A Small Games Event

A day of games on the patio in Devon

Photo of our host and birthday boy
As the sun came out for a glorious weekend gamers headed in all directions with some heading to StabCon in Manchester for three days of gaming, others to York for the Beyond Monopoly club meeting, some to Birmingham and no doubt other locations around the UK, however a few of us headed down to the West Country for Paul Grogan’s “Runemeet” a now annual games event celebrating yet another birthday!

The players during our game of Comuni
In many respects this may be more typical of games events (being relatively small and low key) that go on around the county throughout the year. Following Paul’s first trip to Essen some ten odd years ago he gathered fellow travellers and regular gaming friends together for a whole weekend of games. Over the years it has grown to the point that yesterday there were twenty people playing games in every available space on the ground floor of his house in sunny Devon - did I mention what a glorious day it was! The weather meant that we were also able to spread to the patio under an umbrella were we enjoyed pretty much full sun all day, a situation that one gaming friend who had to work all day and late into the evening saw as doubly insulting – games and sun!

Players on Saturday at Runemeet
Like me people had travelled from far and wide, one travelling back from Paris, some for the whole weekend and others for just part of it. I say it is perhaps more typical in that gaming is an intensely social activity where friendships are made and opportunities are then sought to meet up and play together whenever possible. Sometimes this is at big conventions e.g. StabCon or ManorCon or MidCon at other times it is at smaller events, occasionally for a weekend but perhaps only a day or a few hours; in public spaces or more often at people’s homes. They provide the opportunity to play games that others have bought that you haven’t got (yet!), to play prototypes of new games (if you are lucky enough to fall in with the well connected), to play games that wouldn't fit into a normal games afternoon or evening, to play your favourite games with friends you haven’t seen for a while, or as is often the case get a chance to play with like minded people and so start to form new friendships.

Players on Saturday at Runemeet
As I have commented before I think the growth of games in the UK is coming from and likely to continue to develop from small groups of people playing games and acting as advocates, raising the awareness of modern games by drawing friends and family into their gaming circles. At a social level games offer an excellent tool for community building work or other projects (although I would not use the games mentioned here at an early stage of a project) but when used with children the educational opportunities are head turning.

Enough of why I am so passionate about this oft misunderstood pastime, what happened for me at Runemeet?

Players on Saturday at Runemeet
It is all in the timing - I pitched up at 10am on Saturday just as Paul was looking for a couple of players to start a game so I joined Hazel, Paul (from GamesLore), Ian and of coarse Paul (our host) for a game of Comuni. He had picked this up at Essen last year for EUR12 and it was still in its plastic wrapping. With Paul reading the rules we set off into medieval Italy to build our cities and supposedly collaborate when Italy was periodically invaded (something that singularly didn’t happen when Ian and I needed it most).

The board and components for Comuni
Ultimately after an early lead I fell away and came in a very poor (literally as well as physically 5th) – no great surprise. It was a nice game and one that whilst I would be keen to play again I am not sure would appeal to my gaming group, so am unlikely to be taking advantage of Paul Lister’s special offer (Boardgameguru) on this game at the moment.

Part of the board for World Without End
With this first game tidied away, we (Hazel, Ian and I) grabbed another of Paul’s unopened games World Without End. This is based on the Ken Follet book – not that this helped us as none of us had read his books or indeed played the game before. With Hazel reading the rules we set about my favourite game of the day building the medieval community around the Cathedral that was the subject of his earlier book and game, The Pillars of The Earth. I personally really like the artwork and theme, trying to gather piety, money and food to defend against the annual medieval challenges whilst seeking to advance your score through positive activities in the community like contributing to buildings and curing those suffering from the plague (this is a gross simplification of the game but hopefully gives you a feel for it). The winner of this game was Hazel with Ian and I contesting third place. A nice game that I would be keen to play again, preferably with Gwen, as I feel this is one that would work with the evening games group as well as working nicely as a two player game – a good alternative to one of our favourites, Stone Age.

Players on Saturday at Runemeet
With just 50 mins to go before I needed to head off down the M5 there was just enough time try out another one of the CGE prototype games Pictomania (I had tried another of the CGE prototypes Dungeon Petz at the UK Games Expo the previous month). Pictomania, was a very different game, involving drawing an image to represent anything from a statistician, to a hydro electric plant to a rose and hundreds of other objects. The fun comes from the fact that whilst you are drawing an image from one of 7 themed possibilities on 6 cards laid out before you, you are also trying to spot what the other players are drawing and using some playing counter to secretly identify what you believe them to be drawing and grab one of three bonus tiles – the game stopping when the third one has been grabbed this potentially forcing the slowest player to stop before they have either and or completed their drawing or guesswork. With some refinement this could be a really fun light hearted party game.

Players on Saturday at Runemeet
Other games being played whilst I was there included last year’s release of the classic Civilisation game (this one based on Sid Meiers well known computer game), this year’s Lord of The Rings living card game (LCG) by Fantasy Flight, a game of Twighlight Imperium (another game by Fantasy Flight that has a quiet awesome amount of components, with a price tag to match), Trans Europa (reviewed here), Rio De La Plata and as I left a new game of World Without End was starting. A full list of games played over the weekend can be seen here with more photo's from Saturday here.

No doubt he gaming continued long into the night / Sunday!
Players on Saturday at Runemeet

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