Beer & Pretzels is the brainchild of Phil Bootherstone, owner of Spirit Games who have shops in Croydon and Burton. Phil is one of the old firm of game shop owners; he knows a lot about games and profit margins appear to be of secondary importance to furthering the hobby. Having arranged to take over the Heritage Brewery in Burton for the whole weekend, Phil went about advertising the event in a big way. I think just about every magazine I receive had a mention of the event and I also received a flyer in the post. The reward for this effort was over two hundred gamers appearing over the weekend. Although B&P was not a residential convention in the sense of playing all night at a hotel, it worked well enough with two distinct days. A fair proportion of the attendees made a weekend of it using the local hotels for the Friday and Saturday nights. Burton is not a large town and although the restaurants and facilities were good, they needed some tracking down. Burton's main benefit is that it is pretty central, offering a reasonable journey from London, and is within an hour of some spectacular countryside.
Spirit Games were the sole general dealer present (good move this) and did a roaring trade all weekend. On the Sunday, we got to the stage where new games were coming out of bags, being played, and the other players were going over to Spirit to buy them. Ah, such enthusiasm. In addition, Lambourne Games had their entire sports range on display including a new boxing card game, plus playtest copies of a WWI solitaire air game and a game on hillclimbing, believe it or not. Also present was David Watts running his railway games, The Ragnars showing off their new ACW miniatures rules and the Valhalla boys with Usuthu and some secondhand boardgames from the Manchester club. Even Jack Jaffe showed up with Save the President.
Perhaps because of its non-specific title or the broad advertising, the con attracted almost every type of gamer but, surprisingly, very few roleplayers or Workshop kiddies. In fact, one disgruntled spotty was walking around on the Saturday bemoaning the fact he couldn't 'get a game of Warhammer anywhere', so he packed up his Nurgles and left, presumably for the sheltered gaming environment of the nearest GW shop. Elsewhere, there were figure games, boardgames, sports games, Battletech, AD&D, German games, Railway Rivals, 1830, family games and even a computer game or two. I think everyone had a good time and the diversity was encouraging to a jaded old Hector like me.
In spirit, the weekend was as close to the early Workshop Gamesdays as I can recall. The dealers and one-man bands present were charged only a nominal stand price which is excellent for both them and the public and they seemed happy with the business done. There was also a good turn out for an inaugural event. Most of the gamers were enthusiastic, were willing to try anything on display and the dealers were low key and helpful specialists. It would probably be true to say that there were only a few general public about (the venue was a little off the beaten track so unlikely to attract passing trade) but with a solid base for next year, this aspect could easily be improved upon. Phil himself was more than pleased with the response and he will definitely run it again next year with more dealers (again at no charge), better catering facilities and, hopefully, even more gamers.
Sumo - Mike Siggins