October Friday 13th, Saturday 14th & Sunday 15th at the Park Inn Telford, Shropshire.
Steve (SAD) Pennington has organised the ODDCON Games event with help from his friends 11 times and because I cannot make it to Spiel Essen this year I had the opportunity to attend.
Shropshire is a fairly long drive from where we live, roughly four hours including traffic and Motorway hold-ups for no apparent reason, so we set off early on Friday 13th (fingers, toes and eyes crossed) with Fran at the wheel. To be fair, although the Motorways were occasionally a bit of (lot of) a pain it wasn't really a bad drive and the Hotel where the event takes place is so close to the Motorway that it is very easy to locate - just what you would request after a long drive. We arrived around 2pm and the reception staff knew we were there for OddCon but having told us that the room wouldn't be ready until about 3pm failed to tell us that OddCon was already taking place in a large conference room just down the hallway, instead she asked us to sit by the front door and wait for the room to be finished.
As this is the 11th time, as far as I understand, the event being held in this Hotel I would have thought she would have known it had started and instead pointed us in the right direction (fail 1) instead of having us sit for an hour twiddling our thumbs.
Fail 2: The Dinners:
The Hotel and OddCon exclusive Dinner & Breakfast cost is not inexpensive. It isn't majorly over-expensive but it isn't cheap either. To be honest when first told I thought it was reasonable but after having "dinner" the first evening (Friday) I began to have doubts. Unless you ordered from the menu (£12.50 for a burger, £3.50 for about a dozen chips etc) guests had the choice of Chicken something or other (I don't eat chicken) or Vegetable curry (made from the left-over Mediterranean vegetables from the day before) which was served as a heap of white boiled rice with a spoonful of the curry slopped on top. Luckily there were lots of rolls available and ham and cheese on the salad bar so I, and I noticed several others, had Rolls for dinner. Breakfast was totally different. Buffet style, as many Sausages, rashers of Bacon, scrambled or fried eggs, Beans and other breakfast foods, as much as you could eat basically. The Saturday evening meal was no better than Friday's but on the Sunday morning breakfast there was the same as on Saturday morning but now there were McDonald-style Muffins. Numerous folk collected these in napkins and handbags for lunch later in the game during playing games - a most excellent idea!
Fail 3: The Disabled Room:
The ground floor disabled/accessible room was quite a distance from reception which usually is no problem except that to reach it we had to go through three sets of heavy double doors, none of which swung both ways - impossible to maneuver if you are in a wheelchair and your carer isn't alongside you. The room was at the far end of a long corridor - the very last room of a very long corridor - and when the door opened there was a gap just wide enough to get the wheelchair in as long as the carer went in first as they couldn't get past the chair otherwise. There was no room to turn the chair around with me in it and there was no way of getting around the bed. The bathroom was basically a wet room which was the best thing about the Hotel room.
So Strike Three and out ?
Definitely not. This being our first OddCon we now know that there is a shopping centre and a couple of very large supermarkets within 2 minutes of the Hotel. Order in Pizza is less expensive than Dinner off the Menu and more tasty and edible than Dinner on the Room with Breakfast and Dinner. We also know that OddCon starts fairly early on the Friday morning. If you are a role-player or board gamer then OddCon is definitely a super long weekend worth attending.
Having not role-played in an age Fran wasn't up to joining in with the several tables of RPGs going on even though the well attended tables were always happy to accept new players and so we began by sitting alone starting to play a 2-player game between us. Then we notice our old friends, Jan, Jenny, Sean and Steve (aka Step aka Wendy on weekends) were setting up a miniatures game on a large table. This turned out to be Zombicide which Fran immediately turned her nose up at, except that being the great sport and lovely lady she is she sat down and decided to give it a go. We played three great, reasonably long games of Zombicide. In the third game (and this will only mean something to people who know the game) I managed to get my experience token into the Yellow - the first two games I never got past 2 Blue. The thing was, despite not doing very well at all, I still enjoyed the game. Fran managed to build her characters up so they could actually do stuff that was worth doing.
Also over the weekend we played Li'l Cthulhu, Anomia, Saboteur and a fun building game about constructing a house out of cards for a Rhino. Every player thoroughly enjoyed these games and had a great time playing them. However, the hit game of the weekend for many was Los Mamphos, Zoch's game of Donkeys eating coloured Beans and then Pooing them out - players having to try to remember the colours of the Beans that the Donkeys had eaten.
OddCon is an event for people who want to play games with friends, make new friends, meet old friends, play games they have never played before and overall have a good time. SAD and his helper friends have done a super job on the organising all round. There was a raffle (£1.00 per 5 ticket strip) for Charity with 84 (I was told) prizes. I love the way the Raffle was organised, a way I hadn't seen before, and a way I will suggest to others having a raffle in future - I hope SAD doesn't mind me mentioning this. In a normal raffle, someone draws a ticket from some type of holder and the person who bought that ticket claims one of the prizes, almost always the best prize on display, the prize that almost everyone who bought a ticket was hoping to win. In OddCon's raffle, the ticket is drawn, the holder comes to the fore and chooses a sealed envelope. Inside the envelope is a number that corresponds to a number dedicated to the prizes; this way the first winner has the first chance of winning the best prize but doesn't necessarily win it. The extra twist at OddCon is the prize of a Xylon (actually it's a Toaster). Apparently this Toaster was donated one year, then donated, unopened and unused, the next year and then donated back the next year and so on until it is now won and donated back every year, with a huge cheer for whoever wins it.
OddCon is not a huge event, possibly 100 attendees, but it is a friendly and most of all, fun weekend and that's what playing games is all about. You can find out all about it here: http://www.oddconuk.org.uk/
Yes I have listed three Fails above, because I think they (the Hotel) could do better. They may have made some concession to the cost of the rooms because it is a regular event and has around 100 guaranteed people (money at the bar, at the food table and other places etc) but to my mind they could do better, not a lot is needed, just a little thought and a bit more care would suffice.
OddCon is mainly a stay in the same hotel as the event convention, although there is no problem if you decide to find another hotel nearby and just pay entry fee to the event. I am not sure what times it is actually open, but when we got to the hall on the Saturday morning (around 8.30am) there were already games going on, and when we left to go back to our room at sometime late in the evening/early morning games were still continuing.
OddCon is not a hard sale event. There are some "trade" stands but these are only manned if you want to buy something, the owners are usually playing games at the table in front of their wares. Sean & Steph had an L shaped table full of good priced games - there were also some very, very good priced games and of course I only noticed these seconds after someone had just bought them. Fran did secure some Christmas presents from one of the other stands but I can't say what she bought because that would be giving away what the presents are - I can sya they are not tee-shirts but that's as far as I can say. There is also a sweetie/cake table where folk donate home cooked goodies or shop bought chocolate bars etc. These are just popped onto the table where there is a cash box and a note basically saying "Pay what you think is fair" - of course this is another Charity collection but it's a great idea for anyone who fancies a quick sweetie munch but doesn't want to leave the game long enough to pop down to the shops.
If OddCon doesn't clash with anything planned for next year - the reason we hadn't been before was because we were attending Spiel Essen - we will definitely be looking to be there. There is room for more players to attend so please check out the website http://www.oddconuk.org.uk/ and plan your route.
The Park Inn by Radisson Telford is a clean, large hotel and a great place for a games event.
If you drive up from the South of England as we did it is ideal to break your journey by travelling about 90-120 minutes down the road (Motorway) to the Travelodge at Stratford Upon Avon (about £40.00 for a room) where you are literally next door to an Aldi's, directly opposite a massive Tesco, and just a 2 minute drive away from Stratford's centre (parking quite inexpensive and plentiful) where you can enjoy the delights of all things Shakespeare.
If we had known a little more about the area, we should have checked Google first, there are several beautiful places to go to in and around Telford itself.
Ironbridge for example:
So take note of my "Fails", read up about the Telford local area, and most of all attend OddCon 2018