A little bit late, but let’s talk JiffyCon!

The JiffyCon Roadtrip was a whim inspired Rob asking me if I wanted to drive many hours to play games with some designers in Western Massachusetts. Because, well, I love road trips and gaming. Our friend Kate agreed to come along for gaming adventures.

JiffyCon is a small convention held in various locations in Massachusetts. The site rotates between JiffyCon West (the one we attended in Amherst) and JiffyCon East (in eastern Massachusetts). The Amherst location was at Hampshire College, local liberal arts college. Most of the games offered at the convention trended more indie or story focused. There’s no big organized play events and some of the games are run by local game designers.

My morning game with Ten Candles, GMed by game designer Stephen Dewey.

Yeah, this isnt going to end well.

Yeah, this isn’t going to end well.

I am a big fan of Ten Candles. The game popped up on Kickstarter when I was starting to get frustrated with survival horror games and local players who used the genre as an excuse to beat or break the game system. Ten Candles markets itself as tragic horror; none of the characters live through the end of the game. The game is more about what your character does to justify their existence in their last few hours. I’ve run the game for others but never played it myself.

The mechanics of the system involve – surprise – ten candles. As each scene passes, the candles go out one by one, eventually ending with the room pitch black and all of the characters dead. The game is brilliant in how it creates tension and atmosphere. It is a game heavy on gimmick, but the gimmick ties mechanically into the game and thematically into the play environment.

Stephen was a fabulous GM who created a terrible situation with no good exit. I felt that the party could have been stronger in exploring the content. Ten Candles is a game that benefits from players who want to push themselves to create an intense story. Our party included people who hadn’t roleplayed in a long time and were vexed about their characters dying at the end of the game.

Aces Gonna Ace. Until The Leader Tosses Them From the Ship.

Aces gonna ace… until The Leader tosses them from the ship.

My afternoon game was Hearts Blazing, facilitated by one of the game’s designers, Glenn Givern

Hearts Blazing is a card-based story game where players create a 12 episode science fiction tv show. Each player is given a different Archetype and Motive ; the Archetype gives some idea of who your character is while the Motive is what your character wants. The Motives direct the players to what episodes they want to bid high on. Players bid on episode cards to get points related to their Motive while at the same time the party has to collectively bid high enough that the episode ends in the party’s favour.

The game was a little bit shaky in the first episode. There’s a lot of game concepts to learn on top of trying to figure out who your character is. Simpler starting character ideas work better as players have a whole season to figure who their character is in more detail. The story found its legs by the third episode and ran smoothly for the rest of the game. Thankfully, episodes are fairly short and this learning curve didn’t take very long.

This was my first time playing the system and I’m keen on playing around with it more. The card-based mechanics and the ability to step away from direct roleplaying would make it a good fit for newer or more inexperienced roleplayers. A lot of the game references common science fiction touchstones and strives to make its content accessible even if the player hasn’t seen a particular series.

I think there’s a lot of potential for playing around with the game’s pacing with a role play heavy group. For example, have a more roleplaying focused session that only explores three or four episodes instead of trying to fit all 12 episodes into one sitting. I am super excited for our copy to arrive later this year.

In general, it was great to go to a low key gaming convention and not have to worry about any convention organizing. We just showed up and played games! How novel! It’s strange to take a break from organizing and just be an attendee. All of the convention ran smoothly and signing up for games was easy.

The gamer community in Pioneer Valley was really welcoming. I felt the same about Queen City Conquest as well last fall, so maybe this is just a thing with smaller American conventions. I guess we struck them as a little strange to drive nine hours for a tiny convention; we were the weird little Canadians who didn’t have enough sleep. I enjoyed the after party and I’m sad we couldn’t make the pre-con party. Hopefully we can change that in future years.

The one downside to how small Amherst is was finding a place to stay. We ended up in a hotel down the highway in West Springfield because finding an affordable hotel close to Amherst was impossible. There’s lots of cheap places to stay outside of Springfield, but it is a little bit of a hike to Amherst.

Take 5 bar are not an RPG. But they should be.

Take 5 bars are not a RPG. But they should be.

And finally, one of the most awesome parts of American gaming conventions is SHOPPING. The high cost of shipping sometimes makes it hard to get games in Canada, particularly impulse purchases. Here’s what we picked up:

Birds are Amazing – A very simple and silly game. The $2 is worth the delighted reactions of friends who read it.
B X B (Boy X Boy) – A game based on dating sim video games. I’ve heard that this game has mixed reviews. I collect anime-themed RPGs and this one is out of print, so I still bought it.
Fall of Magic – A beautiful story game that uses a scroll as part of the game. This was one of the games I knew we had to leave the states with. It’s simply stunning and worth the high sticker price. However, our copy was incomplete and was missing part of the scroll. It’s off for repairs and we haven’t played it yet.
InSpectres – Ghostbusters meets reality TV. Another older game. I’ve never seen it physically in print before and picked it up in hopes of running it for a public event. It’s content is fairly accessible.
Mobile Frame Zero: Firebrands – Mecha game that’s Powered By The Apocalypse, but in a new and really interesting way. Easily my favourite game of 2016 so far. We have a set of books that Rob made from the PDFs. I bought a set of the PAX East books because I coveted them.
Psi*Run – Psychics on the run. This game was one of Rob’s picks and I admittedly don’t know too much about it. It seems like it treads some of the themes of Don’t Rest Your Head from a different angle.
The Quiet Year – A map-making, post-apocalyptic game. I had been intending to pick this one up for a while and just never got around to it. I’m going to be running this soon.
Ten Candles – FINALLY! I kickstarted at the PDF level and missed out on the book.
Traction Park – A Read-Out-Loud Text Adventure RPG. I bought this because of what seemed like a reference to the infamous Action Park. I want to do something with this, but haven’t decided what yet.

In short, I had a great time. I’m hoping we can get back out in the future.

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