6.30am. I am not familiar with this time. I’ve heard legend of it. Occasionally I’ve seen a 6.30am but that’s usually due to being slightly too engrossed with a console game such as The Warriors or Red Dead Redemption and staying awake through the night to play them. But it is very rare that I wake up this early. Let alone on a Sunday!
But on Sunday 26th October I did indeed wake up this early, washed, dressed and braved the cold morning air, walking down the road to my “extraction point”. My friend Rhys who is also owner of the aforementioned Games Shop, Aldershot, came into the possession of 3 free tickets to Games Day 2010. Very kindly he offered the spare tickets to me and our friend Tom. Rhys picked us up and our two hour journey to the LG Centre just outside Birmingham commenced, briefly interrupted by a stop off at a service station for an over-priced breakfast.
We finally arrived after a disaster free drive and entered the LG Centre. It was rather swanky looking indeed. From the entrance hall where we presented our tickets and had bags checked, we then continued down into the main hall. It was initially an impressive sight. A large video screen down the end of the hall presented images of miniatures, concept art and videos of the Games Workshop computer games, rows and rows of gaming tables surrounded by the heaving masses spread across the entire floor, and there was a large Space Marine statue with banners and standards of the various gaming clubs/stores, adorned with pretty good artwork, laid around the bottom of it.
After taking in the view and getting our bearings we began our first and possibly most important mission of the day: purchasing the limited, Games Day only figure.
It is said that one of our greatest skills as British folk is that we know how to queue. Give a Brit a good excuse for a queue and we’ll queue the living shit out of it. And don’t you dare try to push in front of us. Our huffs and tuts are known worldwide to bring entire civilisations crumbling to their knees. But for some reason, on this day in particular, our usually ordered system for creating a line, one after the other to wait to be served had deteriorated into a kind of amorphous blob. It resembled a gang of amoeba wrestling in a paddling pool full of lime jelly. But luckily it didn’t take me too long to complete my mission and I picked up a number of Games Day exclusive figures.
We moved out from the first larger hall which contained the gaming tables and retail stands and moved into the smaller secondary hall which contained displays for painted/converted figures. Also residing in here were display cases holding the brand new, hardly seen, not yet released Dark Eldar models, the Golden Demon Painting Competition entries and various other stands. It was rather futile trying to get to see the Dark Eldar miniatures; the crowd around the displays were ridiculous. Luckily GW had the foresight to install large plasma screens overhead running a slideshow of photos of the models and artwork/concept sketches. I have to say that the new Dark Eldar are looking pretty darn spanky indeed. I took plenty of pictures to share with you although this may be a slightly pointless task now as many, many Dark Eldar pictures have already been splashed all over the “Interwebs” in an orgasmic eruption that only Mount Vesuvius or Eyafjallajökull could compete. But I like you lot, so I’ll whack the pictures up ASAP.
On the large video screens we were occasionally treated to glimpses of the new Forge World Warhammer Forge range. They have some crazy stuff coming out. A Toad Dragon (!?!), Marienburg Landship and tonnes of other amazing goodies flashed before our eyes. Despite some of the issues I have with Forge World they do have the consistent ability to make me go “WOW” on a regular basis.
Golden Demon is a funny thing. Ultimately the winners are people who deserve prizes for immense amounts of skill at modelling and painting that make any normal mortal shudder with envy and the pictures that get into White Dwarf are truly things of artistic beauty. But a while ago when the initial vetting of entrants changed, people started to cotton on to the fact that if you turn up to Games Day with a model you plan on entering into Golden Demon, you get in quicker and miss the queues (oddly enough we didn’t actually experience any problems getting into the venue at all. Doors open at 9.30, we got there about 10 and went straight in so I don’t know what the big fuss is all about). This resulted in a few people bringing in any old tat just for the early entrance, although it seems GW have wised up to that this year and these people didn’t actually get in any quicker. Obviously through the days worth of judging these subpar models get weeded out, but there were still a few bits in the display cabinet that made me think either the person entered this has an overly high opinion of their average work or they just wanted to get in quick. I don’t want to sound like I’m moaning but in a few model s it was rather noticeable. Not to say that the Golden Demon entrants on the whole weren’t excellent. In fact I look forward to seeing who won what in the next White Dwarf as we didn’t stick around to see the prize giving. A Orc Bloodbowl team caught my eye as well as a couple of excellent Demon Prince conversions.
Towards the rear of this room were all the Games Workshop related video games. All I really saw of the Bloodbowl Legendary Edition was a couple of new pitches, one that looked like it was being played on a the deck of a pirate ship and another that looked like the inside of a dungeon (Although I very much doubt it was Dungeon Bowl, which despite being a version of BloodBowl is still quite different).
The Ultramarine that you may have seen on videos at game expos was on hand for getting photos with, who would occasionally head off and a guy in an excellent Ork costume would take his place. The funny thing was, we met up with some other guys from our Wednesday night club, Wez and Dave, and Dave being stupidly tall we convinced him to get a picture with the guy in Space Marine armour. Dave was actually tall enough to be eye level with the Marine! I’ll try and get a photo of this up later.
This next bit makes me scratch my head. THQ had stands there advertising their new games, the next Dawn of War 2 expansion and Space Marine (that I happen to be really looking forward to). Now in order to view these stands, that were in fenced in enclosures was to buy, yes I said BUY, a ticket, and the rumour was they had sold out. This was all hearsay so I could be wrong. But if it was true, what kind of advertising is this!? Surely if you want to advertise it you show your product to as many people as possible rather than restricting who can see what! I may be utterly wrong here or there could be some marketing knowhow I’m not privy to, but I just found it incredibly odd behaviour.
We moved back to the main hall and looked at some of the games in progress. Apparently a new ruling with Games Day is every table must be put together using the Realms of Battle boards, and it was interesting seeing the levels of creativity people had put into them. Some tables were little more than the basic boards painted with a couple of pieces of bog standard terrain, but other were true master pieces.
The ones that spring most to mind were a table made of 8 Realms of Battle 2’x2’ boards, 4 were used as the actual battle field, where the gaming was conducted and the other 4 boards were effectively a huge diorama. The owners of the board had built a large monastery looking building, with stain glass windows and the all the trimmings. In the grounds there was a graveyard, with zombies and skeletons rising from the graves, being fought of bravely by militia men.
The best board in the whole hall had to be the Top Grot board. It appeared to be an oval track, in the centre of which was a landing bay carved from a mountain, with flashing LED landing strips. The game itself seemed to revolve around small aircraft piloted by grots racing around the track whilst simultaneously dog fighting and bombing the battle that was being conducted beneath them by foot troops and tanks. There was even a large, inflated gas squig acting as an airship. It’s exactly this type of bonkers originality and imagination that hobby thrives on. I was very impressed.
Then got to talk with one of the guys from Black Library, the company that deals with the majority of the Games Workshop novels, as Rhys knew him. We had an interesting chat about upcoming releases and their expansion into doing more audio books, some of which sound like fantastic future purchases. I joking insisted that they should definitely get Brian Blessed to do one of their audio books, and funnily enough the Black Library guy said that it wasn’t for the lack of trying.
There was cosplay around, but being an occasional LARPer I didn’t really faze me. The majority of it was pretty dreadful as to be expected, but there were one or two good costumes, memorably the Tanith couple. Note: If you are going to bother cosplaying put in more effort than just WEARING A BLOODY BLACK BATHROBE AND CRAPPY POUNDSHOP WIZARDS HAT!
About 1pm we decided that we had seen all that we had wanted to see and bought all we had wanted to buy and headed home. If I’m to be 100% honest I’d say that it wasn’t a bad day, but I’m really glad that I didn’t have to pay for my ticket or I might’ve felt a bit cheated. Not getting to see the Dark Eldar display was a bit of a pain, but nothing too scarring. From what I heard the Forge World retail stall was an absolute farce, some people waiting 2 hours plus in the queue! This is the first Games Day I have ever been to and I have been informed that past ones have been a lot better, with more interesting displays and events.
It was a good day for just hanging out with mates however and the day got that much better in the evening when we had our first game of the DeathWatch RPG but that warrants a post for itself.
I don’t want this post to come over too negatively because I had a good day. But like I said this is mostly due to it being free.
Take Care, Grots!