It's been nearly a fortnight since I posted last. This was because I've been particularly busy lately, not because my mood has swung so low I can't face the keyboard. Just thought I'd let my regular readers know the good news. Anyhoo, onwards.
A couple of weekends ago saw the first Saturday in August, meaning that it was Claymore Saturday. Run by the South East Scotland Wargames Club, Claymore is probably Scotland's largest and certainly Scotland's longest-running wargames convention. It is also caught in something of a timewarp, being essentially a hardcore miniatures games convention.
The event is held in the indoor athletics track at Meadowbank stadium in Edinburgh. When you go in you are confronted by 3 rows of exhibits: a central row of gaming tables flanked on each side by trade stands. There is a real sense of bustle for sure, but the area is cramped and gloomy. And that's all there is to it. There are no other rooms. There is no space for other activities, let alone for gamers to come along and do their own thing.
On top of all that, when you look at what's laid on, well, to be honest, it leaves me pretty cold. The gaming tables are given over to a mixture of demonstration and participation games. I really don't get this demonstration games thing. I mean to say: why should I want to watch other people play their games instead of playing games myself? I simply cannot get my head around the mentality which thinks that this is a worthwhile activity to lay on at a public event.
And the participation games are by and large little better. Why do I say that? Because most of the participation games are ongoing games which the public can join in with. That is to say: they are not games designed to be run to completion over a short period. This would seem to me to reduce any members of the public who decide to join such a game to the level of a place-filler in someone else's game.
Now maybe I'm being unfair here. There are a lot of nice models on the tables at Claymore each year, and I can well understand their appeal. I'm even faintly envious of people who have some of the miniatures collections on show. So maybe the visual spectacle itself is indeed an attraction which will help grow the hobby. And likewise not all the participation games look like demonstration games with room for a few people to join in. So maybe they too are an attraction whose power is lost on me.
But year after year I go to Claymore, and I end up feeling the same way: for all its charms, this is a backwater of the wider hobby, a timewarp in which D&D, Warhammer and Mt:G might never have happened. More and more too I find myself wondering if this is exactly what the organisers prefer. Whatever: it's their club and their event, so they can run it as they please. I just think it's a shame that our Scottish gaming community continues to lack the sort of event which represents all aspects of the hobby, which presents them attractively and comfortably, and which- above all- offers people as much time as they'd wish to play as many games as they can fit in.
If Claymore is as unattractive as I'm painting it here, why do I bother going at all? I mean, I typically pay my money at the door and only hang around for an hour or so before finding something else to do. There are several reasons. First is sheer nostalgia. I did my student drop-out days in Edinburgh 20-odd years ago. So the sheer beauty of the city is overlaid with poignant memory. On top of that there is the chance to spend some money, which I did this year naturally enough. Finally- and most importantly- there is the Claymore games bash, where I meet my old buddies, drink beer, and while away the hours playing boardgames until we drop. I wouldn't miss this for the world. This year's session was particularly spectacular. More on that anon.