Tabletop Scotland 2019
We were pretty disappointed not to be able to make it down for the UK Games Expo this year. Not only because we enjoyed our previous two trips, but we also weren’t able to tell you guys anything about it! However, we weren’t going to turn down the opportunity to take the short trip up the road to check out Tabletop Scotland.
You probably heard us talk about Tabletop Scotland last year on the podcast. Last year was the inaugural Tabletop Scotland, and we were impressed with how well it was organised and how smoothly things ran during the weekend. The event was bustling, yet there was room to breathe, relax and play games. Something that is a bit harder at the bigger conventions.
Tabletop Scotland 2019 – Bigger and Better
It was no surprise when Tabletop Scotland announced that this years event would be nearly double the size. And that was the immediate impression walking in to the Dewars Centre, Perth, on Sunday. Not only did they have the Strathearn Hall as they did last year, but also the Strathmore Hall. In these two spaces you had many exhibitor stands, Bring & Buy, a tournament zone and two large spaces available for Open Play.
Upstairs there was a room for a variety of Seminars, along with further space set out for the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure league and other Roleplaying Games that ran throughout the weekend.
The great thing about Tabletop Scotland 2019 was that despite the increase in size of the event, they were able to maintain the relaxed vibe which Dave Wright, the Convention Director, felt was key to the success of last year. For Dave, he wants Tabletop Scotland to be a family friendly, all inclusive event where anyone should feel welcome. But they also wanted to build on the success of last year, without having to worry about potentially turning people away on the door due to capacity limits.
With 70-80% of space utilization, they managed just that. Tabletop Scotland has got bigger this year, but to a point now where there is room to grow again for next year, without having to change too much.
Tabletop Scotland – The Family Friendly Games Expo
Last year I took one of my kids to Tabletop Scotland. I was planning on doing the same again this year if one of the other guys had been able to go on behalf of the site. And I wouldn’t have a second thought about bringing the family to Tabletop Scotland. The same could not be said about UK Games Expo. I know plenty of people do it. But UK Games Expo is just so big and so busy that I can only imagine a stressful experience if taking my young family. My friend Tom had the exact same sentiment as he attended Tabletop Scotland this year with his three kids:
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 friendly and approachable, and I really felt at home among my fellow gamers. The sheer amount of things to do there has ensured that Tabletop Scotland is now permanently added to our annual calendar!Tom – Playing Games Together
But Tabletop Scotland has made a big effort to target families and the younger audiences. You could see that on the show floor in the HABA Family zone and Asmodee UK Demo zone. They were always full of families trying new games. There were also a number of RPGs run specifically for children aged 8 to 12.
Nigel Kennington from One Free Elephant, who co-sponsored the Empty Epsilon Starship Bridge Simulator sessions at Tabletop Scotland this year, thinks that this family friendly approach is key to the future of Tabletop Scotland.
Tabletop Scotland is a Con with it’s own identity. I think it’s closest comparison is probably with Airecon in that it’s more relaxed, more friendly and more social than the (vastly!) larger and more commerce driven likes of Essen and UKGE, but TTS feels more targeted at the family and novice audiences. I think this is important as it means that there is room for all these major Cons and everyone can find an event suited to their playing and social needs. Great for the hobby and I can only see it get stronger and better in the future.Nigel Kennington, One Free Elephant
Tabletop Scotland – Standing on it’s own, but supported by others
And while Nigel sees the UK Games Expo and Tabletop Scotland as very different entities, Dave was keen to point out the support he and his team had received from the UK Games Expo. From providing tablecloths and printed banners, to a few volunteers and just general advice, Richard Denning and the UK Games Expo team were key players in making Tabletop Scotland 2019 a success. The crew from AireCon also helped by providing the electronic Bring & Buy system, which, aside for some minor WiFi hiccups at the venue, worked a treat!
Another big boost for Tabletop Scotland this year was the number of extra publishers supporting the event. Not only in the 40% increase of publishers attending this year, but with a large support for the games library. There were a lot of newly released, and even pre-release, games available to play. Such as the Crusader Kings board game from Free League. Their latest Alien RPG was also scheduled to be at the show, and we were keen to check that out, but unfortunately the GM had not been able to make it on the day.
Tabletop Scotland – Supporting the Scottish Gaming Scene
Another key thing for Tabletop Scotland is it’s support for our local gaming community. Glasgow’s own Dice Roll Café were running the board game library, along with All Around the Board from Kent. West End Games were also situated upstairs next to RPG tables, tempting players with their selections of RPG books and minis.
The Scottish gaming press were out in force too! Along with ourselves you were likely to have seen the red t-shirts of the team from the Giant Brain, the orange of 1st Player Token, the definitely non-hat-wearing We’re Not Wizards, and at least one person that had been stamped with a sticker from Unlucky Frog, who were the official media partner of Tabletop Scotland 2019.
But more importantly was the support for our game designers. Along with the familiar face of Bez at Stuff by Bez were the likes of Dream Big Games and Battle Boar Games.
Wreck and Ruin
Mark McKinnon from Dream Big Games was showing us his post-apocalyptic vehicle warfare game, Wreck and Ruin. After a “third-time-lucky” kickstarter last year, Wreck and Ruin was one of those very few kickstarters to fulfill early. At Tabletop Scotland he was on hand to demo Wreck and Ruin, but also sat on a Crowdfunding 101 panel to share his experiences of the kickstarter process. We’re hoping to meet up with Mark again in the near future to get a hands on look at Wreck and Ruin.
Arcane Blaster Casters
Battle Boar Games may be a new name to many, but they have been working on their game Arcane Blaster Casters for many years now. We first played it back in 2014 at Calm Down Tom’s ThanksGaming event. The core concept of the game hasn’t changed since then. But Malcolm and Mihai have made refinements and improvements based on hours and hours of play testing.
The game pits you, as a wizard, against your opponents in an arena battle. You have to assemble spells in a speedy but effective manner to wreak havoc on your fellow wizards. All in an effort to turn them into slugs! Roleplaying your spells is optional, but highly recommended.
The spells have a wide range of effects that might seem daunting to a new player. But you can always just throw down what sounds good and hope for the best! The great thing is that there is no player elimination, as dead wizards carry on as a slug and have a small change to still do some damage. A game of Arcane Blaster Casters also doesn’t last long. So it’s easy for newcomers to get a grasp of it after the first game and jump straight back in to another round.
But not just local talent
Finally I caught up with the team from Decking Awesome Games. I had met Brian at Tabletop Scotland last year, and then spoken with Eoin several times since about their game Dice Summoners. We took a look at Dice Summoners and spoke about it on the podcast. And while it didn’t scratch an itch for me personally, the game has been successfully funded via kickstarter and is now in full scale production.
My issue with Dice Summoners was that I felt it lacked a depth in strategy. The same most definitely can’t be said about their latest prototype, Bumper Bots on Titan. The game plays as a worker placement and engine builder with a thematic twist.
Bumper Bots on Titan
Mars is already Terraformed, so the next obvious place for humans to colonise is Saturn’s moon Titan. The players are playing as corporations that are all working with remote drones to build domes and prepare Titan for colonisation. Only, long range communications are still not perfected. When a player places a worker (bot) onto the board to collect resources, they then need to roll a dice to see how well the communication has been received. This can result in the bot moving a space either North/South or East/West of where you intended it to go. And if there was another bot already there? Well they get bumped over to the next slot too!
This brings a little bit of risk/reward and just a pinch of take-that strategy into the game, without making it the key concept. There are mechanics there to increase your chances of securing a specific square, and making it harder for others to bump you.
And on top of the main board is a storm that travels across the board each round. The storm can affect which direction bots will get bumped and includes vortexes that take them off the board entirely. This is where the risk/reward comes in as you might want to go for that high yield spot on the board, but a miscommunication could have you losing your bot to the vortex.
Right now the game is very much a prototype, and Brian was taking notes throughout our playthrough. The board is spread out into several pieces, and they are still considering which direction to take the artwork. But the mechanics were solid and I can see Bumper Bots on Titan being a great success for Decking Awesome Games.
Tabletop Scotland 2019 – BIGGER and BETTER!
When we arrived at Tabletop Scotland on the Sunday we were supposed to check out the Alien RPG for the first three hours. And while I’m disappointed we didn’t get that opportunity, and I hope we can cover the RPG soon anyway, it was almost a blessing in disguise. There is no way I could have got around the floor, spoken to so many people and played some many games in just half the day. When we go to UK Games Expo, we go for the full three days. Next year, for Tabletop Scotland, we will probably need to go up for the full weekend.
The Tabletop Scotland team have announced since the weekend that they had a 54% increase of attendance over last year. That’s a pretty damn good increase. But as they increased the space nearly 100%, that gives the convention the space to grow without too many changes for next year.
And we can’t wait to go back again. See you all next year!