[Geek Week] The Fiasco at Langdon Street

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.

Prepare for the Coming of Geek Week Game Night

Brennan barters games for a ride back to Burlington from Langdon Street.

Once again, Langdon Street Cafe in Montpelier throws its doors open to the nerdly set for Geek Week 5.0, a five day celebration of all things geeky. The Geek Week Game Con, an fixture of the event, takes place Wednesday, April 27th.

There will be a board game library, of course. As Ben Matchstick tells us over at Green Mountain Gamers: “There will be a lot of goodies for RPGs and board gamers. Dominion, Catan, Bananagrams, Agricola, and tons of others. You got it, bring it! There’s also an arcade machine emulator that will play over 4000 old school arcade games, just for that throw-back feel.”

As for role-playing games, Ben himself is planning a Gamma World adventure. I’m going down with Fiasco and InSpectres in hand. I don’t know if we can gin up characters and finish a game in three or so hours, but I’d like to give a shot. I know enough role-playing-friendly folks in Montpelier that we should be able to reach critical mass easily enough.

Langdon Street Geek Week Game Con 2010

Brennan barters games for a ride back to Burlington from Langdon Street.

Yesterday’s Geek Week Game Con at the Langdon Street Cafe in Montpelier was a rousing success. I won’t say we took the place over, but we definitely outnumbered the ungeeky by a significant margin during peak playing hours in the afternoon.

This is the third week I’ve attended Geek Week in one form or another. One of the secondary pleasures of going to Geek Week is watching it grow and build its audience. Two years ago, there were five people playing Illuminati on a Wednesday night. Last year, there were two tables going at once. This year, at the zenith, there must have been at least six, if not seven, tables rocking the board game lifestyle.

This year, I got in a session of Arkham Horror with the Creasers and a pair of outings aboard Red November with Nick and Will, two people I’ve seen around the Vermont gaming scene, but hadn’t had the chance to meet properly. That’s what I liked best about yesterday: we had a converging of distinct game-playing communities: Burlington, the Northeast Kingdom, the Upper Valley and the host locale, Montpelier.

Game days are a great means to stretch beyond the usual boundaries of social circles and geographical regions. People congregate in a location, spend a few hours playing games and then go their own ways. It’s an easy, low commitment way to engage with or otherwise explore the dynamics of interacting with other people in the hobby. The bonds one makes or renews with people are the real virtue of participating in a game day. My first connections with the Vermont tabletop game scene came from taking the plunge on a game day hosted by Bakuretsucon back in, I don’t know, 2003? Seven years later, I’m still meeting new people and learning about the social relations aspect of the hobby.

Without interacting with that social network, I don’t know if I ever would have participated in Geek Week. And that would be a shame, because it’s only gotten better from my perspective. Thanks to Ben Matchstick for putting the whole week together, and the Sunday game con in particular. And here’s to Geek Week 5.0 in 2011!

Geek Week 4.0 Kicks Off in Montpelier’s Langdon Street Cafe

http://www.flickr.com/photos/norsehorse/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Langdon Street Cafe in the afternoon.

Tomorrow marks the launch of the Langdon Street Cafe‘s fourth annual Geek Week, eight days of workshops, musical acts and other activities to stimulate the mind and satisfy any craving for the silly, fantastic and downright obscure.

Of particular interest to gamers may be the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition workshops and the Geek Week Game Con, on Sunday, March 28th. Last year, I didn’t get to do any role-playing — as I recall, they went old school with an original red box or something similar looking, whereas Ben Matchstick’s gone current in 2010 with the fourth edition — but the Sunday game day / con was fun. The game-playing community’s grown in the last year and I think Geek Week’s exposure has increased, as well, so I think this will be an even better year. Personally, I can’t decide between devoting the entire day to an Arkham Horror session or participating in the usual game day butterfly dance.

Also, my colleague in nerdity TK-3220 and one or more of his trooping comrades from the New England garrison of the 501st Legion patrol the cafe premises, keeping the peace of Geek Week for Friday evening.

Langdon Street Cafe is located at 4 Langdon Street in Montpelier, Vermont. Geek Week 4.0 runs from Wednesday, March 24th to Wednesday, March 31st. The cafe’s online calendar includes a schedule of geeky events throughout the week, as does their Facebook page.