Day One at the UK Games Expo – the last one to be held at the Clarendon Suites, somewhere (I think) in the West Bromwich sort of area of Birmingham. I travelled down here today from Manchester at about 6.30AM, and made solid time until I got within a mile of the venue, when I decided to make a detour that took about 20 minutes to correct. That O2 decided to completely pack up leaving me without my phone for sat navigation really didn’t help at all.
When we did arrive, we immediately bumped into Graham Bottley, from Arion Games – the very person we had hoped to help. He had returned to the car park for his final box, so we failed completely to be any help at all. The Suite seemed to be busting with tables, with some rejigging of traders and tables at odds with previous years. We ended up in the Green Zone in a good spot not too far from the door, and not too far from the RPG room where I would be running an Advanced Fighting Fantasy game at 10AM.
We, my youngest son and me, assisted Graham with extracting books from boxes and arranging the piles into something bordering on, but probably not really related to, proper merchandising. Graham sells a lot of standard solo Fighting Fantasy books as well as the coffee table format Advanced Fighting Fantasy roleplaying game volumes.
All prepared and topped up with a cup of coffee, I went off to the RPG room at 9.55AM and found a table (the only one left, as it happened). I found one pre-booked player already waiting for me, another soon followed, and a new signing came not too long after that. I started going through the mechanics of the game, then co-opted my son (just passing) to bulk the party out to four players (not for fun, I may add, but for the good entertaining of the paying pundits).
We played Fighting Fantasy until about 1.30PM – playing a variant version of the classic adventure ‘The Wishing Well’ (one included in the new edition of Advanced Fighting Fantasy). The game involved a dungeon crawl, complicated by a necromancer with world domination in mind and the neat complexity of time travel. Having faced the necromancer in their first ever adventure together and failed to defeat him outright, the characters had to return to the same place and time – using a variant of the sorcerous ZED spell – and put right their mistake without – most importantly – bumping into themselves. The first 20 minutes or more covered some fairly indepth planning, then when they arrived they very cautiously followed themselves into the dungeon and took an alternate root. They passed through a furnace funnel, faced off against a ghoulish monk, discovered an animated skeleton production facility, stumbled across the bones of a Black Dragon, then finally reached an underground river – just after their earlier selves completed the crossing. Trying to follow, three of the four almost got swept down the river – saved by the stalwart adventurer Jack – and then struggled to the shoreline just as part of the cavern collapsed revealing a very angry and now thoroughly animated Undead Black Dragon Skeleton. Setting a trap to stop the necromancer escaping – which he managed to do last time, though mortally wounded – they spent several tense moments fending off the necrotic flames of the dragon before the villain died. The future saved, the spell collapsed dragging them back through time – to a world that didn’t even know that it had been in a danger…
For the rest of the day, I supported Graham in selling stock from the stall. Largely, this involved chatting with people about their first experiences with Fighting Fantasy and Maelstrom, the other game for sale on the stand and the one I contribute to. I love hearing about how people got into gaming, their experiences with solo adventures, and their favourites out of the series. Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone attended the event and gave a talk at 2PM, and a little after 3PM a queue formed in front of our stall and their co-authors soon followed. Ian and Steve signed various books for loyal fans – and I got Steve to sign my copy of Fighting Fantasy (the original roleplaying version of the solo games and the place where ‘The Wishing Well’ adventure first appeared).
By 5PM we felt tired and relieved to pack up. We – my son and me – had a slightly uninspiring buffet dinner in the hotel restaurant (a ‘one trip’-only affair where we didn’t quite make the most of the plate-based real estate), then played a game in the lobby. He then went on to play Shadows of Camelot, while I sloped off upstairs to type this…
Tomorrow – more from the stall and a Maelstrom sci-fi adventure at 10AM (sold out three weeks ago during pre-booking).