AEISD Contributor J.C. recently visited AIRECON 2017 – the Analog Gaming Festival, held at the Harrogate Convention Centre over the weekend of Friday 9th to Sunday 11th March – and subsequently had a blast! Here, he gives his report of this highly popular event…
“Our Lord and Savior, Mr. Wil Wheaton, declared to his followers: “Play more games.” And lo it came to pass…”
J.C.: AireCon 2017 is an excellent example of when a little convention grows up into a big, truly awesome convention.
I attended the second AireCon in Bradford, back in April 2016: it was only a small convention back then, you could easily walk from one side of the hall to the other in moments and the only stall I remember seeing was the classic games library, kindly provided by comics store Traveling Man. It was a great experience and, though I was only able to stay for the afternoon, we played a whole bunch of games I’d never got to try before, I drank coffee from my purchased AireCon mug, and the organizers introduced me to the joy which is TWO ROOMS AND A BOOM, an extremely social and entertaining game that is hard to imagine playing anywhere except at a large gathering of board game enthusiasts. Lots of fun – and more on TWO ROOMS, shortly…
Last October, I missed the third AireCon Festival due to work commitments – curse you, materialism! – and so, I was pretty enthusiastic about to attend the 2017 event, even if it was only for the Saturday. Held at the Harrogate International Centre, I was shocked by how much bigger this little Con I attended last year had grown in my absence! Not only were there dozens more of tables of gamers playing and, I was pleased to see, Traveling Man‘s library but, in the other half of the hall, there was stall after stall of board games to buy, demo games to sit down and explore, and even a tent for newbies to try out pen and paper role playing games. Cool!
Myself and my friends had a blast in the morning, playing some classic games we brought with us, then we tried out some new stuff that we borrowed from the TM library. It’s no exaggeration to say, you could easily spend the entire day doing that, even if you came on your own. AireCon had several systems in place to try and help gamers meet new people and play together.
However, if you wanted to try something a bit different, there were plenty of distractions. I saw a half dozen demo games been run by their creators and we went down to the RPG tent where a waiting Dungeon Master from THE PATHFINDER SOCIETY managed to get two of skeptical friends through their first pen -and-paper roleplay adventure. Despite their initial reservations, they relaxed into it and started to have fun; one of them quite amusingly wondering why we couldn’t just “talk out our problems with the rat people trying to stab us to death instead of battling them”. Ahh, life’s big debates.
There was even more experience at the back of the hall where there was a whole separate area where Imagination Games were running a family room, introducing parents and children to the joys of playing board games together. What a cracking idea. And I haven’t even mentioned an included quiet gaming room – although, I couldn’t tell you much about that section of the con as, after my third coffee of the day, I think I was a bit too noisy myself to be allowed anywhere near it!
Maybe that’s because I was building myself up for the evening’s shenanigans: TWO ROOMS AND A BOOM. Ahh, yes – I may have mentioned this sliver of brilliance previously. In the evening, we played a 32 player game of this fantastic social game, played across two rooms that involves shunning your closest friends, instead forming shaky alliances with complete strangers to save the President from assassination. And if you’re not intrigued by the game purely from that premise, then you really need to reevaluate your life choices.
We may have left at this point, signing the guest book and reluctantly heading back to the car – but that didn’t mean that the fun stopped for those that stayed, with the fun of the Festival carrying on until 11pm with more group games on the agenda, such as a mass participation game of WIT AND WAGERS. On the way out of the door, one of the organizers of the con waved us goodbye and asked us how we’d found the day – I found it quite touching that she recognized us from previous cons and seemed genuinely interested in learning how we’d found the new bigger version. I, for one, enjoyed the larger venue and more action packed agenda, and I’m sad that the Festival is only running once a year now.
So, until AireCon 2018, so long and thanks for all the fish… sorry, I mean, thanks for all the fun!