What a Wearying Wonderful Winter Weirdness Whirlwind

Nicole and John (left and right) explore the irradiated splendor of Gamma World while Mariah (center) observes.

All the ramp-up and preparation came to a head on Saturday, as we hosted our first Winter Weirdness game day in a church undercroft in Barre. It was, by any metric, a smash hit. Forty-odd people came in out of the cold and snow to spend their day playing games and making new acquaintances — I love watching the activity stream over at Green Mountain Gamers and on Facebook as people who meet up at these game days connect there.

My day consisted of getting to Barre early enough to set the room up, stashing soda and supplies in the kitchen and greeting the first arrivals until there was critical mass to play something and realizing that the way into the church basement wasn’t as clearly marked as it might have been. In the rush, the big friendly meeples that usually adorn sidewalks and doors to signal the location of a game day didn’t make the trip down the interstate.

As the day got underway and more people rolled in, a couple people came to me wanting to play Gamma World, which was pretty cool. I’d had the opportunity to try out the adventure in the back of the book previously with a different group of people, so I had an idea of how it might go. However, I’d forgotten there’s a critter in the second encounter that can easily lay waste to the entire party. The first time, I fudged it to keep the adventure moving forward. This time, however, I played it straight, mostly because it was a game day and I don’t think anyone wanted to spend the rest of the day playing through even an abbreviated version; that first run through took five hours to get through four encounters with fudging, as I was very aware of how much time would be involved in playing all the way through to the end, even if I skipped portions of the scenario.

By then it was 2:00 in the afternoon, so a group of us trooped over to Ladder 1 Grill, which is maybe fifty feet from the back door of the church, where I had an awesome turkey and bacon melt sandwich. Unlike the last two venues for the Green Mountain Game Days, downtown Barre has ample opportunities for sit-down and take-out food; Montpelier has even more, fancier options if you’re willing to take the drive and lose time at the tables.

After lunch, I wound up in games of Betrayal at House on the Hill and Dominion. My rule of thumb has become play new stuff at game days and conventions or play old games with new people. Plus the copy of Betrayal at House on the Hill belonged to Joe and it needed breaking in. Really, it pined for its dice to be torn out of their packaging and rolled. So we obliged. Dominion I got to play with my friend Kaye, Rick from the Book Garden and two old time gamers who were encountering the game for the first time that day. That was a cool experience to watch them pick up the mechanics.

Later, I tried out Elasund: The First City with Sarah, Andrew and Rod. It’s very Eurogamey. That’s all I want to say on the topic.

Accusations fly hot and heavy in Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game.

Elsewhere, Carlo, Munk and Rachel played Battlestar Galactica for what must have been ten or eleven hours. Not all in one game, but two with other players. I am deeply impressed by their commitment to fostering uncertainty, mistrust and paranoia.

In short, it was a huge day of gaming with people playing their brains out. I don’t know if the lousy morning weather worked for us — making people stircrazy and antsy to play games or against us — by penning them in their homes — but overall Winter Weirdness was an absolute success. And I think we found a great venue in the Church of the Good Shepherd’s basement. It’s cozy, has an very well equipped kitchen, a secondary space upstairs that’s idea for quieter role-playing games and is in easy walking distance to plenty of places to eat. Plus Barre is marginally central to three population centers: Burlington, the capitol district and the Upper Valley; sadly, when it comes to the Northeast Kingdom and southwestern Vermont, there’s still no way to get ther from here. Regardless, I think Green Mountain Gamers has found a second home in Barre.

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