Along with the pictures I took at PAX East – mostly of the predictably solid tabletop and arcade sections – here are some brief thoughts and reactions:
Played a couple hours of D&D with some pre-rolled characters. That was more fun than I expected.
The expo floor and PC freeplay were both a lot bigger this year, which meant that the storefront and tabletop areas got shrunk. In fact, the tabletop area was packed for most of both Saturday and Sunday.
Tried to get into the Diablo III line, but it was super long every time we showed up, even first thing on Easter Sunday.
In fact, the PC freeplay sessions were limited to a mere 30 minutes this year, which was really not long enough to get a good session in. We heard rumors of a lot of political turmoil around the PC
Driver: San Francisco has a really cool premise, and I enjoyed the driving physics a lot.
We played a whole lot of tabletop. Power Grid is interesting, but it's lonngggg, and I can understand the criticism of calling it "Excel: The Game".
Small World is fantastic; I would have bought it immediately if it wasn't $60.
Magical Athlete is way more fun than it deserves to be.
Saboteur was a wonderful game for a group of 8 people who all only sorta knew each other.
Boy am I glad PAX East will be in Boston for ten more years. I was worried that after this year, it'd move elsewhere on the east coast. Nice to know it's staying.
PAX East disorganized thoughts
I’m still a little too tired to intelligently compose all of my thoughts about this weekend’s PAX East, but I’m going to do my best.
Without a doubt, the best part of the weekend was the half a dozen times we trekked up to the room with a bunch of standup machines from the American Classic Arcade Museum. Brian tried to get anywhere at all in Dragon's Lair (and succeeded, I think). M and I played Frogger and Pong (both predate a "free play" dip, so you had to get free tokens from an attendant). We played a whole bunch of Flash Gordon pinball. The graphics on Asteroids are eye-piercingly bright. Ms. Pac-Man has legs and she chases furbees. Winner of the award for "game I never heard of before but loved": Omega Race.
The worst part of the weekend was the Friday night concert. The concert itself, actually, not so bad. But we showed up about 90 minutes early for the line to get good seats in the balcony. And then what do they do? They force the people in the front of the line to fill in from the sides first. Guh. We argued our point and the excellent Enforcer agreed and let us move. But then the concert started like an hour late and I didn't want to listen to three hours of opening acts to get to MC Frontalot. So I listened to the Protomen and then told myself I'd see Frontalot another time.
PC freeplay was fantastic. A couple hundred high-end computers all set up and networked and with a bunch of Steam games loaded up. We played hours and hours of Left 4 Dead 2. I think I might buy it.
Console freeplay was also good, especially if you show up early. We went first thing both Saturday and Sunday, and was able to grab a game with almost zero wait. But by the time we left each day, there was a big crowd. Played some Boom Blox (which I was told by an passer-by is the "best Wii game"), and Little Big Planet.
The expo floor on Friday: a madhouse, totally terrible. On Sunday: much better. Big ups to Slam Bolt Scrappers, a fun indie multi-player Tetris-inspired battle strategy game, and Split/Second, a beautiful racing game that gets the HUD just right (i.e. almost none at all).
3D displays were all the rage, especially at the nVidia booth. Worth it? Sometimes. Will they take off? Not sure. Raise your hand if you're looking forward to wearing special glasses to play games.
Starcraft II was at the nVidia booth (or maybe just near it), but the line was about five people deep and it was clear that everyone wanted fifteen minutes with the game. They could have planned that booth better.
Wil Wheaton was great. He mentioned Pandemic during his keynote, and implied that it was a fun co-op board game. We tried two or three times to get it from the library, and the one time it was available, I didn't take it because it's a 4-player game and we had a group of seven. Since then, I've heard two or three negative reviews so I'm not sure what to think anymore.
We did get Bang! from the library, which was great fun. We also played a bunch of Fluxx (including the Monty Python flavor) and Munchkin Fu (ninjas) and Munchkin Booty (pirates) at the same time. I won a Munchkin silver piece when an Enforcer walked by just as we were packing up.
The Hynes Convention Center is kind of a dump, and was clearly not big enough for the crowds. I hope they move it to the BCEC next year. PAX East has a three-year contract, but I think the two conference centers are managed by the same company, which would hopefully make moving it pretty easy. Update 29 Mar, 2pm: Huzzah, confirmed! PAX East 2011 and 2012 will be at the BCEC!
Added 29 Mar, 2pm: The swag bags you got at the door in contained a really small (30 cards?! Really?) but playable Magic: The Gathering deck. Firstly, I hope the guy who came up with the pre-built Magic deck got promoted. Secondly, we were able to sit down in line and start playing four-person Magic games without having to try to remember the rules at all. There were several "riding a bike" similes made.