Let It Begin: PAX West Day One According to Isaac

ED NOTE: This is the second article in a series of PAX journals. Make sure to read the PAXMAS EVE article first before this one! -PRINCE

written by Isaac Thummel

Well fancy meeting you all back here. Ready for more PAX shenanigans? Let’s jump right into it! So my normal ‘Day’ job is working for a bar here in Seattle so the prospect of waking up at 9am to queue up in line to get into the Expo Hall as soon as it hits 10am turns my stomach. So instead my morning starts at 10:30am, cursing and spitting venom at having to be up so early.  By 11am I have mainlined four shots of espresso while running for the Light Rail in an attempt to get to PAX before noon. The fact that it is pouring rain does greatly improve my mood though.

I have reached the con floor before noon, achievement unlocked. I meet up with some of the other Lifted Geek crew as well as some friends to exchange the hugs of friends that see each other too rarely. Letting the coffee kick in and my body finish waking up I discuss with everyone what their plans for the day are.  Fair warning to all you kind readers who see my photos, I am NOT a photographer. I barely manage to remember to take the lens of the camera before taking shots. I’ll leave all the gorgeous photos to Andre, Prince, Riri, and the rest of the talented members of Lifted Geek. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming!

Today my main goal is to just get a lay of the land as it were. Wander around the main expo floors to familiarize myself with where everything is and the best way to get to different areas of the hall. The first thing I want to talk about is the layout of PAX this year. They have seemingly worked some black magic hoodoo to get more space out of the building than any year before.

The space fills just as extravagant, stimulating, engaging, and exciting as the past years, but suddenly there is more room to walk around. The pathways between all of the booths feel like 2-3 feet wider, which may not sound like much but trust me it is. The sense of being dragged in the undertow of the crowd is banished leaving plenty of room to step out of the way and move around slow or standing people.

It seems like all the booths were on the same page of having giant character statues this year. They ran the gamut from Arc’s giant T-Rex and Wyvern (which you could get a photo on top of!) to Warcraft’s Thrall, WH40K’s Space Marine, and Shadow Warrior 2’s deformed Samurai. The crowd has a palpable energy but everyone seems relaxed as they take their time exploring. After a few hours of wandering I feel well acquainted with the main floor and move off to the sixth floor.

The top floor at PAX has always been a mix of smaller development teams with some table top companies mixed in. This is where a kind gentleman for a game called Evolution asks us if we would like to sit down for a demo match. Evolution is a board and card game, created by North Star Games, where you are trying to evolve your creature species into larger stronger species. Players fight over gathering resources in the form of food pips to increase the body size and population of your species while also playing different trait cards to make them harder to kill or more deadly to others. The game is over when all the cards have been drawn from the deck. Everyone counts up their living species, trait cards, and food pips to get a final score. The player with highest score wins as you might have guessed. They have a Base game for $45, the base plus the Climate stand-alone expansion for $60, as well as a new add-on expansion of Flight for $25.

Next we head over to check out Star Realms, a Deck Building card game by Darwin Kastle and Rob Dougherty. In this game you all start with the same base deck and by spending the games currency you buy ships for your space fleet in an attempt to deal more damage to the opponent until you bring their life points to zero. The game has been out for a few years in both physical and digital form on Steam, Android, and Apple. They show us a new set of cards that will be available soon as well as tell us about Hero Realms, their Medieval Fantasy sibling to Star Realms. I sit out of the match as it is a 1 v 1 game. My friends tell me that it feels pretty similar to Star Realms and are curious to see how it develops since there isn’t much of a mechanical difference from what they saw.  Star Realms has a Bas game for $15, two different add-on expansions for $10 and $15 respectively, and a bundle including all of them for $40.

After this we decide to take a break from the floor in search of victuals. Everything in a ten block radius of the convention center is crawling with people. Rather than waiting for a table to open at a restaurant we decide to grab some sandwiches and sit outside. Feeling revitalized we head back to the Con to check out floors two and three. These side rooms hold a vast array of board, card, and table top RPG companies along with some free play space where you can try a game before you buy it through checking out of their library.

Soon it is time to go to our first panel: Ask a Dungeon Master with Chris Perkins. He runs a D&D game called Acquisitions Incorporated plus works for Wizard of the Coast themselves on Dungeons & Dragons.

I am a Game Master myself so I love going to panels of different GM’s to hear what they have to say about running games and their approach to things. It is a relatively short panel with him mainly going off of a preset speech with a PowerPoint presentation. He discusses how he fell in love with the game D&D and how it effective his life up through working for the company today.  He answers a few questions that he says he normally gets asked a lot rather than actually taking questions from the crowd which I find a bit disappointing.  Soon the panel ends and we head out to join up with the rest of our party before venturing forth

Next on our docket is the panel: An Evening with Patrick Rothfuss over at the Westin. A brisk evening walk gets us to the farthest edge of the PAX world map and into the Wyvern Theater in time for it to start. Patrick is an author known in equal parts for The Kingkiller Chronicle (A fantasy trilogy), a member of Acquisitions Incorporated, and his epic beard. I can’t say I have read his books or was even aware of him before this but my group is so I went along. This panel felt much more intimate despite being in a bigger theater with a larger crowd. Patrick engages with and speaks directly to the crowd, starting off by passing out index cards for people to write questions on. The panel is him chatting with the audience and answering questions from cards submitted by them. To my luck the questions were not about specifics from his books so I am able to keep up with the conversations and stories he dives into at what seems like random sometimes. He has the ability to speak to the room like we are old friends sitting around a table sharing a pint. The panel ends leaving me with a respect for the man and a want to pick up his work. 

It is time to recharge the fuel tank so we leave the area in search of Pancakes because who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner. Apparently I don’t because everyone at the table orders it but I go with a BBQ Burger and potato salad. We spend a relaxing few hours sitting at our patio table in Belltown talking about the days adventures before we all retire for the night. Alas it is once again 2am and I am sitting down to write. See you all at 2am tomorrow with more PAX stories!