From Geekwire, Pax West 2015
Graphic: Geekwire

I was selected to be in Unplugged’s Omegathon, a convention-spanning competition over 3 (or 4, at some PAXes) days testing a gamer’s mettle in weird and wonderful games. I’ve been training the last week, and will do so up until the event on Nov 30-Dec 1. If you’ve ever wanted to compete, here’s every strategy I’ve tried so far.

The week after PAX I’ll post a post-mortem, and as long as I’m not knocked out due to some doughnuts, I’ll call it a win.

1. Actually Want to Be in the Omegathon

If you’re planning on going to PAX for panels, etc, don’t sign up. The Omegathon, especially the later rounds, is usually scheduled alongside the bigger events for crowd control reasons. I’m going to miss the one thing I really wanted to see at PAX Unplugged- the Shut Up and Sit Down live podcast, so in the insanely rare event that Quinns and co sees this, I’d love to find you all.

1.a corollary: Be Honest on the Sign Up Sheet

I’m legally blind. I wrote it in the sheet when I signed up. And I’m glad I did, because the producers assured me none of the games were speed reading where I would have an inherent disadvantage. One of the games would be unplayable for the color blind, but I’m not, and I can absolutely play all the games in this year’s Omegathon. I don’t know if any were changed because I accepted, or if I got lucky, but just be honest on the sheet.

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1b corollary: Pick Up Your Phone

PAX calls on an unlisted number. And they won’t leave a message; they just move down their list. You have one chance to pick up that call, so you’d better do it or lose it.

2. Learn the Darn Games

They tell you what all the games except the final will be in advance. Read up on them, play them with people, memorize your decks or ideal builds becuase you won’t have your strategy sheet in front of you

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3. Know When You Have to Win and When You Have to Not Lose

Sounds like the same thing, right? If you’ve won, that meant you haven’t lost; you’ve moved on to the next round.

WRONG.

You don’t need to win every game. In fact, depending on the games for the Omegathon, there may only be one game you’d have to win- that final you can’t prepare for anyway.

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Most of the games you’re playing the goal isn’t to win. It’s to not lose.

Think about it- its 20 whittled to 2 over 3-6 rounds, depending on which PAX you’re attending. They don’t cull 18 people in the first round, usually just the last 2-4 people. And again, and again, until they’re left with 2. It’s better to know all the games well, and be in the middle of the pack, un-noticed, than tear a lead. The other competitors might want to gang up on you the following round, and then it’s game over.

Some game rounds, though, might be a set of 2v2 matchups, where the half that won move on. Then, those games you do have to actually win. So look at the games once they’re announced. If any are for pairs (and ONLY pairs, like speed chess/stratego/othello), those you need to git good. For everything else, being solid but not a runaway star is actually a safer bet.

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4. No Matter How Hard You Practice, You Can Lose Before It’s Even Your Turn

Lastly, you have a 95% chance of losing the Omegathon- even if you’ve been selected. And in games with turns (mostly for the board game rounds in South/East/West/Aus, because all Unplugged is board games), if you’re last (and turn order matters), the other competitors may have already put you in an unwinnable state even before you’ve taken a move (see step 3, where they are also trying to Not Lose).

That’s okay. You were going to lose anyway. And if you don’t? You move on! Win-win.

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5. Be A Good Sport, But Absolutely Dick People Over Within the Rules

If people are ganging up on someone in the game, be a wonderful nice human to them. Don’t shout rude things, or be mean. It’s a friendly competition, and you don;t want to be an ass (nor would you probably like people being an ass to you).

But right now you are trying to Not Lose. Put your humanity aside for a moment and emenate that Big Dick Energy (on the board/with the controller, not from your mouth). Then treat them to some ramen and go play a round of Mario Kart together.

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And let them hit you with a blue shell, ya big jerk.

6. Have fun

Again: 95% failure state. Enjoy ypur five minutes of fame and ham it up on stage- you’re part of the entertainment hundreds of thousands of people are paying to see. Exchange Discord handles with the cool peeps you meet.

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And be a good sport. :D