My Mid-Winter Game Break

Game conventions can be lots of fun, but holding your own “mini con,” with your closest friends, can be even better.

Last weekend was the second annual Mid-Winter Game Break, in which my old college buddy Tim Ryan, his Indianapolis gamer buddy David Wolfe, and I rent a hotel suite near Chicago and play games from Friday night through Monday at noon checkout. Rob King joins us on Saturday morning and stays until late that evening.

The hotel provides a satisfying breakfast buffet—with biscuits and gravy at least one day, pancakes and bacon or sausage on the others, and always scrambled eggs, oatmeal, cottage cheese, pineapple, juice, coffee, and muffins. A pair of waffle irons add another option. So we don’t have to go out until lunch, if then. We stock the kitchenette with crackers, cheese, nuts, chips, various beers, and M&Ms. I bring a bottle of good quality tequila or vodka.

This year, we started Friday night with Invasion of the Saucer People! which I’m happy to say Dave and Tim enjoyed. (Three players is optimum for that game.)

Saturday morning while waiting for Rob to show we played MonsterCon! which also went over well. Once Rob arrived, we finished the morning with a satisfying session of the backstabbing classic Wiz War (I won). After lunch, Tim ran a roleplaying session set in outer space, which started out like Traveller but later morphed into Call of Cthulhu. The Mi-Go weren’t too happy that we screwed up their delivery of human brains.

After lunch at Champs sports bar (now officially a tradition), we played two sessions of the Buffy board game, once with Dave running the Mayor (handily defeated), and once with me as the Judge (nearly bested at the start—Oz found the arm on the first turn, and Willow immediately found the Spell of Living Flame, then failed the casting—but Evil triumphed in the end). Rob had to leave shortly thereafter, and the rest of us called it a night.

Sunday morning after breakfast we ran to Games Plus and shopped for a while. Dave picked up an Arkham source book and a couple of minis; Tim a copy of Monsters Menace America, and me a trio of games: Vampire: Prince of the City, Bloodlust! and Cthulhu 500. We returned to play Condottiere (the Jeux Descartes edition), in which Dave pulled a win I not only didn’t see coming but didn’t realize for a moment had even transpired! Next up was Bloodlust! a vampire board game that, frankly, should have never been published. (The rules are confusing; the components contradict one another; the printing is too dark to read; the tracks are clumsy; and most importantly, there’s virtually no strategy involved. I won through nothing but luck.) Then we tried Monsters Menace America and had a grand old time. Dave pulled the win in that one, with a Godzilla-like monster, though my giant walking lobster-man had looked to be the favorite at the monster showdown. We went out for dinner at Benihana’s, then crashed for the evening.

Monday morning, after breakfast, Tim and Dave asked to play Condottiere again (which I had brought), and this time Tim managed to best us, though it was a bitter fight. We were left with enough time to try Cthulhu 500, which turned out to be a great game, full of humor, but also a solid design. Dave’s Sport Cthutility Vehicle got a questionable win over my Fearrari (he’d been reading one mod card incorrectly most of the game), with Tim’s Vehicle Man Was Not Meant to Drive bringing up the rear.

In all, this year’s Mid-Winter Game Break was even more satisfying than last year’s. Good friends, good games, good food, good drinks, a comfortable hotel suite, and nowhere else to be for three days. I’m left savoring many thoroughly satisfying moments, and immediately upon returning home ordered a copy of Monsters Menace America myself, then started researching fan-generated Buffy board game scenarios online. There’s a “Hush” treatment that I’m just dying to try!

If you’ve never set up your own game weekend with a few old friends in a hotel suite, do yourself the favor. (You might even consider inviting me along!)

3 thoughts on “My Mid-Winter Game Break

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  • March 4, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    As a father of four adult daughters, I place myself at some hazard to say this, but here goes: When you’re young, a “lack of chicks” (as you put it) reflects poorly on your social skills; but when you’re older it’s sometimes called “escape.” 😀

  • March 2, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    Wonderful stuff! We usually game for a few hours at a high school friend’s New years Eve party, usually Risk plus something else (Killer Bunnies and Farkle this year), but it’s hardly a mini-con’s worth, not even a micro-con’s worth. It is, alas, just New year’s Eve, after all. Ah, but the old high school days, where we would game Friday night, Saturday afternoon-early Sunday morning, and sometimes Sunday afternoon, as well. What freedom! What … lack of chicks…. 🙁

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