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Sunday, June 14, 2009

UK Games Expo'09 #4: Old friends and new stuff

I commented yesterday on the "paramount contribution the tournaments had made to my enjoyment of the Expo". More than a matter of mere highlights, they were the absolute backbone of everything I did on that long weekend. Having something to do each day meant that I wasn't just drifting aimlessly, as I have done at conventions so often in the past. And even the familiar drifting through the various halls seemed more enjoyable. Perhaps because they were a part of a greater whole? Or perhaps just because I enjoyed telling people I met about my own part in the Expo?

All of which is by way of introduction to a highlight of my wanderings through the halls crammed with trade stands, demo games, and people- lots and lots of people.

Gordon Lamont and Snow Tails
The oldest of old hands or most dedicated readers of blog archives might remember that Gordon Lamont (one half of the dynamic duo that is Fragor Games) featured in the 2nd post here at RD/KA!. Regular readers will probably remember Gordon from my reports about DiceCons, which he helps organise alongside his associates in the SBGA.

I'd heard about Fragor Games' new game Snow Tails on the net, naturally enough; had seen some preview pictures; and had seen Gordon sheltering under an umbrella from our lovely summer rain while I was heading to the Clarendon on Saturday, so I knew he was at the Expo. For some reason though, I was still surprised to find Gordon demoing Snow Tails.

The irrepressible Gordon Lamont demonstrates Snow Tails

I enjoyed my first game of Snow Tails, a game about racing dog sleds in the snow. I spotted 1 or 2 similarities with the only Euro-racer I own: Mississippi Queen. Most of the game though, was completely new. The most significant new feature is the cardplay players use to control their movement.

Each player has their own deck of dog cards, each numbered 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 IIRC, and from which they will maintain a 5-card hand. As many as 3 cards can be played each turn, 1 each into 1 of 3 places:
  • Left dogline.
  • Right dogline.
  • Brakes.
These cards set the sled's speed according to the simple formula: (left + right) - brakes. The difference between left and right also determines whether the sled drifts; and how far and to which side if it does.

There are various tweaks to this core mechanic. Among the more important are:
  • Each time you collide with something bigger than your sled (ie. not another sled), or exceed cornering speed limits, your sled is 'dented', and you have to add a dent card to your hand; useless cards that count against your 5-card hand limit and which cannot be disposed of in any way, dent cards limit the range of choices you have each turn.
  • You can only play more than 1 dog card in a turn if they are all the same value.
The upshot of these simple rules is a game which is quick to pick up; which plays fast enough so that you could easily fit 2 or 3 games into just part of a comfortable evening's gaming; and whose hand management rules are sufficient to induce brain-burn in the most hardened card gamer. I liked it, enough to think seriously about buying it.

Gordon shows off Fragor Games' UK Games Expo'09 award for 'Best New Boardgame'; and the winner: Snow Tails

I wasn't alone in that. I met several groups of gamers that Saturday afternoon who were just settling down to play their newly acquired copies of Snow Tails, and who were all excited at the prospect of meeting one of the designers. It was just a shame that I couldn't offer them better directions as to how they might track Gordon down.

In any event, the praise for Fragor Games' latest offering was sufficient to give our favourite dynamic duo of designers the UK Games Expo 2009 award for Best New Game. Congratulations to Fraser and Gordon both. Lang may yer lums reek!

And stuff
Entry fees and beerage aside you can be sure, dear readers, that money changed hands between me and traders last weekend in Birmingham. I bought a couple of games that had been on the horizon of my interest for some time. I also picked up an absolute bargain boardgame 2nd hand from a fellow C&C:A campaigner (thanks again matey!). More on these as they hit the table, I expect.

Books too figured large in my quietly conspicuous consumption. I picked up a good half dozen or so new WW2 books. That particular splurge began on the Saturday when I chanced to notice Rommel's Infantry Attacks. My swither was just some kind of game I played with myself before succumbing. Other books quickly followed, opening the floodgates so that I had several games and doubly several books in the luggage I took home as compared to the luggage I'd brought south.

One last big thank you...
... goes out to Andy.

Andy does what a man's gotta do

Andy booked our hotel, our tickets, and did all the driving; so that from day one of my plans I could relax in the knowledge that all I had to deal with was my own event. I couldn't've done it without your support pal. Thank you very much. ;)

Related@RD/KA!
UK Games Expo'09
- #1: Time to kill
- #2: And so to war
- #3: I eat dirt and die
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