Hi again! I visited my second ever board gaming convention at the weekend; Tabletop Scotland 2019. My first con was actually the same event last year, which was also the first time the event ran! Since I am relatively new to the convention scene, and this is a relatively new event, I thought I would share my experience, so that if you are thinking of going to a similar event you have an idea what to expect.
So, hobby or geeky conventions have been around for years now. The most well known worldwide would probably be Comic-Con, which is mainly focused around American comic books and all related media. They are a place for people with similar interests to get together, learn about new developments, and generally just geek out over their particular fandom. There are cons for a very wide range of different interests and activities around now, for pretty much anything you can think of.
Tabletop games are definitely not short of conventions across the world. Here in Europe, probably the largest one, in fact the largest in the world, is the annual Essen Spiel in Germany. This massive event attracts over 190,000 visitors, and is considered a Mecca for many game enthusiasts. In the UK, there’s also the UK Games Expo in Birmingham every year, which is a pretty massive event itself. While I would love to go to one of these big events one day, they would need a bit more of a time investment for me and my family, with at least an overnight stay. Because of this, I was very pleased when the new event Tabletop Scotland was announced last year!
Tabletop Scotland, being a newer event and being based in Scotland, has been quite a bit smaller than the events I mentioned above, but they have still managed to have well over a thousand visitors in their second year! It is run over two days, and this year had a lot of things going on, with over double the floor space compared to last year. They had so many things to do and see, including seminars, role playing games, shops with new and used board games and accessories, stands from game designers and game accessory makers, tournaments of Ticket to Ride and Pandemic, some kind of lively pirate game was going on too, they also even had a Starship Bridge Simulator, where people could work as a team to pilot a Star Trek style ship!
The main reason I went to Tabletop Scotland, and the main thing that was there however, was the board games to play. There were there so many games. There were tables everywhere in the two main halls with people just playing away. It is a beautiful sight to see for a fan like me, and I really felt relaxed and ‘at home’. There were a few areas set out for publishers to demonstrate their existing and newer games, a ‘gateway zone’ with helpers to assist newcomers to the board game world to play some of the more entry level games (this is actually the kind of game we play as a family, so we were happy there!), and there was also a large area of tables set out next to a board game library, run by the friendly Glasgow-based Dice Roll Café. Here, for a deposit, you could freely take out and try as many games as you wanted!
Personally, I went to the event this year with only myself and my three kids (aged 7-11). Normally going to such a large event with young kids would be pretty daunting, but here we managed fine. All of the organisers and volunteer helpers were very friendly and approachable, and I also knew that the other attendees were gamers, who mostly tend to be nice people anyway!
We mainly spent the day playing games, of course. We started at the Haba area, where we tried a couple of games before the kids proudly realised that they were too old for Haba now.. We then looked around the stalls. My youngest wants to be a game designer, so he was pleased to talk to someone that has designed and released a game with his 9 year old! (Handiwork Games – the game is The Forest Dragon.) In the gateway zone we tried Takenoko, which is about growing bamboo while pandas eat it, really good fun! After a break for lunch we spent pretty much the rest of the day at the library, trying four or five games from there. My oldest picked the last game of the day: Photosynthesis. This was a hit with all of us, and I went straight to buy it on the same day.
I just loved the chilled out and family friendly atmosphere that we found at Tabletop Scotland. Maybe if it gets too popular it will be more crowded and stressful, but I thought the amount of people was ideal this year. We only went home in the end because the kids were getting tired, I would have happily spent a few more hours. In fact, I am considering next year to go for two days: one with the kids and one with only my wife and I!
I would definitely recommend Tabletop Scotland to anyone, from those who are just slightly interested in games, to those who are fully invested into the hobby, especially if you live in Scotland! Hope to see you there at Tabletop Scotland 2020!