At least this past weekend, it was for many people.

Dreamation took place in the Morristown Hyatt, and my boyfriend (who loves games of all kinds) was thrilled that it was in his new backyard!  It is a game convention run by Double Exposure, Inc., with back-to-back games from Thursday to Sunday.

I’ve learned that my boyfriend is right – every person has a game.  They may not know it, because they just haven’t found it yet.  Do you have a game that you like?  Monopoly, Scrabble, Dungeons and Dragons, Risk, Magic the Gathering, Fluxx, computer games, Xbox or Playstation?  If you’ve heard of it, chances are it was played at this event!

Upon registering, you see large printouts of a grid schedule – divided into role playing games, board games, war games, video/computer games, and more.  Overwhelming as it is, there are so many tables that you are sure to find a spot at one of them and many of the games are open to all skill levels.  The dealers room had vendors selling many of the games played at the event and more, if you wanted to take some home.

A steampunk board game shocks this player

A steampunk board game shocks this player

For the afternoon, my boyfriend and his friend signed up for one of the war games called “Zombie Outbreak Level 3”.  I had to run out briefly in the middle of the game period, so I didn’t sign up to play, but was able to help play the role of the zombies while I was there.  Several large tables were pushed together with a city layout of streets, buildings, cars, and wreckage of a post-zombie attack world.  While the rules were roughly based on other war games, this was the custom creation of the game master (GM).

Upon each players turn, they have a number of actions their group of humans (military, gangs, or civilians) would take to outrun or outfight the zombies.  The zombies themselves have a turn as well, advancing on the humans as they search for brains to eat.

Military trying to hold their position against the zombies

Military trying to hold their position against the zombies

The winner is the first one to get their human team (or remnants of their team) in a vehicle and out of the city.  Four hours later and several teams successfully escaped, although my boyfriend’s gang was killed off.  I had never played a war game before but it was entertaining and many times played out like scenes in a movie.

We had a quick dinner break while we made evening plans.  Our other friends decided to play Blokus (a team based board game similar to Tetris) then enter the poker championship, where one came in 15th place.  The rest of us decided to play a live action role playing game, or LARP, about vampires.

I should explain that my boyfriend has played LARPs for years, though not the specific one we played that night.  He’s been trying to get me to try it, and it seemed like a good time to test it out.  I was thankful for my Burning Man costume collection, as once we decided to play it took a half hour to come up with three costumes for our vampire personas.

I felt like I was being thrown in the deep end of the pool and didn’t know how to swim – we worked up character backgrounds (I was a 1920’s flapper named Rose, turned vampire and currently an artist/fashion designer.  He was a Chicago mob boss and the one who “turned” me.  His friend played a psychotic schitzophrenic vampire who gave everyone the willies.)  From there on out, it was like walking into a play where you know your character, and the situation, but there is no script.

They were easy going enough on beginners and I learned quickly that you can ask pretty much anything during the game, but if you are “out of character” you put your hand on top of your head so others know whether it’s you or your character speaking at any time.

Several of the organizers/key players were excellent, taking this beyond watching theatre and beyond murder mystery parties to try to immerse you in the action.  I was never one for creative spontaneous action, so I tried to play my character but took comfort in following the leads of my boyfriend as our characters would have acted similarly.  We wandered around the hotel, which became a trip to the underworld where we tried to battle/bring back a spirit slave.  Battles are fought with your characters skill points in various areas and drawing a playing card – adding certain points to the card value gave you the “strength” of the move or hit, and your opponent had a chance to dodge or fight back.

The final battle of the night was against two creatures who are the kind of thing that scare even vampires.  Much of the story line was told in descriptive words rather than actually being presented to you, and as we battled the two creatures in a conference room the GM described mystical energy lines, disappearing and reappearing extra limbs, and the effect of our attacks against the creatures.

The one thing about LARPing is time goes at a different pace.  While we often were sitting and talking in a virtual vampire conference in real time, a battle that takes a few minutes actually plays out over an hour or so as points are totalled and cards are drawn.  I didn’t expect to have energy to make it to the end but wanted to see it out, and struggled to wrap my brain around the points/hits in battle at a bleary 4 am in the morning.

In the end, the vampires won (which is good), the warring factions of vampires came together for a brief truce to face the common danger, but one never knows what will happen next.

We were all a bit bleary here at 4:30 am after playing.  Though, we were vampires so lets just blame the impending sunrise for our exhaustion...

We were all a bit bleary here at 4:30 am after playing. Though, we were vampires so let's just blame the impending sunrise for our exhaustion... I'm in the red wig.

Whether any of these events fit your fancy, or you are loyal to an old school board game, it’s definitely worth checking out.  Double Exposure runs two large events a year, and Dexcon 12 will take place July 8-12, 2009 again at the Morristown Hyatt.

(I have some more photos to upload tonight, will add a link here when I do.)