I ran a game of Grimdark Future Firefight at C3 GameCon last month! I’ve run many convention games before, and it’s always a real joy to welcome new players to the table and give them a glimpse at this wonderful hobby that has brought so much happiness and creativity to my life.
For this game, I selected Grimdark Future Firefight because I wanted to get my gorgeous infected city terrain onto the battlefield. This was a batch of terrain that I commissioned from Morti5 Studios a couple years ago … my pandemic splurge, as I recall. It’s a big setup, and I haven’t had very many opportunities to get it all onto the table at the same time. That changed last month!
The best advice I can give to anyone who is considering running a convention game is this: “Focus on the spectacle.” Get your best terrain and your most impressive painted miniatures onto the table. You want to attract peoples’ attention, to have them walk across the room to inspect your little miniature world, and have them say “What IS that?!” in a breathless tone of voice. If they do that, you’ve won before a single die has been rolled.
Pick a game that’s simple to teach and explain, and then strip out all the superfluous content. Don’t worry too much about game balance. Toss out special rules and anything that slows down gameplay. A convention game is not the time for flipping through a rulebook. Make sure each player has some cool figures that perform exactly like they’re modeled to behave – the guy with the big gun goes boom, the rogue in the cloak is good at sneaking around, the barbarian charges into battle. Just aim to give the players a taste of the general gameplay and provide a few opportunities for them to explore deeper strategies. If they like the game, they’ll do all the additional research on their own.
Anyway, my game had four players with some basic background in tabletop RPGs, but none had played Grimdark Future Firefight. No problem! I provided printouts of the 2-page rules document as well as prepared teams of commando operatives for each player.
The scenario pitted the four players against two GMs (me and my buddy Daniel). We’d be managing a city full of plague zombies, and they would be running the infiltration teams tasked with killing the zombies and retrieving the data cores from deep inside the infected city.
The game unfolded exactly as I’d hoped, with the players whispering about strategy as they warily eyed the roaming hordes of plague zombies arrayed against them. Who’s gonna take the left flank? What about that bunker full of zombies? Grimdark Future Firefight is a pretty simple game, and after a short explanation they were chucking dice and pushing plastic around the table.
The scenario (players against the GM) is one I’d definitely recommend for future convention games. It was structured so the players couldn’t lose – the only question was how badly they would beat up the zombies before we hit our turn limit and the game ended. This led to lots of high fives and backslaps as the players laid waste to the zombies and generally felt awesome. Again, this is a key goal of a convention game: make your players feel like they’re capable and in control.
We got plenty of onlookers as the game progressed, due in large part to the impressive terrain setup. At the end, to no one’s surprise, the players emerged victorious – though we all agreed that it was a pyrrhic victory, and that the commandos were almost certain to be slaughtered once night fell and the zombies regrouped.
Once again Grimdark Future Firefight gave a great game that was perfect for newcomers. After the game, each player received their very own custom purple dice emblazoned with our game group’s logo – the Majestic Gamers. You can see a pile of them in the lower right in the pic above.
As I was packing up, two other guys from my game group (Lawrence and Paul) were arriving to set up the next session – an introduction to WarCry! Like me, they also had a full house and seemed to have a blast teaching new players about this fun game.
Thanks to the fine organizers of C3 GameCon for giving us space to host a fun afternoon of gaming! We’ll definitely be back next year.