ManorCon 2003

by John Harrington

Well, ManorCon has been and gone and as usual it was jolly good. The building work on the canteen did not seem to disrupt things too much after some teething problems on the first day and even resulted in some free juice being given away at the end of each afternoon.

Though there was no draught ale the beer situation was much improved by a reasomable selection of  bottled ales, so well done to the committee for sorting that out.

I gather there was some sort of Diplomacy tournament going on. I am afraid I did not pay attention to who won it but I am willing to wager it was some bloke with a beer belly. The 18xx tournament was probably won by some bloke with a beard and the croquet by some fella with a silver spoon in his mouth.

The Puerto Rico tournament was won by some bloke with matchsticks holding his eyelids open after he managed to fit in 77 continues games over the long week-end …. this game remains very popular and should join the ranks of Dip, 18xx and Whose Round Is It Anyway? as convention staples.

I’d be hard pressed to nominate the next most popular German game after Puerto Rico; I did see Evo, Amun Re and Torres get one or two outings but there was nothing to approach the ubiquity of Puerto Rico.

It may be my imagination but there was a bit of a comeback for old- style conquer the world games. Pete Card and Gordon Sweeney seemed to spend all day playing Paths of Glory whilst elsewhere I saw Britannia, History of the World and Civilization being played. I myself played two games of Serenissima and two games of Ogre.

Midnight Party (played at midnight, of course) seems to have taken over from Pit as the game of choice for grown adults pretending to be anti-social children.

Talking of anti-social children, I took along number one son (aged 12) and for once didn’t dump him on Geoff Brown for the week-end (I think Geoff is getting wise to this move now). Ordinarily number one son conks out at about 10:00pm on account of his early morning paper round but on Friday night at 10:45pm as the poker was about to start he was still wide awake, keen to play a game and with no one to play with. What to do? I wanted to play poker so even though it cost £20 to enter, even though he had only ever played the game once before for match-sticks at school, even though we had to write down the ranking of the hands for him, I paid £20 for Jack to play too. What the hell, it’s all part of his education and with some hard bitten poker players round the table such as Pete Birks (plays poker virtually {geddit?} every day), Alan Sharples (paid for his first house out of his poker winnings), Richard Beattie (hard to read player) and Mick Haytack (who I think got a medal in the MSO poker tournament) I didn’t think he’d last long, at which point he’d sling his hook and go to bed.

It almost goes without saying that number one son won the tournament, scooping 100 pounds as the first prize. I just wish they had had a trophy for it as I would have loved to have seen the looks on people’s faces when he went up to collect the award. In truth he did have two monstrously lucky hands, both times when he was on the verge of going out. The first time he drew to an inside straight and on the second he won with a pair of twos after the flop failed to produce anything of use for the other two players still in the hand. Oh, and he had a nice habit of being dealt an ace as one of his two hole cards at least 50% of the time, although this does often cause as many problems as it solves.

I look forward to Pete Birks’s analysis of where it all went right. At least number one son had the class to give back his £20 entry fee to me but the little sh*t did not give me any share of his winnings!

Oh, and he also won his first game of Puerto Rico against 3 reasonably experienced players. I kicked his harris in Star Wars: Queen’s Gambit, though.

What else was there?

Surprisingly ManorCon was not as sweaty as it usually is.

Imran’s has apparently rediscovered the ability to serve people promptly.

The Pop Quiz was … er …. different. I only popped in to sample a bit of it and it seemed to me that the excerpts from the songs went on for about 90 seconds instead of the more usual 20 or 30 seconds; not so much a Pop Quiz, more of a “here’s my music collection, you’re going to listen to it”. I must admit I would be sorely tempted to go down the same route were I running the quiz (start boning up on the Small Faces and the Icicle Works, pop quiz fans!) but as a participant it only adds insult to injury if the quiz setter has musical tastes diametrically opposed to yours – not only do you not know the answer but you have to sit through 2 hours of music you don’t like.

Still, this criticism is a bit rich coming from someone who set the worst MidCon quiz in living memory last year – I promise to do better this year and not set a quiz deliberately designed to prevent John Webley winning (after all, the swine did not even turn up last year!).

People also said the Treasure Hunt was a bit obscure this year. What, harder to follow than Ted Rogers’s 3-2-1? Yes! but funnier!

One final sign of the time: I only saw two zines on the “freebie sample” table near the door (Sprouts of Wrath, Ode). The zine as a source of fresh blood has served us well for a long time but it’s day has passed; if we want the hobby to survive we need to start breeding gamers ourselves – I’ve done my bit, how about you?