This year particularly busy and a first on a number of levels. I started going to UK Games Expo demoing for looneylabs with cartimandua . Sometimes I would do a whole weekend, other times I could only stay for the Saturday. With the end of the official support for the demonstrators program for Looney Labs (imminent for a re-launch, I believe), I started to distance myself a lot from officially demoing, but would still offer support for Jenny when I could at a con. I still enjoy the games, but my push towards demoing came at a time during which I was feeling a little disheartened with RPGs and had shifted my focus to board games. I would still occasionally play a game, and maybe run the odd one-shot. Eventually, however, I started getting back into running RPGs and my conventions became divided between those in which I predominantly did RPGs and those in which I predominantly did board games. UK Games Expo was always one of the latter.
However, this year I was asked if I wanted to demo a game for cubicle7 , who as many of you will know I've been working for recently. This marked two distinct shifts in UK Games Expo. The first RPG I've run at UK Games Expo (despite having been every year since its start) and the first time working the Cubicle 7 stall outside of IndieCon.
With the ONS Fun Day on the Friday, I wasn't going to be around on the Friday, but many of the traders weren't going to be there until the usual Saturday anyway. I arrived at Birmingham just before 10pm and was ready for an early start the next day.
There are two major criticisms I have about the venue for UK Games Expo. The lack of decent coffee (though that can be said of nearly every convention) and the lack of decent food (especially for a vegetarian). On the Saturday, me and thoughtfulwolf had stopped at Tesco before arriving at the venue to get some cash in hand for the weekend, but I also took the opportunity to buy some dried fruit (brilliant convention food!), despite the policy of no outside food. Well, start catering properly for vegetarians and I'll stop bringing in outside food. Last year it was cereal bars. I managed to get through the day with just needing to buy an egg salad baguette for a bit of extra substance, but the dried fruit sustained much of my snack needs.
Unsure for a long time whether I'd be there for the full weekend or just the Saturday, I told angusabranson that I'd only run a game on the one day. Having never run a game at this con, I figured it worthwhile finding where I was running. So, I went up to the desk and asked where I would be... and then somewhat more worried was asking where I was on the list. I could find no reference to my game. For a long while, I thought I'd been left out. I went back to the desk later and decided that I would just put it down for the Sunday morning. As I filled out the scenario name, the man said "Oh, that rings a bell. Is it anything to do with [the name of the Dr Who scenario which also had the word scarlet in it]". "No," said I. "It's... oh, it's right there above it." Instead of writing down that the game was Qin, they'd simply put the scenario name. I had no one signed up. No wonder. Nobody knew what the hell it was. This was a shame since I know that a lot of people would have been interested in playing Qin.
I did, however, get to run the game with Kat Hepburn and Linda Pitman along with Louise Williams (one of the folks from who actually came to the con for the Saturday). It only dawned on me afterwards that this was the first all-female group I'd run for. Not that it changed any of the usual craziness I would have expected from players. Having only three people did mean a lot of ad hoc scaling down of the threat levels of the encounters, though I did allow for the first official rolled for PC death in Qin that I've had happen (not to be confused with scripted deaths as part of the scenario). It was a lot of fun, but the room was horribly, horribly hot. On a day with temperatures in the 20s, the whole building was kinda warm as it was. In the rooms, it was sweltering. Towards the end of the slot they finally came around to offer everyone ice-cold water and even later we had a fan brought into our room, which had three tables running.
The evening was also a first for me at a UK Games Expo. I popped over the road to the pub to grab some food and have a few drinks. In the past, because I've been staying with Jenny and Chris, I've usually left with them. However, with Janos staying a little, this was a great opportunity to grab some food and socialise some. The food was brilliant! They had a vegetarian fish & chips on the menu (the "fish" was a battered cheese - one beginning with P that I forget the name of - that retained a fairly solid but squidgy texture) that was yummy-yummy-yummy in my tummy. In hindsight, I really don't know why I didn't go there for lunch on Sunday. Instead, I found myself impressed by the vegetable lasagne served at the convention. Impressed because I didn't think it was possible to find a lasagne worse than the one I'd been served on an airline.
Sunday was far busier than I'd experienced Sundays in the past and, as Saturday with the exception of when I was running my game, I floated around between the Cubicle 7 stall, the Looney Labs table and various other stalls around the convention chatting to people and playing a quick game or two.
Unfortunately, where the plan had been to have a mock-up done for my card-game ready in time for Expo, I'd not quite had all the art back yet, so instead I printed out four of the pieces to put on the Cubicle 7 stall as a bit of a promo. Had some great responses to the art, including Andy Peregrine stating that even if he hadn't played the game, he'd probably have bought it anyway just for the artwork. George Catronis should be very pleased with the responses. I know I was and I only wrote the art brief. Next year, however, I suspect most of my time might well be spent demoing my game.
UK Games Expo this year was probably the best yet with other highlights including having to tell my players that "A dog is for life, not for combat", being sexually assaulted by a Dalek (not so much a highlight, but certainly not something you'd find happening on Dr Who on a Saturday), winning the very fun Monkey Dash on the first time playing it, playing the new version of ExoFluxx, and breaking a stand-up comic.