Prior to the coronavirus cancelling everyone in the world’s plans for several months, I was aiming to visit a couple boardgaming conventions in 2020. Since the idea of being in a big indoor room with hundreds or thousands of people does not seem like a good idea I jumped at the opportunity to “attend” Virtual Gaming Con.
Put on by BoardGameGeek and The Dice Tower in response to the cancellations of BGG Spring and Dice Tower East, Virtual Gaming Con took place from Wednesday, June 24 to Sunday, June 28. Virtual Gaming Con was based more around playing games than promoting games. The playing of games was scheduled through the website Tabletop Events, with games being played on a wide variety of online outlets. Many of the people involved with BGG and Dice Tower were involved with streaming games, trivia events and hosting and playing games with the general public. Anyone attending the con could host games as well.
I had a bunch of vacation days my manager was urging me to book, so I took a couple days off to try and make the most of VGC. I mistakenly forgot to book the Wednesday off, so I didn’t get started until Thursday. I got into an early morning game of Terraforming Mars played through the Steam app. It was hosted by the outgoing head of Stronghold Games, Stephen Buonocore. It’s always fun to play TM with new players, as I discover new strategies that other people use. I finished a solid third place out of five.
Later that night I had signed up for a game of Battlestar Galactica, but alas I did not own Tabletop Simulator (something I have since purchased on sale), so I had to back out. Thankfully I was able to find something else to play, with a spot coming open in Werewolf on Zoom hosted and moderated by the Dice Tower’s Tom Vasel.
Tom did a great job as a moderator, adding some good theme and making sure things kept moving along at a good pace. It was so much fun I jumped into a second game Tom hosted on Saturday night. About half of the players from the first game returned on Saturday. It is definitely possible to play Werewolf via Zoom, but it can lead to some problems. At one point I was accusing one player of being a Werewolf because they were not speaking or defending accusations against them. It turned out they were having technical problems and were a villager all along. That being said I think at this point I might enjoy Werewolf more with strangers than playing it with the same group over and over again, which I was doing pre-pandemic. When it’s the same 10-20 people all of the time, metagaming, silly inside jokes, deduction based on previous games can overwhelm things and games also go much longer.
Friday night I jumped into a guest-hosted game of Resistance: Avalon played through Netgames.io, which has barebone versions of several social deduction games. The site works fine but there are no frills. We used Virtual Gaming Con’s Discord to voice chat during the games. It was really fun and we ended up playing nine straight games.
After that I headed over to VGC’s main stage to watch VGC 2020 Rock Band Night, where various people in the boardgame world played Rock Band. The “talent show” was fun, despite a few technical glitches. It also did a good job of making things feel like an actual con, rather than just disparate games being played over the internet.
Just before the second Zoom Werewolf game on Saturday, I attended a presentation held by Ted Alspach of Bezier Games where he talked about Ultimate Werewolf Extreme, which is coming to Kickstarter later this summer.
The changes from Bezier’s Ultimate Werewolf include new art, a moderator app and a few new roles. The cards also have QR codes on their backs which can be scanned by the app. Mr. Alspach said there is a functionality where a moderator can get a player to hold up their card in front of their face and the app can take a picture pairing the card/role with the player into the app.
The art on the front of the cards have some interesting elements that in various ways identify team, role name, wake order, wake frequency and moderator difficulty.
As much as I was impressed with what the new app can do, I showed up to see what the new roles were. Mr. Alspach talked about three new game roles:
Illuminati, who learns all the roles the first night, but in a short time period. They have to survive to be one of the last three people.
Hidden Lycan: At the begining of the game the werewolves will pick one player who will look like a wolf to the seer.
Judge: Nominated on the first day, this person will decide if a nominated player will be eliminated or not. The Judge can be changed throughout the game by an election.
As a big fan of Werewolf I am very interested to see how these new roles change gameplay.
While a virtual convention can never fully replace the in-person thing, it was pretty evident that the people at BGG and Dice Tower put a lot of hard work into creating Virtual Gaming Con in a pretty short amount of time. I definitely could have made more out of it, for one I didn’t host any games, even though it was not difficult to do so. I also found many of the games I wanted to play filled up pretty quickly. The only complaint/advice I would say is that while there were waiting lists for games that were full, when a spot opened up it went to whoever got to it first, rather than someone on the waiting list. All the waiting list did was alert you to when a spot opened up, so if it opened up during the middle of the night by the time I saw it, it was gone. Ideally I wish there was a way to make the waiting lists ordered where whenever someone leaves a game the spot is filled with whoever is No. 1 on the waiting list.