UK Games Expo
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 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.
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.
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 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 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.
- 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!
- 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!
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…
I’ve been doing quite a bit of work prepping for the 2015 UK Games Expo in Birmingham (at the NEC) later on this week. I’ve offered to help the Modiphius team with the setup and will be running some demo games, so will be heading down on Thursday afternoon. Luckily, it’s not far from the station to the Hilton and exhibition hall.
I’ve few minor misgivings about the trip. One is that I maybe should have left myself some time to sit down and actually play a game, and to actually get around the Expo and see stuff. The other is pacing myself. Starting early in the morning on Saturday, my last game finishes at midnight. There’s a one-hour slot between games, so I’ll need to make sure I feed/hydrate myself properly. I expect Sunday morning to be fairly quiet, so will likely see if I can do some demos then at the Modiphius stand if needed.
After Q-CON last year, I learned from my mistakes and am taking a second case to the Games Expo and Q-CON I picked up a fairly cheap solid case from John Lewis. Last year I had to post some stuff back home ‘cos there wasn’t enough room, with the novels I had bought, and WarZone: Resurrection rules. While I recall, I must get the new Laurence Donaghy novel, Completely Folk’d at Q-CON.
As well as the requisite clothing and toiletries, I’m taking the following:
- Strepsils. I’ll need them.
- Dice. Not just the regular ones, but the Mutant: Year 0 dice too.
- Pencils and scrap paper.
- Achtung! Cthulhu miniatures.
- Achtung! Cthulhu Terrors of the Secret War.
- Achtung! Cthulhu haversack (to carry stuff around).
- Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper and Player books (I’ll be coming back with the Guide to the Eastern Front too).
- Achtung! Cthulhu The Trellborg Monstrosities
- Go tokens (and the movie counters) for use with Cliché, Mutant Chronicles, etc.
- A set of playing cards for Cliché.
- Mutant: Year 0 rulebook
- Mutant: Year 0 map
- Savage Worlds rulebook.
- The Worlds Greatest Screen GM screen.
- Call of Cthulhu rulebook.
- Binder with notes, character sheets, rules etc. for Cliché, Mutant: Year 0, Mutant Chronicles 3e, Conan RPG, and the St Nazaire material.
- Netbook and cat 5 cable (backup of PDF rules and to keep updated).
- Phone charger
I’ve still to finish prepping the Cliché adventure and character sheets. I really do need to knuckle down on that.
So far there’s a lot going on for me at the UK Games Expo 2015 (and Q-CON a few weeks later!). I’ve volunteered to help out the folks at Modiphius Entertainment with set-up on the Thursday night and to run some demo games. The demo games will likely be on the Friday and Sunday, although they’ll shorter – 1 hour to 90 minutes.
As far as I know, Marc Langworthy of Red Scar Publishing/KPLangers and I will be running them at the Modiphius stand, like we did at Dragonmeet. I’m not sure if Marc will be running any of his “Purging of the Crucible” official Mutant Chronicles scenario. I think there’ll just be the two of us (possibly three of us) running the games so say “Hi” if you’re there!
As well as Mutant: Year 0 demos, I’ll be running a bunch of scheduled games as parts of the official games at the UK Games Expo. This is why I’m taking an extra bag to the UK Games Expo (and Q-CON). I’ve learnt that it’s worth it for the extra weight. I have a bunch of games outside the demos for Modiphius as follows.
- A Prayer for St. Nazaire – Achtung! Cthulhu (Savage Worlds, Saturday 10:00-14:00). SOLD OUT! Eep. Achtung! Cthulhu won best RPG last year. I’m pretty much ready for this. I’ve run it twice but my Savage Worlds knowledge needs polished. Characters are ready and plot is set. I’m taking the rulebooks and the miniatures – plus Savage Worlds of course.
- Mutant Chronicles (3rd Edition) – Straffar Gatan 39/Fall of Van Holle (Saturday 15:00-19:00). I’m hoping that the actual rulebook will be at the UK Games Expo, but otherwise this has already been run by me, so I’m fairly comfortable with it.
- Cliché: Movie Madness (Saturday 20:00-24:00). I’ll be running the Drunken Badger game of Marc Farrimond‘s Cliché RPG. I’ve not written the scenario yet, but I’m thinking Dark Edinburgh during the Festival.
- Mutant: Year 0 – For a mouthful of water (Sunday 15:00-19:0o). No idea how this will work out on the Sunday afternoon as the game has been nominated for “Best RPG” at the Expo – possibly running this just before the awards. Although I’ve created characters, I’ll need to flesh out the scenario a little more to fit in the time-frame. I’m also taking the cards and dice (as well as the rulebook), as they might be rather useful.
I’m hoping to do demos of the following games as part of my Modiphius slots (or maybe even play in one) – as well as Mutant: Year 0 if needed.
- The Trellborg Monstrosities – Achtung! Cthulhu (Call of Cthulhu). Part of the official A!C line. I’ve heard it’s good to run in a convention! Need to read up on this adventure – on the plus side it’s already written and tested.
- Robert E. Howard’s Conan: The Red Pit. I’ve a playtest pack for this, and have been reading through it. Crom!
- DUST Adventures. I’ve ordered the dice for this, pre-ordered it, and hope it’ll be ready in time for the Expo. It’s supposed to be nice and simple and I know the DUST gaming community are looking forward to it. I’ve not seen the pack for it, nor the adventure yet.
- Infinity RPG – Tales of the Long Zi Wo. I’m not at all familiar with Corvus Belli Inifinity RPG, but I’m planning to give it a bash. Need to read up a lot more on it though.
It’s going to be a fairly busy weekend. The UK Games Expo is massive, serious, and organised. The plus side is that the train goes pretty close by and I’m staying on-site. The Hilton is a bit pricey but they always are. I’m picking up a lot of little tips for conventions (Conpulsion, Dragonmeet and Q-CON so far), but I suppose a lot it is common sense. Certainly it’s something of an experience.
For more information on the games I’m running at the UK Games Expo, click the relevant image below – it’ll take you to the relevant part of the Modiphius website.
Some of you may already know that I’m making the convention rounds this year! So far I’m appearing at Conpulsion, UK Games Expo, Q-CON, and hopefully Dragonmeet.
As I’m a Modiphius Silvershield I’ll be running a few demo games – with the exception of a Prayer for St. Nazaire and Cliché they are actually games recommended for first time play. I may change these later but so far there’s a nice bit of variety:
- Mutant: Year 0: For a mouthful of water. In a post apocalyptic future, a group of mutant PCs search for fresh water in the ruins of the Ancients., vital to their survival and those within the Ark.
- The Mutant Chronicles (3rd Ed): Straffar Gatan 39, a rundown tenement in the Nines – a particularly nasty part of the Perimeters. Dispatch has received multiple calls from residents reporting screaming on the third floor. Dispatch receives calls like this all the time and they mostly go unanswered, but after the sixth call a Patrol unit was dispatched….
- Achtung! Cthulhu (Savage Worlds): A Prayer for St Nazaire. March 1942: A small commando force are dropped behind enemy lines to silence a Nazi listening post in the Loire valley.
- Cliché: The Game of Making Movies. An as yet untitled adventure…
So I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about convention games in general as a result. As the games above are going to be demos, I thought I’d put some thoughts down, if only to clear my head.
Time: Convention games are usually allocated time slots. At Dragonmeet, these were one-hour slots. At Q-CON three-hour slots. If you’re running a demo make sure it’ll keep to the time slot and not overrun.
Playability: Keep it simple. Complicated rules, where both players and GMs keep having to look stuff up, isn’t going to help “sell” the game. Quick-start “lite” rules and pre-gnerated characters are a great place to start. Having a physical copy of the game rulebook(s) also helps (see below).
Setting: Try and keep the setting simple for new players – keep the background fluff for the plot. Let the game speak for itself and don’t bombard the players with a lot of information. Also relevant: consider where you are actually playing the game. If it’s going to be loud game – and players can get raucous! – consider the people nearby!
Potential Audience: Kids are often accompanying their parents to conventions these days, and often play too. Bear that in mind when you’re writing adventures – if the subject matter is potentially dark, be prepared to tone it down. Likewise any “adult” situations.
Organisation: Check the sign-up sheets beforehand. Make sure you’ve time to get food. Be prepared to keep to the time slot available – don’t be late. Don’t get stressed with the players either if they are late or don’t turn up. It happens.
Props: The more maps, play aids, flyers, handout’s and other possible swag the better. Make sure you’ve got physical product if you’re doing a demo. At the very least the players can leaf through the rulebook.
So, sadly I’ve bit behind on my writing and other projects. I’ve finally started the Tyranny of Dragons D&D 5e campaign, so expect to see some posts about that soon. I plan to try and blog about each chapter as I go. I’m also in the last day of WFRP’s “The Power behind the Throne,” so that’ll also have a post at some point. At that point I’ve decided to end the WFRP Enemy Within game – it’s been running for over three years now, so has had a good innings. When WFRP finishes, I’ve a few playtests lined up – Corporia and Mecha vs. Kaiju. Both these games have been on my playtest list for a while and I really need to get them tested and reviewed on here 🙂
One of my New Years “achievable goals” was to try something new and different. So I joined the local Amateur dramatics group, Leitheatre. I’m now Stage Manager for the one-act play called The Long Shadow. It was a bit daunting for me at first, but it’s two nights a week where I’m not sitting watching the telly! I’ve also signed up for an Open University degree in Criminology and Psychology starting in October. I may have bitten off more than I can chew. Either way, the other writing is taking a bit of a backseat for now. NaNoWriMo just didn’t get started for me.
I also spent an industrious few minutes at lunchtime putting together a bunch of the dates I’ll be away to game at RPG conventions… Currently I’m thinking of running Cliché The Roleplaying Game of Making Movies by my good friend Marc Farrimond, and also The Mutant Chronicles, Achtung! Cthulhu, and Mutant: Year 0 from MODIPHIUS at the following events.
- Conpulsion 3rd-5th April 2015
- UK Games Expo 2015 29th-31st May 2015
- Q-Con 2015 19th-21th June 2015
- Dragonmeet ?December? 2015
I’ll see some of you there I reckon!