Monday, October 1

Tabletop Gaming Live: Fears Unrealised

Back in June I ran a Hand-Crafting Games seminar at the UK Games Expo. I'd pitched it as a chance to watch me make a copy of Zombology live while I talked about my experiences running two games companies, but it became apparent before the event that I wouldn't be able to finish making a game in time (it takes 40 minutes when I'm focussing and I only had an hour, but that was only 50 minutes once 5 minutes had been shaved off either end to allow people coming and going). On the day I gave people the choice of watching me frantically crafting in an attempt to finish or to focus more on the talking and they chose the latter, so that's what I did and in the 50 minutes I managed to make half a box and cut out a few cards. I waffle a lot it turns out.

Alexandra Palace is pretty!

Shortly afterwards, the guys from Tabletop Gaming Magazine approached me about repeating my seminar at Tabletop Gaming Live, a new convention they were running in London in September. I leapt at the chance.

As we liaised via email in the run up to the show I told them I'd struggled to get much done in the hour at the Expo, so they gave me two whole hours of their single seminar track! Wow!

The show was on the last couple of days, so I've spent most of my weekend there. London, it turns out, is a long way from Newcastle, so first I arranged with Paul (my FlickFleet co-designer) to stay at his Saturday night. So after The Toddler was asleep I set off, arriving at Paul's just before 10pm. We had a brief chat and then I headed off to bed as we'd set our alarms for 5am. On a Sunday. Joy.

Up, showered and breakfasted we set off at 6am for the 3.5 drive from York to north London (did I mention it's a long way?). The first differences I noticed between this and the Expo were the little things. As a speaker I had a parking pass for free parking in a secure car park abutting the venue (my car was literally 10 feet from the venue wall). This was great. At the Expo I'd ended up parked a good distance from the venue, so I'd carted my bag of tricks (which weighed a ton!) around all day - no fun at all. My hand was killing me before I'd even started the cutting. Yesterday however, we went in blissfully unencumbered - safe in the knowledge that it would only take a few minutes to get all my stuff from the car before my seminar at 2pm.

I spent a few hours wandering round the trade hall, chatting to people I'd previously only met online, introducing myself and my games to a few shops who were there and having a chat with Caezar from Alley Cat Games about the Kickstarter consulting he does. It was all good. Plus it was a great opportunity to hang out with Paul, who I don't see anywhere near as much as I'd like any more (we used to live just round the corner from each other, now we're 100 miles apart).

But the time for my seminar was approaching and I had some concerns.

At the Expo (a much bigger show) I'd managed to get nine people to my seminar. Two of those were mates I'd know for years, one was a Zombology customer and another a guy I knew from twitter. Tabletop Gaming Live was clearly a much smaller show and Sunday was apparently much quieter than the day before. Would anyone come to my seminar at all? The seminar space was in a massive room, of which about a quarter was set aside for the seminars - the rest was open gaming and a cafe. Would I be stood up there, mic'd up, chatting to Paul as the sole audience member while loads of uninterested people around the room were wondering what on earth was going on? A serious risk.

I was also beginning to regret the two hours slot. 2 hours is a long time. A very long time. Especially when you're at a convention looking to try and play and buy games. If an audience turned up, how long would I be able to hold their attention? 30 mins? An hour?

As it turned out I needn't have worried. There must have been 30-40 people at the start and even at the 1.5 hour mark when I finished making the game (I actually finished it!), there were probably 15-20 people still there. A good proportion of those subscribed to our mailing list and I sold seven copies of Zombology (I only sold one at the Expo seminar - to the guy I knew from twitter) - so it was a huge success.

Then I had the 6 hour drive home, via York to drop Paul off. A great, but very tiring day!

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