a little worried about whether the guys would be sufficiently entertained by watching a three-hour D&D game but I shouldn't have been. The show was great.

After the show we expo hall'd for a little while then grabbed some seats in the tabletop free play area and played a game of Three Cheers for Master. By the time that was done the expo hall was closed so we wandered around through some of the other convention stuff and ended up deciding to go to a panel called Gary Gygax's Vodka Skull Mug and Other Stories: A Q&A with Mike Selinker. I was only peripherally aware of who Selinker was but I'd heard Luke Crane was going to be moderating the panel so I figured it would be entertaining. Ross and Cameron were down for the panel and Derek decided to go see if there were spots open in the PC free play area. The panel was great. Lots of hilarious stories about being a game designer. And Luke did not disappoint either.

From there we headed back to the hotel. The intent was to maybe play some Rad-Hack in the room but Derek wasn't feeling good so we dropped him there and headed back over to the tabletop free play area of the convention center.

I ran a short post-apocalyptic game of Rad-Hack for Ross (robot: 0T15, or Otis) and Cameron (psionic: Raddy McRadface). They were from a village named WMN which was built around the ladies room of an old highway rest stop. The village elder tasked them to head out to the Cave of Bees and see if they could recover a truck that had been left there. A previous foraging group that had been wiped out by something while harvesting honey from the cave. They hired a couple of grubs (lower class) from Shit Town (the community around the burbling cesspit in the north part of town) named Patty and Harald and headed out. Traveling to the Cave of Bees the were beset upon by a pack of rad-head, radioactive zombies. 0T15 let loose with its laser eye, and Raddy used his teleportation and sound projection powers to mostly avoid dying. They killed one rad-head then distracted the other two and ran away. Finally making it to the Cave of Bees they found a spiny pig-man poking around the abandoned truck. 0T15 got a little torn up from its spines and Raddy lost his teleportation power so they rested up after Harald took out the pig-man with a well-chucked 10-foot pole. After resting they ventured to the Cave of Bees, the ground around which was torn up and bloody with bodies, of people and giant bees alike. While investigating the entrance all of the non-robots in the group got a massive dose of radiation, forcing Patty and Harald to retreat to the nearby hillside. Then a shifting, swirling mass of metal bits, some kind of extra-planar robot, flowed out of the cave entrance. 0T15 managed to communicate with it via binary and convinced it to let them help it find whatever it was searching for in the cave. Radiation be-damned, Raddy followed the two robots into the cave and was immediately ambushed by a giant cockroach. Unable to successfully wrangle the cockroach, Raddy was knocked down and the roach prepared to feast on him. 0T15, down the corridor with the swarm-bot, turned and blasted the roach to death with its laser. The swarm-bot proposed and interrogative about the laser blast and when 0T15 was unable to assure it that there was no threat, the swarm-bot attacked. Raddy and 0T15 decided to high-tail it down a side-corridor and ran right into a room that contained three nuclear bombs leaking radiation. After 0T15 successfully delayed the swarm-bot by closing a door on it, Raddy threw up for a little while before they ran on into the next room: a old armory of some sort. Raddy found a laser rifle and 0T15 a non-functioning handheld buzzsaw just before the swarm-bot burst into the room. Lasers filled the room, parts and pieces of the swarm-bot liquefying as they were blasted off. The battle left our protagonists battered but whole while the liquid metal of the dying swarm-bot (its last communique to 0T15: YOU HAVE BETRAYED YOUR OWN KIND) ruined any further salvage they might have gotten from the room. They left the cave after the battle, collecting Patty, Harald, and the truck and making it back to WMN successful in their mission. Pretty fun game!

It was pretty late by this point, but we had never gotten dinner, so we took the Riverwalk down to Whataburger (insanely busy even that late) and picked up food for us and Derek. Back at the room we feasted and watched (mocked) Gods of Egypt before sleep.

Day Three - Sunday

Derek was still not feeling well and came down worse in the middle of the night. By the next morning he was feeling better but still poorly so he opted to stay in bed until we had to check out at 1pm. Cameron, Ross, and I headed over to the convention center for the last day. We, tried for True Dungeon but they were already full-up for the last day so we took in the final Penny Arcade Q & A panel before heading back over to the hotel to pack up and check out.
After getting some Tylenol for Derek, dropping the bags with the luggage check desk and getting lunch, we went back to the convention center. Derek we dropped off on a couch in a relatively quiet area and the three of us went back to the expo hall. We wandered around some more, checking out any stuff we had missed, and Derek texted that he was feeling better when we were heading over to tabletop vendor area to check out dice. The precious metals dice were pretty awesome. They had a tungsten d6, and picking up a regular plastic die after that one was like picking up air. We goofed off a little longer, watching some folks demo some of the more popular long-line games, and playing one four-person game called Sundown together.
By then it was time for Ross and I to head to the airport. We said goodbye and got a good group pic in front of the big PAX sign.

After we got to the airport Ross spotted Chris Perkins, so we wandered over to say hi and let him know we dug the Acquisitions Incorporated show. It was a pretty good cap to a great trip.

PAX South, great PAX, would PAX again! G-FUEL!

Minor Regrets: Never managed to get into True Dungeon or get BBQ.