Moon City Convention Recap (Brandon Kempf)
There is something exciting about being at the first anything, right? Be it Opening Day of baseball every year, or just someone's first birthday or first anniversary celebration. It's exciting, all the possibilities still in the future, but celebrating the now. That's why I was looking forward to the first ever Moon City Convention which was held April 14th & 15th in Springfield Missouri. It was a chance to be a part of something from the beginning.
Moon City Convention was held in Springfield Missouri, as I mentioned, at The Oasis Hotel & Convention Center. The Oasis is "new" to me, but my wife Kerensa was familiar with the location as she helps run a convention as part of her work and they had recently changed their venue to The Oasis. It's an interesting place, it looks to me like an old two story motel, with many different wings that were refurbished to be a more modern hotel that surrounds a brand new convention center that was active with more than just Moon City Convention this weekend. The rooms were comfortable and affordable, which is a good thing when you know you have another convention coming up in about a month. In the Hotel there is a pretty decent restaurant and bar (Fire & Ice) for your dining and drinking needs, along with all the normal fast food and other dining experiences within a quick drive from the hotel. But do yourself a favor and at least try the Fire & Ice Shells and Cheese, trust me. Staff all around the hotel and convention center were friendly and accommodating, so kudos to the folks at Moon City for picking a great place to host an event that can easily accommodate the convention as it grows in the future.
Being a Saturday/Sunday convention, Kerensa and I packed up the kids and went and picked up a friend, John Luker, and headed to Springfield on Friday evening. Normally a 2 hour or so drive, this one went a bit long as we had to travel through a bit of a monsoon, but thankfully, all that horrible snow stuff stayed way north of us. We got the the hotel around 9 in the evening, got settled in the room and took a walk around to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings and see just where everything was going to be held. We found the the conference rooms, said hi to a couple of the organizers, Rick Bagwell, Ben Ennes and Katherine Yoder, and got a glimpse of the spacious game space that we were going to be occupying and perused their library just to see what was in it. Seems they had finished setting up recently and half were sitting down to a game of Scythe so we retired to our room and readied ourselves for Saturday morning.
We got up early on Saturday, had some breakfast and headed to the hall, eager to see just what was in store. After picking up our pre-paid badges and paying the $10 fee for our youngest, AnnaBeth, and grabbing our complimentary cookies, which were delicious, we headed in to begin our gaming adventure. Now, I didn't really know what to expect as far as attendance was concerned, I had asked a couple times but never gotten a number of badges, but I knew it would be a smaller affair with about 10 vendors or so involved as well. So when we went in and saw that it was basically just a few of us right off the bat, we decided to walk through the vendor area and talk to all the fine vendors who wanted to be a part of this inaugural event. Two local game stores, Silver Twilight & Meta-Games Unlimited, a couple craft vendors, Tinker Gnome Workshop & HedgeCrafts (which sold a lovely chainmail dice bag to our youngest daughter who would have probably bought everything on their table if she could have) were there. There were also several publishers also showing off their games, Playco Games, Crypt Monkey Studios, Kill Switch Bunker Games, New Experience Workshop, Potbelly Mammoth, Good Boy Games, Meet Me At The Table Games, and even a new podcast for me to listen to, The Mixed Six. So, in short, the vendor hall had a really nice, first time convention feel, lots of friendly local creators. We walked out with a couple games from Playco since AnnaBeth seemed to really enjoy talking to them and playing their games.
Kerensa went back to the hotel room and Gabby decided we'd kick off the gaming with some racing and some gambling, so we played a round of Downforce to kick off the event. We all know how Kerensa feels about racing games so we let her do her thing as we played it (we won't mention that Jamaica is on the way as well). After that rousing butt kicking that I received, Kerensa joined us for some Showdown! The Samurai Card Game which is from one of the vendors, New Experience Workshop. This one is just a quick dueling game for 2-6 people where you are trying to build the best combination of three different cards to defeat your enemies (friends at the table). It's fun, but both times I played it, I was the first person eliminated, so I didn't get much of a feel for it. They also have a game up on Kickstarter currently called On Their Merry Way which I did not get to try, but looked promising and I will probably be backing it once I figure out where our finances stand in the next week or so.
After that, in what kind of became a running thing throughout the convention when we got a break, Gabby and I played The Mind and did miserably. We just don't communicate it seems, and we played a year of Seasons before the PitchCar tournament started. I hate that we didn't get to finish Seasons it really is one of my favorites, I love the mix of card drafting and resource management, but it just goes on a bit long with 4 players and we had other things scheduled to do.
About 18 fellow racers then took part in the 1st Annual Moon City Convention PitchCar tournament. If you know Gabby and I, you know that we absolutely love PitchCar. It was always one of our favorite things to do at Geekway was take part in the tournament that Joel and Chad ran, but sadly, that tournament is no more so we had to get our flicking done in Springfield this time. First round is done over a series of 3 races on 3 different tracks, and then based on finishes that finals are set. I finished 2nd, 1st and 2nd in my heats so I easily made it into the finals, but Gabby was on the outside looking in and Kerensa wasn't sure why she even tried. The thing with these PitchCar tournaments is, the finals track is always some unGodly monstrosity of a track, and this was no different. It took a good 2 hours to do 2 laps and over the 4 races I participated in, I walked over 2 miles according to my step counter. So be prepared if you ever do these, hydrate and stretch, and plan your meals accordingly. I didn't do any of that and my feet were killing me by the end when after about 5 hours or so, Jeremy was crowned the first ever Moon City Convention, PitchCar champion and took his trophy for a victory lap around the hall. Fun thing about this tournament is that they hand painted each of the cars we were flicking, and we got to keep our car after the event was done, so thank you to Jeremy and Ben for running the event, we look forward to taking the trophy next year!!
In between the preliminary races and the finals, I did sit down with a couple other racers and learned Custom Heroes which was actually a fairly interesting climbing game or sorts that uses the card crafting system that designer, John D. Clair has created and popularized with Mystic Vale. So thank you to AJ Lambeth for teaching that, and I'm really sorry that I didn't get to play AJ's game, Kami-Sama while we were there, just never enough time.
We all needed a bit of a break after that finals track so Kerensa took AnnaBeth and Gabby swimming and I re-charged in the hotel room for a bit before heading back down for my initiation into all things by one of the games biggest fans, Rick Bagwell. Concordia had long been on my list of games to play. In fact, a couple years at Geekway I walked around with it for about a full day before I put it back in the library unplayed, no one I found wanted to sit down and learn and play. So I took advantage of this opportunity and learned it from Rick, who plopped down his wooden box that contains everything Concordia. We had a wonderful time, and the game is surprisingly simple to learn in spite of my apprehensions and failed attempt at playing it online where I managed to score, well, never mind what I scored, just know that it was awful. Anyway, it was a fantastic time playing it at three players with John and Rick and I thank Rick profusely for helping me get this off my to be played list and onto my I want to play it again list. Which it should be played again fairly soon considering that we won a copy of Concordia & it's expansion Salsa as a door prize!
After Concordia wrapped up, Kerensa and the girls joined us for some Draw and Draw fun with Kokoro Avenue of the Kodama which is a lovely re-imagining of Avenue which I am absolutely horrible at and even with the lovely re-theming, I am still absolutely horrible, but it is a lovely production. We closed out the evening with a game of Azul with Kerensa, John, Gabby and I in which Kerensa won and saw Gabby flip her board and say, "This is why I don't play this with Mom". To be fair, I think a fair number of folks may think that same exact thing when playing her.
Sleep didn't come easy, it never does for me after gaming no matter how tired I know that I really am. My mind is constantly churning thoughts and remembering things about our plays or about our conversations. This is the hardest part of conventions for me and next month at Geekway I may have to institute a cool down period. Instead of gaming right up until I head back to the room, I'll just have to sit and relax and maybe just walk around, burn off some of that excess energy and see if that helps the sleep come a bit quicker.
Doors opened at 8 am on Sunday and I think I barely made it to breakfast by 8:30. John and I sat and chatted and had breakfast while Kerensa and the kids slept in a bit. I took a load of food back for them and started acting like a drill sergeant getting them out of bed and moving. Not really, I tried not to do that. I gathered my stuff and took it to the car while they ate and got ready for the day. When they were ready, we loaded up the car and then headed back into the hall at around noon for a couple more hours of gaming.
We started out light with some Rhino Hero Super Battle which didn't last very long to be honest, I think AnnaBeth may have sabotaged the game a bit because she wasn't wanting to play it, she was wanting to play the next one, Epic Monster Tea Party which was one of the games we picked up from Playco Games in the vendor area. Epic Monster Tea Party is a light family style game where you are monsters and you are drawing meeples from a bag, the labyrinth, to put in your tea to ultimately drink and score points with. Each of the characters that can be drawn from the bag have powers that the monsters can use if they choose to "squish" them instead of adding them to their tea. It's light, it's cute and AnnaBeth had a really good time with it. So much so that we picked up Playco's other family title Danger! Danger! Dinosaur and we look forward to playing that one in the future as well.
Kerensa and the kids ran off to get some fast food and I taught John some Sagrada and then we finished off the convention gaming wise with a four player game of Majesty For the Realm which even after almost 25 plays delivers a good time each and every time in about 20-30 minutes. After we played Majesty, the Play and Win giveaways happened and Kerensa walked out with Tak which her and John played probably a half dozen times over the two days and she was quite happy with walking out with it, I imagine some plays of that are in my immediate future. We packed up the rest of our things after that, said our goodbyes to new and old friends and headed back home, exhausted but happy.
All in all, Moon City Convention was a fantastic experience, smaller but fantastic. I'm sure the folks at 417 Gamers (the group who threw the convention) will sit back and find things wrong that they want to change, or things that they think could run smoother, but from the outside, those seemed few and far between. My one complaint about the convention was that there was no outside food or drink allowed in the hall, it had to be things purchased at the hotel. They even had a snack bar set up outside the hall for a short time, but I imagine they didn't sell too many $2.50 cans of soda. They didn't stick around long. Fire & Ice was in the hotel so we could go pick up food there and bring it back to the table, but that was kind of expensive to do twice a day, but it was really nice that they would actually deliver it to the Hall for you. Other than food, which is always a stickler with Convention Centers, I thought this was a wonderfully thrown convention that has all the opportunity to grow in the world. It will probably remain a heavily regional convention, I can't imagine a lot of folks flying into the Springfield airport for this, but you never know. The Hotel and Convention Center are no more than a 1/2 mile off of Interstate 44 which is a main interstate running through southern Missouri so there is easy travel access from St. Louis, or even Oklahoma City, Tulsa or even Dallas. So the ability to grow is there. It just depends on what they ultimately want Moon City Convention to be, do they want it to be the next Geekway to the West in Missouri, or do they want it to be the only Moon City Convention. I kind of prefer the later at this point, we don't need two bigger conventions like this in Missouri. But, we'll see what the future holds, if they decide to host it again next year, and all signs point that way, we'll be among the first to buy our passes and book our rooms.