Furnace 2012 Con Report

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Furnace was great as always. Been every year, coined a catch phrase, nominated it for victory in the convention awards and well, yeah, I know, I’m nothing to do with organising it, but I’m going to steal whatever reflected glory I can get just for showing up…

It’s a friendly “Northern” convention (actually more Midlands, but try telling Southerners that) for about 70-80 people. Its held in the refurbished sandstone army barracks of yesteryear and a great venue, with lots of nearby facilities. You play wall to wall games and there’s not much room for much else. They have a FLGS trader who usually gets in stock related to games being played and will get extras in if you ask nicely in advance. There’s free tea and coffee throughout and downstairs is a traditional pub, so there’s food and booze aplenty.

With the loss of G-Unit this year, Bazatollah and the others being silent on the matter and no new monkeys to bring, it was me Sexy Lemur and Simon in it for the win. This did mean we could get there earlier as we weren’t waiting for Gary 2.0 to finish his homework, but regrettably without his navigator, our Pete got off the wrong junction of the motorway and started driving through city centre Nottingham in rush hour. Silly monkey. As a result we were there for our normal sort of time and rushed willy nilly for the bar to embrace the pre-con excitement.

The Garrison Hotel had rather thoughtlessly booked in a retirement party and closed of the majority of the available space, so we said some quick hellos and then found ourselves pressed into a tight corner eating our meals of a table about the size of a ten pence piece. We did manage to snare people on the way to and from the toilets so got some variety to the chatter and it was good to meet up with some old faces. We’re not getting any younger.

Slots had been rearranged to be slightly shorter, allowing longer meal breaks. I thought this was super ace and am glad the organisers went with the suggestion. Although it didn’t feel like masses of spare time, the extra half hour did result in no excessive rushing or flapping about. As I was running a couple of games back to back, I was particularly happy with this.

Slot 1 – Synthetic Dreams (Hot War) by me. I think all the players were new to the system and as it’s a jump to conflict resolution and requires players to drive things, that’s always a worry. However, all the gang seemed to get into the swing of things and although it probably went a little more sedately than in playtest, it still ended quite well (not necessarily for individual characters), and there was lots of drama along the way. All good fun. I’ll probably run this again at IndieCon, so I’ll not bang on about the good bits for fear of influencing future games.

Slot 2 – The Fog (Dead of Night) by me. I used my Tight Purse Harvey characters that have been doing the rounds of conventions for years now, although switching to a more hippy system rather than using Savage. Although things got a little bit surreal here and there, I think overall the game went well enough and there were certainly lots of laughs. I’d like to try a more serious DoN at some point, but I’m getting how GMing it works more now. Great bits including throwing enemy captains in the sea and weeing on them like they’re Heroquest, fighting hard not to eat the flesh of your own crew once you’ve turned, setting the boat you’re on on fire to get rid of the zombies and fast talking undead into a game of cards, among other shenanigans made it a fun session.

Slot 3 – Unamerican (Hot War) by Scott Dorward. Although written last minute and featuring a nervous GM, we all (Elina, Jamie, Andrew and I) dived into our respective characters from the off and wouldn’t let go. Fairly quickly things got tense and awkward and it was non-stop throughout. As Scott mentioned at the time, and I’ve said before, I’d rather have a blistering game that doesn’t last as long, than an average one that lasts the whole slot. I loved the part where I’d got Elina to start speaking in my terms accidentally before correcting herself and also the dynamic between the three other characters. Best session I had I think, even if my dice weren’t helping in key conflicts and I got hauled away by the authorities. Well, my character did.

Slot 4 – Uninvited Guests (Hot War / Cthulhu) by me. Coming off the back of a good playtest in the previous week and a great Hot War game the night before I was feeling fairly confident about this game. Regrettably it kind of stalled part way through and turned into a John Woo movie. This was partly due to me not insisting on some pretty strict stake setting, but there were other elements I’m not sure about too. I think it was a mix of players, some quiet, others forceful, some knew the system a bit or a lot and others had no idea, some people had lots of character, others not so much. With any luck the players thought it an okay session, all it ended early in the not-good way. I think for Furnace next time I’m going more trad for the Sunday and having a more old fashioned time of it.

Slot 5 – Where War Geese Dare (Mouseguard) by Guy Milner. Although I still can’t get my head round the whole mouse thing, the art work of the source material is great, the book and products are beautiful, and the stripped down Burning Wheel mechanics work a treat. Add to the this the murine GMing power of Guy and you’re on to something beautiful. I was under the misapprehension that this was going to be a WWII game (based on the title) with Nazi Weasels, but it was regular Mouseguard, but I hid my regret well I think. We dragged ourselves from a prison to inspire an army, fly War Geese and castrate a badger. I think you need to play this game drunk when I say it like that. Excellent fun with everyone getting into character and embracing the extended conflicts. I’d like to see Guy try more Player/GM turns to get a better grip of the wider system. Guy did express that he doubted he was man enough, but I’m convinced that with some extra encouragement its possible.

I also managed to squeeze in a couple of games of Android Netrunner, which makes me feel good. Its as good as I remember the old card game to be and beautifully polished for a night out on the town. Its only two player, but I’m probably going to get myself some anyway. I also picked up Star Wars X-Wing game. Its lonely fun without some more ships or someone else with a set, but I’ve made the first move now, so its up to the other gamers I know to get their act together.

The venue being a traditional pub made out of the remnants of a sandstone army prison barracks are great, although the staff are a little rough round the edges and booking extra events (there was a wedding on the Saturday too) makes things a little less polished than they could be, but its all good and much better than a lot of cons I’ve been to.

Great work from the committee as always, covering off people not having a game due to missing GMs with board game action and managing to make it all look effortless, although I imagine there was some frenetic paddling under the water at some points in the run up…

Furnace is all about the games. The 90 minute slot between game slots was a good idea and made things a lot better for everyone concerned from what I could see – including when I finished a session too early…

The only real regret is not finding enough time to chat to some of the good folks at the con. Furnace is all about the games, but it does mean you don’t get to catch up with some of the people you’d like to.

Big up junglin’ massive to everyone else who goes – the con seems to have one of the best groups of players and GMs, varieties of games and so on that we have in the UK. Its not broke. Don’t fix it.

Furnace 7 done, looking forward to Furnace 8 next year!

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