Magfest 8, the last Magfest in Alexandria’s Hilton Mark Center. Some say that was the height of its greatness. Others (myself included) believe the space was rapidly becoming too small. Actually I know this, as Magfest 8 was the first and only Magfest to enforce an attendance cap. The National Harbor’s Gaylord was an excellent choice for attendee AND arcade room growth! But I heard some attendees raved about the glory days, and desired to relive the memory again. Enter 8.5, a reboot of the “glory days”.
We arrived Friday evening and quickly ran into one of the issues of a smaller venue: parking. I was lucky enough to snag a spot in the garage from someone pulling out, but I suspect others had a hard time. Registration was easy, and the lack of elevators didn’t pose too much of a problem. Naturally we had to check out the games room first! The console room was ample as you would expect from Magfest, though I thought the arcade side was a bit lacking. The arcade rhythm games were housed on the console side and to my surprise there were some new things there I hadn’t seen before:
- NeonFM: I’m not going to lie, this was probably the highlight of the whole video game room. Its a fast and fun indie developed rhythm arcade game with an excellent soundtrack. Unfortunately there aren’t too many of these machines in the wild.
- Reflec Beat: An interesting pinball inspired touch-based rhythm game. Ok so someone set it up on a Dell computer and touchscreen monitor instead of the actual arcade machine…close enough! It was a lot of fun.
- Sound Voltex: This one was right behind Reflec Beat. Unfortunately I didn’t get to play it but uh, it looked really cool! Also set up on a Dell machine instead of the real thing.
If memory serves correctly we headed over to the tabletop room to check out their wares. The room was packed, but thankfully we found some chairs and used one of the plastic game storage boxes as a makeshift table. We ended up playing a quick(ish) card game called Flame War, had some laughs, then headed back to the room for alc…er…soda pop.
The next day I went to my one and only panel on indie game development. I didn’t learn a whole lot, but I listen to some interesting stories from indie devs. One of the indie devs in question worked on NeonFM! After the panel I headed back to the room to witness Heather become one with the animatronics! By that I mean put on her Five Nights At Freddy’s costume. Next I believe there was a lot of mulling around between the video game and dealer rooms for a few hours. Then back to the tabletop room for more fun in the form of Betrayal at House on The Hill. This was one of the few board games I’ve played that is more co-op that free-for-all (although there is a traitor in the midst). The estimated on box playtime is 1 hour, but I’m pretty sure we broke the 2 hour mark. The way that things unfold mid-game is really interesting and should add to a lot of replayability. Heather already went ahead and bought it! I think we went to the game room for a few minutes before heading back upstairs for more “soda pop” and the next game, aptly titled “We Didn’t Playtest This at All”. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite large group games right behind Cards Against Humanity. Its extremely simple to learn, fast paced, and fun can be multiplied by an increase in “soda pop” intake. The box claims its for 2 to 10 people, though I wouldn’t play it with less than 4 (or at least 3). The more the merrier! Did I say merrier, I meant maddening.
So that about does it for Magfest 8.5. Did it live up to the hype? I still prefer the mainline Magfest due to its larger selection of arcade games, panels, and general events, but 8.5 was well worth the money. If they can find a bigger area for the arcade section (or use part of the console room) they’ll be on the right track. If they can demolish that crappy parking lot I’d give them a high five. Whoop whoop!