Tabletop Scotland 2023 – Stepping Up
Tabletop Scotland has become a stalwart of the UK and Scottish gaming scene. Having returned to the Dewar’s Centre in Perth in 2022 after a couple of pandemic induced fallow years, it was back there again offering all sorts of gaming. From family friendly zones, to multi-table role-playing game events, everyone was welcome at Tabletop Scotland 2023 and we were more involved than the previous year.
With the Unlucky Frog disbanding over the last year we had volunteered to do the Pub Quiz. The Tabletop Scotland team were not running any seminars this year, so that they could have that space for games. The quiz had me stressing out a bit as this was the first time the Giant Brain team had ever done anything like this. My stress about this kind of thing manifests in over preperation which was thankfully very handy. We will come to that though.
After a last minute change to travel arrangements I drove through to Glasgow to pick up Iain Chantler and Jamie. Giant Brain road trip! I always prefer to travel with people as it just makes the journey a little less boring. After lunch at Iain Chantler’s we headed off and got to the convention just before the doors opened at 4.
Friday was mostly a setup day for exhibitors so the team got straight into some gaming! Well after a trip to the Bring and Buy to drop off a bunch of games for sale.
I showed the guys Turncoats first of all. Turncoats is a game about battling factions you are manipulating in a ‘power behind the throne’ kind of way. Milda Matilda Games has made a lovely game and I am really happy to have a copy. It’s been compared to War of Whispers by some and while I see the comparison it isn’t quite the same beast. I’ll be reviewing it soon!
Jamie hired Rallyman GT from the library being hosted by Rent, Shuffle, and Roll. This is a now sadly out of print game about racing round a track with a superb push your luck mechanism. You accelerate, hard brake, and drift around corners, all trying to get the edge on your opponents without spinning out. Despite spinning out on the very first roll of the dice, I managed to win. As the next photo testifies, Jamie was delighted.
Marrakech was next up and a teaching game, for Iain Chantler, of War of Whispers. Both superb games and I really would like to pick up Marrakech sometime. There was a huge version of it on the Hachette stand that looked amazing!
Althought it was past dinner we indulged in some King’s Breakfast. This game sees you trying to eat as much as possible but not more than the King in a odd set collection game that is nonetheless charming. Also designed by the legendary Alan R. Moon. Another one sadly out of print but available second hand for not much.
Last game of the day was a learning game of Long Shot: The Dice Game. Kenny Li, who is a friend of ours helping out at the con, had it with him. It’s a roll and write with quite a lot of bite to it. You race horses round one lap of a track, buying them to see if you can get them on the podium, betting on others, manipulating the way they move, all sorts of options! We really enjoyed it but time had gotten away from us and we got kicked out just before the doors closed!
Jamie and I stayed in the Royal Perth Golfing Society which abbreviates to RPGS. Appropriate! It sounds very grand, but it was just nice and comfy really and close to the con.
Today was the day of the pub quiz! At this point everything was organised as best we could have and we just had to get on and do it. Before that though we had a day of convention games, chatting to folk, and looking at cool things.
We didn’t do any audio interviews and I’d like to explain why. I had brought my equipment with me but I felt that the convention was so busy and the publishers and shops so focused on talking to customers that I would be taking them away from that endeavour. I realised I could write up what I saw, while taking less time from them. It’s also true that putting folk on the spot with a recorded interview is not everyone’s jam and just casually chatting and making some notes feels a lot more relaxed.
On with it then!
Handiwork Games publishes RPGs, and some small card games, but is probably best known for the Beowulf RPG. There most recent project has been the revival of cult favourite a|state with a Forged in the Dark powered engine. Everytime I see this company they are producing more games, more ideas, and constantly pushing for new and interesting ideas. Their production is second to none, with lots of lovely books, and cool accessories to go with them.
Stopping by the Hachette Games stall, mostly to annoy Richard from We’re Wizards, we had a quick game or two of Stomp the Plank (only to find we had been playing it wrong later). Lots of fun and Jamie bought a copy almost instantly. He also found a copy of Long Shot we had played the night before, and into my hands that went.
Coming round to an RPG area again we found the former Lucky Sparrow folk. This was a games cafe in Glasgow that sadly shut down but they have not been resting on their laurels. Their first solo RPG is out called Dead Air. This is a journaling game about running a radio station in a post apocalyptic Scotland. Jamie and I both snapped up a copy. The designer Fiona was nice enough to give us a copy for the pub quiz prize pool as well. Looking forward to getting into that one. When I do I may even record something as others have done.
Just a little further up this alley of the convention was The Indie Connection. This is a group of independent RPG creators that have banded together to promote each other’s work and reduce costs at conventions. It’s a great idea and similar to the Collective Endeavour from a few, well a lot of, years back that I was part of. It was great speaking to Tanya Floaker who is an active voice on the Scottish RPG scene. I picked up Tanya’s game called Be Seeing You. This was pitched to me as similar to the Prisoner TV series, which is an intriguing idea.
The folk from the Old King’s Crown were back at the convention with an almost complete prototype of the game. Jamie and I had played it last year and enjoyed it, and were keen to see how it had come on. It felt at once smoother, and more engaging and the production was great. It’s a game that sees you vying for control of a kingdom after the King has gone missing. It does this through conflicts resolved through the playing of gorgeous tarot cards with a simple power matching mechanism. Of course there are all sorts of abilities that change things up, and you can manipulate your deck in various ways. Should be on Kickstarter in the not too distant future.
After a spot of lunch, and witnessing Jamie and my friend Simon firing birds off a wire in Featherweight Fiesta, I wandered the halls a bit more.
Justin Morgan-Davies from Badcat games was showing off his forthcoming solo game of Cthlhu adventures Dreamescape and I had said I would give it a shot prior to the con. Unlike something like the Arkham Horror LCG, that Justin knew I loved, this game is told from the protagonists point of view. This mimicks a lot of the fictional work in this area where there is a lot of ‘I saw, I experienced’ style of writing.
The game is made up of a load of cards detailing different places and encounters you can have along the way as you try to survive this dream world you find yourself in. I only played a small amount of what was available but could see there was lots of potential for interesting story and a ratcheting of tension. I am not a big solo gamer, but I can see this appealing to the folk that are really into the Cthulhu Mythos, of which there are many!
Jamie and I had a chance to chat with Corey from Hive Mind Games. Corey was not only at the con exhibiting their range of RPG adventures and card games, but is also a very active member of our Discord. It was lovely to put a face to the name. Jamie picked up a game called “Brother, Why” about monks making inappropriate manuscripts.
Finally I had a chance to catch up with Ronan who runs the Netrunner community in Dundee. Ronan is an old friend of mine who I haven’t seen for ages so it was great to just catch up in general. he also gave me an idea of what Null Signal Games are up to. Null Signal produce the current fan version of Netrunner. Although Ronan doesn’t work for them he is an active member of the community. They were busy through a lot of the convention and I urge you to check out this excellent version of a fantastic game.
It wasn’t just Jamie, Iain Chantler, and myself in our group over the day. Iain’s wife Fi was around with their kid Russell and a couple of their friends. We played some Long Shot: The Dice Game together, getting my copy to the table a couple of times. Jamie and I also snuck in a game of Men At Work that I picked up in the charity auction for a great price in very good condition. One I’ve been after since playing it at Ancient Robot Games.
Of course the main event of the day for the Giant Brain team was the pub quiz. After some confusion of start time we got ourselves setup with a good amount of time to spare before kicking off at 8:30. The tech checks went really smoothly thanks to the setup the staff of the Dewar’s centre left us with. I was very glad to have tested out everything at home before coming.I had also printed picture round backups which came in very handy as about a third of the teams couldn’t see the screen!
We had 28 teams and had a rough time in mind of about an hour and a half. We managed to bring it to a close at an hour fifty which I was pretty pleased with. All the teams seemed to enjoy themselves and folk thanked us for a fun quiz. A quick thinking Jamie sorted our top 3 out and we ended up with the team from Juniper Green Board games coming first with Southside board gamers coming second and Quacks of Quizenberg coming third. Congratulations to all our winners!
We had a good selection of prizes which was mostly old review copies of mine. We also had a contribution from Fiona Ruthven of Dead Air as mentioned above. The Tabletop Scotland team gave us a copy of Oath and the jigsaw of Oath. We gave out a special prize for the best team name, as decided by us, and also one for the smallest team that did the best. Many thanks to all the companies who have been kind enough to send me review copies over the last year. Putting those in the prize pool for the quiz seemed like a good, ethical way to move them on.
Thank you so much to everyone who came along. The team had a blast running it and we hope you all enjoyed it. Personally I was really happy how smoothly everything went. We are already planning for next year and it is just going to be better with more time to plan. If you have any feedback then please get in touch!
I had been quite diligent in making little notes of the companies we visited on the Saturday. I must hold up my hands and say that was not the case on Sunday. In writing this up I have also realised I was less photo happy than I should have been! That said we did spend most of Sunday playing games. We didn’t get going doing anything straight away, opting instead for a leisurely breakfast and some reviving Irn Bru and coffee.
Iain Chantler had brought along his copy of Chaos in the Old World. He, Jamie, our friend Simon, and I had a blast playing it, and Iain came out on top as Tzeentch. I was close behind but couldn’t quite get everything to come together in the last turn. I really enjoyed my play of it and you can see why it is so well regarded. Shame it is so rare.
We split for lunch and I went wandering a bit more. I was delighted to chat with Jared Earle in person, who I had recently interviewed for a Meeting of Minds. Jared runs Nightfall Games and they are bringing back their original title SLA industries alongside the Hellboy, Terminator RPG, and various other titles. Jared has been around since the start of the hobby in Scotland. If you ever get the chance I recommend a chat.
I also stopped by the Inspiring Games booth to check out what Kevin and the team were up to. He gave me the run down on their fulfilment for Kickstarters, upcoming projects, and we had a good general natter of the state of the industry. I don’t recall stopping by anyone else and having a chat but if I did, thank you for your time and sorry I can’t remember. My brain was pretty fried by Sunday afternoon so we just played some lighter games before heading home.
Another game of Rallyman GT saw us understanding more of the subtleties. I’ll maybe write up a first thoughts piece on that so you can get a feel for it. Cockroach Poker saw a round, and will alwys be with me at cons. Of course more Long Shot: The Dice Game which was easily the game of the con for the three of us.
Checking out of the Bring and Buy meant I was several games lighter and actually in profit in terms of games bought versus games sold!
We all agreed that we had an amazing weekend. We played plenty of games, caught up with lots of friends, put faces to online names, and ran a successful event! It was lovely to be in the company of fellow enthusiasts and just relax in a welcoming environment. Much of my time on the cast deals with the darker side of the hobby, so it is nice to be reminded about what drew me to it in the first place: good people, good games, good fun. The con felt busier than ever, and recently released numbers shows a healthy growth in attendance. Thanks so much to all the team for letting us run the quiz. We felt well supported all the way.
We will be back next year for sure and this time the event will be a little closer to home for me. The team have just announced a move to the Royal Highland Centre just outside of Edinburgh. This makes it a trip round the bypass for me, and while I have loved my trips to Perth, it will be nice to have a big convention so close to home! I hope we see you at the con next year, and we are all really looking forward to seeing what the team can do with the next pub quiz!