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Gencon UK 1999

Page history last edited by Bruce Mason 11 years, 8 months ago

B5CCG::Black Omega Squadron::tournament reports


' If you go to Loughborough, you will fry...'


September 2nd-5th saw the second running of the UK National Championships at GenCon UK, Loughborough University.


This is my diary....




Picked up at 7.30am with a small supply chain of luggage to transport a couple of hundred miles south for the weekend. Between the multiple promotional issues of Black Omega Squadron Newsletter, 40 t-shirts, my decks, my clothes and other conference essentials I had the appearance of a small bedouin caravan. The weather looked ominously hot as we started on our journey south.


It got hotter, and after a short stop in Leeds for our driver to have a job interview ( Now that is dedication to the game..) we were finally on our way in earnest. We rolled back the windows and pumped up the Sisters of Mercy on the stereo, another GenCon tradition, and basked in the unseasonally hot weather.


After meeting with the rest of our group from the Newcastle, we descended on the bar in Martin's Hall ( the home of B5 for the event) and joined the other players who had gathered there. After the rivalries that had grown from the team event in Sheffield earlier in the year, this was a great chance to re-acquaint ourselves with some old rivals and down that much needed first pint.


For the rest of the afternoon, we quaffed and the Newcastle and Wales contingents gently jousted with each other about their prospects for the tournaments.It was like a World Heavyweight Boxing Championship press conference, but in reverse as the competitors tried to convince each other that they were really not that good, and that they stood no chance. When you consider the pedigree of the people taking part ( PanEuro Champion UK and Lowlands champion, members of the Team Champions and the UK #1 ranked player) it was quite sad really...


And then we played Discworld and some people got VERY drunk indeed....



Early start for the Rangers as they began the job of setting up for the two warm-up tournaments.


There was a sealed deck, with 12 players, won by Richie Willis and a Battle for Earth tournament with 15 players, won by Ian Richards playing Bester. It became obvious even at this early stage that the level of competition was going to be tough, and the numbers involved were going to be huge. As the day progressed, the pre-registrations began to move towards the 50 mark - forcing us to renegotiate table space with our wonderful hosts, Esdevium, and then past that and into the realms of the US Nationals ( more on that later..)


And it was hot!

Phil, Bruce and Neil

( Above - the Zathras Brothers, Phil Nicholls, Bruce Mason and me, Neil Gow..)




An even earlier start was needed to clear the room from the festivities of the previous evening and set the tables. Early on it became obvious that this was going to be a huge event, and when the final player registered we had 48 participants, a new record for the UK* and a sign that depite the TV show ending, the game is still growing in popularity.

( * The UK used to hold the world record at 40 players, but that was broken by the US Nationals at GenCon with 52. Mind you, that convention is 10 time larger than ours so you do the maths...)


The prizes on offer were immense, with promos, boosters, beta test decks, signed cards and that all-important invitation to the world championship in Germany.


After the first round, it became VERY obvious that there were some tough battles going on out there. Combine that with the stifling heat and humid conditions and it was about the most demanding environment for a CCG tournament I have ever seen. ( Although apparently it was worse in the Magic hall, where they could not turn off the central heating!) So we had to start handing water out at the tables - probably a first for a UK tournament and something that seemed to impress the players.



An exceptionally tense final was won by Stephen Gold, playing Narn. UK#1 Andrew Watson was quoted as saying that Gold was the best player he had ever faced, and his use of Diplomatic Intrusion during an Impasse was a shock winner to all on the tabe, and in the crowd.


The finals finished just in time for a handful of us to change and run off to play Vampire, being gluttons for punishment...




The Rangers had been spreading rumours of a special donated prize for the winner of the Black Omega Championship - and guesses were running from a 'design a card' to a night of passion with Claudia Christian <g>. They were suitably dumbstruck when it was announced that in addition to the comparable prizes from yesterday, the winner would receive a 'Surprise' card!


The Black Omega Championships saw 42 players in a rather more relaxed manner than the previous day. Some people were playing experimental decks ( Would you go to a World Qualifier with a Vorlon Universe deck?) and some of the players wehad demoed to over the weekend chose to play for their first tournament experience.


The weather stayed hot, the bar ran out of Pepsi and the water service had to be started again. As the contest progressed it became obvious that there was going to be a close finish. Leading into the last round there were four races where the top three players were within three points of each other, and the points variations thrown up by four and five player tables meant that the Rangers were faced with a possible 10 player final at one point!


In the end the final was six players, and had a top class field ( Mike Penbertthy [UK98 and Lowlands champion], Hayden Gittens [ PanEuro98 champion], Stephen Gold [ UK99 champion], Ty Grover-Jones [ Part of the Welsh UK Team Champions], Cliff Jenner [ Consistently the best Minbari player of the weekend] and Mark Boutcher [ who was pipped to yesterday's final by one point..] )


Amazingly, the winner was again, Stephen Gold, playing Non-Aligned and the invitation to Germany went to Hayden Gittens for a well fought second place, playing Narn. So Hayden and Steve join Mike Penberthy as the Brits with a place in the Worlds. With a huge posse booked to travel over to Germany they will be a force to be reckoned with!



Even if I say so myself, I think we did an excellent job. Phil managed to get all of the tournaments started with 30 minutes of the advertised start and they all finished in a timely manner. Bruce was superlative with his rulings and I even managed to go 7 out of 7 with mine! Alongside that, Black Omega Squadron celebrated it's first anniversary and proved that a volunteer ran players organisation can produce quality material and merchandise and stay afloat, both organisationally and commercially. You just got to love those T-Shirt sales!


Of course it wouldn't be a game without the players and they were brilliant. They played some of the most intense B5 I have ever seen under some of the worst conditions and still managed to clap and cheer the winners and the runners up. Hell, they even listened when Phil and I were shouting at them from the stage, and that has to be a first!


Also a HUGE thanks to Esdevium and Marcus in particular. He was like Santa Claus all weekend, everytime you saw him you couldn't be certain he didn't have a box of freebies to dish out to people.


Also a big thanks to House Atreides for sponsoring the convention newsletter and allowing us to make it such a special issue.


What will be my special memories of GenCon UK 99?


  1. The look on Steve Gold's face when he realised he had won for the second time in two days.
  2. The look on Richard Willis' face when I timed him out just as he was about to win...
  3. The friendship and competitive spirit that meant that even the fiercest of B5 rivals were all in the bar drinking minutes after the final had finished.
  4. The heat.....


Take care, and look forward to seeing you all at next years Big One!


The Man of the Weekend. Steve Gold - The One!

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