It was all the fun (and games) of the fair last weekend in Birmingham. I was helping out in the bigger-and-better Playtest Zone which, like the Expo itself, goes from strength to strength. Congrats to Rob for organizing everything and everyone in the Zone, and greets to my fellow redshirts Katarina, Matt, Dave & Lawrence!
As always, I was surprised as the sheer number of regular Expo-goers who were so keen to become playtesters — without knowing what they might be letting themselves in for. On Saturday, the Zone was heaving, and unfortunately we even had to turn some eager gamers away. Things were a little quieter on Sunday, but we still had plenty of interest and most of the time all 10 tables were occupied, which was brilliant to see. If you visited the Playtest Zone, sat down for a game and are reading this, then many, many thanks to you. Yes, you!
It was great to meet and chat about games with so many different people, and a real pleasure to have the company of so many while playtesting my own prototypes. On Saturday I ran four playtests of Angkor Thom with both children and grown-ups, and followed these up with three playtests of Sparkle on Sunday. In between, I was able to join in with lots of other games and did my best to make sure everyone who came along had a chance to try out a game or two.
Both Angkor Thom and Sparkle are relatively late-stage prototypes, which is not to say they are finished — is any game, ever? — but simply that they both have a solid ruleset that I know can run smoothly. Fortunately, both are also fairly quick to explain and play, and are designed to be firmly family friendly, so make ideal candidates for playtesting in the lively Expo environment.
Things start to get tricky for me, Kai, Max and Adam in the middle of our game of Angkor Thom. I don’t now recall who won. This suggests it wasn’t me. Many thank, lads!
It’s eyes-down for Paul and Phil Taylor as they fill in the playtest feedback forms after our excellent game of Sparkle. Thanks again, boys, for a well-played game and fun chat!
Away from the Playtest Zone, the Expo seemed to have bedded in well in its new digs: the expansive, expensive and ever-so-slightly Stalinist, Hilton Metropole. In truth, the new venue represents a big and positive statement about the future aspirations of the Expo, and for a first-run, everything seemed to be going pretty smoothly, which is a tremendous achievement. Hats off to the organizers!
In the main halls, there was the usual roll call of ne’er-do-wells and reprobates: Tony, Charlie and Alan from Surprised Stare, John Yianni of Gen42, Jeremy from Arctic Fox, Adam from Angels Inferno, the irrepressible Andy Hopwood of Hopwood Games, Gavin Birnbaum of Cubiko, Pete Burley and sons, Dave Cousins of North & South Games… the list goes on.*
And what about the cockroaches? Should future Expo-goers considering staying at the Metropole be worried? Not a bit of a it! But you should watch out for Kakerlakenpoker, which, it turns out, is absolute genius!
Here’s to the next time!
* Was it me, or did Tony seem even more of a malcontent than usual? And a word to the wise: never ask Gavin about the incident with the bandsaw.