3 Sanchos and Bugs in Harrogate
A quick resumé of our outing to AireCon '23 at the Harrogate Convention Centre
Charlie and I headed north in the snow on Thursday 9th March for the board gaming celebration that is AireCon. Although it was cold and snowy at the start of the journey, and we'd packed blankets and spare food as advised by various weather gurus, the drive to Harrogate was uneventful. We arrived late in the afternoon with plenty of time to trudge our way through the slush from the exhibitor's carpark to our hotel and, albeit briefly that day, to see the venue. Then, we headed out for a meal with the lovely Bez (of Stuff By Bez fame) and her stand crew - we'd been invited because Charlie was helping out on Bez' stand. And, as some readers might know, one of the two games we were demoing - Last Bug Standing in the Circle of Doom - was designed by Bez.
Friday to Sunday saw myself manning the SSG demo table in Hall B, right at the back of the Demo & Playtest Zone. There was a whole range of us demoing and playtesting including: Button Kin Games, Comet Games, David Turczi, Devilfly Games, Earth Former Games, Guntower Games, Julibert, Llamascape Games, Lucky Duck Games, Mayfly Games, Mightly Boards, Richard Woods, Schnarf Games, and Westgate Studios. Phew! And I should also mention Playtest UK who had their own tables for designers to show off their prototypes.
I have to confess that, regrettably, I only had time to play Partisan (Earth Former Games), apart from my own two prototypes. Thanks to Todd and Kirsten for showing and playing that one with me in my quiet times, and for playing Last Bug..
The vast majority of my time was spent demoing 3 Sanchos and the Last Bug Standing in the Circle of Doom. Unlike my usual forgetful practice, I remembered to take some pictures. So here are some of them, starting with our little demo table area.
We had enough space for both games (just about), plus the other three Pocket Campaigns games, and a few leaflets. The games here are prototypes, but near-final artwork. The demo table had 4 chairs, so, technically, we could play both games at once, but this wasn't necessary.
Friday morning was fairly quiet, because the weather made it difficult for people to get to the show - trains were cancelled and more snow made driving difficult. However, we still had the 4-day passers, and people eventually flowed through to reach us. We mainly played Last Bug Standing in the Circle of Doom on Friday. It's relatively easy to teach, and has the merit of being quite short (15 minutes for a single game), though there's a longer 'best of 3' tournament version included.
Friday evening we ventured out into the arctic of central Harrogate, with our friend Oliver, who was spending the show as a volunteer helping to run the Bring-and-Buy (which was massive). The Indian meal we had was great; as was the previous day's Indian meal with Bez - we like Indian food.
The picture to the left shows a game part way through. On the left is the Circle of Doom, with the Gunner standing on a It's looking likely that the blue player (the pic shows the edge of the counters in the Circle a lot darker than they are) has fizz-tail (the caterpillary long-tailed BEM) as their mascot - if not, they're in trouble. One player has already played the Give Chase card that moves the Gunner 2 extra spaces. As an aside, the Vehicle character that you can see on the Landscape tiles will be much bigger in the final version. Also, it's quite OK to close up the Circle of Doom if players want to during play. Here, they've chosen not to.
Here's a picture from later in a game - the Circle of Doom only has 3 tiles left, which really concentrates the mind.
The way the game works is that, on your turn, you move the Navigator piece (on the Compass board on the right) up to 3 squares clockwise round the Circle of Doom. Where the Navigator lands there's an arrow that shows the direction of travel of the Vehicle on the Landscape tiles in the middle. The Vehicle moves 1 square in that direction. Each Landscape tile contains a number of BEM images (1 or 3 on the front). The number of BEM images on teh square the Vehicle lands on, is the number of tiles the Gunner moves clockwise round the Circle of Doom. Finally, if the BEM image on the Vehicle's Landscape tile match that on the BEM tile in the Circle of Doom, the BEM tile in the Circle is removed (shot by the Gunner). If it doesn't match, you flip the Landscape tile; the reverse depicts silhouettes of all the BEMs, showing that if the vehicle lands there later in the game, the Gunner's BEM tile will automatically match and be removed. You win if the Gunner removes all 3 BEM tiles of your opponent's chosen BEM mascot before your's are removed.
On Saturday and Sunday, we played a lot of 3 Sanchos, and a smattering of Last Bug. Here's a pic of 3 Sanchos during play. There's a massive Castillian siege going on against a Nájera force in a castle in the east of the Taifa de Saraqusta.
A couple of little points to note here: "Navarra" is not the correct term for this area in the 11th century, so this has now been amended to "Nájera" - thank you to my Spanish friends for corrrecting us; English sources seem woefully inadequate for getting the right historicity for this period. Also note that I was keen to test out at AireCon the new King pieces (the large crowns) in real life. These are a standard piece I can get made out of wood, though these actual ones were 3D printed for me by Robin Elliott of Triple Ace Games (many thanks, Robin). While they did work, they proved to be a bit big, so I'm thinking of getting some reduced to fit neatly on top of the counters, and fatter, so they don't get knocked over easily. The excellent artwork here is by Klemens Franz, our usual artist for the Pocket Campaigns series.
In another game, we had the Battle of 3 Kings! One of the idiosyncrasies of the game is that, if all 3 sides are present in the region of a battle, they all participate in it.
The neat little battle system is shown here. Green is attacking, and gets their King's Guard dice (0, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 on the faces), plus a Troop dice (standard d6) from their Troop counter and an extra Troop dice because they were attacking with an Attack 1 action. Yellow and Red just get their King's Guards, because they had no other troops in the battle region. The result shown by the dice positions on the battle chart is after Reserved cards have been played to re-roll dice. The upshot here is: starting at the right-hand side of the Battle chart (which is also the score track), a column of more than one dice does nothing and is removed, so the two 9s go back to the supply. A single dice in a column takes an enemy dice if there is one, and the corresponding piece from the board. So, the green 4 removes the red King's Guard dice and the red King goes back to the Castilla home region. Finally the single green 1 is removed for no casualties because there are no remaining enemy dice to take off the Battle chart. This result meant that green could take the 1 victory point for the tower with little interference. Green would then have 8 of the necessary 10 points to win.
We had a great time at AireCon, meeting up with lots of lovely gamers, old friends, and newly found friends, over the gaming tables. I'm happy to say that we had nothing but very positive comments about both games, and some good discussions about how they worked, and the components, particularly the 3 Sanchos King piece, with many interesting ideas on how to make it better. These will all feed into the development process. Thank you to all the participants, and also especially to my fellow demo-ers in the Demo & Playtest Zone. I'm sorry I couldn't mention all the excellent games in the Zone in this post. Finally, many thanks to the AireCrew for putting on such a great event. I'm looking forward to next year already, when I expect SSG to have a full exhibitor's stand again.