UK Games Expo 2019

A week after the event I write this with tears in my eye, tears of joy for Expo was truly awesome, and a tear of sadness now that it is over. Friends, games, food, beer and a single game of footy made it a weekend of epic proportions. Just how did it go down?

Thursday 30 May

Invited to Bean Gaming in Leicester by @M0RT75 for a Dungeon Crawl Classics session with DCC master Judge @BrendanJLaSalle, I was very much looking forward to this. The spiritual if not actual start to my Expo weekend, plus it would be much quicker to get to the NEC the next morning compared to driving direct from Liverpool.

It’s the second game I’ve played with @BrendanJLaSalle and as expected he delivered in bucket loads. His boundless energy is infectious and draws you into the colourful scenarios he creates; even with a table of 8 players he keeps things moving and the adventure keeps flowing. On this occasion we were playing The Inn of Five Points, one of Brendan’s published adventures – without giving spoilers we fought foul beasts, took a wild ride and battered a big bad, all living to tell the tale. Gordo Ironarm will fight again!

Friday 31 May

A very early start saw me on the way to Expo. The prepayment for parking meant I didn’t need to queue and before too long I’d met up with gaming chums @OrlanthR and @Lintillaz. We visited the trade hall with our own individual quests; what games would we buy, what surprises lay in store. Maybe it’s because I’m an old hand (my 3rd Expo) I wasn’t too overawed by the scale of the thing and was able to focus on the stalls I wanted to visit. The highlights for me were F-Side Games (the best little game store in town), Soul Muppet, Mottokrosh Machinations, LotFP, Melsonian Arts Council, but there were many other worthies including All Rolled Up/Just Crunch and Squarehex. I love these smaller publishers and the materials they produce.

After a locating my hotel and dumping my goodies I returned to the Hilton for some RPG goodness. I was running my tried and tested Barbarians of Lemuria adventure, A Heart for Madness; as expected the players were great and really got stuck into the Swords and Sorcery vibe of the game – cutting down swathes of rabble to take on the evil villain and his band they were victorious. It was the fourth time I’ve ran the adventure and it always seems to go down well… keeping it simple really seems the way to go for con adventures.

Despite trying to move things along I ran over slightly (I always struggle for time, something I’m working on) and so only had a little time to grab a bite to eat and catch up with a few Grognards before heading off to my evening game, Ironsworn with GM Graham S. This is a narrative game inspired by PbtA, not the kind of thing I’d usually go far – I couldn’t get my head around Dungeon World, so I hoped this might make this type of gameplay clearer. Plus the setting sounded fantastic.

Graham ran a cracking game and the other players threw themselves into the setting. There are some interesting mechanics that dictate the flow of the game such as journeying; there was an endpoint we had to reach, and based on rolls of our guide degrees of progress were marked on the journey track each day, with various encounters also stemming from the rolls. When combat breaks out there are no rounds as such, just a narrative flow; if a character can trigger a Take the Initiative move in response to an enemy attack they get to act. Then you can Enter the Fray to join the fight and so on. I think a good grasp of the mechanics would be useful for players (a couple were already familiar with it), but overall it made sense.

The adventure itself was very good, our band of Ironsworn had made an Iron oath to help out another village many days travel away. The land was mystical and dangerous, our characters primitive and superstitious, decisions had an impact. We were victorious, although as with all great stories the nature of our victory was somewhat ambiguous, we knew this was likely not the end of this tale. Unfortunately as the evening wore on I was becoming increasingly tired and I don’t believe I gave the game my best (apologies to Graham for that, he was a top GM); maybe I will avoid any evening games next time and just head to the bar.

Saturday 1 June

An early start to the day saw me at the table of another great DCC Judge, @LeeJNeilson  to play the classic Sailors on a Starless Sea. It’s an adventure I’ve heard great things about and wanted to GM myself; however before reading it I wanted to play it through. Once more a group of peasants roped in to carry out an impossible quest, we took on monstrous challenges and as we progressed our trusty band of heroes lost comrades, one by one meeting a grizzly death. The death stamp is so much fun! Another bonus was catching up with an old work colleague I’ve not seen or heard from in over 10 years, he was playing in Lee’s game. Unfortunately I didn’t get his contact details as I had to leave the game before it finished… maybe I’ll bump into him next year.

With another trawl around the trade hall I picked up a gifted copy of Best Left Buried Deluxe (for my editing contributions), Mothership and Winter’s Daughter. Then it was off to the afternoon game.

According to Expo I had six players signed up for The Road to Hell by D101 Games which I was running with Lamentations of the Flame Princess rules, however only four players turned up – something I’ve not experienced before at Expo. I had clearly flagged the game as 18+ as there was some dark and twisted content in it, and in the lead up to the session I had the controversial incident of the previous day at the back of my mind… I hoped nobody would be offended by the game. As it turned out I had a great group with @carlclare who I have gamed with for a while now and three Scottish chaps; John, William and Alex. Investigating the mysterious goings on at the Inn of the Cock in a weird and mystical Elizabethan England, they really threw themselves into it, it was a great session that left me exhausted and elated.

I had kept the evening clear to catch up with gaming friends in the Hilton bar, and as it turned out there was also the Champions League final and we know how that turned out. All in it was a fantastic day.

Sunday 2 June

My final game of the con was a Lyonesse adventure called Coddifoot’s Stipule, GMd by top Grognard, @theGROGNARDfile. The Lyonesse RPG isn’t due out for a little while yet, but the Design Mechanism sent a copy of the rules to @theGROGNARDfile and put together the adventure for the event. What an honour! Not wanting to give any spoilers I’ll just say that the adventure captured the feel of Lyonesse as I understand it from my recent reading, full of charm (and food) and no small measure of humour (and food), wrapped up in an easy to understand d100 system (with food), and pleasingly served up in tasty portions of adventurous fun by our masterchef GM.

A bit of lunch and a final potter around the trade hall with @theGROGNARDfile, @sjamb7, @DailyDwarf and @OrlanthR saw the day out. A little sad that it was over, yet still buzzing from the event I headed back home, although sadly not in time to catch LFC’s parade through the city.

And finally…

To sum up, I had a great time, everyone I talked to was having a great time. We talked, we gamed, we spent money, we ate, we gamed! Catching up with the folks I game with online and chat with on Twitter was a huge pleasure and a great part of the overall experience; these games would be nothing without great people to play with. Saturday night in the Hilton bar was amazing for so many reasons…

So my mind turns to future cons. There’s BurritoCon3 in Manchester, 27 July, Owlbear and Wizards Staff in Leamington Spa, 21 September and Grogmeet in Manchester 8-10 November, with a few Go Play Manchester‘s thrown in between that lot. Hope to see you at one…

Hold my hands up to this one – I’m pretty rubbish at taking photos at events, so while some of these photos are mine I’ve nicked others off Twitter and MeWe…

3 thoughts on “UK Games Expo 2019

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