Airecon – Day 2 & 3

The Saturday and Sunday, days 2 & 3, of Airecon certainly felt like the main days of the convention. The snow that had meant some couldn’t make it on the Friday was all but gone and loads of players arrived eager to play games. Without further ado.

Day 2 – Saturday

After a bit of breakfast with Adam Richards from Punchboard I headed to teach Spirit Island to a couple who had contacted me on the Airecon Community group on Facebook. I think I did a good job teaching them, though we did lose the game. Such is the way it goes sometimes on the Island. I really love teaching games to folk. I get to express my enthusiasm for a game by sharing it with folk who are interested in learning. Hopefully I help them find a new game they love. I have every respect for the exhibitors who do that all day at a convention.

Spirit Island finished up just in time for me to join Rory Muldoon in a playthrough of his Voyages game. I interviewed Rory and his fellow designer Matthew Dunstan a while back for their new company Postmark Games. Their focus is on producing print and play games and so far their focus has been on the “Roll & Write” genre. Voyages was their first game as Postmark Games and has a bunch of maps where you navigate your ship around via dice rolling and trying to pick up points achieving different tasks.

In our game we used Map 1 which is the first thing the company produced. Sailing around we could pick up goods, recruit sailors, discover islands and mysterious pieces of the ocean, and fight a terrible monster! I did not do very well but I really enjoyed the game. It was lovely to get to meet Rory in person and have a chat about Postmark Games’ upcoming plans. Matthew was nice enough to send me Voyages when I interviewed them so I’ll be working my way through the maps in preparation for a review.

Iain's board at the end of the game. He scores 27 points.
Trickier than I thought!

A quick stop for lunch and I was back wandering and getting involved in a demo of Ecosfera in the playtest zone. This was a co-operative game with an ecological theme where players are working together to revive different environmental zones across the world. It had a really nice aesthetic to it and there was some interesting combination play where you could pass cards between players as certain abilities got revealed on the cards you had for that round.

I was a bit wary about a co-operative game where all the players information is constantly open as it means an experienced player might just tell everyone else what to do. I know many think this problem is purely social, but it isn’t. Games can work around it to a degree. A post for another time.

Sure is pretty

A bit of wandering around the hall later and I found myself sat with Adam along with Gavin Jones and his partner Sara-Jayne. Gavin is a regular follower, discord member and someone I’ve chatted with online a lot so it was wonderful to meet him and Sara in person. I spent the rest of Saturday playing games with them.

First up was Atiwa from Uwe Rosenburg. Adam taught this to us and I have to say I really enjoyed it. It’s themed around farmers in Ghana that have a symbiotic, if that’s the word, relationship with the bats in the area. Over the course of the game you are developing your area of by grabbing new bits of land, growing trees and fruit, and harvesting goats and ‘mammals’. The game is unclear about what that last bit means. Of course you can also farm bats!

The game has this delightful puzzle at the centre of it where you are pushing back and forth what you get and trying to manage how much food your families get from all the various sources at the end of each round. Including bats. As you develop one area you get more of the next area down. So mammals get you more trees, trees get you more fruit, fruit more bats etc. All these things need to go on the areas you are developing and each of those has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Sometimes you push these items back onto your board and off the developed areas in order to do more, but then the flow of resources at the end of the round changes. It’s an interesting thing to noodle out. As with all of these games you can’t do everything, so figuring out how to optimise while everyone else is doing the same is really fun. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought it would and it had a weird charm to it. Also Bats. Did I mention the bats?

Atiwa in play. Iain's board towards the end of the game.
Bat Country

Probably the heaviest game I played at the con was up next with Cuba Libre. Adam has been reviewing a lot of wargames of late and this is one of his favourite card driven games. It isn’t that heavy in reality but was with all GMT games there is a lot of nuance to what you can do on your turn and how you will achieve your goal. It has a really interesting mechanism whereby only a couple of players get to act each turn, but then they can’t act the next turn. You can always see what card is coming next turn so you have this agonising choice of how to develop your board state, and what you need to prevent happening next turn. I also love the clean graphics of these games. Hobby boardgames could learn a lot from them.

We only got through half a game but I would love to see how the whole thing plays out. I do still feel a little uneasy playing such recent history, especially one that isn’t my culture.

It really is a good looking game.

I took the opportunity to take a photo of the four of us before Adam headed off and it is my favourite photo of the con. Just happy with friends.

4 people stand looking at camera. From left to right: Me, Sara-Jayne, Gavin, and Adam
From left to right: Me, Sara-Jayne, Gavin, and Adam

Robert joined us in the evening and we played a couple of games of Drop It. This is a simple game where you are dropping coloured shapes into a space and trying to score points. You don’t score points if your shape touches the same colour or another shape of the same type. That seems simple yes? Apparently my brain was fried enough to not get this resulting in this picture.

Iain's head is down on the table just to the left of the drop it "board".
Woe is me

I really enjoyed playing it, but was terrible at it.

The day finished up with a game of Tales & Games: The Hare & The Tortoise. This is a game where you are betting on who will win the fictional race of the fable with a few additional races. You then manipulate the race through card play to try and get your folk across the finish line to grab those sweet points. Do this three times and you are done. It is effectively a hand management game and a pretty fun one. Seems like a simple family game, actually quite interesting and mean. Just my kind of game.

Robert, Gaving, Sara-Jayne, and me playing the game.
Who is betting on which animals?

It was time for bed after a long and very enjoyable day. This was a lighter day games wise but I got to spend a lot of time with lovely people and it was just brilliant.

Day 3 – Sunday

With Adam heading off early for home I ended up wandering the exhibitor hall again. I had a quick chat with Flavien Loisier from Hachette, and was generously given some review copies. Jessica Metheringham from Dissent Games was next up for a visit and I chatted to her about some of the initiatives she is involved with. She pointed me towards Rob from Dice Sports who I had on my list to see, but hadn’t realised where they were in the hall.

Dice Sports is doing high end prototyping for boardgames and by the sounds of it they are very busy. I hope to chat to Rob for a Meeting of Minds at some point in the future.

Laurie Blake from Stop, Drop, and Roll had reached out to me for a chat and I toddled along there next. Stop, Drop, and Roll have just fulfilled there first Kickstarter called Earth Rising. This is another ecologically themed co-operative game that Laurie was nice enough to talk me through. He is a really enthusiastic designer with a passion for making his games as sustainable as possible and I really enjoyed chatting with him.

I had planned to hang around a little longer but with a 4 hour drive back home and feeling the tiredness of 3 days solid of socialising I decided to pack up and head home.

Airing my thoughts

Very glad to have today off to ease myself back into the real world. A convention as fun as Airecon always leaves me feeling tired but grateful. Mark and his team have done a great job making a welcoming, friendly convention where play is the focus. The con was really well laid out, seemed very accessible, and had plenty going on. The area around the convention was full of nice pubs, cafes, and restaurants that I should check out next time!

That said I do have a little feedback. The tables were really close together with just enough room for a couple of chairs pulled out. I would have preferred a little more room and I can’t have been the only one. I didn’t visit the bring and buy much but it seemed a bit cramped for folk to get around.

That’s really it for me. The volunteers where all great and friendly. Exhibitors seemed to be doing a good trade, and the play halls were absolutely buzzing with happy gamers. The demographic seemed pretty diverse for a games convention which gives me hope for the future of the hobby.

I spent a good while just wandering the halls, looking at all sorts of games, and watching people just enjoy each others company. It filled my heart and soul with warm feelings for my hobby and fellow enthusiasts. As someone who spends a good deal of time thinking about the messy underbelly of the tabletop industry it was lovely to be reminded of what really makes the hobby tick: good people.

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Iain McAllister

Tabletop games reviewer and podcaster based in Dalkeith, Scotland.

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