It is safe to say that the return of the Con was what I really needed to recharge my batteries about the Lord of the Rings Community. Don’t get me wrong, the community is awesome. But what *I* need is some live play and conversations with people who understand my obsession with a card game. This past weekend fit the bill.
After 18 months of pandemic gaming, online meet-ups, podcasting, and blogging, it was nice to turn off the computer, put down the phone, hang up discord and get the cards on the table with 100 or so fellow players.
The excitement in the room at check in at the first day of the Con was palpable. The energy, contagious. But, I should start at the beginning, because that’s where all epic adventures start.
With little issue, I landed at the airport and I ended up at the hotel by 11:00 PM and there were already several players questing in the lobby to prepare for Friday’s games. I ran into some old faces from the last Con and some new ones. It was a combination of excitement and relief. Excitement to see folks like Steven and David playing with their gaming group in the hotel lobby . Excitement to see new faces like Carl, Greg, Jim, and Joshua. Excitement to get some live games in with Sean. Relief to know that a pandemic and a hiatus can’t keep the community down. Relief that the passion for the game is still high. Midnight pizza was ordered, the night was perfect.
With the 10 AM Check-in my rearview mirror, I was able to sit down at the Con immediately with Shane and Autumn for my first live multiplayer game in what seems like forever and the game was awesome, but, as is always the case in this community, the fellowship was more awesome. I started the official Con with a win: Umbar *and* with who I played with.
The day progressed like a whirlwind. I was handing out swag, playing games, meeting folks, reacquainting myself with old friends. It was phenomenal.
At 6 or so, my official Con Friday was winding down for the day because, as is his usual, Caleb invited content creators to his house for the 3rd annual Mt. Doom BBQ. It’s his way to honor us who produce content. Also, it was the only way that I was going to see him this weekend because he decided that with COVID still very much a reality, he was going to skip the Con. I talked to him briefly about it, and he really wanted to come because Lord of the Rings will always hold a special place in his heart, but with two children yet to be vaccinated, he chose to keep them safe and not risk any infection. The Mt. Doom barbeque took place outside and it was a way for us to just unwind and chat with each other in person. Over an outdoor fire pit, not surprisingly, many of us just talked about life. And Caleb’s neighbors. And comedians. It was refreshing.
At 11 PM we get back to the hotel and games are going strong in the lobby. I join a game of 3 player nightmare Wastes of Eriador followed by the same quest 2 players. I finally hit the sack close to 2 AM.
As Con Day 2 began, I volunteered to work the desk. Epic Multiplayer Dreadnaught was on the schedule and it is the first extravaganza quest right out of the gate. I wasn’t playing it (the whole volunteering thing), but I did end up in front of the Game Zenter with a whiteboard that showed what the players need to do: quest through the first stage with 608 quest points. That’s right. 608.
As the game progressed, in almost an auction style, I would yell to see how much progress players are making and they would yell in reply. I kept tally. After about 40 minutes, the second stage flips and 79 players are faced with a giant ship that has a HUGE 1185 hit points. The ship must be sunk! After 593 damage, the ship flipped and it became a more powerful adversary, and, in the end the final damage was cast upon the ship and it was sunk. I would hazard a guess that it was the biggest game of Dreadnaught ever played and, to cap it off, the designer of that quest was in the room. Jeremy Zwern spent almost all day Saturday at the Con. While I don’t want to put words in his mouth, I got the sense that he was full of pride at what he created and what had taken place. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll come on a future show to talk about his favorite card. And design. And who knows what else.
At the Con that day, I ended up playing just one game because, spoiler alert, the Ered Mithrin quests in 4 player are LONG. After dreadnaught ended, I played a three hour game of Withered Heath and lost on the last stage because my One Ring/Eomer/Eagle deck threated out during an epically long fight with the Cold-Drake.
For me, the gaming (at the Con) ended around 7:30 PM and many of us went to an off site party at the local Buffalo Wild Wings. Some stayed behind. To highlight the difference between Ted and I, he stayed to game, I went to B-dubs. You know him. Not only does he like to talk about cards, he likes to play cards. There was much fellowship and merriment at Bdubs. Party games and conversations about movies “you watched when you were a kid that you thought were awesome but now know are trash but you still probably watch them” were the highlight of the evening.
By 11 PM or so, I was back to the hotel lobby and, as a palette cleanser, we played four player Treachery of Rhudaur and won and then I played a 2 player game of Across the Ettenmoors and we smashed it. It felt good to get some retribution for the loss against Withered Heath. Bed time was just before 4 AM
Sunday at the Con was an interesting mix of feelings. It is, by far, the most chill day at the Con with many folks using it as a travel day and others just laying low after two days of high energy gaming. For me, I was ready to get through a few quests. The day started with Epic Multiplayer Fire in the Night. This quest was designed by Joe, The Purple Wizard and Thomas, Mr.Thomnas. They have created two other Epic Multiplayer versions of quests, Cobas Haven and Helm’s Deep. I’ve had the privilege of playing all three. And Fire in the Night was amazing. I really appreciated the game mechanics introduced in the game. In my opinion, this was their best quest of the three. They have a really good handle on mechanics that force teams to interact and make collective decisions about the game. This quest had many of those decisions and playing it live made it feel even more like the Dragon was burning down our village.
As Sunday wound down, I was able to get a few more games in with folks I don’t normally play with. Despite losses for the rest of the day, it was a win to play live with so many people that I rarely get to see in person.
So here I am. In the airport on my way back to New Jersey. I have to work tomorrow. Life goes back to normal. As I reflect on the weekend, Con of the Rings was just what the game needed, what the community needed. It gave so many of us something to talk about. But, you know what? Con of the Rings was just what I needed.