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.