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... 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?

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