Saturday, 5 December 2015

Finding Common Ground in storm Desmond.



Today I drove north to Stirling, braving storm Desmond - or as these things used to be called, Winter. To a gaming venue I've long wanted to visit. Common Ground GamesRiding shotgun was my gaming buddy, Jamie, as we navigated a cross-country route trying to avoid anticipated congestion on the main central Scottish motorways. The famous Forth Road Bridge is closed until the New year for emergency repairs. But a winter storm and mayhem on the roads wasn't going to stop the gaming!
As is turned out, I was really regretting not having a special Wet Nellie button in my car that turned it into a submarine, like 007's in The Spy Who Loved Me. Mind you, I don't have a Lotus Esprit either! In fact, with the wind, rain and numerous floods I felt more like Troy Tempest in Stingray. Without the looks.

However, we arrived in good time and found free, on street parking close to the venue. And with Jamie's complete set of the board game, Firefly - transported in the excellent Artbin Flambeau boxes (I have one, highly recommended for gaming paraphernalia) - we were soon in the comforting confines of Common Ground Games.

So what's this place all about? Well, it's probably what most tabletop gamers envisage a well run hobby centre business should be. This is what the blurb says:
Common Ground Games is a gaming and hobby centre based in Stirling, Central Scotland. The centre includes a wargaming and card game area with 20 full size wargaming tables, as well as 15 card and board gaming tables, a fully stocked shop and a cafe! You can find us less than a 10 minute walk from Stirling town centre. Free on street parking around the venue makes it even easier to visit.
And that is exactly what I found. It was great! Plenty of space, very friendly, café, shop, wi-fi and super value for money. £3.50 per person for a wargaming table and £2.00 for a board game table, for as long as you like. There were even cup holders at the tables! I'm easily impressed. I'm afraid I'm going to have to describe the venue as...awesome
Sorry.

An airbrush workshop in progress when we arrived, and there I bumped into James from The Warchest, who'd kindly made a trek to the Battleshed for Dead Man's Hand earlier this year. Good to see you James. And I look forward to hearing about your airbrush adventures!

Setting up Firefly
After having a good mooch about, with my Latte in hand (gaming has so' changed!) we soon had Firefly set up. OK, maybe it took a while. Firefly with all the expansions in play... many, many cards. And tokens. 

Jamie in his element.
Then, the doors swung open and in trudged four more wet and bedraggled gamers from Livingston Battleground. And they had taken the motorway route with no problems. Apparently. I hated them immediately. They humoured us 'vintage gamers' for a few minutes, then set about Infinity and WH40k.

Infinity: J the Hat' and his brother from Livingston battleground.
From there on, in between Firefly turns, we spent an excellent day of convivial and relaxed gaming. Occasionally ordering drinks and toasties through the gamers' hatch to the attached cafe/shop and chatting to our fellow gamers. There was a good throughput of games going on. I even got to see Star Wars Armada in play, including the Imperial Class Star Destroyer. I want one!  

It put those Trekkies playing the subservient franchise Attack Wing on the next table to shame. Not that I'm biased or anything. I also discovered there is a Steampunk version of Munchkin. My son plays that. So do I. Its on his Christmas list now. Whether he wants it or not.

As for our game, Jamie won by a single Goal Token. We needed nine to win. I suffered as usual with bad dice and cards for the first half of the game, whilst Jamie seemed to be having an unusually fortunate time with the Reaver infested Outer Rim proving unusually lucrative. 

Firefly the Board game (plus expansions)
However, I managed to get my pilots focused in the second half, excluding the incident where I managed to get my tooled up mercenary, Jane, killed trying to recover a everyday Bounty.

Meanwhile, Jamie's pilots started to run into all sorts of complications. Which I took full advantage of course. It's just business after all! By the end, I just needed to recruit a companion. Could I find one? Of course not. Embarrassingly. Out of practice. 

Your Firefly Mission today is...
The crew from my ships, the Bonanza and the Yun Qi, spent increasingly frustrating rounds turning over the 'Verses more popular destinations to no avail. And this distraction allowed Jamie's two-ship armada to snatch the vital Goal Token for the win. Drat! Yet another great game of Firefly. In thoroughly excellent gaming surroundings.  

Common Ground Games lived up to it's reputation as a premier venue in the UK and a superb example of what can be done in our hobby. My highest recommendation for a visit, if my reader is ever in the historical city of Stirling.