Hydriades 2019

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Last year at the final Chimeriades French convention held in a castle near Avignon the organisers of a new convention announced that they would be holding Hydriades in a castle in Gruyere canton in Switzerland this year. As soon as the web site was live I signed up as following the style of Chimeriades the con was sure to be a great event. The group (www.hydre.ch) running this con had lots of experience running LARP conventions and chose to expand with a Jeu de Role - Roleplaying - convention this year.

After a slight hiccup as they thought they may not have enough participants the con went ahead starting on the 30th May. That's a holiday in Switzerland (Ascension) and allows for an extended weekend. The con (https://www.hydre.ch/hydriades2019-anglais/) was announced as a food and games convention and it truly was. All the food and drink was locally sourced and cooked by a professional cook (this is a common theme with Chimeriades).

I was invited to stop over with a Swiss German friend in Basel before travelling over to Vaulrez, a small village in the French speaking part of Switzerland. I left home at around 9 AM and caught the train for the first leg of my trip up to London where I switched to Eurostar for Paris before changing stations in Paris (Gare du Nord to Gare du Lyon) for the TGV (high speed train) to Basel arriving at about 9:30pm local time.

The following morning Philip took me round Basel for some sightseeing before catching the train West across Switzerland. We managed to see the old town walls and medieval town gate, a paper mill using a stream to drive the water wheel and one of the city's churches. As it was a holiday most of the city was closed but an absolutely super cartoon museum was open with an exhibition of work by Joann Sfar, a respected French cartoonist.

We ate lunch and caught a train through the very picturesque Swiss countryside to a small town called Romont where we switched to a bus as some work was going on on the railway. Swiss buses are airconditioned which in the high 20's Celsius and carrying luggage was a relief. The bus wound it's way through a number of small villages all of which seemed to have a creamerie and fromagerie before dropping us outside the Hotel de Ville in Vaulruz. A welcome drink and a dish of merangue with double cream (a local speciality) with a scoop of lemon sorbet set the tone. A short walk led to the castle where we were welcomed enthusiastically.

The Chateau de Vaulruz (https://www.chateau-vaulruz.ch/) is a 14th Century castle that was acquired by the local commune around the turn of last century, restored in 1910 before becoming home to Belgian refugees in the Great War. Further restoration followed in the 1970's and it's now used as a venue for weddings, conferences and the like. Accommodation is dormitory style and a bit basic for those that like their comfort but for a group that wants to game and have a great weekend away it's fine.

Gaming was prearranged in that people submitted games in slots (Thursday Evening, Friday Afternoon and Evening and Saturday Afternoon and Evening) before ending on Sunday morning for the trip home. A team of volunteers brought round a form to each table asking for menu choices( Normal or Vegetarian and about any allergies) and then the food was brought from the kitchen to each table. With about 60 or so attendees this system worked very well and the three courses for each evening meal were all really very good. Breakfast was the usual continental fare (bread with cheese, ham and home made jam and home made chocolate spread plus tea coffee and hot chocolate) and lunch, should you need it, was sandwiches and a variety of hot snacks. There were at least two types of local beer plus a variety of soft drinks, tea and coffee available as well.

Thursday I played in a game of Cog Wars which was a sort of steam punk setting that proved very enjoyable but we failed to get some of the clues and stopped at 1AM to continue on Friday morning out in the courtyard under a large tree in the sunshine.

Friday Evening I played in a Space Opera game that is being published in German by my friend Philip. It's great fun and ha a very free form sort of system that takes something from Heroquest (the Robin Laws game). Saturday afternoon I ran a game of Cold War Cthulhu using a scenario I'd written up a couple of years back for UK Games Expo and as we played in the Salle de Classes, a sizeable room on the first floor with large windows looking out to the countryside, I didn't feel even twinge of sadness for my friends who were stuck at UK Games Expo in the noise and heat of the Hilton.

I spent a lot of time just relaxing in the sunshine and talking with gamers from Europe while sipping beer or cider or wine. A fantastic weekend with great people and marvellous surroundings. On Saturday morning the organisers arranged for a small group of us (me Jeff Richard, the Dead Crows publishing house team) to visit the village of Gruyere. This a a hilltop village and has a nicely restored chateau and is the home not only of the famous cheese, but also the HR Giger museum. When we arrived everyone wanted to visit the Giger bar opposite the museum and many of the party had absinthe to drink. The bar is decorated in the style of the artist and is a fitting start to the visit. I chose to visit the castle which was mostly restored in the 19th century as an artists colony. The village is filled with tourist shops (it is the second biggest Swiss tourist attraction) carrying cheeses and chocolate in infinite variety.

As I'm on dialysis the organisers kindly arranged for me to use a small room to do my exchanges during the day and even helped out by accepting the materials delivered by courier from the Swiss supplier as arranged by the NHS before I went.

Philip and I travelled back on Sunday afternoon to Basel and I left on Monday catching the 8:51am train via Strasbourg to Paris and home, getting back at 7:15 just in time for my Monday evening on-line game.
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