I’m going to start with the best convention game that I wasn’t actually part of. It was Con of the North, many years ago—I think before Dread had actually been published. So people had heard of Dread—it was part of why we were invited to the con—but it wasn’t yet known, and our games weren’t yet swamped. One of the games that Eppy was running only had 3 players, which is pretty much the minimum for the game to really be fun, and he nearly lost 2 of them when he was doing the scenario introduction and they realized that they would be playing rabbits. Not anthropomorphic rabbits, not rabbits with magic powers, not people transformed into rabbits—just rabbits. [We had thought this was clear from the event description, but apparently not.] And that this was nonetheless a serious game. He nearly lost them again when he busted out the Jenga™ tower. Luckily for all concerned, they decided to give it a go.
Con of the North is the best convention for playing Dread that I’ve been to. At least half the gaming space is in cleared out hotel rooms with just 1 or 2 tables in them, so you don’t have the dull roar of a large convention hall, and at most you have one other group making noise. Luckily, for this game it was just them in the room. So as night fell on the rabbits they turned the lights down in the room. I had finished running my game, so I had come by to sit and watch. As the rabbits tried desperately to escape the owl stalking them, they all were hiding, verging on tharn, which would’ve made them easy prey. Eppy told each player that they would have to pull for their rabbit to keep their wits about them. One of the players volunteered to go first, and started examining the tower. Then, with no warning, in a silent room with just the light spilling from beyond the door, he smacked the tower, sending blocks everywhere, almost-shouting “I bolt!” at the same time. Everyone, Eppy included, jumped, and that rabbit became owl food, but gave his compatriots a chance to get away.
The other Dread story I have that compares was from a space horror game. One of the characters had been killed relatively early on, but the player decided to stick around and watch, to see how the game turned out. A couple hours later, the characters were for some reason in the vicinity of the body bag containing their fallen comrade, and Akira narrated that the bag started to move. A player sitting next to the player of that long-dead character scooted sideways across 3 laps—miraculously without knocking anyone over or bumping the table—in her reflexive scramble to get away from the zombie (or whatever she imagined it was), completely losing the wall between character and player.
But the best convention game I was actually a part of? That’s a tough call, particularly because I have lots of vague warm feelings about all sorts of convention games, but I can’t quite dredge up enough details to tell you even what game it was. I remember a game of Four Colors al Fresco that I ran where every one of the players was amazing, completely grokking the setting and tone, and leaving me (and the rest of the table) laughing so hard I couldn’t keep the game going on multiple occasions. I remember telling my friends about how awesome it was, but now I couldn’t tell you a single joke made, or which characters they were playing, or any story details, or even what year it was.
So my best game might not be my actual best, since it will of necessity be only among my more recent games. I’ve had lots of great moments: In a Starblazer Adventures game I was given a character who was a transparent pastiche of James T. Kirk. That…wasfun: Putting. Unusual pauses and emphases in just…for amusing. Effect. Or the absolutely ridiculous QAGS game set in a D&D-esque world. We were all just about rolling in the aisles during that one. In fact, if you ever get a chance to play a QAGS game run by Hex Games (the publishers), go for it! We’ve played a lot of them over the years, and always had a riotously good time. And there was that great game of Microscope at Con of the North this year. Microscope is definitely my kind of game, and my SO’s, too.
But, for the best game in toto, I’m going to talk about the game of Heroine I played at Forge Midwest this year. It was run by Jen, and we had half a dozen players—a lot for that game. Anyway, it was again an example of everyone completely grokking the game & tone, and I played the heroine’s long-forgotten teddy bear, come to life to guide her on her quest. I had a blast, not only because of all the great roleplaying (particular kudos for the army ant’s player), but because we got to have fun coming up with a fun fantasy setting on the fly. Somewhere around here I should have the list of the fairly silly 7 Kingdoms of Light and the 7 Kingdoms of Dark we identified.