As mentioned in my last post, I made the trip to Dragonmeet 2014 in London a couple of weekends ago. This was my third Dragonmeet in a row, and the first in the convention’s new location of the Ibis Hotel, Earl’s Court.
I had a great time. The convention seemed bigger and busier than ever before. In addition to roleplaying and boardgames, the show has grown to encompass miniature gaming as well. There were demos of “Dead Man’s Hand” a couple of zombie-themed games, as well as trade stands from a decent number of miniature manufacturers and retailers (North Star Miniatures, Hawk Wargames, Warlord Games).
The gaming halls were packed with every roleplaying/ boardgamining variety and combination of games you could think of. “Zombie/Nazi/Occult/Godzilla mash-up, Sir? – you got it. Table 48 on the right”. “Old-school Village of Hommlet – ah yes, upstairs by the bar”. All gaming life seemed here, and a pleasure it was to behold.
For me, though, pride of place should go to Ashley Pollard’s fantastic Ogre/ G.E.V. game, which I was pleased to see was placed right in the centre of the gaming hall. Ogre for me is a game which always conjures up 1981. It was one of the games I discovered at my school wargames club, and I’ve never forgotten. There was something about the combination of strange alien planets, monstrous armoured leviathans, hordes of space-suited infantry rushing over the battlefield on hover tanks, and accessible and fun rules which caught my eye then. And still does.
Ashley’s games have always captured that for me, and it was great to catch up. Her collection of Ogres, armour, grunts, mobile command centres and recon vehicles was enough to hypnotise any gamer. She umpires a great game as well – always good to see. Awesom stuff!
In addition to the games and gamers, the other thing I love about Dragonmeet is the lectures. Paco Garcia Jaen had done a wonderful job this year of arranging some terrific presentations but a luminous cast of speakers. The great and the good of roleplaying were definitely in evidence, but it was great to see speakers who were less well known, and who contributed their own take on the roleplaying world. I was desperately disappointed to miss Johnny Hodgson’s talk on art direction for roleplaying and boardgaming game publishing – I was cheering my son’s football team on a cold, rainy north London pitch at the time. I did catch up with the afternoon panels though, including a live version of the podcast “Ken and Robin talk about stuff”. The stuff talked about was as witty, erudite and funny as ever. If I could talk about anything as well for 5 minutes, I’d be a happy man!
All in all, this was a wonderful Dragonmeet. I'd like to say a huge thank you here to all the organisers of the event, the speakers and the staff in the Ibis hotel who were a model of courtesy throughout. If you get the chance to attend next year, I would thoroughly recommend it.
The day’s loot consisted, for me, of a pre-ordered copy of “Dreamhounds of Paris” and the "Livre de Fourmis”, by Pelegrane Press, and both chiefly authored by Robin Laws. Both Robin and co-author Ken Hite graciously signed “Dreamhounds”, very sportingly answering my questions and shooting the breeze for a couple of minutes.
I always feel tongue-tied when asking authors to sign a book. I end up saying something pretty lame like "I really enjoyed your last book", or "I'm really looking forward to reading this one". As a default mechanism, I normally just go into "polite mode", but I feel this desn't really go anywhere towards showing appreciation for authors who make a long trip to a show or convention and take the time to meet their readers and patiently answer questions.
I tried harder this time, and actually came with something to say in advance! I mentioned to Robin about how much i was looking forward to his books, and talked about my first trip to Paris in 1981 when I was 14 (with my French Exchange family) to see an exhibition of paintings by French surrealist Yves Tanguy. That trip, and Paris, has always stayed in my mind. So Robin, if you read this, thank you so much for listening patiently, and for the lovely ants you drew in my book!
I’m in the process of reading the PDF copy of Dreamhounds (which Pelegrane Press send you for free when you purchase the hard copy book) on my daily commute. Even if you’re not a keen, or practising, roleplayer, there is much in Dreamhounds of Paris to love if you even have a passing interest in any of the following: Paris, the 1920s, Surrealism, the Cthulhu Mythos, French Occultism, beautiful books, fantastic art design, or wonderful writing. Very highly recommended.
One final postscript to picking up my copies of "Dreamhounds of Paris" and the "Livre de Fourmis" at Dragonmeet. I'd pre-ordered these from Pelgrane, really becuase I wanted to show my support for the project (which I'm very excited by). Yesterday, Cat from Pelgrane (out of the blue) went to the trouble of refunding my pre-paid postage on my debit card, and emailed me telling me she'd done it. Exemplary customer service, very thoughtful and deeply cool. Many thanks indeed, Cat and Simon!
Finally, for those of you wondering where on earth all my painted figures are for the start of Curt’s 5th Annual Painting Challenge, I have to confess that I’ve been delayed somewhat through being busy at work. December is always a frantic month for me work-wise, and this year it’s been doubly so. Long nights and busy weekends with the family have kept me away from the brushes, although I’ll hopefully be catching up fast by the end of this week. Fingers crossed for getting off the mark!