Updated: Apr 7
As the title implies, Airecon this year wasn’t my first time attending. Airecon 2022 was my first taste and I thought it was the best event I had ever gone to, and booked my accommodation for this year within a week. For those who haven’t been, Airecon is a huge gathering of boardgamers playing for long hours over a long weekend. Many other conventions focus on the exhibitors, mini-events and sometimes tournaments, but this one puts getting people to the table first.
This year, like last year, I got tickets from Friday to Sunday; and like last year I spent Friday getting my bearings, trading games, and exploring who and what was where; Saturday was a huge day of gaming from 10am-1.30am (and I didn’t feel tired for a minute!); Sunday was more relaxed, catching up on demos, stalls and mini games I hadn’t got around to.
I wanted to clear out my old games, grab some new, see some of the players I had met last year, and have a great time learning new games. Apart from not selling Dance Card or Talisman Adventures, I did all I set out for, and I hope those two not selling in the Bring-and-Buy area was fate. On my way out I saw a family gaming, so I gave them my Talisman game as it really is an excellent introduction to RPGs for kids; and I should really play Dance Card once before selling it on.
This year Airecon was even bigger so took up more halls in the Harrogate Convention Centre. The new layout was great, there was:
A hall for gaming which was less busy with bigger tables for bigger games.
A hall with the game-rental-library which was much busier, with tuck-shop and café. It had the playtest demo area for games developers to show you what they are working on
A mini bar stocked with craft ales, ciders, and other adult drinks
Another hall with gaming. A third of the space was taken up by the excellently run Bring-and-buy. This hall also had a stall for Full Board Gaming who would sell you meeples and game pieces if you found you were missing something. Plus another café.
And finally upstairs there was the Queen’s suite where there was a quiet gaming area for anyone finding the bustle overstimulating, and events hall for talks and raffles, and an RPG zone full of square tables to fit the many RPGs.
There were many events for Airecon, the RPG sessions, to the raffles, charity fundraising, Watch-It-Played liveshows, and a comedy show. Even though I love the Watch-It-Played presenters I get a little starstruck, so I didn’t go to many events as they were active in helping host or participate in many of them. Along with the whole Watch-It-Played crew, I also spotted Actualol, Ava from SUSD and Frank the creator of Isle of Cats; it was great to see them all really enjoying their hobbyplaying with other attendees.
The exhibition hall was a maze, it almost seemed like Mark Cooke the founder of Airecon just didn’t want to say no to anyone who wanted to have a stall. Even though it was pretty packed in it was great to see stalls from all levels; one of the issues with many conventions across many hobbies are that the stalls get more and more expensive which makes it harder for smaller companies to justify attending. I love talking to exhibitors,
they are usually really passionate and humble about what they do. Here are a few stalls and playtest tables I can highlight, although there were so many excellent people there.
Stone Sword Games
With a wide impressive table with a battle laid out full of colour, ornate Japanese armour and long blades. An eye catching stall, with the war scene on one side and a table of dancing cherry blossoms on the Senjutsu boxes and beautiful cards with traditional Japanese art.
This stall had DOALG Rules Lawyer George E Ohh running a table, so I couldn’t not say hello. This is my first time writing for DOALG so it was nice to talk to someone so lovely and friendly! But I also couldn’t help notice his colleague passionately talking ancient Japanese history to the other visitors - it’s so exciting when someone combines their passions to make something so wonderful. I do love edutainment.
Stuff by Bez
Bold red tables accompanied by joyful lovely people also in red. Stuff by Bez was at Airecon in 2022, and Bez has gained more helpers since then. Bez is a hugely wonderful individual with an extremely creative mind and a talent for bringing out confidence with anyone who visits. Multiple events and initiatives were being run by Bez; just like last year, opportunities to contribute to her games with ideas, drawings or feedback. Bez will always make me smile.
Misty Moon Illustrations
Fantasy cottage-core artwork was presented like a portal into another world. The artist decked out with elven ears and surrounded by golden autumn leaves the beautiful artwork seemed right at home. Stickers, prints, badges, notebooks and more! It is really great to find an artist that gives a range of art and products. I am definitely ordering myself and some of my friends some cards, notebooks and stickers - I should have got it there and then.
Sweet geeky delights! Thankfully Honeybadger Games are at most cons for a sweet jelly treats shaped like potions or dice. They always have great things to bring back as souvenirs for friends.I also find jelly potions improve the mood to any RPG or dungeon crawler, people are less sad to drink their potions - counteracts cautious hoarding.
Madame Crêpe - Authentic French Crêpes
When Shrove Tuesday comes around every year I always choose to make fat fluffy buttermilk Scotch pancakes. But these crepes were magical! I loved watching the mixture be smoothed out on the large hot-plate then have the swirl of sauce. Then it was constructed into something my childhood-self would have dreamt of, filled with thick piped cream, drizzled with caramel and decorated with millionaire shortbread and flake - heaven!
Just noticed on the picture there were savoury ones too - I hope the come next year, I love cheese and ham with my pancakes.
Paper Boat Games
Last year I tried their Snapshot game, I was drawn to the edutainment and adorable animals. This year Snapshot was available, but a bigger focus was on Cloud Foxes, their latest Kickstarter. The owners were really friendly and kindly bought lots of colouring pages and felt-tips for children to use while the adults sat down to play. With player boards, chunky tokens and many depictions of cunning foxes. I am sure their Kickstarter will be a success, and I hope to find time to play at UKGE.
Testing out games which are in development can be so exciting, not only do you get to later say “Oh yeah, I played that before it went to Kickstarter” you also get to help someone create something that is going to bring excitement and joy to 1000s of players. These are the games I tested this year, next year I will try to play test way more:
The Bye Bye Dice playtest was really fun. Super simple game where you hunt through a pile of little square cards to collect a run of 1-9. As you hunt, your opponents roll a dice hoping for a six so they can take over hunting. It was nice talking to the creators about different ways the format could be adapted for different audiences or themes. The game was really fun with extra mechanics to get you more time - like throwing the dice away or pausing rolling for five seconds.
The Eco Sfera playtest was gorgeous, I felt like I was looking at those abstract posters people have of movies or book-jackets. The gameplay was really satisfying, expanding your deck with resources, buying landscapes to pair them up to buy animals, then two animals of a type unlocks a biome. I think there were seven biomes to collect to win the game. Anytime you couldn’t buy on your turn you would get disaster card in your deck, if you pull three disaster cards in a turn then you get a climate change tile if you get more climate change than biomes then game over! I was excited by this game, and I could see how you could scale it for different time lengths and player numbers. The three actions to have you trade and support your peers felt very symbiotic, it really kept you looking at how you could optimise the opportunities for the next player.
Now let us talk about what I really went for, getting games to the table! Over the three days I played 10-15 games and the only one I repeated was Loco Momo because I was teaching people, so I won’t cover them all. Here are some highlights:
Usually I hate any games with lying in them, and this game looked like a combo of Nine Worlds, Secret Hilter and Scotland Yard, so I was worried. But, when it got into the gameplay, it was more strategic than stealthy, and more survival than deduction. The vibrant board had an innovative design. Once the rules were laid out, it was easy to remember that you move different player pieces to adjacent lands to fulfil missions. No-one knows who’s playing as which god, so you have to feel it out from who places who on which mission and how the voting for the mission goes. The first player to move their tracker around the edge of the board to 12 points wins. It was great to play, especially with people making unspoken alliances; and when one god took the lead everyone eager to pull them down the score tracker. I could see this being a regular game for a group.
Replayability - The gods don’t have variable powers, however the challenges and bonuses for the rounds change with each gameplay; this will keep a veteran player on their toes.
Production Value - Stunning. The aesthetics on the modular board, and the details of the player pieces were detailed and appealing, if I owned it I would keep the pieces on my self.
Theme - Gods of familiar themes striving for glory against each other.
Complexity - Simple, once you’re underway
Rules - I would say it’s easy to teach, but you have to explain a few bits along the way when cards and icons have unusual layouts.
Uniqueness - There are many hidden roles games, many deduction games and many games about gods - but I think this is the first one I have seen them together.
Value - It’s pricey. It’s impressive on the table and fun to play - but I wouldn’t want that much money and shelf space dedicated to a game that is best with six players
Overall Dice Score 5/6 :
Animals on pucks, terrain on tiles and little pinecone tokens. I felt compelled to have a game. Each turn you take a terrain and an animal pair from the available marketplace and place them in your tableau; if you are rewarded with pinecones in the game you use them to mix and match the pair you choose that turn. Each game a selection of five cards are laid out to show you how each of the five animal types score. This was a nice balance of strategy and relaxation for me making the patterns to get the points; pivoting strategies when someone else snatched the pair you were eying up. I will definitely be buying myself a copy.
Replay ability - The way the animals score cycle around four variations each so one strategy will never be fool-proof.
Production Value - Really good, the tightly cut transfers for the pucks were a good choice, keeping the nice smooth wood feel to the pieces for easy handling. Tiles are thick and the decals are smooth to the edges. Everything fits the style and theme really well.
Theme - Expanding terrain in the Pacific Northwest and populating the lands, sky, and water with salmon, bears, hawks, foxes and elks.
Complexity - It was a step up from Savannah Park, can be suitable for a variety of ages ages if the player doesn’t mind their plans being foiled by players or selection of tiles available.
Rules - Super easy, everything is in front of you for reference and it takes 10 seconds to explain the round and the rules.
Uniqueness - Not very. you have Savannah Park placing tiles in clusters; Carcassonne expanding land and placing markers; and plenty more. But I could see someone sacrificing an older game for this one.
Value - RRP is about £40, but I would say get it when it’s on deal for £30.
Overall Dice Score 4/6
Spreading business and gaining fortune in Black Country via canals, and then the rails. An excellent game of industry, area control and risk taking. To build your empire of factories, breweries, stock rooms and more you need to spread from town to town making supply chains. Once your buildings are built you have to get them active through selling their services or products either to one of your other buildings or to others. Strategically placing the right resources where the other players will need them the most is key. In the second half you’re expected to have more impressive outputs, so lower level buildings are wiped from the board and you have to start rebuilding from the higher value buildings remaining.
Replayability - If you like engine building, commerce and area control, I doubt you would ever bore of this game.
Production Value - Really love gritty art work with matching player boards and tokens. The money in the version I played were satisfyingly heavy poker chips. I would have appreciated a black and white alternative on the back of the boards as sometimes it was difficult to spot town names or identify icons.
Theme - Industrial revolution in the West Midlands Black Country.
Complexity - It is pretty tough; even when you get the idea of making networks and upgrading buildings - I couldn’t follow who got money when.
Rules - Lots of rules about who gets what when, where they can go, what they need to build or dispose of something. Definitely one to play with experienced players two to three times before teaching others.
Uniqueness - There is an almost identical game called Brass Lancashire by the same company. Elements of the gameplay can remind you of building territory or networks to move goods, but I haven’t played many of them.
Value - It’s a big box, the components are so good, the gameplay excites lots of people once they get into it; but it takes up so much space on the table - but for £80 it’s definitely worth it.
Overall Dice Score 5/6
Robot Wars the board-game, Battlebots if you’re younger or American. Programme your robots moves for the next five steps out of your deck of cards, then each player triggers their first card, then the second, and so on. Avoiding pits and lasers, shooting each other, taking advantage of conveyor belts; all while racing to the flagged objective. It’s super fun - and I would lower the minimum age to six, as even if you’re not very good at playing, it’s still really fun.
Replayability - There are six maps with different difficulties; and the market deck can lead to you having a varied arsenal of tricks to use differently in every game.
Production Value - The tiles were a little rough on the edges; and you put on your own stickers on the objective flags; but I was so pleasantly surprised to have six fully painted mini robots - I thought they would be cardboard tokens but they really brought the game to life.
Theme - Robots racing across a dangerous factory floor to the objective while sabotaging each other.
Complexity - Simple enough, from six and up players can get the mechanics within five minutes; and if you strip out the market and combat, then you could have it as a racing game for even younger children. It is satisfying enough and have tougher boards to keep older players engaged.
Rules - Easy to teach, the cards you buy augment your movement deck giving easy to understand temporary or permanent buffs.
Uniqueness - The programmed moves are similar in Colt Express; but that didn’t have the feel of tactical racing - as it’s brawling during a heist.
Value - So it looks like a release from Renegade Game Studio will be £50 and it looks almost identical; original was RRP £38. I would say if the new edition comes with lots more maps/scenarios then get it at £45 if you can - as this is a great addition to a family or friend game night.
Overall Dice Score 4/6
I’ll be booking my hotel for next year as soon as payday comes; and like this year, it’s never too soon to plan. In the months leading up to Airecon I was:
Playing my games to see which I should trade
Eating up lots of reviews to figure out what I wanted to play or buy next year
Organising trades on the Facebook group
Organising games to play on the Facebook group
Loading my remaining trades onto the Airecon website’s G.A.M.E system; which prepares your trades for the Bring and Buy, helps you find players for games you’re bringing and sign up for demos and games
Making lists and checking them twice
Convincing my partner to come to enjoy Harrogate for a day.
On my to do list for next year is:
Find ways to help the organisers either through moderation like I did this year, running some games, volunteering or maybe just promoting.
Get better at teaching games so I can show more people games I love, like I did with Loco Momo this year
Sign up for the Star Ship simulator
Sign up for an RPG
Attend the raffle, as this year I bought tickets but didn’t make it there for the draw
Play a game from my BGG Top 100 scratch off poster
I hope you can see how much fun I had, and how excited I am to go every year for as long as it’s running. Blogs and reviews usually have to talk about some criticism, but I am afraid I might be too in love with Airecon - I might have rose-tinted glasses. Airecon is getting bigger, there are more play testers and exhibitors, and I think this will continue. I hope it will always be about the gameplay as it’s such a great place to really indulge in this hobby and sit with others who get excited about getting to the table too.
This has been Katenic - thanks for reading.
“it’s such a great place to really indulge in this hobby”
A little bit about Airecon from Rozie from "Cozy Board Games"
I heard Airecon described as a massive board game café. With its ample open gaming spaces, large board games library, variety of delicious food and drink available, not to mention its long opening hours, I think it’s not a bad way to think about it. If this was my local board game café I’d never leave.
This was my first year at Airecon, as a regular attendee of UKGE I didn’t really know what to expect. When I first saw the one hall of exhibitors I thought I’d see it all in half a day, but I actually spent 90 percent of my weekend there! There is such a brilliantly curated array of stands from big companies down to one-game bands, with lots of RPG creators, and accessories and giftware in the mix too. I actually found myself wishing I had more time to wander and talk to these creative souls. By the end of the weekend I wasn’t surprised to have completely lost my voice!
This convention isn’t really about buying games; yes, there are a few shops here and there, and of course my bag ended up a bit heavier on the way home, but the emphasis is more on trying out games, spreading the word and meeting like-minded people. I got the feeling that a lot of the people in the open-gaming with massive bags had brought a lot of the games themselves to play with friends or make new ones through pre-planned gaming sessions. I also made new friends through sharing a game of My Shelfie by Lucky Duck Games, in the demoing area.
It is a very friendly con, with lots of tournaments and events run by passionate people, my partner entered his first ever tournament for Unmatched, a game he hasn’t had the opportunity to play as much as he would like, and he smashed it coming in second place. It can be daunting putting yourself up against others in a game you love, so I was very grateful for the relaxed and friendly environment.
I can understand now why the event spreads out beyond the three days. Come Sunday evening I realised I would love more time ... I didn’t play that game! I didn’t see that stand! I missed that event! On the train home, while playing some of our new games, we were already planning out next year and how to make better use of our time. - Rozie from Cozy Boardgames
Mr Chris & His Little Meeple's first Airecon, from "DOALG"
To quote Clerks
I'm not even supposed to be here...
but my Mrs surprised me with a Saturday ticket for me and my little girl (she is two and it was her first board games convention), so we were soon on our way to the event straight after "my dance class"... nah it's the little one who's the twinkle toes LOL...
We were soon at the venue after a short drive from Lincoln to Harrogate, which was a nice surprise. It was so easy to find since it's the main venue in Harrogate for some of the biggest events in the region. This was the first time attending Airecon and I was really impressed. I was unable to play games, with having a young one is tow, BUT everyone loved saying hello to my little meeple who kept getting plied with sweets galore, which of course she loved! We soon made new friends and caught up with some old friends too! There was so much so see and with lots of space to play games. Airecon COULD easily be enjoyed over the 3 days and I think next year the #DOALG crew may just attend and enjoy the amazing atmosphere. So, if Airecon is NOT on your radar, you need to make sure you add the website to your favourites and note next year's dates in your calendar - 14-17 MARCH 2024. Book your tickets soon as they make them available here - https://www.airecon.co.uk/
Links to other blog posts of games mentioned
Interview with Honey Badger Games https://www.doalg.co.uk/post/20-live-streams-ukge2021-not-just-a-small-feat
Senjutsu: Battle For Japan from Stone Sword Games
Snapshot from Paper Boat Games
Stuff by Bez