This last weekend I made the journey down from Chesterfield to participate in a 7TV campaign day at Board in Brum in Walsall. This is the second such event held at this venue and my first time visiting.
Pitched as a campaign day rather than a tournament (which nicely fits in with the ethos of 7TV), this saw eighteen players come together to play three games each. Participants were encouraged to bring their own boards and this resulted in some suitably epic backdrops for the action that was to unfold.
Board in Brum is a new venue to me. Based in the upstairs of an office block on an industrial site in Walsall, it looks quite unassuming from the outside. However inside is a gem of a venue, including a well stocked shop (including not only Games Workshop and Warlord Games products but other interesting lines such as Gangs of Rome, Batllesystems Terrain and a range of board games and accessories), as well as a large gaming area. The gaming area consisted of nine 6′ by 4′ tables and looking at their events calendar looks well utilised, and as indicated by the footfall on the day a great local hub for hobbyists and gamers.
Upon arrival I met some of the participants, many of whom I knew from the 7TV Productions Facebook group. As always it is great to put names to faces. I had at the last minute decided to bring a board myself. This was quite quickly knocked together and consisted of some high rise MDF office blocks (an eBay purchase last year), a recently acquired 4′ by 4′ city map from Antenocitis Workshop (originally designed for Infinity) and (of course) a flying saucer.
As more folk started arriving I got a view of some fantastic tables and layouts. These included a Nazi Moonbase, an abandoned MOD site, a desert compound, a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a concealed secret base and downtown New York (complete with mutant turtles).
The amazing effort and eclectic nature of the boards was matched by the casts that were brought along on the day. Again another thing I love about 7TV is the ability to field pretty much whatever you like without worrying about balance or theme – after all we are making a television programme.
Talking of the TV background, Mike Strong who was running the event on the day had written a detailed and amusing back story for the day’s ‘filming’. Against a back drop of industrial action and union unrest at Barron Studios we were to shoot 3 episodes (games) with some specific scenario stipulations to match the problems the ‘studio’ was experiencing. So for example due to budgetary restrictions (in actuality the fact that Mr.Barron had never bothered upgrading the studio electricity meter to metric in the early 70s and was now down to his last few half crowns), episode 1 saw the ability for us players to choose to turn off the studio lights in certain situations. The in game effect being to reduce ranges and visibility at random. This added a real fun flavour to proceedings!
In addition to these scenario specific rules we were also tasked as players to get as much product placement into our shows as possible to aid the ailing fortunes of the production studio. Each player was given a product and catch phrase to try and shoehorn into the narrative in as appropriate a way as possible (with the benefit of gaining extra plot points to spend as a result). Now I must admit I kept forgetting about this throughout the day (I like to think that I was very much in the mindset of a BBC rather than ITV director), but I was myself the victim of some excellently placed advertising, including a well timed ‘I bet he drinks Carling Black Label’ as a sniper (with a Jezzail) took out once of my armed astronauts!
So to the actual games. I had chosen to rock up with my Action Force Space Force cast, including my re-purposed SHADO Mobile (acting in game terms as a humble Land Rover).
Game 1 saw the Space Force team go up against Alistair’s SHIVA cast on my city board. I made the mistake of not piling everyone into the transport first off and very quickly my chaps were picked off by the aforementioned sniper and some nifty sword work by the daughters of SHIVA. The highlight of this game for me was the ‘set dressing’ event card which saw a continuity error/set problem move one of the office blocks mid-episode. Well those are the breaks I guess when you’ve not paid your stage hands properly for months and you’ve got the union on your backs!
Special mention here also to my product placement which I failed to pull off. I was just waiting for that moment to express the slightly amended catchphrase ‘M&Ms, melts in your FACE not in your hand’ as I blasted a member of the opposing cast away with lasers. That moment never came to be.
Game 2 followed a chippy lunch and saw a switch to the excellent secret base (which was nominated for and won best setup on the day). I setup in the base and faced off against a cast comprising a tough detective, a ghost, a tomorrow person and some Victorian police officers. For this episode budget cuts meant that certain abilities for stars and co-stars were reduced in effectiveness, although due to the choices myself and my opponent Steve made this didn’t have too much effect.
This time I decided to load up the transport and try and nip around collecting objectives as fast as I could. This worked to a certain degree, but upon disembarking and dealing with the ghost and blocking off the progress of my opponents stars and co-stars I only really had the police to deal with. The moral of this story is never underestimate police brutality. Overly confident my spacesuit clad specialists could easily ‘zap’ their way to victory, I underestimated the power of the good old British police truncheon. And it hurt. It hurt a lot. So another great game played in excellent spirit, and no real chance to get off my advertising slogan (‘all because the lady loves milk tray’)!
The final game of the day saw a move to a sci-fi cityscape board and opposition in the shape of Shaun Pike’s ‘The Laundry’ cast (based on the The Nightmare Stacks, a novel by Charles Stross). Now this was a fun episode! Staff shortages in the studio kitchens and an under cooked chicken curry had led to a number of cases of ‘the trots’ and cast members having to very quickly exit to the nearest facilities. In game this was represented by a ‘line of doom’ gradually moving across the board, with both casts having to keep ahead of this, deal with each other and collect objectives and exit off the board at the other side. Any cast member caught by the line would have to be removed from ‘the set’ as the dodgy chicken curry caught hold.
Ha! Thinks I (being all cock of the walk). I have a transport that I can load up and drive fast across the board. No problems. I even sort of apologise to my opponent up from. Oh dear, as someone once said a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ‘your overconfidence is your weakness’. I had not factored on the luck of the draw when it comes to the countdown cards in 7TV. For those who don’t know in 7TV at the beginning of each turn you draw a countdown card. This is an event that may of may not be of advantage to either yourself, your opponent or some combination of the two. These might include things like wobbly sets (scenery disappearing or moving), continuity errors (cast miniatures from each side suddenly swapping places on the board) or special effects malfunctions (often resulting in unexpected explosions in the vicinity of your cast).
Now unfortunately I was the victim of a couple of these, which resulted in my transport driver swapping places with an enemy minion, who promptly drove me in the wrong direction to the line of doom (at least once). Couple this with an enemy cast member driving a tracked motorbike around and dropping explosive devices to block my exit and let’s just say that the Space Force crew yet again didn’t cover themselves in glory.
Again another splendid game and like all the games played no real notice was taken of winners and losers. I think combined with the freedom of choice when it comes to settings, figures and genres, the creativity that this enables with board design, the quirky meta-game of creating a TV programme/film, the easy to understand and flexible rules and most importantly a community of players that embraces narrative and a good time over competitive play really reinforces my love for all things 7TV.
So a massive thanks to Mike for organising the day, to Simon and Jez at Board in Brum for a great venue and everyone who attended. A special shout out to Wayne Bollands who brought along a lucky dip bag of out of production miniatures that everyone got to delve into.
Finally of course thanks to Karl at Crooked Dice for 7TV itself.
If you’re interested in finding out more about 7TV, check out the Crooked Dice Games Design website or the ultra friendly 7TV Productions community on Facebook. The next events which are both in my diary are:
- Wargames Illustrated 7TV Pulp day at Wargames Foundry (Newark) on 6th July, and;
- 7TV Day III at Board in Brum (which should by this time have expanded into the rest of their building) is happening on Saturday 21st September 2018 (I’m already starting to think about a board for this, let’s just say it involves a lot of biscuit tins and coffee jars!)