I ventured forth from my cold northern home at the start of December to the sunny climate of London for the annual Dragonmeet convention. Here I hoped to meet many dragons but as with every year I was disappointed and had to stick with playing some games, drinking beer and meeting up with friends. How on earth would I cope?
The Con definitely felt busier this year than it had in 2017, a rough estimation from John Dodd is that they hit about 2000 uniques over the course of the day. I didn’t get into the con till about 11 or so. Seeing on the social medya that Robbie Munn was showing off his newest project in the Playtest Zone, I headed straight for it to wrestle some Gnomes. Who wouldn’t?
Sumo Gnomes is a really neat action selection game where you are trying to push the opposing player off the top of tree trunk. You do this by rolling a number of dice, choose two of them and doing what they say: move, slam, block etc. Any remaining dice get stored away for next turn. It’s a fast moving game with some light tactical decisions that come in a svelte package designed to just go in your bag and be played at the drop of a hat. One to watch for next year (I loved the chubby little gnomes on the dice!).
Heading down to the trade hall I spied Peter Blenkham from ITB Games and wandered over to say hi. During our chat I spied an intriguing looking prototype on the table next to me. This was Aquanauts, just signed by the company, a worker placement game of exploring the Mariana trench. Now most readers of this site will know that I am not really a fan of worker placement games. However it is a good idea for a critic to step outside of their comfort zone from time to time, and the concept intrigued me. Roping in fellow reviewer Rory Sommers we played a game with designer Richard.
Despite my worker placement reservations I really enjoyed this game. The theme came through well and there was a nice amount of interaction on the main board as you directed robots and your aquanaut to do different things. On top of the action on the main board, the game featured an engine you could build on a personal board that gave you resources every turn, a pleasing thing to build. We did run into a couple of problems where Rory couldn’t see a way to get a particular fundamental resource very easily. However the core of the game was really solid and I look forward to playing the final product at some point in the next couple of years.
Finally meeting up with The Smart Party after their seminar (link), I think they lost the vote but won the argument, we headed out for a spot of lunch. I got speaking to Mat from Steamforged Games and it was nice to just chat with friends over a beer or two and some tasty food, the core reason that I come to conventions.
Hitting the halls once more after lunch I headed to the upper floor where most of the smaller boardgame designers where showing off their wares. I grabbed myself a demo of Possession from Crooked Tower Games. The artwork on this is really different to other games out there and it just oozed the medieval theme of demons and the people that get possessed by them. The game itself didn’t fully grab me on this short demo, being a fairly straightforward take that style game, but I would like to give it another shake.
I had a demo of Magnate booked at 3pm so in the interim hour or so I popped by the podcast zone to chat to the Penance RPG folk whom Jamie had met at Lucky Sparrow Game Cafe on the Thursday. It was nice to chat to a fellow podcast that has a different sort of audience to us. I don’t really follow any Actual Play podcasts but I definitely need to check 1 or 2 out just to get a feel for that side of the gaming podcast landscape.
Taking my wallet for an outing to the trade hall I picked up a couple of new Keyforge decks with the intention of teaching it to some friends in the evening. I also stopped by the UK Indie RPG League stand to have a look at the new wares. The new map game, Voyage of the Golden Seas, looks pretty amazing, just not sure I would ever get it to the table. I am still really keen to run Spire at some point, but I am on a bit of a rip to make sure I don’t just buy stuff I am not using. I did buy Jason Statham’s Big Adventure, in the hope of having something to run at the drop of a hat and also to see if these one page RPGs that Grant Howitt and Chris Taylor are producing, are any good.
Time finally game for my Magnate demo, again playing with Rory. This was my first chance to play the game that I had seen on my playtest stand at Tabletop Scotland and it was great to see James again. He had a new prototype version with resin buildings over lego (though I have to admit I really, really like the lego buildings). Magnate is effectively a game about manipulating the property market, eyeing up the increasing price of land, figuring out what to build depending on the tenants available and anticipating when the crash will happen. I didn’t get a full game in unfortunately, but James took us through how the crash happens (signalling the end of the game). I really liked a lot of what I saw with Magnate and I’ll be looking out for it when it hits Kickstarter next year.
Whilst playing Magnate my friend Matt Machell made a surprise appearance and it was time for me to go and spend some time with friends. Matt showed an interest in Keyforge so I spent a couple of hours showing him and another chap the ropes. I am still really enjoying Keyforge, and have more recently attended a sealed tournament for it. You can check out my thoughts on the game in my recent review.
A lot of my joy at attending Dragonmeet is seeing friends I only meet up with once or twice a year. Whilst that will colour my opinion of the event I really do think that Dragonmeet is more and more becoming a “gaming” event rather than an “RPG” event. Whilst a lot of the content is more RPG focused we are seeing more and more miniature games, board and card games making an appearance. I’m hoping to stay overnight in London next time so I can spend some more time playing games with friends in the evening, but as it stands Dragonmeet is becoming a firm favourite in my Con calendar.