This last weekend, 1st and 2nd of September, saw the inaugural Tabletop Scotland hit up the city of Perth in Scotland. I had volunteered to setup a playtest zone for the con and was looking forward to catching up with folk I knew from all over the place, but especially those I had only met online.
Would the first con be full blown ceilidh of an event, or would it be a damp squib like the weather (that’s a little unfair of recent but you get the point). Anyway, lets get to it!
Bigger on the inside
Although I had visited the adjacent leisure pool in my youth I had never been inside the Dewar’s centre. Suffice to say it looks a bit small on the outside but inside it has a lot of space with well lit and spacious halls. The con was setup in the main hall with the adjacent one currently being occupied by an ice rink. If the con is a week earlier next year that ice rink would not be in place. Potential for future expansion there.
I turned up on the Friday to drop some bits and pieces off for the playtest zone and ended up mucking in to help put up some signage and the like. The place looked fantastic with loads of chairs and tables in the open play, plenty of space in between to walk around and a good sized exhibitor zone with a good variety of stalls from board game retailers to hand crafted game inspired jewellery.
It was with slight trepidation I turned up early on the Saturday. I knew they had sold a load of tickets before the con and were likely to get some on the door. Would those people care about playtesting games? Would I be able to get them on the stall? Would I end up being strung up by unhappy designers?
Here they come
The doors opened at 9am on the Saturday and already outside there was a queue forming of eager punters. Some disappeared straight upstairs to the bring and buy which was mobbed, some straight for the retailers, but one by one the hall started to fill up. As time approached for the first playtest at 9:30 I realised I should have pushed the start time of the slot back a little to wait for more people to arrive but this was a minor niggle on what turned out to be an amazing first day for the con.
James Naylor, someone I had only interacted with electronically, turned up first with his Magnate game, a city building game using Lego as structures. He got going a little later than I would have liked due to the hall being emptier early on but once I had people sitting down and playing I relaxed into the flow of things. Punters drifted by and I did my pitch, handing out schedules, giving them times for what was going to be on the stall and generally enthusing about how grateful we all would be if they participated. The stall was jumping by midday and all through the afternoon we were busy with playtests a plenty. The games ranged from mythological dice battlers to royal dances and scifi exploration, quite a range of themes and styles of game.
The team had been nice enough to give me 3 tables for the playtest zone and my very own banner, which was more than I could have asked from a first time con. I was busy all day and all the designers seemed really pleased at the amount of feedback they were getting. I’ll be looking to tweak the format a little for next year, but in general I was absolutely delighted with the response to the zone. Thanks so much if you took the time to show off your design or come and play one of the games on display. I had a blast running it and was so glad that everyone had a good time in my little area of the con.
I didn’t get much of a chance to tour the hall myself, but from what I did see everyone looked to be having an ace time. Every time I turned around to look at the open play area, more tables were filling up with people cracking open purchases or borrowed games from the library being run by the lovely Kenny from Dice Roll Cafe with games from the generous folk at Uncon. Every vendor seemed busy, all the demo tables looked full and the family and gateway areas were jumping with happy kids and curious adults.
Upstairs was no different with rooms full of roleplayers and tournaments in full swing alongside the efficiently run cafe and bar, although there were occasional queues as one might expect. The Bring & Buy was immensely popular by the looks of it and I know the organisers are already thinking of ways to run it more smoothly next year as it got a bit crowded at times.
I caught up with loads of friends during the day and had the pleasure of their company over a nice meal out in Perth. Sam was along as well and I’m going to let him out of the editing suite to share his thoughts on the day of the con he attended.
A matter of perspective
Iain’s asked me to write something about Tabletop Scotland. If it means that he lets me out to get 10 minutes of natural light, I’ll do it! I’m going to start by simply saying that the convention was great. I got there at 11am, had a relaxed, nicely paced day, and managed to get in a fair amount of gaming. For me, that is a good day. I should mention that I only attended on the Saturday, took part in no tournaments, no RPG sessions, and didn’t attended any of the talks or seminars. That makes it sound like I didn’t do anything, but I did. Honest.
The main event hall was split 3 ways between; open play for the fantastic games library, a couple of demo zones, and retailers/publishers. The layout was simple and easy to navigate. All good stuff. What was on offer was also nicely varied. Asmodee and Coiledspring were out demoing some old favourites but also a few surprises.
We managed to have a shot at the upcoming Forbidden Sky from Matt Leacock. We lost badly, but that is by the by. The game features a lot of the same co-op gameplay from Forbidden Island and Desert but ramps up the difficulty in the task you are trying to complete. You have to build an electrical circuit to launch your ship (which merrily lights up and makes noises when/if you are successful) but first you must actually uncover the correct circuit components and have them ready on the board. It’s a nightmare, but one I’d like to master in October when the game is released.
Next up, the HABA zone was very enjoyable. It was great to see many of the games actually being demoed by a kid, putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to who these games are aimed at and how easy they are to pick up and play. What did we do at the HABA zone, I hear you ask? We absolutely destroyed Rhino Hero Super Battle! (In a good way). I can die a happy man.
I now have a confession to make. I’ve let ‘The Brain’ down. I lost a game in which I had to name a bunch of board games. I am deeply sorry. The game in question was Wibble ++ by the ever delightful Bez! I took part in a Bez triathlon and narrowly missed out of winning their entire catalogue of games. I came second though… that’s something right? The retailers that were there had some great games up for sale, many of which are hard to come by. Azul and Santorini are two games that I was too slow to grab. However I did get a very nice miniature of a Mimic, which I’ll paint up and show you all soon(ish).
Other highlights of the con for me include having my first ever Macaroni Pie. Apparently you can get them in a roll, which horrifies me. I also got to play My Little Scythe, a game that we mentioned in one of the first episodes of Brainwaves. I’ve since purchased my own copy as I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of everything in the box but also how easy it is to teach and play.
While many things were brilliant, there are a few things that would have made my day truly fantastic. I would have liked to see more new/recently released games being demoed. I’m a person who just likes trying out as many games as possible, and getting a chance to play some new releases would have been amazing. Finally, there were a few events that I would have liked to have attended, namely the pub quiz. However this finished at 11pm and for people with only a Saturday ticket, the last train out of Perth was at 22:40. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was the only person who would have loved to attended this event, but the timings meant I couldn’t.
That said, I found Tabletop Scotland a really nice, family friendly convention. I’ll definitely be back next year, possibly with a weekend ticket. Any way, Iain’s come to take me away. Back to my box! Until next time.
As Sam and others went their seperate ways on the Saturday, I had one more duty to perform. Earlier in the year my friends over at the Unlucky Frog had contacted me about being on their panel Room D100+1, a gaming take on the Room 101 format. This would be the first time I would be on a ‘stage’ at a con so I was a little nervous but really looking forward to it. We were 3 groups of 3, the first one, which I was a part of, was about gaming culture, the next including my good friend Peter Hopkins from the Drawn to the Flame Podcast, about mechanics and the third one about specific games.
I had a fantastic time with my fellow panellists and succeeded in getting my choice of the terms Ameritrash and Eurogame thrown in the bin on account of the former being insulting and the latter so wide ranging as to be meaningless. More on that in a post somewhere down the line. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting and joking with the audience and panellists and I really hope they do something like it next year again, it was a great end to a fantastic day.
I almost stayed around for the pub quiz but found myself tired after being on my feet all day and wanting to get to bed.
There is more than one of everything
Day 2 was equally excellent. I’d gotten into the swing of how to run the area about midday on the Saturday and that new found knowledge pushed me through the Sunday: gathering players as needed, chatting to designers, and also showing off one of my own designs. It was really good to get fresh eyes on that design and I got some good feedback from the fine folks at Decking Awesome games.
Although the Sunday was quieter there was still a great buzz about the place and the open play areas remained busy right up until we started to break down the tables in the exhibitor area. The roleplaying areas continued to be busy and it was great to hear that a good few people had upgraded their Saturday only ticket to a weekend on the strength of the previous day.
Myself and David, my brother in law, hung around after the playtest zone wrapped to help out with some of the breakdown and tidying up. Everyone was pitching in, helping each other out and the sense of camaraderie and being amongst fellow players was just lovely.
First time for everything
Before I sum up a couple of quick thoughts from David:
“I mostly went to Tabletop Scotland to meet up with friends, but I was also curious about how good a con it could be in its first year. It turned out to be pretty good! It was my first experience of a proper con so take my impression with a pinch of salt, but I was impressed with both how well attended it was and how much there was to do and see.
For me there would have needed to be more going on to make it a full weekend event. If it weren’t for the chance to meet up with friends, and a convenient place to stay nearby, I probably wouldn’t have come back on the Sunday. That said, I can’t imagine they’ll have any trouble attracting more exhibitors of every stripe next year, or be short of volunteers to staff more activities.”
I can totally understand Dave’s, and Sam’s earlier, comments of wanting more of the event and in Sam’s case specifically more of the new. I have no doubt that the organisers will already be mulling over such things for next year as they seem to genuinely want to learn and grow from their experience, something I have always admired about UK Games Expo.
From my own point of view, Tabletop Scotland was a straight up fantastic first con from a group of organisers who have an obvious passion for the hobby. They brought together players from all over the country be they old, new or don’t even know they wanted to get into this strange world of ours. The con catered to everyone and it was delightful to see families enjoying games alongside more hardcore games and everything in between. The numbers the team have just released show they had over 1000 uniques over the weekend, a fantastic turnout.
I’ll be doing things a little differently for playtest events in the future but I had absolutely no complaints in the level of enthusiasm and support I received from the con team. Each and everyone of them made time for me if I had any questions and provided me with everything I could have asked for and more.
For the team to have pulled off such a great event for their first time is a indication of their skill, passion and commitment to putting on a real gaming event for Scotland. It shows there is absolutely an appetite for this kind of convention in our country and I for one will be doing all I can to help out next year and waxing lyrical to all who care to listen. Come to Scotland, we have games and we want to share them with you.