Updated: Feb 7, 2019
By Ben Porter
2018 was a pretty big year for us here at Unlucky Frog Gaming. Not only did we get to attend several premier analogue gaming events up and down the length of the country, we had the privilege of holding the position of media partner for Tabletop Scotland’s very first year. It’s almost as though were a legitimate gaming media channel, isn’t it?
To that end, I wanted to have a quick look over some of the events that we attended in 2018, and also have a look at those that we’re most looking forward to over the year ahead.
When I think back to AireCon it really puts into perspective how far we’ve come – and not merely because it was almost a year ago now. AireCon was the first event that we were granted press passes to! Though we have since been to quite a few events as press, having our application accepted felt like a monumental leap forward.
Hitherto AireCon 2018 the only other analogue gaming events I had attended were Glasgow Game Festival and some tournaments and such at Warhammer World, so it was quite spectacular seeing so many people that were just as enthusiastic about the hobby as us in one place. AireCon 2018 was a good size; big without being overwhelming. We made several great friends with whom we’ve stayed in touch; Kat and Rob from I Play Red, the Polyhedron Collider Boys and the boss-man himself – Mark Cooke – to name a few.
AireCon 2018 also wins the Best Food at a Convention Award for 2018, which I have just this minute made up and not consulted anybody on.
Honestly, we were a bit confused by this one. Perhaps the bar had been set a little high with this one, following not long after AireCon, but Conpulsion 2018 was a strange one. Compared to AireCon, Conpulsion had the feel of a community-organised event – like a church family day or a school fete. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but I keep finding myself returning to their mission statement, wherein it advertises itself as Scotland Largest Weekend Gaming Convention, which we don’t feel it is – especially not since Tabletop Scotland’s inaugural event later on in the year (more on that to follow). Even several of the staff seemed to be under the impression that it was a much more low-key affair than it advertised - local convention for local people (alright, they didn’t word it quite like that…). In fact, everyone I’ve spoken to seems to have a different notion of what it’s trying to be. Why advertise yourself as the biggest if you’re just for locals? I have no idea, either.
UKGE was as mind-blowing as it was exhausting, and it was pretty exhausting. I can’t remember the last time I sweated so much. (Note – No building, no matter what they tell you, is prepared for the body heat of 10,000 nerds. Not one.) It was June, it was gloriously sunny, and we chose to spend our weekend inside playing games. Badass.
I had a blast at UKGE. It was inspirational seeing so many people from all over the world descending on Birmingham’s NEC to plug into what’s happening in the industry. Despite the fact that there was a lot of hustle and bustle, there was still a really friendly atmosphere about the place. Josh and myself took part in a Warhammer Underworlds tournament, and for such a brutally competitive and mentally taxing game, every single opponent we came up against was really friendly. But the most important thing was that I placed higher than Josh in the final standings. Right?
Getting to meet new people and take a peek at what some of the companies were working on at the time was really exciting. I also discovered Ice Cool for the first time at the Brain Games stand while waiting to play Fallout: Wasteland Warfare. It’s amazing how you can go to an event like UKGE all eager to look at a particular game and can end up being completely blindsided by how good something you weren’t even interested in is. I’m very much looking forward to being blindsided again.
Tabletop Scotland 2018
2018 was also the year that Tabletop Scotland ran for the first time, and I think it’s safe to say that it exceeded everybody’s expectations. I think that Tabletop Scotland’s greatest success was probably in bringing together what had been – until that point – various disparate groups and organisations throughout the country. Scotland has never really lacked in any facet of Tabletop Gaming (which Tabletop Scotland was surely evidence of) but had always felt – to myself at least – somewhat disparate. No longer.
We had the tremendous honour of being the Media Partner for the event and had a hand in facilitating a number of live events and seminars over the weekend, including events hosted by our good friends Bez Shahriari and Meeple Like Us. We also hosted a completely original panel show on the Saturday evening, and even ran a gaming-themed pub quiz that massively exceeded our expectations – both in how it was received and how well attended it was. Our sponsor – Board Game Crate – Darius Twyman and the Tabletop Scotland boys all made very generous last-minute additions to the prize pool for the pub quiz, which was extremely generous of them.
As much as AireCon 2018 and UKGE 2018 were both landmark events for us in many respects, I think Tabletop Scotland 2018 was still the highlight of my event calendar for the previous year. Being chosen as Media Partner was no small accolade, of course, and having the opportunity to be creative with some of the live events was great, but it was just great to see so many faces from across Scotland that I’ve seen at various events and venues all over Scotland (and the UK) brought together in one places. I think the Scottish analogue gaming community was bolstered tremendously by the event.
Looking Forward into 2019...
We’ll be returning to Harrogate this year for our first convention of 2019. Mark has assured me that the woodfired pizza folks will be back, which is, of course, our main priority.
I Play Red will be running a live event called Fameeple Fortunes this time around, because apparently gamers love puns and parody. Please let us know in the comments if this is true. Some of the Unlucky Frog team may or may not be participating in this particular event, so make sure to swing by for that if you happen to be at the convention.
I’m also looking forward to checking in with the Playtest UK guys at AireCon again. UKGE tends to get extremely hectic for everyone, but the great thing about AireCon is the gentler pace and smaller size present a great opportunity to connect with friends and associates that we might struggle to speak to at busier events. I really enjoyed chatting with Dave Weatherall last year and observing and getting involved with the testing and feedback process was really interesting. The weird creative part of me just really enjoys watching ideas develop; I really like seeing game and art concepts and watching them develop over time.
Glasgow Games Gathering 2019
Did you know that I’m a bit of a Warhammer enthusiast? I feel like I’ve mentioned that before.
Anyway, G3 – a Glasgow-based analogue gaming club with a focus on miniature wargames – will be hosting Glasgow Games Gathering for the first time this year in the south side of the city. It’s a one day event - which is great because a lot of the conventions can be quite taxing time-wise - and though it’s going to have wargaming as a focus, board and card games will also be represented there.
Seeing new events pop up across the country is great, and it’s even better to see that they’re not just trying to emulate what’s already there. Make sure to say ‘hello’ if you see us there on the day!
Warhammer Fest 2019
I missed the bus with the Games Day events of yore and have yet to get along to a Warhammer Fest event, so hopefully this will be the year!
As the name suggests, the event places the Warhammer brand front-and-centre of everything, though the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game will also be present as it’s really a Games Workshop event. It’s a bit of a vanity event for Games Workshop in that respect, but it’s also host to the prestigious Golden Daemon painting competition (one of them, anyway), and it’s usually where the big announcements for the year are made.
The Warhammer brand is vast enough in itself to merit an entire weekend on its own, and for a great many gamers across the globe, the worlds of Warhammer are where their hobby activity begin and end. Games Workshop has been moving in a very positive direction in recent years, actively engaging in feedback collection with the community, diversifying their lineup, and just being better at curating their games. It would be nice to finally get to one of these such events, particularly as Warhammer was my gateway into tabletop.
UKGE is probably the largest show of its kind that we can realistically get to, and it’s a great chance to plug into the tabletop scene on an international level. Though we probably won’t be getting involved in any of the tournaments this year, we’re all really looking forward to seeing what’s out there. As much as you can argue that all of that information is available via the interwebs, few things compare to the excitement and vibrancy of a hall full of people from all over the world that are as excited about all the shiny new things as you are.
Don’t laugh, but I also really like Birmingham.
It’s better than London. *dons anti-hater platemail*
Tabletop Scotland 2019
Apparently, we did a good enough job to be asked back as Official Media Partners for Tabletop Scotland 2019 – go us!
The schedule for live events is going to be somewhat bolstered this year. You may or may not already have heard that the Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons and Dragons film will be having its Scottish premier on the Saturday evening, right on the back of the Tabletop Art Seminar. Empty Epsilon – Starbridge Simulator will be joining the lineup, and there’s a whole raft of events that have yet to be announced.
All of us at Unlucky Frog Gaming were really excited for last year’s convention, and I think in many ways we’re probably more excited for this year. A lot of companies and organisations that weren’t involved last year for a variety of reasons are going to be involved, those disparate gaming communities throughout Scotland are now more aware of one another… Tabletop Scotland 2019 holds a lot of promise.
So, there you have it. A little bit of the past, with a bleary-eyed squint into the horizon. As much as we can look forward to the events that we’ve highlighted here, the real excitement lies in knowing that some great stuff awaits us all in the year to come, and we haven’t the faintest idea what that could be. Another Ice Cool waits beyond that horizon, and we have but to loiter within the vague vicinity of it to find it.