Gencon UK – Summary/Wrap up

The d20 LARP on the green demonstrated just how silly standard adventurer equipment could be.

I didn’t really get to talk to the Crimson Empire guys that much, but they always have a very impressive stand and a good looking product.

Summing Up
Olympia wasn’t too great, Butlins was a frigging nightmare, then there was a gap and now we were in Reading. I have fond memories of GamesFair in Reading and it was great to be back there once again. Its a great campus, a good area, there’s cheap food, pretty cheap accommodation and plenty of space to play in. I think this is a positive improvement and it seems like Reading will be the home for the con for the next few years – which is good to know. It seemed to me that things were much improved in many regards, particularly in terms of organisation and communication amongst the organisers but there were things that were bad/wrong or that could be done better.

Before I get into my whinges let me say that this was, definitely, a vast improvement and with the basics fixed I think Gencon has the capability to come on leaps and bounds over the next couple of years and to restore itself to its rightful place as king of the gaming cons.

That said…

The trade hall business was OK, but not great, it was slow and considering the amount we paid out for it it didn’t feel like great value for money – even with my ‘whacking great pole in the way’ discount. The trade hall was some distance from the other buildings where ‘stuff’ was going on and, apparently, the bigger retailers had their own space away from us, drawing people away from the tradehall. Other problems from a trader point of view were that the scheduling of the tournaments etc meant that people didn’t actually have time to browse and look around out stalls and that the ticket system ate up cash that people should have been spending on our goods and meant they tended to stick to very specific things – cards and figures for their tourneys mostly – and little else.

Most of the traders were mainly selling cards, boardgames and CCGs. RPGs were mostly in evidence only on the bring and buy and in the form of second hand trade. On the one hand this was disappointing, on the other hand we small press types seemed to reap the rewards by being the only ones selling RPG stuff really and maybe getting a bit more business to compensate for the other problems.

Its the tickets and the high day-ticket price that really killed it I think. We didn’t get a lot of casual browsers due to the high day ticket price and with the charges for games (£3 a ticket, multiple tickets needed to play demo games) on top of that people’s money was eaten into and that must have eaten into the trader’s potential business. Not to mention that that, combined with hidden free gaming tables and no real way to advertise pick up games, really puts people off and works against them – if they’re not doing tournament play.

This is the big failing from both a trader and a player point of view.

I was stuck behind the stand all day but we found it to be like getting blood from a stone to find people to take up Delegate Organised Games and then to find somewhere to do them, though Big Steve (all hail Big Steve, friend of Postmortem and provider of crash space) did manage to get a small group together to demo Esoterrorists for Pelgrane Press.

I know, I know, this sounds like a big whinge when my overall impression was positive but it is definitely fixable, there just need to be a few changes to encourage actual GAMING at the con and to bring in more interest, perhaps, from computer game companies etc. I have a strong feeling things will improve over the next couple of years and I just hope that Gencon is able to overcome its past stigma and restore its name and that it isn’t already over the brink.

I’ll be there so long as it’s in Reading and we’ll see if we can do more about demos next time around.

Gencon UK – Cubicle 7 Entertainment

Saving the best to last (OK, so I’m biased because I do a lot of freelancing for them) it was good to see Dom, Andy P and the hairy legend that is Angus (even if only briefly) and to catch up as well as talk about various bits and pieces of game stuff. They certainly seemed to be the busiest and most ambitious crew at the con so we had a lot to talk about.As you may or may not know C7 have got the English language rights to the game Qin from Seventh Circle, the French company. Good news for C7 even if Seventh Circle might end up missing out as translations are going ahead and judging by the success of and love for the game that exists it should do very well indeed, in fact it seemed to be doing just as well as C7’s own games, Victoriana and SLA Industries.

From what we talked about we can expect to see the following for Qin showing up in due course…

  • GM Screen
  • Higher power effects and abilities.
  • A general city/NPC/secret service/Politics sourcebook.
  • A book on the military of the period.
  • A bestiary
  • A campaign/metaplot book.

Then, much like Unknown Armies, that should be about it, so Qin will be a ‘complete’ game that people can collect fully and enjoy, without an endless supplement mill.

C7 also has the licensing for some other games from Seventh Circle including Humanodyne which sounds like a Heroes/4400 style game about superhuman powers where the drama and psychological impact of these powers has greater interest in the story than merely throwing people through skyscrapers. ‘Kuro’ is also on the cards, which appears to be a sort of melding of Cyberpunk and contemporary Japanese horror – which could be interesting.

On the home front there were whispers of a huge development for the company, which I can’t divulge even my guesses at but bode well for them and, perhaps, the industry as a whole if my guesses are correct but they’re also pressing ahead with work on their other lines.

Victoriana did pretty damn well with the new edition printed and ready to go, a hefty damn book that looks much more gorgeous than the original edition and with its own, eminently graspable, system now. The project list for this book is limited, but realistic, with the future releases currently on the cards being Faulkner’s (an equipment and other ‘stuff’ guide) the Marylebone Mummy (a Penny Dreadful adventure book) and Faces in the Smoke (an NPC/organisation guide) after that it goes a little hazy but I think that’s wise, not to overextend oneself. Vicky II seems to be getting good attention and reviews and to have moved a little bit away from the ‘Steampunk Shadowrun’ tag it had before, which in my opinion is a good thing. PDF support is also in the works and Andy P’s enthusiasm for the project oozes out of every softly spoken word he utters. Its in good hands.

Dom was a little less effusive about SLA Industries but then Andy is an absolute Victorian freak so Dom couldn’t help but look ‘meh’ in comparison, not that he has much to ‘meh’ about really! SLA also sold well and while there are some delays on SLA Industries these delays are mostly for the best of reasons, ‘other IP issues’. Could we be looking at an SLA film? Comic book series? TV show? Computer game? Oh bloody hell I hope so! Even with these mild delays we’re still looking at a few releases, a gang book seems to be the only one set in stone though we may also see some BPN support, possibly on PDF, similar to what’s in the pipe for Victoriana.

Starblazer is, perhaps, a peculiarly British institution, I don’t know, but judging from my sales of my SF Adventure Seeds there’s a desire for a decent scifi game out there and this could well be it. Taken from the old SF comics of our youth the Starblazer game will use the FATE system – used in Spirit of the Century and ill present a number of settings. The FATE system’s speed and relative simplicity should allow for either episodic (like the comics) or campaign style play and I look forward to seeing the results.

Lastly we talked about Normal Texas which seems like a sort of B-movie/Twilight Zone/Outer Limits/Eerie Indiana style game set in a town where nothing is normal. Perhaps a sort of updated ‘Over the Edge’ for the 21st Century, something else to keep a weather eye on!

(And hopefully they’ll keep me ‘lancing for ’em through all this).

Gencon UK – War on Terror

TerrorBull Games
This was an interesting one to talk about. I’m… uhm… ‘no stranger to controversy’ shall we say, so I immediately thought I might have something in common with these guys and, as it turned out, I did. They have a wicked sense of humour and a great game and share a similar sort of bemused shell shock to the sheer amount of fuss that they cause that I do – as well as a similar cynical exploitation of such.They spent the whole con in orange jumpsuits, looking like prisoners from Guantanamo and drawing laughs and shock with equal measure. They certainly know how to play it up! They even had a nice big folder out in front of their stall full of media hysteria reports about their game of a predictable Daily-Mailesque bent.

The remarkable thing, as usual, is that they haven’t even had to advertise. The very people who wish them ill are the ones giving them the greatest amount of publicity and effectively giving them all the advertising budget they could need. Oh the irony.

One particular anecdote I found amusing was that there was a campaign by an Australian paper to get them banned when they weren’t even selling in Australia at that point!

The lads are on a new print run of the board game already, and this really is a spiritual successor to the old ‘Nuclear war’ game, and they have some follow up ideas in the works for the future. They were also kind enough to do a Hentacle/Final Straw product swap for a copy of their boardgame, which made me a happy bunny.

Not had a chance to play yet, but it does really look like a fun game, I’ll let you know.

Gencon UK – Pinnacle

Pinnacle seemed a little bit glum when I went to talk to them but it could have just been due to the fact that it was the last day of the con and I just wanted to run away and go to bed too, so that may have been rubbing off on them.
Most of what was there was familiar enough, Savage Worlds with its Origin Award on open display and with the new (ish) Explorer’s Edition up for grabs which, if I hadn’t already bought the main book, I might have snagged. There were the usual array of Savage Worlds things on show from Rippers to Necessary Evil but the newer things to see were Pirates of the Spanish Main and, most importantly, early release copies of The Savage World of Solomon Kane which looks gorgeous, I’ll have a full review coming as soon as I have my energy back and can read through the whole thing.

Additionally I was able to get a look through Savage Skies – if I remember the name correctly, a new book, a new setting but one with most of the Savage Worlds hallmarks. Aerial fantasy is a weird little subgenre that appears throughout fantasy and SF – I even have my own setting along those lines – but this looks like a great fantasy take on the whole thing well suited to Savage Worlds’ particular bent.

Personally speaking I find Savage Worlds to be a little lacking in ‘granularity’ for what I want from a game but Pinnacle knows what they have and play to the particular strengths of their system, which is a great thing to see.

Gencon UK – Mongoose Publishing

Mongoose Published Ltd
Mongoose seemed to have a very large stand, with lots of product but also seem to have reduced Gencon UK in their estimation – or it just could have been that the bigwigs were recovering still from US Gencon. Either way, Matt or Alex weren’t in evidence – unless I was blind – and it was weird not to be recognised by the guys on the stall for once!
I had a good natter with the guys that were there though and as I expected they had plenty of interesting stuff to say.

On fourth edition D&D it looks like Mongoose will be adopting a ‘wait and see’ policy which is likely a sound move but also, I think, a warning sign about 4.0. Mongoose got into the game on the back of extensive D20 support and if they’re showing suspicion and worry about 4th Edition then that should be a clear signal to other publishers to be wary as well. While I think most people have learned the lesson from the 3rd edition boom and bust it remains to be seen if the same ‘trap’ doesn’t occur this time around.

For those worried about Mongoose’s existing 3rd Ed games like Conan and so on, fears can be allayed since it was pretty heavily indicated that support would continue for the current incarnations of these games, rather than an edition jump to 4th Edition. Since Mongoose modded the d20 rules set for their own games in various ways this should, overall, be a good thing.

Like the other mid tier and up companies it seems like Mongoose successfully diversified and nowhere is this more in evidence really than with their RuneQuest line. I wanted to pick up a copy of Slaine RQ edition but just didn’t sell enough product, still, it looks really nice and the rules seemed a much, much better fit than d20 ever was. There’s plenty of stuff in general in the pipeline for the RQ system and no sign of an edition jump on that one and it looks like Slaine will be supported in its RQ incarnation as well, something I’ll be certainly watching with interest.

The miniatures seemed to be the big success for Mongoose at the convention with them pretty much outdoing Games Workshop from the looks of things – something that could be an indicator for the future if the success of the other challengers to GWs crown is anything to go by. Despite some setbacks with their pre-painted lines things seem to be back on course here and it almost makes me wish I could afford to get back into miniatures gaming (and had some people to play with!).

We finished our chat talking, again, about RuneQuest things and it looks like Elric will also be getting some good support with the other main RQ additions being for historical gaming in various periods. Something that looks very nice indeed – and increasingly popular.

Gencon UK – Sceaptune Games

Unfortunately our pic of their stand seems to be missing.

Sceaptune Games
A lovely pair of folks from my neck of the woods Sceaptune Games (the old spelling of ‘Shipton’ and pronounced that way in case you were wondering) are well placed for what seems to be their love – RuneQuest. RuneQuest’s iron age and mythic setting is well suited to this area where we’re surrounded by iron age hill forts, ditch diggings, white horses graven into the hillsides (along with priapic giants) and not to mention Stonehenge, barrows and forests like Savenac and The New Forest.
Just flicking through their books you get a real impression that these are an uncompromising labour of love for Mr Bancroft and the quality just shines through in all their books but most especially, I felt, this came through with the Quester’s Guide to Duck. A much maligned and not necessarily understood race from the RuneQuest world this really does a lot to make them more viable. Frankly, if you ask me, Mongoose should give Tim a job working on their own RuneQuest line and have done.

Sceaptune is a great small company with a lot of love for their subject matter and somehow managed to keep smiling right the way through the whole convention. They deserve a lot of success so if you have any love for RuneQuest, past or present, I heartily recommend heading over to their website and buying something.