It was two years ago when I first heard about the Cool Mini or Not Expo. The Expo sounded like a fun experience. It was a small convention, featuring only two to three hundred people. Podcasters, YouTubers, and game designers gathered together for a three day weekend and played games. The atmosphere, was calm, informal, and quiet. It was an event I wanted to try. This year I got to go.
For a little bit of background, Cool Mini or Not (CMoN) started as a rating site for people to post miniatures that they had painted and get people’s opinions on the job they had done painting them. Basically, a hot or not site for mini’s. Eventually, CMoN started producing their own games. They mostly made board games that typically included some very beautiful miniatures and other pieces. I’m not sure when they first decided to hold an expo.
My adventure this year was mostly well planned. I used to travel frequently and fell back on many skills I had used for the conventions I used to go to. I got a good deal on a hotel room, got my badge well in advance, and saved money for any extras that might crop up. Unfortunately, there were some new experiences that I had to contend with. I needed to rent a car, the expo was in Atlanta, Georgia and I live in Ohio. My weight, makes air travel impractical and expensive, so a car it would have to be. I also forgot to check on how expensive parking would be. Fortunately, I had enough extra cash to cover the surprise expenses.
Now for the good parts of the weekend. I’m used to going to large scale conventions with thousands of people. CMoN Expo had roughly two hundred people total. The crowds to get in during opening tend to meld, shoulder to shoulder, into a large seething mass. CMoN Expo had maybe twenty people waiting for the doors to open. We stood in line and had quiet conversations, not having to yell to be heard over the throng of people whose voices had been raised to a cacophony of noise. When the door opened, no one sprinted for the vendor’s booth or table they wanted. We simply strolled inside and looked for a game.
Once inside the Expo, I looked for an open seat. At larger cons, you have to schedule most of your time. Here, I simply walked up to one of the many tables and asked if they had room. More often than not, the answer was yes. There were a few events and opportunities that required signup’s. These were a few tournaments, special play sessions with a games designer, or a chance to play with some podcasters and streamers.
Most of the games I played weren’t out yet. Several should be out for GenCon in August. A few should be out before that. Even fewer should be out after. I signed up for three events; one I missed. One that I made was a game of Zombicide, a board game about surviving a zombie apocalypse. The game typically features teams of 6, this one featured thirty-two players. I also signed up to play the Godfather board game, still in prototype form, with the Designer Eric Lang. The other event, the one I missed, was a tournament for Arcadia Quest.
I played several games, and while everything was fun, a few games really stood out to me. The Others, a game I backed on Kickstarter (due out later this year), was massively entertaining. The miniatures are fantastic, and the rules were quick and easy. It’s about the end of the world. Humans have been losing the world to the forces of Revelations, there is only one human city left, Haven. The players take the role of humanity’s last hope to avoid utter extinction. The game has a wonderful mechanic where the players can voluntarily corrupted themselves for temporary bonuses. The more corrupt you become, the more likely you are to fall to the forces of darkness, but the extra boost may be just what you need for a clutch success.
An expansion for Arcadia Quest that adds pets to the game, was fun and fast. It added only a slight change to the rules, with no increase in difficulty. Additionally, the figures they include are super cute. As unmanly as it was to type that, it’s really the only way to say it. Plus, they have a panda, so, a solid win.
I got to play a party game, the Unusual Suspects. The game involves a rather fun experience where one person is a witness to a crime and everyone else are detectives. You get to ask a series of yes or no questions like, “does the culprit ride a bike,” “does the culprit live with their parents,” or “have they ever been to a rock concert?” Then from the answer, you look at a series of mug shots and try and figure out, for example, who, amongst these people, would ride a bike. Basically, it’s profiling the game. I’ve seen it get both politically incorrect and stay super family friendly. It’s really up to the group playing the game. Either way, the laughter came fast, and exuberantly.
I was also one of the very few people who got to play Massive Darkness. MD is a dungeon crawler that will go up on Kickstarter in June. The game won’t be released until late next year. The game was a ton of fun, even if it wasn’t anywhere near finalized. They were actually taking notes of things that were broken or not working as intended as we played. The rules were fast and easy. They allowed for epic moments where your heroes felt incredibly powerful. I’m looking forward to watching the campaign, and seeing the game next year.
I also had a bucket list of people I wanted to meet and play games with. I didn’t get to check everyone off my list, but the ones I did were amazingly polite and friendly. I played the Grizzled, and Kreos with Teri Litorco from That Terri Girl. I also played Kreos with Rodney Smith from Watch it Played. As I stated earlier, I played Godfather with Eric Lang. I got to play Zombicide: Black Plague with Mark Streed from the Dice Tower. I spoke with Sam Healey about Zombicide. Thaigo, the designer, ran the game of Massive Darkness I played in. Meeting every one of these people was a treat, regardless of how long we were able to spend talking and playing, they were all very busy over the course of the weekend. Not a single one of them was dismissive, rude, or abrupt. Even beyond the personalities, there wasn’t a single person I met that was rude or unkind. I had an amazing experience the entire weekend.
The only regret I really have of the weekend was that I went alone. It would have been nice to have someone along to talk to and play some of the games with. It would have been nice to have a person to eat meals with. I would also have liked someone who could have used my phone to take pictures of some of the games we played, or in the case of Ta-Da, video.
All in all, the experience was amazing. I look forward to going back next year, if possible. If I do return, I hope to see some of you there as well.
You can check out my pile of photo's on Instagram.