I ventured to that there Landan Town recently to attend the yearly Dragonmeet convention. I had been several times in the past when the con was much smaller and more focused on the RPG side of the hobby, so I was interested to see how its evolved and was looking forward to catching up with mates including the lads from the Smart Party.
Despite the lack of an actual Dragon, very disappointing, the con itself has grown substantially since when I was down last, which must be at least 5 years. Now over two levels of the Novotel Hammersmith, the con was split into two sections. At the entrance level, where all the ticketing was being carried out, I found the main demo floor. Here both Modiphius, who essentially run the event, and Cubicle 7 had large stalls next to some RPG rooms, which seemed nice and bright and reasonably spaced out. Pathfinder Society were there alongside Indie RPGs on demand and another room for other games.
On the opposite side where 3 largish halls filled with Bring & Buy, Cosplay, Open gaming and loads of demos from various companies. The games on show seemed very varied from longer demos of the Fallout: Wasteland Warfare game to lighter fair like Yogi and Ominoes. Alongside these ran a playtest zone organsied by the always excellent PlaytestUK and a bar.
On the lower level, a couple of escalators or a lift down, was a fairly extensive tradehall. Alongside several smaller retailers was the presence of Pelgrane Press, Patriot games and various other traders and companies. Let’s have a look at what I played and what caught my eye.
Fallout: Wasteland Warfare (Modiphius)
The first thing I hit up, since it was right in front of my face when I walked in, was the Fallout: Wasteland Warfare game. This is a new minis game that I interviewed head honco Chris Birch about earlier in the year. The game has just gone live for preorders on Modiphius’ site and I was keen to give a short demo a go.
The demo consisted of a couple of minis aside, the Brotherhood of Steel vs. Super Mutants. I controlled the humans who were fragile but had massive range to their weapons whereas the mutants were tougher but had more of a brawling nature to them. Play goes activation about with a card showing you all the stats, a common feature of a lot of miniature games these days.
The game uses custom dice for determining attacks and each roll told me whether I hit, how much damage I did and any other special effects. I really like that a single roll tells you everything and I can see scope for different special abilities combining together very neatly. It seemed like it would be a pretty fast skirmish brawler, and if you are into the fallout theme it would be a good choice if you are after that kind of game.
I have to admit to having a bit of a design concern though. The chap demoing to me said they had changed some of the stats of the models recently and with a release date of March and them taking preorders now I had sort of assumed that everything would be at the printers by now and the mechanics locked in. There are a lot of skirmish wargames
Newspeak (ITB Games)
Heading down to the trade hall I met up with Peter from ITB board games who were showing off their latest game Newspeak which will be coming to Kickstarter in the first quarter of next year.
The setting is fairly standard cyberpunk fair: corporations have taken over, an new AR system that everyone has is fooling the populace into looking at their life through literally rosetinted spectacles. So the world starts out looking like a Utopia but the Dissidents are out to fight the Moderators and show the people the TRUTH!
This happens through an interesting little system of mechanics that shake out like a mashup of Codenames and Spyfall. A 1 vs many game the 1 takes on the role of the moderators with a sheet listing all the possible combinations of codewords the Dissidents may use. The Dissidents secretly choose from the same list, selecting 1 of the 10 possible selection of codewords that they keep hidden from the mod. This means each player has a list of words with a translation of what they ‘really’ mean and the Mod has 10 possible lists in front of them i.e the word Big might mean Money, Health, Liquid etc. but only the dissidents know, the mod does not.
The task in front of the Dissidents is to agree a location to meet at from all the possible ones in the grid in front of them, you can see some in the picture above. They do this by having a conversation between themselves, using codewords if they wish, to establish the location they want to meet at. Once the conversation is over each dissident individually chooses where to go on the map, we used dice for this but I gather there will be a dial or similar in the production version.
The moderator then has a minute to try and figure out where the dissidents are going to meet and must do so only by listening to the conversation they just had. Once the moderator has made their mind up, they declare where they are going and see if it matches up with the dissidents.
If the moderator guesses correctly then the area gets ‘super moderated’ and it looks like an even gaudier version of itself, meaning it can no longer have it’s layers peeled back by the dissidents. If at least two of the dissidents, we were playing 3 player, went to the same location and it isn’t the one the mod chose then they can peel back the layers and show the people the TRUTH! The first side to gain a majority control of the locations is the winner.
It plays well and should be fairly zippy, though we did struggle to pick up the nuance of how to talk in code. I like that it gives more of a theme to the codecracking exercise that is a little lacking in Codenames and Spyfall, and the plans they have for the final look of the game are excellent with pad style layouts for the boards and other cyberpunk paraphernalia.
Ominoes (Yay Games)
I hit up the folks from Yay Games next who’s first game ‘Frankenstein’s Bodies’ I had played ages and ages ago. There latest game Ominoes had been creating a bit of noise and I had been interested in checking it out for a while. Luckily I had an expert in my midst in the form of my fellow reviewer Rory from Board Meetings
Ominoes is a really nicely presented, fast playing dice game of tactical placement and grouping. Once the board is setup on your turn you roll a dice. If you roll one of the 4 colours you must move a die of that colour 3 spaces and then place the die your rolled on the board anywhere you want. If you manage to match 4 or more of your colour orthoganally beside each other you can remove the dice and score that many points. THe first to a certain score is the winner.
Added to this fairly simple affair are the two other side of the dice one of which allows you to roll any dice on the board before placing and the other allows you to move any dice before placing. In addition these black symbols both count as wild for the purposes of set matching so they are extremely useful to all players. One more thing….you can also score the 4th colour in a 3 player game if you want to, adding a nice extra dimension to play.
I really enjoyed ominoes and it comes in a nice package whether you buy the boxed core or the travel system. I can see some folk not liking the random element of the game but as a nice light family filler, it’s a really good choice.
Gladiatores (Bad Cat Games)
Having to travel all the way to London to play this game when the company is local is a bit ironic, but I just kept missing these fine fellas at the local meetups. I was glad to finally sit down with the game and tick it off my list, if even for only a quick demo.
Gladiatores does exactly what it says on the tin, it’s a game about gladiators beating the snot out of each other for the adoration of the fans and the glory of their owners. See in this game you don’t actaully play the fighters, you play an owner and over the course of the game many fighters will come through your stable.
The core of the game is an arena combat where each person takes it in turn to fling their fighter at another gladiator. A really awesome fight game then happens with cards in hand representing not only your stamina but stabs, blocks, leaps, parries and all the other moves you might expect. Each card can counter certain other cards so you quickly get a feel for what you can defend and what you can’t. Some attacks will let you draw cards, others do more damage and choosing exactly when you think you should strike is key to winning.
I found it really interesting that there was a slight incentive to pile on the person with the least cards but that the game actually makes this feel ok. Firstly you are fighting in an arena and removing an opponent is really useful, and let’s not forget it doesn’t remove the player from the game, just this particular fight. Secondly each person starts with a certain amount of fan approval, I don’t recall exactly what it was called, represented by little rose tokens. When you hit someone you take some of their fans away, so someone who has been beaten up a lot doesn’t actually make that tempting a target.
An added wrinkle here is that each gladiator has their own special card they can use once per round and that the choice of gladiator also gives you some special cards related to the fighter in your hand. I am itching to try out some of the others after my defeat!
I didn’t get to see the other side of the game which includes building up honour for your stable on this special board. Each fight has it’s own card telling you what you win depending on the fans you claim, giving you a piece of the pie in front of you. However there is a neat thing here where the person to fill theirs first ends the game and gets extra points, so you can try and fill it fast with cheap wins and get the bonus, or take it slower and get more valuable pieces.
Gladiatores is a really interesting game with a great feel to it and I am looking forward to getting a longer game in soon for a proper preview before Bad Cat bring it to market.
Entering the Belly of the Beast
The trade hall was pretty extensive and contained much of the shiny you might expect from such a convention. Alongside the normal retailers were a couple of things I would like to shine a light on.
Patriot is a huge retailer online and physical. They had a really interesting new product which was a large neoprene mouse mat with dungeon tiles printed on it, which was then cut up into the shape of tiles and corridors. Really neat, as loads of dungeon tiles I’ve used slide about. It was really reasonably priced as well, think about £25 for a bag of the stuff.
Not really up my street but the new book from Graham Walmsley is really nice product and the special edition looked particularly plush. Beautifully laid out with gorgeous art, it should be on your list to check out if you want a lighter game to investigate the Mythos.
I highlighted these in my preview but now I’ve handled them. So very nice and would make a good choice for a special present for someone.
I didn’t get round quite as many demos as I would have liked partly due to my other focus of the con which was spending time with friends. There is a weird thing I have found with being press at an event like this. I feel grateful that the convention has given me a pass, at some expense to themselves, and so I take that as an obligation to provide some coverage for that convention. How much? I honestly don’t know and I have no idea if I’ll ever shake that feeling of impostor syndrome.
I sat down with my mate Rich who I was staying with and Baz and Gaz from the Smart Party and set the world to rights as well pouring a pint on the floor. We chatted about many subjects and hopefully the stuff they recorded will be out in a podcast soon if it can actually be understood.
Dragonmeet has grown substantially since I saw it last and though it may have lost some of it’s RPG focus it has embraced the larger gaming community and that can only be a good thing. I had a blast and I hope I can make it down again next year to see more of what the con has to offer.