The news Langdon Street Cafe will close its doors at the end of May puts my recounting of the Geek Week Game Con in a less cheery light. Unsurprisingly, the game con has been the highlight of Geek Week for since I first attended three or four years ago. Geek Week was the reason I first visited Langdon Street Cafe at all. Since then, the cafe became a natural place to meet and talk with friends in the Montpelier area — and beyond. Being right in the middle of the state was hugely handy when meeting up with other members of Green Mountain Gamers. We even had our first meeting there.
Fiasco was the name of the game for me that night. Elsewhere in the cafe, it was all board games. I saw people playing Forbidden Island, Last Night on Earth, Travel Blokus and Carcassonne, as well as taking advantage of the stand-up arcade machine-style MAME set-up.
Two friends and a mother-daughter duo that Ben Matchstick brought to us maxed out the group. I had a couple playsets printed out, The Ice from the book and Mark Meredith’s Toil and Trouble. We settled on the second, which places the game at a wizarding school.
Choosing from the relationships, we wound up with Professors Ash (herbology), Dingledorf (divinations) and Trojent (Defense Against the Dark Arts), shining star student Horatio Lemonsnoggle and Munge, sketchy townie. Horatio and Professor Dingledorf were both members of the brotherhood SAP (Secret, Arcane Pancakes, I think they settled on). Trojent and Dingledorf were bitter enemies, Trojent having failed initiation into the secret order. Professor Ash has a knack for getting his colleague Trojent into trouble. Horatio and Munge were estranged cousins, at least partly due to Munge’s involvement in the disappearance of Horatio’s brother Klaus. And Munge received secret lessons in dark, unspeakable magic — controlling the growth of plants with disco music — from Professor Ash.
So it was a wacky, absurd game from the start, you see; one in which maple syrup played a surprisingly large role. Horatio and Dingledorf found themselves tasked with learning what was happening to the local maple trees, which was heavily implied to be Professor Ash’s experiments in making them minions to aid in his world domination scheme. It didn’t go so well for him — nor anyone else for that matter.
While acts one and two were pretty light stuff, things got really dark during the aftermath; probably because the aftermath tables lay out the sort of stuff in store for a character for any given result. There were plenty of deaths, some decline into obscurity and arson. Poor, beleaguered Professor Trojent, whose player took great delight in concocting the most unsavory results for her character — here was the covering in maple sap, the ants, the possessing spirit bound up in a venus fly trap plant; the list goes on — actually came out the best. Funny how that works.
In Fiasco, players collect black or white dice over the course of the game. The more of one color, either one, a player collects, the better their odds of the character having a “happy” aftermath montage. Someone rolling mostly black dice will probably have a higher result than someone rolling matching amounts of white and black dice. It motivates players to engineer situations that allow them to choose the color of the dice they collect.
Then again, sometimes the dice roll funny. I think we all rolled mostly even sets of black and white dice. It was only Laci, Professor Trojent’s player, who had an at all decent epilogue. But that fit with her character type in the sort of story that Fiasco emulates.