Tabletop Scotland 2019 and the Great Cull

Introduction

We were at Tabletop Scotland this weekend, and my plan for the second of our Patreon funded editorial/special features was going to be a diary of the event. Unfortunately, life intervened and instead of having fun at a convention I’d been looking forward to for months I came down with a brutal cold that made sure the weekend was as miserable as it could be. The end result is that neither Mrs Meeple nor I managed to get much of note done during the weekend. We spoke to some great people. Played some great games. Sold off what felt like a literal ton of board games. That’s about it.

Really though most of the weekend was spent feeling low (and high) key sorry for myself and coughing my throat raw. Apologies if anyone was staying at the Beechgrove in Perth (a lovely place I would recommend) and was kept awake by the sound of a Ghostbusters demon dog barking the song that would end the world. That was me. I felt so bad about it that I powered through still being awake at 3am and went for a long drive where I could properly destroy my throat in relative peace. On the plus side I did get to the end of an audiobook that I wasn’t expecting to finish for a while yet.

Beechgrove room

In other words – I wasn’t in a great frame of mind to enjoy myself. If you were at the event I’d also like to apologise in advance for being the Patient Zero in your own personal story of future Con Crud.

Still, it’s time for a special feature and I have nothing else planned so I’m going to do what I can to tell you about the event. Mostly though I’d like to talk about the culling of a collection via the Tabletop Scotland bring and buy.

The Event

There’s no need to equivocate here. Tabletop Scotland is, in my view, the best convention that is running in the UK. We were similarly enthusiastic last year about the inaugural event, but there have been big changes for 2019. There are a lot more vendors and stalls, and instead of being cramped up in a single main hall it’s taken over the neighbouring ice-rink too. The result is that there’s lot of space to move around, plenty to see, and yet none of the overwhelming crowd presence that’s often the biggest feature of UKGE. As such it has replaced UKGE as my default ‘yearly convention’. I like Tabletop Scotland enough, in other words, that I don’t really see the need to go to UKGE again unless I’m doing a seminar or event or such.

Tabletop Scotland gamers

One has to temper this view though with the fact that I just haven’t been to a lot of UK events. I’ve never been to Tabletop Live for example, or even Airecon which I hear very good things about. I’d say that I’d get around to each of those in the fullness of time. For reasons I’ll post about properly at a later date, that’s almost certainly not going to happen.

Objectively though, Tabletop Scotland is an excellent event. The seminars and workshops were interesting in scope and theme (although I didn’t get to any) and there were a lot of cool events running at all times. The convention programme is here if you’re interested to see. It even includes a little essay from myself and Mrs Meeple. The game library was, as last year, full of great games although the one that I was most keen to try out (Jaws) was booked out pretty solidly for the weekend. Such is life.

My one real criticism this year though, and it’s a major one, is that the heat in the centre was unbearable. To be fair, it coincided with an unexpected heatwave in Perth – the Sunday hit 28c for example, and you might be aware that Scotland is generally not known for its sunny weather. In the centre though it was about 25 degrees and it was enough to genuinely make me feel even more unwell for large periods of the event. The Tabletop Scotland team did the best they could – opening all the doors and such to let some of the heat out – but there’s only so much you can do in a building that doesn’t have air conditioning. The plan for the future, I’m told, is to provide fans to attendees. I can’t say that fills me with a lot of confidence as a workable solution, but I guess we’ll see. Short of moving the event somewhere with a working AC system though, or perhaps holding the entire thing outside where the mercurial Scottish climate can turn on a sixpence from heatwave to downpour, I’m not sure there’s a feasible alternative.

Another part of the convention

As such, it feels unfair to heap too much criticism on the temperature. Healthwise it was an already trying weekend though and the oppressive heat made that weekend measurably worse. I can’t blame the Tabletop Scotland team for it, but that doesn’t change the fact it was a factor and might very well be next year too. Mrs Meeple made note of the heat in her diary series from last year, so that’s two for two. This year it made what would have been a 10/10 convention more like a 7/10 experience for me.

The Games

The heat and my cold basically led to myself and Mrs Meeple just not playing much over the weekend. Really we only managed two games. One was Treasure Island, which we played with Ross (More Games Please), Iain (Unpopular Mechanics) and New Friend Lindsey (Behind the Box). Mrs Meeple and I played this at the Glasgow Game Festival in 2018 and basically hated it. So many pieces, and a manual so confusingly written and reluctant to be comprehensive that it turned a simple game of drawing circles on a board into a logic puzzle from the Crystal Maze. Turns out though when you play it properly it’s actually really fun.

Treasure Island

Lindsey played the part of Long John Silver, and came within a hair’s breath of winning. She would have too except for one dramatic last play from Ross who picked a part of the map, did a long distance search of the area, and found the treasure at what was almost literally the last minute. Thus continued his unbroken winning streak in any game I have played with him. I think he has a lucky horseshoe secreted (or inserted) somewhere about (or in) his person at all times.

Winning ross

And after that we played Condottiere, where Chris (also Behind the Box) joined us. I’d heard a lot about it over the years but never been in a position to try it out. And yeah, it’s really good if a little bit drawn-out towards the end. I forget who won our game of this because I had my eye on the deadline for cashing out of the bring and buy, but it was probably Ross. He has a four leaf clover that was bequeathed to him by a fairy godmother and he has it braided into his hair. If anyone removes it, he will die.

condottiere

That’s not much for a weekend of gaming, but it was pleased to even get that done. You can expect a review and teardown of Treasure Island at some point in the future. Despite the poor first impression it made enough people had said good things about it that I was willing to give it another go. Really though it’s just such a fascinatingly different game in terms of the way you interact with the board that it’s an ideal candidate for our site focus. I will tell you in advance though it is going to be eviscerated in its teardown.

Chris and Lyndsey

It might even be the new champion for ‘least accessible game ever’ although I never know for sure until I actually write the analysis what the result will be. A betting person wouldn’t be foolish in putting some money on a change of championship.

The Great Cull of 2019

The real draw of Tabletop Scotland 2019 for us though was the bring and buy. For reasons that I’ll talk about in another post we’re in the position of having to do a major cull of our possessions. Generally I live a relatively spartan existence, provided you stretch the interpretation of the word pretty far beyond what its definition can reasonably be expected to bear. I don’t buy a lot of gadgets and gizmos. I have really three things that I buy (or used to buy) in larger quantities. Books, DVDs and board games. And all of those collections need to be ruthlessly stripped back.

I’ve already done the initial classification of books into ‘sell, keep and give away’. It’s always a little sad to do an audit of how much these things are worth and see how little relationship there is between quality and price. A terrible World of Warcraft novel is worth £7. A fascinating book on the development of deep knowledge in a complicated world is 1p. I feel bad for genuinely great books that nobody seems to want. Five huge 0bookshelves of books have been condensed down into ‘one bookshelf of stuff to keep’, and I now have a box of a couple of hundred books that are worth selling. That leaves about a thousand books that are likely going to go free to a good home or simply be donated in bulk to our local library (if they accept donations). Many of the books that are going have been with me for my whole adult life, and in some cases even longer. I have the Dragons of Autumn Twilight novel that I first read when I was about ten years old, but it’s going away. It’s a little sad, but necessary.

But more pertinent here is that the timing of the cull and of Tabletop Scotland meant it was an ideal opportunity to strip back the number of board-games that we have. I had a collection of about 320 on my shelves, and that’s now been condensed down into about 190. There might be further culls to come but a lot of the games still on the shelves have actual Meeple Like Us utility – either as future review material or because they are especially interesting or useful to the project. 130ish games though are going or gone – some have been packed away into boxes for friends, but the largest bulk – 84 of them – were going to the Tabletop Scotland bring and buy.

I’d posted a Twitter picture showing three boxes full of games. ‘Some of my games for the bring and buy’ I tweeted. Dave, Convention Overlord, tweeted back asking ‘Some???’. I replied ‘Yeah, there’s still more games to go in’.

You’re not going to have a repeat of the UKGE 2018 box incident, are you?’, he asked. If you read that report of the convention you might recall the struggle I had with a massive box full of handouts and a Mrs Meeple that was erratically moving the box and hiding in the thickets of random bushes in an attempt to be helpful. It was an awful experience, and one I had no desire to ever repeat

‘Haha, no’, I replied

‘Haha, okay’, he replied back.

‘Ha… ha?’, I thought. You know… there did look to be a lot of boxes now I started to think about it.

Kinda heavy too, if you actually tried to lift them.

See, the thing is – this was such a good idea at the time. Tabletop Scotland had moved to an electronic system for the B&B and it meant adding a game for sale was as simple as looking up its BGG profile and entering a price. And you don’t really conceptualise just how much you’re planning to take until you pack it all up.

We needed to take two cars.

After all the packing was done we’d ended up with six pretty big (and heavy) boxes. Luckily the car park at Tabletop Scotland is very close to the actual venue so while I wasn’t looking forward to getting them into the building I wasn’t anticipating it being too bad.

Even at over forty years of age I sometimes surprise myself with how much of an idiot I am. See, I’m actually reasonably strong and the boxes felt fine when I hefted them at the car. It only took about twenty steps before suddenly I realised the problem – arms get tired, and I was feeling pretty shitty even as a baseline.

The journey from the car to the bring and buy wasn’t helped by the fact that the car park was all but flooded at parts. I can’t imagine how – it was blisteringly hot and indoors. It might well have been the same puddle that was there at the inaugural event. You needed waders to get through with dry feet, and so we had to take these increasingly heavy boxes a somewhat problematic route:

  • Around the water. The first time. The second time I went ‘To hell with this’ and just walked through and put up with the consequences.
  • Up a set of stairs that led to the grounds to the Dewar Centre.
  • Up another set of stairs that let to the entrance to the centre.
  • Navigated around a swell of people registering for the event and moving to and from the halls

By the time I had managed to carry the first box to the bring and buy I was absolutely knackered. And then I saw the queue and how slowly it was moving.

The Queue at the Bring and Buy

The idea of having to rejoin that queue for every box we had to bring up was horrifying, so I asked Dave if we could store them somewhere and join the queue later. ‘Sure’, he said. ‘Use the ladies changing room’.

‘Are… are you trying to get me arrested?’, I panted. Bear in mind at this point I was breathing so heavily that if I had phoned someone up I’d have been registered as a sex pest.

‘No, we’re not using it. It’s not secured though, so I can’t guarantee the safety of any box you leave’

That was fine. The sheer weight of each box was guarantee enough. Pauline meanwhile had gone up to the first floor of the centre to where the bring and buy was last year, adding another flight of stairs to her inaugural journey. Also, apparently several people offered to help her carry the boxes she had. I, despite looking like I had died somewhere mid journey and just hadn’t actually realised, received no such offers. She didn’t take anyone up on the offers. Bloody hell, I would have.

Eventually we managed to get all of our boxes into the building, and then took a good five minutes to just sit and recuperate because oh my God what on Earth were we thinking?

Six large boxes full of games

Turns out, eighty four is a lot of games. Who knew?

We joined the queue, and the boxes that I had bought for the event were starting to get a little worse for wear. We basically moved them a foot or so at a time and the weight was taking its toll. They broke in places. Handles tore. As Pauline carried one box to its new home the bottom fell out of it depositing all the games on the floor. ‘OooOooo’ went the queue as a single choir of sympathy.

‘It’s okay’, I said, ‘This is viral marketing. Just drawing your attention to the fine goods we have on sale!’

‘How much for Conquest of Nerath?’, someone asked.

‘No idea!’, I said.

As viral marketing goes, it wasn’t great. I honestly didn’t know. Everything was priced largely by a formula that I’ll outline later. I didn’t have access to the spreadsheet. Giving a price would have been like Boris Johnson trying to guess the price of a pint of milk.

’85p’

‘What, really? For Conquest of Nerath’

‘No, sorry! Uh. Three hundred pounds?’

Eventually we made it to the point where we were able to check them in at the desk.

‘I am so sorry’, I said to the poor man at the check in point. ‘For what I am about to do to you’.

The check in process took about twenty minutes, and was actually more fun than a number of the games I was selling. He’d call out a game from the list and we’d find it to confirm it was actually there for sale. It was like a really nerdy version of the Generation Game.

‘When I Dream!’, ‘Sons of Anarchy!’, ‘Tides of Madness!’, ‘A cuddly toy!’, ‘A cuddly toy!’.

Then we’d do the same thing for actually attaching the labels and eventually getting them into the bring and buy shelving units.

Most of our games

This is the bulk of our games that we unpacked for checking in

The whole process took us about two and a half hours, and by the end of it I was basically wrecked – the cold was making it difficult to breathe at the best of times. that combined with the heat of the convention centre was a combination so powerfully unpleasant that it felt like maybe I had died when moving the first box and was stuck in my own personal hell. I had visions of reaching the end of the queue only to find the whole centre moving another 100m away with a fresh line of people leading to it.

The rest of our games on the table

And this is the rest of them

A necessary chore, but not a fun one at all. I did though later on hand in some sweets and chocolates by way of an apology to the volunteers working the desks there. Those that were stuck behind us waiting to check in their own games had to make do with the nourishment provided by sheer hatred.

The Bring and Buy

If there was one part of Tabletop Scotland that was clearly a stunning success, it was the Bring and Buy. If we weren’t engaged in a cull there were dozens of games I probably would have bought. Iain (Unpopular Mechanics) had brought a shrink-wrapped copy of Chaos in the Old World and even at the £120 (I think) he was charging I would have snapped it up. That was a bargain really – it Ebayed for £160 and is so aggressively out of print that I think copies in the wild are known to simply erase themselves from existence in sympathy. He did get it sold, which was great, but not being able to buy it myself kind of stung. This is what the B&B looked like early on in the Saturday:

Main shelves on the Saturday

The main shelves around the room were supplemented by a large central table which contained some of the larger games. Twilight Imperium 3 (with all the expansions) was on sale for £40 at one point and again I cursed the events that led up to our culling.

Main table at the bring and buy

And along with this there was even a table of little micro-games.

Small games at the bring and buy

There were games everywhere at one point – stuffed under tables, in nooks and crannies, and circulating in the arms of bargain hunters. The shelves, at least initially, got restocked with a ferocious regularity.

‘I’m a little worried that the shelves are still so full’, remarked Mrs Meeple a few hours into the afternoon, ‘Is nobody buying anything?’

‘They are’, I said, ‘There are just so many games under the counter that they will be doing restocks for ages’. It was like visiting a Tesco during rush-hour – people couldn’t get past with new games to put on the shelves because of other people blocking their way in front of the old ones.

If you’ve never done a bring and buy, it’s kind of an awkward proposition. What’s a game worth? How should you deal with games that are out of print? You want to get a reasonable price for your games but also you don’t want to overcharge because others will be selling the same games as you and you don’t want to be the more expensive option. My incentives made things a little easier – I was pricing for games to sell.

The formula I used is basically ‘Take the current lowest price on Amazon. Halve it, or mark it down by 40% depending on mood. That’s your baseline. Now add a bit for an out of print game. Add a lot for an out of print game that people really want. Deduct a bit for imperfections in the game. Add a bit if you think it’ll be a popular title. Remove a bit if you think people aren’t likely to want it’.

I’d be interested to know though how other people arrived at their own costings – if anyone has a formula they use for these things that they’d like to share, I’d love to see your comments! Bring and Buy pricing is an interesting game system in and of itself – nobody knows the prices anyone else will set, and we’re often bad as a species at estimating the value people will see in the things that we own.

Anyway, my formula led to the following list. Seafall at £5 new in shrink was a bit of a blow, but honestly that’s a game that was so badly received on its release that sometimes you simply need to pay people to take it off your hands.

GameAmazonSold ForGenerated Sticker PriceNotes
Abracadaba… what?£15.00£0.00£7.50Nobody Wanted This
Android Mainframe£15.00£8.00£7.50
Android: Netrunner£20.00£10.00£10.00First edition
Arena of the Planeswalkers£12.00£6.00£6.00
Arkham Horror The Card Game£30.00£16.50£15.00
Barenpark£26.00£14.00£13.00
Batman Almost Got ‘Im£25.00£12.00£12.50
Bloodborne Card Game£27.00£15.00£13.50
Buffy£40.00£22.00£20.00
Cards Against Humanity£25.00£12.50£12.50Sold with Expansions
Cash and Guns£25.00£12.50£12.50
Catan£32.00£16.00£16.00
Cave vs Cave£22.99£12.50£11.50
Caylus£35.00£17.50£17.50
CIV£8.00£4.00£4.00
Codenames£15.25£8.40£7.63
Conquest of Nerath£50.00£20.00£30.00OOP
CV Game£22.00£13.50£13.20With expansion
Dead Last£21.00£10.50£10.50
Dominion£25.00£12.50£11.25First edition, OOP
Dropmix£30.00£15.00£15.00Some extra cards in set
Eclipse£50.00£30.00£30.00OOP
Eminent Domain: Microcosm£16.00£4.00£8.00
Exodus£40.00£24.00£24.00OOP
First Martians£18.00£10.00£9.00
Flash Point£31.00£15.00£15.50
Fresco£35.00£19.00£17.50
Game of Thrones The Card Game£27.50£10.00£13.75
Ganz Schon Clever£12.00£6.50£6.00
Keyflower£32.00£16.00£16.00
King of Tokyo£28.00£14.00£14.00
Kingdom Builder£32.00£17.50£16.00
Lanterns the Harvest Festival£25.00£12.00£12.50
Legend of Drizzt£40.00£20.00£20.00
Lords of Xidit£12.00£6.50£6.00
Lost Legends£24.00£0.00£12.00Nobody Wanted This
Lotus£23.00£11.50£11.50
Mafia De Cuba£20.00£10.00£10.00
Mechs vs Minions£100.00£70.00£65.00Hard to get
Mines of Zavandor£25.00£6.00£12.50
Myrmes£30.00£15.00£15.00
New Angeles£45.00£22.00£22.50
Nmbr9£19.00£10.00£9.50
Onward to Venus£16.50£9.00£8.25
Origin£28.00£12.00£11.20Interior a little dodgy
Pandemic£29.00£14.50£14.50
Paris Connections£35.00£10.00£17.50
Pathfinder ACG£20.00£10.00£9.00OOP? Hole in box
Penny Arcade Card Game£24.00£12.00£12.00
Photosynthesis£33.00£16.50£16.50
Pillars of the Earth Trivia Game£23.00£8.00£11.50
Queendomino£22.00£12.00£11.00
Railroad Ink£18.00£10.00£9.00
Robo Rally£20.00£11.00£10.00OOP
Samurai£40.00£20.00£20.00
San Juan£30.00£15.00£15.00
Seafall£25.00£5.00£15.63NIS
Secrets£17.00£9.50£8.50
Sector 44£16.00£0.00£8.00Nobody wanted this
Sentinels of the Multiverse£33.00£18.00£16.50
Shadows in Kyoto£9.69£4.50£3.88Written numbers rather than stickers on one set of pieces
Shafusa£16.00£4.00£8.00
Small World£36.00£18.00£18.00
Sons of Anarchy£27.00£16.00£14.85Hard to get
Spyfall£18.00£5.00£9.00
Star Fluxx£13.00£7.20£6.50
Star Wars Risk£35.00£0.00£17.50Nobody wanted this
Superstar Showdown£20.00£5.00£10.00OOP?
Terror in Meeple City£40.00£25.00£24.00Hard to get
Through the Ages£40.00£20.00£20.00
Tides of Madness£12.00£6.50£6.00
Tiny Epic Quest£25.00£13.00£12.50
Tokaido£33.00£16.50£16.50
Unlock£23.00£11.50£11.50
Village£32.00£17.50£16.00
Villainous£29.99£16.50£15.00
Viticulture Essential£43.00£21.50£21.50
Welcome To£23.00£12.50£11.50
When I Dream£25.00£13.50£12.50
Wits and Wagers£18.00£5.00£9.00
Yamatai£22.00£12.00£11.00

At the end of the Saturday, there were about seventeen games that hadn’t sold. I went back in on Sunday and aggressively cut the price of things that were still on the shelves. Conquest of Nerath for example went from £30 to £20. Cards against Humanity (with two expansions) went from £20 to £12.50. Some games that were £15 went down to £5. Any games that didn’t sell were going to be donated to Tabletop Scotland except for Dropmix and Pit Crew which were both games I’d just give away to friends. In the end, only seven games from the list didn’t sell. It was a pretty good event for us – we certainly didn’t make as much money as we could have for what we had (Mechs vs Minions at £70 was an especial bargain for people, for example) but the key incentive was ‘get them out of the house’. I’d said to a number of people that if nothing sold I’d just end up making a very generous donation to the convention and I was serious. Most of those games were going whether they sold or not.

If everything had sold at the price I had initially asked, we would have ended up with around £1050 once the 10% top-slice charity donation was taken. Taking into account downmarking and non-selling games we ended up making £1051 in sales, donating £106 to charity and walking away with £946. That was absolutely fine by me. I’ve never been in a position before where I genuinely had too much money for my wallet but that’s what happened.

My hope is that at least some of this can be reinvested in new games when our current culling needs are dealt with, but it’ll probably end up being frittered away over the next few months on necessary expenses.

Bring and Buy shelves at the end of the day

What impressed me most about the bring and buy though was that even as it reached its final hour there were still games there that I would have bought. Twilight Imperium made it through to the end and I have no idea how. £40 was a steal. Ugg-tect was there and I’d really like to cover that for the blog at some point. It’s clear though that a lot of product was moved over the weekend and Tabletop Scotland undoubtedly have a pretty substantial check to give to the charity of their choice as a result. That money could have gone to their bottom line, but no. It goes to doing good in the community. I wouldn’t at all have begrudged the money going to the organisers, but they have walked a nobler path there.

Conclusion

I know as a convention report this is awful. It tells you almost nothing you’d want to know about the event and everything you wouldn’t about the games I sold. It’s no reflection on Tabletop Scotland itself and everything to do with the fact that for large portions of the weekend all I wanted to do was go home (like, all the way home) and go to bed. Even on the Saturday afternoon when Mrs Meeple was off doing a twenty mile run in preparation for her Chicago Marathon really all I did was orbit the facility without wanting to do anything. There were stalls that I might have checked out if I wasn’t already self-conscious about infecting the entire stadium. People I would have talked to more if it wasn’t so much of an effort to speak. Friends I would have played games with if I had felt more like having fun and less like feeling sorry for myself. All I can really say is that everyone else seemed to be having a great time and if I wasn’t so ill I have no doubt I would very much have been one of them.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.