Overall, the first PAX East convention was awesome, but somewhat of a mixed bag. I won't write about the negatives too much, so let me get them out of the way.
Each room of the Hynes Convention Center was undersized for its purpose. The main event room only held about 5,000 out of the ~45,000 present each day. The opening ceremonies (Wil Wheaton keynote + first Mike and Jerry Q&A) filled up and we still waited over an hour in line to get turned away at the door. Panel rooms were so small that attendance typically required 45-60 minutes of queue-ing. Tabletop gaming was split into eight rooms across two floors!
Coordination needs improvement. The enforcers need team leaders with walkie-talkies. The halls needed more signage about where you are going and what's nearby. Panels needed better organization, like the track system Dragon*Con uses.
The con should be open a full three days. Doors did not open until 2pm on Friday and things wrapped up around 6pm on Sunday. I would like to see doors open at 10am on Friday. There just wasn't enough time to do everything. Heck, I didn't fully explore the Expo Hall or even SEE the console and computer game rooms. I elected to skip panels altogether in lieu of better time management. I only briefly saw the Rock Band room, but would have liked to play a song or two with friends.
OK, enough dragging PAX East down. They are moving to a bigger convention center next year and will have all the feedback they need from this year.
We brought an entire suitcase of games to PAX East. Not kidding. 3x Dominion games, Puerto Rico, Power Grid, Race for the Galaxy + expansion, Hoopla, We Didn't Playtest This + Either, Battlestar Galactica, Mix-Up, and some Magic: The Gathering decks.
Mostly, we played Dominion, but there was also a game of BSG and some rounds of Hoopla and RftG.
Josh and I entered the Puerto Rico tournament. To prove how much we've played the game, we took second and third, respectively. About 25 players signed up, half were scrubs, and two significant players didn't make it to the final game of four. Josh and I both played Factory games in our first two matches to great success. In the final game, I took an early lead as a Corn Baron but lost momentum towards the end. The guy who took first place played a similar Indigo Baron strategy, but when pressured by coffee and tobacco ship blocking, responded with a Wharf where I responded with Harbor and crop diversification. In retrospect, I should have gone Wharf over Harbor. No regrets, though! We had a blast and I even got my medal signed by Wil Wheaton!
We befriended Chris from Asmadi Games and he played some games with us Saturday night and Sunday. Look forward to meeting up with him again at Dragon*Con this fall.
The classic console game room was a little eye-watering. They had several stations setup with functional consoles from Atari to Dreamcast. A vast library of games could be checked out for all the systems. So cool to see folks playing classics like Armored Core, Mario Kart SNES, Battletoads, Goldeneye, and so much more.
Oh my God, the concerts. First off, I was sure I wasn't getting into either night of concerts based on the size of the event room. However, I got insanely lucky and was able to walk into the room on both nights, just in time to see the acts I wanted to play. Both nights, technical difficulty and other delays turned into brilliant timing for me.
On Friday, I saw The Protomen and Anamanaguchi. I had heard The Protomen's self-titled album once or twice and figured they were worth checking out. Holy hell, they were. I was completely blown away by The Protomen's showmanship. Make-up, costumes, atmosphere, choreography... total mind blowage. I've never seen so much fist-pumping in my life. Definitely check out their work and see their show if you like their style.
Anamanaguchi was fun to see live, but I think the sound levels were off. My favorite part of their act is the chip tune music, but on stage their guitars were way overpowering. The front man was very cheerful and it was easy to tell he was as happy to be there as we were. They played some new tunes and it's clear they have a bright future. Absolutely check out their cheery chip tune rock if you haven't yet.
On Saturday, I showed up just in time to see Paul and Storm hit the stage with Wil Wheaton for this magical sketch- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_IRwTtkZEI I had never seen Paul and Storm or Jonathan Coulton live before. It was definitely a treat. Paul and Storm are superb musical comedians who write catchy folk music. Their ability to engage the audience was inspiring and entertaining. I've been listening to JoCo songs for years now, but seeing him live was also a treat. I didn't get anything super special outside live performance of his work. OK, OK, the Distract-a-tron was cool.
As most of you probably know, I'm a big fan of Wil Wheaton. I've been reading his blog for years and love him to death. I won't call him the Jesus Christ of Gaming, but he is absolutely the King of Gamers. Even though I missed the keynote, I did get to see him every day of PAX. He walked right in front of us in line for the keynote on Friday. He came through the Sheraton lobby as we were playing Battlestar Galactica and talked to us for a bit about the game. Then on Sunday, I waited in line to see him and get my Puerto Rico medal signed. Lisa had a slightly different experience with him...
Like I said before, we all had a great time, the con was a blast, we will certainly be going to future PAXs, but this new one has some kinks to work out, which I have full faith in Penny Arcade to resolve.