After last year’s UKGE, I wasn’t convinced that I wanted to attend UKGE 2018. It’s a pretty exhausting experience, and I didn’t find our visit last year to be particularly productive. I also have a real job where I can’t just swan down to Birmingham and call it ‘work’. I have to work back the hours for my employer. The trip to Birmingham involves three 12 – 13 hour days sandwiched by two days largely spent in a car. And as I mentioned, I have real job and I can’t just take a day off afterwards to recover. Mr Meeple will probably claim that he does too, but I don’t think a real job gives you paid time off to go and play board games for a weekend.
Mr Meeple though had booked provisional accommodation after our first trip and it was definitely not in the middle of the M6. It was a Four in a Bed winner no less, although that seemed to have been an accident. When I told him he raised his eyebrows and said ‘that wasn’t one of the services they advertised’ because he has no idea that show even existed. He assured me we had learned so much from the experience that we would do things differently this year in a way that would definitely make it worth my while attending.
My reservations abated somewhat when Meeple Like Us were accepted to run a seminar on game accessibility. That meant there was at least one productive thing we could guarantee to be able to do. The seminar was scheduled for the Friday, and that was perfect as it meant it wouldn’t be hanging over our heads all weekend. It also meant we could hopefully meet some interested people early on and arrange meetings or gaming with them.
Mr Meeple also set about booking us into various events on the Saturday so that we wouldn’t have the same experience as last year. I felt I had more of a grasp on how things worked at the convention, and since I had a working phone this year meaning I could easily duck out of the convention whenever I needed.
About 3 weeks after UKGE 2017 I started doing Parkrun, and became a fairly serious club runner back around October. I had an easy means of escaping when needed. I could just run. I could just pick a direction and keep running. If I was in a boring conversation I could just take off. If I was playing a boring game I could just sprint from the table. By the time anyone knew what had happened I’d be too far away for them to do anything about it.
I asked about potential running routes on Facebook, checked routes on map my run, and googled nearby Parkruns. It was all going to go much more smoothly than last year, and Parkrun would set me up well for the sensory overload that is Saturday at UKGE.
In the end, things weren’t quite as organised as Mr Meeple had promised, and really that’s my fault. It’s my fault because I never learn.
Our Arrival in Birmingham
Our UKGE started with us missing the press event. As a result I still have no idea where the press room was, or even if there was a press room this year. We had left Angus at around 9:45am (as I was ready surprisingly early for a change), but as usual we inevitably hit some congestion on the M6 and didn’t arrive at our hotel until close to 6:20pm, many mountains of junk food and podcasts later. We swap off driving responsibilities on long trips, and we end up doing an approximately equal amount of work. I mean, he drives 75% of the time but I have to listen to him complain about it so I think we’re even.
Upon checking into the lovely, boutique hotel we discovered a few slightly awkward things that would make the weekend a little tricky. Firstly, there was only one room key. Which was an actual key, not a keycard. It wasn’t like they could just get another one cut for us. That meant it would be much harder for us to go our separate ways and nip back to the hotel at different times. I made sure I kept the key because if anyone was going to abandon anyone to the wild wolves that’s stalk the countryside around Birmingham it was going to be me.
Secondly, we struggled to get on the Wi-Fi. Worse, it turned out that it wasn’t that we were getting the password incorrect: we were actually getting connected to the Wi-Fi, the signal was just very, very poor and unreliable. It was like trying to access Facebook using whatever random data frequencies were being reflected off the local birds.
I guess if we were doing that Twitter would have been the easier service to access.
Mr Meeple had to set up his phone as a hotspot in order to post the teardown of Deception from the hotel on the Sunday morning: the first time a post has been late in 2 years as far as I recall.
We were rather surprised when Olly (with whom we were playtesting Blood on the Clocktower and who recognised us from breakfast at the hotel) commented on their excellent Wi-Fi facilities. Apparently he had been streaming movies whilst we couldn’t even send an email. Maybe that’s where all the bandwidth was going – if we had known that earlier than the Sunday we could have spent our evenings engaged in a cool cyberwar for access to Netflix. ‘He’s breaking through! Start streaming Bojack and I’ll queue up some Let’s Plays on YouTube!’
This was not going to make it easy to write and publish blog posts at the event.
Hey ho, if we’d known it was just a proximity issue we could have asked to move to a room with a stronger Wi-Fi signal. Those rooms were in the extension, and that had the trade-off of being much hotter, and Mr Meeple wasn’t coping with the heat in the room we were in anyway. Mr Meeple will start complaining about the heat at about seventeen degrees Celsius and will keep complaining louder and more urgently with ever incremental degree. The pitches of the complaints gets higher too. When it gets hot enough he sounds like an old ZX Spectrum loading a pirated copy of Manic Miner.
Though the room was on the side of the building, surrounded by trees and not on the M6, it was still next to a busy A road. Opening the windows made the traffic noise too pervasive – for me at least. Mr Meeple spent many years of his life sleeping in a bedroom next to a busy road in Dundee and will happily trade sound for temperature. However, he is also a big wimp and opening the windows introduced ‘beasties’ into the room. That’s a deal-breaker for him – show him a spider if he hasn’t psyched himself up for it and he’ll leap out of his seat like you’d just applied electricity to his glutes. Luckily there was a fan hiding in the wardrobe and Mr Meeple set it up at his side of the bed. It served the dual purpose of keeping him from drowning in his own sweat, and providing consistent white noise to distract from the traffic noise.
Anyhow, after settling in, we debated whether to try and catch the second half of the press event but decided against it. We did however need to go to the NEC for the “tech check” between 8 – 10pm to make sure our equipment was all in order for the seminar, and to drop off the handout folders we had for the seminar. I had been keen to find out where the nearest Parkrun was (and what the parking situation was like) so Mr Meeple suggested we head to NEC via Brueton Park so that I would know where I was going on Saturday morning. Luckily it was easy enough to get to, and I was happy I would be able to make it there alone.
I had One Job
We got to the NEC car parks 20 minutes before the end of the Press Event. This is where Mr Meeple’s lack of organisation started to show through his veneer of lassiez-faire assurances. He had no idea how to get to a convenient drop off point. Instead he deposited me, and a box that was heavier than my Mum, at the entrance to the Hilton Car Park.
Mr Meeple had spent most of Wednesday putting 90 A4 folders together – each containing 2 of our academic papers, the power point slides from the workshop, and a few other bits and pieces. Why he thought people would want to carry large A4 folders around with them for the rest of the Friday is anyone’s guess. You can probably tell that we’re teachers. I swear if the UKGE had a moodle he would have been all over that.
Why he put them in one, very large, very heavy, unsealed cardboard box, thereby making them next to impossible to carry by hand, was also rather perplexing. He had brought a Cajon drum bag with him (in case he founds lots of exciting new games and went on a spending spree) but never thought to use that to transport the folders. Instead, I was abruptly bundled out of the car with this box, and told to stand there until he reappeared at some unspecified future time. It was exactly like someone abandoning a disobedient dog that had become too unruly to live with. The box was just to make it seem like he’d be back.
Mr Meeple has shoulder issues Despite spending a lot of time on an exercise bike since last year, which has given him fantastically strong cycling legs, he’s still not very good at walking or lifting heavy things. At least, he claims to be in pain whenever it seems like it would save him a bit of exertion.
I on the other hand am not good at standing around, particularly on the verge of a dark car park, and he showed no signs of reappearing. I began to wonder if he had finally enacted his frequent threats to drive off and leave me alone in the middle of nowhere. Really, my actions have to be interpreted in the light that I honestly thought I might have been abandoned.
I did what anyone with little patience and decent levels of strength would do, and picked up the box. That took multiple attempts due to the fact I was carrying a short-strapped handbag which kept falling off my shoulder whenever I bent down to get the box. In the end I had to balance the bag precariously on top of the box. I quickly realised that the box was a much more awkward object to carry than a similarly weighted barbell or sandbag, and within about 25 metres (20 lunges worth of steps) I was still capable of carrying the weight but my grip was slipping on the box. Not wanting to be responsible for breaking the box and sending dozens of accessibility folders flying over the path – causing an ironic accessibility issue for everyone passing – I decided to put the box down and wait on Mr Meeple. Note again – I had only walked about twenty five metres.
To be fair, at this point I was halfway down a hill and not in the most obvious spot but I was scared to move in case someone stole our folders or reported it as a suspicious package. I mean, just imagine how it might have looked on a CCTV camera. A car pulls up to a car park it can’t enter. Very hurriedly, with a suspicious eye on any passing traffic, a pair of known Scottish troublemakers pull a heavy box out of a car and dump it by the side of the road. There’s a tense, whispered conversation and then one of them (the getaway driver, clearly) jumps back in the car and speeds away. The person remaining picks up a box that is obviously heavier than any non-suspicious package could possibly be. She waits furtively by the side of the road, and then carries the box twenty-five metres to a place where it couldn’t easily be seen from the road.
We’re lucky we didn’t end up in prison.
Still, at least I had saved Mr Meeple about thirty seconds of shoulder pain, right?
This, surprisingly, was not how he saw it.
Apparently his mental search algorithms are so dire that moving a few metres had rendered me completely invisible to him. I received several terse Facebook messages from him as he floundered around, trying without success to find me despite some pretty obvious clues to my location. There’s a reason we only got out of this Escape Room with 16 seconds to spare.
When he did finally find me, he quickly realised that the box was not as feasible a carry as he had nonchalantly expected. I took some folders out of the box, which made it lighter, then after he had to stop 4 times along the path, I took the box and gave Mr Meeple the folders. With fewer folders in the box it was much easier to carry, and I gamely made it to the bus stop outside of Hall 1 without any further rests while he followed along chuffing away like a disintegrating steam engine.
Although we had spent longer preparing this seminar than Mr Meeple has spent prepping for any individual class in the past decade, he wasn’t as organised as was really needed. For example, he made some assumptions about the seminar room and the equipment available. This led to us making a snap decision on the Thursday morning to bring a MacBook rather than his Windows laptop. The MacBook was far lighter, because Apple have a borderline obsession with stripping away all the facilities people expect from a laptop.
Unfortunately, we didn’t take it to the tech check. We dropped in again to the room in the morning of the Seminar to discover that no PC was provided and we would need an HDMI port to enable us to connect the laptop to the projector. There’s nothing better than having a 17 – slide presentation that only you can see.
This led to Mr Meeple bemoaning the fact that Amazon don’t yet deliver by drone, and messaging the seminar’s director (Millie) early on Friday morning to ask if they could provide us with a converter cable or a windows laptop. Millie came to our rescue with a laptop, and after a brief panic Mr Meeple found the pen drive onto which he had copied the files, and we were all set to go. You’d think he’d be able to find a USB drive easily in his pocket, but not really. His pockets are cavernous and contained at any time during the expo:
- A mobile phone
- A wallet
- A bunch of keys to doors he doesn’t remember
- A handful of coins
- A cursed pirate medallion from an ancient sea chest
- Several dozen receipts
- A notebook
- A handful of the ineffable melancholy of nostalgia
- Charging cables
- A live hamster
- His press pass
- A hand mirror that when you look at it shows your deepest desires
- A USB drive
Seriously, I’m not sure that he didn’t just cut the bottom out of the pockets and make the leg of his jeans one big wearable backpack.
Preparation be damned though, we still spent a good five minutes at the start of the seminar poking at the projector in the hope it would show what it was supposed to. And it did, eventually!
Perhaps because of all this, I promptly forgot most of what I wanted to say and largely just told a couple of mildly inappropriate anecdotes. I hadn’t wanted to take notes in with me, but that meant I ended up with no paper in front of me at all. Paper would have been useful in enabling me to let Mr Meeple know he had gone on at much greater length than he had optimistically assumed he would during the presentation, and to move on to the Q & A. We even had a plan of also doing a teardown during the seminar. Also I’m not sure how we could have done that with 65 people in attendance and no ability to film it and display it on the projector so that people could actually see what we were doing. ‘It’ll be fine’ is pretty much all Mr Meeple says about stuff like that. Forty years of not taking anything seriously has given him a phlegmatic approach to approaching calamity.
Rather than taking half an hour to get through 17 slides which, based on my 18 years experience in teaching (how did I get so old? Mr Meeple tells me it’s the inexorable passage of time) seemed plausible, we only covered 11 slides in 45 minutes. At that point he realised he needed to skip to the end to allow a tiny bit of time for questions.
I’m sorry I’m not better at keeping him on track, but that’s what happens when it’s a topic in which he’s especially interested.
Even though the seminar wasn’t as interactive as we had intended, it was well attended and seemed to be well received. Mr Meeple was mobbed by hordes of attendees for several minutes after the event, and we made a couple of arrangements to meet people later. We also got asked if we would be interviewed for a YouTube channel but that never happened. Sorry to whoever that was, but we did periodically check our email to see if anyone had tried to schedule a time for it.
Job done, and because it had gone relatively well, we were feeling like we could relax into the rest of the weekend. As we had run over our time slot, we left the box with the remaining 25 or so folders in the room and Mr Meeple assured me we would go back for it later, rather than leaving it as Someone Else’s Problem. In the end we forgot that the box was there until we’d crossed the Scottish border so again – apologies to whoever had to throw out the folders that Michael had so painstakingly constructed.
We’re doing another seminar (though hopefully with some refinement) at Tabletop Scotland in September and it would save literally pounds of money on printing if we collected the spare folders, though the weight of them might add the cost back in additional petrol required to transport them back to Scotland.
They really were stupidly heavy. I don’t know what he was thinking.
The Trade Halls
This year there was a lot less wandering round and round the halls. I did manage to clock up just shy of 29,000 steps on the Friday though, and 22.5k steps on the Saturday. For reference, I ran just under 14 miles the previous Sunday (in two hours and at a conversational pace – I think Mr Meeple mentioned I am reasonably fit) and only achieved 26k steps that day. The high step count was just as well – I’m in a 5-person team for a 4-week step challenge at work and couldn’t let the side down.
I had made something very clear to Mr Meeple right from the start of the expo. We weren’t there to do the seminar. That couldn’t have mattered less to me. We were there to pick up a copy of Century: Eastern Wonders. That was the sole reason we were going.
I loved Century: Spice Road enough to review it last year, and this sequel was heavily anticipated. We figured it would sell out fast and bought it from the first store that had it, not bothering to even check its comparative price, no questions asked. We later found it had been a couple of pounds cheaper at another store, but that was fine. It was worth it for the peace of mind of definitely getting a copy, and the time saved wandering around and around looking for the best price. Also, it did seem to sell out pretty sharpish and if we had dilly-dallied we might not have gotten it at all until it released properly. Which is June the 13th. Which is three days away from the time of writing.
We haven’t played Eastern Wonders yet…
We also picked up a copy of Majesty because it’s by the designer that did the excellent Splendor. I still need to do a review and teardown of the Cities of Splendor expansion… Mr Meeple says I would have more time to do these things if I didn’t spend all my time running, but he doesn’t understand that I need to run in order to be able to function vaguely like a normal human. I try to explain that and he seems alarmed that this is me functioning like a normal human.
That was the sum total of our board game purchases. This was partly because we have reached full capacity in terms of shelf space for board games and have a one-in-one-out policy. It was also partly because there weren’t a lot of games on offer that were different from last year and that we didn’t already own. The thing about a one-in-one-out is that it makes you very hesitant about buying games that you might just instantly end up getting rid of. If it doesn’t make the cut, it goes into the bin (by which I mean a dusty cupboard until we work out what to do with it). Mr Meeple is now in the position where he says he won’t buy games to review them any more as a result. He has enough games that he never needs to do that, and review copies are easier to get than they once were.
Rather than wandering around the convention all day we had some definite bookings. Asides from our own seminar, we had also scheduled a chat with Bez on the Friday. That didn’t happen though as she was very busy with potential customers and we didn’t want to drag her away from potential purchasers or backers. We also got filmed for a documentary (working title: The Board Game Documentary). I’d been hoping to stay out of it and just let Mr Meeple expound his thoughts, but they said that they wanted to interview both of us. I stood next to Mr Meeple and said a few inarticulate things whilst he kept stepping away from me and we kept getting told to move closer together for the camera. I have no idea how cringeworthy it was but if we make the cut then we’ll find out when it’s released.
The Friday Evening
I had planned to leave UKGE after that 4pm attempted meeting and go running around Shustoke Reservoir. However, I had only had 5 hours sleep and gone for a walk along the A446 before 6:30am because I was too tired to run then. I decided it maybe wasn’t the best idea. Also, Owen Duffy had missed our seminar but tweeted us to say we should meet for a drink that evening. We went to the Hilton Open Gaming area and trusted him to pick a good game for us. Whilst he was away investigating the sparse contents of the board game library (due to the fact people could book out a game for the full 3 days so most of the good games were gone) I mentioned to his wife that I was going to do Parkrun the next morning. It turned out that she was also a runner! So we happily discussed running whilst Mr Meeple looked on in bewilderment. The game we got might have been the inspiration for both Tsuro and Ticket to Ride, but it was more clunky and less entertaining than either of those. The company was good though.
By the time we left, it was too late to head to The Red Lion for tapas (one of those recommendations I had sought) and instead we headed over to Resort World in the hope of getting a table at a restaurant there. Despite eating a lot of junk over the course of the day (this convention is seriously bad for my diet and exercise regime) I was ravenous. We luckily managed to get one of the final available tables at Pizza Express and devoured large Romana pizzas faster than one should in polite company.
We didn’t have anything booked until 11:30am on the Saturday at UKGE (another visit to the excellent Dark Room show). So the plan for Saturday morning was that Mr Meeple would hang around the hotel and write a blog post whilst I went to Parkrun.
Remember, I had staked out the Parkrun locale on the Thursday, knew what time I would have to leave to get there, and timed my breakfast perfectly to ensure that I would get there early enough but not too early. I had planned to eat a rather sad Oat So Simple instant porridge pot: apparently the Hotel breakfasts started at 8:00am on weekends which would be cutting it far too fine to get to Parkrun. There were also no toilets there and I didn’t want to need to pee in the bushes! It was all immaculately planned.
And then Mr Meeple woke up.
Ten minutes later, at 7:40am, he decided that it would be better if I dropped him off at NEC before heading to Parkrun. He is incapable of surviving without an internet connection for a few hours by himself. This led to something of a panic on my part as I googled the other Parkruns to see which was nearest to the NEC (rather than the hotel) and what the journey times were to NEC and also from there to Parkrun. It looked doable: just.
The traffic was pretty light on the way to NEC but there were already queues for the car park and traffic was moving slowly. Mr Meeple dropped me outside the Hilton again – this time so I could use their facilities. I got a few odd looks as I wandered in wearing my running shorts and a handbag. On emerging, he had messaged me to say he had needed to park the car, and was at the same location I had been on Thursday evening. Thankfully I can follow clear instructions better than he can, so we found each other without incident. He had realised by this point that heading to NEC was a bad idea, but he had sussed out a way to get me out, away from the heavy traffic, so that I could still get to Parkrun. He obviously knew how badly the rest of his weekend would have gone if I didn’t get to run with 500+ random strangers at 09:00am rather than, say, 4:00pm by myself. He also was probably keen not to be seen at the convention with someone whose legs were on full display and looking like they had not seen sunlight in several years.
In the end it worked out fairly well for me. Instead of having to drive myself and potentially get lost (I’m not the best at following directions, and Google Maps had rerouted us several times over the weekend), I got chauffeured to Parkrun. The Brueton Parkrun was much busier than my local Parkrun, but I’m glad I went.
If you are one of that rare crossover group of people who are interested enough in both in board games and running to read blogs about both, you can read about my Parkrun experience here. I then dropped Mr Meeple off at NEC (which was much quieter now) and went back to the hotel to shower and change before The Dark Room.
The No Show Show Time
Despite the fact I had messaged Mr Meeple to let him know I should manage to get to the NEC in time for the show and to therefore collect the tickets, his disorganisation showed through again. He hadn’t got the tickets, hadn’t got the app he needed, and couldn’t get it installed in time. I had dashed to NEC for a showtime, only to have no show to go to.
Instead we had an early lunch. I don’t normally eat lunch at 11:30am, but the Oat So Simple hadn’t exactly been a filling and nutritional breakfast, and the protein bar I had eaten after Parkrun had tasted foul, so I was ready for some decent food. It also helpfully meant we got back to the NEC in time for Ignacy Trzewiczek’s seminar. I loved his brutal honesty, he had some great advice about how (and how not) to pitch games, and his anecdote about the vampire role-playing game was hilarious.
The highlight of the afternoon was a playthrough of Holding On. This is a cooperative game, and our team consisted of the two of us, Matt from Creaking Shelves, and another nice guy called Dave (I think). It was a great satire on the craziness that is working in the public sector in most fields, but also an excellent, difficult-but-not-impossible (even when Mr Meeple was very negligent towards patient care) game. At the end of the scenario I was left wanting to play more to discover more of the narrative. That’s something there’s not enough of in games and it was very well done.
We had arranged to meet up with I Play Red at 4:30pm, and had a meeting with the lovely folk at Osprey Games at 6pm, after which we were meant to be meeting the guys from Tabletop Scotland at 7pm. I’m basically a tall gremlin. I need to be fed at regular intervals lest I turn evil. I was concerned about where dinner would fit in between all of that. Mr Meeple suggested we should get something from Subway to keep us going, then we could probably get dinner afterwards. The end result was that we had 1000+ calorie foot long subs for a very early dinner, then snacked on junk food for the rest of the evening whilst playing games.
The meeting with Osprey resulted in some useful pointers as to how we could make the site more focused and useful for game designers. Then Mr Meeple mentioned that we had brought a copy of The Mind, and they jumped at the chance to play it. We didn’t get very far before getting asked to leave Hall 1. I’m still not convinced that it is anything other than a game of statistical probability, but some folk really seem to like it and it’s really easy to explain and grasp the rules.
The gaming session with Duncan and Simon from Tabletop Scotland was so much fun. When we got there they were playing some odd card set collection game that Simon had purchased that day. I didn’t bother to get the name of it. It didn’t look interesting enough for me to remember it and Duncan wasn’t convinced by it either. We brought out The Mind and played a few rounds and we failed miserably. Obviously we’re just not very in synch with how the minds of other folks work. We’re barely in synch with our own, truth be told.
We then played High Society. I won, presumably because I am so classy. Don’t you dare edit that out, Michael.
Chinatown was the definite highlight of the games we played: it’s all about negotiation and empire building. I got lucky with some number draws, and am relatively good at negotiating. Mr Meeple, on the other hand, isn’t good at the whole ‘win-win-win’ deals, and is relatively easy to exploit.
One of his better features as far as games go is that he doesn’t need to win to enjoy playing. I’m not sure if that’s always been true or if he’s just resigned himself to that being necessary. He loved Chinatown. He spent a lot of Sunday forlornly searching for copies of it online, only to find it was out of stock or unavailable at every single vendor on the internet.
Chinatown is great but it’s not an especially quick game. We didn’t leave NEC until around 10:30pm and had to head to Birmingham to find a supermarket that sold USB adaptor plugs as Mr Meeple had abandoned his somewhere on the first floor of the NEC at some point. By the time we got back to the hotel it was close to midnight, so another night short on sleep was looking guaranteed.
The Last Day
We didn’t need to be at the NEC until 10:00am on the Sunday morning, but we also had to pack and check out of the hotel. We managed a fairly leisurely breakfast (made more leisurely by the fact the waiting staff forgot to take our order because we are odd individuals who don’t drink tea or coffee). The smoked salmon and scrambled eggs was great, but I was even more thrilled by the Nutella on toast. There’s a reason I never buy jars of it for the house. They’d be empty within minutes.
Our 10:00am appointment was with One Free Elephant for a play through of Carcosa. It’s a Cthulhu-themed tile-laying game along the same lines as Carcassonne but with additional layers and things to keep track of. It was pretty engaging, but Mr Meeple had the advantage of actually (vaguely) remembering how to play Carcasonne and was ahead when we had to bail out to get to our next booked playthrough. Nigel and Sarah also had to head off as they had reached the finals of the Pandemic tournament.
Our 11:00am playthrough was of Blood on the Clocktower: a social deduction game requiring a minimum of 6 players (5 plus a moderator) and which can go up to 15 or more. Ours had the minimum player count. I picked a role which meant I received some knowledge of proceedings and that gave me a good chance to influence proceedings.
I’ve known Mr Meeple for around 2 decades (he says it’s about 1100 years). I know his tells. I know how he acts when he is lying (he looks normal, because he lies all the time). I also know he can tell when I’m telling the truth because I always do. I’m the most trustworthy person you’ll ever meet.
So I knew from the way Mr Meeple was trying to throw suspicion on me right from round one that he was definitely the demon. It was completely obvious, and since I have known him for many, many years I knew people would flock to my cause on the basis of my real-life experience with his deceitful ways. I did what any sensible person would do on the basis of having made no allies – I suggested that we execute him at the end of round one. I do this in every game we play, even games where there’s no execution. I think it’s best to get your retaliation in early.
Unfortunately, Olly and Ally had just met Mr Meeple and I that morning. The did not know his tells, or that I always tell the truth in these games. They don’t know how tricksy he is. He had gone first in the round. ‘I don’t think we know enough to execute anyone’, he said. That voice of reason. That calm, infuriating voice of reason. Ali pointed out that, you know, the demon really wants executions – he wants villagers executed because the win condition for the demon is a village bereft of life. My bloodlust, he implied, suggested I was more interested in killing than I was in killing the right person.
I only managed to convince one of the three others, and ended up getting executed in round 3. The dastardly Mr Meeple and his Scarlet Woman (Ally, of course) won the game. It was pretty entertaining, but the high player count means we wouldn’t have too many opportunities to play it.
After the play through we headed over to Resort World for our third and final Costa lunch. Mr Meeple hadn’t made any firm arrangements for the afternoon, so tweeted Lauren (with whom we had arranged to play games with but hadn’t managed to) and another guy he knows from Twitter. We tried (for about the 6th time) to get a shot at Escape the Dark Castle but with no luck, so we went and had a shot of Quirk. Quirk is a card game which started off as a drinking game but it turns out to make a great family game. I mean, there’s no drinking any more. Don’t get hammered with your five-year-old and play this. Or maybe do? I don’t know, we don’t have children so I’m not sure I’m qualified to give parenting advice.
Quirk is a set collection game whereby you can’t talk and instead need to indicate the type of cards you are asking for through actions and sound effects. I couldn’t think what a unicorn would sound like – on account of the fact that they are mythical creatures – so I put two hands to my forehead in the shape of fists, to indicate a horn. Everyone burst out laughing at this, and I couldn’t really work out why until I thought about the last time I’d seen someone make a similar gesture. Despite having sound justification for doing so after the way Mr Meeple had diverted suspicion my way in Blood on the Clocktower, I was not in fact trying to call him a rude name.
He is though. He is one of those to the extent I would genuinely need two hands.
We then found a table in the Open Gaming area but the library was now closed. Thankfully Mr Meeple had brought a couple of small games with him so we played a few hands of The Fox in the Forest: a reskin of Whist with some additional rules. It’s basically a trick-taking game with a trump card, and some cards with special powers.
I trounced him at all the games we played of that, because that’s just how I roll.
It took a bit of the shine off my accomplishment when It turned out he hadn’t understood some of the concepts. Like ‘trick taking’. Or ‘A trump suit’, or ‘leading the suit’. I grew up playing a lot of traditional card games with my parents and grandparents. He was raised by wolves on a hill outside of Dundee. Turns out that there are some things about games that he just has a mental blank spot for – such as ‘rules’ and ‘playing them correctly’.
Mr Meeple hadn’t heard back from anyone and asked if I wanted to play another game, or just leave a bit early. And at that point it was like watching someone let the air out of a balloon when he realised just how little he wanted to do that. Two thirteen-hour days had taken it out of us, and we had an eight or nine hour drive facing us on little sleep. He got a response from one guy he was supposed to be meeting after we had packed up, but by then the decision had been made and it was too late.
So Long Birmingham
Farewell UKGE 2018, it was nice seeing you.
All in all, this was a much more enjoyable experience than last year. It was a lot more productive. We spent a lot more time talking to people, playing games, and making connections or meeting up with useful and/or nice people Mr Meeple had connected with via Twitter.
It was also a bit samey.
A lot of the stalls and games on show were the same as last year, and there wasn’t enough that was new to justify three days-worth of attendance. That’s fine if you’re only travelling a short distance to get there. A 300+ mile each-way trip needs some additional novelty or benefit to justify going every single year.
Will I go again next year?
I’m not sure.
Mr Meeple already has our accommodation booked for next year: as he says, better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. He’s picked well, at least from the online details. He doesn’t have funding at the moment to pay for a third visit to the UKGE as a ‘public outreach research exercise’ and that’s both good and bad. It’s bad in that he might have to put his hand into his own pocket for once. It’s good in that it means we’re not constrained by the strict spending limits that go along with institutional expenses. As such he’s tentatively made a reservation at a hotel with a swimming pool and large grounds for me to run around.
It may even be closer to a Parkrun!
If that won’t convince me to return in 2019, I’m not sure what will.