Over the weekend, thanks to a confluence of good luck and kind friends, I got to attend ConnectiCon, a pop culture convention in downtown Hartford, CT. This was my second visit to ConnectiCon, having been once before in 2006 when I was scoping out the New England convention scene for the gaming event I chaired at the time.
ConnectiCon seems to have doubled, if not tripled, in square footage. They have two levels of the convention center, plus the attached hotel’s function rooms. Despite the rebranding as a pop culture event, it’s easy to see by most of the weekend’s events and the attendees’ costumes, it’s squarely rooted in the anime fandom — which is great for admiring clever and well-made costumes. I saw some gorgeous proton pack replicas from Ghostbusters, as well as no fewer than four Doctor Whos — three Tens and what I supposed to be a Nine. I had significantly less of a handle on the anime characters passing me by, but it was still fun to take in the cacophony of colors and clothing styles.
ConnectiCon’s gaming area is very lightly managed. Attendees have a library of games to choose from, which runs the gamut from typical modern games like Settlers of Catan to old school Milton Bradley fare — more on that in a second. In addition, there were Men in Black demoing stuff from Steve Jackson Games, as well as two other outfits I learned less about. One gentleman ran playtests of games of his own (maybe?) design, and Foam Brain Games spent their time running giant board games. I recognized the set-ups for Kill Doctor Lucky and Carcassonne.
Meanwhile, in between scouting the dealer’s room and artist’s colony and generally taking in the pandemonium of convention life, I got in a couple games myself:
- Ingenious was one I had played previously at Carnage. It’s a kind of tile-laying puzzle game, where each tile is the shape of two hexagons stuck edge to edge. Each hexagon has one of six or so colored symbols printed on it. Play entails laying the tiles to fit a hex grid in such a way so that like-colored symbols line up. The more symbols lined up when a tile is placed, the more points it scores. The kicker is that a player’s final score is only as high as their lowest-scoring color, so it’s necessary to score points off every color and not just concentrate on one.
- Fireball Island (pictured above) was a huge treat for me. This is a game from my childhood I never got to play. The characteristically overblown television ads captivated me, but I never managed to convince my parents it would be a suitable gift or make friends with someone who had. Now, twenty-odd years after hearing of it, I got to tread the paths of Fireball Island. The main attraction of this game is getting to flick marbles at — hopefully — your opponent’s pawns as everyone travels the island trails to capture and escape with a giant red gem. Movement is rolled with a d6 and you occasionally pick up cards that help your adventurer or hinder others on the way. It’s simple play without many choices, but again, there’s a huge amount of joy in sending a fireball to roll down a trail or knock out a bridge.
- Ca$h ‘n Gun$ is the board game equivalent of Reservoir Dogs. Players are thugs arguing over the division of loot after a job. For seven rounds, people choose someone else to threaten with an orange foam pistol and then, after everyone has an opportunity to chicken out and duck, thus earning a wuss token, reveal whether they actually shot or merely bluffed. This was the first opportunity I’d had to play the game since first hearing about it on Pulp Gamer two or more years ago. It moved fast — we played two games in about twenty minutes, I think — and was amusing enough, particularly the part where, if a player is genuinely going to shoot someone, they have to shout at them.
- En Garde is a light card game about swashbuckling fencers that, appropriately enough, I first played at ConnectiCon 2006. Cards represent moves and items that a swashbuckler would use to throw their opponent off balance, like weaving a web of steel with their blade, or revealing mid-fight the shocking fact they’re not actually left-handed. It was light and fun, but the end game wore on between the two remaining fencers as a tit-for-tat exchange.
- Fluxx is the card game where the cards themselves generate the rules, so you never know how a turn will go until it’s underway. This wasn’t a new game at all to me, but I got to help teach it to a new person. It was interesting watching the realization dawn on him as he got exactly what was happening and what could happen.