The ripples of the pandemic were felt far and wide across the board game event community, from clubs having to go on hiatus, to retail stores putting game nights back on the shelf and trying to continue selling online instead. It was probably felt the most in the cons, where all of a sudden thousands of expectant players found they had no where to gather as signs of cancellations went out and those who had dates in their diaries marked as something to look forward to, had to make more mundane plans.
Time is a healer as some would say, and while COVID has been more downgraded than eliminated from society, society needed to get back together. We need that human interaction and exhibitions like Tabletop Scotland are a chance for lots of us to get under one roof with a shared passion with like minded people and push pieces of cardboard around on bigger bits of cardboard.
Due to the podcast and the number of people I have spoken to over the years, cons for me are like meeting people at the Arrival Gate in airports. I see familiar faces with smiles of recognition. Sometimes there is a hug, a firm hand shake but always a sense of relief that here is someone I know, and maybe this place is a good place. It strips away the sense of nervousness that I’m going somewhere where even though I’ll be surrounded by those who enjoy the same hobby, I’ll still feel alone. I still find cons to be anxiety inducing. I’m very conscious that I’m loud and possibly annoying. I’m potentially over friendly and I worry that the impression I’m giving people is correct, that I’m an self important arse that laughs at his own jokes far too much.
Even after a couple of years of an absence, Tabletop Scotland gives the impression that it’s always been here. There’s an air of permanence in something that has gone from being a executed idea to being fully formed and established. When we arrived first thing on the Sunday morning, we parked without any hassle in the underground car park beneath the Dewar Centre itself, and unlike too many places nowadays, parking on the Sunday is completely free. Even for those parking the day before, an entire days parking was only £2. Yes, you are reading that right, which probably justifies buying tickets and going based on that alone.
Once inside ticket and lanyard collection was straight forward and painless, greeted on the door by one of the main organisers and then given the freedom to wander. Signage is everywhere, clear with arrows pointing the way from everything including the Bring and Buy sale to the Non Gender Specific Bathrooms and the all important place for scran and nourishment.
One of the first people I bump into is David Wright, who you would cry as the heid bummer, the big man, the lad who calls the shots. There’s a difference to him from previous years, where he was stressed and running around like a newly married couple at a wedding, making sure that all the guest are happy. This time it looks like he’s taking it all in and getting the chance to savour what he’s achieved. He’s not 100% happy, as some of the exhibitors had to cancel and the last second and so one hall appears to have more space between the stands. You wouldn’t know this unless he told you of course. He’s akin to an artist who while he knows his painting is finished, is still touching up small details that only he will ever notice. Though I think he’s getting closer to the other side where he’s becoming more aware alongside John and Simon and Duncan that their planning has worked out, and he just needs to enjoy the moment and memories he is creating.
The Starship Bridge is still here for those looking to be the next Captain Kirk or Janeway, run enthusiastically by Nigel Kennington. The hugely big Walk The Plank event is back causing laughs and falls. Upstairs the dungeoneers and other roleplaying enthusiasts have their own quieter spaces for pretending to be other people with dice and stat sheets. For those needing some time away from the hustle and bustle, the quiet room makes a welcome return. Unlucky Frog Gaming continue to provide their expert services to the panel events that went on during the weekend. Then of course you have the bring and buy, a place where bargains are found and guilt purchases are made. Where cups of joy are filled and emptied and people leave cradling preloved purchases in their arms like a long lost kitten, wondering why someone would ever put something so magnificent up for sale.
There’s a mixture of those selling published product and those who dream of being published. The Old Kings Crown was something that caught my eye on that day, a looker of a prototype all about card values mixed in with area control and already looking like the final finished product. Race For The Title was there on the Webstar Games stand with Counter Attack on hand to demo. Crab Studios with Fatal Knockout and Inspiring Games with the simply wonderful Kevin Young, still working on the next installment of Legends Untold and still as delightful as ever. Mark of Wreck and Ruin fame from Dream Big Games now has Wardens of Wulvengrad to entice you in. Digisprite were there to entice you with Adventure Mart and Familiar alchemy, both of which I previewed and enjoyed back in their Kickstarter days that when they were not the fully realised projects they are today.
And Bez, oh my goodness, a con would not be the same without the huge amount of infectious energy and joy that Bez brings to any space they inhabit. There’s a level of skill to get so many people involved without making people feel pressured and Bez has this ability to make you feel welcomed and valued and overall involved in whatever their next project is that they are currently putting out there. Radishes and synergies and monsters and fun, nothing but pure fun.
Fundamentally, this is all about the games and getting together, and in that regards Tabletop Scotland offers choice in both aspects. Both of the halls in the venue had enough tables to sit down and play from either your own brought in collection, or borrowed from the well stocked games library from new company Rent, Shuffle and Roll. For those wanting to try something new, Imagination Gaming and Hachette Games were on hand to demo and show you the ropes on a number of games, varying from the abstract to the easily accessible kids games, and there was always a friendly face to help you with confusing rules at every point. For those with younger family, the Haba stand was there to offer fun for younger players and small families. It was in fact incredibly encouraging to see the number of families wandering around, lost in the wonder of cardboard and dice and fun. It made we wonder if that over that weekend, someone played their first game that would maybe return in years to come with their own design to show off on their own stand.
I got a chance to play Oath, meet up with some friends, spend time with family, not feel cheated at the food prices in the restaurant. At the end of the day I drove less than an hour to get home, social battery drained and smile muscles suitably tired. I’m already seeing comments on the Facebook page asking if they’ll consider a three day con next year. I’m kind of thinking that might not be such a bad idea. Tabletop Scotland continues to do things well and grow from strength to strength and is definitely something you should consider attending if you get the chance in the future.
We paid for a ticket to attend on Sunday. We were provided with a press pass because my ego is ridiculous. We have been not paid for this overview.