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GenCon UK

Ben W Bell

SOC-14 1K
Peer of the Realm
So for those of you who went, how was it? I've been hearing reports that it was a miserable time filled with cold tents, too much noise, bad organisation and dreadful food.
Well as I could only get thursday afternoon off I went for a half day. After getting stuck behind a 20mph lorry on the minehead road for an hour I was not best pleased when I arrived.
Then being told I had to pay to enter butlins in order to get to Gencon to pay to get in there and that was £12 thank you guv and be out by 18:00 as my butlins day pass expired then (this being 15:00). Then I was told day passes are not allowed to park at butlins and could I move my car down to the beach car park.
So finaly on site in the downpour I was given directions which I duly followed, then I backtracked and eventualy found a circus tent with some people with gencon badges leaving.
After finding a door that wasn't stuck I final got into the tent (nice wet rope handles on the doors too).
Once inside after recovering from the floor cracking beneath my feet (I'm not THAT heavy) and feeling nautical on the slopes the floor boards were in and dodging the drips from the ceiling I tried to find reception.
Finaly with less than 2 hours left on my day pass I wandered round the dark and cavelike area also known as the traders zone. You had to be carefull looking at stalls as if you stood in the light from the lamps mounted high overhead you couldn't see to read.
After spending some money (Gurps nobles and some D20 stuff) and spending my remaining time talking with the traders and a few people I knew and having missed MJD I gave up and left just before my day pass expired at 18:00.
In conclusion I have to agree with a coment made by one of the traders, "this is the cheapest gencon I have ever traded at". Despite paying twice to get in I am fully in agreement, the event struck me as very cheap.
Getting there was a royal pain in the behind. I got stuck behind a lorry for the whole trip from the M5 to Minehead. As I was there for four days the memory of the trip down soon faded.

Some people claimed the tent was cold but I spent the four days in a t-shirt. Not the same one I hasten to add. It was not warm but not what I'd call cold. The lights did fail at one point but stuff happens.

I was running participation games all four days and was only once forced to stop talking due the PA system. This was in the trade hall area.

Some of the organisation seemed to be very poor. The issuing of passes seemed a particular problem. I heard there were some accommodation problems but all were sort quickly. Signage to the big top was none existent. Luckily I was talked in by mobile phone. The program was useless for supplying some information but very good at other information.

Food was Pizza Hut, Burger King, Harry Ramsden chippie, a Butlin's own-brand café-type thing and a reasonably priced, but not cheap, shop on site. If people thought the food was bad what do they expect? I was self catering so I don't know what was served to the half-board crowd but no one I spoke to complained.

I did come away with the distinct impression that some gamers will gripe about everything and anything. I was also embarrassed to be attending GenCon as I booked in. Talking to people, Butlin's staff, doing their job in the way I overheard is a flaming disgrace. If I had bumped into the individual latter I'd have voiced my opinion to him.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and thought it was much better than either of the two Olympia GenCons I attended. I'd happily go again if the situation was similar. This was as far as I'm aware Horsemen's first large event and these things are a learning curve. Publicly I like to say thanks to them for all their efforts.

I also got to meet MJD, I'm just not sure if this a positive or a negative? :)
I was there for the whole time too, and aside form the middle-of-nowhere location, I really enjoyed it.

I finally got to play Power Projection: Fleet wath Neil (and before you say it Neil, there was no abandonment involved...) which is a great game. I picked up a copy of Universe (the Traveller software) which is a very nice bit of kit. I screwed up the install and crippled the software but Pete Trevor was kind enough to fix it for me. :)

I got to play other games too. A lot of Savage Worlds and Deadlands, and Babylon 5 A Call to Arms.

The food was okay there, the accommodation nice, the tent mostly warm and the weather crap.

A good weekend.

As for meeting MJD being good or bad, I refuse to comment - though I have now got a signed Diaspora Phoenix (That's mint, that is!) and he did supply me with my new sig quote.

This was my eleventh consecutive Gencon UK attendance and, overall, it was pretty good.

The road into Minehead was longer than I'd expected, but by travelling at night (I arrived on Thursday at about 11pm) I had no traffic problems. (The fact that the last half hour was driven with the low fuel indicator on did add to the excitement.)

Upon arrival there was some minor confusion as I'd been booked in as "TBA" rather than under my own name, but this was quickly sorted out. Hats off to the Butlins staff working the gate that night: they weren't just doing a job, they weren’t slavishly following procedure, they were genuinely welcoming and helpful in getting you settled in.

The accommodation was somewhat shabby but, remembering Camber Sands, was pretty much what I'd expected. My only complaints were that I didn't get there soon enough to get a double bed (I'm a big person) but had to settle for a narrow single, and that there was no shower in the bathroom.

Met some of the other BITS guys in the Jumpin' Jack nightclub (very loud sound system, felt like I was standing on a speaker!) where we watched some nice talent on the dance floor until 2am.

Food was (again) more or less as expected.

Almost all the activities were held under one giant circus tent. So, once you'd walked over from your accommodation, everything was conveniently under one roof. Although the main lights did fail once (for a couple of minutes) the tent was generally well lit except for around some of the far edges. And in spite of the near constant cold rain outside it was dry and warm(ish) inside. (Not hot, but at the lower end of t-shirt temps.)

The charity auction this year was hosted by Norman Lovett (Holly in Red Dwarf) who was great:

When auctioning a pair of magic cards he was asked what cards they were. He glanced at them and said "I dunno. They’ve got pictures and words and stuff. What more do you want, they're just playing cards." And the medieval wicker backpack was described as being "just like you can get in Ikea".

Overall, the return to an accommodation-style event was much welcome (though I can see how the location was a problem for day visitors). Those things that were poor were expected to be poor. While perhaps not the best Gencon UK experience I've ever had, it was the best in the past four or five years, and I fully intend to return next year!

Regards PLST
Okay, I've uploaded a few pics from my mobile phone camera of this years Gencon UK. These were taken before the weekend (before most people turned up). Okay, so it does look cold and miserable but that's due in part to not bothering to get my camera out when I was having fun: what you see is the inbetween times.