I attended my second AireCon over the weekend of 9th-11th March. 2017 was my first visit to both Harrogate and indeed AireCon; I spent much of that weekend wandering around feeling a little lost in this new place with very few people I really knew also in attendance. This year would be rather different. Firstly, Emma agreed to attend on the Friday which was the first convention she's voluntarily attended purely as a consumer (rather than at The Great Indoors, or exhibiting at UKGE last summer). Secondly, thanks to a natural progression of meeting new friends at various board game events- and the magnificent Board Game Trading and Chat UK Facebook group- there were plenty of lovely gamers who I would have the pleasure of meeting for the first time in person, or spending time with again.
Photo courtesy of Allen O'Connor, featured on his blog Glass Bead Boardgames
Emma and I arrived about 2pm on Friday (show opens at 1pm with exhibitors allowed to setup from 6pm), quickly visited the Bring & Buy to drop off some games and chatted with some friends, then made our way to the GeeknSon demo area where we had won table time to spend on a 'Denis'. Winning AireCon-related competitions is becoming a speciality. Keep it up Mark!
Thanks to the marvels of the internet, we already had willing
victims volunteers for a friendly game of the excellent Spyrium.
Left to right: Mick Wood, Karl Bibby, Andy Grant, me and Emma.
Andy schooled us all despite being one of three learning the game, pipping Emma at the finish line with an awesome amount of endgame scoring. Karl and I finished tied for third. Mick...well he says he enjoyed it ;)
With a first game under our belts, the next priority for Emma and me was to try an RPG demo courtesy of the lovely folks at the Paizo tent.
I'd been wanting to give RPGs a go for a while but there is limited experience in my regular gaming group. Thus, I did some research and identified The One Ring as being a suitable starting point for a noob who intends to jump in at the deep end and start GMing. Having bought a core rulebook, I wanted to get a feel for what a GM does as well as introducing Emma to the world of RPGs.
We booked in for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay at 7:30pm which left us some time for more gaming- Glass Road with Andy Grant- and some food before heading over to join our new comrades, bottle of wine in hand. The game is not one I particularly took to, being rather silly and featuring excessive die rolling, but it gave both of us a good indication of what we might like/dislike in RPGs and one style of GM. More on RPGs later...
We then retired to the bar for another drink and some quieter gaming with our first experience of Forest of Fate, a delightful recently-arrived storytelling survival card game from Phil Hazelton funded through Kickstarter.
Before heading back to our hotel, we were happily cajoled into a game of Giant Tsuro, courtesy of Ad and Elaine from Herefordshire Board Gamers, and that was enough for one day.
While of course the hardcore fans had arrived on the Friday, there were many more Johnny-come-latelies in the queue before opening on Saturday morning. That's right...AireCon now has an Essen-style queue (while admittedly not on the same scale).
Behind the queues you can see some of the exhibitors which, unfortunately, is the only photo I took of them
Anyone like playing I, Spy Rodney Smith?
I had a quick chat with friends Mike and Matt from Carmik Games, once again present demoing their High Seas Pirates game, before racing off to setup the amazing Wildcatters for another prearranged game date, this time with BGT&CUK stalwart Craig Taylor.
For a learning/re-learning playthrough of a game with plenty of depth, the time flew by- punctuated by meeting and greeting fellow internet acquaintances at the meetup- and reaching the end was a bit regretful. I can't wait to play this one again.
There was no time to lose though as my second RPG session of the convention was fast approaching, and this time it would be The One Ring I was sampling. Any doubts that might have arisen after our Warhammer experience the previous evening were completely quashed by an excellent experience, vindicating my decision to enter this particular world. It also gave an invaluable insight into the approach of an experienced Loremaster, and highlighted a potential issue: the alpha gamer. I look forward to starting our campaign in a few weeks time with plenty of food for thought.
Saturday was very busy, as this photograph visibly demonstrates, but never unpleasant. Mark, Ben and the other members of the AireCrew did a wonderful job looking after us and I can honestly say their hard work paid off. AireCon is growing at an impressive rate and it feels like it's earning a good reputation.
This is one half of the open gaming area!
Quick visit then to the Bring & Buy, where I picked up a bargain of Nippon (new in shrink) and my unsold items, before heading off to watch an awful rugby match and then consuming an amazing Greek dinner. My AireCon experience was over for another year with Sunday reserved for some quality time with Emma, both of us enjoying a brief respite of toddler-free time.
It seems like an annual trip up to Harrogate and AireCon might become a regular fixture in the calendar. If you want to go to a family friendly gaming convention that ticks all the boxes then we heartily recommend AireCon.