HammerCon II -- The Wrath of Con

Date: November 6, 2010
Location: Plaza Hotel, Hamilton Ontario

Excerpt from the Convention Program

If you came out for our inaugural year, thank you for kickstarting us! If this is your first time out, thank you for keeping us running! At the end of the day it's the gamer community that makes this convention happen. Without your support and efforts we wouldn't be here today.
HammerCon is back with a vengeance! We somehow survived our first run and this year we're even bigger and better!
We have a large number of game designers and authors in attendance – nearly triple the number from last year – but rather than tie them up in philosophical pontification, they’ll be busy showing off their games instead!
If you should find yourself with some downtime, make sure you check out our vendor and demo booths. In the hobby game store category we have Bayshore Hobbies, Conspiracy Comics and FunGamesCafe present, Big Iron Vault and Dungeon Crawler are here with their game products, Wraith Studios has brought their awesome handcrafted medieval clothes and gear, and local artists and authors Rise Comics join us with their new Ban: Sidekicked graphic novel.
There are also a bunch of demo teams present who would be more than happy to show what’s new and cool. Check out Steve Jackson Games’ Men In Black, the Catalyst Labs’ Battletech crew, the MIGS area, and the Ex illis and Malifaux miniature game demos, in addition to the Big Iron Vault and Dungeon Crawler booths where demos will be run all day.
Watch out for our many big events and tournaments, listed below:
  • Speed Gaming
  • Great Canadian Board Game Blitz
  • Call of Cthulhu Cup: Bad Rabbits roleplaying tournament
  • Magic: the Gathering tournament
  • Munchkin: Great Canadian Preliminaries
  • Warhammer 40K 2-versus-2 skirmish
  • HEAT (Hamilton Epic Armageddon Tournament) 2010
  • Vampire the Masquerade & Mage the Awakening LARPs
  • Late-late game of Ultimate Werewolf
But enough talk!
Go out there and play, and help us make HammerCon II: the wrath of con the ultimate celebration of gaming and gamers!
The HammerCon organizing committee.

My Overall Pre-Con Thoughts

HammerCon II -- The Wrath of Con. From the name itself I thought, OK here's a Con being run by people with my kind of humour.
A bit of background: It's been over a decade since I've been to a Con. The last one being a horror of snobs running 3.0 D&D events down in Toronto -- Now before anyone gets started, it had nothing to do with the system and everything to do with the people running the games. Suffice to say, it was bad enough that it kept me from attending Cons for this long.
So why HammerCon? Why risk having to endure that kind of pain again?
Well, to tell you the truth, I'm not really sure.
I went to their site and while looking around, found an entire day's worth of games I had wanted to try out.
So, I dropped a line to their info email to ask some questions and got a response back -- barely an hour later! Wholly Crap! Actual people with a brain and helpful attitude had replied to my email... I must be in the Twilight Zone! Oh, and there was that sense of humour again.
"OK? OK!", I thought, "let's do this!" So I put out a call to my group of gamers, to see if anyone else was interested. I got a few nibbles but no real interest after a week. "Well, crap!" I thought to myself, "I'm not going it alone, what if it's like the TO Con all over again... ick."
Without another stable person to hang with, I wasn't really in the mood to tackle a Con. Luckily a few days later, while building a Dresden Files PC, I got a bite from Jason.
So, now with Jason having my back, we did the pre-register thing right then and there and signed up for all 3 games that we wanted to try -- Lucky too, since on two of the games we hit the player limit.
Another impressive thing, at least for us, was that the GMs for those games were also responsive to forum posts and emails -- two of them even setup pre-Con meetings for those of us who wanted to create our own PCs versus using pre-gens.
So, by now the Jason and I are quite impressed. Maybe it's the smaller venue, or newness of the Con, but this was a pretty good experience so far, and we hadn't even been to the Con yet.
I was actually looking forward to going! Not bad for an old gamer with a bad taste for Cons!

At the Con

So the day arrives and I get to the Con at 7:45am -- Traffic was non-existent and it took me barely 45 minutes to get there.
So, there I am, 15 minutes before doors are supposed to open and I'm expecting... well... locked doors... or someone telling me I'll have to wait until the official 8am start.
But what did I get instead, a bunch of smiles... ya... Smiles! and a very friendly and humour filled welcome that gets me my 2 swag bags, wristbands and badges in under a minute.
OK, they are very organized, even before the official opening. "Now this IS looking up!" I thought to myself as I chatted to Angela while messing around with Jason's badge.
They're still doing some setup, but it's mostly vendors and such... I've been on the other side of Cons before and I know what it takes to get it setup... Vendors are almost always late-ish.
Chatted with Keith, of Big Iron Vault, and his wife for a bit and then moved into the room for my 9am event -- Deadlands. (See the event review below) It was in a small room all by itself, which was fine by me, I was use to being in large rooms holding a dozen or more games.
One good thing about smaller venues, cosier atmosphere for the games.
During Deadlands, we hit the only thing that irked pretty much everyone...
A snack cart rolled into the room and everyone took a quick break to grab a coffee and a snack, so what was the pisser? $2 for a tiny little coffee, pretty much everyone in the room felt ripped off -- in fact the term "Hotel Robbery" was used almost every time someone bought something off that cart. The coffee cost more than Timmies! ($1.39) and by all accounts was nowhere near as good -- I think people would have not had such an issue if it had been a buck, but 2 bucks was overkill.
I have no idea who actually ran that cart, be it the hotel or the Con, but I'd strongly suggest that the Con see about providing a better value option next year.
Luckily, I'd brought a bunch of snacks and drinks for myself so I wasn't really affected by the cart -- I'd never been to that area of Hamilton, so I'd prepared for the worst and brought enough stuff for both Jason and I, just in case.
But enough of that on to the next event!
The 1pm event -- Outbreak (See the event review below) -- was in the same room, so all we just needed to wait for the GMs to swap places. Seems that there were 5 of us who were in the next game too.
After Outbreak, there was a 2.5 hour, but we ran a little later than scheduled and didn't get out until almost 6pm -- luckily no one else needed the room.
After 9 hours of gaming together Jason and I headed out for a bit of dinner with two of the local gamers Mark and Rob, along with another Jason, that I'd met via the Georgetown Geeks and Gamers Meetup.com group (now found on facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/Georgetown.Geeks.Gamers ). Went to a great little pub, sorry can't remember the name, just a block away from the hotel.
We made it back for our final 7:30pm event -- Dresden Files (See the event review below) -- which was the primary reason we'd come.
There was a final event slot from 11:30pm - 2:30am, but Jason and I had work the next day, so we didn't stick it out. We left at a around midnight, after trading contact info with a few of the gamers we'd wanted to game with again. We also talked to Angela and Mikael about what was involved to be an organiser of a game.
All in all this was an amazing Con -- as far as I understand it, it's run by gamers for gamers, and it shows!
I'm already looking forward to next year -- Jason and I are both planning on helping out by running at least one game -- ya, I was so impressed by this Con, and those people that ran it, that I'm willing to stick my arm into the fire next year.
Time will tell, but I think that this is a Con that will grow and become a staple in the region -- I only hope that they can keep the same vibe and spirit that this year had.
I hope that you've enjoyed this review and I look forward to attending HammerCon III -- (hmmm, maybe: Return of the Con? LOL)

From here down are the Events that Jason and I attended and my reviews of those games.


Deadlands - Death Rides in Black Horse


Game Overview:

You think you got what it takes to survive the Wild West? You may think all you have to deal with is cattle rustlers, bushwhackers and Indians, but you couldn't be less right Pard'ner. There are things that go bump in the night that you don't want bumpin' you, and most of them wouldn't think twice before bitin' off yer head for a good laugh.
This here is Deadlands, boy. The place may seem familiar, the western United States being tamed, but its history ain't our own. For one thing, the civil war never did end, at least not the way most wars did. The formerly united states are now divided, a powder-keg about to explode once again into anarchy. Plus there's the Injun Nations declaring themselves a nation and killin' any folk who walk into their lands. And then there's California, the whole place got shook right up by Mother Earth herself and now the whole place is a Maze of islands and canyons that you'd better not get lost in or you'll never come out again. And don't even get me started on the Ghost Rock, stuff ain't natural, no matter how useful it may be.
Our little piece of the tale takes place in a small town known as Black Horse, AZ. A few travellers moving through by coach is who we'll be talking about. Only, Black Horse aint exactly what she used to be, and you'll be lucky to survive the night pardner. So saddle up, lock and load, and get ready to ride to Hell and back.
Organizer: Andrew
Location: Cabinet room
Info Link: Deadlands: Reloaded -- http://www.peginc.com/games.html
Minimum players: 3
Maximum players: 6
Time: 9:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Individuals Signed Up:

My Review Of The Game:

Andrew, the GM, showed up in duster and cowboy hat -- thoroughly looking the part of a Marshall.
I'm glad I didn't go in my Harry Dresden-esque costume, we would have looked like twins! LOL
He got out a bunch of props and sets up the table. Others started to arrive as we were chatting -- he's the one GM I hadn't met yet. We also found out that we're in all the same games, so we chatted a bit about Dresden and Outbreak, which neither of us had played before.
So far the day was turning out to be a normal gaming day for me -- albeit with strangers that were quickly becoming friends. Rob and Mark, who Jason and I had already met during the pre-Con meetings for Dresden and Outbreak, showed up for this game too -- Mark didn't play as he was still prepping for his Outbreak game.
Andrew had pre-gens for everyone, including images of the characters. I'd picked up the wagon driver, with an image of Kevin Costner from Open Range, and Jason, being late to arrive, got the last PC, a Showgirl -- which wasn't a problem for him, no really, he actually got a good comment from Andrew about how well he handled the PC. Rob was playing the Maverick, which he used to great effect. For myself, I tried to play my illiterate cowpoke as best I could, I think I did an OK job -- at least no one bitched at me. LOL
The game went off without any hitches that I could see -- Andrew kept a good pace and the game mechanics worked well.
The Savage Worlds game system, used by this version of Deadlands, is a mix of playing cards, poker chips (called Bennies) and normal RPG dice. When it started, I thought that it might be a workload to keep up, but Andrew did a great job and all went smoothly.
All and all, a very entertaining game, which I look forward to playing in the future -- one of our group wanted to start a Deadlands: Reloaded game and with this experience, I'm all gun-ho to play in it!
For anyone who played this game with us, way to go! I had a fantastic time and I hope you did too!

Outbreak: Undead - Zombie Survival RPG


Game Overview:

The unthinkable has happened. The dead walk the earth! As the government is slowly organizing to meet this undead assault, your band of heroes try to survive the unthinkable. Will you take the easy way out... a bullet through your temple, or will you RISE, STAND and RESIST the undead hoard?
The scenario will involve players eluding and fighting zombies as they try to escape to a stronghold.
Outbreak Undead is a Zombie Survival Role Playing Game that puts the players in the middle of a zombie uprising. Using a percentile base system, Outbreak Undead is a simulation/rpg that gives players the option of playing themselves through a test that converts themselves into a character. No experience is needed and anybody who likes zombie movies, roleplaying games and games that encourage group decisions and group interaction will love this romp in Zombieland.
Pregen characters will be provided and rules will be introduced.
Organizer: Mark Harding
Location: Cabinet room
Info Link: Outbreak Undead -- http://outbreakundead.com/
Minimum players: 3
Maximum players: 6
Time: 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Individuals Signed Up:

My Review Of The Game:

This game took a little longer to start, as there were a few more people than expected, but Mark, the GM, did a good job of creating their PCs quickly and with very little fuss. You see, this system allows you to create a version of yourself, which is neat concept, but takes time for the GM to get enough answers to build a decent simulacrum of the player.
Jason and I played ourselves and Rob and Andrew, from the Deadlands game, were also in this one -- Rob played a pregen and Andrew played himself.
In my opinion, this game had some player friction that mucked up the game -- at least for me. Now, before anyone baulks at this, we were lucky, there was only one, whereas at my last Toronto Con there were dozens of people that caused friction in almost every game -- I'm thinking that I should stick with the smaller Cons, less weirdoes.
The game was still cool to play, and without that discordant person, I can see that this system would have been really fun to play.
As you're playing yourself -- doing something Normal -- when all hell breaks loose, you don't really care about equipment or anything, as it's what you would have on you while doing that Normal thing. That meant Jason and I were in thick and watching each other's back -- we've been friends for decades, and so we did what we would have done, up to a point.
One seeming soft spot in this system is that there were many points where Jason and I did things that we wouldn't have actually done, but did them so that the game would keep going. It's a small thing, but it might be good to mention up front when starting the game, that everyone should keep game continuity in mind when making decisions.
Mark did his damnedest and the game was entertaining.
Afterwards, I felt that I'd let him down some, as I didn't play to my fullest and could have been much more involved. Later, at dinner, the four of us, Mark, Rob, Jason and myself talked about this and came up with a few ways that the game could be handled better in the future.
Still, this is a system that I'd like to try again -- just to see how it played out with people that know each other.
For anyone who played this game with us, hopefully you'll try this system again in a better environment, I think it has some real potential! 

Dresden Files RPG


Game Overview:

The world is getting weirder. Darker every single day. Things are spinning around faster and faster, and threatening to go completely awry. Falcons and falconers. The center cannot hold. Enter the world of best-selling author Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, where the creatures of the NeverNever lurk around every corner, prowl through every shadow. Only the determination, faith, and hope of mortal kind is able to stand against the rising darkness — be they supernatural cops, wizards, werewolves, changelings, or just plain ordinary joes.
This is a FATE based game based on the Dresden Files book and TV series. Using on the fly city and character creation so you can make the character you want to play without loss of game time. Uses Fudge dice if you have them, or d6s (GM will have some for players to use for the game).
Email Asylos if you want to work out your character ahead of time. Be sure to include 'HammerCon' in the subject line.
Organizer: Asylos
Location: Victoria A
Info Link: Dresden Files RPG -- http://www.evilhat.com/home/dresden-files-rpg/
Minimum players: 2
Maximum players: 6
Time: 7:30 PM - 11:30 PM
Individuals Signed Up:

My Review Of The Game:

This was the last game of the day for us -- it was also the one Jason and I had been looking forward to the most. You see, we are already planning our own DFRPG campaign based in and around Toronto -- which also meant that we had a bit more game knowledge for this one too. We had also worked with Rob and Mark, before the Con, to make up a foursome of PCs that were interrelated, which made for a very cool start to the game.
Chris, the GM, was setup and ready to go. Like the Outbreak game, we had 2 players that needed to create PCs, and as the 4 of us had already spent hours creating our full blown PCs the week before with Chris, we were able to help out the 2 newcomers -- one of which was Andrew, our Deadlands GM. Within 20 minutes they were good to go with Quick start PCs.
Chris was really great and he set the mood for us immediately, with a reason and place for us to go.
Magic looked fast and easy to use -- mind you I had spent a few hours putting together 8 spells before the game, which might have helped.
One thing that we didn't have during any other game was an observer, he was a polite chap and asked me questions only during gaps in play or while others had the focus and I could take time to quietly answer him.
Everyone seemed to find it easy and I know that Mark, Rob, Jason and I have traded contact info so that we can get together again and do some more DFRPG.
I've got to say that this system was very smooth and easy to play, and I can see tons of ways to make it fly. I'm looking forward to GMing my own game with what I've learned from Chris' fine example.
For anyone who played this game with us, way to go! I had a fantastic time and I hope you did too!