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Dec 09

Dragonmeet 2016 Report: A Bigger Friendly Con

 

I counted down to Dragonmeet over several months. Now the big day has passed, so it is time for the annual report. Saturday 3rd December was the Dragonmeet convention in London. Once again, the day was a lot of fun.

 

I have divided this report into seven sections:

1. Travel
2. Trade Hall
3. Cool Gamers
4. Famous Faces
5. Great Gaming
6. Seminar Goodness
7. The Venue

 

 

Travel

My day at Dragonmeet began with travelling down to London on public transport. Phil-the-Artist was available this year, so I had the pleasure of good company for the trip. Parts of London Liverpool Street Tube Station were closed for improvements, which meant a small detour. The new venue did not require us to change on the tube, so that was a simple journey.

 

For the second year running, I had hoped to tweet about the day, but my phone would not connect to the various wifi routers along the way. There is a lesson there for me, so I shall consider different options for next year. This was a shame, as I could have met up with more internet friends that way, but cannot be helped.

 

Trade Hall

The benefit of the new venue showed in the trade hall. It was busy, but I noticed more stands and plenty of gamers. Both Chessex and Leisure Games were easy to browse, which are my annual benchmarks for judging the crowd. Naturally, I found some cool things to buy, a mix of planned and impulse purchases. This may be one of my lighter years for purchases, but I was pleased with what I bought. The report on my Dragonmeet swag follows next week.

 

 

 

 

Cool Gamers

And so to the Geeks themselves. Conventions are such a wonderful opportunity to connect with fellow Geeks. This year, the social aspect was good, but I failed to meet quite so many people as last year. Of course, I also had Phil-the-Artist to chat with through the day. We both discussed a lot of the games on offer, so my voice definitely had a good workout.

 

Curiously enough, I did not meet up again with any of the friends I chatted with last year. The first of the new friends I met was Symatt. He made himself easy to spot by wearing a baseball shirt with his name on the back. This works in two ways, firstly by simply having his twitter handle on his back. The choice of baseball shirt is also a clever way to stand out among the horde of black t-shirts with fantasy art. Maybe this is where my Tales of a GM t-shirt fails.

 

Anyway, it was great to chat with Symatt. He only lives in Ipswich, so there is an outside chance I could drag him up to Norwich for a game one weekend. I must ask him about that. Symatt also games with Dale, who was one of the gamers I met last year. Maybe the geek community is not so large after all.

 

The other internet friend I met for the first time was Richard Gale, who helpfully tweeted he would be wearing a blue dragony waistcoat. Once more, it was the distinctive clothing which helped us to meet. And it was a beautiful blue waistcoat. We had a great chat, covering gaming and being a Geek Father. His daughter is the same age as Jace.

 

Incredibly, we also bumped into Si, one of the previous Players of my Tales of the Hero Wars campaign. It was great to catch up after so long. I only seem to meet Si at Dragonmeet when Phil-the-Artist is with me. What strange secret have I stumbled upon?

 

Before finishing up with the Gamers, I should note that for another year, no reader of the blog approached me. Despite announcing my presence in Tales of a GM T-shirt, still nobody stepped forward to introduce themselves. Phil-the-Artist was wearing his one too, so even double Tales of a GM did not pull in any new friends. Maybe next year.

 

 

Famous Faces

The other cool gamers at Dragonmeet were the famous ones. Even in my third year, I still feel a little giddy chatting to such famous names. Robin D Laws signed yet another game for me, this time it was my copy of HeroQuest Glorantha. Sadly, I think this may be my last physical book for him to sign. I will not miss carrying the weight, but it would be odd to attend Dragonmeet without a book for him to sign.

 

I also tracked down Michael O’Brien of Chaosium. I enjoy his Tales of Mythic Adventure podcast, so it was great to put a face to the familiar voice. He signed my copy of HeroQuest Glorantha too, bringing it up to three signatures. We had a great chat about Call of Cthulhu and HP Lovecraft, which are Phil-the-Artist’s specialities. Michael, or Mob as he is called, then persuaded us to try out a demo game.

 

Great Gaming

Despite this being my fourth trip to Dragonmeet, I had never played a game at a convention. I am in danger of losing my gamer accreditation. Anyway, I broke my streak this year and played a demo version of Khan of Khans, designed by Reiner Knizia. Despite an over-zealous gamer walking past shouting “Khan” loudly, this was a fun little game.

 

I definitely think I could play this with the boys, and it fits the label of being a Gloranthan gateway game. I would like the Gloranthan theme to be deepened, perhaps with a location-specific card for each of the eight locations. Stealing cows from ducks should be a different experience to stealing from dwarves. Maybe that is something for a Kickstarter stretch goal.

 

Mob was cheerful, friendly and patient explaining the game. I lost Khan of Khans, which matches the games of Magic we played on the train journey. I enjoyed the game, but maybe my gamer mojo really is slipping away from me.

 

Seminar Goodness

Despite the optimism of the heading, the seminars were one negative aspect to Dragonmeet. This year I noted a worrying trend. Every change of venue has seen the trade hall capacity increase, but the size of the seminar room reduce. How can this make sense?

 

I was not aware of this problem when picking out which seminars to attend. Last year I attended the Chaosium seminar, with Ken and Robin following immediately afterwards. This was true again, so we found the worryingly small seminar room and took a seat. The panel on the Cool of Cthulhu was interesting, and deftly moderated by Mob.

 

During the course of the seminar, I noted several people being turned away. In the interests of fairness, we all had to leave the seminar room to queue up for the Ken and Robin seminar. A quick glance showed me the existing queue was already beyond 50 gamers, so it was time for an early lunch.

 

This is a clear failing on the part of Dragonmeet. KARTAS is an Ennie-winning podcast which only visits the UK once a year. Did the organizers seriously think only 50 attendees would want to listen to it? Maybe KARTAS needs a dedicated large seminar room, but it is definitely something which must be addressed for 2017.

 

The Venue

2016 was the first year of Dragonmeet in the Novotel London West Hotel. This was also the third change of venue in four years. Having checked the route on Google Street View, I did not have a problem finding the venue. However, there was a problem identifying the correct route into Dragonmeet. The first door we found had a queue, which we joined. This turned out to be a queue for the lifts, which struck me as wrong. So, we tried a second door, which lead us to the main hotel reception. More lifts, an escalator, and we were down to the right place. Then we had to leave the hotel a third time to join the long queue, but at least the weather was dry.

 

A new venue always has teething problems, and I understand several volunteers did not turn up. However, more signs are required for the labyrinthine hotel. Geeks love floor-plans, maybe one of those at every entrance would help. Indeed, the whole process of opening the convention seemed a little chaotic. Last year the crowd was managed better, but that requires more volunteers. Advance tickets was the slow option, so maybe paying on the door should be presented as the Express Option, to reflect how it works early in the morning.

 

The size of the trade hall was great, definitely more stalls, more space overall and even some dedicated seating areas. My experience of the seminar room was that is was far, far too small, and I cannot comment on the gaming rooms. So, a mixed bag. I missed the free cloakroom and the value snack bar from last year’s Ibis Hotel. Yet again, I could not persuade the wifi to work for me, but that is the fault of my phone. I really must think of a better solution for next year.

 

Conclusion

Another year, another great time at Dragonmeet. I succeeded in playing a game, so one achievement unlocked. I definitely plan to attend again next year, to meet gamer friends old and new. Hopefully I can solve my twitter problem, and connect with even more gamers.

 

Were you at Dragonmeet? How did you enjoy the convention? What did you think to the seminar room? Share your experiences in the comments below.

 

 

Happy Gaming

Phil

 

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