It happened. The UK System Open. Happened.

Before we begin, an explanation…

I normally start writing things down for my blog posts through the week, usually following on from a Wednesday night (our local game night) and then have a good few days to type up a batrep (JARGON ALERT!!), add some photos or find some suitable memes. On a week where I didn’t/couldn’t go then I’ll often have something prepared that I’ve kept in reserve ready. Then normally on a Monday night or Tuesday morning I will re-read what I’ve put down and do a little editing here and there. It feels quite leisurely (with only a minimal amount of pressure, all self-applied) and over the last 7 months or so of writing I’ve found a quite nice rhythm in getting things ready to publish and put ‘out there’ (Facebook, Reddit, smoke signal, etc) on BLOG TUESDAY (which funnily enough nobody else seems to run with but I’m ok with that).

This week though? This week is very different.

No, after a long weekend of X-Wing, a LOT to talk about and a slightly neglected wife and youngest child to spend time with I do not have an awful lot of time to write and make my normal Tuesday deadline. Again, the only person who proably cares about that is me but still, I don’t want to let it go.

So with that in mind, today’s post will be a short anecdotal summary of our time in Milton Keynes. Consider it an extended ‘swag brag’ post. Minus the swag picture (to my shame, I’ve still not unpacked the car fully). So, just a brag?

If you are reading between the lines and have noticed that I’ve not mentioned my results and wonder if that’s because I did terribly, well….. you’d be right! But all that self analysis stuff is for another post on another day.

So then it’s a swag brag, minus the swag AND the brag? Ummm……

The crux of the matter

It’s not an overstatement that, for me and my son Cai, the UK System Open is the highlight on our X-Wing calendar. It’s our time away together, building our relationship while doing something we both enjoy. We love playing at our local club week to week, of course, that’s our staple. This is something else though. Being in a room with almost 500 other plastic spaceship nerds is an experience like no other. Mingling with so many other people and being able to discuss the finer points of something you enjoy with someone who, 2 minutes beforehand was a complete stranger, is just so great that I’m actually finding it quite hard to put into words. Literally.

In fact that segues in nicely to one of my favourite stories from the weekend. After a long day of 6 rounds of X-Wing it was rather late on Saturday evening and the boy and I needed feeding. We know a few of the Cardiff Firestorm Womp Rats guys and they were headed off to Pizza Express but Cai and I had eaten pizza the night before and I needed him to get as reasonable night’s sleep as possible so we sloped off to McDonalds for a quick bite. Matt and Gemma (fellow Exile Squadron members) came along too, we ordered together(ish) and waited around for our orders.

A funny thing happens in the food places around the Marshall Arena which I’m sure happens there (and other places I’m sure) regularly since I assume they host lots of events and the place is linked to the MK Dons football stadium. McDonalds was busy. Lots of people chatting, waiting for food and seemingly everyone having come over from the event.

When our order arrived Cai picked up the tray and I asked him to find us a table. He got us one in the corner, a table of 4 next to a table of 2. I followed over as someone else then sat at the table of 2.

A few minutes later Matt and Gemma joined us and the four of us began talking about our day, what had happened in some of our games. A few minutes in the guy sat on the table of 2 next to us joined our conversation and we all talked for about 20 minutes about various X-Wing related stuff.

We finished our food and left, saying goodbyes to this guy and various other people we knew who had also decided to settle for a quick Big Mac since it was pretty late.

Not exactly fine dining….

On the Sunday we were a few games in and I went over to Matt and asked how his game had gone. I commented on something saying that it was ‘almost as strange as having a conversation with a stranger in McDonalds late at night’ and Matt stopped dead. Our conversation had seemed so natural, comfortable and easy that he thought that I already knew the guy!

And THIS is the beautiful thing about our community. This game we love and spend time and money on gives us a common ground over which we can bond. I had so many conversations of the course of the weekend which started with ‘how did you get on?’ but ended up talking about the most random stuff (from helicopters landing on lawns and asking for directions to serious health issues).

This is the stuff I’ll remember. Sure, I rolled dice and pushed ships around. Some of it went well (not much!) and I’ll remember but, as I’ve said before, this game is about people.

I’ve already seen Facebook posts about people going to buy things for others who had lost something, people lending each other cards, ships, dials and more. Often for almost complete strangers. What a truly beautiful thing.

So really, this IS a brag post. I’m bragging on our community. The friendships old and new, the kindness and generosity that was evident all across the room. The amazing team full of incredible individuals who undertook planning and then running one of the world’s biggest X-Wing events and the ONLY hiccup being the lights going out on the Sunday.

This community is really amazing and Cai and I LOVE being a part of it.

I do want to add a few special mentions in here for people that I DIDN’T fly against this weekend but did get to chat/spend time with:
Chris Stevens, Chris Burnett, Chris Baird (so many Chris’!!), Kris Mitchell, Dave Cook, Ian Franklin, Matt and Gemma Lees, Dan ‘Eggs’ and Jon and Michaela Scott (Cog ‘O Two). You are all awesome.

By the way, if YOU were the guy in McDonalds talking to us (wearing the Exile Squadron t-shirts) then PLEASE comment somewhere. I’m annoyed at myself for not asking for your name and I’d love to know!

So to sign off this week I’m simply going to post some pictures that sum up my weekend – some of the people I met. (I’m pretty sure I asked everyone’s permission but if I didn’t and you want me to take it down please get in touch!).

I didn’t get pictures with everyone I wanted (which is annoying me immensely) so everyone will just have to come back next year so I can rectify that!

Normal service will resume next week, come back so you can see just how badly things went!

If you’re looking to buy some gaming ‘stuff’ and don’t have a local gaming store, you can use my affiliate link for Firestorm games. They’re great!