Sunday, 11 January 2015

Dragonmeet 2014 Review - The changing face of gaming?

A bit late in the day, but here never the less here's my review of Dragonmeet 2014.

My christmas wish list for Dragonmeet 2014 like the best laid plans of mice and men... went to hell in a handbasket, meaning I didn't get to play half as many games as I would like, but did get to experience:

Castellan (Steve Jackson Games) - A 2 player abstract area control game, which is a bit pricey, but the gorgeous plastic castle pieces make it total eye candy on top of what is a solid fun game.  I also witnessed their Mars Attacks Dice Game which looked like a lot of fun for all ages.  I hope SJG make iOS/Android implementations of both these games soon as they are a lot of fun and more people need to play them.

Always / Never / Now is Will Hindmarch's hack of the one shot Lady Blackbird game by John Harper, set in a non-specific cyberpunk future.  It's got a very simple rules light system which rewards cinematic play and is perfect for a convention session.  Our awesome GM (a member of the London Indie RPG group) taught us the system basics and we were up and running very quickly, hacking, cracking and generally blowing things up in a style which John Woo and Michael Bay can only dream off.  It was hands down the most fun I've had at a con in years.

Drooling over the Sons of Anarchy boardgame at the 247 Toys stand, I played a few rounds of the UK edition of the Firefly boardgame (The one with the extra "Artful Dodger" ship).  It's definitely a long game with plenty of complexity and variety and whilst not as impressive as their demo tabletop (See photo) it will still end up on my BGG wishlist.

Firefly The Boardgame (UK Edition) includes 5th player ship "The Artful Dodger"

Chessex brought their usual truckload of dice (and a big jug to scoop them up with).

I love dice but they sometimes don't love me, they key...
...change them regularly and discipline the naughty ones

Small indie publishers were in evidence all over the show, along with a crop of new micro armour sci-fi miniature wargames fresh from their dropships like Firestorm Planetfall. travelled across the channel from belgium to show off their beautiful crokinole boards (I'll own one one day)

YAY Games UK put on a fine show with their fabulously grisly Frankenstein's Bodies game funded via Kickstarter and Chief Creative Andrew Harman was suitably kitted out in his blood stained butcher's apron.

Oakbound Games were showing off their War of the Worlds homage Tripods! in which players try to escape the Martian invasion of London and avoid the encroaching "Red Weed" which begins to cover the board.

Money is always in short supply and so my purchases were limited to a copy of Housing Crisis by Rack & Pinion Games, a tiny 2 player micro game about placing tenants in different sized housing developments.  It was reminiscent of some of my first games from the 70s/80s which also came in small zip-lock bags and I fell in love.

Housing Crisis Rack and Pinion Games, This much fun in a little bag is usually illegal!!
A couple of friends bought some of the award winning and wonderful All Rolled Up dice bags, a beauty to behold especially with the little hand grenade toggles. 

Free swag was minimal (Curse you global recession!) but I did get a promo Munchkin silver coin and "Official cheesy promotional bookmark of power!" from the SJG demo table.  Thumbing through the very glossy Dragonmeet programme you will also find "The Star Fish" a creature for use in Modiphius's WW2 Achtung! Cthulhu setting and "Ornery Octal" a magic item for Cubicle 7s The Laundry RPG.

Overall it was an enjoyable day but there were a few organisational snags, namely:
  • Travel around the trade hall and more importantly between trade hall and gaming rooms felt more of a struggle than usual with what seemed like narrower aisles.  Attendance also seemed higher than at previous years events but this might have just been my perception as the venue felt smaller and more cramped than previous years.  (Organiser Chris Birch has confirmed that attendance was 1600 twice that of previous years)
  • Locating the bring and buy stall and signup boards so close to the entrance/reception may have been a logistical necessity but it caused a bottleneck for people trying to get into/out of the trade hall all day long.
  • Whilst I applaud the sentiment behind the charitable pre-booking of game seats, in reality it just meant lots of game sheets going up on the board were all pre-booked before the show opened its doors.  With seats in such short supply anyway, I'm not sure how much extra this raised for CLIC Sergeant and Vision Rescue, it didn't paint a very inclusive or open picture which is something that I've always liked about Dragonmeet.  Perhaps next year just take a £1 of the ticket price as a donation for these worthy causes and go back to the old system of first come first served, or at least limit the number of pre-bookings per game to 50%.
  • Cloakroom facility was a neat idea which I wish I had used as the venue got hotter and hotter requiring frequent trips outdoors to cool off.
  • A lack of game information in the days leading up to the event makes it harder to plan your day and you end up missing the seminars you want to attend.
  • I didn't see any cosplayers, were they put off by the cold weather?  This may have been a blessing in disguise as they really need their own display space so people can fully appreciate the hard work that they put into their outfits, and space was at most definitely at a premium this year. 
As for the "Changing Face of Gaming" you can see some more photos from the show and attendees tell me "What it means to be a gamer" in this short video.

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