Auckland Games Fair 2023

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Sean Goodison

Friday 28th April.

It had taken us all of 10 minutes to set up the Sorcery: Contested Realm booth. Four posters, two tables, four chairs, a stack of flyers, and a huge banner with velcro backing were no match for the Auckland office crew of four, plus Reuben and Nick (who you might know as @RumpleNZ on Discord) who had flown up that morning. Besides, we weren’t exactly going to leave any actual product or the original painting of Alan Pollack’s Hillock Basilisk sitting out in the open. No, that would arrive under lock and key in the morning. We stood back from our designated corner of the expo hall, looked around at all the other booths, struggling with their electronics, and decided it was finally time to open some packs. For real this time. Not for testing, or for quality control, but for keeps.

We dropped a few things back at the office and reconvened with Erik at a local boardgamers bar named Dice and Fork. He had invited some industry folk and old colleagues along for dinner, drinks, and a game. We’d heard murmurings of playing Sorcery’s first draft event, but the night was much more casual than that. Three playmats were positioned between plates of food and we got the weekend’s first taste of teaching people how to play. At some point in the evening, while some of us were focused on how to angle an Ice Lance into victory, Erik mysteriously vanished, leaving behind 3 booster packs for each of us. Nick watched closely with one eyebrow raised as I examined my cards, hoping for a hint as to the nature of curios.

Saturday 29th April.

The morning started slowly, with the early attendees wandering around the hall as all the vendors watched them pass like hawks. We flagged down and talked to a few people, but it turned out most of them were heading to their own stalls to make final adjustments before the floodgates were opened. Eventually, Reuben and Nick sat down to play a game. We figured the best way to pique the interest of any passing attendees would be by having a game in progress (and fewer people hovering expectantly behind the booth). Within 10 minutes we were vindicated. As the expo hall began to fill, we got our first keen players into a demo game - Fire versus Earth - and from then on it DID. NOT. STOP.

Over the course of that day we ran a dozen full-length, 40-60 minute games. Starting with the basics, sites and mana, avatars, and activating minions. I especially enjoyed the first instance of burrowing to show up as new players slid minion cards under their sites. After the first 4-5 turns most people were up and running, pausing only to check in on new keywords, and I would nod along as they flashed a new card at me and asked, “Can it really do that?!”

At the end of an already long day playing Sorcery we gathered back at the office. It seemed that Reuben’s machinations had paid off and his requests to play a mini-draft tournament would come to fruition. The team shared some food and drink before Erik brought out the display Booster Box we’d been eyeing all day.

“Do we get to keep what we draft?” someone asked.

We all looked to Erik… “Hmm, yes I suppose.”

Cue a 30-minute stretch where everyone was transformed back into 13-year-old kids as we marveled over foils and uniques, and the fabled foil uniques.

We managed to get in a few games with our draft decks that evening and it was such a refreshing change from the full-card-pool constructed play we’ve all gotten used to. Cards came to the fore that never would’ve seen the light of day around more tuned decks and because of that, there were surprise twists and turns in every game. Personally, it left me with a great desire to run draft events for friends and family once I can get my hands on some boxes, and maybe build a draft cube… But that’s an article for another time.

Sunday 30th April.

On Sunday morning, we used the same tactic, but this time Reuben and Nick decided to spice their sample game up by introducing a chess clock. 10 minutes each for the first one, and 5 each for the second. In Reuben’s words as he stared off into the middle distance, “Many mistakes were made.”

Again, a variety of players graced our demo tables. We had TCG veterans from various other systems who were keen to see how Sorcery measured up, store owners who had heard rumblings on the internet and decided to come straight to the source, and players new to TCGs and card games in general, who nevertheless had a great time contesting the realm. But vastly outnumbering them all were the passers-by who did a double take at a table strewn with beautiful art and simply had to lean in for a closer look.

At the end of the weekend, we took down the posters and reverently rolled up the banner as the exhaustion caught up to us. But we all emerged full of a reassuring excitement that there are a lot more potential sorcerers out there than we could have anticipated.

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