Hit with a MACE!

I had a long post I had written about MACE last weekend, but somehow the interweb ate it, so I’ll just sum up.

MACE stands for Mid-Atlantic Convention Expo, and is a fancy acronym for a gaming con. This was the 12th MACE, which seems to be held every year in High Point, NC which is just before Greensboro on I-85. Megan and I left my office at 5pm and due to a brief food stop and two wrong turns (one was my fault, the other was the directions we were using) we did not arrive until 9pm. At that point I was already an hour late for my first gaming session so I left Megan in our room to relax and I quickly went downstairs to see if I could lull anyone into three hours of open Eurogames.

Fate was with me, and I introduced a nice couple to Pandemic, along with a guy who just watched. We saved the world from the four diseases, so my count with the game is now 7 wins out 16 or so plays. (I went with the easy difficulty of only 4 epidemic cards) After that, I started a game of Agricola with a father and son as well a guy who had played the game before. To save time (Agricola is roughly one half hour per player) and to make it easier for the boy I chose to teach them the family version without occupation or minor improvement cards. Right after the first two turns there was a fire alarm at the hotel and we all had to evacuate for a half hour or so. I couldn’t reach Megan on her cell phone, but found her outside after 10 minutes. Afterward we went back inside, she went back to bed, and I finished the game. I used a completely different strategy than my normal field/grain/bread strategy and I ended up in second place a few points behind the guy who had played before. Being that I was teaching the game, I intentionally went with a few suboptimal choices as I didn’t want to be “that guy” who must win a game as they’re teaching it.

The next morning I didn’t have a game to run until 1:30pm so Megan and I slept in late and ordered breakfast from room service which was $33 for the two of us with tip! She had french toast, I had an omelet, and we both had OJ. Waaay overpriced, but it was nice to eat breakfast in the room in my pajamas. We then went downstairs, she got her badge, and we went to the very mediocre dealer room. After that I taught her to play Ticket to Ride, which she enjoyed, and we grabbed some food at the MACE cafe before I went off to run a D&D game.

At the table next to where I was running a D&D game was another lvl 1 game that was designed as an intro to 4th edition. We only had five players total show up for both games, so I decided to play in his game which was good as I’ve DMed 4th edition much more than I’ve had a chance to play. My (female!) Eladrin Wizard nearly killed the Warlord, but other than that her spells helped drop a lot of bad guys.

Following the D&D game was the annual MACE auction. All of the proceeds went to building a polar bear enclosure for a zoo in Charlotte. Megan won an auction for two hardcover books (Neil Stephenson’s Anathema and some vampire chick-lit I can’t remember) and I won an auction for miscellaneous 4th ed D&D supplements. We both did well as she won $45 worth of books for $25 and I won $75 worth of stuff for $20. I had planned on bidding on a limited edition of Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries but they bundled that game with three others I had no interest in. I’ll just have to make it a priority to get that game before all the copies on the internet dry up.

The auction ran late, and I discovered that I had a full table of 8 players for my Arkham Horror game, none of which had played the game before. I usually like to setup AH at least a half hour before people arrive as there is a lot to set up (especially with the expansion I was using), but in this case I had to try and explain the game while people were picking characters and make myself heard over the crowd, which was a bit frustrating. As such in the first hour we only went through two game rounds. Things sped up significantly after that, but we ran out of time and I had to cut to endgame: I woke up Cthulhu early and the players had to try to fend him off. Normally, this is almost impossible, and if I hadn’t woken him up early I think he would have handily eaten the world, but since he was only a bit over half strength the players eventually whittled him down. All in all it was a gratifying but exhausting five hours after which I went to bed and collapsed.

The next morning we had nothing really to do so we went downstairs to eat breakfast in the hotel restaurant. ($22 for both of us for the buffet vs $33 for the same thing via roomservice) After that, we went back to the dealer room and Megan bought a cute claddagh pendant and we chatted up the interesting guy who owned the booth. I said goodbye to Jeff and Ron, the organizers, with the hope that we can get a mini-mace in Greenville sometime soon and we hit got on the road at noon.

The drive back was pleasant, with not much traffic and beautiful weather. We arrived in Greenville at 3pm or so and rode the trolley around, went to Mast General Store, and had pizza at Mellow Mushroom.

It was a great weekend and while I love Dragon*Con, small cons such as MACE are much more relaxing as a vacation destination. Cheaper too; The hotel was $150+taxes for two nights, my badge was free as I was a GM, hers was $25, food, and the tank of gas to get there were the only expenses. I’ll definitely try to go next year if possible.

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