Tuesday, September 25, 2007

REVIEW: Games Day UK 2007

I got up at the ungodly hour of 4.00am on Sunday morning, slung some coffee down my neck and stumbled into a taxi. I picked up Gary on the way to the shop and the coach arrived at 4.45 to take us down to Birmingham and Games Day.

We landed at the NEC at 9.20 and joined the humongous queue. This didn't look good in terms of us getting our hands on the Apocalypse backpacks. We had been told on the way down that there would only be 500 on sale and there were approximately 1 million people ahead of us.

The queue moved surprisingly quickly and we were in the hall by 10.00am. Gary and I had planned our attack carefully so we hit the Games Workshop sales tables first. Loads of people were trying to pay by credit card and a queue of staff had already formed behind a card reader. We waved our cash about frantically and this trick seemed to work as we got served by the grateful staffer super-quick. As a result we both got our paws on the Apocalypse backpack. They only cost £45 rather than the £60 we were expecting as the templates were missing. When I asked why the staffer simply said 'China.' I also got a box of Space Marine veterans (mkii) to add to my Blood Angels.

First mission accomplished.

The Forge World stand was nearby so stage two involved hitting that for the limited edition Renegade Ogryn, other Renegade bits and the Aeronautica books (yeah, I caved). The 'queue' was horrendous. It was so bad that bunches of mates were just sending one in with all the money. Which was OK until Forge World ran out of certain stuff then the guy had to telephone his mate who was standing 20 feet behind him to see what he wanted to do. Very frustrating. I was actually worried for a few small kids who were in the melee trying to get served.

After five minutes we decided to bug out and try the Black Library store instead. This was much more civilised. They had stewards directing people, creating corridors for people trying to get back out after buying stuff and generally making the whole experience more tolerable. I picked up Descent of Angels, covering the exploits of the Dark Angels in the Horus Heresy, The Lightning Tower/The Dark King, two limited edition (1500 copies) Horus Heresy short stories by Dan Abnett and Graham McNeill, Armour of Contempt, the latest paperback Gaunt's Ghosts book, and the Munitorum manual, a 40k Imperial Guard sourcebook by Graham McNeill. A nice little haul.

I thought the scrum at Forge World may have subsided so I went back to see and it was just as bad. In fact it didn't seem to let up for the entire day. Shocking. Anyway, I plunged into the melee and did battle for almost an hour to reach the front. I ended up with Chaos Renegade Militia stuff - 10 more torsos plus arms, an assault weapon pack, rogue psykers and brass etched symbols. The Ogryn was sold out but I paid for one to be posted out to me.

All this action took us up to lunchtime so we dodged the burger stalls and ducked into a small restaurant where we paid a fortune for a modest meal but at least it had some nutritional value.

Suitably refreshed we then hit the main hall where the demonstration and participation games were taking place. I took a ton of pictures, many of which adorn this report. The scale of the games was breathtaking and many tables had special, exotic and unique terrain and models. We didn't join the crush at the tables to play a game.

We simply couldn't get anywhere near the tables where you could build a Chaos Marine or Cities of Death terrain due to the sheer number of bodies, which was a shame. Who doesn't want a free model to take home?

Gary was really interested in the new computer games so we scoped them out. Squad Commander was the only one of interest for me as it is playable on the PSP. I like the fact that it is turn based because I am an old fart and really struggle to cope with real time games. Warhammer Online looked impressive but such a huge potential drain on my life that I won't go anywhere near it, and it looks like there will be a further expansion for Dawn of War to include the Dark Eldar.

Now I had 30 minutes or so to scour the new releases cabinets. I took all the photos you can see in my previous posts. The cabinets were very crowded and I had great difficulty getting to the front with the geet big Apocalypse backpack on my back. In fact it was a hassle all day and I apologise to anyone I accidentally clobbered with it on the day!

On our way back to the main hall for the Golden Daemon presentations we stopped off at the Games Development Apocalypse game. It was taking place on the floor and was largely water with numerous islands connected by bridges. The Games gurus were moving the models and getting punters to roll dice and decide targets. I saw Jervis Johnson and Phil Kelly and then spoke to a genial American chap who works for the studio, but I have no idea what he is called. Everyone seemed to be eating fruit pastilles. Very strange.

We collapsed in the main hall and clapped all 39 Golden Daemon winners, despite the fact we hadn't gotten anywhere near the display cabinets. The Spanish painters seemed to do very well, including winning the sword (and gauntlet) and certainly let everyone know how they felt.

Now we crawled back to the coach to start the four hour journey back home. Everyone had a good look at their swag and a few lucky souls got some sleep. I was desperate for the toilet but predictably found it flooded with two hours still to travel. An extremely long two hours followed. By the time we got home the pain at holding it in was radiating as far as my ribs. It's just possible that the most enjoyable moment of the whole day took place in a toilet in the mall near where we were dropped off!

I enjoyed the day despite how tiring it was. It really did bring home just how big Games Workshop is. It's easy to forget this when you are playing games in your spare room. Some aspects of the day could have been better organised, especially the Forge World stand. I hope they take heed of the Black Library staff and things improve by next year.

I had initially worried about not having enough to do to fill my time but I needn't have worried. I actually didn't have enough time. Maybe this is because of the broad range of interests I have in the 'hobby' so I was jumping from stand to stand. I may just be Games Workshop's perfect customer.

Overall I'd give Games Day 2007 a 6 out of 10.


All of my reviews end in a score out of ten for the product. The table below explains what that score means.

  • 10/10 Perfect, absolutely nothing better
  • 9/10 Excellent, highly recommended
  • 8/10 Very good, recommended
  • 7/10 Good
  • 6/10 Above average, some problems
  • 5/10 Average, some good points some bad points
  • 4/10 Below average, some redeeming features
  • 3/10 Poor, major flaws
  • 2/10 Very poor, avoid if possible
  • 1/10 Absolutely appalling

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