Completely Expo'ed

Wow, that was a heck of a weekend, with playtesting, wearing a red t-shirt, meeting heaps of people, negotiating rain and Take That fans, quite a lot of caffeine, and not as much actual playing of games as you might expect for a visit to UK Games Expo.

TL;DR: A couple of Invaded playtests, useful feedback, played some other stuff too, met and talked with a lot of people, had a great time.

So, I arrived on Friday morning, having been fortunate to meet friends en route at Oxford station, and had three hours available to explore the hall before my first playtesting slot in the afternoon.  The Playtest Zone was relatively quiet on Friday, but doing steady business, and I ended up joining in a game of Invaded to make a three-player test with a couple of innocent victims.  Normally at an event like this I would sit out and watch, but joining in was quite useful this time.  After this I donned the red shirt uniform of the Zone volunteers and helped pull in additional players for other designers.
A few rounds into the Sunday test of Invaded and it's all gone a bit pair shaped for green.

The close of the trade hall was followed by a trip to a seminar room where I was volunteering to help at the designer-publisher speed dating event.  This was a small and intense event with twelve game designers setting up one of their games on a table and then being visited by representatives of twelve publishers in a series of five-minute pitch meetings.  This was absolutely exhausting to watch, and I'm not sure how well I would do in those circumstances, so I'm really impressed with how all the designers did.  It's also interesting to note that, due to the screening process, which involved the publishers who planned to attend, that all of the designers had at least four of the companies interested in their games, so while nobody was interested in everything, there was already a feeling that nobody's time would be wasted.  (As an aside, I ended up having an interesting chat about these events with Seth Jaffee, who just turned up to see what was going on, and ended up signing my newly-acquired Eminent Domain expansion.)

Friday evening was rounded off by another designer-publisher event, this time an informal networking opportunity.  To be honest, I didn't make the most out of this, though a number of other designers took advantage of the chance to show some of their games to a few publishers, so hopefully someone got a break there.  I did, however, get a chance to play a prototype of a great game about badass princesses defending their kingdom from their evil uncle, which I really want to be able to buy some time soon.  After that it was a trudge through rain and a sea of Take That fans to get to my hotel for the night.

On Saturday I spent the morning working at the Playtest Zone, which started off being pretty hard work to pull in potential testers, but after barely half an hour people were queueing up to join test games, so the challenge was actually to find somewhere for them to play.  This is a fantastic problem to have, and it is lovely to see that so many people are interested in prototypes.  In fact, talking to a few people it is clear that for some of them coming to play works-in-progress is a major part of the Expo experience.

My afternoon was free, so I wandered about talking to people, playing a couple of demo games, and joining in a rather nice prototype about Jazz music in the Playtest Zone.  I was knackered after all this, so returned to the hotel reasonably early, where I stumbled across a lovely group of people who let me play a game of Giants with them for a while.

This seems to be developing into a pattern for me: Saturday evening is the time I just end up having a relaxed gaming session with strangers away from the main convention sites.  Long may this continue -- it is times like this which remind me of some of the reasons I love board games so much.

Finally we get to Sunday, when I started off the day by  with another 90 minute slot for testing Invaded in the Playtest zone.  I got in early and was just starting to set up when a couple of people came around and asked if they and the other couple of members of their family could play.  This was amazing and the upshot was that by the time the official start of my time had come, we were already well into the rules explanation and could get started really promptly.  I'll go into what I learned from the Invaded playtests in a later post.

For most of the rest of the day I was hanging out with S and Miss B, who had come up for the last day, though Miss B spent a good chunk of the time in the kids' roleplaying games corner, which is a highlight of her year.

So, that's what I did with my weekend.  I'm still processing some of what went on, but it was great to build up a little morale and direction.

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