Gen Con 2018 Recap – Part Two

You can read part one here.

Day 2 (Cont)

Eclipse Phase

There are two potential hurdles when playing new games:

You are unfamiliar with the mechanics of the system.

By that, I mean actually how to play. What stats do what thing. What should you roll if you want to attack or climb a wall or hide. Many times you can lean on your overall knowledge to get you by. Other times you may not be successful.

You are unfamiliar with the language of the game.

D&D is fantasy – most of the stuff is easy enough to understand. Vampire the Masquerade is set in the modern world. But when you start getting into some of the science fiction settings, the language gets… complicated.

So that was the issue with Eclipse Phase. It is a science fiction setting with a language all its own and a ton of stats and skills that don’t always jump out at you as “Use me to do X thing!” It was a 2-hour session that really needed to be 4 hours if they are hoping for you to “get it”.

Luckily, our friend Nate has promised to run a game of it for us at some point in the future – so the nail has not been put in this coffin by any stretch.


Another sci-fi setting that was a bit easier to understand. The Game Master was actually the creator of the game (and is in the process of running a Kickstarter for the launch of the game if you want to check it out here!). The game ran fairly smoothly with only a couple of minor hiccups. During the course of the game, the GM (who was recording) had to leave a note to himself about a particular rule call. We were all interested in the potential for space combat (which sadly the adventure we played didn’t have) as he mentioned that he thought his system played pretty well on that front (everyone has something to do – as opposed to just having the pilot and maybe gunner being the only important jobs).

After the game, we chatted with him for a bit. He’s planning on running a few games at Dragon Con, so if you’re interested in checking out something completely brand new – check it out.


Day 3

Shadows of Esteren

Last year Lee mentioned that there was so much to see in the dealer’s room, that in order to actually make your way through it you had to have a high caliber for the artwork used to even bother checking out your project. However, even that doesn’t work because everyone has beautiful stuff adorning their booths, books, posters, and everything else. Shadows of Esteren has all of this in spades and we both lingered near their booth last year, but never pulled the trigger on buying any of their stuff.

Cut to this year, where we had a non-standard session. I believe one dice was rolled during the entirety of two hours. The conceit was that our session was actually one happening in the middle of a longer campaign, but that this particular session would be a spotlight on one character and their past. The other players at the table would then play other roles (in this case, a sister, a mother, a brother of the main character). The hope was through these various little scenes the main person would gain some insight about their charact, and the other players would become invested in that story.

Now for some people that might not work, but for Lee and I (Egg was detained elsewhere), it really got us thinking about stories, ideas for how to incorporate these type of scenarios in our home games. And while I wasn’t 100% on how the game was going to work (and since we really didn’t get to see the mechanics of the system, we may need to come back to this one at the next convention).

Legend of the Five Rings

It said “No experience necessary”, yet when we arrived there was a line to get into the room to play.

And people were grouping up together.

And various GMs were shouting things.

And Egg, Lee, and myself were confused.

“Are you new players?”

“Yes, it said no experience necessary.”

“That it did!”

It turns out that we found ourselves in the middle of the final battle of the weekend. Clan honor was at stake. A battle would rage at various tables… 3 rounds in fact. If you died, then you left the room. If you won your round, your team was awarded points, and those points were added to the total for your Clan.

Not knowing what we were in for (the fourth member of our table had only played twice before and one of those times might have been in the 90s), we opted for an easier scenario at first before ramping up each round. Around the room, you could hear tables roar out their approval at good plays. And while you were waiting for the next round to begin, people would go watch other games (not something you experience at most games).

Luckily, we were joined by 3 other players in time for the final battle who had a little experience playing the game (6 years running the game!). It worked out well as by that point I had a decent enough understanding of the rules, but one of the new players helped me understand a couple of other aspects I didn’t 100% catch previously.

While we may not have gotten a great feel for the world of Legend, we certainly were educated in how to play the mechanics… and they might have been my favorite overall of the games we’d played over the weekend. I can understand why it has such passionate fans.


Day 4

The Dark Eye

Apparently, The Dark Eye is the #1 game in Germany for the last 30 years. It is a fantasy game (so right in our wheelhouse). The GM did a great job with running the game, and I enjoyed the voices he used for the different characters.


Within about 5 seconds of him explaining the system to us, I knew this wasn’t going to be “The ONE”. Most games you are asked to roll your dice to perform an action like climbing a wall. You roll one dice, add your bonuses and penalties and then see if you were successful. With Dark Eye you had to roll against 3 different skills… and if you failed one of those checks, then you failed the overall check.

I’m not sure how that works in the long run as I’d get too frustrated to bother. Just running simple odds would tell you trying to succeed at something 3 different times is probably going to fail a decent amount of the time. At some point, I’d like to seek out the players of the game and see if there is some good reason for the multiple checks (and hence why it might be in the game, to begin with).


Overall it was a great time at the convention. I was sore after all the walking, but made it through all the same. Got to see a couple of friends from the previous year, and somehow managed to hang out for 5 days and get along with my convention mates as we talked pretty much non-stop the whole drive back to Atlanta. So, until next year (hopefully)…


John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at

About John McGuire

Writer of comics and novels. In 2006 his first short story "The God That Failed" was published by Terminus Media in their debut comic Evolution Book 1. Since that time he has had stories published in Terminus Media's Evolution Book 2 and Evolution Special, Kenzer and Company's The Knights of the Dinner Table, and Four J Publishing's The Burner #3. Currently he is eagerly awaiting the digital publishing of his first creator-owned comic The Gilded Age #1 to be published online as well as his first novel The Dark That Follows later this year.
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