Looney Labs Rabbits Mailing list Archive

[Rabbits] [Event] Half-Life Rabbit by Nimrod Jones

  • FromSuperFRED <superfred@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • DateTue, 26 Jun 2007 12:26:53 -0400
This is an auto-generated report from SuperFRED regarding an event that Nimrod Jones has submitted.

Title: Half-Life Rabbit
Location: UK Games Expo, Birmingham
Date: 2nd - 3rd June, 2007

[This was written on the train home, except for the square bracketted inserts, and I completely forgot to submit it until now.]


"Platform 0? Where the hell is Platform 0? Trains actually go from there?"

The journey had not had an auspicious beginning. I'd left home to catch the bus to the station to catch the train. I would have had plenty of time had the bus not been uncharacteristically early, meaning that the following bus got me there only just in time to rush through the barriers, get up to the platform and look baffled when I could see no sign of my train which should have been standing there. The boards did not prove to be of any use. Where the hell is the train going to Birmingham? I'd travelled enough to or through Birmingham that I knew the train usually went from Platform 1 or 2, but apparently not any more.

Years of travelling from Cardiff Central Station and I'd never seen a train at the enigmatic Platform 0. To get to it I had to go out of the barriers through which I'd gone, up some stairs to an area I would not have immediately considered open to the public, and arrived just in time to see the train pull away. Of course, I'd arrived with enough time to catch the train - had I known it was going from Platform 0. This wasn't a good enough explanation for the customer services who told me that to get to my destination now would require me to purchase a new ticket at the full cost. "I can't afford that," I protested to deaf ears and went off to wait for an hour in hopes that the next train would also go from Platform 0 so that I didn't have to go through any barriers where my now technically expired ticket would prevent me.

You mention Platform 0 to a lot of people at many think immediately, and understandably, of Harry Potter's Platform 9¾. Of course, a closer look at Cardiff Central's platform numbering reveals a more likely candidate. Setting aside the seemingly anomalous Platform 0 (which does actually have a sign pointing the way that I'd never noticed previously) one might notice that there is no Platform 5 and no signs - at least, not in the common public places. Once many years ago, when we were diverted to the platforms via an atypical route, I saw a sign indicating Platform 5, yet when you're standing on the station itself there are no free platforms to be seen either numbered 5 or to be considered likely candidates.

I spent the next hour thinking up possible sob-stories and blags I could do should I get pulled up by the ticket inspector about my ticket being invalid. (The ticket was not an open ticket, rather a cheap reserved seat for travel on a specific train only. 70% of the time the ticket inspectors ask to see my accompanying seat reservation tickets to confirm that I'm on the correct train even if I'm not in the correct seat.) In the end when he finally came to inspect my ticket on the train I threw out all pretence of playing naive ("My friend booked the tickets, I didn't know they weren't open." "C'mon man, give me a break, I can't afford to replace that. I've sold all my worldly possessions to try paying off my debts and I'm still getting kicked out of my house. I'm travelling up to Birmingham for a job interview and I'm already an hour late getting there." etc, etc.), instead I innocently dropped the ticket on the floor, made light of dropping it and a bit of a fuss picking it!
  up so that he just stamped the ticket and moved on. Misdirection and the impatience of the train employee - so much simpler.

Only five days earlier I'd received a phone call from Jenny asking me if I was available for the weekend at short notice to come up and help her demo in Birmingham. "I already have plans for Sunday, but I can come up and help on the Saturday." One day out of two was better than no days. I booked the tickets the next day and it wasn't until the day before travel that I asked: "So what exactly is it I've agreed to help you with?"

The UK Games Expo in Birmingham is new. So new, in fact, that this was its first year and they wanted to make a big impression because they rightly want this to be an annual event to rival the Games Expo in Germany. Unlike most other games conventions, this one wanted to push the family aspect of games a bit more, encouraging the next generation of gamers. Unlike my last experience at a family orientated games day, this one did involve RPGs and by all appearances was like just about any other games con I'd been to with the difference that there was a kid's tournament (I never did find out what game they were playing, but I've never seen a group of children look so serious and intense). Knowing this, Jenny had devised a colouring competition for the under 10s, giving them the opportunity to win a copy of Family Fluxx, while also running Treehouse and Martian Coasters Tournaments for a copy of Treehouse and the black coaster, respectively. I would only be there for the Treehou!
 se tournament.

The day started fairly slowly, and while the hall was nice and big, our table space and seating was limited. This didn't stop things getting busy later on. Naturally, as is the way of things, it got busy when I'd been left on my own and found myself demoing two games at once. Fortunately, the first group were regulars to our tables and had even done a little demoing themselves but hadn't played Treehouse nor Martian Coasters. When a local member of council, Deirdre Alden, came around looking for a photo opportunity for her website she saw the empty table with Jenny?s giant Cosmic Coasters set and thought: "I don't know what it is, but it looks colourful." After the first photo I leaned over and asked what it was for.

"It?s for my website. I like games," she told me, "but I tend to favour the more traditional board games like Monopoly."

"Well," I said, not ready to miss a trick. "Technically, these are board games, they're just not big mainstream games like Monopoly, but I find that they're just as fun, if not more so." I then told her a little of the game she'd posed in front of and some of the other Looney Labs products after which she asked me to be in a photo with her. Although it only occurred afterwards to have put the Looney Labs sign in the picture, I was wearing my Time Repair Agency T-shirt and baseball cap, so I consider that good enough. [In fact, I checked her blog afterwards and although she's a member of the Conservative party she did put that picture on her website (http://tinyurl.com/3bv36k) giving Cosmic Coasters a mention, although alas not Looney Labs by name.]

Once I'd finished teaching Treehouse and Martian Coasters to the regulars, I left them to carry on playing games for themselves while I tended to a family who'd come over to explore more games.

"We have Aquarius," said the father of Molly and Katie (both qualifying for the colouring competition), "we really enjoy it. We're interested in Fluxx."

Seeing how young their daughters were I showed them Family Fluxx, explaining that its streamlined rules might be best for easing in the children, and they can play the full game afterwards if they wanted. So, after a game of Family Fluxx (in which I also encouraged the two girls to participate in the colouring competition) they enquired after EcoFluxx. "Well," I said, "having played Family Fluxx you shouldn't have any problem playing the original Fluxx, but I still consider it the more complex of the three games, though a lot of fun. EcoFluxx adds a bit more complexity compared to Family Fluxx, but does have the benefit of having some educational value." The parents liked the idea of this and we played a game. Delighted by the ecological slant for the game (and the girls picked it up all very quickly - quicker than a lot of adults I've shown Fluxx to) they later went off and bought it from one of the traders. However, ready as they were to leave, I managed to pull off the tr!
 ick that I consider myself particularly adept at when it comes to families, which is to sideline them into playing yet another game and managed to get them to stay to play a game of Treehouse before going. "It's like a three-dimensional Fluxx," I told them, "in that the goal keeps changing." With four of them, and the other Treehouse set in use, I sat out as a player, making myself available to give impartial advice on possible moves and clarify anything they needed.

With two tables busy I ended up chatting to a couple who run an online games shop and told me they stock everything but the Treehouse games because they found the rules confusing and were worried about their customer base not understanding it and therefore not wanting to buy it. "As an online shop, we don't have the benefit of being able to talk directly to people who might be interested in the game but don't quite understand it," was the response when I offered to show the game to them. I did my best to encourage them to the benefits of Treehouse as an introduction to a wider market of pyramid games and that Looney Labs offers a wonderful support base allowing customers to ask for clarification from both players and the creators themselves quite easily. I at least succeeded in opening their minds a little more to Treehouse and having them consider stocking it.

There is always a kind of friendly salesmanship between traders/demo teams. The Collective Endeavour Team were right next to us and chatting to one of them with games going on there was the idle pimping of games he was selling alongside my casual pimping of Treehouse. "Go on," I urged more than one of them at one time or another. "Shirk your responsibilities and come play Treehouse. You know you want to. The pyramids compel you. Pretty colours. Pretty, hypnotic colours. Come, play." etc.

Worried that we might not have enough people to run a Treehouse Tournament, at the last moment we had enough signups to run it, but shortly after both Jenny and Janos went home, both independently feeling a little less than ideal. This left me on my own again to demo, but put me away from much temptation to spend money I couldn't really afford to spend. Fortunately, by now much of the real busy period had already gone and with a couple of folks semi-permanently attaching themselves to our demo tables it became a fairly easy business to carry on alone. The family from earlier came back at one point and asked if they could borrow our Aquarius deck to play with. No demoing needed since they own the game, and it made use of the table space to look pretty.

This is one remarkable thing I find a lot with Looney Lab games. Once you've taught it to one group, you can often leave them to it, and they will often inherently start teaching it to their friends who come over and ask what they're playing, even when there isn't a demo rabbit with them.

At 5pm the hall closed (although the convention continued until later) and I clocked out from my Time Repair Agency uniform to go watch Doctor Who.

Had I actually known about the con ahead of time I would happily have stayed for the whole weekend. It was quite a nice venue, even though they don't seem to acknowledge the existence of vegetarians in modern society - but this, sadly, is not so much of a surprise even though I dearly wish it were not the case. Also, incredibly tired as I was through the whole day, the terrible coffee they had seemed more intent on sending me to sleep with negative Caffeine Points, than the pints of Guinness people were later buying me which should have been sending me to sleep yet were waking me up. What a crazy topsy-turvy world we live in, huh?

Since the con seemed to go off with much success after only the first day, I think I'd be more than happy attend and demo for the whole thing next year. [And the winners of the colouring in competition were apparently the ones who, coincidentally, were the first to put in their entry. - And no, they were not the only entries.]