ManorCon 10 (1992)
- 22nd July
by Stephen Agar
problem with trying to write a report of something like ManorCon is that it is
all to easy to end up with something which is of passing interest to those who
you remember to mention in passing, of little interest to others who attended
and of absolutely no interest at all to those who were not there.
Therefore, rather than take the easy way out and turn this report into a
chronological account of in the nature of the eternal "What I Did During
The Holidays" essay, I am going to try to describe what a gathering like
ManorCon is really like, in the hope that any who have not sampled such an
occasion before may make the effort in the future (or may resolve not to go
within 50 miles of the place).
is held in one of the halls of residence of Birmingham University, a place
famous for its black hole characteristics on all maps of Birmingham.
However hard you look, you can't find it.
A hall of residence has some obvious attractions as far as organising a
games convention is concerned; cheap accommodation, catering facilities, vending
machines and large games playing areas. Admittedly
the rooms are more akin to cells rather than bedrooms and OK the food is great
if you like lasagne and chips, but these are privations that you can put up with
for a weekend (though how some poor wretches live through three years of it is
first thing that hits you when you walk into the main games room at such a Con
is the fact that everyone seems to know everyone else and you seem to know no
one. It is remarkable easy to feel
an outsider to begin with. Although
everyone is issued with a name badge, it is a little embarrassing to wander
round a room with 300 people in it, squinting at everyone's chests (especially
if they happen to be female). However,
do not be alarmed, the mere act of standing still drinking a cup of coffee will
usually solicit a couple of offers to go and play this game or that.
The fact that you have not even heard of the game that they are proposing
to play is not a problem as the odds are that 75% of people playing any
particular game at any particular time have not played it before either.
I am constantly amazed at the capacity of games players to absorb the
rules of unfamiliar games with unnerving speed.
With the exception of croquet and one very brief game of Diplomacy, all
the games I played over the weekend were new to me, which provides the perfect
excuse when you come last.
was my first games Con for 12 years. Even
the people that I had met before looked different and were not immediately
recognisable (and there was only a handful of them).
That meant that the only people I could claim a passing acquaintance with
were people I am playing in postal Diplomacy games and other editors of zines
whose names I could recognise. However,
as Frank Slight (sub-zine editor in The lAghing rounded) was the only rival I
could locate from my two games of Diplomacy, I inevitably ended up talking to
the likes of Iain "Dapper" Bowen (Y Ddraig Goch) and William
"Dress Sense" Whyte (NERTZ). By
and large editors of zines are entertaining people to talk to, they tend to be
reasonably intelligent and articulate larger than life extroverts.
Although it is better to beware any editors who have recently started
publishing in case they try and coerce you into playing in their zine, an
established editor would probably not stoop that low.
Most editors are easy to spot as they tend to hover round the fringes of
the people playing games, exchanging gossip and being bitchy about each other
rather than spending all their time playing Civilisation or Junta.
Given that an editor will spend the whole year putting together a
Diplomacy zine in isolation from his/her subscribers and traders, it is not
surprising that many editors view Cons as a way to actually meet the people they
have been writing to all year.
you don't fancy a chat with whichever editor comes to hand (Iain? - no pun
intended) you can always go and examine the notice boards for news of any
tournaments that take your fancy. From
what I can remember apart from Diplomacy I saw tournaments for Soccerlegue,
Railway Rivals, United, 1830, Acquire, Diplomacy Variants and Croquet, though I
must have forgotten some. Some
notices would just proclaim that anyone who fancied a game of Wild West Murder
should meet on the terrace at 8 o'clock (many turned up just to find out what it
was and stayed to play because they liked to dress up in Wild West costumes).
Alternatively you could have tried your hand at Somewhat Demiurgic
Diplomacy, a variant in which the players can propose and vote on all manner of
rules changes as the game proceeds. An
unconfirmed rumour suggests that the game at ManorCon even degenerated as far as
the players cutting up the map!
none of the organised games takes your fancy, the likes of Iain Bowen or Pete
Sullivan (C'est Magnifique) were frequently to be heard of the PA system trying
to find extra players for Conquest Europa or Speed Circuit.
All in all, if you want to play a game and meet people it is not
You Really Want To Play Diplomacy?
is dominated by Diplomacy. On the
Saturday there is the team championship (it is fairly easy to end up in a team
however bad you are) and on the Sunday there is the individual championship.
This year Pete Sullivan allowed all the Diplomacy games to be played to
the death, which even resulted in some outright 18 centre wins (Phil Day, Shaun
Derrick, Vic Hall and Toby Harris). [By
the way, did you know that Toby has won the ManorCon Diplomacy Tournament two
years running and that his zine, Smodnoc, turns around in less than 24 hours? -
if not, you weren't at ManorCon as William Whyte kept broadcasting these
little-known facts over the PA system every once in a while.
He may even have been taking the piss.]
I don't go a bundle on FtF Diplomacy, mainly because I am not that good at it,
and it can take up the whole weekend if you are not careful (though you can
always follow in the footsteps of Stewart Cross and be eliminated as Germany in
A03, which gets you out of things before lunch - smart move Stewart).
As it happened, I had to dash back to London on the Saturday afternoon as
I was a delegate for the Special Labour Conference to elect a new leader and
thus missed the Saturday Diplomacy game. I
proceeded to miss the Sunday Diplomacy championship due to failing to get out of
bed in time, which was a direct result of playing William Whyte's Irish
Government game (which has an incomprehensible Irish title) to such a late hour
that I would not have been surprised to hear the milkman.
Of course, alcohol was not in short supply and I suppose that may also
have contributed to my inability to rise on Sunday morning.
did have a quick go at Diplomacy on the Friday evening (my first FtF game for 13
years) and I was floundering after the first move. The skills involved in FtF Diplomacy are really quite
different from those involved in the postal game.
People are more willing to stab, harder to convince, more likely to make
weird moves and harder to trust. The
FtF game is altogether too exhausting.
is amazing that in a single room it can prove so difficult to find the people
that you are looking for. If you
don't know what they look like you will only stand a chance if you are on
nodding terms with someone who does know what they look like, though you can
feel a real idiot by having to ask. I
really did try to find Andy & Madelaine Key (Electric Monk), Steve Howe (A
Step Further Out) and Bill O'Neill (Excidio), with no success.
I suppose it is all down to my short-sightedness.
Robin ap Cynan (Monochrome), Chris Tringham and Pete Birks (Greatest
Hits) were amongst the unexpected finds. I
even did my bit for hobby tact and diplomacy be talking to Danny Collman
(Springboard) and discovering that he isn't quite the ogre he is made out to be.
big thanks is of course due to Andy Bate, Iain Bowen, Steve Jones, Ken Simpson,
Peter Sullivan and last but not least Richard Walkerdine for organising the
event. As I near the bottom of the
page, it occurs to me that I haven't actually said who won the various
tournaments. Although it is far
more important to compete than to win, you may like to know that the team
tournament was won by the Ode team, closely followed by the Birmingham 'A' team
and a Mad Policy team. The
individual championship was won by Phil Day, with Shaun Derrick, Vick Hall and
Toby Harris all collecting prizes. I
can't remember who won the other tournaments (although I should mention that
Stewart Cross won the croquet, if only because he was so spectacularly bad at
Diplomacy). For some reason that in
retrospect I cannot explain, I did not compete in any of the Tournaments, a
mistake which I must try and rectify next time.
good time was undoubtedly had by all. I
will enclose a flyer for MidCon with this issue and would recommend it to anyone
who can afford it. If you go I'll
see you there.
from Spring Offensive 3