Monday, 22 June 2015

UK Games Expo - Part 3

I realised after posting Part Two (rather than 2) that I'd used the word rather than the number. Completely unplanned as that was it reminds me how out of the habit of this blogging I am.

Anyway, onto matters more pressing.

UK Games Expo - Day Two

The hordes descend…  If there was any kind of indication that the Hilton was struggling to contain the con it was proven on the Saturday when the numbers increased substantially.

I had noticed ahead of the con that I had those tell tale signs of a cold coming on. Saturday was when it really hit home.  Breakfast was accompanied by Lemsip before the day's exploration began. Breakfast was accompanied by a long and healthy chat with a fellow DWARF - Richard Coates.

I've got a lot of time for Richard and his musings on the hobby and life in general. He epitomises the generation of board gamer before me in that it's all about the experience of play and that respectful air for things that are not of his liking.  He flooded me with enthusiasm for board games which is probably Richard's one true love besides his family of course.

Anyway, after breakfast it became clear that the Hilton was indeed bursting at the seams.  Gamers of all shapes, sizes, ages and interest levels had descended on the venue.  Families aplenty, which is a marvellous thing to witness, all equally eager to explore and be entertained.

With this influx though came a different challenge for the con.  No space whatsoever.  None. No wonder they're having to look at the NEC for next year's show.

To counter that and given that +Greg Barr was playing D&D all day I'd agreed with +Ross Hendry that we'd hit the Playtest zone at some point on the Saturday.  What's a Playtest zone? Well it's an opportunity for the budding game designer to show off their wares and get immediate feedback on their product.  It was organised by the fine folks at www.playtest.co.uk who organise meetups across the country (well England) where people can try out the newest games being developed.

The game we played was Turistico.  It was (and I hope the designers don't mind the comparison) essentially Ticket To Ride re-skinned as a tour operator game where you have to take your tourists round specific routes in London.  I reference Ticket To Ride not just due to the theme but mechanically the game was similar.  You collect "tickets" which instead of buying you trains bought you taxi, subway, bus and walking routes between the various sites of London.

All in all it was a solid enough game albeit I found it a) a bit long and b) not quite my cup of tea. I enjoy Ticket To Ride but Turistico didn't quite hit the mark for me. In the hour that we played it we got through half of the game and also there was 1 turn where I couldn't do anything. To be fair to the designers that was something new to them and they both took notes to look at that.

Having played Turistico my Lemsip was wearing off so Ross and I split up.  I went back to my room and lay down for an hour. Something I was thankful of later on.

After more purchases (full list to come in the next post) I met up with a few others for food outside at the food trucks.  With my body refueled with Lemsip and quality food we went back inside to find a place to play more games. Ross and I played Fantasy Flight Game's Age Of War with Dougie and Laura.  I'd seen it on a number of the stalls and had picked it up only to put it back down again.

It's a dice game (by Reiner Knizia) set in Feudal where the players are trying to take control of various houses or clans.  It played well but the trouble with dice games is that if the dice aren't with you then the game can drag on, this unfortunately was one of those occasions.  I think we had 3 or 4 turns where nobody did anything other than roll dice and get frustrated.  That aside it was a fun game of pushing your luck to match symbols with each clan's house to take control of it.  In the end though I decided it wasn't something I wanted to buy.

After Age Of War we met up with Scott and Michelle who had just played Colt Express and subsequently bought it.  We searched for about 30 minutes to find an open space and finally got a table big enough for 6 to play it.
Colt Express was one of the hit games at UK Games Expo and has a had a LOT of really good press. I try not to get caught up in the hype of a game though and on this occasion I was glad of that restraint... Suffice to say I wasn't impressed.
It's very cool to look at and it's got some nice mechanics but on the second play through I decided to take a very different approach.
The game is based on making a number of actions, some public and some hidden, where you're trying to move your character along the train collecting loot and gems and ultimately avoiding the sheriff. 1st time through I paid attention to what everyone else was doing and tried to counter their moves whilst still trying to collect the loot.  This seemed to work out ok but there was something not quite right about it.  On the 2nd time of playing I took that different approach. I basically ignored all the plays of each of the other players unless they moved the sheriff.  Only then did I re-think my strategy and the end result?  I won. By a country mile.
So by essentially playing against the game (rather than the players) I won.  That didn't feel right. Most of the others seemed to enjoy it but it just isn't a game I'd want to play again (sorry Scott).

After that it was coming up to 11pm and the others were looking for an early night.  I'd said to Greg that I'd meet him in the bar for a drink post his D&D games so after dropping my bag off in my room I did just that.

What followed was a fair amount of beer and a lot of chat. Greg knows which buttons to press with me and we talked about KoA, my former employees, how we ARE going to Gen Con next year (although I don't remember signing any paperwork to guarantee that) and latterly about the convention scene in Scotland...  It was soon approaching 3am and I knew I had the drive back up the road on Sunday so we called it a night but not before what was probably an hour of "If we were to organise a con what would we do?" chat.  More on that to come methinks...

Oh and 1 last thing before I bring the Saturday to a close.  The ATM in the hotel ran out of money. This would prove to be a mistake on the part of the hotel as it wasn't replenished on the Sunday which meant a number of traders that were cash only probably lost out.

Anyway, next post will be about Sunday, my purchase pile and then some retrospective on the con itself and what refinements I think they should consider for next year and beyond.