This weekend the first (and hopefully not last) Ardacon was held at the Mercure Hotel in Manchester. Now even though we don't really play much SBG (if at all) this was only a relatively short bus journey away from us and with the availability of spectator tickets along with the Middle Earth team from GW giving a presentation, Steamforged Games demoing Dark souls and the chance to actually meet some members of the community face to face for the first time it was a no brainer for us (plus we sneaked an afternoon in Manchester and grabbed a nice lunch while we were at it).
Upon our arrival on Saturday we picked up our passes (the event seemed to be very well organised) and entered the main hall. It was relatively quiet at this time but it gave us a chance to look at some of the great tables which had been set up ready for battle (be warned there are quite a few photos here).
The empty hall and below some of the many excellent themed tables which were set up
One of the first stops was to the GBHL SBG stand to say hi to Damian and Tom and pick up my copy of the latest SBG magazine and then spend several minutes drooling... I mean looking over the incredible Dol Guldur board. This is something to behold up close and the photos don't really do it justice as there is just so much detail packed in there.
Next we headed to the Steamforged Games stand to try and grab a demo of Dark Souls. We backed heavily into the Kickstarter based on the game play and miniatures we had seen and the fact we both love Dark Souls franchise so were eager to actually get a game in. We managed to catch the tail end of a game which was in progress where the players were defeated by the Dancer, the game certainly lived up to the Dark Souls slogan of 'Prepare to die', we were next up so after a quick run through of the mechanics we were off. We played a cautious game and it paid off as we defeated the Dancer with very little damaged caused to either of us, timing of special abilities and items is key along with learning the boss' move pattern. The game seems to do everything we wanted of it and it certainly has encapsulated the Dark Souls feel into a board game with compromising either thing.
Shadow and Flame also had a small stand at the show so Amy picked up their latest Tree Giant to add to her collection and I (after seeing one up close) had to pick up one of the Mountain Giants who will lend is brute force to my Misty Mountain force once I've built it.
It was about this time that the Mouth of Sauron Challenge took place where ten brave (or possibly insane) volunteers ate the world's hottest chilli with the last person to take a drink of milk winning a WETA replica Mouth of Sauron helm.
This was then followed by the presentation from the GW Middle Earth team, which covered where the hobby is headed in the next few months with the release of the new miniatures and then a brand new Hobbit SBG rule book around the end of November. With the new book being released and with miniatures on hand and painted up we may actually try to get a game of SBG in now.
After the presentation we had a wander round and took in some of the sights before heading out for some food. The cos-players in attendance looked great and certainly added to the atmosphere, the Uruk-Hai below was great, and GW Manchester had their Isengard army on display (no photo of that I afraid) along with the impressive Orthanc which I wish I could have taken home with me.
After a bite to eat and a wander around we returned to Ardacon to take in the atmosphere one last time and say our goodbyes.
The hall a little fuller after a session of gaming
The days swag
Even as just spectators there was plenty on offer and to take in and I hope we see the event take place again next year with potentially even more people as GW ramp back up on all things SBG.