December brings with it the end of another year, Christmas, and, most importantly my birthday. But, before any of that, there is Dragonmeet! The UK’s second largest boardgames convention (behind the UK Games Expo in June). This year was my second time venturing from the comfortable, pleasant and green confines of Warwickshire, down to that little corner of the Big Smoke, Hammersmith and to the Novotel Hotel for a brilliant day out with lots and lots of cardboard.
In the last 365 (ish) days since my last visit Dragonmeet has bloomed, it is so much bigger and better than the previous year that I feel I missed out on just as much as I saw. Although I had a good idea as to what to expect I was well and truly off the mark.
From talking to a few friends about this con, there is, or to my mind at least; was, this idea that Dragonmeet was RPG and miniatures heavy. Although this may have been true in the past, and Dragonmeet still boasts a very large selection of these styles of games, the board and card game representation was pretty darn impressive.
As someone who doesn’t play RPGs, nor miniatures games, last year I did run out of games to play or get involved in. This year I had to be dragged away. I played plenty of games, in fact probably just as many in the one day as I did over the three at UKGE, and I still didn’t get to play some of the games and talk to all the people I wanted to. But still, here I will provide a quick summary and a “first impressions” of my day.
After a quick look at the demo hall and seeing every gaming table full of people I went and saw my pal Robbie Munn in the Playtest Zone. He was testing out the 2 player variant of Summoner’s Isle, I wax lyrical about this game for the 3/4 player version and what it was lacking was the game I played today. It still has the same charming great look and great feel. With a smaller map and fewer rounds the map soon fills up with the glorious little, and not so little, creatures that are summoned. From the chat we had post-game whether this game is heading to Kickstarter directly from Peculiarity or if Robbie will work with another publisher is still to be decided. To find out what’s happening with this game, the best place is on Facebook, but this is one I’ll be keeping a close eye on.
The next blockbuster game to no doubt come flying out of the ITB gate is this bad boy. This almost-dystopian, one versus many, coded communication game pits a team of Dissidents against an individual Moderator as each tries to lever control of the city from the other. The Dissidents will do this by using one of the ten selected code cards, communicating through this agreed-upon code to converge their efforts in one of the cities locations – represented by oversized location cards. If all of the Dissidents can agree and meet up then the wool is pulled back, revealing the bland, but the very real state of the world. However, if the Moderator can crack the code and get to the location, then it becomes moderated, and thus unhackable. One of the game end conditions will kick in when X number of Locations have been flipped one way or another.
This game is an interesting blend of Spyfall, Codenames and Mysterium, with a wonderfully illustrated Black Mirror augmented reality theme. It takes that coded word dropping of Codenames and extends it into a conversation, but you still need to be covert enough as to not have your code cracked by the moderator, and on top of that you have all the subjectivity, detail and relatability from Mysterium.
If you like just one of those aforementioned games you should definitely check this game out when it comes to Kickstarter in January. In the meantime read up the Development Diaries or choose your side on the Facebook group.
I was able to watch people play this game and it’s one I really, really want to play. I’ve expressed this in no uncertain terms to the designer, Mark McKinnon, now a number of times. I couldn’t get a seat at the table six months ago, why would it be any different this time? Especially now he’s painted all those minis. Hopefully, soon I can play it until then you can read what the Polyhedron Collier boys thought of it.
Muster – The Tabletop App
I had a lovely catch up with these nice chaps about their tabletop meet-up style app (available right now for free on ios and Android!). We discussed how salt and vinegar crisps in a sandwich is, and will always be a classic, and how crisps in any sandwich make it better.
Then we talked about their app. Muster aims to fill that niche hole in the market where Social Networks, Meet-Up and Board Gaming all converge. In their own words, its Tinder for Tabletop. Use it with your mates to organise which games you’ll play with the where and whens. Use it for your gaming group to find new faces. I’m giving this a good go right now, which is especially handy since not everyone in my gaming group uses Facebook and/or Whatsapp, and I have hopes that this gives us what we need to organise our games, and most importantly, trash talk each other.
The next game from Badcat Games will have you pitting yourself against your friends in ancient gladiatorial combat with his quickfire, hand management game. Though to call it a hand management game, only covers one aspect of the game. You see, in this game you are the manager/operator of a fighting school, where you’ll place bets on the outcome of each event, so beating some of you opponent only to allow another to win. This game encapsulates that old saying about picking your battles.
For each event, your hand of cards represent your stamina, and gaining stamina isn’t something that happens often or easily. you’ll trade blows (cards) in the hope of landing one that your opponent is unable or unwilling to defend against. A really nice aspect of this game is that you can choose your opponent, so in a five-player game (like the one I played in) you can pick on the weak ones, or just attacks those fighters you suspect are now unable to defend against your particular attacks. It’s an interesting game of both tactics and memory, to know when, where and who to strike at just the right time to win your glory.
From the sounds and feel of this game there is plenty to be discovered and learnt, like an old-school beat-em-up, everyone will have their favourite combos, tricks and of course, their finishers.
This should be hitting Kickstarter middle of 2018.
I’ve got a lot of love for this game, and when I met up with Ian McCallister from the Giant Brain, and he said he had not played but was interested in giving it a go, I very gladly obliged (and also kicked his ass, but don’t mention it to him; he was pretty broken up by the whole thing). While we were there we playtested a new variant mode for Andrew which really changed the pace and feel of the game – and I don’t know how much more of about that I can say.
This was a very early prototype for the forthcoming game from Alley Cat Games, yes I could have played Dice Hospital again, but since I’m a very intelligent chap and had backed it, I thought I‘d look at something new. The Chocolate Factory finally gives everyone the chance to play Mr Wonka. This charming engine building Euro-style game sees players processing raw cocoa into a variety of different types of confectionary, attempting to fill personal or public contracts. Each turn you’ll add new parts to your factory, gain fuel or specialists in order to make your factory work, but most interestingly you push through another section of your conveyor belt. Which was very satisfying.
A medium weight Euro game, where I had lots to think about and consider each turn, turning ‘This’ into ‘That’, so I can make two of ‘Those’ when I do this. And, all of that with what I suspect to a pretty short playtime. All the types of things I love.
Following Alley Cat Games on Facebook is the best place to stay up to date with how this project progresses, and by my thinking, this is going to another great game, and I’m genuinely excited to see how it looks and plays next time I get a chance (city on Games perhaps…?).
I didn’t get a chance to see Pulsar 2849 from CGE or get a proper chance to have a look at Yogi (the new name and face of a party favourite of mine In A Bind) – but I did get a hug from Bez. Nor could I sit down with Lewis Shaw to play Dead & Breakfast as his booth was always full and with more waiting to play as well as many, many others…
I had a great time at Dragonmeet, and will certainly make in a regular con for me, lots of lovely people, and some brilliant games.
I even treated my self to a pre-Birthday gift: