Tabletop Scotland 2022 – To Perth and Back
There is a nostalgic element to all conventions. As you get older there are occasional moments when you long to throw off the weight of adult responsibilities and just indulge yourself in a thing that brings you joy. Over the course of the last couple of years the tabletop community has been denied these indulgences. We made do as best we could with digital versions and virtual meetups. Nothing quite beats that feeling of walking across the threshold of your favourite convention and knowing that you belong.
Over the weekend of the 27th and 28th of August 2022, Jamie Adams, Iain Chantler, and myself indulged ourselves thoroughly at the return of Tabletop Scotland. The Tabletop Scotland team had kept the con off for 2020 and 2021 but now it was back. Bigger and better than ever.
Conventions can have all sorts of vibes to them. They can be serious business. They can feel exclusive to those not in the know. They can cater to a niche. They can also be like Tabletop Scotland.
Walking past the ticket desk and into either hall of the Dewars Centre you see vendors laid out before you. Vast zones of open play area, eager to accommodate you and the games you want to play sparkle in the light. The library and bring & buy beckon you with promises of treasures to be discovered.
Those things are all excellent but before you get to any of them you walk past the Haba Family Zone or the Hachette Boardgames area. Both of these areas are filled with bright banners, beautiful games, and friendly folk eager to demo. Most importantly though they instantly make each hall feel family friendly. ‘Come in’ says the convention ‘let us tell you why tabletop games are great, no experience necessary’. It sets a tone for the whole weekend. You, no matter who you are or what you play, are welcome.
This year the Giant Brain team paid our own way. We could have got press passes but I wanted to be a punter, mostly, for once. This led me to having something of a revelation over the course of the convention.The press pass had poisoned my brain, and I speak only for myself here, not Jamie, Iain, or any other of my fellow press. I realised that in previous conventions I felt like I had a ‘job’ to do. In being given a press pass, I felt I had to return that in coverage. I didn’t let myself experience the convention for what it was. I was blinded by what I felt obligated to do. Any other press pass holders ever feel this way?
The weight off my mind of having to be press, I relaxed into the convention spirit quickly. I was still wearing my Giant Brain colours of course, so I did a little bit of interviewing.
First up was Old Kings Crown, from Eerie Idol Games. Jamie and I played a short demo and we really enjoyed it. Bit of area control combined with deck manipulation made for a compelling puzzle. We have interviews with both the designer/artist Pablo Clark and another member of the company Dougal Freir.
I was delighted to see Jon Hodgson and Paul Bourne from Handiwork Games. This is a local RPG publisher who recently delivered the “Blades in the Dark” powered a|state second edition to backers and has been doing lots of interesting work with their Beowulf line amongst other projects. It was also great to catch up with Malcolm Craig, designer of the original version of a|state as I haven’t seen him in a good few years. Handiwork Games is a company on the rise and they have some very exciting products out, and in the works. I picked up their gorgeous position/effect map and coin for a|state, but I hope to use it for Blades as well.
The only other stand I took to for an interview was one I had lined up before with Eike Meyer from Fyrnwest games. This is a totally new outfit, like Eerie Idol Games, planning to bring their game Midhalla to crowdfunding next year. Midhalla is a dungeon crawler with a tower defence feel to it and a very worker placement feel to its battle system that was fun to manipulate. I personally like a bit more chance in these kinds of games but I can see it appealing a lot to folk who prefer a more deterministic approach.
Having warmed up with a game of Watergate the night before with Jamie, a lot of my afternoon on Saturday was playing games! Hired from the library that was being run by Rent, Shuffle, and Roll we played Mission: Red Planet and Wiz War 8th Edition a couple of times each. I liked both, especially Mission: Red Planet which had quick gameplay, interesting things to think about, and a very charming production.
Later on in the day we met up with one of our Discord members Robert who had been playtesting a game for most of the day. He introduced us to Capt’n Clever. It is the BDSM of board games. No further questions.
A meal out at the Bunker nearby and then back to the con for the pub quiz. There was just enough time to squeeze in a teaching game of Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest before settling in for a fun evening of guessing games from Emojis, components, and trying to remember bits of gaming history. The Giant Brain and the Capt’ns came 4th! Not bad. Thanks to Josh, Tom, and Ryan from the Unlucky Frog for running that so well. They will have casts out as well covering seminars and some interviews from the show floor.
Sunday of the con I was slightly dreading as I had agreed to teach the behemoth that is Oath to Richard from We’re Not Wizards and his son James (no podcast affiliation I know of). I shouldn’t have worried as it was a total blast with Iain Chantler usurping me, the Chancellor, with my own mercenaries and a funky mask. We are talking about playing again soon. I enjoyed this more than any other Oath game I’ve played. 4 players feels like the sweet spot.
Rest of the day was spent wandering, chatting to some vendors like Mark from Dream Big Games and Elaine from Digisprite. I bought their latest creation ‘Familiar Alchemy’. All the stands over the weekend seemed busy and buzzing and I hope everyone had a successful convention.
Iain Chantler had brought some Nisei decks with him, the fan version of Netrunner. We set about running some of those nets. I was super impressed by how good the starter experience felt and now have a hankering for more. Might see about picking some of these up soon and getting in some jinteki.net plays.
As the convention started to close out I got the chance to finally try Flickfleet, just out of its core box. It was a lot of fun with some very smart mechanics. I can see why it gets the buzz that it does.
The very last game of Tabletop Scotland was the criminally unavailable Crash Octopus. I love this game and it really annoys me how hard it is to get. Come on publishers, get it out there!
A few goodbye hugs later and I was on the road back home. I was tired, happy, and buzzing about how good Tabletop Scotland was. Dave, John, Simon, and all the volunteers did an amazing job. They created the perfect balance between a con that welcomes all and a con that caters to specific needs. That philosophy will keep me coming back, and I hope I’ll see you there in 2023.