Looney Labs Rabbits Mailing list Archive

[Rabbits] [Event] Pyramids and Werewolves by David Artman

  • FromSuperFRED <superfred@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • DateMon, 12 Mar 2007 14:32:02 -0500
This is an auto-generated report from SuperFRED regarding an event that David Artman has submitted.

Title: Pyramids and Werewolves
Location: StellarCon, High Point, NC
Date: March 10 - 11

StellarCon was a positive success for Pyramid games and, frankly, a failure of my first Are You A Werewolf event.

SATURDAY, 9am - 1pm
I setup displays to demo Martian Coasters, Treehouse, Martin Chess, and Martian Mud Wrestling, because I am best at teaching these games and they seem to show the variety of game styles for pyramid pieces. Over the course of the morning, I was able to demo all the games to a steady flow of curious folks of all ages. Few folks stayed to learn more than a couple games--except one posse of kids who, I suspect, I'd been elected to babysit for a while, which is fine. I tried to quiz folks on what sorts of other games they like to play, prior to explaining one of mine, so that I'd at least avoid teaching highly random games to folks who hate them and vice versa. For the most part, this worked well.

By the end of the session, I'd spoken with approximately twenty unique visitors, played several rounds of each of the four games--Martian Mud Wrestling was the hands-down favorite with the kids, while adults unsurprisingly preferred Martian Chess--and gotten one confirmed sale in the Dealer Room. (I am in close contact with SciFi Genre, who was the only retailer at StellarCon with pyramids and coasters and caps. Thanks, guys, if you're reading!)

Lessons Learned:
1) Kids are a double-edged sword, no matter how cute. Almost invariably, if I had two or three kids around, I couldn't get an adult to sit. But, as I came to learn by Sunday, they have a lot of clout with their parents (see below). And they can come up with some great stuff on their own (again, see below).
2) Have the rules down PAT, or don't try to demo. I had a rough early demo of Martian Coasters because I was a little hazy on the specifics of the movement rules--just lack of play experience, basically. As a result, one demo was sort of ragged and got a bit borked, due to a mid-game rule correction/clarification. Nobody really seemed to mind--they rolled right along with my mistake, adjusting when the first player's turn came back around--but it was unprofessional and embarrassing. Bad Rabbit.

SATURDAY, 8pm - 12am
I'd like to think I am a decent hawker. I had my Werewolf shirt on; I was off-handedly commenting to passersby that the "look like a werewolf" and getting some interest; I even had a small coterie of folks waiting for the first town to start (maybe four folks at any one time; but never ALL of them at the same time, which could have started a small town).

But I could not get a single town to start. I told folks "we're running them all night, they don't take too long: come back by, if you want!" So I had folks coming by off and on all night--but no one ever willing to stick it out until we had a quorum.

However, I might be able to share some blame with the convention planners. They had the costume contest, a panel with the guest of honor, and the charity auction ALL running in series, right smack in the middle of the Saturday Night slot. How's a guy gonna compete with that, huh? At one point, I was the ONLY person in the entire gaming area hallway. (I'll admit it: at that point, I went for a beer and a smoke....)

Lessons Learned:
1) Promote, promote, promote. I should have had signs in every hallway of the con. I should have been stumping for the game hours before the session start. I should have persuaded--and then all-but-manacled--a couple of seed players. Basically all of the stuff in the Rabbit to Rabbit letter, but MORE, MORE, MORE. I suspect that an AYAW event might need to be the ONLY thing someone does all day, if doing it at a con where it's not ubiquitous (like it is at DragonCon).
2) Get commitment from folks who express interest. If I'd said, "OK, what time do you want to play" to everyone who showed real interest, I could have (MAYBE) at least gotten the six or seven folks to all show up at the same time, by specifying a time. I am just so used to AYAW starting up fast and becoming viral and popular that I didn't know what to do to get that first, attracting game rolling.
3) Use the Fluxx deck as an enticement (too late for me, now; see below). I didn't really grok the reason for just doing a random drawing to give it to one of the players... until I realized that it's a bribe of sorts. Thus, I thought it better to use as an tournament prize (again, see below). My next AYAW event will include some kind of initial drawing, lottery, or mini-game for a respectable prize. I now realize it's the PERFECT way to get enough folks in one place at one time to actually start the first town. Well... folks could come for the drawing and then wander away when they lose, but maybe a sense of obligation will help them stick for a game... or maybe the REAL way to entice is to have the drawing or raffle AFTER they all show up and play one game.

All in all, a very disappointing event for me.

SUNDAY, 9am - 1pm
I was down and ready for a Pyramid Games Tournament. Unfortunately, very few gamers were also--the daylight savings shift put a real ding into every planned morning slot event, it seems (not to mention late-night festivities keeping folks abed a bit later than usual, which is VERY typical of Sundays at the local cons).

So, I ran demos as I could. Same games as Saturday morning; same basic spread of popularity, though Martian Coasters garnered a little extra interest because some folks from Saturday came back to take time to try it instead of Martian Chess.

And then my kids came back: Katie and Kara Lynn. My "tournament," as it was to turn out. Much like with AYAW, I could get folks to show interest in a tournament, but I couldn't get them to sit around for more than about ten minutes, waiting for additional participant, and then they'd never come back around while the next person or pair waited a bit. ARGH! It's not like the con didn't have sign-up sheets out all weekend; it's not like there was nothing fun to do while waiting (demos!). I swear that this upcoming generation--and even my generation, perhaps--is developing the attention span and patience of mayflies. I blame personal computers and console systems for this trend. That, and maybe fast food... I dunno. I mean, c'mon--if it took more than one minute to explain the rules: glassy-eyed and almost gone. More than five or ten minutes to develop a posse: polite lies and gone. More than fifteen minutes to finish a game: wandering eyes and gone the second I go ahead and bea!
 t them and let them off the hook. *sigh* It's sort of sad, really. But Rabbits don't cry: we multiply....

So my "tournament" finally kicked off two hours late--the longest I could let my kids wait without feeling like a total heel--and I let them call all the shots. What game or games? How many? My pitch: "OK, ladies... it's all yours: you decide." That definitely seemed to please them, because they were really leery of the multiple game format I had told them, earlier.

Their choice? Best of seven Martian Mud Wrestling. Kara Lynn won in four games. I suspect this was because Katie is (it seemed to me) a bit developmentally challenged and, thus, was easily frustrated or distracted. By the fourth game, she was just stacking pyramids in towers and only glancing at the board on her moves. Fortunately, Kara Lynn must have known her well (maybe sisters? Never found out, unfortunately) because she was amazingly patient and understanding, for a young girl. It was, I must say, altogether touching to watch (again, almost crying, but for the totally opposite reason).

I did what I could to help Kara Lynn move things along to her eventual, inevitable victory. She got the Fluxx deck... which is her family's third one, so I suggested she either save it for a birthday gift or donate it to her school. Being home-schooled, she declined the latter option. ;) But it wouldn't surprise me if this kind and perceptive little girl does give it to another family she knows who doesn't yet have it.

Lessons Learned:
1) Little kids are cool. One boy--name now forgotten, but about eight years old--did EXACTLY what I've read on the lists: he started arranging pyramids into a little Native American village, with tee-pees and surrounding trees... and shield generators (quote: "Just because they're Indians doesn't mean they don't use technology!" I nearly lost it!). When I tried to join it--gamer that I am--and brought a purple tree in as "alien invaders" he promptly dismissed me (quote: "Nah, there's no aliens or fighting. Just peace... and this ice-covered river...." *he begins to lay out a line of cyan smalls with clear smalls on them* Brilliant.)
2) Commit people. How to do that is NOT yet a lesson learned, though. ;) But if I could have figured out how to do so, I would have had at least six and maybe even eight folks for the tournament. THAT's a decent tournament... but, come to think of it, so was my tournament for two, in its way.
3) Push the loot early and often. I should have really hammered on the prize aspect, both because it would sweeten the pot and because many gamers at cons are tight on funds: a free, complete game is a nice incentive to stick around for an hour.
4) There will be no way to make a "fair" tournament, unless it's Zendo, I Master for each game, and I separate the players by age. I could MAYBE do a highly random game tournament and keep the playing field level. But with kids playing against adults--worse, experienced gamer adults!--and with even the range of ability among kids, a tournament sets some folks up for very bad days.

In conclusion, I may never again do a tournament at a smaller convention. Sure, Origins and DragonCon have enough gamers that you can usually find sufficient interested, experiences pyramid gamers to make a solid tournament. But with a shrunken pool of players, every disparity--experience, in particular--is magnified to the point of being nearly unfair. And that's not fun to watch at all.

BUT, the tournament ended quickly enough, and I ran demos during and after it. More Martian Chess, mainly, although I also taught a few folks Treehouse and got one good game of Martian Coasters to go off by dragging in a player ot play with Katie and Kara Lynn after the tournament.

And I can, again, report a success in the dealer room: the mother of Kara Lynn (and Katie?) bought one stash each of Rainbow and Xeno, a pack of Martian Coasters, and Volcano Caps.

Which reminds me--and I will echo this on the lists, if the report doesn't engender a conversation--does a Volcano Caps pack clearly state that they are intended for use with a game that requires the patron have at least five full stashes? When the mother told me she got some VCs, I felt compelled to say, "Oh, I wish I'd been clear about those: you really don't use them for any games except one, which calls for five full stashes." I felt bad that she might have bought something that would be of minimal use.

FORTUNATELY, she immediately blew that off, saying, "Oh, they'll use them for something, and this way we have all the colors." Huh. It never would have occurred to me that could be someone's perspective. Guess I'm too much of a gamer.

But still, I think--in the interests of Full Disclosure and of not ever letting a customer feel like they "wasted" money on a LL product--the packaging should let folks know that there are very few games that have use for only five, only small, opaque pieces. Be positive, sure; and even encourage customers to change that on the Icehouse.org wiki, by coming up with a game to use them! But make sure no one ever gets home and thinks, "Oh, so now I have to buy four more Treehouse stashes just to use these things? What a gyp."

I could have done better to prepare and promote both AYAW and my tournament. Fortunately demos still draw and run well, even at small cons; and after all, even a bad day of pyramids is better than a good day at work.

David Artman

Current Thread