It has been a busy old weekend: at the Expo on Friday and Saturday; playing games Saturday evening; exploring my purchases and playing more games on Sunday – this is how it all went…
I arrived at the NEC about 09:45 and surprisingly the usual East car park zones, E1 and E2, were full, so we were directed further down to E4 – no worries here as I managed to park in a huge parking space right at the back, though it did mean a fairly lengthy walk to the halls.
In previous years the car parks have never been so full at this time of the morning and so I expected the halls to be jammed with people, but in actuality the crowds were fairly light – once you’d got your ticket that is!
I’ve mentioned this before – what’s the point of pre-paying for your ticket Online when you end up in the same queue as those who haven’t? Three or four years ago they ran separate queues for those who’d pre-paid and you went through the system much quicker, but now it all grinds to a halt and people were queuing for upwards of 30 minutes. You’d think in a venue like this, used to running large events (many much larger than the Expo), that there would be a better system available.
Anyway, that is the only gripe you’ll hear from me, but it is the one that I heard a lot of people talking about, so it’s not just me!
Friday was my ‘shopping’ day, so it was spent mostly browsing around the trade stalls, and I was impressed this year by the overall pricing of games across the board (pun intended!).
There was the odd game or two that I felt was overpriced here and there, but generally there were bargains to be had, and I think I averaged close to 25% off retail on everything I purchased. So, hats off to all the traders there for offering competitive pricing and bringing the vast quantity and variety of games to the show.
Here’s a quick round up of the games I bought.
The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth was my first purchase; a game that I’m sure my daughter and I will enjoy immensely. She likes app-integrated games such as Mansions of Madness, and she likes the Lord of the Rings fantasy setting, so this should be right up her street. Similar to Mansions, the app takes the role of the GM, informing you of what tiles to lay, events, and encounters. It’s a pretty good bet that Fantasy Flight will be releasing a glut of expansions for this, and it would be good to see more of the embedded characters and foes getting a look in.
Next up was a game that I’m hoping will appeal to my wife – Chronicles of Crime. We both enjoy watching crime drama, especially ones that feed you enough information so that you can try to work it out yourself as it unfolds. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this game and it really appeals, though Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game was also something I considered. With its faster pace and simplicity Chronicles just won through for me, and I’m really hoping Sue will get into it.
All of the games I bought are playable solo, except for The Mind. I’d played this one half a dozen or so times before, and I just knew it would go down well with the rest of the family – and I wasn’t wrong. Being such a simple game to play (easy to play, nigh on impossible to beat!), we managed a few games on the Friday evening, and it really hit the spot. We didn’t play hard and fast by the no gestures rule, but we didn’t allow talking or anything that gave away the value of your cards. Yasmin’s facial expressions were so funny as she tried in vain to communicate telepathically with the rest off us; whilst we took the much more restrained approach of a steal-eyed stare and a quizzically raised eyebrow! We managed to beat level 4, but that was as far as we got that night.
I really wanted something with a bit of bite to it; a Euro game that I can play solo, but also one that I may possibly convince Yasmin to play too. Teotihuacan: City of Gods was the one I went for, mainly because the theming appealed, and I liked the idea of ‘worker dice’ moving around a rondel – it’s also a pretty solid solo game, so if Yasmin is not convinced, I can resort to playing alone. The name is a bit of an unpronounceable mouthful, and when you first open the box and take a look at all the components, your first though is, ‘This is going to be complicated!’ But having watched it played it really doesn’t appear to be that difficult; the board just looks complicated as there is a lot going on, but the mechanisms are fairly straightforward.
Another game I had watched being played was Star Realms: Frontiers. Star Realms is a card game that is set in space. You can use trade to gain new star bases and ships, or you can attack your opponent, either way you are aiming to reduce your opponents authority to zero and win the game. Frontiers is a standalone expansion for Star Realms, and can be combined with others in the series to expand the game, but the draw of this one is the fact that it can be played both co-operatively or solo instead of just competitively. I don’t know too much else about the game, but it was a small price to pay, so I took the chance and we shall see…
Walking through the halls something caught my eye that I hadn’t expected to see – Museum! I didn’t expect to see it because I didn’t think it had hit retail yet, and maybe it hasn’t, as they were only selling kickstarter editions. I just had to have this game – Yasmin had already expressed an interest in it – and the kickstarter edition comes with a solo mode, something that will apparently be missing from the retail version, so it was a win-win situation – I also picked up The Archaeologists expansion at the same time. Museum is a set collecting game, but one where the main puzzle lies in how you display your collection within your museum. It has a great table presence and some intriguing game mechanisms, such as being able to purchase objects of art from your opponents discard pile (their warehouse), but as I was to find out, you’ll need plenty of space to play it!
Star Wars: Outer Rim was something I’d been watching a lot of reviews about recently, the majority of which came across quite positively. Some of the criticisms of the game included player down time and not enough cards to make the game repayable. As I would more than likely be playing mostly solo, player down time wasn’t an issue, and as for the diminutive number of cards contained in the box, well this is Fantasy Flight, so there is likely to be a number of expansions coming some time soon. There are a few things that really appealed to me about this game: the theme – Star Wars has always had smuggling and bounty hunting as an underlying theme, and it’s nice to have a game that is entered on these things. It’s basically a pick-up and deliver style of game, but I really like the way you can develop your character, trade up your ship, and gather a crew, some of which may end up being another player’s target for a bounty!
Legends Untold: Weeping Caves Novice Set comes in a small box, but boy, it sure packs a mighty set of rules! This is an interesting fantasy adventure game where the player’s play an unlikely bunch of characters – The Farmhand, Forgehand, Student, and Evicted Noble – struggling to re-locate your people to a new city after your lands have been invaded. The game uses location cards to map out the cave system that you are exploring, and these combine with various other decks to provide encounters such as loot, barriers, and of course, enemies. I’d only read a short review of this game and was quite surprised by its depth, I expected a fairly light and simple game but there’s much more to it than that, and I’m looking forward to playing this one with Yasmin.
Finally, as far as games go, I bought Sanctum of Twilight, an expansion for Mansions of Madness, as a present for Yas, and a T-47 Airspeeder expansion for Star Wars: Legion. I wasn’t particularly after a T-47, as I wanted more core units first, but it was going for a price I couldn’t ignore and so snapped it up.
Other than games I purchased some new brushes – Games & Gears Master Series 4 detail brushes. This is a set of four, 0 to 0000 size, Kolinsky sable brushes, all in a nice little pouch. The thing that really attracted me to these though, is the way the body splits and also acts as a very protective lid. Splitting the body also helps when using a magnifying light like I do, as a normal brush sometimes catches on the magnifier when trying to paint awkward areas. I can’t wait to put these to use as I’ve been struggling on with some really old and tatty detail brushes for some time now.
Shopping complete I had a quick browse around the halls, but my time was short as I new I had a prior engagement and had to be home before 3. So, knowing what Friday traffic can be like on the M6, I beat a retreat for the car and home.
I’d arranged to meet up with a few old friends on the Saturday, and arrived at the NEC pretty much at the same time as the Friday, expecting to find the car parks overflowing. To my surprise it was actually quieter, though I found out later they were also using alternative car parks.
It was certainly a lot busier in the halls, and to be honest I’m not a fan of crowds, but everyone is fairly calm and relaxed, and gamers must make up the politest, un-rowdy crowds ever!
Every year I say to myself, ‘I must take more picture,’ and so it was this year, and once again I failed miserably! I get so engrossed just looking around and taking in the sights, that taking pictures goes straight out of my head.
We spent the majority of the time just wandering around, chatting, and admiring the expertly painted miniatures on display. One of my friends was looking for certain miniatures to add to his already expansive collection, and it was quite interesting looking at different manufacturers takes on how a certain miniature should look.
Take skeletons for example, something which seemed a bit of a rarity at the EXPO. We spoke to one of the manufacturers there, whose philosophy for their miniatures is realistic proportions – many miniatures have oversized torso’s and limbs – and their skeletons were pretty impressive, but they looked so fragile I’d be scared to touch them. There are reasons why manufacturers use these enlarged scales, and one of them is because true scaling makes the limbs far too thin!
I was impressed with Nolzur’s Marvellous Miniatures by Wizkids. For the price they are nicely detailed and pre-primed ready for paint. The range covers much of the D&D universe and offers some really interesting, well-posed figures.
I was also interested in the scenery that was on offer, ranging from some pretty expansive, and expensive, pre-painted plastic stuff, to much cheaper printed cardboard punchboard, self-assembly scenery. I saw several items that would suite my Star Wars: Legion miniatures, but I just kept thinking, ‘No, I can build my own!’
Game mats were also in abundance, and again it’s something I’m considering. It’s a great place to get something like this from as you can feel the mats and see exactly their quality and finish. I noticed several that were actually very slippy and one knock of the table could send an army advancing rapidly towards the edge!
It was great just wondering around, taking it all in, but after an extremely quick five hours we knew time just wasn’t on our side. Our intention was to travel back to my place and get some games played, but if that was to be reality then we’d have to leave around mid-afternoon, otherwise there just wouldn’t be enough time – age has caught up with us, and I for one like to be tucked up before the bells strike midnight!
So reluctantly, we called it a day. We have now decided that our annual gaming get together next year isn’t going to be the same time as the Expo – we just end up losing out on both accounts; not enough time at the Expo, and not enough time for games!