And so ends another great AireCon (my second) To celebrate, I thought I’d do a 5×5 of top 5s as, you know, it was AireCon 5. Stupid idea? Sure. But here we go regardless.
AireCon 5 Highlights
- Space! Despite being attended by 2,000 people the biggest board gaming convention in the north of England never felt crowded. They opened a massive new area this year on the Saturday and while it did get busy up there at peak times, it never felt cramped.
- Friendliness: I’m sure the space helps and I’m also sure there were mini panics going off all over the place, the staff of Harrogate Convention Centre and the AireCon volunteers were always helpful with a smile. Great job guys!
- The mix: It had a great layout, with retailers surrounded by gaming areas and a few niches to hide in if you wanted them. There was a nice number of events, as well as an RPG area and family gaming; even a conservatory area for those who like daylight.
- Harrogate: Talking of Harrogate, I was again pleasantly surprised by just how nice it is. I wandered around the town and sampled a few more bars and restaurants this time – and found great beer and good food. Ans a special shout out to Major Tom’s Social.
- Beer: Talking of Major Tom’s Social, they did a great job of supplying some fantastic beers to the con. It’s great to be able to support a small local firm and drink some great craft beer in the process. I’d give the beer a shout out, if I could remember its name…
AireCon 5 ‘new to me’ games
- A Feast for Odin: A typical Rosenberg big box game, this time mixing his latest obsession (tetronimoes) with his last one (long worker placement games). It works, and I had a nice time, but it just felt like Caverna with more faff. I’ll stick with Caverna, ta.
- Tiny Towns: Brand new from AEG, this is another clever little puzzle game. Make patterns on a 4×4 grid to build buildings, taking it in turns to choose a cube colour everyone must place. Intriguing and frustrating in equal measure. Good stuff.
- Hokkaido: A clever, puzzley card drafting game where you overlay cards (each containing six terrain squares) to create a landscape via which you score points. If it sounds like Honshu, it’s because it’s in the same line – just harder.
- Dice Forge: A solid family game, where you upgrade the faces of your two dice to get better and better faces, special abilities and victory points. Unfortunately they ran out of ideas there, but it’s a well-produced and fun enough gimmick and to last a few plays.
- Raccoon Tycoon: An unremarkable rejig of auction/stock market mechanisms with some of the worst artwork and themeing I’ve seen for a long time. A fun enough game, but it also ran too long and got a bit samey late on.
AireCon 5 old favourites
- Gnomopolis: A really clever tableau building game that plays fast. Beautifully balances the desire to get points with a need to house the gnomes you need to get them – while three competing ways to end the game keep you on your toes.
- Basari: Das Kartenspiel: The card version of this classic simultaneous action selection game, which loses nothing from the bigger box original. Will you rush ahead, collect gems or simply grab points? But more importantly, what will those other buggers do…
- Deus: Played this weekend with the Egypt expansion, this is one of my most criminally underplayed games. The card comboing is great on its own, but the map placement and varying end game conditions take it to the next level.
- Archaeology: The Card Game: One of the first game I reviewed and still one of my favourite fillers. There are a few delicious push-your-luck elements to this simple set collection game, as well a lot of luck and a smidge of take that.
- Ulm: I think the shine is coming off this a little, but I still enjoy my plays – for now. You can’t escape the fact the game is a little too fragile, which should be fine in a sub-hour light euro – but the more I play, the less patient I get with that.
AireCon 5 (very) slight niggles
- Bring & buy: This was well organised but let down by some real scum bags. People had put in broken games, or others with pieces missing, without fessing up on the outside of the box. While other things simply got stolen.
- Food: While there was some nice nosh on offer, there were very few options and you had to stand in the (often FREEZING) cold to get it. Sure, town isn’t far away – but gamers come to game, dagnabbit! Worse, it wasn’t even better than last year.
- Light! The nicest time I had gaming was on Saturday afternoon in the room that was, sadly, only open on Saturday. It was well it – with real sunshine – and had comfortable chairs. Speaking of which…
- Chairs: The main gaming area had truly uncomfortable chairs, which also didn’t bend at an angle conducive to sitting up at a table. this was only about half the seating area, but the other chairs were so much more comfortable. Those first next year please!
- Kick-out time: While I get staff and volunteers need to go home, it’s a shame it shuts so early (10-ish). Maybe next year the organisers could put some effort into securing some space in some local gamer-friendly bars or hotels?
AireCon 5 personal goals for AireCon 6
- Get involved in an event
- Make a GoPlayListen T-shirt to wear
- Bring some of my games for the library
- Be brave and play with more randoms
- Have a beer-free day…
Thanks to The Game Pit/LoB Crew, The Greek contingent (from LudiCreations and Drawlabs), old friends Matt Dunstan, Keef & Clare (and Ray) – plus lots of other lovely journos, publishers and randoms – for teaching, beating, drinking and generally putting up with me all weekend!