Five years ago, my life in the gaming world changed; the UK Games Expo, previously a jolly bijou opportunity to sell a couple of hundred quids worth of our meagre stock, was our first opportunity to demo/preview our biggest offering yet and one being co-produced with my favourite of game companies: the chaps wot dun made Agricola, no less! I had no idea what to expect, to be honest; I hoped that we would get solid interest and maybe sell a few more copies to Brits come the Essen release. Oh to send a message back in time, eh?
Here's a great archive photo from (Hemel Hempstead M:TG and board gamer) PhilP that stirs particularly-nostalgic feelings; therein are great pals that I've seen many times since...and you can just make out my hairy arm and "I'll give you a clip round 'ere" Paperclip Railways t-shirt.And here's my first video for Snowdonia; can you detect an smidgeon of my excitement?
With my dear gaming pal: PacoAnd here, dearest of dear lovely chums, is my blogpost summarising the whole experience:
Friday 25th May, 2012
It was hotter than ‘mah lurve’ this afternoon when I finally managed to load up my VW Polo (sunroof open, seats down) with Totemae, Coppertwaddles, Scandaroons, Sur Les Cartes (L’Edition D’Anglaise) and my precious, hand-rubbed preview copy of Snowdonia.
Bidding a wobblytummed for-the-weekend farewell to the Mrs and Arthur (the others were in school/college), it was off up the M50/M5 in bright sunshine equipped with the requisite cold energy drink and a brace of comedy podcasts (Tim Minchin being interviewed by Richard Herring = trouser accident).
The drive was unremarkable, if baking, and I rumbled into the dusty Clarendon Suite car park circa 3PM calling a hearty ‘Hallooooo’ to my Wycombe comrades unloading the emptyings of their attics for re-sale; with my own cargo decanted, I left my Teutonic hatchback (my trusty steed) to boil quietly with its Exhibitor Pass.
Our game for sale this Expo is a small-box affair - On the Cards by Sebastian Bleasdale - so it didn't take long to pile everything up for arrangement. Alan and Charlie Paull had beaten me to the stand, so I eschewed the usual mildly-tetchy conflict of opinion about how everything should be set up to, instead, finish off making up a third Snowdonia demo set (MY focus for the coming weekend!
Shortly after that I had to find my way to the UK Gaming Media Network’s umbrella + videocam corner for a 16.15 appointment with broadcasting stardom! I am, of course, a bit of an old lag at the streaming demo malarkey - happy to prostitute my wares at Essen and Expo alike! It's kind of fun, in a masochistic way, to have my so-called friends point out my every stumble, stammer and fumble in great BGG-based forum debate afterwards. The demo went well, I thought – though as of today (28th/29th) the fruits of my public speaking have yet to surface.
Not having eaten anything since a couple of slices of Marmite toast in the early A.M, I was feeling the magnetic draw of Johnny Wongs (delicious restaurant, 200yds from the show) and paused briefly to post up the signs for our ‘giveaway games’ competition (on the hour, a lucky punter could claim a free copy of either Coppertwaddle or Scandaroon - insert comment about UN-lucky punter having to claim TWO copies of Scandaroon instead HERE).
The food didn't really touch the sides on the way down and as I was leaving to find the so-called ‘Quality’ Hotel (pah!) I bumped into Mr Hanno Girke, esteemed director of Lookout Games and erstwhile North Wales landscape fan; Hanno is, of course, co-conspirator in the publication of my precious Snowdonia. His exhausted family were eyeing the menu like lions at an all-you-can-eat Christian buffet, so I took my leave (“Ah”, he says, “We arrive and you go!”).
I checked in with a surprisingly less-disinterested member of the desk staff than usual (she may even have looked up at one point), and was handed the key to 97 which – after the ‘walk’ – turned out to be in a different County! Luckily, my room was equipped with a purring air-conditioning unit and even though I had an appointment with ‘valuable gaming time’ at the Strathalan (opposite), I took ten minutes pause to dance naked about the accommodation enjoying the chilly blasts and the soft, cool towels.
The largest of the reserved rooms at the tiresome franchise monstrosity that is ‘the Strathalan’ was full to prolapsing: sweaty punters, fizzy apple-flavoured micturate dispensed by the pint and the be-haloed objects of our affections...GAMES!
Games: how they sing to us!
Games: how they beguile!
Games: a coy smile, the subtlest parting of their cardboard lips and we’re smitten!
Mssrs The Royal Society of Gamers » Podcasts and The Little Metal Dog Show were keen as English mustard for a game of Snowdonia, so I obliged by rounding up three more takers and set them off with the (newly-minted) demo spiel!
Once I’d directed them in the Navvy Arts, I took myself to an adjacent table to give Ace of Spies a tickle – a just and appropriate thing to do seeing as I’ve subscribed to the Kickstarter campaign. I am, and have been since fertilized eggform, a HUGE fan of James Bond and the James Bond school of spying and ‘ting – recent exposure to the excellent ‘Tinker Tailor’ movie and the teste-stimulating Skyfall trailer have piqued my interest in this light affair. It plays smoothly, the rules are straightforward and there is a satisfying amount of ‘take that!’ back-stabbery which befits a game themed to subterfuge. The art is great, as is the flavor text and general atmosphere. It shares elements of Ticket To Ride card drawing and set collection mechanics but plays quite differently. I took the ‘hoard interrupt cards’ approach with the intention of stealing everyone else’s hard-earned Missions only to be hammered by a 1-2-3 retributive salvo from the guy in last place (who I JUST HAPPENED to have nicked a huge – 19 point – bonus from!). It’s not going to trouble the thinky tables at all but will MOST DEFINITELY get play from me and my boys!
The evening was slightly blighted by a 10 minute, one o’clock in the morning allergic reaction to SOMETHING on my pillows that lead to streaming eyes and a sneezing fit! I’d been dozing for an hour only to be woken by this bizarre episode.
Saturday 26th May, 2012
For some reason only HALF of my iPhone recharging apparatus had made it to Birmingham, so I used up the last 2% of power calling for text-based help from Mr Alan Paull – he duly arrived first thing this morning to deliver leccy-draining salvation.
“It’s great having air-con, isn’t it?” I asked cheerily.
“We don’t have air-con” came his despondent reply. I now feel inwardly-ashamed of my nocturnal nude-y prancing.
A quick coffee and a bacon buttie at the Stand, phone sucking up charge balanced on a pot plant, and almost immediately the doors opened I was into FULL Snowdonia demo mode. That’s the way it stayed for the rest of the day (5PM) and all of the next (until 4PM) – a pair of preview games on-going at any given time with a third popping up to evict an On The Cards or Totemo or two!
Polytechnic pal Malcolm and his two boys arrived and greetings were exchanged (he would return later for a game himself), other ‘early-doors’ attendees included the [family=7217][/family] fellows – their nominal overlord, Mike, fresh from a wholly-inaccurate and border-line defamatory so-called ‘summary’ of Snowdonia on their latest podcast! Mike and Paul had already played it (though you’d never have thought it from Mike's audio-descriptive desecration of my life’s work) and were enthusiastically introducing it to the third leg of their waffling tripod: ‘Si’.
Aaaaaaaaaand this was pretty much how the day progressed – me having to shout out the rules summary in the crowded, rhubarbing Halls of geek magnificence. I paused for breath and a quick chat with visiting pal Neil only to find there was 15 minutes to the ‘Designer Panel’ upon which I was to sit. I failed to even grab a bottle of water on my way up to the Purple Zone (that is NOT a euphemism). The seminar room was crowded and overflowing – wow! I thought, so many people here to listen to our rhuminations? No, as it turned out, THEY were all there for Steve Jackson and promptly removed themselves when his lecture was finished. We were in danger of having more panelists than public...
What makes a good game? “No-one really knows – design for yourself”
What’s your favourite new game? “Eclipse, au naturellement” (though Sticky Stickz emerged the true victor)
What do you think of Kickstarter? “Don’t provoke me…”
Is the Wheaton Effect a good thing? “Yes” etc
It was a fun hour and I delayed my return to the SSG docking bay to go chat with Hanno on the Lookout stand and watch pals Richard ‘The Beard’ and Steve ‘Wrightcon’ Wright play the Le Havre 2pl prototype.
The evening began with MORE Johnny Wongs wok-tossed deliciousness (and copious glasses of iced pineapple juice and lemonade), followed by simpler fayre back at Hell’s Stinky Backside (the Strathalan): Agricola (but of course!), Glory To Rome (how could I NOT?) and Cubiko (the thinking man’s Loopin’ Louie) – all of which I won *smugface*
Other highlights of the day included ‘The Student’ coming 3rd in the Agricola competition and former M:TG co-drafter Claire being pipped to the Settlers of Catan title FOR THE SECOND YEAR RUNNING!
I returned to my cool, refreshing lodgings in time to see the Deity-awful Swedish thumpetty-thumpetty cod rave anthem “Euphoria” pulling a 100 point+ win over the gerontophiles’ Russian dream in the Eurovision - Britain’s twanging twee-ballad sagging like Englebert’s octogenarian scrotum in second-from-last place. I think I’d rather pipe Porcine abattoir screams into my bleeding ears than subscribe to any of this catalogue of aural ruin and anal gas expulsions masquerading as a ‘Song Contest’. Michael Fox (II) is a bit of an expert on the competition, apparently – don’t tell him I mentioned it, though.
Sunday 27th May, 2012
Woke with croaky voice – an Essen Saturday (Day 3) level of croakiness! Lots of loooooooow singing (Lee Marvin – I was born under a wandrin’ star etc).
Ignoring the extortionately-priced breakfast at my (laughingly called a) hotel, I diced with death crossing the Hagley Road with Hanno before the repeat (gratifying) attention in Snowdonia continued! I now play the game for the pure pleasure of it and, having mentioned (in passing) during an explanation that ‘you don’t need a train to win the game’, I decided to try and prove this. On this occasion I missed out by 5 points with the other (three) players all chuffing happily up and down the great Peak – so I think the point still stands :-)
The day passed in a blur: chatted with various industry types; got my complimentary copy of Divinare from the amiable Mr Brett J. Gilbert (wait! That was YESTERDAY); some Take It Easy’s from the venerable Mr Peter Burley (legend!) and a (demo) copy of Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small from Mr G.
An old workmate from a project in the early 2000s played Snowdonia while his 11 year old daughter played – AND BEAT – Alan Paull at Coppertwaddle. Of course, the gauntlet was thrown down to me (the BEST player of the game IN THE WORLD!) and I was forced to pull out every ‘Twaddling trick in the book to beat her – which I did, narrowly: 3-2.
Current workmate Vinny arrived with his cousin and played Paperclip Railways and it all blurs into an exhausted fug from that point onwards.
The show closed without me noticing; the takedown was relaxed, quick and trouble-free and I stopped off for the usual coffee and Surprised Stare debrief at Frankley Services.
Next year the Expo moves to posher climes...in the meantime, I’ve got a Summer’s pause before what will hopefully be the most awesome Essen Spiel to date!
Here’s to the 2012 SSG Expo Team: Alan, Charlie, Sebastian and Caroline! And here's to Richard Denning and the brilliant organizational Team!
PS. I couldn't tell you how all the other SSG-related stuff went, as I never got a breath of time to find out!
Life and Games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell: Dad, Husband and Independent UK Game Designer.
Archive for UK Games Expo
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We have a first batch of 500 of these beauties arriving on Friday!
(I'll have to wait by the door to load them safely in to the Shed)
The Cousins' War by David J. Mortimer
The Cousins' War by David J. Mortimer
They will be available at the UK Games Expo (next weekend!!!) for the bargain, convention-special, price of just:
(and, don't forget, you get Snowdonia and Guilds of London promos in the box for FREE)
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I am trembling with anticipation to see the final, 'for real' version of The Cousins' War in my sweaty little 'surprised' hands but...did you know there were a couple of spare card slots that needed a-fillin'? Well, we at SSG - like Nature - abhor a vacuum so I set to work with Mr David J. Mortimer to design this cheeky (and thematic) double-sided promo:
For the other slot, I took myself out for a quiet ale and convinced myself to design something for Guilds of London too:
Can you work out what they both do from just the images and the (dreaded) iconography?
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Coming soon from SSG Wargames (basically Surprised Stare Games Ltd with a fancy new themed logo!):Cousins' War
2 players, 30 minutes.
The Wars of the Roses were fought between the Houses of York and Lancaster for over 3 decades during the 15th century in England. The houses were both branches of the royal family, therefore the Wars were originally known as “The Cousins’ War”. Each player represents one of the houses as they fight battles and gain influence to control England.
Cousins' War is a new game from David J. Mortimer (Twilight Squabble, Pocket Imperium, [microfilms], Flock and Dragon Slayer). Artwork and layout is by the utterly-wonderful Klemens Franz.
Come and pick up your copy at the UK Games Expo (June 2nd-4th, 2017 at the N.E.C, Birmingham)!Oh, and we'll have a new Snowdonia mini-pack there too!
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It's tiring work hawking yourself around the media outlets but it's also an utter pleasure; here, then, are a couple of Tony Guest Spots:
(FYI: Ben seems to have edited EVERY pause out of this recording with the effect that I felt quite breathless at the end of listening to it!)
I trust that you are all now suitably 'gorged' on the meat of my Wisdom? #knackered #tomdropsstuffagain
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A Sore-Throated Saturday Seminar Snippet
Last Saturday morning, pre-opening, I bumped in to Mr Tom Vasel who asked me if I'd like to be a guest on The Dice Tower live podcast that afternoon. It was a 'Designers Panel' and I was to be the meat in the sandwich between Dr Reiner Knizia and, arguably, the coolest game designer in the World today Mr Eric M. Lang:
Reiner and Eric are both like, uh, like poets you know like Shelley or Byron, or people like that. The two totally distinct types of visionaries, it's like fire and ice, basically, you see and I feel my role in the podcast, is to be kind of in the middle of that, kind of like lukewarm water, in a sense.
Jokingly, because I like a joke, I asked young Tom if I was allowed to swear. He looked me straight in the eyes, stony-faced, and said, softly: "No, Sir". Right. That's clear then.
Now, while I am perfectly used to standing up in front of large rooms of people and banging on about stuff (I shall be doing a lot of that this coming week for 'work', as it happens), I admit to suffering a touch of the squeaky sphincter at the prospect. To further compound this apprehension, I was chatting with the Playtest UK guys about 20 minutes before the 'cast started and my voice cracked!
So, enjoy we three amigos in conversion (or 'Tom-versation', if you will?):
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Ok, so I promised I'd write up my Sunday experience at the Expo and then got a little side-tracked by overwhelming fatigue and, then, yesterday's awesome 'Hotness' experience! It won't surprise you to know that a Sunday morning couldn't keep the throng from the breakfast room; no matter the Holiness of the day, the venue was (still) opening at 0930HRS.
It was a longer trudge to the NEC this time as I had to check out first then walk the opposite direction to the van's parking zone, retrieve the trolley (I really SHOULD'VE left it on the stand Thursday) and rattle-clatter over to the NEC in readiness for the inevitable Takedown Frenzy come 4PM. The robust Security guards were too busy arguing with another Trader about sneaking in early to stop me from sneaking in early, so I busied myself behind the shelves and floor-standing banners: tidying and sorting. Mike from Who Dares Rolls called a cheerful 'Good morning' and within moments we were chatting like Smooth FM early-morning DJs in front of a rolling video camera!
It was short and sweet, and I managed to blag a free coffee so: result! Not sure when the bants-in-our-pants will make to the Youtubes, so watch this blog!
I managed (you will already have seen the loot pictures) to garner a lot of lovely new things, so all those empty Guilds of London boxes came in damn handy for packing. There were gaps on the shelves for Snowdonias and Ivors, so I faced all of those too; ah, all that retail training when I was a teenager has really paid off!
And then the doors opened.
While not as mad as the other days, Sunday was still a busy old time of it and without Guilds, peeps were stopping by to sample some Snowdonian delights. And not just sampling, but buying; we sold out of all the copies of THAT I'd brought too! In fact, let's remind ourselves of the VW Transporter on Thursday (2nd) afternoon:and compare it to what arrived at Chez Boydell come 7PM (5th):
We sold EVERYTHING apart from some Bad Grandmas and spare Snowdonia: Seasons! What the actual frak?!
I managed to sit down and play an excellent game of Snod with a chap called Daniel, the splendidRichard DewsberyUnited Kingdom
and the equally-splendid, but far more travelled
It was a bloody close thing: Bruce played the sneaky don't mind me; I don't know what I'm doing card and I got all smug-and-gloaty with a couple of rounds to go, convinced I'd beaten Richard in to second place (at last). As it turned out, pride was - indeed - an accurate precursor to ego-plummetage and Richard stole the win with some excellent No.6 Padarn utilization: 95 - Richard, 93 - Me, 83 - Bruce and 70ish - Daniel!
My off-stand wandering increased as I grabbed a final few bits and pieces for the family and I was then pounced upon by the wonderful Andy Hopwood (Mijnlieff, Dodekka) who was bursting with excitement about having explained the rules to Mijnlieff coherently in under 30 seconds! Unclear as to whether this was actually 'a good thing' or not, I mulled upon this bombshell as I went to retrieve the van.
Outside it was ridiculously hot and sticky:
By the time a line of us had made it back in to the cool shade of Hall 1, the place was a skeleton of it's recent former self:
But I did manage to say goodbye to my new pals, including the utterly-charming:
And we're done; you're all caught up now - at least with MY version of Events - so, if you'll excuse me, I've got another long work day ahead of me where every damn brilliant and awesome thing that happened in Birmingham means abso-bloody-lutely nothing at all.
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Got back early evening, in sweltering heat and light, so spent the pre-sleep period cooling down, cleaning up and eating! More on the bigger Sunday tomorrow but, until then, here's a piccy of my UK Games Expo loot...most of which was paid for by M:TG rare stuff and my ill-gotten (everything sold again) Bring & Buy gains:
Mississippi Queen + Expansion
Beyond Baker Street
The Bloody Inn
Broom Service, and
Now, where the jiggling tittyfuck am I going to put them?
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Another day, another plate of fried meat and carbohydrates to start me off; with the earlier 0930HRS public opening, the breakfast bar (‘The Boulevard Restaurant’, no less – high zit gain, yah? Proper posh) was – much to my surprise - elbow-to-elbow with carnivores at 0700HRS. Belly full, a cool amble through the pretend woodland to the Halls saw me straight to the Bring & Buy (again), this time FULLY stocked with much boardgaming bacon (licks lips): mmmmmm...Railway Rivals and *slurp*dribble* Mississippi Queen (with expansion). Also, amongst the gems on the collectibles table, I found these impish stowaways:
Anyway, the tannoy piped up something incomprehensible so I scurried back to the Stand in preparation for the final departure of the Guilds of London ‘forty’...and then there were none. I _say_ none, what I mean is “And then there was ONE orphan copy – fallen backwards off the shelf in to the ‘Rubbish’ box” (...waits for inevitable Boffonian quip...) which was earmarked for Mr Eric Lang after we Dice Tower-ed later in the day (see further on a bit, thanks).
With all of that pressure now off, our attention turned to the dwindling Snowdonias (which is having the mother of all resurgences since we ‘obtained’ them German 1st Editions - checkout the amazing £36 bundle!) and the imminent arrival of a shower from ‘out of town’:
I was able to grab a comforting couple of hours wandering the Hall with this happy, motley band (even got in a game of Dobble!); however, lack of sleep, nerves and excitement have made me feel rather homesick *sniff*.
The Ross-on-Wye board gamers were also ably-represented by Norm, Keith, Gary and Daffers who popped by to say hello then spent inordinate quantities of money on big boxes of stuff and, finally, stopped by on their way out to complain about how heavy everything was! First world problems, my friends - first world problems.
Demo, drink, demo, poo, demo, drink and then - whilst chitty-chatting with the always-delectible Brett J. Gilbert, I coughed a bijou ahem and my voice went! Just like that I went from silky-toned Brit orator to a hooting mid-puberty schoolboy soprano...ten minutes before I was due to be a guest on The Dice Tower Live podcast! Sipping a bottle of mineral water only seemed to make the clenched squeaking worse as Mr Reiner Knizia took to the stage with his stand-up comedy routine (seriously, he was VERY funny!)
Nervously I awaited my segment by bumping fists with Eric M. Lang, to my right, and rasping a gigglingly-nervous complements to this altitudinous and hirsute superstar! Being the meat in this particular Designer sandwich (!), Tom summoned me for my turn on The Rack and I wheezed my way through 10 minutes of cheerful banter feeling like all my passages had closed up. Eric closed off the session with some excellent conversation and all-of-a-sudden it was 5PM and time to go away.
Ah, the walk back was distinctly lacking in spring so I recharged the iPhone, and myself, in the silence of my room before venturing forth for some evening play. As it turned out, I didn't end up playing ANYTHING: after (finally, 45 minute!) getting a burger, I popped to the Bar for a refreshing, throat-soothing pint of Guinness and bumped in to Efka Unpronouncablesurname, Ben O'Steen, Robin Lees, Matt Dunstan, Gil Hova and other splendid pals and partners:
We proceeded to drink, chat, laugh, be rude and generally have quite the most enjoyable 90 minutes; what occurred in the Bar, however, stays in the Bar. From there we decamped to the adjacent 'big room' whereupon I met up with long-time gamer pal 'Guildford George' and was re-joined by Matt D to look over his notes/prototype for Snowdonia: The Qinghai Tibet Railway which is - spoiler alert:Spoiler (click to reveal)Awesome!
More jabbering and jaw-flapping ensued until I, still hoarse and rasping, excused myself for an early(-ish) night and then bumped in to 'Oxford Terry' in the long corridor so I followed him back to an ante room where he and his pals were playing Guilds of London! Another hour passes and we're now - officially - in to Sunday morning so I DEFINITELY pull myself away and head in the direction of Beddington...only to bump in to Chris Marling (Empire Engine, the forthcoming - and excellent - Pioneer Days) and Mr Ludicreations...
Can I PLEASE get to bed! I am EXHAUSTED! Tomorrow is the last-and-final day so, if you'll excuse me, it's time to take forty winkzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
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