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Surviving the UK Games Expo! And Mutant: Year 0

I got back from the UK Games Expo last Monday. It’s quite an experience if you’ve never been and something every gamer should try. I’ll try and break down my experiences by day.

Thursday

Thursday did not start well, but not the fault of theExpo. I repacked my case again, so the books wouldn’t roll around in transit – I bought a suitcase particularly for that reason, but the damn thing was heavy with the rucksack as well. I decided to take the train, as it might give me some time to finish writing and reading up on the adventures (and I hate spending time in airports!). I managed to spill Ribena down myself which did nothing to help my mood when the departures board in the station packed in. Fortunately it was fixed in short order.  Next up, the train carriages electrics were acting up and the air conditioning had packed in. Not only that but I couldn’t find my reserved seat (I actually spent the entire journey in the wrong seat it turns out), as all the numbers were rubbed off and the electronics legends were off. Not an auspicious start.

Still arrived on time at the cavernous NEC where everything was eerily quiet and echoing at 5pm. So I set off for the Hilton. At least where I thought it was, as my phone couldn’t get a GPS fix. I wandered from one end of the NEC car park – which is pretty much 3/4 mile before realising I was heading the wrong way. So I’m standing in the middle of the car park, when I spot this tiny path through the woods. Considering the land is flat, all I could see were trees – I head unpleasant recollections of looking for the Hotel Baden in Tokoyo, when Expedia failed to mention the hotel address correctly, that the name had changed, and that the building had been remodelled…

So I thought, “Sod it!” and headed up the path, and Lo! There was the hotel entrance hidden behind the woods. What I didn’t realise was the lengthy trudge to get to reception on the other side. By now I was hot tired and sweaty. So finally went to check in, only to find that – possibly due to lack of sleep I’d not booked Sunday night too. One credit card charge later, I headed up the lift to my room on the top floor. I headed down to the bar, had a near-apoplectic fit at the cost and waited to hear from the Modiphius folks who were setting up in the Trade Hall. Also caught up with a few former Edinburgh gamers from ORC Edinburgh.

Helping the Modiphius Team setup was one of those “Shall we dance?” – with boxes – like some weird Olympic event as we shuffled the various books of Achtung! Cthulhu, Mutant: Year 0, and Cogs Cakes and Candlesticks into place on the tables and shelves in tight confines. We then declared our works good and as is the tradition of such endeavours, buggered off to the pub. We took our pints to the Open Gaming area and started playing the Conan RPG – ruddy good fun. Marc Longworthy,you did a great job keeping Chris, Nathan, Michal, and I on track as we did a Prison Break, Conan-style, in The Red Pit. We were pretty much dead on our feet in the wee small hours and headed off to sleep. A long day, but a good day.

Friday

I got up at a sensible hour and discovered the joys of the Hilton’s lack of network when I unpacked the netbook and found the wifi card was totally banjaxed, and dead weight but at least the books were on it if needed. No Cat-5 link connection, either. A series of short four-letter words were then repeated as a mantra.

I spent most of the day helping on the Modiphius stand. Or maybe hindering? I don’t think anyone knows as we were all so busy, occasionally getting in other’s way. I ran a demo game of Mutant: Year 0 from a few players and one chap bought the entire range of it on the spot. We had plenty of games going – Marc and Nathan did Mutant Chronicles 3e and Conan, as well as us all trying to flog the books to the punters. Looked of folk collecting their Kickstarter rewards across the Expo. Including AVP. Lucky gits. I think the others planned to do board games – the Thunderbirds mock-up was popular, and pretty much in constant demand – later that evening. I turned in early after we got booted out by the Stewards. I had the rest of the Cliché scenario to, um, write.

Saturday

It was a big day on Saturday. Three 4-hour gaming sessions with 1-hour breaks in between.This was a marathon day. I dropped into the stand briefly and mooched around a bit between games (I skippred breakfast after realising my first game would probably be starting before I got food (there was that mantra again). A full house of 6 players loved Achtung! Cthulhu (A Prayer for St. Nazaire – “Thanks Bill, that was cracking!”) – and later bought the books. The Mutant Chronicles combined Straffar Gattan 39 and also the Fall of Von Holle. The Players said they were definitely looking forward to the game and were exhausted by the end of it. Sadly, I missed the Modiphius Expo “team photo” earlier as I was dropping off the A!C books and had a clean shirt to put on, but my back is in one of the photos :).

I’d had to book a place in the restaurant, but had some food before the last game of the night, which was challenge. But a good challenge of GM skills. Enter the youngest RPG player in the convention: 7-year Chloe. She was a bit excitable (she was there with her Mum and Uncle), but had the table in stitches with:

Dwarves love gold? Isn’t that unsanitary? – Chloe (Age 7)

Obviously, I’d had to make my Action Movie plot more child-friendly, but she’s the only one managing to get a swear word into the conversation. There was a bit of a double-take on my part! The plot was rollicking ride involving Police Scotland’s Dwarvish Consultant, a plot by the Dark Elf King Oberon, and a Draconic Captain. And Ork Boyz building a pimp-mobile Battlewagon to the tune of the A-Team. I was on fire, and so was a building by the time the players had finished with the scenario.

At midnight I crashed – literally – into bed. I’d beat my personal best. Three 4-hour sessions done. Looking back, it’s probably for me to run these session back-to-back, as it leaves me with very little time to do anything. Plus the prep time needed.

Sunday

Sunday was really a day where you got the feeling everyone was panic buying (that bloody cash machine again!). I went back on the Modiphius stall where chaos taking a bit of a party with the others. This time running Achtung! Cthulhu Trellborg Monstrosities for two players, which lead to one of them buying the game, so that was a win.  By mid-afternoon things were winding down and people were packing up – the trade hall was empty by 6pm! Sadly, everyone had gone when I got out of running Mutant: Year 0 later (which was lot of fun), and definitely a game I like running. I barely had a chance to say goodbye to anyone. However, there was a bit of a surprise later – I certainly don’t think it had anything to do with me (see below). The hotel radically changed too – all the character kind of felt bled out of the place, and it felt much more like an airport hotel. I think, if there was train on the Sunday I’d probably take it back to Edinburgh.

Surviving the UK Games Expo

There’s fair lot the Games Expo and it’s a lot to take in. There’s a lot of highs and lows I think, so let’s start with…

The Lows

  • The Hilton is EXPENSIVE. Really expensive. £5.50 for a pint, £28 for a steak. If you want internet access you have to pay £14.99 a day, although there was some coverage in the lobby. Ouch. No Cat-5 connection like the Hilton in Vancouver, either. Next time, I’ll shop around for a better deal I think (as was recommended to me)!
  • Waiting ten minutes for the bar staff to notice we were waiting to get served (sarcasm worked).
  • The crowds may make some people anxious. It can be a bit hard to deal with the press of the crowd.
  • There’s a sort of crowd Brownian motion in the Trade Hall didn’t give folk a chance to stop and browse. However as the Expo is heading to NEC next year, I suspect this will no longer be an issue.
  • There’s one cash machine in the hotel and it ran out constantly (and charged £1.50 a visit!).
  • My biggest regret is that I didn’t get much of chance to see the Expo, and this was my own fault in the making, but its something I’ll bear in mind for the future. Not just at the Games Expo either.

The Highs

  • Getting a chance to play some awesome games with some awesome people. Next time, I plan to do some more open gaming.
  • Well organised. Aside from a couple of minor things (see below) it pretty much went without a hitch to my perspective. Although a couple of GMs failed to turn up, apparently – given that the players paid for the game, it’s a little ignorant on those GMs part. The RPG organiser had made it quite clear to contact him if there were problems running a game days before.
  • Seeing some great costumes. Loved those Jawas!
  • Big tables that you could all comfortably sit around for RPGs with a respectable noise level. Luxury!
  • Being able to demo games for folk who then went to buy the game 🙂
  • Spending time on the stand with the Modiphius Team. You’re a great bunch. Hope to see you at Dragonmeet!

Survival Suggestions

  • There were food trucks outside, so you didn’t have to eat in the Hilton – they’re moderately less expensive and there’s  Subway in the NEC.
  • The air in the halls dries out quickly, so stay hydrated. If you’re working in there, probably a good idea to take lip balm!
  • Keep stuff in your room – you don’t need to take boardgames to the Expo – and it’s good to keep things light (rulebooks etc. can be left behind!). Taking an extra case definitely made it easier to transport.
  • Give yourself some time to take it in and don’t commit yourself to running too many games as GM!
  • Sunday evening is largely dead there – everyone’s gone by 6pm. If you can, head home that night.
  • Try and find a cheaper hotel than the Hilton, or find a better deal online. The Hilton does sell out fast, though.
  • 3G. If you’re got it, use it – don’t rely on the Hilton wifi network.
  • Take a tablet or iPad and keep any rulebooks on PDF. It’s light and more portable, plus you can capture the insanity.
  • Get to the breakfast queue for 7am.

And to end it all there was this.

Modiphius Entertainment’s Mutant: Year Zero (by Friya Ligan) won UK Games Expo 2015 Best Role Play Game Award. I missed this as I was in another part of the building – running it. 🙂 I’m not  taking credit for it winning though – seriouskythere was a lot of interest in it at the Expo, and the book is great.

As RPGs go, I’ve really enjoyed running this. For Q-CON, I’m going to try and make things a bit more details, possibly extending the plot line into the Eden story arc. I love the cards and dice do make things quick and easy. Plus the book’s art really works well. The headcase in Lair of the Saurians may be interesting, too. I’ve not read it yet, but it looks fun to run!

Congratulations to the Modiphius team on the win (and Nathan and Mark for volunteering – next time I’ll stick around the stand and possibly play!).
Mutant Year 0 - 2015 Winner Mutant Year 0

Stonehenge!

To end things on a light note, I was amused to find that one of the RPG games rooms – Suningdale – had been left off the map of the Expo. As I was running a game in it, I scouted around a bit and found it named Sunnydale. That wasn’t the only typo. Special mention should be made of the ceiling-high banner in the Monarch room. Or Monrach as it was spelt in huge letters. Ouch. I was reminded of the now classic Stonehenge scene in Spinal Tap

4 Responses to Surviving the UK Games Expo! And Mutant: Year 0

  • Bill my friend, good to see you there! Excellent breakdown of a fun but exhausting weekend! Glad you enjoyed the Conan demo, despite me taking it easy 😉

  • At this point Bill, you should write a UK Gaming Conventions Survivors Guide and do them all. thorough and helpful for those looking to frequent it next year. well done and glad to see you survived!

  • Thanks Marc – we only had one fatality didn’t we?

  • There’s more than I can get to, but may create a PDF for the articles for Q-CON, Conpulsion, Dragonmeet, and the Games Expo!

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