AireCon 2019 Show Preview
Updated: Mar 6, 2019
By Ben Porter
Well, here we are. Already almost 25% of the way through 2019 and headed for Brexit.
But it’s not all bad! AireCon is just around the corner, and Unlucky Frog Gaming will be there!
For those of you who don’t know, AireCon is an analogue gaming convention that takes place at the Harrogate Convention Centre ever year in March. It’s a great opportunity to plug into the wider tabletop gaming scene; smaller, nowhere near as hectic as UKGE, with a good number of publishers and designers exhibiting. Also, much easier to get to if you’re in Scotland or the north of England than the plethora of conventions that take place in the south of England.
As is tradition here at Unlucky Frog Gaming, I’ve picked out some bits and pieces that I’m most looking forward to at AireCon. Without further ado, here they are.
Game Designers and Publishers
With a distinct, minimalist art style that permeates all of their games, Oink Games are a publisher that I have kept in my periphery for a while. When I saw that they were on the exhibitors list for AireCon, I knew I would be making a point of checking out what these guys would be bringing to the show.
All of Oink Games’ games are packaged in boxes of identical shape and size, and the company places a firm emphasis on short, streamlined games with an average run-time of 30 minutes. The only game in their lineup that breaks both of these rules is the Oink Games-published version of Reiner Knizia’s Modern Art.
I have never played any of the games from this publisher’s lineup, but I’m a real sucker for good artwork in games, so it’s little wonder that this publisher has my attention.
Hall or Nothing Productions
We currently have a full review of Hall or Nothing Productions’ 1066: Tears to Many Mothers in the works, but here’s a little teaser – we were really impressed with it.
Tristan and Francesca were absolutely mobbed at UKGE, so we didn’t get a chance to really sit down properly with them. One of the great advantages of AireCon’s gentler pace is that we tend to get a bit more time to really sit down with the creators and their games.
Lifeform was a roaring success for the company on Kickstarter last year, and as big fans of Letters from Whitechapel and similar asymmetrical cat-and-mouse style games, we’re hoping we’ll get a chance to sit down with the game at AireCon. Particularly as it looks really good.
It’ll also be good to see how Shadows of Kilforth – sequel to Gloom of Kilforth – and 1565: St Elmo’s Pay are coming along. After having played and enjoyed Tristan’s first attempt at a historical card game, I’m eager to see where he goes with that sort of game with 1565.
Charlotte first met James Naylor at Tabletop Scotland 2018 when he brought his game ‘Magnate’ to the Playtest Zone. We had a very interesting conflab with James on the podcast (which you can listen to here), where he discussed the game and the ideas behind it in depth. One of the items we discussed in considerable depth was the comparisons that are inevitably drawn between Magnate and ‘Monopoly’. Some have even boldly claimed that Magnate ‘fixes’ the problems with Monopoly.
Monopoly comparisons aside, it’s always exciting to see a game throughout the various iterations of its development – especially one that looks rather promising.
Dream Big Games
For regular listeners and followers of Unlucky Frog, this may seem like an odd choice, given that we’re good friends with owner/operator Mark Mckinnon and have been keeping a close eye on the development of Wreck and Ruin, but hear me out!
First of all, Wreck and Ruin is a really fun game; big, dumb, Destruction Derby-style fun on the tabletop, so you should check it out for that alone. But AireCon is going to be quite a special convention for Mark in that it will be the first that he attends with a fully published game.
The game itself has massively exceeded my own expectations. The miniatures are fantastic, the insert is really neat and tidy, and the box has been really well planned out. It’s an extremely professional, high quality product to have come out of a one-man band.
But don’t take my word for it! Mark will be there with copies for the game for sale, and a demo copy of Wreck and Ruin in all its cardboard-and-plastic glory. Mr Mckinnon is definitely a designer to be keeping an eye on in the future.
UK Tabletop Gaming Communities – Seminar
Matt Coward has been attending conventions up and down the length of the UK for the better part of a year as part of ongoing research he is undertaking for the University of York’s sociology department. Where I imagine his work is far from concluded, I’m really interested to see what his findings and observations have been during his analogue gaming adventures.
Matt was on our podcast last year where he talked in more detail about his process and some of his observations, and we talked at particular length on representation within tabletop gaming (you can listen to the episode here). At the time, his impression seemed to be that things were not bad, but still had a ways to go yet. I’m particularly interested to hear how he feels about this almost a year on.
If you’re at all interested in community in the context of the hobby, this is probably one you want to get along to. Matt is a genuinely warm and funny guy; attributes which at times belie a sharp intellect. He’s able to break down some of the loftier concepts in his field into a more digestible format, so you needn’t worry about being lambasted with academic wibble.
Kitty Cataclysm Tournament
Of all the games Bez of Stuff by Bez has produced, Kitty Cataclysm is my favourite. A game about cats and being horrible to people is such a brilliant melding of theme and mechanic; what could be more cat-like than being horrible to people?
This’ll be the first time that I personally will have seen the game played on a larger scale, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how the game is received by others. The artwork is also fantastic for this game (a certain cat that calls the Lily Pad home may be featured in some of the artwork), and if I’m being perfectly honest, I was just really chuffed to see that Bez will finally be letting the game out to run wild for a bit.
We’ve been asked to participate in an event called ‘Fameeple Fortunes’, which is being organised by I Play Red. No prizes for guessing what that is!
The Polyhedron Collider lads, Rodney Smith from Watch it Played, Matt Coward from Matt Coward, and Paul Grogan are also billed as participating in the shenanigans, so we’re in prestigious company indeed!
The event takes place on Saturday at 7pm in the Kings Suite, and it would be great to see some of you there if you can make it. Come along and watch us demonstrate how horribly disconnected we are from popular gaming culture in a parody game show about tabletop gaming.
I feel quite conflicted about having to spell that out. :/
We first met the Jollyboat lads in an awkward train encounter last year during UKGE. No, not that kind of awkward.
Tommy and Ed are great guys, and extremely talented to boot. If you’re a nerd and don’t take yourself too seriously (and also in Harrogate on the evening of 09/03/19), get yourself along to Kings Suite at 9pm. We saw the boys performing at UKGE last year, and they even managed to make me laugh. Amongst their repertoire are songs about Dungeons and Dragons and Daenerys Targaryen, which were also my personal favourites from those they performed last year.
Tommy has a propensity to walk about the stage with no shirt on, which is weird. But honestly – he’s alright.
And by no means least.
Duke’s Pizza will be back, guys.
They make the most amazing pizzas out the back of this Mystery Machine-looking van, and they are phenomenal. I only got to have one last year, but I think I shall be subsisting on Duke’s Pizza for a goodly portion of the weekend. This pizza is worth the price of admission and trip to AireCon alone. Seriously. Immense pizza.
That about concludes my preview article for this year’s AireCon. I’ll be following up with podcast coverage of the event, there will be an abundance of photographs, and I’ll probably write a retrospective on everything I get up to during my time there. I’ll also be cataloguing the pizzas I have, so keep a beady eye out.
If there’s anything I’ve missed that you’re particularly looking forward to, or that you simply think I should check out, be sure to drop me a line at email@example.com, or leave a comment below.