Last weekend Deanna and I had the pleasure of attending Queen City Conquest (QCC), a tabletop game convention in Amherst NY (a suburb of Buffalo).
This year QCC was at a new time, July 12th – 14th and was held at a new venu: Daemen College. Due to these changes it felt like a brand new con, despite being around since 2012. This year was pretty much a reboot of Queen City Conquest.
In this post, I’m going to try to recap some of the highlights of our time at QCC.
Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links. As an associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. There is no additional cost to you and we get a small kickback if you buy something through one of these links. The entire Bellhop team was invited to be guests at QCC this year. This meant that our badges were covered and we were invited to attend the VIP party on Thursday night at no cost.
This was our second time attending Queen City Conquest.
Last year Queen City Conquest was held in September and was right in downtown Buffalo at the Buffalo Convention Center. That timing worked out a bit better for all of us, and Sean, Deanna and I all attended. I bought a VIP pass for Deanna and I and Sean bought his pass at the door. We had a fantastic time last year. The big draw of this particular convention is that it is put on by the G.E.M. folk, people who have become good friends of ours (These are people who all fit somewhere in the Venn Diagram that is Gnome Stew, Encoded Designs and the Misdirected Mark Podcast Network).
You can hear all about last year’s event on our Queen City Conquest Bonus Episode of the Tabletop Bellhop Gaming Podcast or you can check out this September 10th 2018 Tabletop Gaming Weekly blog post where I talk about all the games I played last year at QCC.
In short, I will just say that we had such a great time last year that there was no way we were missing it this year, even if we hadn’t been invited as guests. Unfortunately, though the date change meant that Sean couldn’t make it.
Accommodations for Queen City Conquest 2019
One of the benefits of having Queen City Conquest at Daemen College this year was that you could stay in one of the on-site dorm rooms for a very reasonable price. What we didn’t realize until getting there was just how close the dorm buildings are to the main center where the actual con was being held. It was less than a five minute walk, easy to do even when lugging a bunch of games.
The dorm rooms themselves were way nicer than we expected. The beds weren’t the most comfortable but each set of four rooms had two washrooms and a very comfortable common area with a full kitchen. Each building also included a group common area with some tables and chairs, something we made good use off over the weekend for some after hours gaming.
Overall we were very pleased with this housing solution and it’s something I hope is offered next year. The one thing we would change is that I think we would just pack a cot and/or an air mattress. That way Deanna and I could be in the same room and spend half as much money on accommodations.
Thursday Night VIG/Guest Party at Queen City Conquest 2019
Queen City Conquest officially opens at noon on Friday. The night before there is a pre-con party held in downtown Buffalo at the Pearl Street Brewery. Last year we got to attend with our VIG (Very Important Gamer) badges, whereas this year we were invited as guests. If you aren’t a VIG or Guest they also offer tickets to the event if it isn’t too full (it wasn’t).
We had a great time at this pre-con event last year and I would say an even better time this year. The big difference this year was that people brought family weight and party games to play. Deanna and I brought a few ourselves, Chris S. had some of his own and some other people brought some of their favourites.
Overall this was a very casual event which was great for meeting and greeting and enjoying some drinks with some of the awesome people from the con. Many of the locals work the con and are busy all weekend, so this is a good chance to socialize before the work starts.
At the party we got in a number of games, and here are some thoughts on each.
Happy Salmon – I can’t believe someone finally convinced me to play Happy Salmon (there was an offer of free beer involved). This is a ridiculously silly party game where players are trying to play through a stack of cards by pairing up with other players and doing silly actions. The first player to play through their cards wins. It’s dumb, it’s loud, it’s perfect for a bar atmosphere like this and I bet kids would love it.
In general, Happy Salmon is not for me, but I had fun playing and it was a great way to break the ice. The one thing about this game: don’t break it out if there are people around you trying to do anything at all serious. Whether that’s having a conversation or playing a heavy Euro game, save Happy Salmon for places that are already loud.
Gizmos – A bit later in the night I broke out my copy of Gizmos. I taught a four player game that involved two players who had not played before. I think Gizmos went over well, the new players seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. This game always draws a crowd and at this particular event we had a constant stream of people coming by the table to watch us play a few turns. It turned out to be a good choice for the event and I’m glad I brought my copy. I actually expected to play this one a few times over the weekend but this was actually the only time I broke it out.
Go Cuckoo – Of course, I brought this silly kids’ game. I’ve said it so many times now — This game is awesome and everyone I show it to seems to really dig it. Everyone who played at the Peal City Brewery loved this game. I had multiple people asking what the name was and people jumping online trying to find a copy for sale. This kids’ dexterity game continues to have almost universal appeal and got played multiple times over the weekend.
Planet – Now I didn’t play this one but Deanna did. Chris brought his copy and was cool enough to teach a group of four how to play. I fell in love with this game when I first tried it at Breakout Con in March and I’m pleased to say Deanna seemed to love it as much as I did. It’s a really solid drafting game with one of the coolest playing pieces I’ve ever seen, a large magnetic planet that looks like a giant D12. You draft pentagonal landscape tiles and attach them to your personal D12 and make a planet.
Qwirkle Cubes – This was the final game that got played at the party before we headed back to the College campus. It was a three player game between myself, Deanna and Owen, a Buffalo local. It was a really tight match and I managed to win by only 2 points. This was Owen’s first time playing and he dug it. Overall I’m still really digging this game and I’m still pretty sure I prefer the cube version to the original.
The gaming didn’t end there. One of the great things about staying in a dorm is that we had all night access to the dorm common area. This meant we had a place to play more games. After leaving the Pearl Street Brewery, seven of us headed back to our dorm and we kept on gaming until the wee hours of the morning.
Here are the games that got played back at the dorm:
Bohnanza – I’m so glad I packed my copy of Bean for this trip. The game we played of Bohnanza that night was one of the best games of Bohnanza I’ve ever played. Most of the players were new to the game but picked up the rules quickly. We had a ton of player interaction and plenty of trading and everyone had a great time. I still think Bohnanza is one of the best games to break out when you have a large group and a group that has a mix of tabletop gaming experience.
Go Cuckoo – Yep, we played some more Go Cuckoo.
I will say that once you get up to six players you are probably better off having two copies of the game. It’s only meant to play five, but we had a group of six at the time so just went for it. It worked but two groups of three probably would have worked better.
New York Slice – Seeing as I was attending a con in New York State I figured it would just be appropriate to bring this pizza based “I split, you choose” game. This was another game that I think would have played better with less than six players. It went over well enough, and people seemed to have fun, but it’s really hard to split an eleven slice pizza by six and have a good mix of pieces to choose from.
So that was seven different games played and the con had yet to officially start! For anyone considering going to QCC in the future, I strongly recommend attending this pre-con party. It’s so worth it.
Friday, the first official day of Queen City Conquest 2019
Registration for QCC went very smoothly, with no lines. The only thing I found at all odd was the fact they did not have badges. To be most exact, they had badges but nowhere to put them. No lanyards or badge holders. Personally, I found this disappointing. I get that they were trying to save money, I really do. The thing is, I’m terrible with names and one of the things I normally love about going to a con is that everyone has a name tag. What I think I will do next year is save my badge holder and lanyard from Origins and bring that with me to QCC.
The main part of the con was split over two rooms and there were a ton of tables. In addition, there was a smaller more private gaming room downstairs and there was a room set aside for VIPs. What vendors there were, were on the outside walls of the two rooms and they offered a mix of gaming and geeky stuff. Prices seemed reasonable and there was quite a good selection. In the second room was a stage and that stage was covered in games for the charity auction. This was a silent auction raising money for Child’s Play and it had a ridiculous number of items in it. I don’t think anyone could go through all that stuff and not find something they wanted to bid on.
After a quick walk around Deanna and I got right to gaming. Here are my thoughts on the games I played on Friday:
Sorcerer – The hot new card game from White Wizard Games. Deanna and I are still trying to learn this game. There’s a lot going on and the way you build your deck Smash Up style means there’s a lot of interesting interactions and combos going on that can change each time you play, by swapping out just one of your three decks. This game I played the Necromancer who had all kinds of cards that interacted with The Graveyard (the discard pile). I’m really digging this game but it’s taking some time to wrap my head around all of the mechanics and interactions.
Teotihuacan – As a guest of Queen City Conquest, one of the things I was asked to do was to run two games. The first of those games was a four player game of Teotihuacan. I still really dig this follow up to Tzolk’in. I had three brand new players at the table for the event so stuck to the beginner set up and starting resources. The game went really well overall despite us sometimes forgetting one step or another during play. That’s the problem with Teotihuacan, there are a lot of little steps in that game. It’s a lot of things that trigger you doing other things that can trigger you doing something else and it’s very easy to miss one of those steps. Thankfully the entire table were all good sports about taking a step back, retracing our steps and making sure we caught all the little things.
High Plains Samurai – This was my first RPG of QCC. At this point, Queen City Conquest is primarily a roleplaying game convention. It’s also very much an indie RPG convention. While you can go there and play D&D (they even had a D&D Epic going on), a lot of the games are much less traditional. One of the awesome things about QCC is that many of those indie games are being run by the people who wrote them. High Plains Samurai was one of those games. I first got to play High Plains Samurai with (and by) Todd Crapper at Breakout and when I learned Todd would be at QCC I knew I had to sign up to play in another of his games. Todd runs a fantastic game and I’m in love with this post-apocalyptic, steampunk, Asian cinema, anime inspired, setting he’s created.
Raiders of the North Sea – Friday night ended with another after hours game at our dorm. This time it was Raiders of the North Sea with just two players. I’m completely hooked on this Viking themed game right now. I can’t seem to get enough of it. Deanna is feeling the same way, going so far as to say it may be her favourite non-filler two player game.
So that was it for Friday. A great start to the con.
Saturday was the busiest day of Queen City Conquest 2019
Saturday morning the convention hall opened at 10am and we were right there at the start playing games.
Sentinel Comics – I first got to try this amazing superhero game at Breakout Con and was looking forward to playing again. This time the game was being run by Eric Simon, one of the writers for this new system. Eric ran a great noise themed scenario. One thing that was cool about this game is that Eric is working on a setting book for Sentinel Comics and we got to play in the world that book will be based on, so we got a bit of a sneak peek at the setting.
This was a fun game but was very light on the roleplaying and very focused on mechanics. Thankfully the mechanics in Sentinel Comics are some of the best superhero mechanics I’ve seen.
Gentes – The second game I signed up to run at QCC was Gentes, specifically so I could show off the Deluxified edition of this civilization building game from Tasty Minstrel Games. This was another teaching game where I had three brand new players, two of which happened to also play in my Teotihuacan game the day before. Gentes went over even better than Teotihuacan. I think this was mainly due to it being a tighter game with less moving parts. Overall all three of my players were really impressed with the game and I got a lot of compliments on my teaching skills, which was a nice bit of personal validation.
Tales From the Loop – Both Deanna and I played in this Kids on Bikes RPG facilitated by the amazing Angela Murray. Ang runs a great Talk from the Loop game and this was no exception. The story was called Snow Day and was all about a freak snowstorm in the middle of the Nevada desert. A large portion of the game was us playing as kids, enjoying the rare chance to play in the snow. We had a top notch table of players for this game and it was a pleasure just getting to act like a kid with this group. The adventure itself was decent. It was Ang’s first time running it and I think it could still use a bit of tweaking.
For The Queen – Up next for me was an off the books game of For The Queen with a couple of Erics and Danielle. For the Queen is an improv story game written by Alex Roberts. The entire game is one deck of cards, with learning the rules being part of the game. The background is that the players are all part of a retinue of the Queen who is on a dangerous journey.
Each turn a player flips over a prompt card and answers a question. Through answering these questions, characters, relationships and a story binding them, is created. This is the kind of game that two years back would have been totally out of my wheelhouse and you couldn’t get me to play. I will admit I was somewhat intimidated to play on Saturday but went for it and had a really good time. The questions asked on the prompt cards are completely brilliant at bringing the pain.
Croak – I think it was Tom Flanagan who had brought this classic abstract strategy game from 1999 to QCC. I had never heard of this game but a group of players were playing it behind us while we were playing For the Queen and seemed to be having too much fun. After we wrapped up our game Chris invited us over to try this somewhat chess-like game. In Croak, each player is playing a queen and her two baby frogs. The goal is to try to capture the opponent’s queen.
Each turn you move one frog from one tile to an adjacent tile. Unexplored tiles are flipped and can be reeds which are safe, a lily pad which bounces you to the next tile, prospective mates for you queen (which can get you more baby frogs), a pike that will eat your frog, mud which causes that frog to get stuck for a turn or a log which can hold two but not more frogs on it. It’s a cute little game that has a lot of strategy at first but then often comes down to pure random luck for who actually wins it. People seemed to dig it a lot, I had some fun with it but feel no need to go find a copy for myself.
At this point it was 2am and the con was shutting down for the night. So, of course, I moved back to the dorm and played some more games. In particular, I met up with Chris Sniezek with the plan to teach him a game. That turned into teaching him a couple of games and the two of us gaming until 5:30 am.
Raiders of the North Sea – I told you, I’m hot on this game right now. This was the first game I taught Chris and I’m pleased to say he thought it was just as brilliant as I did. One of the things about Chris is that he is really good at picking up not just the rules, but the strategy behind a game, very quickly. He showed off that talent well in this play of Raiders as he totally kicked my butt. It was still a fun play and I’m still really loving Raiders of the North Sea, even when I lose.
Gentes – Chris specifically asked me to teach him Gentes sometime while I was at Queen City Conquest and what better time to start a heavy brain burning civilization building game than 3am? Despite the early hour, our game went really well. I managed to teach it without forgetting anything and we both dove into it quickly. It was an extremely close match with me just barely squeaking out a victory at the end. I had forgotten how tight Gentes is with only two players. The reduced number of action tiles really makes a big difference and makes the game significantly more interactive and tactical.
The ability to play games until 5:30am was one of the things that really made Queen City Conquest stand out vs. other gaming conventions I’ve attended. I loved having that dorm common area available to be able to do that, and thankfully I didn’t have anything going on early on Sunday.
More roleplaying on Sunday at Queen City Conquest 2019
Sunday I slept in, for obvious reasons I just noted above. Thankfully I didn’t have anything scheduled to happen until 1pm so I got a pretty good night’s sleep despite staying up late gaming. I only had one thing on my schedule for Sunday and that was an RPG with Phil Vecchione that ran until the con ended at 5pm.
Masks – One of the things I try to do at every con I attend is play a Phil Vecchione game. I love Phil’s games. Whether it’s his own system, like Hydro Hacker Operatives, or something else, like this game of Masks, if Phil’s running a game, I want in. This particular Phil game was using the Powered By the Apocalypse game system Masks which is a teenage superhero game made to emulate series like Young Justice.
In fitting with the theme this game was set during Prom Night. In addition to playing our heroes, each of the players also played the date of one of the other players. While there was a bit of confusion over who was talking as who when, it went really well. We had an all star table for this event. I actually felt out of place sitting down with these GEM superstars and was worried I wouldn’t be able to bring to the table what they could, but I think I managed to hold my own. Overall it was a fantastic game, for me the best RPG experience of the con.
That was it. At this point, everything was being packed up and it was pretty much time to head home. We did have one more stop before we left Buffalo though.
The food of Queen City Conquest 2019
I’m sure most of you have figured out that I’m a bit of a foodie. I’m a big dude who likes food and when I go to a con I always try to eat well and sample some of the local fare.
Now one of the things that was offered for QCC was a meal plan. Before the con, you could go online and order tickets for various meals that would hit throughout the day. The cafeteria where they served the food was actually part of one of the gaming rooms. We had fully planned to take advantage of this to not only maximize gaming time but also save some money. The problem was that I somehow messed up buying tickets for meals. I have no idea what exactly I did wrong but we ended up getting to the con and finding out that we had not, in fact, purchased meal tickets.
Unfortunately, there was no way to buy the meal plan at the event. Something I heard multiple people complain about. The meal plan was one of a few things that were never clearly communicated to guests and prospective guests very well. Something I consider one of the growing pains of the new venue and something I hope will be fixed next year. I do know that the organizers are well aware that there were problems.
So without a meal plan, we had to fend for ourselves and found some really sold food options in the area.
The best discovery of the trip was Bagel Jay’s. This bagel shop was just down at the corner of the block that Daemen College is on and featured some really amazing New York Style Bagels. This place was so good that we ate there every morning for breakfast. I personally recommend the Garlic Bagel, and my wife recommends the Lox Schmear. Locals kept recommending the Salt Bagel but I didn’t actually try one.
Another great find for me was La Nova Pizza. This is a pizza chain that has been around in Buffalo since the 1950s and is extremely popular, and for a good reason. This was some of the best pizza I’ve had outside of Windsor. It was that big slice, tons of cheese, a bit floppy thin crust New York style pizza. What I dug the most was the variety of topping options, the best of which, to me, was Buffalo Chicken Finger.
The last place we ate before driving home to Windsor was a place called Duffs. One of the things Buffalo is known for is chicken wings and according to the locals, Duffs is THE place to go for wings. The meal at Duffs ended up being pretty much an end of con wrap up party with about twenty people from the con, including a large group of the organizers and volunteers, taking up a large number of seats at this popular restaurant.
Now I’m not a huge wing fan but I will say that Duffs has some pretty good wings. While I wouldn’t go out of my way to go again, if people wanted to meet up there I wouldn’t say no. If you are a wing fan yourself you really should check it out.
I’ve got one more food note and that is to say thank you to Eric “The Weregator” Bontz for bringing in some cheese from Wisconsin. OMG. “A bit more cheese”
Overall impressions of the Queen City Conquest Tabletop Gaming Convention in 2019
I have to admit that I had some trepidations leading up to QCC this year. Due to being moved to a new date and a new location there was a lot of information that I felt people needed that wasn’t available until right before the actual dates of the con. There were multiple questions being asked online and very few answers being provided. I’ve since learned that in many cases it was a matter of not being able to get the answers out of Daemen College, which is understandable but I wish this information had been better communicated. There was quite a bit of confusion over the meal plan, as well as some questions about what we needed to bring for our dorm rooms. Also a couple of weeks before the event, there was an issue with the scheduling system. All of this had me worried that the actual con was going to be a bit of a mess. Thankfully that wasn’t the case.
Once we actually got to the con, and got our rooms, and registered, everything flowed very smoothly. Pretty much all of my worries and concerns were unfounded. There were some hiccups along the way but overall the con was extremely well organized and I have to credit everyone involved with how well things actually went. One of the things I had to tell myself and that I hope others take into account was that, while this con has been around since 2012, this was basically a brand new con. A new time, a new venue and a new format. That is a lot of change happening at once and I think they did a great job dealing with what they had.
I had a great time at Queen City Conquest. That’s the important part. I played some great games with some amazing people. I got to hang out with friends new and old. I got to eat some great food. I got to have some decent craft beers. I got to be with “my people” and feel like I was somewhere I truly belonged.
There’s going to be almost nothing that will stop me from going to Queen City Conquest in 2020. QCC is now part of my must-attend con list (which only has three cons on it). I can’t wait to be back in Buffalo next year.