Last weekend, we spent around six hours on trains in order to get to Edinburgh. Yes, of course, board games were involved! We were en route to the inaugural Tabletop Scotland in Perth. This event was originally supposed to be quite small with around 300 people, yet over the course of the weekend there was over a thousand bodies through the door! Obviously, being a first time event, we had no idea what to expect and no preconceived ideas, which made it interesting and exciting. We’d spoken to some of the organisers at UK Games Expo and online beforehand and it seemed like it was going to be friendly and relaxed, the smaller numbers making it more intimate. As the event got closer and ticket sales kept rising, I was nervous for the organisers, wondering if they had bitten off more than they could chew - this Con for 300 people had advance ticket sales of nearly 600!
We arrived in Edinburgh around midday on Friday to glorious sunshine so managed to sit, relax and have a few drinks before work officially started. We checked in at our hotel then wandered down to Big Dog Books - a local comic and game store that had offered to host people before the Con officially began on Saturday. Sadly, the shop was pretty small and Friday night Magic was already happening when we got there so there wasn’t really space for a horde of boardgamers as well.
So, instead, we met up with a friend, and had a good meal while discussing boardgames and our plans for the weekend. On our way back to the hotel we saw the Dewars Centre (the venue for the event) was still very busy so decided to have a sneak peek, say hello to people we knew and introduce ourselves to people we didn’t. The venue looked great even in it’s ‘not quite ready’ state and we manage to do a little sneak peek video. We then headed back to our hotel so we could get a good nights sleep and be up and ready to go early on the Saturday (we had a lot we wanted to cram in over the next two days!)
We arrived before show opened on Saturday, ready to attack everything full on, after coffee, of course! So, we were sat in the bar area, perusing the rather lovely Tabletop Scotland 2018 brochure, deciding what we wanted to look at first when mayhem broke out! (Mayhem is a very dramatic word, but a good one that should be used when opportune!) The bring and buy had opened, and almost a running theme, demand had exceeded expectations so the poor volunteers were swamped.
Having worked at the UKGE bring and buy before, I couldn’t stand and watched, so both Rob and I stepped in to help (of course, there’s always the chance a bargain might come your way too!) So, our first couple of hours at TTS were spent working - no change there then! Once the initial rush to check items in had died off, we sneaked away, ready to look at the rest of the show.
We started by doing a general scout round, working out where everything was and what we wanted to look at. A lot of the demo tables were busy and the open gaming was pretty full by this point. Although the show was busy, the noise level was a general hum and never so loud it became too much, though there was a ‘quiet room’ for those who found it too much at any point. We managed to grab a copy of Coimbra by Eggertspiele from the library and have a game. I have been very excited about this for a while, and have to say it lived up to my expectations. Only twelve turns in the game which involves choosing dice and placing them to gain cards which can combo beautifully. Pretty simple in terms of gameplay but difficult to strategise - my favourite kind of game, can’t wait for this to be finally released in the UK!
I then wandered over to the PlayTest zone - this was really nicely set up with a small board displaying everything you needed to know about each game. Areas like this are a great opportunity for all - designers can get their game seen by a lot of people and maybe even iron out those last few tweaks and people can find out and play upcoming releases, meaning they know if they like it before spending the money on Kickstarter! These tables were pretty full most of the weekend but I managed to get a game of Dice Summoners from Decking Awesome Games - a competitive, monster brawling, dice game. This was a fun little game with great artwork that I will hopefully get to review properly before it’s launch on Kickstarter next month.
Then, came the evening entertainment! I had been invited to be on a panel by Unlucky Frog Gaming crew (who were the media partners for the whole event!) The premise was simple, choose one item in gaming to throw away forever, sounds familiar? Nah - this was D100+1, no rooms here at all! There were nine of us on it all together and between us we discarded the terms ‘Ameritrash and Euro’, badly written rule books and ‘The Mind’. My choice of co-op games sadly stayed in the field, but I will continue the fight to rid the world of co-ops! There will be a video of this up soon-ish so I’d rather let you go watch it than spoil the fun!
After that panel was the pub quiz which was a lot of fun and included rounds like ‘what’s in Charlotte's box’ and ‘board game or porno?’
Again, this was organised by the Unlucky Frog Gaming crew, so shout out to them for all their hard work over the weekend! This was suitable rowdy and silly end to Saturday, so off we went back to the hotel, ready to pack up as we’d be leaving Perth after the Con on Sunday.
We started Sunday with a demo of Motora from Twisted Bit Games. I don’t want to say too much about this just yet as I shall be posting a walkthrough in the near future, needless to say we enjoyed it enough to fit it in our very limited luggage for the flight home!
We spent some time looking at the wonderous wall of cats painstakingly reconstructed by Bez. Rob played a game of Wibbell++ and I ran away because I am terrible at word games and anagrams. Kitty Cataclysm (chaos, cardplay, dickery and cat puns) is still in the making so we hope to see that at Essen later this year. In the meantime here you can see Bez in more red than me which just isn't right.
We actually managed to get a good amount of game play in on Sunday - yay! We had a play of Disney's Villainous. I, of course, played as the Queen of Hearts, Rob played as Prince John and our friend Chris played as Captain Hook. After just the one play I’m very on the fence about the actual game play of this, everyone has different win conditions and some felt far easier than others, waiting for specific cards to show up in your deck can be frustrating. However, the artwork and player pieces are amazing! I wouldn’t consider myself a Disney fan really, but obviously I have childhood memories of the films and the artwork was spot on and totally immersive and evocative.
We then went and had a demo of Legends Untold from Inspiring Games. This had been on my radar for a while. I have friends that want me to run RPGs for them, but I want to play rather than GM and this seems like the closest equivalent out there. It certainly didn’t disappoint! Our intrepid party of four started out pretty well, tackling monsters and finding treasure. However, by the end of our short demo scenario three out of the four of us were unconscious, leaving our fourth party member to drag our bodies along behind him! On a first play through some of the symbology and dice rolls felt slightly confusing but I also appreciate after a couple of plays things would be a lot easier (like any RPG system out there!) This is by far the closest thing to an RPG I have played that didn’t need someone to run it. Each character has reversible cards so everyone can play as a male or female version of their chosen role. The artwork is gorgeous and totally in line with the theme, there is a great universe being created and I can’t wait to see how it expands over time!
Then came time for our You Tube live stream with Nigel from One Free Elephant. Their game, Microbrew had launched on Kickstarter on Saturday and already hit target by the Sunday morning. Microbrew is a big game in a small tin, a mint tin to be precise! In fact, it came overall second in BGGs 2017 mint tin competition. Nigel sat and taught us the game then left Matt and I to play through. Microbrew is a two player worker placement game where, you guessed it, you are brewing beer. Each character card has a preferred brew that will make them a loyal customer for you (which is what you need to win the game!) but brewing beers that are close to what they like will generate money and help you build an engine. The best part of this is the puzzle element.
Each player has a copper kettle containing different kinds of worts, and you can use an action to rearrange these which is a mini puzzle in itself! The lighter coloured worts always rise up while the darker ones always move down, so trying to get the correct combination for your brew can take a fair amount of brain power. Two player worker placement games are tough but Microbrew compensates for this by allowing you to ‘bump off’ an opponent's worker, however, they then get to place that worker again so taking the move you really need will quite often give them an extra move. Lots of things to think about aside from getting your engine working! Check out Microbrew on Kickstarter now!
The trade hall closed at 4pm on Sunday so quite a few people started vanishing around then but the open play was available until 6 so undeterred, we kept on playing! We got to play a friends prototype of Bad Ass Force - a bluffing game with great caricatures of numerous action heroes. It felt like a cross between Coup and The Expendables and was a lot of fun! Can’t wait to see where this goes. I particularly liked the Bad Assometer (aka the score track!) It was also a great fun way to end an amazing weekend of gaming!
Tabletop Scotland was a great weekend and well worth the 1100 mile round trip! (I think Essen is closer for us!) Despite attendance and demand being well over what was expected the weekend ran smoothly (from what we saw!) and the atmosphere was super friendly. Darius from Uncon deserves a special mention for driving all the way from Kent and back to provide the board game library. Initially, this was to be provided by Dice Roll Cafe from Glasgow. However, their library is housed near to the Glasgow School of Art which suffered a devastating fire in June, meaning a lot of nearby buildings are closed for safety reasons. Although they know their games library is safe they are currently unable to access it at the moment so Darius and the Uncon crew stepped in at the last minute and did a gruelling drive to provide games for all at TTS. This makes us even more determined to get our butts to Uncon at some point (stop clashing with everything else please!)
The demo zones from Coiled Spring and Asmodee UK were constantly busy, as
was the Playtest zone and there was a constant buzz of excitement from people
in all areas of the convention. Congratulations to everyone involved,
volunteers, stand holders, designers and organisers who made TTS such a great
event! Looking forward to next year already :)