MACE 2009 Report
As many have already posted, emailed and FB’ed, MACE was an incredible weekend. I had a lot of fun! If you have not heard, we had just under 500 in attendance, including the most number of gaming professionals ever. This broke our previous record in 2007. That’s amazing considering we were coming off one of our worst years in 2008.
Let me start out by thanking everyone involved – Jeff and Karen Smith, the Grinning Goblin crew of Steve and Patrick (and their wives), and Winston. Operationally, we had a great convention because of these people and many more.
I also have to give a big thanks for my GMs, Judges, event coordinators and tournament directors. Without you guys, we would not have had such a solid schedule of games, with some of the most variety and diversity we have ever had. You guys did very well despite some of the problems my own errors (in the system) caused. Thanks for your patience and hard work. You all are some of the best GMs I know.
Specifically, thanks to Clint Black and Heath Medlin for organizing a great Savage World weekend. Thanks to Dave Artman, Jason Morningstar and the guys at Independent Story Games community for organizing a great indie weekend. Thanks to Arnold and Paul for putting on another great storyline game system. Thanks to Matt for running yet another D&D Dungeon Survival game. Also congratulation to Jon Maness for winning this years GM Improv contest.
Thanks to all the pros that came out along with the supporting stores and vendors, like That’s How We Roll Games, Holistic Design and Hypermind Games.
Along with the thanks, I have to apologize to many for my behavior Saturday afternoon. That was, at the time, the busiest we had gotten and I was being pulled in 6 different directions. I appreciate everyone’s patience and please accept my apologies if I seemed a little grumpy. My focus is always to pack in as much gaming as I can in the hours I am given and this time, we had too much. It was pretty crazy. There were other extenuating circumstances but I don’t need to get into those.
The weekend for me started out pretty rough because on the way down Thursday, my kids came down with colds that later develop into a terrible Croup-like cough. This led to a complete lack of sleep on Friday but I muscled through it. Thanks to my wife, Stephanie, for taking care of my kids and staying cooped up in the hotel room with two sick kids while I ran gaming. I definitely married up.
Friday started out pretty slow but I intentionally scheduled fewer games. Partially because Friday first slot is usually pretty slow but also I wanted to ease into the new layout in the main gaming room. I was concerned about traffic, noise and general closed-quarters of the tables and chairs. By the end of the weekend, however, the new layout seemed to work REALLY well and I was very happy with it. I will be using it in the future.
Only a few of my games did not make Friday. I would say we were at 80% by late Friday afternoon. Friday night is when things really started and I was very encouraged by the outlook. We were up around 90% make rate by then. By Saturday however, we had exploded to more games making than I had tables for them to play on.
I played Talisman Friday night with a good group of guys. That’s a game that could go on forever, so I limited everyone to one character. I was amazed how quickly people die in that game. It may be the new version or just that I have never noticed it because we always had back up characters but it did not last 4 hours.
Other highlights that night – meeting all the new people, especially the Savage World pros and the podcast folks, Ron and Veronica Blessing. I wish I had more time to hang with them. It was a pleasure meeting them.
Things ran rather smoothly except for a few minor database glitches that I noticed and had to spend time fixing Friday night. Thanks to THE Jim Harris for helping out with that. Little things like that tend to annoy me longer than they should, so if I seemed annoyed Friday night, that’s why. Also, in hindsight, there were a few games that were poorly placed and I should have moved them around before I printed everything. I am sorry to those that were not entirely happy with where I put them.
This was also the start of the sudden temperature plunge that everyone complained about all weekend. The hotel got colder and colder as the weekend went on. I have an explanation or at the very least a theory on that later.
I shutdown about 1 AM Saturday morning, after cleaning and straightening up all the rooms and putting away my stuff. There was still some gaming going on when I went to bed and everyone seemed to be having a good time. I wasn’t as tired as I expected to be, which surprised me considering the night before. I slept pretty well though. I really do enjoy the Sleep Number beds they have at this hotel.
Saturday started about 7:30 AM for me, my kids actually slept better on Friday night and so did I. My wife was not much better but she slept in with the kids and felt better later. Again, thanks to my lovely and gracious wife for taking care of our kids.
Saturday really started out pretty quickly. It was becoming quite obvious fairly early that it was going to be a busy day for me. The bad part was I had committed myself to running demos for Holistic Design that afternoon, and they were pressuring me to do more. Thank God we found someone else to help me – Wade Key – who stepped up and volunteered to help with running some of them. The demos went reasonably well and looked nice because of the terrain and buildings supplied by HDI. Most players had a lot of fun. The Fantasy Encounters games really pointed out the severe flaws in D&D 3.x, however. Primarily, at higher levels (15+), the game really breaks down to absurdity. But the minis are cool! And I got a few of them.
The worst timing of everything was about 1:30 Saturday afternoon. I had to pull myself away from the HDI demos to deal with the log jam of issues that popped up. From pick up games seeking tables to 4 other games that officially had unassigned tables, I was pretty swamped. This brought out Grumpy Ron, a side of me I am not proud of and wish I could control better, but thankfully those that are close to me understand and tolerate. I am sorry for those that I may have offended or toes I may have stepped on.
Simply put, I had more games than tables. That’s a good problem to have but not always an easy problem to deal with. We had games out in the lobby, games in the Grinning Goblin, and games in hotel rooms. I thank everyone for the patience in this situation. I really try to work hard to keep everyone happy, but it doesn’t always work out. Next time, I won’t sign up to demo stuff right at that point and instead be prepared to deal with the influx of games at that time.
As a piece of advice to those that are reading this – Saturday afternoon is the WORST time to expect a table for a pick up game. If you want to run a pick up game at that time, find a place elsewhere, because chances are, all my tables are going to be full.
Once the afternoon slot had started and everyone had settled down, things went smoothly again. I started prepping things for the auction early on and was ready on time. The auction wasn’t but that was only because the ATM was busted and everyone had to use credit card and thus set up a tab with Karen. That took a while. The funniest thing about the auction was the sheer amount of stuff. As of Saturday afternoon, we did not have a ton of stuff, and were expecting a short auction. This is a case of “be careful what you wish for…” because before we knew it, hear comes one of the dealers who was going home that night and did not want to take their products home. They donated practically everything they had. Now we had a ton of stuff. So the auction went a little long despite the huge lots of games and stuff we gave out. Thanks to everyone that bought something. We made about $2300 at this year’s auction, which is one of our best years.
Saturday ended with Battlestar Galactica board game, which really went interestingly. My favorite moment was when Gaius Baltar deposed the president and executed Admiral Kane in one turn. Well done, John!
Sunday, I woke up dead to the world. The cold that I had been fighting finally hit me hard and I woke up with what felt like a hang-over. I wasted no time packing up and getting my board game library in their boxes.
Side note: Next time, for the game library, I am going to have to break down the games with expansions into their individual boxes. I currently have them all mixed up and when someone grabbed my Arkham Horror, the freaked out because there was no rules. Not true. It is in one of the two other expansion boxes. The unfortunately reality in that case is that you either have to separate out the basic set or play with all the expansions. Same with Talisman (although that has less of an effect).
The rest of Sunday was spent packing, tying off loose ends, and waiting for some of my game library to come back so it could be packed. I spent a little in the auction, but made a little money in the end because I sold some of my old stuff. Those that were wondering about my mystery box, it contained mostly the stuff I did not sell.
The final highlight of the weekend was on Sunday, Jeff and I did a podcast with Veronica and Ron Blessing, along with an interview with Ron Blessing. It will be on their web site and thus on ours very soon. It was very cool. They were VERY complimentary about our con and how it was organized. That’s what we pride ourselves and continue to strive to make better every year. Ron and Veronica flew in from Arizona and plan to return next year. That’s amazing to me. Thanks to Ron and Veronica for so many kind words and an opportunity to do the podcast.
One of the weekend’s coolest things was the Carrom games, brought to us by Billie Boards. Set up in the hallway, it was perfect. It is a game people can just sit down and start playing. I loved having them there. It was brilliant. I just hate that I never got to sit down and play. Maybe next year we can have some backgammon, chess and other games like that out.
The temperature was pretty cold all weekend. However, I wore shorts all day Saturday and only felt a chill Saturday night after things settled down and I was playing Battlestar Galactica board game. But those that were sitting all day, playing games, said it was freezing. Even those that have … shall we say … “extra insulation.”
Early on Friday, someone asked us to turn down the AC in preparation for the heat that they expected to develop in one of the back gaming rooms. This of course was based on times past when it did get hot back there. Well, we did not factor in the renovation that the hotel had gone through, which I can only assume included an air system clean out and maintenance. Well, we were not prepared for the efficiency of that renovated air system and by the time we could do something about it, it was too late. By Sunday, the system was turned off and it was still colder than it was outside (although it was uncharacteristically warm in High Point on Sunday).
So lessons learned with respect to the AC for this hotel. However, for those that complained, would you rather have the alternative and deal with “gamer funk”? Given that, I think wearing a few layers wasn’t so bad.
The weekend went fast, which means everything went amazingly well. Thanks to everyone who came out and I look forward to doing it again. Keep in mind, mini-mace in January.
In closing, I know that a lot of people had a great time and they are voicing those opinions. A lot of the times, those that have some concerns or criticisms are drowned out and we do not want that to happen. If you have a concerns or serious criticisms that you do not feel is being addressed, feel free to email me or Jeff privately. We want MACE to continue to do well and grow. The only way to keep that going is to fix any problems there may be.