As the new sponsor Asmodée is largely a board game publisher and distributor, the bulk of the convention was given over to 'German style' board games. However, on my quick tour of the hall, I'd say there is also a distinct French style of board game where the emphasis is more on colourful and inventive design with a strong focus on fun over perhaps the deep strategy for which the Germans are more famous. The Americans are somewhere in the mix between the French and Germans. But not being a board game geek, I'm perfectly willing to be proven wrong. What is perhaps more likely is that the Germans' coverage of genres and styles is more complete whereas the French and Americans are developing in those areas which suit their markets best.
My ownly such purchase was for chilledchimp, a cow themed version of Pit, for which "one", "two", etc are substituted "moo", "moo moo", etc.
On the RPG side there seemed to be about three publishers, 7eme Cercle were the big ones with Cthulhu, Kuro, Capharnum, Qin, Unknown Armies in the mix. 2d6 Sans Face had a new French translation of Nobilis with the classic anubisgrrl layout and there was also a relatively new gaming magazine prosaically named Jeu de Role. it has a review of GUMSHOE of which perhaps more later. Finally L'Oeuf Cube, possibly the oldest independent gaming store in France(?) had a stand. On this I found Jouer Avec L'Histoire, by Jerome Larré (well-known French game designer of Cops, Qin and others) and Oliver Caïra (who last year published Les Forges de la Fiction, a sociological, almost anthropological treatment of roleplaying). You can read about it on the Pinkerton Press website here.
For those less than bilingual, it's an overview of the uses to which history has and might be put in the services of roleplaying. There are articles by game designers, critics and players. I haven't read much of it yet but it's an exciting development in roleplaying literature in that it's not a game but a launchpad for players, gamesmasters and designers to understand how they can make the most of history in their games. They printed 3,000 of these so they're hopeful of making a decent go of it and this is expected to be the first in a series looking at different aspects of gaming, horror being next. To this end, Olivier and Jerome interviewed princeofcairo and I stood by in case translation was needed (actually Jerome or Brand as he is more widely known is soft-spoken but has a good enough command of English that I was hardly required).
I picked up a new French indy game from L'Oeuf Cube, Notre Tombeau which is about being trapped with a serial killer.
On Sunday I helped out with a video interview for SFU, a French SF portal. For this we were granted access to the VIP area where drinks and danishes were served by the only booth babes in the convention. In France, they are only for the deserving. Once the Asmodée honcho, with his neatly pressed jeans, was satisfied that we weren't scruffy interlopers, we went ahead. This was much harder as the genial Nicholas would not own up to speaking any English. He would ask a question which I would translate for Ken, Ken would give a long and interesting, often funny answer, and I'd have to translate as best I could. Obviously you'll get most from the result if you can speak English because I wasn't really up to making it as good in French as it was in English. But Nicholas was happy and we'll see the finished item some time soon. And we were very impressed by the background research that Nicholas had done which made for a better interview.
I ran the same Trail of Cthulhu scenario twice, a sordid tale of desperation amongst cursed Left Bank intellectuals that has improved with each running. The first group were rather gung-ho for a puristish story but still enjoyable but the second lot really got under the skin of the session and made it work much better. I shall write it up for publication soon.
Otherwise my time was spent hanging with princeofcairo, the 7eme Cercle crew including Valérie and Florent, Jerome artist sans-pareil, angusabranson who was on Cubicle 7 duty and somewhat worse for wear having been on the road for too long. He introduced me to meme_machine for whom this was only her second con, although twice as many as me this year. Somehow her existance as a writer of games and Lovecraftian fiction had passed me by, but now I've looked, she's got loads of stuff out there! And she was good company too.
Finally I talked to the very focussed group (notably Johan Scipion and Thierry Salaün) behind Sombre (Dark), a stripped down horror game inspired by Cthulhu and GUMSHOE. I've promised to playtest some of their stuff which includes using the DDR as a Mythos setting. Now that should be dark.
And the fish reference is not to Deep Ones, the only half-decent restaurant in Montreuil was sushi. I'd only had it in Indianapolis before, not the best place being 1,200 miles from the sea, but this French place was good, particularly the salmon and the eel. So we ate there both nights of the con, on 7eme Cercle's tab.