This is the second year in a row I've taken part in Extra Life's 24-hour Game-a-Thon to raise money for Children's Miracle Network. Last summer, Ben Gerber of Troll in the Corner posted about his Extra Life team and mentioned that he was looking for more members and I thought it sounded like great fun and signed up. It was. Last year was a total blast as we had people in and out all day long - we ate a ton of food and played lots of games.
This year was a completely different experience. The problem seems to stem from the change of event date from November 2, post-Halloween, to October 25, the weekend before Halloween. That put a serious dent in the interest level of invitees. It wasn't that I was getting "no" either, it's that I wasn't getting any response at all. Of the more than 150 Facebook invites sent out, I had 10 yeses who were even physically capable of coming and even fewer maybes and zero comments or questions. I kept up hope going into Friday night that people had just been undecided or forgot to respond and that they would still pop in for a game or two before heading off to whatever Halloween plans they had, but as Saturday rolled on I saw that just wasn't the case.
In the end, I had 6 die-hard friends show up who, along with my wife, son, and brother all filled spots at the table. They all ended up putting in more time and playing more games than they had originally planned and for that I'm grateful. Without their support this year's event simply wouldn't have happened. Some games got reshuffled, others canceled entirely, but in the end we made it 24 hours without a break.
And on the financial side it was a complete success. We blew through last year's total and ended up raising $771 for Children's Hospital at Providence. I can consider the event a success in terms of the real world good that was accomplished.
But as of this writing I'm pretty sure this is the last year I'll participate.
As with last year, Ben managed to gather some sponsors to donate games for us to play and give away during the event. And, as with last year, I put my requests in for games that sounded like they would keep the energy level up rather than games that are more well known or had a higher "cool" factor.
• Crazy Creatures of Doctor Gloom - As I said, my criteria for which donated games I would like to play is the energy level. The break-out game at last year's Game-a-Thon was a kid's game called Monster Cafe which I picked simply because I thought it looked like silly fun. It ended up being the highlight of the event. This year saw a similar outcome with Doctor Gloom. It plays sort of like a multi-player solitaire, but with a direction-switching element which provides just enough strategy to make it interesting at all skill levels. It's not deep, but it's smooth - the simple mechanic plays like butter.
• Get Lucky - I'm a big fan of Kill Dr. Lucky, not so much of Save Dr. Lucky (in fact, prior to this year's event I gave away our copy of Save to a team member). So with a 50/50 track record, I was on the fence about Get Lucky, the card game version. But it's my new favorite of the series because everything that makes Kill so much fun has been distilled down to a deck of cards and streamlined strategy.
• Zombies - Shambling and Hungry - This is pretty much UNO, but with some nasty zombie-themed twists. It's simple and brutal. My only recommendation would be to house-rule the Infection cards because if you start with three or four in your hand, your game is pretty much over from the start. A tweak that makes game play a little more fair to the infected but which makes the Infected cards much more brutal overall is - when someone has to pick up the pile of cards from play, anyone with three or more Infected cards may drop one from their hand onto the pile before it's picked up. You're still pretty hosed if you're getting loaded up on Infected cards, but now infection is a danger to all of the party.
• As Nas, etc. - A good friend of mine lugged over a gigantic pack box filled with heavy wood game pieces and a gigantic bucket of multicolored beads to teach us to play a few medieval dice and card games he'd been running at our local ren faire. It was a great break and a pretty interesting little history lesson. No, you can't hire him, but if you make it to Alaska during Three Barons I can easily recommend the Crimson Dove tent as a worthwhile place to lose some of your money.
• Munchkin Adventure Time - I ordered this off of Amazon because hey! Munchkin! Adventure Time! And then I got it and saw that it wasn't a Steve Jackson Games game but something they licensed to a third party and I suddenly became a lot less enthused about it. I was wrong because it's easily the most entertaining Munchkin version I've ever played. The cards are completely redesigned - although they still have all of the information on a traditional Munchkin card, it's laid out so much better. And if you know Adventure Time it becomes a much more enjoyable game because seriously, who doesn't want to punch Donny square in his noggin?
• Love Letter - You could be like me and read the reviews of Love Letter and dismiss it easily as just a puffy game about yet another imaginary pre-Renaissance Italian ideal and bleh. You could also be like me and be completely wrong because everything people say about Love Letter is true, it's a damn fun game to play and the first time you knock a player out in the first round using a Guard you're gonna want to play it at every opportunity.
• Where Art Thou Romeo? - I made a comment about this on G+ during the event so this is less a review and more an expansion. First, this isn't an actual game that's for sale, it was a special tiny give-away to Kickstarter supporters, so saying it's a bad game is bit like saying the Dr. Lucky coin that went out to Get Lucky backers is a terrible game because all you can do is flip it and get a 50/50 result. But it does include rules for a "game" to be played with the cards and that's what I'm critiquing. In the "game", players get a character card and the person who has "Juliette" has to listen, for 30 seconds, to everyone else tell her they're Romeo and then decide which of them is telling the truth. The problem is that there's no info currency for the players to bluff with or for Juliette to use to determine who might be the liars. If you passed a quarter around the table and then had everyone yell "I HAVE THE QUARTER" at your waitress for 30 seconds before asking her to decide who's telling the truth you'd have exactly the same "game" but at least in my version there's a chance alcohol could be involved.
The Missed Opportunities
One of the night's disappointments was being forced to drop The Agents from this year's roster because we just didn't have the players. And that's a shame because Double-edged Games donated an entire set - base and all of the expanded decks - of a game that I'd never heard of prior to this year's Game-a-Thon but whose concept immediately grabbed me. Since the game didn't go home with anyone, I'll try to find a local gaming club event to bring it to and make sure it gets the play it deserves because it just sounds like a cool game.