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Starbase Leicester goes to Sabrecon

February 7, 2011

By CHRIS BURNHAM

We originally got invited to this event when a group of us were at ConQuest last year. In amongst the stalls selling games, magic cards and warhammer figures was a small stall selling tickets to another convention. It was being run by the Leicester University’s Games Society (also known as the Leicester Sabres) on 5th of February and “Would I be interested in purchasing a ticket?”. So, after  perusing their flyers and posters, I handed over my cash and got my shiny new ticket #1 (do I get extra Geek Points for getting the first ticket?)

So, eventually the big day arrived and I made my way towards the foreboding towers of Leicester University. It was still early in the morning and I was suffering a little from the night before. I’d only found the SabreCon forum the night before and did a little digging to find out just what I should expect. So I was a little weary and had forgone my morning ritual of coffee and cereal, in favour of getting there at the very start of the convention. There was a talk I wanted to go to about ‘How to make a Boardgame’, which appealed to me because I’ve recently gotten back into boardgaming and I was always after new ideas for stuff to do at SBL meetings.

I’d been told previously that the Percy Gee building, where I had to sign in, was a new addition to the university, but I was still surprised that after entering through a humble entrance, it opened out dramatically into a large cathedral-like hall. Even though it was still early for me, it wasn’t long before I noticed that there was a Starbucks cafe right in front of me (lucky students :D). Just what I needed to perk me up and get ready for the next twelve hours of gaming.

After quickly grabbing a beverage, I went to sign in for the event, only to find that my intended talk had been cancelled due to illness, so I worked out that I had a few hours to kill before the next one. Jaffa was a welcome distraction, mysteriously showing up, quite literally, from a nearby balcony. But as soon as he was there, then he was gone again. So, I wandered over to the nearby noticeboard and tried to find a roleplaying game to play. A few of them were starting soon and I decided on a Stargate SG1 roleplay.

My GM for the game was called Evil Dan, according to his Leicester Sabres polo shirt and after a short introduction to the game and my fellow gamers, we began a mission to find out the origins of a coded message. After only about 5 minutes into the mission, I had fumbled a spot check, then fumbled the resulting combat and shot one of my team mates. Then we got ourselves outnumbered with an invasion of Jaffa troops, so we did what any other SG1 group would do. Instead of taking on the enemy face-to-face, we used the rings system to board their pyramid base ship and attempted to take it over for ourselves. We attacked the bridge with Stun grenades, but I fumbled another one of my throws and almost accidentally knocked out their leader as my grenade hit him square in the forehead. Soon after we were victorious and out-of-character I was back in the main hall looking for the next thing to do.

I decided to stop for a spot of lunch between activities and sat myself down next to Garak, who’d turned up an hour into my Stargate game. He’d been playing a few of the game demos that were scattered around the hall and was currently embroiled in a Cowboys and Indians roleplaying game with a selection of opponents (it was 6D6 – Garak). I decided soon after, still with an hour before the ‘GM’s Worst Nightmares’ talk that I’d check out both the Traders Hall and the Boardgame Library (one of the main reasons I was at the convention in the first place). The Traders Hall consisted of three shops, one specialising in Warhammer and Magic, a second that had a large selection of roleplaying books and a final one with a plethora of card and boardgames. I walked out with a new game called ‘Gloom’, which I’d only ever read about before. But from what I’d read, I already liked it. That and the transparent playing cards added an extra spin on things. Next up was the Boardgame Library, which was confusingly located in another of the University buildings. Like I said, I’d particularly been looking forward to this, the chance to play games without having to buy them first, but even though there was an impressive amount of games available, I ended up showing someone how to play my ‘Icehouse’ and ‘Back to the Future’ games.

Before long, it was time to dash back across campus, to get to the ‘GM’s Worst Nightmares’ talk, which was being hosted by one of the Traders, Big Bad John, who’d been a GM for the past 20 years or so. He’d written a book about how the most unpredictable things can happen, when you add playable characters to any reoleplaying system. It was mostly an informal chat about misdirected plots, annoying characters and the best laid plans of a GM being thwarted at every turn. Most of the scenarios that he told us about ended up farcically going wrong, often with characters dying due to their own stupidity.

Afterwards, I met back up with Jaffa and Garak and we tried out some of our purchases between us, in the short gap before our final roleplaying session, which was ‘Ghostbusters’. We weren’t playing long, until I realised that the Magic players had emerged from their room. They’d been playing a pre-release of Magic:The Gathering(Mirrodin Besieged, for anyone that’s interested) for the last five hours, almost since the very start of the day and had missed the majority of the activities. I felt slightly sorry for them, because I’d enjoyed so many different treats by then and all they’d done had was play in one game.

Eventually, four of us turned up for the game and we were all playing Victorian ghosts. Not a proton pack in sight. But we carried on regardless, slightly curious about the game we were embroiled in. It turns out that we were haunting a house of our descendants, which had been ‘invaded’ by a new family, consisting of a man and his wife, plus their two children. Our job was to scare them away from ‘our’ home and we did so with ghoulish delight, making sure that we tried as many of our ghostly powers out as possible on them. We inhabited objects to make them move, possessed members of the family and even convinced one of the children that they had killed another child(secretly a ghost). Eventually we won and they fled, only to be replaced by a group of embittered adventurers. The Ghostbusters had arrived and as ghosts we were more than a little worried(plus a little surprised). But by this point, we’d got a bit more used to being ghosts and proceeded to use our powers to take them out one by one. Ray was first, finding himself teleported from the master bedroom of the house to 20 feet in the air above the garden. With his proton pack weighing himself down, he was lucky to survive the fall, even though he broke both legs in the process. The rest were thrown off a nearby balcony in one way or another and in the end we left them all incapacitated and because we were particularly vindictive, we also managed to discredit them and possibly put them out of business altogether. After a successful game, and with SabreCon officially over, we retired to a nearby pub and continued playing yet more games late into the night, including a trial run of my new storytelling game of ‘Gloom’.

My overall impressions of the event were good, considering it was the first time they’d ever run one, but a couple of things didn’t go as well as they could have. The constant moving between buildings for games, was annoying for most of the roleplayers taking part, especially considering we were all directed to the sign-in desk inside the large hall of the Percy Gee building. There was also some time spent procrastinating, with us waiting to get into the rooms for the pre-arranged games. Next time, and I hope there is a next time, I think that they should make more use of the rooms in the Percy Gee Building. One of the talks I went to, was in one of the many rooms in the basement, which were otherwise empty and would have been ideal to hold most of the scheduled games, if not all of them. This would have been an ideal solution in my eyes. But apart from that, I liked the convention because of all the gamers I managed to meet, I didn’t play any games which ended up as a rubbish waste of time (it’s really annoying when it happens) and I even managed to find a game that I was after prior to the event. So it might not be a surprise that I spent most of the day smiling laughing and generally having fun. Shame I’ll probably have to wait another year to experience it again. – Chris Burnham

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