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Tabletop Gaming Live 2022

tabletop gaming live 2022
tabletop gaming live 2022

The Cosy Convention

Due to the P-thang, TTGL (Tabletop Gaming Live) been on hold for the last two years, which is a pity as it was just beginning to hit its stride in the hallowed halls of Ally Pally. This year, however fortune has smiled upon the organisers to give us five minutes respite from the machinations of Papa Nurgle, though it has had to relocate to the northern climes of sunny Manchester. This is fine by me as it is a lot easier to get to Manchester than it is to get to That London.

So, armed with my over-stuffed backpack o’ games and accompanied by my youngest, Tom, over the Pennines we travelled to the land of Madchester, bees and incredibly popular football teams. Or something like that.

From Palace To Warehouse

After a short journey by tram to Salford and a short stroll past Old Trafford (a big deal, apparently) we arrive at the Victoria Warehouse, a looming brick-built structure that has been converting into a multi-purpose venue.

The event is spread over both floors, with the smaller spaces being occupied by mostly smaller or independent games companies like Hachette and Funko and local game stores such as Firestorm Cards and Fan Boy 3 whilst the large atrium on the ground floor is taken up by the big boys like Ravensburger, Warlord, Coiled Spring, Asmodee and, of course, our very own Zatu Games (who are they?). There are also areas for open gaming (there really could have been more of these), an area for seminars (though It is in the same area as opening, so we had to cut short a game of Dice Throne when the seminar on GMing started), bars and an outdoor section where fooderies are set up.

I heard from some that the vendors were not happy about the upstairs area as it smelt a bit… funny, and yes, there was a curious not-quite-lemony smell but nothing majorly offensive. Roaming around the different rooms did give the feel of being in a dungeon crawler, though, with wonders and delights to be found around every corner (and Tom making sure that I didn’t get to free and easy with the debit card).

The food area felt a bit sparse, with only three stands running when we were there – I suppose considering recent events, it might have been tricky to pull together willing and available vendors. The atrium space was the crowning glory, with tables set up for classics like Catan, soon to be classics like Ark Nova and lots of new and due games such as Star Wars Villainous and King of Monster Island.

tabletop gaming

Plenty To See, Plenty To Do

Though I could have happily spent the whole weekend there, my6 eldest might have taken offense seeing as it was his birthday, so I only had one day to fit in as much as possible. There were some things that were an absolute must, though.

After a quick lap around the event to get our bearings and say hello to Amber at The Stand (Hello Amber at The Stand), Tom had an urge to play some D&D – bless him, he’s been on at me for months to sort out a game, but I get kinda frustrated as a GM – maybe I should have stuck around for the seminar. Fortunately, Fan Boy 3 were running short intro adventures throughout the day – the guy running the sessions (who did very well indeed) was surprised at how popular they were, but I guess Stranger Things have happened. Ha.

After surviving the onslaught of Wargs and Giant Toads, we made our way down to the atrium to see if we could get a go on the one game I had to do there – King of Monster Island, the next in the series of ‘King of’ games from Richard Garfield.

There’s a group just finishing when we get there and due to the lunch time lull we’re up next. Thanks to the aforementioned lunchtime lull we can get a proper go at it too (normally a three round demo maximum due to demand, but… we got lucky).

To give you a quick run-down, KOMI takes the old(ish) favourite and gives it a co-op twist – you’ve still got the dice, the monsters (illustrated beautifully again by Paul Mafayon) and the power-ups, only you’re now all up against a monster that is even bigger and badder than you. There are three volcano-based beasts that are available out of the box (do I spy potential for expansions already?) that vary in difficulty from mild annoyance to complete annihilation. The win condition for the monster is activate all the crystal pylons scattered around the island, over-run the island with minions or KO one player until the beginning of their next turn; the players have to take down the monster before this happens.

The way the players take their turns will be familiar to those who’ve played King of Tokyo/New York: roll three times; claim your points/hits/energy/life; buy some upgrades. Only now players can move around the island as well in pursuit of the big baddie and put the smack down. There’s also a ‘spanner’ symbol on the dice that allows players to activate supply drops.

Fame points are still a thing, only now they play an active part in both the players’ and monster’s game. One Fame allows a player to choose an ‘Ally’ – these include the Army that give you more punch power, Ninjas that make you stealthy and Techies that give you lots of energy bonuses for buying those sweet, sweet upgrades. Fame for the monster activates their upgrades and believe me, there’s nothing sweet about those.

The mechanic for the monster is ingenious, fun and also dice-led. The volcano in the middle of the board is not just there to look pretty. It acts as a multi-directional dice towers that sends the monster dice tumbling to different parts of the island. When the monster moves, they will move to the adjacent place with the most dice. If there’s a draw, it will move to the square with a player in.

If there’s neither of these, it will stay where it is. The monster then ‘activates’ the dice, which can bring it Fame points (bad), unleash minions (very bad) or activate crystals (very, very bad). This is where the whole thing gets that Matt Leacock feel of ‘everything’s fine; everything’s fine; everything’s on fire’, but unlike things like Pandemic where it can all go wrong so quickly, KOMI’s dice mechanic can give you a break every now and then.

My initial verdict from the short play that we got was that, just like the other ‘King of’ games, this has got a lot of legs – about eight of them, with claws and scales. The allies work really well with the co-op element as we found that, depending on who goes for what, they become the expert for that aspect – my strongpoint was research as I just can’t resist an upgrade -and the co-op thing itself also works surprisingly well considering how fighty the other games are. Do I want this? Does Gojira have anger-management issues?

tabletop gaming achroma

The Spirit Of Independence

There was plenty of opportunity for spending, and not just on games – plenty of playmats and fancy dice – even edible dice and RP-Tea! My advice is don’t put your edible dice in the same bag as your fancy dice – too crunchy. As said, the food area was a bit sparse but the fayre was decent – tasty tacos and freshly-made waffles which were absolutely delicious (not cheap, but then that’s standard for conventions). Refuelled, we headed back in check out some of the independents.

One of them, Naylor Games, didn’t have the game I was looking for available yet (watch this space for the Kickstarter) but did have a mock-up of it – Game Jam. In this poker-style game, you play a game designer trying to get their masterpiece produced. Players mix themes and mechanics and try to make the most money and gain the respect of your peers. Now I am a sucker for witty or pretty design and this has both – some of the artwork for the game themes come dangerously close to lawsuit territory but are very, very funny. I look forward to seeing this game released if they don’t get litigated first.

Our last stop for the day was at one of the most beautiful and, as it turned out, most poignant games of the convention, Achroma. Published by Realm Runner Studios, Achroma is a collectable card game for two or more players based in a universe where Chroma, the magical force that powers the realm, is in danger of being syphoned off for nefarious purposes by the forces of evil (but they will probably let some back through the trick-le down effect – get it?).

Players try to either raise their Shard value (shards being both the player’s life and currency for playing cards in the game) to 30 or reduce their opponents Shard value to zero. Play is straightforward and intuitive and supported by a free-to-download app that links up players phones and allows them to steal, reduce or add to their Shard store without having to resort to dice (although you can use dice or paper – it just doesn’t look as pretty).

It also looks stunning, with the artwork looking like it comes from the point where Studio Ghibli, Adventure Time and Pokemon meet. So far there are three types of deck to play – Conjurers, Dragons and Fairies – and come in a slipcase box that has two decks ready to play. I did quite with my Dark Conjurers deck… so well that Tom nearly refused to talk to me on the way home.

I also said the most poignant game, as it turned out that there was a card on sale that wasn’t in any of the decks: Dexter Master of Dragons. This card had been designed especially for one of the designer’s sons and featured their soft toy dragons in the design. Sadly, the boy had passed earlier that year after losing their battle with cancer. They had lived to see the card, however, and their likeness immortalised within the game. Sometimes a game becomes more than just a game, and in this case, it has become a legacy.

tabletop gaming volcano

In Summary

These last few years have not been good for conventions, but with Airecon and UKGE returning at pretty much full-force, the green shoots of recovery are definitely showing. Tabletop Gaming have taken a big risk by upping sticks and moving the event to Manchester, but I think it’s a good move. Firstly, it’s in the North, which means it’s not so much of a hassle for me to get to (and I have heard that many, many other people actually live in the North as well). Secondly, it looks like the MCM events may not be back for at least a couple of years, so it seems only fair that Manchester, one of the largest cities in the country, not be neglected by the wider gaming community. Thirdly… it’s a lot cheaper to do stuff in Manchester than it is in London, so there’s a lot more scope for doing things in actual Manchester beyond the convention itself without having to sell organs.

There are issues to be resolved, especially the lack of space for open gaming that Ally Pally had in spades, and the minimal food opportunities in an area with little else going in (unless I just didn’t look hard enough); but I like how the event has been set out. Having lots of little spaces harkens back to the early days of UKGE before it went into a big space – previous TTGL events in Ally Pally felt a bit… swamped in the big hall. This feels cosy. I like cosy.

P.S. All proceeds from Dexter Master of Dragons go to Alice’s Arc, the children’s cancer charity, and is available from Achroma’s website.