The Kraken is a fabulous Gaming Retreat (not convention) in Germany, about half way between Berlin and Hamburg. Run by Runequest Gesellschaft e.V. a non-profit organisation, the event has very much a family feel to it, with previous guests becoming part of the organising team and new attendees welcomed to the bosom of gaming like a returning prodigal son.
This year I had to make it a short trip due to Ryanair changing flight schedules among other things, but nevertheless it was worth it as always. The Kraken arrange a coach to pick up foreign travellers from Schönefeld airport (still being constructed after several years), with refreshments available on board and a chance to meet and greet other attendees – it’s a relatively painless introduction to the event itself.
Arriving at the Schloss on Friday evening, food was being served (all drinks and food are included in the price) it was a warm welcome from the hosts – and already games were starting to spring up or be arranged ad hoc. I jumped in on a game of Cthulhu with Ralph, who I had convinced the previous year to run a game this time round. A Belgian, this was his first attempt at running a game in English – and a great job he did too. I think we can forgive someone who is not a native English speaker for only failing on one word – dungarees! Two Americans and another Brit rounded out the table which shows the diversity of nationalities at the event.
On to Saturday morning and after a fine breakfast it was straight into the Chaosium seminar for their state of the nation pitch. An impressive five of the head honchos were in attendance and a good coverage of how the company is doing after a year or so of new management alongside some highlights of what’s coming in future months.
I missed out on Robin Laws’ seminar in person, but thankfully there’s a video!
I managed to fit in some axe throwing in the morning too, with the ever-patient and genial Risto taking people through the Atlatl, throwing knives, tomahawk, hatchet and two-handed axe. Excellent fun and just thing to get me in the mood for some medieval style gaming later.
For the afternoon session I ran Pendragon – I’ve got a good stable of knights for this that I’ve been using for some time now, which is just as well given that my printer had died the (k)night before and I couldn’t use new ones. Again a multi-cultural table of players from Germany, Switzerland and America. We had fun dabbling with the fae realm, culminating in a fight with a giant simultaneously taking place with a dance-off between a chaste knight and the faerie queen.
A fine barbecue was laid on then for the assembled guests. Attempts to shortcut the delivery of steak by going straight to the source were politely but firmly rebuffed as a danger to the supply chain. If there’s one thing a combo of Americans and Germans are good at, it’s flame-grilled meat. Vegan options we available…
For the evening I got myself a place in Kenner’s Delta Green game. I’ve not had chance to properly review the new version, but it wasn’t massively different from the playtest, so no issues there. I’m used to having luck or “push” rolls from Cthulhu 7th ed, so it was mildly disappointing to be back in old school world were you often just straight up fail without the opportunity to make things worse for your character, but that aside, it’s all good. AK ran a great game, with a variety of nationalities present once again – and overall we were successful with few mental or physical casualties. I do love me some Delta Green.
Sunday was going to be a short day due to inconvenient travel plans, but we determined to make the most of it. Kenners ran some Cthulhu and I’d got myself signed up for a playtest of Gianni’s WWII game defending the Russian motherland from the forces of the Reich. It was never going to go well for our brave soldiers, but we managed to get some glory and success for the People before rushing off under some tunnels to escape and fight another day. I think we managed to provide some useful feedback on this fledgling game and it’ll be interesting to see how it shapes up in months to come.
Just before I was forced to leave I found time to catch up with a few people. Amusingly one new attendee asked me what it was I had written. I was initially confused, but it turned out that he had met so many game writers, producers and other luminaries throughout the weekend he just assumed everyone must be a professional! Aside from a couple of scenarios I had little to offer aside from, of course, the podcast.
Talking of which, I was lucky enough to grab Robin D Laws and Kraken organiser Fabian Küchler for a quick chat and get some thoughts on the latest from Glorantha, guests at conventions (or Gaming Retreats) and design inspiration. If you somehow missed this aural gold, you can listen to it here:
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The team arranged transport for us to the local train station and a direct line to Berlin, so the return journey was relatively easy, even if tinged with sadness at having to depart so soon.
Overall another excellent weekend in the Fatherland, The Kraken continues to be an excellent addition to the gaming calendar – top guests (who are worked like dogs, and seem to relish it!), a good mixed crowd of gamers, wonderful side events and seminars and a packed schedule of games generally. Lots of demos of upcoming board and card games, a gaming library (including English rules), plentiful food, drinks and refreshments. All in the rustic surroundings of an old German Schloss in the countryside. Can hardly wait to go back…