So for the unenlightened SteamCon is Steamforged Games’ annual convention, this year it was held on the 17th – 19th November at Victoria Warehouse in Manchester. Last year, the inaugural one was held roughly the same time, can’t remember the exact date, but was in November again and was at the Headingley Experience in Leeds. This is the 3rd weekend long games convention that I’ve been too, I did SmogCon (now BonesCon) a Warmachine one a few years back that was down in London Heathrow area. Effectively its a gathering of the gaming community for Guild Ball (and soon to be GodTear) along with other IP board games that Steamforged produce, such as Dark Souls, and their new Resident Evil board game. If you’ve never done a gaming convention before I would imagine it could be a bit of an eye opener. What it does is really show what an amazing community there is around Guild Ball at the moment. Steamforged have done an amazing job creating a game, which for me is very easy to get to grips with but takes time and practice to master. Really though, it’s all the Pundits out there who make the Guild Ball community what it is, these players have taken it upon themselves to go out there, and grow a community of like minded gamer’s who want to play Guild Ball. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing Pundits during my stint in the Pundit programme, people like Myk Myers & Peter O’Sullivan give so much of there own time to the game, whether its just answering questions from newbies on Facebook or moderating the groups. Equally, I feel there are some Pundits who probably don’t pull their weight in the programme but that’s a different story. Some communities are more casual, where they play for fun and don’t much care about the competitive side of the game and some communities develop a competitive scene. I’m quite happy to say that the community that I’ve grown along with Andy T has developed into the latter (there’s nothing wrong with the former by the way). As you may be aware as The Heroic Play we run quite a lot of tournaments in the Midlands, I think this has helped to develop our community into quite a competitive scene, we have some players who regularly place podium at events, whether that be a 16 or 32 player event.
So back to SteamCon, this is a melting pot of all these communities coming together to play games and compete in the events run over the weekend of SteamCon. Steamforged make it super rewarding to play in the competitive events as well, for example if you win British Championships or the LCQ (Last Chance Qualifier) they will fly you out to the World Championships at SteamCon USA this year, pretty cool prize right? Last year the World Championships was in the UK, so they flew people over from the USA, Australia and Europe for the event, not bad for a relatively new company to be offering perks similar to Magic: The Gathering tournaments which has been established much, much longer. It’s not all about playing in the competitive events though, there was a reward system for playing casual games as well at SteamCon; if you won a game you got 2 tokens, if you lost you got 1. These tokens could be cashed in against 6-player team boxes (usually £50), ltd edition SteamCon cards, or to buy raffle tickets to win a copy of the Dark Souls board game, or a Resident Evil board game pledge.
Along side of the gaming area’s for tournament play, casual play and board game run through’s, Steamforged also ran seminars on game design, sculpting and background. So if the concept of playing games for 3 days is a bit much there are other things to do amongst that. On the subject of playing games for 3 days, I know people who were happy to stay up till 4 in the morning pulling in as many as they can, and end up finishing the weekend on something like 20+ games played; personally that’s not for me. I don’t mind having late nights by any stretch of the imagination, but for me part of the attraction of SteamCon is getting to catch up with people, sit down and talk. As I mentioned earlier, as The Heroic Play we run a lot of tournaments, and lots of different people from all over the country turn up to those events, we get people like Greg Day who drives up from way down South and Pash Korniyenko who got a train all the way down from Edinburgh to play in one of our 32 player events. What I’m getting at is that you spend 8-10 hours with these people on a day where you’re running an event, and you get to have brief conversations between rounds, or over lunch, but its never more that say 30 mins in total over the course of the day. So on the Saturday night of SteamCon I got to sit and chat about life, games, and other less savoury things with Martin Thirlwell and Parker from the Battlehammer, yeah Mart and I chat over Whatsapp but it’s generally only quick and in response to something that’s happened online probably. Being given that chance to chat with people is amazing, for the most part we’re social creatures and being able to indulge in conversations that aren’t ‘momentous 2 damage’ or ‘I sprint, where’d they go and then take a 4-dice shot on goal’.
On seminars – so I worked SteamCon last year as a Pundit and didn’t really get chance to go to any of the seminars as my shifts all fell during the day when they were happening and that was something I wanted avoid this year. This year I went and pulled in 2 seminars – I went to the ‘Design a Veteran Model’ seminar and the ‘Super Secret Squirrel’ one. The design seminar was amazing, if you check out our Facebook page here you can check out the photos I took while we were going through the process. I think bits like this really improve the experience you have while at SteamCon, knowing that last year people who went to the seminar designed Skulk, who will now be part of a brand new minor Guild called the Ratcatchers, and this year we designed Veteran Honour who will play for the Farmers! The ‘super secret squirrel’ seminar was where we got to see a bit more of GodTear so the models and the gameplay happening as it stands currently, frankly this looks amazing, super streamlined and easy to grasp. We also saw some other bits which were ‘in the pipeline’ from Steamforged. We weren’t allowed our phones in the seminar so I’m not going to say anymore – but damn it looked cool and they’ve got some interesting stuff still to come.
All in all, I think SteamCon can be whatever you want to make of it. It can be a weekend away where you play games constantly and come away with a load of swag or a paid holiday to the states, it can be a time to catch up with people who you don’t see enough or it can be a boozy weekend away with games and conversation thrown in when your conscious enough. Either way, I’ll be planning on going back next year, and probably the one after that, and maybe the one after that, who knows. If you didn’t make it this year, you did miss out and that’s a shame, make sure you come next year though, no doubt it’ll be bigger and better!