Stabcon Summer 2010 - A Board Game Conference

Gamers at Stabcon Summer 2010
Well as I race back from Stockport (courtesy of Virgin trains) and set pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) to record my visit north; I had a very interesting and thoroughly enjoyable evening (thank you Tim for the invite) talking to stalwarts in the hobby and gaming world. The summer Stabcon (Stockport 2-4th July 2010) is one of many games events run all over the country, some like this one twice a year. Interestingly they do no advertising for the event but, based on previous events would expect to get at least 200 gamers (both locals and foreigners like myself, from down south or further afield – American and Welsh;
no doubt others but with over 100 gamers on the first evening there are only so many people even I can talk to!) through the door, paying either £8.50 for a day or £17.50 for the full weekend, an impressive number for an event promoted by word of mouth and web forum comment only.

The main hall early on Friday afternoon

Given the lack of advertising it is not surprising that the attendees are existing gamers rather than curious members of the public. The gamers break broadly into two camps: those that will come along set up and play with their existing group/friends and those that come along and play with friends and strangers alike. However as a stranger I seemed to be welcomed at any table and it is a great way to meet new people and get a chance to play games you may have read about but are not part of your collection. It is perhaps of note that this is not a world entirely dominated by men with over 25% of the attendees being ladies. In other respects those present varied in age from teenagers through to those of more senior years and less hair.

Gamers at Stabcon Summer 2020
Having talked to a number of stalwarts, including James “Hammy” Hamilton (organiser and key man at Treefrog) I found that the majority of the attendees have similar interests to our group, favouring Euro Games over the more complex and involved Gamers Game (the type of games offered by Treefrog). Edging my way past the various tables I noticed a number of games that would be familiar to members of our own group, Castle Panic and Race for the Galaxy amongst others.

With the acquisition in 1994 of Waddington by Hasbro it is possible that Treefrog are the largest games manufacturer in the UK – have you ever heard of them? Sadly the answer is probably not.

With many conversation pointing to the delight people have when being introduced to modern board games and their ready acceptance, it is easy to believe the contention that ‘the British love playing board games, they have just forgotten that they exist (not helped by their general absence from the high street scene), and those that haven’t are inclined to see board games as the preserve of Geeky dedicated hobbyists rather than something ‘I would want to do’.

Gamers at Stabcon Summer 2020
This was not always the case, however in the 1980’s Trivial Pursuit arrived on the scene dominating the cyclical Christmas board games market, big games outlets such as Games workshop stopped carrying products from other manufactures, computer games arrived capturing the attention of many people and ultimately a number of then large well known board games manufacturers e.g. Avalon Hill and SPI struggled to innovate and compete with the evolving trends in the market place, eventually going the way all such firms.

Can the UK rediscover its love of games and move them from geekiness to an acceptable part of the social scene? Time will tell.

If you would like to read more about the games played then click here.

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