Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Dragonmeet 2015

Saturday the 5th of December was Dragonmeet 2015.

I, along with my friends, Richard, Alex, Dave and Drak decided to go. All of us, with the exception of Drak, turned up about an hour and fifteen minutes before the doors opened. We hadn't expected to stand quite that long in the cold as, last year, the organisers let us in an hour early to shelter from the elements. It was a good job that we did turn up so early as Alex, Richard and I had decided that we wanted to get a couple of roleplaying sessions in during the event. Apparently, many people who didn't turn up as early as us and who were someway further back down the queue complained because the sign up sheets for the R.P.G.s were full by the time they got to them in the foyer. We signed up for two sessions, the first, set to begin at 2pm was called Twisty Tales, Star Wars Episode 6.5.; The second, planned for an 8pm start, was a Sci-Fi, Cthulu combination, the premise being that we (the player-characters), wake up on a star ship travelling through space with no idea of our identities or how we got there. Revelations would come, along with (it being a Cthuluesque game) horror.

Before all that though, it was time to have a look at the bring and buy tables, the Trade Hall and the demonstration games room. Dave and Drak (who turned up sometime later) were not interested in roleplaying at the event and had decided instead that they wanted to play some demo games. Dave was particularly interested in trying out some new releases that had made their debuts at this years Essen Spiel (Europe's most influential board and card game convention)

I had brought along all of my Advanced Fighting Fantasy rulebooks (which I had purchased at a couple of previous Dragonmeets) as Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, the guys who created Games Workshop and Fighting Fantasy (among other things) were going to be doing a signing. They kindly signed my entire collecton.

Over the last two Dragonmeets, more miniature gaming (think toy soldiers and tiny starships) has been showcased. One game that had a demo table this year, was Terminator Genisys (yep, that's how the movie people spelled it). I first came across this game in Darksphere (a great discount wargaming shop) several months ago. I was immediately put off by the theme.
To be fair, I haven't seen the film but the original is my second favourite film of all time (after another James Cameron classic Aliens) and I also very much like the second one.
The third film, eurgh, don't get me started, was just terrible, I mean, really bad and an insult to what had come before. It doesn't sting my mind so much now though, as in the first two episodes of the brilliant series, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, everything that happened in the film was erased from the Terminator timeline by the use of time travel.
The fourth film in the series, Terminator Salvation, was watchable but out of continuity with the rest of the franchise. However, near the end of Season 2 of T:T.S.C.C., the writers had begun to play around with alternate timelines. This is where I think the show really started to loose its way after a meandering second season as a whole. Another thing about Terminator Salvation, Christian Bale was a terrible John Connor. Terrible.
So, the theme had put me off of the game. Also, looking at the back of the box to see the game components, I was less than enticed. The models appeared crudely sculpted and the paper play mat and flimsy looking cardboard terrain just looked cheap. And with a price-tag of £56, even with Darksphere discounting it from £70, it just appeared to me to be a pretty bad deal. The only thing that appealed to me was the limited edition Kyle Reese figure that was included in the box. Kyle is one of my favourite movie heroes and was played by my favourite actor, Michael Biehn.
I wanted to have a closer look though so Richard and I wandered over to the demo table. I found that I had been wrong about the quality of the model sculpts. They are actually nice and detailed and look pretty good. I think Riverhorse (the people that make the game) need to get a new photographer or printers or whoever it is that had made the models pictured on the back of their game's box look so rubbish. Richard suggested we try out a game and I agreed. Being such a Kyle Reese fan, I had to take the Human resistance fighters, including the man himself, which left Richard with the T-800s. The game is very simple for a wargame/skirmish game. After playing two rounds overseen by the nice guy from Riverhorse who was instructing us how to play, we picked up the basics and were able to play with very little additional help. I beat Richard (I must admit that I had some lucky dice rolls) but he satisfied himself by killing Kyle.
River Horse's slogan is "Sophistication Through Simplicity". I'm afraid I found the game a bit too light and simple to keep me interested though. Later in the day, Richard did buy the rulebook for £20. And, just before starting to write this blog post, I shelled out a fair bit of money on some of the models from River Horse's website. I just had to have the Kyle Reese and I'm a sucker for limited edition stuff. So I guess that I will end up playing it. Here's the link to the River Horse website if you fancy taking a look.

I bought three games at Dragonmeet this year and only one of them did I pay full price for.
That one is called They Come Unseen. Here is it's Boardgame Geek page. It's set during The Cold War and sees N.A.T.O. submarines attempting to carry out secret missions while evading Soviet destroyers which are trying to hunt them down. It was designed by a former Royal Navy commander who served aboard a number of subs during The Cold War.
Leisure Games were again at the convention and, as last year, they had a discount shelf. They had some amazing bargains and, for less than half the original price, I picked up a copy of Grind. It is a Science-Fantasy sports game made by Privateer Press and features warjacks from their popular skirmish game Warmachine. Warjacks are magic imbued steam powered robots controlled by a warcaster, a soldier-sorcerer and in Warmachine they are deployed on the battlefield. In Grind, they are the players. Here is the B.G.G. page for Grind and here is the one for Warmachine  .
The third game I bought, which I picked up really cheaply from the bring and buy,  is called Asteroyds ( I can only assume that the name "Asteroids" already was copyrighted, maybe by the 1980's arcade game). Here's it's B.G.G. page. I first played this at my Wednesday night boardgames club, Isleworth Boardgamers, here's our B.G.G. guild address. If you're ever in West London on a Wednesday evening and enjoy board and card games, feel free to join us, all the info of how to, is on the guild page. There are a number of different modes of play in Asteroyds, as yet I have only played the first, a race scenario. Players each have a tiny spaceship which they must navigate around an area filled with asteroids, viewing pods, and which is surrounded by more rock. Sound pretty simple right? Well it would be but for the fact that the asteroids keep moving. Dice rolls determine where they move and you get to see these but the rocks aren't moved to their new positions until after the players have programmed their ships' next five or six maneuvers, oh and they only get fifty seconds in which to do this. It will  furrow your brow but it's great fun.

After some lunch, Alex, Richard and I went to our Twisty Tales Star Wars roleplaying session. We had a bit of trouble finding the room it was to be held in at first as the games master had had to request a bigger table and was moved to the Pathfinder Room. (Pathfinder is a D20 System fantasy roleplaying game.) He still wasn't entirely happy with the table we ended up on as he had been promised one twice the size. The reason he needed such a large table was that he had an absolute load of Star Wars Lego which he was to set up as a Tatooine thoroughfare.
Here is just a small section of it. (I apologise about the blurriness of the picture but I only had my phone on hand to capture it.)
We had to wait for about half an hour for our G.M., Dicey Dave (a great name for a G.M.) to set the table up, but the scene that awaited us was worth it.
After Dicey Dave and Myself, Richard, Alex and the other players were seated around the table we had another delay before the game itself started. At every other roleplaying session I've taken part in at Dragonmeets over the years, the players have been given a choice of pre-generated characters to choose from and play. This time, all we had to choose from were six archetypes, which we then had to customise ourselves. We got to choose the race, appearance, abilities, flaws and a whole host of other bits and bobs to really make the characters our own. I chose, The Force Warrior and made him a former Imperial Sith who had fallen on hard times since the fall of the Empire. After this, we had each to tick, from a three page list, two plot elements that we wanted to see in the game. We then discussed further what the scenario might be. The character creation and plot choices took about an hour but when the game actually started, the real fun began.
We, the players, had decided that we would be working for the Black Sun Syndicate, a criminal organisation in opposition to the Hutts. We had been sent to Tatooine to retrieve a force power enhancing crystal for our bosses. Our first stop was a cantina (the front of which can be seen in the above picture), as one of our number was to meet a contact there who could provide us with useful information. After bribing our way past the Gamorrean guards, we got in. All of us except for our Jawa. Jawas were only allowed in this particular cantina as unwilling participants in games of Toss The Jawa. While most of the party were retrieving the info, my character, Calix and Alex's character, another fully dark Sith (who's name I can't remember) decided to pick a fight with two Jedi in a side room. Echoing Episode four, we used the previously chosen plot element "He doesn't like you.". The pair we picked on looked very much like Old Ben Kenobi and a young Luke Skywalker but, as this adventure was set 20 years after the end of Episode 6, it turned out that it was in fact Old Luke and his young apprentice. Old Luke attempted to use a Jedi mind trick to pacify me but I had chosen the "Immune to mental Force powers" move (moves in this game are a character's unique skills and abilities). With our lightsabers, Alex's character cut Old Luke in half up the middle and I cut his apprentice in half laterally.

Here's a nice picture of my character with his victim.

The information lead us to a Gungan who knew the whereabouts of the crystal. Unfortunately for us and him, he was due to be executed by the Pizza The Hutt (yes, I know it's a cheesy name for a Hutt (and from Spaceballs) but I didn't choose it) that day. The plot element "The Gungan must die" was triggered. We had to act fast.
Our team located and infiltrated the facility where the Gungan was being tortured and was due to be executed. After entering, Alex and my character's hung back. Using The Force, Alex psionically plucked the location of the crystal from the Gungan's mind, then activating the plot hook "There is a traitor among us", we set the alarms off and ran, leaving the rest of the party to die at the hand of the Hutts. I was the one who, in the preparation stages of the session had ticked "There is a traitor among us" and had pretty much decided at that point that, if the opportunity presented itself,  it would be me. At the point our characters had gotten to the facility, Alex and I had begun muttering among ourselves and had formulated the plan to stitch up the rest of the party and take the prize for ourselves. I had also decided that, if I could, I would stitch up Alex and attempt to be the sole claimant of the Force crystal. Please don't think to harshly of me. After all, I was playing a Sith and, as it turned out, Alex was thinking the same.
We had found out that the crystal was in a safety deposit box in a casino across town. We bribed our way in. Rolling spectacularly highly on a test we got to the crystal which split in two, giving us a functioning piece each. Trouble then came our way. Our former associates, who we had left to die, had survived, reached our location and had alerted the casino's Wookie guards to our presence. Faced with a group of Wookies, Alex decided to betray me and using a wall walk move, ran over and past them leaving me to fight them alone. Again, rolling spectacularly and aided by a move that meant I didn't suffer any penalties when fighting up to nine opponents, I disarmed and then cut down half of their number. The high dice roll meant that I was then able to dictate what happened next. I decided that the surviving hairballs had become demoralised at the sight of their comrade's deaths and would run away. I was about to make my exit when the rest of the party turned up. They demanded that I hand over the crystal. That wasn't going to happen. Playing some of the flaws that I had taken for Calix at character creation, those being, quick to anger, reckless, violent bloodlust, and very arrogant, a fight with my former comrades was inevitable. First, the pesky Jawa fired his bazooka at me. Using my lightsaber, I deflected the bolt back on to him, nearly killing him. My early success wasn't to last however. With two opponents armed with blasters and Richard's character who had a lightsaber of his own to face, I was outnumbered and met an end on Richard's character's blade.
All the other characters made it off of Tatooine. Calix had died but playing him true to his flaws, I had had great fun. I rarely play an evil character in roleplaying games unless forced into it but Calix was very entertaining. At the end of the game, the players who's characters had survived got to make one last dice roll to determine how those character's lives would turn out. A couple of the players rolled badly and this meant that their characters didn't meet with success in the long run. As a bonus, as my character had died, I was allowed to embellish this. I made it just a little bit worse for them.

I didn't get an un-blurry picture of the main floor in the cantina but it did have a Gungan's head on a spike.
In the  picture below, you can see a bag of pawns. Each player was given two large ones to start the game with. These could each be spent to add an extra die to a two six-sided dice roll. In addition to this, each time we roleplayed one of our flaws for the first time, we received a small pawn. These could be spent to add one point to a dice roll, for instance turning a roll of seven into a result of eight.
the most important thing in the picture below though is the Gungan in the Sarlacc Pit.

Pizza The Hutt and his court.

A side room of the cantina. The thing that looks like a Malteser is actually Han Solo's head. Look, he's got his blaster out and Greedo hasn't. Proof...Han drew first.

Wait...What?...Wrong franchise.

Unfortunately, we didn't get our evening roleplaying session in. Unbeknownst to us, it had been moved to a 4pm start. As we were messing around on Tatooine then, there's no way we could have made it. It was a bit disappointing but as the Star Wars game had been so great, easily one of my top two roleplaying sessions at all the Dragonmeets I have attended, it was okay.

I'm already looking forward to next year.

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