Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ken Hite's Out Of The Box: GAMA Trade Show

A lot of this is probably already known, but some may not be. Ken's always got the good inside information on things.

Ken Hite's Out Of The Box: GAMA Trade Show

"GAMA Globulin Injection: GTS 2005 Con Report

"Vegas, baby, Vegas. This year, I cleverly got my cold in London, and shook it well before the show started, so I was able to nearly kill myself instead with drink and late nights. That's how it's supposed to work. The game industry, meanwhile, has yet to kill itself with anything, and if the general tone of blinking tentativeness is to be believed, we may have finally found the floor on this elevator. Nobody was so bold as to predict terrific new performance this year, but everybody seemed to think they'd be back next year, which is something.

"It's especially something, because the Riviera, the new home of the GAMA Trade Show, is a dive. Everybody I talked to expressed amazement that they actually missed the seedy, distant, rundown Orleans compared to the shabby, amateurish, uncomfortable Riviera. Unfortunately, there was similar agreement that the convention facility at the Riviera was, in fact, worlds better, and the GAMA staff did rather better than simply not screw up a good thing on their end. My personal business at the show was fair to middling, but it's a rebuilding year for those of us who have pretty much priced themselves out of the pure writing market. At the show, I assisted freelance superstars Matt Forbeck, Aaron Rosenberg, Keith Baker, and legal mastermind Brian Lewis with the freelance seminar track -- we presented the same seminars twice, during show floor hours the second time, neither of which struck me as particularly clever. Oh well, no doubt the 20 attendees (total, of all four seminars) benefited from the individual attention, and one of them was nice enough to buy us dinner Wednesday night, so it worked out well for me. I don't have attendance figures for the show as a whole, although it seemed about the same as last year -- call it 800 to 1,000 'buyer badges' and leave it at that for now.

"Among the buyees, it was also about the same, although White Wolf's booth was more aggressive, and Games Workshop was there primarily plugging their Black Library fiction line and the upcoming Warhammer Fantasy Role Play relaunch (designed by Green Ronin, shipping at the end of this month), rather than scattering orks all over the place. After several years absent, Palladium was back; Kevin Siembieda assured me that Splicers (their new, interesting sounding game of biotech war) had come out last year, and that a review copy was on its way. I likewise assured him that a review of the new edition of Beyond the Supernatural was also on the way, and we parted friends as always. Taking Palladium's crown this year as the most interesting non-attendee was Chaosium -- rather than buy a booth, Charlie Krank and Dustin Wright hit the corridor outside the hall for about five hours, met with everyone they needed to see, and left again. Let us devoutly hope this practice doesn't catch on at other shows, as I could be left with nowhere to store my swag pile.

"The Magic May Return

"The biggest news of the show was probably the Shadowrun 4th Edition announcement from FanPro. The setting jumps to 2070, the rules all change (of course), and we get a new Matrix to fly around in in our big black trench coats. Sounds exciting, as this will be the chance the FanPro folks have to truly reinvent the setting and make it their own. It's due to bow at GenCon, so get your pre-reg badge now. (This assumes you weren't already pre-registering to line up for your GenCon release copy of Mage: the Awakened from White Wolf, of course.) The other big debut at the show was Peter Adkison's new game, Clout. It's designed by Jesper 'Hills Rise Wild' Myrfors, and it's basically tiddlywinks or marbles, only with poker chips. I played it at the show, and it's fun enough, although unlike James Ernest's 'bocce skirmish minis' game Diceland, I didn't find myself writing variants on it the instant I started playing. Take that for what you will.

"Also, City of Heroes returns to the adventure game market from whence its creators sprang, to spawn a new CCG (from Alderac), and a new RPG (from Eden Studios). The CCG is due in November; the RPG will be out in July, according to the current word on Eden Street. This will accompany their Army of Darkness RPG, in time for the fourth movie in the 'Ash' series.

"And Many Many More

"Sovereign Press announced a non-d20 Firefly RPG, called the Serenity RPG, and more interestingly, a new Tom Wham card game, Dancing Dragons, both expected this summer. West End has TORG 1.5 coming out as a bridge to the upcoming TORG 2.0 release. WizKids gave away Dark Phoenix (I think), and was pushing both their clicky and foldy empires (pulp space combat game Rocketmen: Axis of Evil debuts this fall), along with a new game with a modular board. Speaking of pulp, Pulp Hero is the big GenCon release from Hero Games, which will be nice to see. Fantasy Flight was hitting their board game lines hard -- I wangled a copy of 'Axis & Allies & Orcs,' or War of the Ring, and was promised a new Arkham Horror boardgame by May. They'll also be revamping their 'Sauron won' setting Midnight for a second edition, 3.5-compatible release in May.

"Ann Dupuis of Grey Ghost is almost entirely sure that this summer we'll have that Deryni Adventure Game at long last, as well as a huge 320-page hardcover 10th-anniversary FUDGE RPG core book. Steve Jackson Games had Munchkin life-counters to give away, more Munchkin to plug, and the upcoming SPANC card game to demo. A discreet copy of GURPS Infinite Worlds was visible at the booth, for discerning cognoscenti."