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I shall not even attempt to reconstruct a coherent narrative for the maniacal, exhausting blur that was Games Day Oz 2011.  It wouldn’t work.  Instead, I’ll try to bring back and record some impressions in more or less the chronological order that they happened.

(Yes, I know that Twitter is excellent for doing this sort of thing as it happens.  While I am on Twitter now  – @FullyNocturnal, if you’re minded to seek me out there – I don’t have a smartphone and wasn’t updating for a while.  I even got a reminder email from Twitter pointing that fact out.)

Anyway.

A good smooth run into Sydney after an early departure on Friday afternoon.  Pretty decent roadburgers at Goulburn, and better-than-expected traffic in town.  I’d been bracing for a horror run with pre-long-weekend, pre-Grand-Final-weekend, school-holiday Friday night traffic but the worst that happened to us was finding we couldn’t turn right where the GPS wanted us to and had to take the next turn, whcih it’s hard to get uptight about.

When I signed the paperwork to check us in at the Marque D started joking about a “Do not murder your girlfriend on the premises” clause.  We turned that into a running gag that appeared to slightly disconcert the front desk staff.

An uphill march through the early evening pub’n’party crowd to the Town Hall and then past to the Games Workshop that was hosting Graham’s signing event.  Had to take on faith that he was somewhere on the other side of the big crowd at the far end of the shop, but had a good time meeting Phil Kelly, chatting to Anthony, Jacqui and Mal, as well as catching up with Jo, Craig and both of the Justins.

Graham eventually surfaced.  A march to Chinatown (or limp, as the case may be, Graham having hurt his foot).  We passed a Star Hotel on the way – anyone know if it’s the same one as from the Cold Chisel song?  (Rebuilt, presumably, since the song was about its demolition.)  Sat next to Alan Merrett at the monster Chinese dinner.  Attempts to open negotiations re Demiurg unsuccessful.  So far.

There were drinks afterward for the less jetlagged of us in the pub across the road from the hotel.  The conversation tended more to sport than gaming.  I explained Roller Derby scoring to the visitors, and Alan described the demographics of the Rugby codes and how this influenced which one got played in which Commonwealth country.

And then, the following morning:

I don’t remember the alarm going off but somehow we still managed to be downstairs in time to form up and travel the one station-hop with the rest of the crew.  Venue was the Redfern Technology Park, a former locomotive factory/workshop for the nearby railyards.  Perfect venue for this: lots of concrete and raw brickwork, arches, girders, big damn machinery jutting up out of the floor.  Excellent antique/industrial vibe.

Bacon not so excellent, to the point of actual non-existence.  Some of the others had been there the previous day and spoken of a maker of epic bacon sandwiches somewhere on the premises, but we never did find who it was.  Yogurt for breakfast instead.

Screens and controllers set up for people to play the new Space Marine game.  Lovely opening cinematics, but my gameplay didn’t do justice to them.  I suck at using controllers.  The guys from the Design Studio table were shouting instructions over my shoulder but I didn’t have a clue how to do what they were telling me to do.

Also, the game is set on Graia.  Can’t take a trick, can they?  They’ve already got a moon full of Tyranids and now the orks as well.

"Paste da humiez! Hur hur."

The theme for the day was piracy, it being launch day for Dreadfleet.  Many folks around in tricorn hats (some with Jack Sparrow dreads attached) and one in full pirate garb roaring “YARRR!” into the PA every so often.

Yes, I bought a copy. No, I haven't played it yet.

Big prop chainsword on hand as a prize for later in the day.  We took turns having our photo taken with it.  Each time someone new picked it up, the person who’d just put it down went “cool, now someone else is the last one to handle it so it’s their fault if it breaks”.

More shouting, this time from the doors, and suddenly there were running gamers all around us.  I think they were making for the Forge World stall behind us, FW queues from earlier Australian GDs being rather legendary.

Signing picked up slowly.  For us, at least.  Graham had a dozen-strong queue from nowhere within heartbeats of the doors opening, or that’s how it seemed.


I had a spot on the other side of a girder from Anthony, next to a spot for Henry Zou.  No actual Henry Zou though.

Although the organisers were kind enough to supply a Phil Kelly, plus hat.

Signing for me was almost all Enforcer omnibuses.  They seemed to be a fairly even split between people bringing well-thumbed, crease-spined editions (several people told me they were on their second or third reading) and people bringing shiny copies bought minutes before.  A few people had the older, separate volumes; one or two had Tales of Heresy.  I also got asked to sign a lot of programmes, some White Dwarfs and a lot of the special hardcover Games Day anthologies.  Nobody was worried that I didn’t have a story in said collection, although I felt that it was only fair to point that out to make sure nobody got a signature on mistaken premises.  Note to BL staff: if you do these again it might be worth including several blank pages at the back, since a lot of people were using them as general-purpose autograph books.

Oh, and one person’s Kindle.

Mislaid bag check tokens will result in summary execution.

A pleasingly large number of people said they had writing aspirations, and I provided what advice I could.  I had a few conversations about writing the Arbites, and the sort of thinking I’d had to do about how cultures and values shape laws and politics and what that meant for Imperial law and how it was enforced.  One of the more interesting conversations was with a serving police officer who had some interesting front-line perspectives on that.

The Black Library Q&A drew a small but interested crowd with a range of questions.  The crowd got bigger for the Design Studio Q&A, which I sneaked into an audience seat and sat in for.  Phil and Adam were reluctant to go into detail about specifics but had some fascinating stuff to say about how the design teams interacted and how the rule and game creation processes work.

Back at the signing tables, we had been brought lunch packs with a little baguette, a cupcake and juice.  My lunch was nice, but there was that other cupcake sitting next to me, and the other person’s cupcake always looks more tempting than one’s own, does it not?

A rather excited gentleman who was apparently just off the plane from Japan and kept apologising for his jetlag (which was not evident) and was bouncing around talking about the Calpurnia books.

By this time D, who is a hands-on, take-charge sort, had a staff T-shirt on and was helping out with the sales on the other side of the BL stand.  We managed to break off a little later in the afternoon and sit on the balcony looking out over the venue to sip some tea.

And wave hello to the occasional daemon.

There were auditions going on in the other half of the park for a reboot of the Young Talent Time show.  Out in the foyer there was an amusing mix of GW gamer-types and gussied-up young girls with numbers pinned to their torsos (and I do mean girls, I don’t recall seeing any male auditionees).

Would have been cool to get some of them in a picture with the Games Day cosplayers, actually.  As well as the staff with their pirate accessories I saw a couple of Imperial missionary types, three or four Commissars, a lady in a flowing white Bretonnian-style dress and an Adeptus Astra Telepathica adept.  Slightly to my embarrassment I misidentified the emblem on this last fellow’s staff at the final Q&A and asked him why he had an Aquila on his chain but an Eye of Horus on his staff.  You’d think I’d remember what the insignia looked like.

Still no Henry by early afternoon.  I found myself wondering if he’d show up to defend his cupcake if I made moves toward eating it.

"Hell of a thing, eatin' a man's cupcake. Takes away all the confectionery he's got, and all the confectionery he's ever gonna have."

I think I’m making all this sound rather sedate, but it wasn’t.  There was a real crackle in the air, watching people at the gaming tables, or at the Q&As, or coming up to talk to the authors or designers.

There’s a real carnival atmosphere to Games Day that reminds me of the early CanCons I went to as a teenager.  The echoing acoustics of the venue, which I’d expected to be annoying, actually added to the feeling.  My voice was feeling rather knackered by the afternoon, but a good supply of water helped with that.

I dunno.  Eating another author’s cupcake.  There’s a kind of “point of no return” vibe to an act like that, isn’t there?

Oh, for the record and while I remember it, D now wants a Chaos Reaver for her birthday instead of the loyalist one we saw on display at Warhammer World.  This guy had a name, according to one of the staffers, but I didn’t write it down.

Not so much "Let the galaxy burn" as "MAKE the galaxy burn".

From where I was sitting I had a pretty good view over the shoulders of the people playing Space Marine on the screens.  They were all, needless to say, far better at it than I was.  Which was great, because I got to see some of the game’s later levels, full of jump-pack action and much bigger guns than the bolt pistol that I emptied very early on in my attempt and never worked out how to reload.  See, even Ultramarines always need moar dakka.

(On which subject, someone on RPGNet recently observed that the only conceivable way to achieve “enuff dakka” is to every point in the universe simultaneously shooting at every other point in the universe.  Although of course Gork and Mork, being outside the physical universe, would still demand MOAR.)

Keep this handy reference guide with you.

Alright, Henry.  I did it.  I ate your cupcake.

"No, Mister Zou, I expect you to starve."

I have little to report on the Australian Golden Daemon, I’m afraid.  Most of my attention for the day was directed the other way.  There was much spirited applause and backslapping at the awards, especially for the Slayer Sword winner, but you’ll have to go elsewhere to see the details.  Sorry.

Late in the afternoon I went off to get our own swag collected and paid for.  A copy of Dreadfleet, a boxed set of Horus Heresy audiobooks for D, and a few other bits and pieces.  I only opened the Dreadfleet box yesterday but already have several people hanging out to play it.  It’s going to be weird getting out the plastic cement and paints again.

"So I sez to that Cap'n Sparrow, I sez..."

Packup time came upon us rather suddenly, as the ends of these events seem to do.  One minute I was chatting to a couple of fans and the next minute I realised we were talking over and around the clangs of the videogame arrays being dismantled a few metres away.  D and I pitched in to get the books boxed up but piked on the breakdown and stowing of the tables themselves.  We joined a procession back out of the hall, past the engine that D had rather worryingly dubbed the “Dweeb-catching machine”.

The Dead Dog party was apparently at a place on George Street but we didn’t last for it.  By that stage Games Day fatigue was settling in and even while we were just meeting at the hotel bar we realised we had just about enough energy for the drive.  The excellent roadburger establishment at Eaglehawk was closed by the time we passed it, but by the time we reached home we were too exhausted to be hungry.

And that is the slightly messy memory-mosaic of Games Day Oz 2011, in about as presentable a form as I can make it.  It was a great time at a great venue, with a party atmosphere and some excellent company.

The second big occasion of the long weekend was Conflux, the annual Canberra-based SF convention, but since we were only got back for part of that I shall instead send you to Nicole Murphy’s excellent series of con reports starting here.

Speaking of reporting, D has just put her post on the day up as well.

I’m currently on two weeks away from the day job to hammer toward a deadline early next month, so for the moment my days are very heavily built around writing.  I’ll see if I can manage at least one more post before my time off finishes.

Oh, and, uh…

…see you next year?