This is a post that I was meaning to write up a fortnight ago, as it was then that we had a family trip away for a gaming weekend. The event was a repeat of one from February last year (which I don’t think I wrote up for this blog) and was what has been dubbed “Big Barn Con”, a private mini-convention organised by a group of friends. We hired a large holiday cottage in the wilds of Shropshire, shared the catering duties between us, and then spent the weekend playing lots of games.
Miss B was really looking forward to the weekend, largely because she gets to share a room with the daughter of one of my oldest friends, and the two of them get on like a house on fire, which we are all very pleased about.
Games I played with Miss B included Push It, GemPacked Cards, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, and Love Letter, though she played a whole heap of other games when I wasn’t in the group. After a while it became apparent just how many games she was playing. We had a scoring system running where we recorded who came first, second and third in each game and points were awarded for placings, and these were totalled at the end of the weekend.
Anyway, the final scores were announced and… Miss B was the top ranked player! Prizes were awarded and Miss B was delighted to be presented with an electronic dinosaur kit, which she is absolutely delighted with.
So a very successful weekend for Miss B (and for me — I got to play some great games with great people too), so we’ll have to see if we can get another Big Barn Con organised for next year…
Yesterday we had our return trip to UK Games Expo. Last year I reported that the event (on the Sunday) was busy but not too crowded, but this year (on the Saturday), it felt like a cattle crush for most of the day, and some areas were very difficult to move around. We didn’t even manage to get into the bring and buy area due to our unwillingness to wait in the lengthy and slow moving queue to even get into the room.
Despite all that, we had a good day. Miss B and I tried out a few demo games and even went head to head at the giant Pylos game in the family zone. She spent much of the afternoon taking part in a couple of roleplaying games (one loosely based on Scooby Doo and the other on Alice in Wonderland — the adventures themselves will be available for download here after the Expo has finished), while I wandered about chatting to people, spending money, and going to a fascinating seminar featuring Quentin Cooper (from Radio 4’s Material World) and the prolific Reiner Knizia.
We finished off the day with another seminar, on the subject of gaming with children. This was interesting, but squeezed for time due to an overrun of the previous event in the room, so didn’t have the space for discussion and questions which I was hoping for.
Of the newly acquired games, I would expect Miss B and I to be playing The Downfall of Pompeii (which Miss B wanted us to get after she enjoyed a demo game), Crows (a game I was interested in, which I found at a very good price), and Ali (a mega-bargain from one of the discount traders).
Highlights for Miss B have to include watching a bunch of Star Wars cosplayers menacing the Red Charity Dalek with their lightsabres, while the Dalek bemoaned his fate with great comic style.
This year, taking a packed lunch turned out to have been a very good decision; it being a nice day we got to sit outside and eat our sandwiches by a water feature. Next year? I expect we’ll go again. I think we got more out of this year, so maybe next time we’ll be able to do better still.
PS. The title of this post is from the slogan on a T-shirt that Miss B acquired at the Expo. There’s this and lots of other awesome (and very silly) stuff at Genki Gear. (No sponsorship here — we just like their stuff.)
You may remember that last year we visited UK Games Expo at the Birmingham NEC, where we played a few games, bought quite a few, and generally had a great day out. Well, it’s nearly that time again. The Expo is on from 30th May until 1st June and is well worth a visit if you are able to get there.
Anyway, we have now had a family events planning discussion and have decided that we will be taking a day trip on Saturday 31st May. I expect we’ll be spending most of our time around the trade halls and the family zone as we did last time, but it just depends on how the day flows.
If any of you reading this are planning on going, particularly on the Saturday, please do sign in on the comments on this post, and we may be able to arrange to meet up at some point. It would be great to meet some new faces, shake some hands, and maybe roll some dice…
Today we had a lovely trip into Oxford to meet up with some friends with their two kids. After stuffing ourselves with pizza, we repaired to the Thirsty Meeples board game café for a few hours of playing.
The selection of games available to play is quite intimidating, but we managed to identify some candidate games without needing to resort to recommendations from the very helpful staff.
So, while our friends’ sons started playing with their first choice, the Lego Battle of Hoth game, the other five of us tried out Om Nom Nom. which Miss B had spotted and fancied trying. I had never even heard of the game before, but it didn’t take long for us to get going. The game involves rolling enormous quantities of dice representing animals or things that can be eaten by animals, and then all players simultaneously playing cards representing animals trying to eat the things on the dice without themselves being eaten by something further up the food chain. This was just so much fun for all of us (I suspect it is best with five or six players), but it seems that it is quite hard to get hold of at the moment. If I manage to get a copy of the game I would love to write more about it (and play it a load more).
After that we played Gold Mine, which I have been wanting to try for ages, but which wasn’t much enjoyed by Miss B, so that comes back off the wish list.
Then I ended up playing the very pleasant two-player card game, Morels with one of our friends, while the others had a go at the Lego Creationary game (it’s basically Pictionary with Lego bricks rather than sketch pads). Creationary didn’t go down so well, so the others moved on to the daftness of Dalek Operation, followed by the great looking Monster Factory, which I was sorry to have missed: it’s a bonkers tile laying game which involved building some pretty crazy creatures.
That pretty much used up all our available time, so we all bought a load of games (hopefully you’ll be reading about Wicked Witches’ Race and Splendor here in due course) and went our separate ways. We think that was a very well spent afternoon, so we’ll do it again some time…
Last weekend was a games-light weekend, but one that featured something at least as good. At the invitation of some friends, we took a day trip to Chippenham, where the English Civil War Society were staging a battle reenactment along with a bunch of living history bits. The last time I went to an event of this type must have been in the 1970’s, so I was looking forward to seeing what was up.
We arrived with nearly three hours to spare before the battle was scheduled to take place, which gave us plenty of time to have a picnic lunch and talk to people in the living history area. Miss B learned to play the ancient game of Nim, found out about spinning and weaving as well as wood turning on a pole lathe. She was wowed by the working printing press, and got to help the blacksmith forge a steel feather for her to bring home (that was something really special).
The battle itself started quietly, with a commentator setting the scene of the Cavalier forces in retreat, trying to get their valuable artillery pieces to safety while being pursued by the Roundheads. This basically amounted to half a dozen horsemen, followed by a similar number of musketeers in a skirmish line, then a load of poor so-and-sos manually dragging a load of cannon across the field. The cavalry was engaged by a few enemy horse in a slightly unexciting way, and then the Roundheads started arriving and both sides began to deploy for battle.
Over the next hour we saw the numbers of combatants swell to several hundred and heard a great deal of noise, particularly from the twelve-pounder gun on the Roundhead side that shook the ground every time it fired. As someone who has in the past played an occasional wargame it was fascinating to watch the manoeuvring and imagining that the units contained five to ten times the number of soldiers that were actually being fielded, which would have made the manoeuvres make more sense. And I must give credit to those who were with me for putting up with my lengthy ramblings about how the cavalry, musketry and pike units would interact in a sort of rock-paper-scissors game.
Eventually a parlay was called, the rival commanders met and discussed terms before, the talks having failed, the Cavalier army made a beautiful advance across the field to crush the Roundhead forces.
This was definitely a very successful day, and we even managed to avoid being sunburned. Miss B told us that she would like to fire cannons and ride a horse. S and I are so proud. We would not hesitate to go to another of these events.
This last weekend saw our first ever family trip up to UK Games Expo at the NEC, just outside Birmingham. None of us really knew what to expect, but we made a day trip for the Sunday of the two-and-a-bit day long event.
The event was actually at a Hilton hotel, and we were initially pleased with:
- the ease of access and (free) parking,
- the weather (I don’t think the organisers can take credit for that) during the short walk from the carpark to the venue,
- the fact that there was no queue at all to get in and the folks at the admin desk were absolutely awesome.
That makes for us all being in good moods right away, so we started exploring. We found two large halls full of traders and demonstrations alongside the family zone, and these are the areas we spent most of our time. Also around the place were a bring & buy room, several rooms for tournaments and general gaming, a room for prototype games, a room selling passable food at far better prices than the hotel’s own facilities, and some other stuff too. The whole place was pretty busy, but in general didn’t feel really crowded.
We were also pleasantly surprised by the number of families we saw around the place with kids of all ages. This is clearly an event a lot of folk feel comfortable bringing their offspring to. I’m sure this is helped in no small part by the family zone, a decent sized area where there was someone doing face painting (always a winner with Miss B), a giant Ticket To Ride set was ready for play, and an impressive games library was available (with people on hand to explain the rules) for play on the many tables in the area. Great stuff.
Much of Miss B’s afternoon was spent in the family zone where she got her face painted (as a tiger) and got herself signed up for a kids’ roleplaying adventure called “The Dwarf, The Wizard and the Wardrobe”, which involved saving everyone’s summer holidays from the Forces of Evil. It was, apparently, so good that she went back and played the same scenario again shortly afterwards.
All in all we reckon this was a great day out. I didn’t try out very many games, but I did buy several, so expect some posts about them soon. We’re already talking about how we’d improve on the experience for next year (bringing a picnic is actually one of the thoughts), so it looks like we have a date booked for this time next year…
Yesterday Miss B had a play date, bringing one of her friends from school, Miss A, home for a couple of hours. This sort of thing usually involves a lot of running around the house and shouting, but we know Miss A has Loot and Sleeping Queens at home, so Miss B wanted to try a board game with her. The one we chose was Catan Junior.
We took a few minutes explaining the main rules (with Miss B very keen to help) and then got started. To be honest, I don’t know Miss A very well so wasn’t sure quite how much was sinking in. Such is the way with six-year-olds. I shouldn’t have worried as after two or three turns, Miss A was clearly getting the hang of things and working out what trades she needed to make to complete her next build. She took an early lead and, despite Miss B and I rallying to catch up, our guest managed to hold on to the win.
I was really impressed at how well this game worked out for playing with a young visitor and held her attention. Catan Junior is not a deep game and probably would probably bore most adult gamers after not too many plays, but it is proving to have been an excellent purchase for us. And I’m more than happy to play it any time it is requested.