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"Huge con games: fun or not?" Topic

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05 Feb 2018 6:55 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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peterx Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2017 4:15 a.m. PST

I have played in a number of really huge convention games with wonderful models and scenery. However, beyond the visuals, there were so many gamers playing that it took an hour or so to get to my turn. Not fun. I have learned my lesson. Look and the huge beautiful games at cons, but do not join them.

What is your experience with gigantic con games?

peterx Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2017 4:26 a.m. PST

Sorry, my IPad is not interacting well with the TMP just now.

YogiBearMinis Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2017 4:34 a.m. PST

I am often stunned by the effort that goes into many convention games--the figures, the terrain, etc., HOWEVER a majority of these beautiful games are ruined by having far too many players. When you speak to the GM, they will tell you the game was set up for six or eight players yet there you are--12+ players sharing commands, etc.

I think GMs need to stand firm and when they organize a game for a certain number of players, do not cave to standby pressure and double that number.

Don Manser18 Jul 2017 4:47 a.m. PST

A small well constructed and executed game with all players actively engaged is also a lot more fun for the GM.

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2017 4:48 a.m. PST

Large games can function with lots of players, if the rules are simple and straight forward. My personal rule is if it over 2 pages its to long. You have to keep the players interested and the game progressing.

Tom Reed Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2017 5:16 a.m. PST

BEst run large con games I have played always had more than one person running the game.

Winston Smith18 Jul 2017 5:32 a.m. PST

Not really

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2017 6:40 a.m. PST

I don't do them myself, but I've watched a good few under way, and I think Wackmole and Tom Reed are right--simple rules, and a sufficiency of umpires.
I'll add a third: you have to be able to break the lockstep somehow. Dividing into sectors is one way. What you really don't want is the umpire plaintively asking "now is everyone ready for the pursuit phase of Turn Five?" with 22 players standing there and two explaining that they have to have a question answered, and then they'll be ready to begin the melee phase which preceeds pursuit. The more you say "everyone must do X before anyone can start Y" the more players spend the game waiting or reading something.

Personal logo ACWBill Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2017 6:43 a.m. PST

Large games are just like any other convention games. If managed correctly, they are just as enjoyable as the small ones. I have run games with 5-6 players and games with 20. The key is having everyone engaged as quickly as possible. When I have a table over 12ft long, I always employ an assistant GM. Use simple or well known rules which require little rules lawyering. That will also speed the game along. The size alone does not govern the success of a game.

peterx Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2017 7:07 a.m. PST

I remember one game of Star Wars Capital Ships Combat in New Jersey at Dexcon. The whole room was the battle field/sector of space, and there were many custom cast very large battle cruisers, Imperial Cruisers that were 3-4 feet long. There may have been 40-50 players and the game was 5-6 hours long. Each turn took about and hour or 90 minutes. There were a bunch of GMs but it was chaotic. I had a group of three Tie Fighters. Very ineffective in a game like that. At one point, I was so bored I wanted to Kamakaze into a Rebel Battleship. The judges wouldn't let me because the Imperial side would never allow it. It was too evil? I left before the game was over at midnight or so. It looked gorgeous, but it was a dreadful game.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2017 7:12 a.m. PST

When I run large games, I make sure that it is set up so that multiple players can be taking their turns at once. Don't even worry much about synching up game turns across different sectors, only at moments when there is a direct cross-over of action.

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2017 8:21 a.m. PST

Only if there are multiple judges/game masters

Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2017 11:26 a.m. PST

Our club back in the 90s hosted large games of eight to twelve players, sometimes more, at various regional size conventions. We had four or five club members to help run the game. Having help is a big deal. Find someone, even if it is only one person and you have to buy their ticket.

It also helps if every player and GM is familiar with the rules. Newbies are great but they can slow things down. Maybe squeeze in one or two, but better to avoid.

Try to get a couple of experienced players to serve as division and corps commanders. They may not necessarily be pushing figures around other than their figure. They can help out with strategy and can also help keep the game moving. Some guys actually enjoy playing the part of upper echelon officers. Running things behind the scenes. Makes the GMs job a lot easier.

Make it clear at the beginning that we cannot be spending time looking in the rule book. Its a convention game and there is only so much time. In other words the GM doesn't have time to look up a rule just to show you he's right.

Make sure everyone gets a set of charts and formation diagrams. Avoid scenarios that have a lot of reinforcements. Start both sides close to each other. Minimize any long marches to the battlefield.

Ignore any rules that do not allow players to discuss strategy to one another or to have the commander figures actually meet each other on the table to discuss strategy. Let them speak freely.

Treat this game as a team sport. This is where your upper echelon officers comes into play. Preventing a less experience player from making a mistake that could wreck your game.

One last thing, playtest, playtest and playtest some more.

Personal logo ACWBill Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2017 12:00 p.m. PST

I agree with Rallynow on playtesting scenarios. If you have access to a club group, run it and ask for feedback. Run it again, with players on the opposite side to keep it interesting and get more feedback. If you get the same comments from one or more players, considering modifying the element in question for playability's sake.


ordinarybass18 Jul 2017 12:42 p.m. PST

"Huge" can mean alot of things. I'd say it can be a ton of fun but it really depends on how you do it. No matter how much effort they put into the figures and terrain, some rules just don't work well for big games. Far better -if necessary- to put asside one's own prefferences and plan everything around the actual situation which is usually a bunch of inexperienced players showing up with no knowledge of the game.

To that end, I think such games should be a specitacle, that is also playable, and well thought/planned out with the walk-up player in mind. Within those guidelines, every year myself and another club member put on a Big Mech Attack Battle at Adepticon.

You can see this year's incarnation here: link

Its designed to be eye ctaching so I basically fill an 8x10 table with a 28mm sci-fi city featuring everythign from industry to an elevated train line. All units are provided as well.

However, it's also supposed playable, so, the 8 players each have a moderate sized force that they are allowed to pick from a table of units that have been deliberately statted to be easy to use. Further, the rules we use are the very streamlined and easy to run "Mech Attack" which we've made even simpler for the convention game. Also, all players on a given team activate a unit simultaneously so there's very little down time.

As for well planned out, between club play and previous events we could probably throw something together the night before and no one would know the difference but we do playtest each years scenario (which usually features simple objectives) before putting on the game. Each year we're glad we do as there are always at least a few things we can tweak to make the game a bit better.

The result is that we can finish an 8 player battle with action that rarely slows and very little waiting around in less than 3 hours.

One other -even more impressive- example of an absolutely ginormous game that runs well is the "Fistful of Seamen" game I played in a few years back.
Dozens of ships and participants, amazing scenery/models and plenty judges made for a great game.

peterx Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2017 1:16 p.m. PST

Good advice, all. I was referring to games of 20-40 players or more. To me, a game of 8 or so players is a normal con game. I play test, and playtest some more for my games of 8-12 players. It does help. I also have my friend be a fellow GM to keep the game moving.

YogiBearMinis Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2017 1:38 p.m. PST

I have told many a convention GM "great game" in an effort to be nice, because I could see all of the effort that went into the figures, the terrain, and time and money to transport the game.

I could never have said, "Great terrain and figures, but a huge disappointment as a game because you let in too many players, too many of us sat around for huge chunks of time, and the responsibilities among players were very uneven."

All of you GMs who think your games "went great" need to keep this in mind. Few will tell you they had a lousy time, knowing how hard you worked.

GreenMountainBoy18 Jul 2017 5:24 p.m. PST

Years ago, I participated in a "pig Wars"game at a convention. It was huge and visually stunning. It was also the worst participation game I ever joined! I literally waited an hour to move, then rolled. "2" on d6 to move my figures.. 2 inches…., I gave up after 3 hours and making it 8" and not even close to engaging the enemy… it really turned me off to this type of large scale game… apparently, however, the guys at the far end the board got right into the action and had a blast…

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP19 Jul 2017 2:43 a.m. PST

As with any is "THIS TYPE OF GAME" fun questions, it depends highly on a lot of things, including secondary and higher level interactions of those things, other than a single characteristic.

Personal logo ACWBill Supporting Member of TMP19 Jul 2017 3:03 a.m. PST

@Yogi, when you have the same group of players join your big games year after year, who smile, laugh and enjoy themselves and come up and thank you for a great game; that is when I will state that it went well. Silence is an indicator that it did not go well. That is fairly easy to ascertain.


Personal logo Andrew Walters Supporting Member of TMP19 Jul 2017 7:41 a.m. PST

Big con games are the *best* fun, but the GM has to know what they're doing.

I've done this successfully a few times, and want to do it more. You need to remind people in advance of their turn what their options will be, give people time to enjoy their turn but no dither, make lots of comments referring to other players cunning or predicaments so everyone is involved, etc. It's a very exciting challenge. Obviously some systems are more suited to it than others.

I've done a mediocre job a couple times, too, but that was early on. I am sincerely anxious about people being bored, so I'm focused on not making people wait 30 minutes for a chance to do something.

But the big games are the best.

But when it works it's awesome.

ordinarybass19 Jul 2017 9:10 a.m. PST

Sounds like many folks bad experience with big games consist of waiting an hour for their turn while everyone else has their turn first.

Are these games where each player takes a turn on their own? That seems rather innane. Who is running these kind of games?

If sumultaneous action for everyone (as was the case with Fistful of Seamen) is not possible then it seems like some kind of simultaneous actions for all those on one side would be mandatory for an effective big-game.

Decebalus21 Jul 2017 3:57 a.m. PST


Big games can be fun. You need the right rules and organisation to have big games.

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