Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Best And Worst Games Of 2017 And Other Assorted Ramblings About Games That Were New To Me This Year.

I do a lot of gaming. Roleplaying, wargaming and board & card gaming. 

One of the clubs I go to is Isleworth Board Gamers. We have a guild on the brilliant website that is Board Game Geek, and every year, the question is floated on our forum about our favourite games of the last year.

I have many opinions on this subject and I've just spent ages typing out my views for my fellow club members to see. As I spent so long doing it, I thought I'd put it up on my blog too.

I've included links for the B.G.G. pages for the games that have them under my comments on each so you can check them out for yourself.

One thing that might confuse you a bit, is who Arthur Cucumber is. I mention him a few times in the post. It is sort of explained but to further elucidate, Mr. Cucumber is my mate Dave. Arthur Cucumber is his B.G.G. username. Also mentioned is Dan...Just Dan. Both are regular I.B.G.ers and friends. As far as I know, Dan has no relation to cucumbers.

Below is my guild post.

"Right, I don't have a top ten really, so prepare for some rambling thoughts.

Best games of 2017.
Just the two of them.

Runewars Miniatures Game I already have two fairly large armies for Mantic's fantasy wargame, Kings Of War, which is a game that I really like, so when I came across the Fantasy Flight try out area at Expo this year, I wasn't initially tempted by this. The models, that I had already seen at Enfield Gamers, one Saturday when I waddled down there, are really cool though and as I had intended to play lots of demos at Expo, My mate Richard (who's an even bigger fan of wargames than me) and I thought we'd give it a go. The rules are very straight forward and, after a a quick explanation by a FF demo dude, we were able to play without any hand holding. The game uses a variation of FF's Flightpath rules system, first seen in X-Wing The Miniatures Game but with enough changes to make it really work for a ground-based wargame with units of infantry, cavalry, heroes and whatever else you might expect to find on a fantasy battlefield. I didn't buy it there and then as I was put off by FF's usual hight prices. Fortunately for Richard and I, we have another friend who really gets into a game, buys loads for it and then becomes disillusioned with it. This very kind fellow sold to Richard and myself three copies of the starter plus a copy of another Runewars game all for the bargain price of £75 each, the cost each of one base set. We had already decided who would have which army (Undead and Humans come in the starter) so we were more than happy.

DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Heroes Unite. Now, I'll start by saying that at my core, I am a Marvel fanboy. I love DC Vertigo but, other than The Flash, really don't have time for the DC Universe. That said, this game is great. I've played a number of deck builders over the years since Dominion and this is by far my favourite. This version features what some would call b-list DC characters (Arthur Cucumber (David H) calls them the Z-Listers, but I think that that is a bit cruel.) . Also in the series is the a-list set with Superman, Batman, The Flash, ect., and A two-player Batman Vs Joker game. All are great fun but this one is by far my favourite. I've seen it on sale at a proper games shop for (I think) £30. Mr. Cucumber informed me that he found it in TK Maxx for a Tenner. Although he has a copy and I play games with him several times a week and reckon I could persuade him to bring it along often, I like it so much that I tracked down and bought my own copy.

Worst game of the year.

Lewis And Clark. This game is terrible. I have gone off of euros this year. I still like some but others seem to me to be a collection of boring maths equations held together by an artificially applied theme. Lewis And Clark is tedious and infuriating. Just when you think you've made some progress along the river, you find that you haven't managed your cards and resources well enough and your base-camp position pulls you back, sometimes further than where you started. Just awful.

Best two-player games.

Other than the aforementioned Runewars Miniatures Game and the DC Deck-building Game Rivals Batman Vs The Joker.

Schotten Totten. It's one by Reiner Knizia. I think the copy my friend has is a german edition. Each player attempts, by laying sets of cards, to win possession of standing stones. Different card combinations have different values. There is some second guessing your opponent and pushing your luck, hoping that they don't have the cards you need or just a better combo. The position in which you play your cards matters as, you can win by gaining control of a certain number of stones, or by a smaller number as long as they are all next to each other.
 Link here.

Blue Moon. Another one from Mr. Knizia. With a number of themed decks of cards included in the base set, choosing one, you try to trump your opponent by playing cards with a higher number to gain the favour of dragons. Fairly simple to play, with a mathematical basis (Reiner was a maths professor as well as being a games designer.), different types of card with additional values and game effects can be added to the characters played in an attempt to gain victory. Really fun.

A couple of fun, easy to learn games that I've only played once and hadn't seen before they tuned up at I.B.G. in the last couple of weeks but that I really like.

Azul. This game plays as well as it looks. A game about building a mosaic shouldn't really be this much fun but it is. Lovely tactile, Bakerlite (so Arthur Cucumber told me) pieces and simple but tactical mechanics. I really enjoyed it.

Ominoes. A game that Dan picked up at Dragonmeet at the beginning of December. Roll dice (I love dice.), move dice (I really do love dice.), place dice (Have I said how much I love dice?), score points. Great fun with a nice looking ancient Egyptian theme.

Game with the best theme.

Incursion. Diesel power armoured U.S. soldiers infiltrating The Rock Of Gibraltar defended by Nazi black-science experiments during the Second World War. What's not to love about this? The game-play is very similar to Games Workshop's Space Hulk. I've only played the fist scenario, which is very basic but..I love the theme. Arthur Cucumber (who owns this game) said I might as well play Space Hulk. However, I'm pretty disillusioned with G.W. at present and, after spending a fair bit of money on Space Hulk 3rd Edition when it came out, found that it wasn't as fun as I remembered when I played an earlier edition in a G.W. store many years ago.

Game with the worst theme.

Viticulture. Seriously? A game about owning a vineyard and making wine? This is a truly terrible theme. Mr. Cucumber has told me about some of the aspects of the game-play and it sounds a little better than I envisioned. But it's a euro and it's about wine making.

Biggest disappointment.

T.I.M.E Stories: The Marcy Case. T.I.M.E Stories is my favourite game. I've played the scenario that came with the base set and the A Prophecy Of Dragons module, both of which I loved. Set in 1992 and with an audio cassette on the box cover, I expected The Marcy Case to have a strong element of investigation and Grunge. It didn't. I was disappointed. I won't tell you what it did have, as exploring the mysteries of the T.I.M.E Stories scenarios is part of the fun. I will say that it featured a theme that a lot of people really like but that has never done it for me.

Game that I'm most looking forward to being launched on Kickstarter.

Gladitores: Blood For Roses.  At Dragonmeet this year, I played one phase of this (I think) five phase game. You pick your gladiator and enter the arena to do battle. You might not want to win though, as at the beginning of the phase you may have opted to play a card that gives you more points if another gladiator wins, and who you may have secretly bet on, instead opting to weaken the other fighters so that your nominee wins...That's what I did in the round I played. Of course, you may have played a card that gives you more points if your gladiator does win the current battle. There are five strategy card, one of which you play at the beginning of each phase (battle) of the game which will help you shape your strategy. The combat is fast and fun, card-driven, with each player having a partially customised deck to start with, along with a choice of three different decks to pick cards from as each battle progresses. I will be regularly checking Kickstarter so I don't miss out on this.

Best wind-up of David H (Arthur Cucumber) about a game.

I sent Dave the following by text message earlier in the year.
"I got a game in a charity shop today. It looks like the sorta Euro I take the pee out of though. It's called Corn Law and has loads of cubes. I've read the rules already. You plant and harvest (it takes two turns to do this) corn (yellow cubes). You then can spend a turn baking it into bread (white cubes). You can sell the harvested corn or made bread to the market. You also need to employ farmers and bakers (brown cubes and red cubes). One lot of harvested corn can be split into three for replanting to yield more corn two turns later. There is variability in how many townspeople there are to buy the corn and bread (which is worth a lot more than corn but will spoil if left for more than two turns) and how many you can employ. The corn law bit comes from the fact that you start with a certain amount of corn and can split harvested corn to grow more but you can also buy in, from abroad, expensive foreign corn. It looks really dry but was only £3.99. Do you want to try it out tomorrow?"
Dave replied with something along the lines of,
"That sounds like a game I'd really like to try."
Oh how I chortled to myself. I'd thought up the driest Euro I could think of and wanted to see if Dave would fall for it. He did. I worry about him though as now he's suggested I should launch it on Kickstarter. Yep, that's just what we need, another dry cube-pusher. But at least I know Dave would pledge."

In case you're interested, here is the Board Game Geek front page. 

And here is the page for our guild, so that you can check out other member's views on this year's new games. Some of which contradict mine.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

The LEGO Shop In Leicester Square.

Now, I was in two minds about whether to write this post on my blog. Part of me said that LEGO isn't geeky enough to feature here. Just after Christmas last year though (Boxing Day I think but I could be wrong), there was a documentary about the new LEGO shop in Leicester Square in London. One of the people on the show has such a huge LEGO collection that he has bought a second house to store it all in. He even has labelled draws containing each type of brick. He is as much of a geek about LEGO as any one I've ever met is of Star Trek or comic books and I think he is awesome. Add to this that LEGO produce their own Star Wars, and Marvel and D.C. Superhero ranges and I think that it qualifies this post to go on this blog.

I went to the Leicester Square LEGO shop in the run up to Christmas Day last year and I can tell you that it is brilliant. It is (as I learnt on the aforementioned documentary) the biggest LEGO shop in the world. I had to queue for about ten minutes to get inside as they only allow a certain number of people in at a time so it doesn't get too crowded. While you are queuing though, you are greeted by a giant minifigure of The Queen on a Tube Train. I took a picture of it as it amused me.

There are several other London themed decorations around the shop such as this huge Elizabeth'Tower...

...complete with a naughty judge throwing a cream pie at a policeman at its base.

They also have this massive mosaic of London around the stairwell.

You can get a mosaic of yourself made from LEGO with their Mosaic Maker booth. It looks like an I.D. photo booth but after paying £99 and waiting about ten minutes, you get all the bricks and instructions needed to put together a digitised picture of yourself.

I couldn't make a blog post about LEGO without at least one LEGO Star Wars picture. This is a close up of a great set. It features the duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in the Emperor's throne room from The Return Of The Jedi. Palpatine watches on, force lightening playing between his hands. I nearly bought this kit. I just don't really have room to display it though and it is so cool that leaving it in a box would be a crime.

I seem to remember at Christmas, as a child, every year, Noel Edmonds would do some kind of Christmas special. While queuing to get in to The Lego Store, I saw the below image in the window. I don't know if the person who designed it deliberately made the minifigure look like Noel but with that beard and hair, and that jumper, for me, it couldn't be anyone else.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Star Wars At Disney World.

Cool things from theme parks part 1.

I was fortunate enough to be able to go back to Disney World in Florida last year and with the release of The Force Awakens, the place has gone Star Wars crazy. I'm pretty late in writing this post. Some of my friends asked me just after I got back if I would be putting my holiday photos up on my blog. That's not really what this blog is about, it's for geeky stuff, but as this holiday included loads of that sort of thing, I guess I am after all. For the first time on my blog, I'll be posting some pictures of myself. So if you're looking at them and thinking "Who is that fat geek?"...well...er...I've just told you, It's me.

There is a Star Wars presence in all of the parks and hotels that I saw, with at least one shop in each selling Star Wars merchandise. However, the main focus of the Star Wars goodness is at Hollywood Studios. Starting in the early afternoon and at half-hour intervals until mid-afternoon, on the main stage at the back of the park, there is a show. There are huge LED screens showing scenes from the films, rousing music and characters coming out for the audience's delight. Here are some pictures from it.

Captain Phasma and two First Order Storm troopers.

The bad guys, boo!

 A closer look at Boba Fett.

Chewy with his arms raised in triumph.

There has been a Star Wars ride at Hollywood Studios for many years. Called Star Tours, it has you flying in a shuttle through the Star Wars galaxy. New locations were added a few years ago featuring content from the prequels (urrgh) and, more recently, content from The Force Awakens.

While queuing for the ride you can see R2-D2...

...and C3-PO.

Outside the ride there is a huge AT-AT. I estimate that it is about a quarter of the size of a "real" one. despite this it is still impressive.

Also outside the ride, they have a speeder bike. Here's a pic of me sitting on it.

A new attraction in Hollywood Studios is a gallery of models, costumes and prop replicas from the films. Here are a load of photos of them...for no other reason than that they're cool.

First up...some ships.

The super-fast A-Wing.

The heavily armed B-Wing.

Workhorse of the Rebel fleet, the Y-Wing.

The ubiquitous TIE Fighter.

The Millennium Falcon as it appeared in The Force Awakens.

Some costume.

An X-Wing pilot's flight suit.

First Order Flame Trooper armour.

Some imperial helmets.
From left to right...Clone Trooper, Storm Trooper, AT-AT Driver, First Order Storm Trooper.


Han's blaster.

The exhibition also had two genuine props from the films. Here are two pictures of a speeder bike that was actually used in Return Of The Jedi.

I didn't get to sit on this one though.

The other prop from the films that they had was Anakin's pod racer from The Phantom Menace. I took a picture of it but as I hate the prequels, I'm not going to include it on this blog.

There was also a shop attached to the gallery. Here a a few things from it.

A Han Solo costume. This was on sale for $725.

An imperial officers uniform. Not quite as expensive as the Han Solo costume above but still £650.

These were well out of my price range but I did buy myself a Storm Trooper officer's cap.

Two statues and me. On the left, a First Order Storm Trooper. On the right, a life size Boba Fett based on the original Kenner action figure.

A set of Storm Trooper armour and me again.

Every now and then in Hollywood Studios you can find First Order Storm Troopers marching about. There may be a whole squad of them led by Captain Phasma, or, as in this case, just two of them.

They generally get up to no good, menacing people and suchlike.

Now, the picture below is a bit blurry but is important in telling this story. A family had left their child's buggy in the courtyard buggy parking area while they went to have a look around, maybe meet Chewbacca inside one of the buildings. Tied to the buggy was a BB-8 balloon. One of the Storm trooper thought it would be a good idea to poke it with the business end of his blaster rifle.
The balloon burst. The watching crowd went "Oooooooh."

I love this picture. This is the Storm Trooper that just popped the balloon. I imagine the cast member in the armour thinking "I've just ruined a kid's day." and "I've probably lost my job too."

If you're a Star Wars fan and get the chance, go to Disney World. If you're not a Star Wars fan go anyway. There is so much awesome stuff to do there.

Friday, 9 June 2017

UK Games Expo 2017

Yep, I went again this year.

Accompanying me were my friends Alex and Richard, along with Richard's dad Graham.

Last year, Alex and I stayed in the Premier Inn in the grounds of the National Exhibition Centre. This year however on the same weekend as the Expo, Take That were playing concerts in the Genting arena which is also in the NEC. This meant that the Premier Inn had roughly tripled their prices compared to last year making it prohibitively expensive to stay there. So instead, we joined Richard and Graham at a caravan park just down the road and slept in the awning of Graham's caravan.

Last year, Alex, Richard and myself had played in two tournaments. The first was the Star Trek Attack Wing nationals, the second, the DreadBall European Open.
Wizkids (the company that produces Star Trek Attack Wing) had decided to not have the national competitions for their games at the Expo this year, instead they will be holding them at an event exclusively for their games later in the year. This will be at a store and gaming venue Called Fan Boy 3 in Manchester. Here is Fan Boy 3's website. And Here is the info about the national competitions for Wizkids games that will be held there.
Mantic (the company that created DreadBall) are in the process of changing over to the second edition of their Sci-Fi sports game so, as with S.T.A.W., no tournament for it at the Expo this year.

Thursday night came and, what were we going to do? Play a game of course. Richard has recently gotten into a game called Rumbleslam. It's a fantasy themed wrestling game with characters as diverse as humans, undead, reptile men and pixies. Graham is not a gamer but was willing to join the rest of us. Richard, who owns the game and, as a completist, was to pick up all the models that he didn't already own first thing in the trade hall on Friday Morning, instructed the rest of us how to play. I took a team of two dark elves from a team called the Twisted Shadows plus another dark elf special character called Phage (Richard told me she was based on a WWE wrestler called Paige. (Many of the characters in this game are based on real wrestlers.)) and a human special character called Caria.
Here's a picture of Phage in front of her stat card.

The four of us played a royal rumble, having first 1000 Dosh (the name given in the game to the points you have to purchase each character with) to spend on our team. In the end, it was non-gamer Graham that triumphed having three characters, out of his starting five, left in the ring after all others had been eliminated. The game is really fun. A lot more than I expected it would be. I was even considering buying a team for it. The thing that put me off is the sculpting of the characters. With the exception of the dark elves and the humans, they are, in my opinion, terrible. I get that the design of them are meant to convey as sense of fun but their cartoony look really puts me off. If, however, you like that look, I recommend Rumbleslam. Here is the TTCombat page for the game.

On Friday morning, the trade hall opened to the general public at 11. The four of us were in a few minutes after. It proved an expensive day for me. Not even having made it around the entire place, I still managed to shell out a load of money on this lot.

Geek Battle. The bring-and-buy didn't, to me, seem to offer many great deals this year. I did however, manage to find this quiz game for geeks for a paultry two pounds. Here is its Boardgame Geek entry.

Fina Prime. I had never picked up this Vidiian ship for Star Trek Attack Wing due to it being so ugly. But at less that half the standard retail price I couldn't resist. BGG page for it here.

Event exclusive Carnevale miniature. I fell in love with the look of the Venice set skirmish game Carnevale as soon as I first saw it. So muich so that when the Kickstarter for the Second Edition of the game went live, I pledged. Unfortunately, after the Kickstarter Campaign ended, Vesper On, the company the created it, went bust. Luckily a retailer and games producer, The Troll Trader, bought the licence. TTT have released a whole load of new sculpts for the characters from the game. I don't like these nearly as much as the original Vesper On sculpts though, so am really glad that I own a load of them from the Kickstarter that i did. Anyway, the Expo exclusive miniature is a Capadocian. Here is the BGG page for the original version of the game.

Metal D20. I have just started playing in a campaign of Alternity with my Monday Night roleplaying group and I thought that this die would add to the experience.

T.I.M.E Stories base game and The Marcy Case expansion. T.I.M.E Stories is my favorite game. A friend of mine borrowed the base game and the Prophecy Of Dragons secnario expansion from a friend of his. We, along with two other friends (one of which is the aforementioned Alex) played through them. The game is co-operative, with the players undertaking an adventure as T.I.M.E agents jumping into bodies of people throughout time and the multiverse fixing problems to protect humanity. The four of us are going to split the cost of this base set and scenario equally between us. As you can only play each secnario once to success, we plan to sell these on after we have completed them. Here is the BGG entry for the base game. I really recommend this game.

Scythe. I first saw this at the Expo last year. It is a euro game with great looking components set in an alternate 1920s. The BGG page for it can be found here.

Fighting Fantasy books. I wanted a new copy of Forest Of Doom as my old copy is buried away somewhere in the storage area of my loft. I found the Fighting fantasy stall, complete with Ian Livingston (who, along with Steve Jackson created the series) doing signings. I picked up a copy and told the salesman that I'd like to buy it. It was on sale for £4.99. He offered me a deal, Forest Of Doom plus three other Fighting Fantasy books, all signed by Ian for just ten pounds. I took the offer.

Here is a better look at the four books that I bought.

Steve told us that, when the trade hall closes, he would be doing a talk on his top ten games. We went and watched. One that he chose was Diplomacy. On his recommendation, on Sunday, Richard picked up a copy for just four pounds from a stall in the trade hall.

Friday Night and it was time for us to partake in the first of the two roleplaying sessions that we had booked for the expo. I had been wanting to play Call Of Cthulu for a long time and a this was my opportunity. Call Of Cthulu is a roleplaying game named after one of and based of the works of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. We were going to play the recently released Seventh Edition. The scenario saw us as teenage boy scouts from the town of Arkham, going out into the woods for a weekend of fun. At some point during the first night, two of our fellow scouts were abducted from the campsite without any alarm being raised until morning. After the discovery, our characters set out on a hunt for the missing boys. We found the fist one, flayed, up a tree! Our scout master left to get some help from the local authorities. On foot though, as the distributor cap from the only vehicle at the camp had been removed. Later, arming ourselves with whatever we could find (luckily there were some rifles in the campsite's hut but very few bullets), we went to find the other missing boy. We found this poor fellow quite a way from camp, up a steep hill, again in the branches of a tree, but encased in a cocoon made of branches. Further examination showed us that his heart had been replaced with another, smaller branch cocoon which contained the heart of a small animal. Suitably freaked out, our characters returned to camp. Expecting some kind of monster to attack, we hid in the basement recreation room of the hut. We were attacked. Not by a single monster though but by five of them. Strange wooden "Wicker Children". A seige ensued with us narrowly managing to best the tree creatures but not before I accidently manged to shoot another player's scout in the back whilst trying to defend the stairway that lead to the basement. After this, a secret door was discovered that lead to a small room conatining a table with an old tattered manuscript on it. Reading this opened up a doorway to another dimension. Going through, we were faced with a magician and his Byakhee (a nasty winged monstrosity). We were somehow able to defeat them though and escape back to our world.

Saturday saw us looking around the rest of the trade hall, buying more stuff and Richard and I trying out a game of the recently release wargame Runewars (more on that below).

Here is what I bought on the Saturday.

Lobotomy. The premise and look of this game captured my imagination. You play as an inmate of a psychiatric hospital attempting to escape. Due to your delusions, the staff that are trying to stop you, appear a monsters and mundane objects as wonderous artifacts. Here is the Boardgame Geek page for it.

Star Wars Rebellion. I first saw this at Expo last year and was considering buying it then. I wanted to try it out before buying it but the two tables in Fantasy Flight's (the game's publishers) area that had it on were occupied. I watched a woman and her son play it for a while though and got enough of a sense of the game play to satisfy myself that I would like it. BGG entry for it here.

AVP Upgrade Pack. As I mentioned in my previous blog post (Dragonmeet 2016), I recently purchased a copy of AVP. It hadn't been out very long until Prodos, the people who made the game, released a second edition. I guess that there must have been a lot wrong with the rules for the need to do this. (I don't know for sure though as I haven't actually played it yet.) Fortunately, for those of us who bought the original, they also released an upgrade pack which conatins the second edition rules plus new tokens. Here's the link to the BGG page for the original version of the game.

Hero Realms. This is a deck builder by the same people that created Star Realms. My friend Dave was saying, before I went to Expo, how much he wanted to get this game. So I bought him a copy for his Christmas present. Don't worry about him seeing this blog and the surprise being spoilt though as when I gave it to him, I made him unwrap it so that he wouldn't go out out and buy a second copy between now and Christmas Day. He's not going to play it until after Christmas though. You can find the BGG entry for Hero Realms here.

I first saw the Runewars Miniatures Game at wargames club, Enfield Gamers, when I popped in one Saturday. I was initially put off by the miniatures that, unpainted, looked a bit toy-like to me. An additional thing that put me off were the "strange cardboard dialy things" that sat behind each unit.
At Expo, Richard and I thought we'd have a go however. Painted, the models actually look pretty good. And the "strange cardboard dialy things"? They are actually a really innovative way to order your units. Now I play Star Trek Attack Wing (a lot) and X-Wing The Miniatures game (very little). A feature that both of these games have in common is an orders dial. At the beginning of each round of these two games, for each of your units on the battlefield, you set an order on their dial for them to complete in their activation. I first saw this system in X-Wing The Miniatures Game which was produced by Fantasy Flight. One of the co-publishers of the Runewars Miniatures Game is Fantasy Flight. A difference in the dial ordering system of this compared to X-Wing and Attack Wing is that for each unit, you have two dials. These two dials, among other things, determine when a unit will act, how far and in which direction it will move and how it will attack. The movement system is also similar to X-Wing and Attack Wing in that when you move a unit, you place, on the table top, a template with one end touching that unit and move the unit so that it ends up in contact with the other end.
Richard and I only got in the first two turns of a game as we started pretty near to the closing time of the trade hall. We played together, taking half of the undead army each, against two other guys.

This is how our battle line looked at the start of the game complete with "strange cardboard dialy things".

At the end of the second round's movement phase, our armies had made contact. I had managed to outflank the golem unit with my wormy thing and had been able to pivot to hit it in the side.

Runewars Miniatures Game comes with two starter armies, undead and humans. Here is the Boardgame Geek page for it.

Here are a two more pictures from the table that Richard and I played on. At one end was an open battlefield for games and the other, a ruined castle display with...

...humans sneaking into the sewers underneath...

...to rid it of the vile undead occupation.

When the trade hall closed, we decided to head back to the caravan. We began a game of Spartacus Blood And Treachery ( Boardgame Geek page for it here) which, co-incidentally, I had bought on the bring-and-buy at last years Games Expo. We only had time for me to give a rules explanation (Alex and Richard had played before but Graham hadn't) and get in the first three phases of the first turn of the game before we realised that we had to head to The Hilton for our second roleplaying session of the weekend, a game of Only War.

Upon entering the room in which our roleplaying session was to take place, we were confronted by this man.

In this picture he is in an action pose but when we walked into the room, he was standing, motionless and silent. he gestured for us to take our seats. Our games master had another persona, that of Commisar Havelock Von Havelock III (Jnr.). The commisar gave us our briefing, after which our games master would, at times slip back into this persona, mainly to execute us with his Nerf gun. Execution in this game wasn't the end though. We were playing as cloned Imperial Guardsmen from the dead world of Krieg and we had six clones each. Only War is a roleplaying game set in Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 universe. The story goes that Krieg had been invaded by the forces of Chaos and, unable to wrest control of it back from them, the powers that be decided to nuke the entire planet. The population now live underground, their only contribution to the Imperium Of Man, soldiers.
Our mission was to infiltrate a starship of unrecognised design that had recently appeared from warpspace. A squad of Deathwatch Space Marines had already boarded but contact had been lost with them. Being somewhat expendable, we were to be sent over to find out what had happened to them. We shuttled over and were greeted by a servitor. It offered us refreshments and told us that "Honoured Guests" (the Space Marines we assumed) had gone to watch "the show". We were now invited to do the same. Richard, who was currently playing the Sergeant, declined this offer and instead ordered us to open fire. We made short work of the servitor and the two gun servitors that arrived soon after. Another servitor, just like the first, appeared and offered us the same as his predecessor. Again the Sergeant declined. We did some exploring and discovered that the ship was a pleasure liner. To move the plot forward, I had my character disobey the spirit of the sergeant's orders and go and watch the show. I was presented with a convincing hologram of the (now catatonic) Emperor Of Mankind, ordering his troops to stand down as the galaxy was now at peace. With this, a previously unseen, by me, and badly injured Deathwatch Space Marine stood up, bellowing with rage and opened fire on the holographic image. As I kept my head down, gun servitors entered the room. The marine was subdued and taken, by way of a trapdoor lift in the stage of the auditorium, to the bowels of the ship. I reported back to the rest of the squad. It appeared that the ship had been lost in the warp for millennia and that the message may indeed be genuine. With the galaxy now at war, this must have seemed as anathema to the genetically enhanced Space Marines that viewed the message before me. Our squad bundled into the stage lift in an attempt to find and rescue the Space Marine and, hopefully, discover what had happened to his squad mates. The lift wasn't designed for a whole squad of guardsmen to use at the same time though and one of our number was crushed to death. However, he was soon replaced by a new clone teleported in. Down the lift shaft, we discovered the Space Marine being moved, via conveyor belt, through a number of operating theatres. In each one, a portion of his genetic enhancement was removed. In the final chamber, the marine's geneseed (the reproductive organ that allows more Space Marines to be created) was removed and stored away. We followed the marine on the last part of his journey as he was deposited in one of the liner's passenger cabins. We looked in neighbouring cabins and found the other members of his squad, also stripped of their enhancements, were being kept. It was at this point that we discovered that radio communications to outside of the ship were being blocked. We found a way to contact the outside though. From a section of the ship containing an infinity pool set against a huge transparent plasteel bubble, we could see the Deathwatch Space Marine's Strike Cruiser. I waded out into the water and, using my lamp pack, signaled with Morse Code in an attempt to get a response. Moments later, a marine in boarding armour floated out of an airlock on the cruiser. I reported our findings and asked for instructions. We were told to retrieve the gene seeds and if possible rescue the marines. Failing that, we were to destroy the ship. We found our way back to the final operating theatre and attempted to access the part of the wall that the gene seeds had disappeared into. Using a newly teleported in Multi-melta (a powerful weapon that "cooks" its target with microwaves), Richard (now the heavy gunner) created a hole in the wall. At the same time, one of our number was able to use an instrument panel to call up the gene seeds. Between the damage caused by the Multi-melta and us fumbling when trying to catch the marine organs from a damaged robotic arm, we only managed to retrieve two of them. Not fully realising that, after an hour, we were going to be teleported out of the ship, we made our way to the engine room to destroy the ship. After we got there, the realisation did hit us, but Richard decided to perform a TPK anyway (a TPK is a Total Party Kill and usually happens when one of the players in a group does something particularly stupid). Richard had his character throw a Krak Grenade into the ship's fusion reactor...T...P...K.

On Sunday, we got to the trade hall pretty late. We just had time for a last quick look around the bring-and-buy and for me to buy this.

Yep, another module for T.I.M.E stories. I thought that while it was available for a good price, I may as well get it.

We then rushed over to The Hilton for Knightmare Live. Knightmare was a great kids television show in the early '90s that I have very fond memories of. Knightmare live is a comedy stage show version of it. Actors portray characters such as Treguard and Lord Fear and have members of the audience up on stage to attempt a quest to retrieve a magical item. I really recommend this show and, in case you do go and see it, will not be giving any spoilers away. One bit that did amuse me though that I can say (as it will change with every performance) was when Lord Fear asked the audience what things they are afraid of. One guy shouted out
        "Fluff...seriously, fluff."
To which Lord Fear replied
        "Have you looked in your belly button recently?"

Afer the show, we had a drink in the Hilton's bar before heading back to the caravan site.

We finished our game of Spartacus and then went on to play Cards Against Humanity (Boardgame Geek page here.)

Here are a few other cool pictures from the Expo.

There were a number of cosplayers at Expo and they had their own corner of the trade hall. They don't only make costumes but props too. Here is a fun Jawa in a miniature sand crawler...

...and a rather excellent BB8 style droid.

Wotan Games were there with their rather cool bus. I had intended to try out their re-release of War Of The Nine Realms but didn't get around to it.

The Mystery Machine. We first saw it in one of the car parks outside the Expo. Then we saw it at our campsite. Then again in one of the Expo car parks. Were the Scooby Gang following us?

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Dragonmeet 2016.

Saturday the 3rd of December last year was Dragonmeet 2016. It's a gaming convention that I go to every year and I always try to drag along at least a few of my friends for company. This year, I managed to convince four of my best buddies, Alex, Richard, Drak and Dave to come. We managed to get a discounted group ticket for £40 which would let six of us in. With a spare ticket, I asked around and managed to palm the last place off to a friend called Dan from Isleworth Boardgamers, a club which Dave and I go to every Wednesday night and to which Alex occasionally puts in an appearance. (If you're ever in Isleworth on a Wednesday night and have a passion for board games, you're more than welcome to join us. We meet every week at the London Apprentice pub by the River Thames. We also have a guild on Boargame Geek. Here is the link to our page. If you feel a bit shy about just turning up, why not send us a message first?) To my surprise, another of my best friends, Jess turned up with Richard.

Dan had brought his young son along and as soon as the doors opened, the pair shot off fairly rapidly. One of the games they played that day was a "giant" version of Thunderbirds. Here is a link to the Boardgame Geek page for the regular sized version.

One of the first places Dave and I headed was the Leisure Games stall as, at the last couple of Dragonmeets, we'd gotten some great bargains from their discount shelves. Leisure games is what's known to gamers as a FLGS (Friendly Local Games Shop). It's located in Finchley, North London. They also have a webstore, Here is a link to it. Unfortunately, this time we were unable to find any bargains from them that tickled our fancies. Dave loves a bargain game (he has found many corkers in charity shops) and after loosing track of him, I found him again at the bring-and-buy tables. I hadn't intended to buy much, at this convention but I found an almost brand new copy of AVP: The Hunt Begins (Here's the Boardgame Geek page for it.) with all components present and unused. I'd been looking at this game on my trips to Wayland Games (a brilliant discount wargames shop and gaming centre Here's the link to their webshop.) for several months but was put off by the high price tag. It was on the bring-and-buy for £50 however and I couldn't resist buying it.

I met back up with Alex, Richard and Jess and, at some point, it dawned on us that we hadn't signed up for any of the drop in role playing sessions that Dragonmeet is famous for. By the time we got to the sign up sheets, there weren't many slots available. However, we found a game that we could all fit into that sounded fun. It was described as having similarities to the TV shows, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Supernatural. More on Monster Of The Week later.

HATE (Hackney Area Tabletop Enthusiasts) is a gaming club that meets in Hackney, North East London. I've gone up there a couple of times for various events but Richard is a regular attendee. While Dave and Drak went off to try out some new games, Richard convinced those of us left to try out a game called Frostgrave that the HATE guys were demoing. Frostgrave has a player controlling a group of adventurers, lead by a wizard, around a ruined frozen city. Richard had convinced me with his sheer enthusiasm for it, at the beginning of last year, to buy the core rulebook but I had yet to actually have a game. I'd read the rules though so half knew what I was doing.

Below is the awesome Frostgrave table that HATE had brought along for the day. (The pint of beer isn't part of the scenery.)

It was decided that Jess and Richard would team up against myself and Alex. The winners would be the first team to get a certain number of treasures off of the edges of the playing area. However, Alex and I soon decided that it was every man for himself and that we'd just as happily fight each other as we would Richard and Jess.

Alex had a team of what can only be described as "pig-orcs" and first blood went to his crossbowman, who sniped my wizard, wounding him badly. Below is a picture of the nefarious neer-do-well.

The look of Alex's models reminded me of the orcs from the 1980's Dungeons And Dragons cartoon series. here's a picture for comparison.

Alex's crossbowman didn't last long though, as my archer took him out in one shot. I'd previously tried to zap him with a blast from my wizard, an elementalist, but I was unable to roll high enough to cast the powerful spell that I was going for.

Jess' wizard was the type known in Frostgrave as a "witch". Here it is, along with one of its henchmen, closing in on my warband.

She then sent her barbarian in to finish my wizard off.

All the while, Jess, Alex and I were fighting, sneaky Richard, snuck around and snuck off of the table the required amount of treasures for him and Jess to win the game.

There are obvious comparisons to draw between Frostgrave and the 1999 Games Workshop game Mordheim. You run a warband around a ruined city, gaining experience for your characters, making them more able, sometimes having them suffer injuries or dying altogether, in the hunt for treasure and glory. I've played Mordheim and now Frostgrave and agree with what one of the HATE guys said about them both. He said "If Mordheim is VHS, then Frostgrave is Blu-Ray!". If you'd like to have a further look into both games, here is the Boardgame geek page for Mordheim and here is the page for Frostgrave.

 After a quick lunch, the remnants of which we took with us, it was time for Alex, Jess, Richard and myself to go to our role playing session.

The game was Monster Of The Week. Here is the RPG Geek entry for it. The ruleset for this game is known as the Apocalypse World Engine and was first used in (funnily enough) Apocalypse World. A number of games using this system have been published since its origin.

Our games master was Robin and we were also joined by a guy called Angel. Robin gave us each a choice of character. I went for The Initiate, a religious warrior whose organisation has fought against The Darkness since time began. Our character sheets were incomplete. The incompleteness wasn't, in this case, a bad thing as Robin had left us with a few options to finish off and customise our characters.
Now, before I tell you the story of our game, a roll-call of our characters:
Myself - Kayvan, A holy warrior skilled in the use ancient weaponry;
Alex - Xeno, an Illithid who was trying to make up for his monstrous ways;
Richard - Eric Bay, an agent of a shadowy organisation;
Jess - Nia Chase, a strange telepathic little girl;
Angel - Valefar, an unsanctioned angel who had decided to ally himself with my character.

I (Kayvan) was woken up in the early hour of the morning and instructed to check on an old associate of mine. The team assembled at the address of my associate where we found blood, a hole in the side of her house and a smell of gas. We followed a trail from her house, into the woods behind and found her remains.

(Now the next bit is somewhat fuzzy in my mind as Dragonmeet was at the beginning of December and I'm writing this in March...and I have a terrible memory. So I apologise to anyone who was there if I get any of the details wrong.) The team split up, some heading to a barbecue and the rest of us to a biker bar. Violence had ensued at the barbecue and, at the biker bar, myself, Valefar and Xeno encountered a powerful monstrous beast. We were able to hurt it enough that it dissapated, but not without it wounding me. At both the barbecue and the bar, there were also strange smelling burgers being cooked.

I remembered the legend of the Wendigo, a North American monster that some say can be summoned by the eating of human flesh. It turned out I was spot on! The burgers had once been people!

Doing some research and using our NPC (non-player character) contacts, we discovered that the way to banish a Wendigo was to perform a ritual once employed by Native Americans. It wasn't as simple as just researching and then performing the ritual though, as we needed an authentic ritual mask.

We contacted the local Native American tribe then journeyed to their casino. Nia, being a little girl wasn't allowed in as the rest of us were, so I suggested that she waited in the ball pit in the children's play area. Big mistake. Our team met with the tribe elder and got advice about the ritual. We were told that we couldn't have their genuine ritual mask as it was an ancient relic of the tribe but replicas were available in the gift shop. Meanwhile, at the ball pit, a pair of small brothers were being mean to Nia. Overreacting grossly, she let off a psychic blast at one of the boys, flinging him back, giving him a nosebleed and damaging his brain. Things had degenerated into a mess. It was at this point that Valefar began attempting to convince me to steal the genuine ritual mask that was in a glass display case near to the "Ball Pit Incident". He wasn't sanctioned by my church and was not acting in an angelic manner and it was at this point that I realised that he might not be an angel after all but something much more sinister. I declined but after what Nia did and the fact that Valefar then unfurled his liquid metal wings, smashed the display case and grabbed the mask, our team made a swift exit.

At another location, we prepared to enact the ritual. To banish the Wendigo, we first had to summon it however. That part was the easiest. Staying alive while we completed the banishment part was far trickier. We did though and we sent the monster back to whichever nether-realm it came from.

After the game, there was time for a quick last look around the trade hall. I made a last minute impulse buy. I bought a game by Fantasy Flight based on Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 universe, called Forbidden Stars. (Here is its Boardgame Geek page.) I'd liked the look of this game since I first saw it in 2015, the year of it's release but like the aforementioned AVP that I had got at a bargain price from the Bring And Buy earlier in the day, I had been put off by its high price. I managed to find it on a stall for the discounted price of £74. Yes, it's a lot of money but Fantasy Flight had recently lost the license to produce games base on GWs intellectual properties so it wouldn't be getting a reprint. Prices for the game had already began to increase. There had been a copy on the bring and buy for £85. Using his phone, Richard checked Amazon and found that, on there too, the price had jumped to £85. I'd wanted to try out the game before buying it but believing that I was very unlikely to again find it this cheaply and on Richard's recommendation (he had played it several times) I made the purchase.

After the trade hall closed, Richard, Jess and I headed to the bar area. (Our other friends had headed home.) This was where the raffle was to be drawn, the traditional Dragonmeet charity auction was to be held and where a new thing for Dragonmeet, the geek pub quiz would be. To our glee, one of our friends, Drak won an item in the raffle. I explained that he had gone home so was invited to chose a prize for him out of those that were left. I selected a reprint of a boardgame that Dave had mentioned a few times that he remembered from his youth, Escape From Colditz. Here is Osprey games' official site for it. During the auction, Richard, Jess and I unboxed my copy of Forbidden Stars. I was eager to see the components and was not dissapointed. As with every Fantasy Flight game that I have seen, the various parts were of a very high standard. After the auction, a table of about 12 next to us were playing a card game unfamiliar to me. For some reason at various points, they were making loud, squeeky animal noises. It was irritating. Then Jess went to a nearby supermarket to grab some dinner. She came back just before the quiz started and informed us that she was going to try and sleep on a couple of the now vacant tables near to the bar area. She often cat-naps. She had a load of bags with her and I decided that, if asked by a Dragonmeet or hotel official if she was with Richard and I, I would reply "No, I think she's just some kind of hobo that wandered in off the street.". Richard and I did OK at the quiz, we were joined part way through by a couple who gave us their help and we came just above midway in the scoring. Annoyingly, the "Animal Squeekers" with their 12-member quiz team won.

I always have a great time at Dragonmeet and this year was no exception.