ManorCon 1997

by Mark Stretch

As always, ManorCon is the biggest British games event in the calendar, with 250-300 players, an inordinate number of games and great fun had by all. I was there for the eighth year running, though these days I tend not to play much in the way of games, instead preferring to chat to everybody I haven’t seen since the last one. Hence I turned up about an hour and a half before the doors opened to chat to the organisers. At least that’s my excuse. I can tell the time, honest.

Things were fairly quiet to start (Annie hadn’t arrived), but Kevin McGowan soon arrived to liven things up. Having obtained my services for the next ManorCon he had run out of imagination in his old age about what to do with me. Hence he organised the “Mark Stretch Event”, where people paid for the privilege of suggesting things for me to do at next year’s RamsdenCon. The winners were to be drawn out of a hat, with proceeds from the event of about £20 going to charity.

One slightly worrying aspect was Annie (when she arrived) going round with a whole bundle of entry forms in her handbag all weekend to make me paranoid. This despite me continually buying her drinks to keep her sweet. Obviously it didn’t work – I’ll have to try a different tack in future.

The best suggestions came from Neil Kendrick who put in £1 for me to sit down with my feat up and have a cup of tea. Unfoituriately the draw was fixed so that that suggestion was not picked. I forget the six tasks I have (I’m sure Kevin will remind me), but I do remember having the task of “ordering Annie about for 10 minutes”. Sounds like it coould be a lot of fun.

Mark Jones has volunteered to perform any task not picked for a suitable donation to charity. I look forward to giving him Colin Smith’s suggestion of “giving Spurgeon an aromatherapy massage”.

Speaking of Mark Jones, together with Mark Wightman we formed PUMA, the Picked Upon Marks Association, to defend ourselves. PUMA scored an instant success, with Mark leaving that picture of me at home. In addition, a very stem memo will shortly be heading in Mr McGowan’s direction after his behaviour during ManorCon. You have been warned, Kevin.

Despite appearances to the contrary, that was not the main event of the weekend. Nor was the Siedler of which there were 97 players (I know – I had the ‘pleasure’ of scoring it!) Instead that privilege fell to the dip. Those of our team that played on Friday did well, and we were confident of doing well in the team event on Saturday. Due to the alleged ability of the rest of the team, I was the non playing captain, able to intervene on their behalf if need be. In fact, I did indeed negotiate on behalf of Susie, Steve, Nick and Dave at various stages, not it did them much good. The team got totally and utterly stuffed. I can only assume that Toby or Vick bribed them, as nothing else can explain the results. Any of their individual results on Friday/Sunday was better than the team’s combined performance on Saturday.

Austria: Chetan Radia. Supposedly the best new kid on the block, and despite going to fen poly, an excellent Austrian. I should have know better than to put a Tab in the team, as he got eliminated without ever troubling the scorers much.

England: Gihan Bandaranaike. These days, Gihan is a professional dip player, and as he couldn’t come up against his nemesis Chetan, he seemed a sure fire bet. Not so, as Adam Harris (the real editor of FF) suckered him, and he too was eliminated.

France: Dave Horton. Winner of SpeccyCon earlier in the year, and the only player to survive on more than one centre in the entire team. He also deserved a bonus of about 100, for eliminating Tobes, but that seems to be such a common event these days that it was not to be. Eventually he ended on six centres (just).

Germany: Nick Holford. Living in Paris, Nick was meant to by our counter to Cyrille and Pascal. Unfortunately he was stitched up by the meek and mild Eve Smiff opening to Silesia and he quickly crumbled. Motto: Never trurt a Smiff

Italy: Stephen Othen. An outright win at MidCon a couple of years ago, and entirely capable of doing it again. Not this year though, as he struggled to survive on a single centre. As I said, I should never have let any Tabs into the side…

Russia: Tony Dickinson. Our best player for a while actually reaching the dizzy heights of seven centres before suffering a late collapse and just staying in on one. It must have been the late night previously that got to him.

Turkey: Susie Horton. She won at Masterton by virtue of her Turkish performance (and eye lashes), and on a board with six blokes, and a weak Austrian (TurboNick), seemed a cert, but fell apart, again scraping survival on 1sc thanks mainly to fantasy manager Simon Homby.

Speaking of Simon, he had a blinder of a con picking up a lovely dip award. The schizophrenic Mark II Wightman won overall, despite namesake I not being present. Some team of also runs picked up the dip title.

As well as the dip, there are a wealth of other toumaments, with various OMR successes. Chris Dickson picked up the United title (no effect), as I was stitched up by Duncan Adams in my group, to go out early on. Speaking of which Duncan won the Siedler, and Mark Sheiham won the Acquire – his closest result being the one he managed against me late on Sunday. Next year, I’d better play a few more games to give him a run for his money. I will also have to make sure that I play in the dip, as clearly the team are hopeless without me. They certainly can’t do much worse.

ManorCon also sees Dipsoc Baltis galore – this time two, in fact. Each year we seem to pick up more and hangers on, resulting in requesting a table for twenty one on Saturday, and the more select group on Sunday still numbered into double figures. Various hobby illuminaries seem to have become converted into joining us these days – Mssrs Agar, Hardy and Dickinson for a start. Louise Auty even avoided Simon this year. Instead, Tom had Steve M to contend with. A great time was had by everyone at the curries, which are an institution these days. Fancy a couple more at MidCon, folks?

The pop quiz this year was handed over to Paul Oakes, which made things, well, interesting, shall we say. I defected from the Oxford mob (far too young), and joined the Annie & Kevin team (much more experienced). Thank you, Paul for putting in a Beautiful South question, but why such an obscure Housemartins question? At least I knew that it was the Housemartins, I suppose.

Pete Birks was at ManorCon, despite rumours to the contrary, beforehand, and was his usual self I am told he turned up on the Friday, staggered in, and asked reception to lend him £20 for the taxi, as they didn’t take plastic… He also managed to offend at least one person on the Saturday, though wasn’t as bad as the last BandyCon, thankfully.

Loupin’ Louje as always got a lot of plays, due to being a wonderfully silly game. Ian Willey was a star and has semi-permanently leant me a copy to take along to cons, as I get to more than he. As far as games on the con, there were two finds as far as I was concerned. First off was Premiere, all to do with staging Broadway shows with good (or in my case awful) actors. Another thank you, Ian for introducing me to that one.

The other find was a home grown motor racing game designed by Denis Arnold. With luck, he will find somebody to publish it soon. John Harrmgton and Fiendish games really should look here for the next release, as it was excellent. That was despite the fact that I was driving a Ferrari which handles like a pig. It does however, have one hell of an engine, which I used to full extent on the back straight, doing l9Omph, overtaking the field, only to reach a 7Omph corener and spin off, taking Kevin with me. Your fault for getting too close, Kevin.

For some reason there was no bridge this year (no organiser?), but hopefully it will be back next year, as we fancy our chances. TurboNick was instead able to play in the croquet, only to fall apart and throw it, allowing that man McGowan to take the title – jammy sod.

It was great to see so many of you there. I hope you’re all going to be around next year. Better still, come along to one before then. RogLeeCon, BandyCon and MidCon are all before the end of the year. See you there?