MACE 2017 Convention Report

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Our intrepid conventioneer checks out another of the South’s excellent game expos ~

Avery Abernethy, 15 November 2017

MACE (Mid-Atlantic Convention Expo) was held for the 21st time in Charlotte, North Carolina on November 10-12, 2017. I had a great time. There are a number of MACE events annually in North Carolina with MACE being the largest.

MACE is a gaming convention. There is no costume contest, concert, film show or game shows. MACE is about gaming. Except for two live action role playing games (limited to a single room) and three game panels, everything was RPGs, Board Games, Miniature Games or Tabletop Games.

There was a lot of gaming going own. There were a total of 174 RPG sessions, 121 Board/Table Top Games, 101 Card or Deck building games and 22 miniature games. This does not include the “play to win” games, pick-up games from the game library, demos, or spontaneous games started by attendees.

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MACE used almost all of the convention space at the Hilton closest to UNC-Charlotte. There were also twenty-nine dealers in their uncramped dealers room. (Ed note: in 2006, the dealer room had about 9 vendors; BayonetGames was one of them!)

A huge variety of game sessions were offered. I ran a Call of Cthulhu scenario. I also played in another Call of Cthulhu game; a 2nd Edition D&D game with 4th level characters; a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG scenario, a Mansions of Madness 2nd edition board game, and a Savage Worlds Deadlands game.

Although I’ve played a lot of tabletop games and an awful lot of RPGs over the years, I had never played Dungeon Crawl Classics, Savage Worlds or the Mansions of Madness Board Game. So about half of the games I played were new. The Game Masters were kind to help explain both the background to the game world as well as the game mechanics to myself and other newbies for each game.

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MACE is a mid-sized con with just shy of 700 participants this year. But since it focused solely on gaming there was plenty to do. There was a separate set of games for kids although many teenage and younger kids played in the regular tracks. There were also quite a few couples including those with children. Like many gaming events, MACE was probably 70%+ male but there were females in almost every game I played.

There were a couple of things about MACE that were just outstanding compared to most other Cons. First, there was a “game sales system” set up. You could send a list of what you wanted to sell along with your name and phone number. A list of all of the games up for sale was in a three ring binder. Interested parties could call or text the person offering the item for sale. This enabled people to buy and sell games without having to give up playing in a session.

Next the registration process was very smooth. MACE allows anyone who runs a game session to register early. That was an awesome benefit for me. If someone ran three sessions they got into the rest of the con free. The list of players for each game session were available in advance so the GM knew who was supposed to play and also knew if they had an opening. Game session registration was done well in advance online.

Each game table had a list of every game played during each days’ time slot. This was a single sheet of printer paper which was stapled together for a standing triangle. This was a great help both finding the table you were supposed to game at and also determining if a table was open at a specific time for free play. Each day a new schedule was placed on each table.

The rules for GMs were simple, clear and oriented towards fun. Last, there was a food and drink sales system set up for the con. Non-alcoholic drinks, packaged foods, and pizza were available at very reasonable prices. They also had a list of food available from a variety of restaurants for takeout. You placed your order about two hours before a meal, paid for the meal, and got a text when the food was ready for pick-up. As a diabetic who has to watch what they eat very carefully, this food system was the best I’ve ever seen at a game convention anywhere.

Every session that I registered for started on time. All of the GMs were able to run their games in an organized and fun manner. People at my (and other tables) were laughing and smiling a lot. I did not see unhappy, lost, or disappointed people. If anything, people were having so much fun that the gaming rooms tended to be a little loud.

My pictures focus on the miniatures because they are more visually interesting. But the miniature games were one of the smallest tracks at MACE.

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I was really impressed with MACE. This was the best run and most fun small to medium sized Con that I’ve ever attended. I like to game and the other things you have at Cons are often a distraction that is taking up space. For gaming fun and value for your time and money, it would hard to do better than MACE.

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