War of the Ring

OK, so most followers of the blog will know that I am not as smitten with War of the Ring as most. I think it’s just OK. I wish there was more flexibility; really, once you know what you’re doing, there just are not that many choices (push the Ring for the good guys, or Gondor/Rohan/Lorien for the bad guys), and too few of the event cards are interesting.

After slogging our way through some 4-player Doom these issues hardly seem worth mentioning, really.

Anyway.

We played with 3 players. Rich & I were the bad guys, Kim the good guys. Rich & I stared at the board. We tried to make the math work so that going after Dale, Woodland Realm, etc. – anything but the usual southern stuff – made sense. We couldn’t do it, and we didn’t have any cards that helped things. So we went with the standard rotation: Saruman beats the snot out of Rohan. Sauron then crushes Gondor. The Southrons go after Dol Amroth. Remnants finish off Lorien.

I’ve been told that there are some advantages to going after Erebor and such first. But every game I’ve played, Saruman has rolled over Rohan in no time flat. Without special cards (and that risk exists with any strategy), there is absolutlely no way Rohan can muster the guys in time. The Fellowship won’t even be much past Moria by the time Saruman has taken up residence in Helm’s Deep. Without perfect cards, I just can’t see any way in which a northern strategy is remotely competitive.

Anyway, this game turned out to be very close. Saruman took Rohan early, and Sauron then took Minas Tirith. Meanwhile bad hunt luck meant the Fellowship skated pretty much unscathed through Amon Hen, with the standard lack of any detachments except for Gandalf. Lorien fell in short order, and then there was the long, fairly dull trek of the Southron army up to Dol Amroth. It was a race against time; would Dol Amroth fall before the Ring was dunked? There was some appaling bad luck on both sides: the Fellowship got virtually no character or Will of the West dice for the last three turns, and so couldn’t make progress. On the other hand, when they did move, they managed to exclusively pick fairly benign hunt tiles from the bag even though we had loaded it up with every nasty bonus hunt tile in the deck. Apparently, the inability to move was worse, and Dol Amroth fell in a very close game.

I enjoyed this game, which was fun, and not too long (3 hours and a bit). Some of my fears about the 3-player game were abated as this was an interesting and close game. It’s still not hard to wish War of the Ring were better – maybe even a lot better – but it seems to be settling down into the “solidly OK” range, despite a distressing lack of variety in how the games play out, and it’s something I’ll likely keep playing as long as I’ve got friends who want to play.

Advertisements

War of the Ring 3×3

I seem to be playing War of the Ring mainly with 3 players of late – 3 recent games. There always seem to be a couple people interested in playing, and the 3-player rules aren’t too bad (I wouldn’t play with 4; the downtime for the Fellowship players would be too high). Here’s the problem, though: the bad guys never win the three player scenario. In fact, they’ve never really been terribly close. If the Fellowship guns it for Mordor, the bad guys are barely even organized before the Ring gets disposed of. Counting the Mumakil as leaders is simply inadequate compensation for the significant restrictions on how the bad guys are able to use their dice. Next time we play, we’ll give the Shadow Player some additional boost, perhaps an extra die (the one from The Mouth) at start.

But this begs the larger question: does Sauron have any hope at all in the game at any number of players? As I’ve played more, many elements of the game have simply been falling away. For example, we’ve discovered it’s virtually never a good idea to split off any companions from the Fellowship (except Gandalf, via his first death); the benefits of activations and easier diplomacy are simply far too marginal and the costs in spent dice far to high compared with a rapid trek to Mordor, which will win you the game outright. Likewise as the Fellowship players have realized the way to victory is through rapid Fellowship movement, most all Shadow Player options can be eliminated as simply impractical, leaving only the rapid attack on Rohan/Gondor and Lorien. The number of action cards that are at all interesting to each side has plummeted as most are too weak and are realized to be a distraction from the only real way the players have to win the game.

So Sauron must play a much tighter game than the Fellowship to have any chance at all. All the Fellowship player has to do is push the Fellowship at every opportunity. Sauron has to precisely muster the right forces, get them moving at exactly the right time to have enough guys to win but not muster so many guys they’ll take too long getting there. They’ve got to use their Nazgul precisely to delay the Fellowship. And they’ve got to cycle Character cards aggressively using the Witch-King, because so few Strategy cards are worth anything after the first few turns and the only way they’ll hinder the Fellowship is to get the few cards that help in this.

So I dunno. It’s a decently fun game, but as the reasonable options have been narrowing, my enthusiasm has been waning significantly. Most good wargames have a progression of widening options: the game is complicated so you don’t really know what to do the first time, so you go with a “historical” strategy, but as you play more and understand the nuances of the game, you try different things, some of which work, and new strategies develop. War of the Ring simply hasn’t developed. The relatively obvious strategy for the Fellowship is to move as fast as possible to Mordor; we’ve yet to figure out how Sauron can do anything to force any kind of reaction from the good guys, and the game seems hugely constrained by this as it forces Sauron down a specific path. Not too promising as an indicator of whether War of the Ring will still be on my shelf in 6 months.

War of the Ring

Here are some more random thoughts on War of the Ring, after one more play. As you will soon find out, my opinion is still not quite settled, so this takes the form of impressions rather than an actual (p)review.

After my Origins pre-release play, I had more or less decided not to acquire War of the Ring when it came out. I didn’t anticipate it being bad, but I thought I might let someone else step up for the risk this time. But it blindsided me. I wasn’t expecting it to be in, but there it was on the shelves at my local game shop. I had a discount coupon. And, apparently, less willpower than one might hope when it comes to games. With a rationalization along the lines of “get, there’ll be plenty of demand on the secondary market”, I brought it home. And had a chance to play the very next day.

So, which rules did the Origins demo guy screw up (there’s always something, usually major)? Turns out, only one. We had been playing that subsequent moves in a turn by the Fellowship grant the Shadow player an extra die roll when rolling to hunt, but the reality is that it is instead a +1 to all the dice. This does not alter the feel of the game that much (the Fellowship’s trek to Mordor is very abstract and little more than a clock, and with the usual small numbers of dice the statistics aren’t that different), but it does make moving more than once or twice in a turn rather difficult.

I played the Free Peoples, Carl played the Shadow. I took a “run straight for Mordor” strategy, with only Gandalf leaving the Fellowship for Edoras once Moria had been crossed – everyone else stayed with the Ringbearer as he barrelled towards Mount Doom. Sauron’s first army of Orcs was hacked up a bit on the gates of Minas Tirith, but the second wave cleaned out the defenders nicely. Saruman had a hard time getting going; the first Siege of Helm’s Deep was thrown back, but the Second Siege was more successful, overrunning the defenders. After Minas Tirith fell, the Mordorians were too mauled to take on Dol Amroth, so Carl had to spend a few actions bringing the Southrons into play and making the long, painful trek from Far Harad. They then crushed the Knights of the Prince in short order. While tidying up the conquest of Gondor and Rohan, forces were being built up in Moria and Dol Guldor for the final battle at Lothlorien.

Meanwhile, the Fellowship gets to the Dead Marshes more or less intact. Then, companions start falling. Boromir tries to sieze the Ring, so Aragorn slices him up. Aragorn then considers heading south to Dol Amroth to be crowned King (and receive an extra action die), but thinks better of it when he counts out the regions and the size of the Southron army investing the city. He then turns around and is killed thirty seconds later. Merry and Pippin get to Minas Morgul before thinking to themselves “you know, I think we made a mistake in leaving the Shire”, whereupon they set up camp there and refuse to enter Mordor. So Frodo, Sam, Legolas and Gimli embark upon the final trek. Gimli gets whacked first. Then Legolas buys it. As the battle for Lothlorien begins, Frodo, Sam, and Gollum are crawling up the slopes of Mount Doom.

The force pool of the Galahdrim defenders is somewhat odd. All the armies have elite and regular units. Elite units, when hit, are degraded to regulars. However, there are counter limits, and alone among the significant powers, the Elves have a preponderance of elite units … which leaves them few regulars to replace a hit elite. I was defending Lothlorian with 5 elites, which should theoretically mean I could take 5 hits before losing a die in combat. However, there was only one regular available in the mix at the time (I had made the mistake of mustering a few regulars earlier in the game), so that meant every two hits lost me a die (I should say, the rules are silent on exactly what happens if a replacement regular is lacking in either the reserve or deadpile when one is required; we played the elite was simply eliminated). This felt rather awkward, but I guess once you realize it it’s just another part of the game.

So Lothlorien was overrun as on the last turn of the game, I rolled no character actions to push the Fellowship, and so could only watch helplessly as the Golden Wood acquired a new landlord. Hard luck, but a very closely-run affair – I likely would have won in the next two Free People’s impulses. I also felt I made a number of mistakes in the game. For the Fellowship player, spending actions on the Northerners or Dwarves (or even the Elves) seems a waste unless the Shadow Player is negligent, or unless you are really going to go for the good guy Military Victory. I also never got Aragorn’s bonus die into play, which is obviously a big deal – I think getting both bonus Free Peoples dice is critical to success. And the Shadow player had a card which allowed him to cycle event cards which I was much too slow in eliminating, as I had badly miscalculated how much longer the game would go; when Frodo got to Mordor, I was in excellent shape, but the final leg of the trek is fairly tough, and my character actions dried up.

When I wrote about this game before, I said it was somewhere between a 4 and an 8. I think we can now safely narrow it down to something in the neighborhood of a 7, with some potential to move up or down a point. It’s definitely an interesting game – you’ve got interesting choices, the cards are somewhat flavorful even if not terrific, and the dice are a neat twist. Credit where credit is due, I think this is a successful remix of the We The People format, made a bit more straightforward for a broader audience. Managing fairly powerful action cards and spending limited activations wisely is key to the game, so it gives a very similar feel, albeit without quite the depth of those serious-gamer classics. The action cards are not quite as varied, and many actions are usually fairly obvious, so it seems to never quite rises to the level of real nail-grinding tension you get in those games sometimes. But it’s still good.

As I noted in my Origins writeup, I still think it feels fundamentally a bit abstract, again in a sort of Paths of Glory kind of way. While the good guys are busy in the south, the Dwarves are glued to their chairs; the strategy dice which drive the game (like the cards in Paths of Glory) are not actually grounded in anything rational, they’re just a game device designed to force you into arguably somewhat arbitrary tough choices. The whole Fellowship track is a useful device, but the rules for it are somewhat klunky (the least successful aspect of the game, in my opinion), and it is very abstract, really little different from The Queen’s Gambit’s Anakin track. Otherwise, there is flavor in the game, it’s nice, but it’s more euro-style “themeing” than it is really visceral in classic American games like Dune, Repulic of Rome, Hannibal, or Rommel in the Desert. And I fear the game may be a little long for the content. You spend a bit more time than would seem ideal moving up reinforcing armies, fiddling the political track, and trekking towards the enemy – activities that just aren’t very interesting.

Ultimately, I think, this game has been done a disservice by the raving hype on BoardGameGeek. Why? Because War of the Ring is definitely a good game. It’s professional (with one huge, glaring, exception that I am coming to), it’s well-executed, it’s got decent balance and good turn angst, interesting decisions to make, and solid flavor even if the theme doesn’t run very deep. It’s comparatively simple enough to be exciting. But in my opinion it just never had a chance to live up to the excessive pre-release pumping it’s been getting from the playtesters. It’s not a game that generates a “wow, this is awesome!”. It’s more of a “that was fun, I’d definitely play it again” kind of game, but with significant nervousness about mid-to-long-term replayability. So a 7, that might flip up to an 8 (if it holds on well) or down to a 6 (if it doesn’t).

Ultimately, the bottom line is, I enjoyed the game. I’m not unhappy with my purchase.

I have, until now, glossed over War of the Ring’s one major weakness, because ultimately I don’t think it will be that big a purchasing decision point to most people. Except perhaps for those with poor eyesight, for whom War of the Ring may be unplayable. War of the Ring is an impressive-looking game. But …

Cities, towns, and forifications on the board are virtually indistinguishable, if they are visible at all through the crowd of units in an area. Since you are always packing huge armies into tiny areas – most critical areas can only hold maybe 3 small figures or one large one, out of the 10 or so the Shadow Player is usually pushing around – critical impassible terrain boundries are almost always completely obscured. Both Carl and I were hosed by mountains we couldn’t even see. The Nazgul pieces, while impressive-looking, are huge – especially given the tiny areas – and very hard to use. The choices of icons to use often seems questionable (the “stop movement” icon, for example, is a sword, circled and with a slash through it. What’s wrong with the universal “stop” sign? You end up thinking, “well, this colored splotch means one thing, …”). The font size on the action cards is tiny and difficult to read at any distance. In many cases, the game uses intricate designs that are very hard to distinguish until you know what you are looking for – the nation counters on the political track, the elite Free Peoples units (you almost have to get in there and check out the heraldry on their tiny shields).

While these are all problems of varying degrees of irritation, I think the killer is going to be the bit with the inadequate mountain terrain symbols, and the unusably small play areas in many areas of the map (like, Gondor and Rohan).

I don’t want to end on a sour note, because I think most people who are interested in this game will work around these problems adequately, and so I don’t judge them to be seriously compromising, and under them is a game that is pretty interesting. But they are nonetheless somewhat galling, and this sort of thing drives some people berserk, so you have been warned.

Origins – Day 3

One thing you may notice here is an absence of any traditional wargames from my schedule. No Columbia games, no Europe Engulfed, no Ardennes ’44, no Lock ‘n Load, no OCS, no Barbarossa to Berlin or Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage. The simple reason– as arresting as this may sound – is that there are virtually no scheduled wargame events at Origins, the largest and most all-encompassing of American game conventions. The people who run the War Room, CABS, have gone with the “bring a game and try to find someone to play it” model, which on the one hand makes their job of organizing the “event” extremely simple – trivially simple, actually, as they provide no coordination whatsoever – but on the other hand it more or less ensures the hemorrhaging of players to other, more reliable events, or other cons, or to not coming at all. Sure enough, the War Room was looking decidedly thin and slightly sad this year, even more so than last year, as there was almost as much table space dedicated to leaving unplayed games set up as there was to actual game playing, and of the rest of the space, a significant fraction of it was dedicated to eurogaming (the most commonly played single game seemed to be Goa) as the local CABS folks more or less treated the area as their own pick-up game room. If I travel 2500 miles to a con, I want to be able to schedule, and apparently lots of other people agree with me, judging by how few were present here. Usually Columbia runs a fairly reliable area – if you show up you can get in a Hammer of the Scots or Wizard Kings or something else short-to-medium-ish – but neither Grant nor Tom were in attendance this year unfortunately and they left things in the hands of CABS, not a very smart move if you want your games played.

However, I did get to play a pre-production copy of War of the Ring in the Fantasy Flight area, part of the main boardgame hall. The copy was still a little rough – the cards were paste-ups, and the rules were still in single-sided, double-spaced, no illustrations rough draft format, if that gives you some help on when you might expect this to show up in retail shops – but everything was there and it was good for a go.

I think I can say two things for sure about War of the Ring: firstly, it doesn’t suck. Secondly, that it’s still a ways away from being the ultimate Tolkien game, and it’s not truly top-shelf. Somewhere between, say, 4 and 8 on the 10-point rating scale. Beyond that, I am still rather conflicted, and so what you’re going to get is, to some degree, waffle. So here you go.

The core wargame here is an Axis & Allies/Risk derivative game, although with a few twists. There are only two unit types, standard footsoliders (hits on 5 and 6, absorbs one hit) and elite units like Warg Riders, Oliphunts, and Cavalry (also hits on 5 and 6, downgrades to standard on the first hit it absorbs, and more critically some event cards have effects tied to elite units). Only 5 units can be used in combat at a time, although the excess may absorb losses. This gives combat a definite Risk/A&A hybrid feel, simpler and more attritional than A&A, but less tedious than Risk. I must say this lack of any unit differentiation – no, cavalry doesn’t move any faster than infantry nor is it any more potent; no, the Elephants and Trolls are not very impressive in combat without fairly uncommon combat cards; no, the Free Peoples and Sauron’s armies do not handle any differently – and the fact that combat resolution is rather simplistic and mostly a matter of pushing around big stacks all were rather disappointing.

The most interesting and successful bit of the core design is the dice that control your strategic options. Each action die has a bunch of faces on it, including Recruit/Diplomacy, Move/Attack, Leadership (used for activating armies with leaders or moving the fellowship, which works as a slightly more interactive Anakin track a la The Queen’s Gambit), Card Action (draw or play), and Wild (for the good guys) or Ring-hunting (bad guys). Each impulse you use one of your dice and do what it says, until both sides are out of dice, when a new turn begins. The good guys start with 4 dice, the bad guys with 6 (perhaps 7? My memory is hazy), but you can add dice in various ways (the bad guys for example get one each for bringing in Saruman, The Witch King, and the Mouth of Sauron). This is nice and produces some turn angst, as you try to figure out the best way to spend the dice you’ve got. The only snag is that you roll the dice openly, so your opponent can sometimes know for certain that you can’t move any more armies, for example, and so can act more freely than otherwise.

The other kind of neat aspect of this is that Sauron has to choose how many dice to allocate to prosecuting the war (i.e., rolling normally), and searching for the Fellowship. In practice, this doesn’t work quite as well as one might hope, because the decision is done openly, and in order to make much of a difference to the Fellowship’s progress, Sauron will have to apply enough dice so that he has little chance to accomplish much on the board, and once they Free Peoples see 3 or 4 dice stacked up they simply don’t bother to move the Fellowship that turn and instead concentrate on Sauron’s poorly-defended outposts like Moria or Carn Dum while his armies are paralyzed by a lack of action dice. In general, the ability to see your opponent’s capabilities in these matters openly, and the fact that you as a player have to trade off moving Frodo with, say, having Aragorn counterattack at Helm’s Deep, is thematically rather unconvincing. But more on this later.

The flavor of the game is provided by the event cards, which give you many of the events from the books, albeit in a slightly disjointed manner. Each side has two packs of cards, one with “army” events and one with “character” events. You get one from each pack by default each turn, and you can play them or draw more with your card action die results. Each card has two events, a general type (which costs an action to play) and a combat type (which is free). These actually work rather well, but only up to a point. On the one hand, it’s fun to slap down a card and watch the Ents overrun Isengard. On the other hand, they have a very “take that” feel, which can make the theme feel a bit pasted on. For example, for your Oliphunts to work any differently from regular Orcs in battle requires playing a specific card. With some events (like the aforementioned Ents), you end up knowing they’re coming eventually, which can have some good effects (forcing Saruman to act quickly because you know he’s on a short leash, thus generating this “historic” course of events even if for very wrong reasons), but it also can feel a bit awkward. It’s top-down design, as it were – stuff from the book happens, not because you as a player are put in the position of the actors in the book, but because the game makes them happen. Most things that happened in the book will happen, and you expect it. Since so much of the charm of the book is the drama of the improbable and unexpected, this is a shame. The events tend not to flow but to simply happen: “Hey, the Balrog popped up! The Ents are rampaging! Oops, they’re gone now”.

However, by far the worst offender on the theme front is the concept of the Fellowship military victory. This requires the Free Peoples to take two Evil strongholds (to be clear, this really does mean just two strongholds – not two more than they’ve lost). Often wargames have some sort of auto-victory that should never happen, but is included for historicity’s sake and to keep one side honest. This is not the case here. The Fellowship military victory is not a stretch, but a constant threat to Sauron and is quite obtainable even in a nightmare Free People scenario of a completely overrun Gondor and Rohan and a stalled out and mauled Fellowship. This is because it can be had by sniping at the flanks, which are often surprisingly poorly guarded – Moria, for example, can be cleared out by the Rivendell and Lorien Elves if Sauron doesn’t pay attention, since the Orcs there are surprisingly paltry, the Balrog doesn’t exist even to defend Moria except through usually unavailable cards, and Rivendell and Arnor can crank out new Elves and Rangers at almost the same rate as Sauron can crank out Orcs. Odd. None of these are game-breakers from the usual standpoints of balance, interesting decision making opportunities, etc., but this is a game selling itself on theme.

So as I say, I am conflicted. The underlying wargame is decent and appears rather well-balanced, if not as fundamentally interesting as I’d like (although as a fairly serious board wargamer, my standards are high). The cards are nicely thematic at times, but at times also feel a bit too much like a take-that card game. The roll-dice-for-actions system is nice and generates tension and tough choices, but the fact that they are rolled openly makes things occasionally awkward and the system itself tends to limit strategic choice and flexibility to some degree. The problem of the victory conditions, the rock against which every attempt to do this game eventually breaks, hasn’t been swept aside just yet, and here clearly represents game system necessity. The theme really just doesn’t feel like it runs that deep, and the game feels constrained to follow the events of the books.

So despite some interesting stuff, and some nicely flavorful cards, for me there just is no “wow” factor here. It was an enjoyable enough time, and I would play again … but I would have wished for more, and I just don’t know if the game is quite there.

Now, having said all this, the caveat of course is that these are ramblings based on only one play of a preproduction copy, and even that not under ideal circumstances. We had two players on a side, but basically that just meant we discussed and decided on courses of action as a team, which never yields good results – as evidenced by the fact that no Army I know of uses a co-generals model. There is really no way to divide responsibility here, you can’t just say “you take Arnor and the Fellowship, I’ll take Gondor and Rohan” – the game just doesn’t work like that, the real money is in deciding where to use your activations, not in the tactics of moving the pieces around once you’ve decided. My ally and I were at loggerheads on a number of such decisions which could not be satisfactorily resolved, so … this is really a 2-player game.

The game bears watching, and I fully intend to play it again once it comes out, to give it another fair shot. For one thing, all other considerations aside, I have been taught rules incorrectly countless times at Origins, and even small mistakes can make a big difference. But my initial impression was that it didn’t measure up in either gameplay or theme to the previous champion in the “licensed game with lots of plastic” arena, Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit. Keep an eye on it given the decent fun factor inherent in the Axis & Allies-style design (A&A has always been plagued by inadequate playtesting, not a failure of the fundamental design), and the amusement factor in plopping down cards that say “Ents Rampage!” or somesuch. For me, though, while I still look forward to the release, it’s dropped from “most likely buy” to “may buy, but the price is high and maybe we could split a copy”.

Medici: I played with 4 as part of the Kniziathon, although not as serious contestants (the competition started much earlier, Kim & I just wanted to play some Knizia games). Medici is a good game, but it doesn’t shine with fewer than 5 or 6. Not enough competition, I think. There is better stuff for 4. I got to play this with Joshua Alderson. You may be disappointed to learn that he just isn’t that cranky in person. Not cranky at all, in fact. A very enjoyable game.

My last game of the day was my only RPG session, a D&D adventure titled “Plague on Barsoom” run by Amorphous Blob and set in the world of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars books (I later learned that this was not really D&D, but a heavily customized variant for the setting). Sadly, the GM had come down ill and we were unable to play.

So Kim did something that I wasn’t quite able to bring myself to do, and that was get into the Buffy the Vampire Slayer game at the next table. I went back to the Rio Grande area to play some more various euro games. I think she made the smarter choice, as it turns out.

I gather that Buffy uses something called “Unisystem”, a rather simple RPG system. It’s still attribute/skill based, but much simpler than D&D. For one thing, skills are very broad-based. In D&D, they are pretty specific and are things like “Hide”, “Move Silently”, “Spot”, “Use Rope”, “Escape Artist”, and such … some 20+ skills in all. In Buffy, you’ve got only a total of about 15 skills, covering “Crime”, “Doctor”, “Languages”, “Science”, and the ever-popular “Getting Medieval”. This makes things a lot easier. Then either the “depth and detail” or “morass” (your choice) of the d20 combat rules have been largely dumped in favor of playability and bringing back some speed and tension to combats.

Now, Buffy as a TV show is pretty entertaining but as an RPG setting it might leave something to be desired. I mean, how many plots are there really? For this session, the players were actually playing low-level flunky Vampires, who needed to retrieve an ancient relic in order to resurrect some baddie. Yeah, that’s original. But as with the TV show the play’s the thing here, not the plot, and the group I gather had a lot of fun with it. Getting into the spirit of Buffy, especially the rather typecast bad guys, isn’t too hard. Especially when you’re pretty sure all the PCs are going to get slaughtered by Buffy and the gang when they show up. I think of the 5 PCs, there were 2 survivors – the ones who ran away.

Talking with Kim immediately afterwards, it was a real gut check on why we were investing so much time and energy into the overwrought D&D. She’s since backed off on this position a bit, since D&D is of course a much more versatile system (although the Buffy RPG does have a spin-off Angel RPG, which I hear is much more broad-based), and Buffy – largely due to the somewhat limited nature of the theme – is more of a one-off system, something you play the occasional adventure of on a lark.

Anyway, I was kicking myself for not getting into this game, because Kim had a lot of fun and I think I would have enjoyed it. I got to play some more Saint Petersburg (and meet Jeremy Avery, another very nice guy who I enjoyed gaming with) and San Juan, which was fun, but is something I get to do plenty of at home. Next con, I’ll make room for some Buffy.