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UK Games Expo 2024 – Con Diary Part Two

by on June 8, 2024
 

Last time I wrote about the day before the con and the first day of it. This time it’s all hits. The Friday felt like Saturdays from previous years, so I knew this was going to be chaotic.

Saturday

The day started a little cloudy, but I was ready for the con.

I spent my pre-con time on the phone to my partner and bopping around outside the Travelodge listening to The Specials while my friend Graham was getting ready. Our morning plan to stock up at Morrison’s failed again, so we were catered by Greggs.

The drive in was insane, with car parks already full up and some people taking taxis into the con bailing out from them while stuck at a roundabout. The car park staff were nicely patient with the influx of nerds and we decided to walk in rather than wait for the bus.

The Iconiq Studios booth had a number of different licensed games, but the main one that caught my attention was They Live. A card-based deduction game, players need to carry out missions, all apart from any alien infiltrators. There’s a Kick Ass/Chew Bubblegum dice and a set of glasses to check loyalty. I spoke to the people at the booth about colour blindness as I’ve had experiences with colourblind players using screens to test infection in Nemesis or codes in Decrypto. This was a different technique and while the staff didn’t initially know, they remembered one player was colourblind and had issues with the health track (which was unfortunately too late to change), but they were fine with the glasses.

Is it worth it for the Kick Ass/Chew Bubblegum Dice? Possibly.

I spoke to Modiphius for long enough I’ll be putting something out about that shortly. I was preemptively reassured there might be more stock of the Hollywood Heroes miniatures as they were the characters from the Fallout TV show and they’d been flying off the shelves. Unfortunately for my friend Ben on the Sunday, that didn’t pan out.

Look who’s here!

There were some people from more mainstream corporate companies who I walked past from time to time and you can always notice them by how they look like Mormons.

I don’t cover D&D 5E here on Who Dares Rolls, it takes enough of the RPG oxygen. That said, I had an interesting conversation with Greedy Gorgon Press, a relatively new third party publisher who have started with 5E content.

Greedy Gorgon are six months old and have been crowdfunding D&D 5E content. Discussing with them about the market and audience, their real passion is for some Shakespearean-themed RPGs. Their approach is one which I’ve seen one or two companies try: They’re going to start with 5E, then do 5E adjacent works closer to what they want and finally segue away from 5E and hope to take the audience with them. It’s a tricky gambit, but given the swirling vortex of 5E and how difficult it is to get people out from there, I wish them luck. 

The Greedy Gorgon Press stall

One of the larger indie RPG stalls in Hall One was occupied by Soulmuppet Publishing, who had a lovely space full of games. I caught sight of Animon Story, an RPG which I had some fun experiences of online during lockdown. One of the people working there noticed and asked if I knew it. After I was done gushing about the game a bit, I asked her to show me some games of her choice.

A standout display with ‘the gun in the stone’

First up was Cantrip, a slice of life game about teenage witches. Next was a game ‘similar to but legally distinct from Necromunda’; Gangs of Titan City. It had a lot of interesting setting creation rules as you build up your gang’s turf and try to spread out to others’, potentially leaving your home in danger. Finally there was the big new release they were showing off. Inevitable is a roleplaying game about doomed Arthurian cowboys in an apocalyptic wasteland. Their home will be destroyed, but they will become legends trying to stop it. Part of the mechanics involves shootouts and leveraging aspects of yourself; your items, your health, your deeds. What will be left when doom comes? The game had regular and limited editions, with a ‘gun in the stone’ prop by them.

Somehow Catan still keeps going.

Parable Games made Shiver, a horror RPG which could be fine but their sales pitch made it sound like it was trying to be all things to all people and I’m not much of a fan of a generic system. One day I’ll actually check it out and hopefully be nicely surprised. It wasn’t at the Parable stand for that, instead I was curious about Ion Heart. I’d overheard Parable’s Ben Alexander talking about it earlier in the con. It’s a solo game about a mech and its pilot and the aesthetic for it looks gorgeous. The preview was free to anyone who signed up to the Backerkit, both physically at the show and in pdf.

Ion Heart’s BackerKit project will launch in mid-July, with a book around 120 pages with additional tables, lore and potential additional goodies like a campaign book, a journal, stickers and dice.

Ion Heart’s gorgeous preview

I had a quick break and went to a Dragonbane tournament in the Toute Suite, where I remembered fondly the Who Dares Rolls live show from several years past. An RPG tournament’s a bit of an odd thing in 2024, so I’ll cover that in my RPG article.

Graham and I stopped by DR Games and spoke to the designer Toby Lancaster about 2d6 Dungeon. The game is a solo dungeoneering system where you create a character and put them through ten levels of a dungeon, drawing a map as you go. There were some nice sample maps from people on the Facebook group which looked like old school D&D maps. There was a combined hardcover book, or a split version with one book of rules and one of tables. Finally a deck of cards laid out all the monsters for players’ convenience. Graham picked up the books, the cards and asked Toby to sign them. He also let on that they’re approaching done with a wilderness book, which is more my jam.

A display and example dungeon.

We visited Darrington Press’ stand to see what they had to offer. One of the staff there showed off the new printing of For the Queen, a favourite small storytelling game recently acquired by the company. It came with new queens and slightly polished wording on the cards. Also a lovely new box. It wasn’t really enough to justify me buying it to replace my older version, but it looked nice.

Candela Obscura was out there in full force with a very pretty special edition and very sharp-looking metal dice. 

Demonhunter Bricks showed off some incredible custom Lego builds at their stall. They painstakingly use only existing pieces and work out how to make pokeballs, lightsabers, firearms and all manner of other nerdy things. 

Our evening involved a sneak peek at a board game which I will cover in my next article, and a late night RPG of Numenera.

Sunday

The desperate expression of a man who’s had too little sleep and a day of a convention ahead. Also a haunted painting behind him.

I was beginning to feel the late nights and early mornings, and less energised than before I bopped around to Babybird outside the Travelodge after checking out. We were catered for one last time by Gregg.

I was carrying all of my luggage and acquisitions with me, so I decided to wisely do the one thing I never have before… I used the cloakroom. At £3 a bag, it was fine value to walk around the con unencumbered.

I met up with two friends from CabinCon; Ben and Adam. I dropped off a stray token of Adam’s which ended up in one of my games and headed over to Modiphius, who had sadly not got any more of the Hollywood Heroes minis in. I started chatting to one of the staff there and my friends were on a clock, so we parted ways.

There were a couple of hours before a scheduled demo, so I finally decided to speak to Pelgrane Press, a company I’ve loved the work of but had some issues with in recent times. I had a lovely, productive conversation which I’ll be writing up soon as there were a lot of good answers, as well as raving about a few old books and sharing the pronunciation of Squamous which a pedantic friend had shared with me.

Old Gods of Appalachia with its trophy.

I had a demo of Old Gods of Appalachia at the Monte Cook Games stand which had an enthusiastic GM, a pair of friendly other players and the game was… fine. I’ll get into it more in my RPG section. They were proudly showing off their trophy for the best RPG of the show and the book certainly looked pretty enough for that, even if I was a bit underwhelmed by the mechanics.

Summit’s lovely-looking cover.

Inside Up Games were demoing a number of games including Summit, which was an interesting looking game about climbing Everest. They had a kid managing the scheduling of demos and another giving me the gist of the game. While child labour’s not great, these kids were pretty organised and well-informed. I didn’t have the heart to say that my partner works for the Alpine Club and they often act like climbing Everest is a bit passé.

I bumped into Grant Howitt on the way to his stall. He’s still quite tall, a bit greyer, but he’s looking distinguished with it. The show sounded like it was going well for him, and he was thrilled to have other people able to handle things, so the company could have a BackerKit campaign going on at the same time as the con.

The Rowan Rook & Decard stall was massive this year, with sets of wooden shelves making it stand out nicely and a demo table, the first of its kind for the company. The team had hired a GM who specifically runs demos in order to get people trying out the unique combat system from Hollows, their RPG currently on BackerKit.

The shelves and table definitely helped RRD stand out.

Matt from RRD generously spared me some of his time to go into what the company’s up to. They went from a Heart campaign to Hollows, and have reached a point where they have specific producers for both product lines in order to keep them both chugging away instead of having to switch back and forth.

As far as future projects, there was nothing that could be shared for Heart & Spire beyond the current campaign, Hollows has its campaign to finish and has the kind of structure that invites expansion. DIE has had its first scenario book out and three more are planned. The One-Page RPGs are going to get repackaged, although there wasn’t any information on how. When I bought them they were in a brown envelope and currently they’re in a sleeve with nice art, so a fancy edition would be great.

There was also talk about a relaunch of Legacy: Life Among the Ruins, and some hints on their board. I took a photo so folks could try looking for them:

The mystery board.

The UK Indie League is a favourite place to visit and I spent a bit more time with a few different designers. 

Chris Longhurst of Certain Death showed off his See Issue X superhero game which I have a copy of and want to try as a solo game. He also showed me Strike Force Omega, an Illuminated by Lumen science fiction tactical combat game. Between this and Hollows, it was fun seeing indies get in on the normally trad RPG tactical combat field. Finally, Chris showed off Clive, a cat who was advertising his upcoming Hitman-inspired RPG, Threadcutters. From there we got talking about Outside Xbox’s Hitman streams and Chris’ sole YouTube video.

Clive helping to advertise Threadcutters.

Becky Annison from Black Armada was next up and proudly showing off the prototype of Lovecraftesque Second Edition. A boxed, card-based experience with some hidden UV elements, it looked gorgeous. I asked whether it was coming to retail and apparently they’ve been in discussions with distributors, so hopefully people beyond the backers will get to play it soon. Becky and Josh are a pair of designers who always seem to have their heads screwed on with crowdfunding campaigns and share fascinating details about things like box height. Okay, it’s fascinating to me, even if it isn’t to you.

I can’t wait to get my copy of Lovecraftesque.

Finally Kalum from the Rolistes arrived and I had to speak to him about Rosewood Abbey. I’d already read some of it, but was curious about the deisgn. He shared that the use of a replay came from Japanese RPGs and the scale of the book was from manga. Also that he had to hand-fold the jackets for each book. Joining the conversation with Becky about boxed RPGs like Lovecraftesque, Fiasco and Zombie World, Kalum talked about his planned crowdfunding campaign for a full version of Paris Gondo and the Art of Inventorying. The game is about adventurers who have been accumulating treasure in a dungeon, trying to manage the weight and desirability of their equipment. What sparks joy and what will actually help you survive the journey out? The package sounds like it’ll be very nice and value-conscious. The campaign is expected to launch this summer.

Another great standee.

I had a bit of a last lap round the place, some of which was with WH Arthur, a friend and game designer. He stopped at the UK Tabletop Industry Network stall which was full of lovely games. It included previews of Arthur’s current Kickstarter, May You Fish in Interesting Times, and Molotov College which I should disclose I have written a playbook for.

WH Arthur’s books at the stall.

I found a dice stall a friend had recommended me, Chicken Wizard Dice. It was their first time at UK Games Expo with some beautiful dice which were all hand-made by George Perry. Given the massive variety I asked about his decisions with the dice and he explained that he does commissions, but also makes what he likes. After two years, Chicken Wizard has an Etsy store and a lovely selection to check out. There was an interesting choice in shape of the d4 which George explained was “more pointy, but less dangerous”.

Chicken Wizard’s stall which does the dice no justice, click the link up above this.

I picked up some acrylic tokens for Quacks of Quedlinburg, then hit up Londis before wandering down to the platform to get my train. This was a return to doing a bit of games journalism for me and despite social awkwardness and tiredness from the late nights, I was stoked by the experience. 

We bumped into some sheep on their way to a Catan LARP.

This was a long overview of my entire experience, but I’ve got a few articles planned in the next week or two, covering a board game preview, a couple of RPG company chats and the variety of RPG experiences available at Expo.

The numbers finally dwindling as people make their way home, bleary-eyed and hands calloused from dice.