Those we have lost

October 2019 was a bad month for the gaming hobby with the death of three high profile gamers.

Geoff Brown

For many years, Geoff seemed to attend every con going - MidCon, ManorCon, RamsdenCon, BayCon and for all I know, StabCon and many more.

He'd cut back considerably on con attendance in recent years; I think BayCon was his only regular con of the year.

He was one of those people who seemed to buy every game ever published (before this became impossible in the KickStarter era) and find the time to play them.

Geoff was an integral part of the Warfrog/Treefrog enterprise from the early days.

The late Geoff Brown

A proud Mancunian, raconteur, dweller of the saloon bar, occasionally bolshie but often surprisingly generous, it is a shame he seemed to drift away from attending cons though many of us kept in touch via Facebook, where Geoff was indefatigable in attacking the denizens of smug Middle England (i.e. not Manchester).

Francis Tresham

1936 - October 23, 2019

Francis Tresham was, arguably, the greatest board game designer Britain has ever produced.

He was not particularly prolific but his two big "hits", Civilisation and 18xx (1825, 1829, 1830, 1853), were two of the most influential designs in modern boardgaming.

Civi, being a bit of a six-hour marathon, is not much played at cons these days but many of its game design features have been "borrowed" by other games (e.g. the trading mechanism in Settlers of Catan) plus the game was the inspiration for the fantastically successful Sid Meier computer game, Civilization.

We all take technology trees and card combos for granted these days but Civi had these way back in an era when the best games hardcore gamers could hope to play were hex-based war games, Talisman, Kingmaker and anything by Sid Sackson.

As for 18xx, it spawned a whole cottage industry and regular MidCon attendees will know that there are some gamers who appear to play nothing but 18xx variants.

The game was the inspiration for the fantastically successful Sid Meier computer game, Railroad Tycoon.

Francis was recently featured in TableTop Gaming magazine where one of the quotes was something along the lines of, "people will still be playing his games in 200 years' time".

His other published designs were: Revolution: The Dutch Revolt 1568–1648, Shocks & Scares, Spanish Main and The Game of Ancient Kingdoms.

Leaving aside his massive impact on the games hobby, Francis was an absolute gent and a humble genius. Several of my friends have told stories of ordering 1829 from Francis's games company, Hartland Trefoil, and being surprised to have it delivered in person by Francis.

Perhaps he moonlighted as a courier ... unlikely; I can see him as a professor game design, however.

18xx Midcon T-shirt

Keith Rapley

In terms of shaping the gaming hobby, Keith's contribution was less than that of Geoff Brown's and Francis Tresham's but I have literally not met anyone who did not enjoy sitting down to play a game with him.

Affable, self-deprecating, full of quips and amusing anecdotes, he preferred games at the lighter end of the spectrum, although he would try a medium weight game if it appealed; six-hour brain burners, however, were not really his scene.

For this reason, and because he was a regular and much-loved con attendee, we will be honouring his memory this year with a Silly Drive on the Friday afternoon in the Milldale Room between 3pm and 5pm.

The idea behind the Silly Drive is you play a fun, quick game with a group of people and then that group disperses once the game is over to play with different groups of people.

John Dodds

15th February 1961 to 16th September 2016  

Chris Tringham (MidCon chairman from 1981 – 1996) writes: It is with great sadness that I find myself having to write an obituary for my good friend John Dodds, who passed away a few weeks ago, very shortly after being diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. 

I had known John for more than 35 years, initially through the MidCon committee, and we had remained in contact even though I have been living in Hong Kong for 20 years (we last met up two years ago when I visited London). I hope I can do justice to John’s significant involvement in the games hobby over many years.

John Dodds was a key member of the MidCon committee from 1981 – 1996 (the 1981 event was the first one at the Royal Angus hotel, but we called it MidCon III because there were two earlier MidCons in Digbeth in the late 70s organized by Dave Allen). 

For the first few years, John’s official responsibility was publicity, and from 1982 onwards he ran the (highly successful) quiz on Friday and Saturday nights.

In 1988, John took over as tournament director for the National Diplomacy Championships. Then in 1993, he came up with a proposal to run qualifying events all over the UK. This was hugely successful, and the official record shows an increase from 37 to 117 players. 

Needless to say, this required a huge amount of effort by John – coordinating and publicising the events and turning up at most of them himself. John repeated this heroic effort in 1994, but then had to stand down due to his increasing workload (at that time John was working at HM Treasury as Head of the Budget Coordination Team). Stephen Agar took over, and I believe the qualifying events continued for a few years, and they certainly increased attendance at MidCon.

John was editor of Perspiring Dreams (44 issues from June 1980 - June 1984). This was a first-rate traditional Diplomacy zine, and it appeared very regularly and then folded efficiently (which is far more than most of us managed). This is all the more amazing when you consider that John was studying at Christ's College Cambridge for the first two years of the zine’s existence.

John did many good things to promote the board games hobby. He co-edited 37 issues of Hobby News (from 1992 – 1995), wrote the Novice Package, ran the Zine Bank, and also produced the Hobby Services Bulletin

John was a regular at cons both large and small, and was always an affable and patient games player, whether winning or losing. On top of that, he was always good company and invariably had something interesting to say on a wide range of subjects.

I will always remember a group of us meeting up to watch the 1992 election results. We all expected a Labour victory, so when we heard the results of the exit poll shortly after 10 pm most of us thought there must have been a mistake. John then quietly informed us he had placed a (fairly substantial) late bet on the Tories to win, which of course they did. 

There was a memorial service at Stationers’ Hall in London on 20 October, where we heard a lot more about John’s early life, his time studying at Cambridge, his interest in board games (from Dane Maslen), his love of reading, watching Darlington FC and Durham CCC all over the country, and his long career in the civil service - including 15 years with HM Treasury. It was certainly a life lived to the full. 

John Dodds