MACE

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MACE 2017 Gaming Coordinator Report

I have a lot to process in my mind one day after the convention, and the best way I can do that is write them down.  There are usually two sides to my approach to MACE – as the gaming coordinator and as a gamer/GM/fan.  I like to post my report to the latter on my personal website.  Let’s just say that side of me had a great weekend.  The gaming coordinator side also had a great weekend but also has a lot to sort out for next year.

Early on, we knew that MACE 2017 was going to be a challenge when the hotel came to us asking for a favor.  We had gone through it before, so we thought it would be easy again.  However, expanding the dealers room was going to add new pressures for space and allocating to everything that was requesting game tables.  We tried our best to allocate that space accordingly, based on flow and demand in the past, but as we all know, with time comes change.  And that was evident as well this year.

Part of my job in general is to make sure each facet of gaming has the best location for what they want to do.  Some want a set of tables and never have to move.  Others want flexible tables for open and free-form gaming.  Others want a huge amount of tables space for their epic sized gaming.  Others want to be in the middle of traffic as best they can.  Coupling that with the bigger client coming in on Sunday, taking up more than half our space after 2 pm, and that really challenges us.

First to go was the dealers in the hallway, which in turn mean we had to expand the dealer space.  This of course meant less gaming in Lakeshore.  Lakeshore was where I used to put a bulk of the tabletop board/card games – open demos, schedule games and tournaments.  Well, losing half that space was costly and most of the games had to be moved elsewhere.   Open demos moved to the space the hotel called the Gallery.  That turned out to work really well.  Scheduled board games were moved to Lakeview, which worked reasonably well.  However it was not what I would prefer to do with them.  The two tournaments on Saturday I did have in Lakeshore – X-Wing and Mage Wars – did really well, but on Friday and Sunday that room was fairly slow.  I tried to funnel open gaming in that way on Fri and Sun, but there was not as much demand those days.

Every year, I try to leave room for open gaming tables but this year was difficult.  More and more gaming demos, Kickstarter pre-releases events, and playtests wanted space and slowly but surely, Saturday began to fill up.  Open gaming space, especially on Saturday, was the second sacrifice in the overall process.  I even posted that fact on the social media, which in turn did scare a few of our regulars away.  However, I did get many asking for open gaming space.  I gave them space where I could but I could tell that many took my advice to check the table signs and use the games when nothing was scheduled.  I am glad that part seemed to be working.   It takes a little extra effort but you usually can find an open table for what you need if you just look at the table sign.

Pre-registration was crazy.   OGRe is at a stable-enough level now that more and more people are able to use it.  And they did.  Many of the games filled before the convention.  Many who arrived at-the-door expecting open space at games, were sadly disappointed.  I can only do  so much.  I hope everything at least got to play in one game they wanted to.  This ended up making the posters hard to update but I did my best.  I working on other ideas to improve the process, but in the end, online is the best way to check the accuracy of the schedule.

As for each facet of gaming, I have to say I was pleased overall.  Tabletop board/card gamers adapted pretty well to the new layout, whether it was their 10th time at MACE or their first.  RPGs (non-organized play and Organized Play) did really well.  Non-organized play or one-shot RPGs had a several last minute cancellations, so some rooms were a little slow at times, but overall, they did well.  I’ll get into the miniature game room later, but needless to say that it was a disappointment.  Changes will be made.  I was very pleased with everything else, however.

Early estimates do indicate that we were down a little – about 10%.  We had about a 2% growth last year, so in many ways, this is not a surprise.  Neither Jeff or I are concerned in anyway.  All we care about is people having fun.  As long as everyone had fun, we are good.  Much of the drop can be accounted for in the miniature room.  We’ll make adjustments for next year and concentrate more on what works and less on what doesn’t.

The major disappointments are from the last minute drops, the no-shows, the underwhelming performance in some areas and the lack of space for open gaming.  Most of those affected the miniature game area.  The major reason why those tables were empty was because of the first three.  On paper, that room was full of games all weekend.  But with cancellations, and no shows, it was dead.  I do not want to take anything away from those that made a strong effort on their parts of the miniature game room, the overall performance of miniature

I’ll say it again.  Changes will be made.  I can’t leave rooms nearly empty like that.  That space will have to be allocated to other aspects.

I posted something on Facebook that speaks to a major disappointment this weekend and one I had a gut feeling was going to happen.

There are 3 types of GMs …

  1. Those that stay committed, show up on time, and run their games just fine. I like these GMs a lot.
  2. Those that cancel ahead of time. While those cause a little trouble especially if they cancel after I print the posters, I totally understand and appreciate the heads up on their situation.
  3. Those that do not show up, never let me know ahead of time they can not make it and leave a bunch of tables with players wondering what happened. I do not like these at all. I see this as very unprofessional and expect more from adults. This is the easiest way to get on my sh*t list.

There have been many occurrences of type 2. I hope to have a lot of type 1s, and no type 3s. I can only hope.

 We had a couple of #3s and I am highly disappointed in them.  One in particular was supposed to be running kids games.  That is the lowest of low as far as I am concerned.  They are off my list.  I won’t mention them by name as I will give them time to give us their excuse.  Hopefully, they will. In most cases, these cases are because of either poor planning or poor communication.  I am sure it is one or the other.

The crafting and DM Scotty aspect of MACE this year was awesome.  I love this new enhancement to my favorite hobby and loved meeting DM Scotty.  He had a great time and I do look forward to hanging out with Scotty again.  I did enjoy the terrain contest and winning it.  I was the only entry, which was disappointing and I am not entirely sure my creation was really award winning, but I am glad I won.

Lots of things did not return for the 21st annual MACE.  Artemis, the starship bridge simulator was one of them.  Cool Minis or Not did not return.  Both absences were noticed.  Unfortunately, life happens and things change.  There is nothing more consistent than change.  This is the cases for both features.  MACE has not really had a feature or special event last more than a few years.  It’s just the reality of it.  We are probably transitioning to new ones soon.  Perhaps an escape room, or a new crew to run Artemis, or something else.  Stay tuned.

 Barring another football team coming through (which is unlikely), there will be a lot of changes and adjustments next year.  I will probably reduce the miniature game room and expand the tabletop board gaming space.  The Gallery will remain for open demos and playtests but Lakeshore will return to its larger glory for other board games and card games, including tournaments.  I am thinking of allocating all of Lakeview for open gaming space, which will be about 15 to 16 tables.  Nothing scheduled will go in there.  The game library will go in there.  Organized Play will stay in Glenwaters and I will flip-flop University, putting RPGs in B through D, more tabletops including large games, war games, etc in E and miniatures in A.

The 20th anniversary was the largest crowd in MACE history so it is no surprise we had a slight dip.  Both Jeff and I believe that whether we have an up or down year, all that matters is that people have fun.  MACE will return in 2018, stronger than ever.  Star tuned to Facebook or Twitter or our website for updates.

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Joey McPeeks
Joey McPeeks

November 16, 2017 4:40 pm Reply

I enjoyed the insight to the logistical side!

William McClelland

November 16, 2017 4:44 pm Reply

Great job guys. Even though the miniatures room was so empty I am already planning my builds for next year. The folks that came through to our demos had fun and so did we. You guys run a great Con.

William Mac McClelland
William Mac McClelland

November 16, 2017 4:45 pm Reply

Great job guys.

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith

November 16, 2017 5:46 pm Reply

As of now, I am estimating 675ish in attendance. So we were only down about 5%. We are still going throught the onsite regiatrations. BUt I am happy with the numbers and how the weekend ended. Thanks for the greast review Ron, I would right one, but he does it so well.

Jonathan Pierce
Jonathan Pierce

November 16, 2017 7:19 pm Reply

Speaking from experience, I’ve never been a fan of the registration boards. I also hate that almost everything is full before the convention starts. Though it’s great to have them filled, I see people every year that come and look at the board and get discouraged by how little there is available early in the day.
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I think pulling the demos and class/seminars off of those boards and onto a separate one would be a huge help in this. I didn’t even see the terrain or sculpy ones on the boards. Having them pulled onto a separate one, possibly off to the right of registration and away from the game boards would help it to be more visible.
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Also, if there was a simple way to add events while there, or ‘register’ open games it would be awesome. For instance, say I’m there on Saturday and don’t have anything planned from 2 to 6. I could ‘register’ that I have a selection of games I would run in the Open gaming area and people could sign up. If there are cancellations and such, you could offer those tables to the open gaming registration as well.
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The gaming library is neat, but I always prefer those to be out and visible so people wandering could drop in. The room it’s been in always feels cramped and a bit gloomy.
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So, a couple of random ideas. What if the dealer room was moved to the large room that typically has miniature gaming in it. It feels like it’s basically the same size and would allow the current room to be one large area for open gaming and board games. You could move the library into that room as well. The miniature room could be moved to the right side of the escalators(facing them) where there were board games this year, or possibly even under the escalators for the one off games. The GMs tend to go all out on them and they can really draw a ton of attention if they weren’t tucked away.

    Jeff Smith
    Jeff Smith

    November 16, 2017 7:44 pm Reply

    Some good ideas. We are looking at all aspects of the layout to provide better visibility. Plus we are looking into better signage for some of the things you mentions and others. Thanks!

    Ron McClung
    Ron McClung

    November 16, 2017 8:25 pm Reply

    Thanks. Like Jeff said, we are looking at ways to change some thing.

    To answer some questions more directly …

    – I understand your frustration with games being filled in prereg. We used to leave seats open at the door and found that affected our con pre-registration numbers. We also had people complain about that. So we changed our approach to that.

    – I always look for ways to change the posters boards. I used to have certain types of games separate as well as panels separate. That did not seem to help in the past. We have gone back and forth on how to handle those. There may be other ways to handle them in addition to the posters.

    – New games are added all weekend and tagged on to the boards under “new to the schedule” Anyone can come to me and ask to add games. I have had those separated them out too before. I may look at other ways to represent those.

    Jonathan Pierce
    Jonathan Pierce

    November 16, 2017 9:05 pm Reply

    No doubt things have changed over the years. I’ve been going since the HP days and it’s much improved over the years(though I do miss the Blimpie station :P)
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    I might have better luck at the boards if not for the congestion, but it seems to be the only place it really fits. Obviously the answer is to go full electronic. ;)

    Ron McClung
    Ron McClung

    November 16, 2017 9:37 pm Reply

    The electronic thing obviously means dollars. Additionally, support for those machines takes money. If everyone is willing to pay the convention fee large enough to give me a regular salary, I am more than willing to make this a career. But until then, you are stuck with what you get.

    Felix Batton
    Felix Batton

    November 20, 2017 5:57 am Reply

    If I want to go out to dinner at a nice restaurant on a Friday night, I make reservations. I don’t just show up at the door at 8:00 PM and expect to be seated ahead of those who planned ahead and made reservations. The same goes for attending a con. If I want to be sure I have games to play in, I register IN ADVANCE for said games. I make a reservation. That way, I know what I am doing and when. If everyone does that, it lets Ron know when he needs to call for more game masters, as time slots are filling up.

    Ron put a LOT of work into OGRE, so people can register for games in advance. It is part of what makes MACE a good RPG gaming con. You can see what games are being played, decide which of the available games you wish to play in & plan your schedule accordingly.

    Ron McClung
    Ron McClung

    November 20, 2017 1:59 pm Reply

    There are many reasons to dislike the posters but not liking them because they present the bad news that games are full is not really one I can do anything about. I can understand the forest-for-the-trees situation because there is just so much on there. I can also understand the crowds around them making it difficult. Imagine the old was which was using books, that was even worse.

    I tried electronic as an alternative and it’s just difficult to keep and maintain working computers every year. I don’t have the storage space and maintaining a “legal” OS has become challenging. Yea I could go free with some Linux OS or whatever, but that is not within my skill-set and again, I get paid to do that kind of stuff. Tablets are too easy too steal.

    I am working on ways to make the posters more clear but it probably won’t satisfy everything. I can’t separate things out any more than I have because I guarantee the same exposure for everyone. There are also highbreds of each category that I can not easily pigeon-hole into one or the other.

    Every year I do something different with the posters, sometimes subtle, sometimes drastic. Stay tuned easy year as I try to communicate the changes I made here and on the web site.

    Jonathan Pierce
    Jonathan Pierce

    November 20, 2017 2:36 pm Reply

    I go every year, so it would be easy to reserve spots for myself, but I also bring friends when I can. This year they cancelled at the last minute so if I’d reserved 3 spots, 2 would’ve gone empty. Last year there were only 2 of us. The year previous there were 4, but one was running Artemis and wasn’t sure when he could get free. We show up hoping to find games that can accomodate all of us, but typically the demo tables are our only shot.
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    I didn’t mean to piss people off by implying it was all done poorly. I was simply trying to provide constructive feedback.

    Ron McClung
    Ron McClung

    November 20, 2017 3:41 pm Reply

    Jonathan Pierce Don’t worry, you didn’t piss me off at all, just gave me an opportunity to voice my position on this and express the complications I have to go through to communicate a schedule to everything. I appreciate the comments and you have given me some things to think about. I have already done some work on the posters to help display things better and will do more. It’s all good.

Jessica Llil Paxton
Jessica Llil Paxton

November 16, 2017 7:59 pm Reply

Moving the game library into the larger room would be nice. Even if you had some demos (looking at James and his crew), that’s a ton of space for gaming.

Sounds like good ideas for the future. I can’t wait! Let me know if you need help with anything along the way.

Tim McCrary
Tim McCrary

November 16, 2017 8:33 pm Reply

D&D Adventurers League seemed to have more activity we had at least 3 tables per slot and some had 4 …..i think we were around 25 total tables with most of them full

Jonathan Pierce
Jonathan Pierce

November 16, 2017 9:03 pm Reply

The roleplaying always seems to do well. I convinced my weekly GM to run and he had a blast. He apparently had the same group register for every one of his games and follow the entire story over all 3 days.
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Unfortunately I’m a noob when it comes to adventure league and path finder society. Were there intro games available and I just missed them? I’d love to learn Pathfinder or start an ‘official’ character for Adventure League.

    Murky Maggie Moo
    Murky Maggie Moo

    November 16, 2017 11:09 pm Reply

    This Mace we did not have any official introduction games for Pathfinder Society, but we always work with players that are new to the system and are willing to open up an additional table if there is enough extra interest (we had one such table pop up Saturday Evening). When we normally provide intro games on our schedule those games are placed on Friday afternoon (2pm to 7pm), Saturday mornings (8am to 1pm), and Sunday afternoons (1pm to 6pm). Unfortunately its hard to tell what is an intro game and what is a regular scenario as Paizo itself does not clearly mark them. Perhaps we can look at making some special changes to how they appear at the next Mace.

Ron McClung
Ron McClung

November 16, 2017 9:33 pm Reply

RPGs and board games both do well because of the potential of variety. RPGs do well because every table is something different. Play the same game and the same Adventure and you’re still guaranteed a different experience.

Board games and card games do well because the more you have in one place, the more variety you have in general. That’s why open gaming does so well. I get that but struggle to be able to make space available. Next year should change.

Where we struggle are the Miniatures and collectible card games. Nothing separates us from playing these games at a store. At least in general. War Machine did well for a while because of the press-gang or program. But that is gone now.

    William Mac McClelland
    William Mac McClelland

    November 16, 2017 10:40 pm Reply

    Even though the miniature presence was low me and my crew had a blast doing demos. Hopefully, it will grow again. Regardless, we will be back.

    Ron McClung
    Ron McClung

    November 20, 2017 2:02 am Reply

    You did Great Mac, I am just disappointed by much of the rest of it. Between the last minute cancellations which primarily affected miniatures to the disappointing turnout for the organized events we had planned (to no fault of the organizers, who did all they could) … We have to re-evaluate our space allocation there.

Adam McLaughlin
Adam McLaughlin

November 16, 2017 10:32 pm Reply

Well said, and I plan to keep coming for as long as my legs will take me. My kids absolutely loved it.

Paul Dempsey

November 17, 2017 4:13 am Reply

Do you think it being Veterans Day on Saturday cut into attendance? I’m sure some people had some commitments for that.

I also heard nothing in advance about Kids track. I’m usually on board with doing an activity or game. But honestly, I was so busy for months before the event that I likely missed it even if something was said about helping with kids track.

Our schedule went out the window because Walden was just filled to the brim with happy gamers all weekend. Unfortunately, that also meant some planned games did not happen due to space constraints. But we tried to keep everyone who came to us engaged and happy.

    Ron McClung

    November 17, 2017 1:46 pm Reply

    Honestly, we have had it on Veterans weekend almost every year. So that’s not really a factor.

    We did make several announcements about the Kids Track, including a short paragraph in my GM call. It’s hard to pay attention to everything, though. I know

      Paul Dempsey

      November 18, 2017 6:27 am Reply

      Wow, totally missed that. But, like I said, head has been buried in work. Especially the last two months before the Con. And once the tornado hit Hickory, that was it for me. I was done. With me, sometimes you just have to poke me and ask me straight up because I’m not paying attention. But I am usually up for doing someone for Kids track. Even if it is just one slot. Sorry I was no on the ball this year.