OK... impressions time...
The greatness of the VFW collection is twofold: Quality and variety. Every game looks and plays consistently well, and if it doesn't, Clay's fleet of techs are dispatched post-haste to make it so, almost telepathically. What more could a player want?
Weak flipper? Fixed right there.
No credits? 10 seconds later, full o' credits.
Woodrails and EM's work? Yep, and fully functional at that. Including the really rare stuff!
Granted, no event is without its concessions, and there are a few things to keep in mind when visiting VFW:
1. Proximity. Like Arcade Expo, the VFW collection is located in a remote-ish area. Not quite as remote as Banning, but still away from most hotels/restaurants/bars. You'll be parking in grass (which can be muddy) and most hotels are a bit of a drive away... possibly up to 30 minutes if you are staying in Novi (like I did) or Detroit (even further).
2. Space is tight. Limiting the attendance helps to control crowds, but even without long lines, the low roofs and close proximity of the games creates a cozy, almost claustrophobic experience. But, if you're not prone to that kind of thing, the games will likely keep you distracted from noticing too much.
3. Amenities. Although a food option was present, no beer/alcohol was available which misses out on the full "barcade" experience. Also, with limited space indoors, the only place to relax was at a table & tent area away from the action outside. Which is fine if the weather is nice, but I found it a bit cool on Saturday in the 40's/50's.
4. EM leveling is just a wee bit floaty. Hey, I had to nitpick something! :p
Bottom line: Plan ahead and see this collection! If Clay has a game you've been looking to play... you can bet it'll be here working and waiting for you, without a long line. With 300-ish games in the stable, that alone is quite an achievement.
As far as the "other" city experiences go...
1. Ferndale is a fun hipster-y area in north Detroit. At least two pinball barcades (M-Brew and One-Eyed Betty's) are within walking distance. Lots of cool brewpubs and restaurants to explore. But if you plan to hit up Toast for Sunday brunch, you had better arrive early.
2. Wright & Co. is a swanky downtown gastropub worth a visit. It's pricey, but pretty, and every bite of the food explodes with flavor.
3. Johnny Noodle King is an unexpectedly nice Chinese eatery in south Detroit near the Canada bridge. If you're looking for your signature Blade Runner postapocalyptic Detroit experience amid abandoned buildings and rusty fences while slurping noodles... this is the place. As I ate, I watched a pig's head boiling in one of six giant soup cauldrons just behind the bar... snout descending into a maelstrom of froth. Can't beat that for authenticity.
4. When leaving, stop by the Romulus House near the airport for your final departure breakfast. It is the diner that time forgot. Elvis covers, fake flowers, orange faux-marble plastic tables, and the best biscuits n' gravy I've ever had north of the Mason-Dixon line. And CHEAP! Less than six bucks for two eggs, sausages, pancakes, hash browns, and biscuits n' gravy... hot damn.