JustUs Productions has been involved with organized gaming events for nearly 20 years now, but only recently has Jeff and the gang gotten into gaming cruises. Although not an original idea, for a company like JustUs Productions it is no small task. However, Jeff Smith and his friends at Outlander Travel have now put together two amazing gaming cruise trips for the MACE crowd. The first one was 2013 and I could not afford it at the time. I saved up for the 2015 trip and we finally got to experience Club MACE.
Of course, my first question is just how much gaming is going to get done on a cruise. The cruise that was picked was a Carnival ship out of Charleston, SC that would take us to Grand Turk Island in Turks and Caicos, Half Moon Cay, and Nassau, Bahamas. There is a lot to do on a cruise, including swimming, laying out in the sun, and eating. I had already been on one 4-day cruise but this was a 7 day cruise. I was not sure how different it would be.
There were 18 of us on this one, and many were more casual gamers than me. Jeff Smith likes to really ramp up the swag for the cruise and we all got several games in a nice tote bag. I hope to have some reviews of these games up here soon. Some were silly games, some were party games and some were more involved games. I am more into the more involved games but I was not sure how much of those would be played.
Also, I planned a horror RPG game with a nautical theme for the cruise with hopes of getting enough players to play in two or 3 short sessions over the cruise. I picked an adventure I found in RPGNow called Fright Night: Ghost Ship, written for the d20 system in 2005. The fine guys at Hogshead Publishing were kind enough to dig up a higher resolution version of the ship in the adventure for me to print out on plotter.
In the board game department, I really thought I could change the dynamic of the trip (based on what I saw in pictures from last year) and bring more “meaty” games – longer and more involved games like Eldritch Horror, Relic, A Game of Thrones, and Spartacus. Those are just a few of my favorites. I thought perhaps there might be 2 or 3 people willing to play them at least once.
GAMING CRUISE LESSON #1:
The key about packing for a cruise is packing light. We were fortunately driving to the port but we still were limited on luggage based on what we could carry. So my advice to those considering bringing some board games, regardless of the type, lose the box. It is the most bulky part of the game. Use large ziplock games like the picture below.
Some games may require larger than the normal gallon bags you get in the grocery stores, however. I ended up using bags I had collected from work while unpacking computers. They tend to pack all the paperwork, software and manuals in large ziplocks.
Once packed and the kids tucked away at the in-law’s house, my wife and I traveled to Charleston for a one night stay there before boarding the ship. We had arranged with a certain hotel that if we stayed the night, they would allow us parking for the week and a shuttle over to the port. If you drive to the port city and can arrange something like that, I highly recommend it.
Upon arriving at the hotel, Jeff “Cruise Master” Smith presented us with our Club MACE bags.
As you can see, they were substantial. Jeff went all out on the swag. They were already gaming when we arrived at the hotel, which did not surprise me.
On departure day, we piled pretty tightly into one van and headed over the the port. Before long, we were out to sea. I spent a lot of time with my wife, exploring the ship and finding our room. The others did the same but it wasn’t long before they settled down and started playing more games. Again, they were were casual and party type games. Given the choice, in our situation, I chose to spend more time with my wife. It was our first time away from the kids in at least a year, so we just could not muster up a mood to play games.
Throughout the week, however, there were times we settled down and played some games. On the second day, I got a chance to run part of the adventure I prepared. I will be writing about that separately. I also played Wizards card game, Mars Attacks dice game, and Dementalism card game. We never really settled down to play my “more involved games” other than the one RPG session. This brings to me to my second lesson.
GAMING CRUISE LESSON #2:
This pretty much applies to any gaming event – know your audience. Unfortunately, no one seemed interested in the games I brought but it was also hard to really dedicate that much time to them. The others did play a majority of the swag games they got, but most were 2 hour games or less. The cruise environment was also a little less conducive to the types of games I brought, but I am sure with the right audience, we could have played at least one.
I know that they did get one session of Dungeon Crawl Classics in, which I am sure was fun.
Although this was billed as a gaming con, for me it was more a vacation with my wife. Being without kids and having all that we had at our disposal made it difficult to put my mindset into the gaming mood. Don’t get me wrong, though. This was an amazing trip. My wife and I had a blast and made some lasting memories with friends, old and new. From a gaming perspective, it was pretty light for us. Many others played a lot more than we did.
GAMING CRUISE LESSON #3:
I recommend you decide ahead of time what you plan to do with the cruise. Is it going to be a gaming cruise or a cruise with a little gaming for you. In the end, it was a cruise with my wife, that happened to have a little gaming on the side. In my case, I chose time with my wife over the games they were playing, in part because of the games we had to choose from but also because my wife and I rarely get these opportunities without our kids.
Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos was beautiful.
Half Moon Cay was probably the most memorable moments of the cruise.
The Bahamas was laid back and enjoyable.
It was a great vacation with my wife but also with some good friends. Would I do more gaming if I could? Probably not. I did just enough for my tastes. I know others did a lot more. And they seemed to enjoy it a lot. We also enjoyed some of the entertainment on board together and that made for some more lasting memories.
Club MACE was an absolute blast and I would do it again. Thanks to Jeff and Outlander Travel for their hard work on making this happen. Hopefully we will see you in 2017 on another one.