Monday, August 13, 2007

Start the week @ RD/KA! : Ho hum, another Claymore

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. ;)


Andrew Paul said...

I think you're being a bit harsh, and your comments betray a certain ... ignorance is a bit strong, but I can't think of any better word right now. I don't recall any emo-only games this year - I'm willing to be proved wrong here, but if there were any, they were in the minority (note that Claymore's website fails to mention several games I know for a fact were participation). As for quick-play games, the one I took part in lasted a half-hour or so, as did, I think, the WW1 dogfight game, and a couple of others. I think you're not looking closely enough, TBH.

Granted, Claymore is suffering badly from choice of venue, and I'm not sure if that'll be changing any time soon.

I do think it suffers somewhat for being Scottish, and that some of the Sassenachs are too lazy to make it north of Hadrian's Wall. Beyond that, well, most clubs simply don't put in enough effort, IMO; grubby felt cloths, hurriedly-painted miniatures and a beard that looks like you have a Badger on your face don't help, frankly. And Claymore's hardly unique in that respect; Salute has it's fair share of disappointing-looking demo games, too.

Andrew Paul said...

Moreover, "a backwater of the wider hobby, a timewarp in which D&D, Warhammer and Mt:G might never have happened."

As opposed to what, exactly? It's a Wargames show. Granted, fantasy/SF games are a bit thin on the ground (although this year had: urban zombie hunting, starship combat, a pulp-era dungeon bash, a pulp-era 'rumble in the jungle' and Metropolis (Urban Mammoth's follow-up to Void)), but Magic and D&D simply aren't what the show is about. No-one's denying they exist, they're just outwith the scope of the con.

"A bit political on yer ass!" said...

"M'lud, the prisoner wishes to address the bench."

So Andy, it does seem that I was being a bit unfair. Ignorant? Nah, I was just being one-sided and not bothering to qualify my remarks. For example: I have reached the point with Claymore where I pay little or not attention to the games displays. This year for example I just headed for the 2 trade stands I was interested in plus the dog end of the bring and buy, spent my money, and got out. I could've mentioned this in my off-hand remarks about demonstration games versus participation games, but I chose not to, because I was feeling both lazy and unreasonable.

And yes, I know that Claymore is a wargames show. That's part of the problem IMO. Wargaming is part of a much wider hobby, most of which stems from the advent of D&D in the late 70's- ie. more than 30 years ago. And yet the single largest and longest running hobby event in Scotland simply does not represent this, as a matter of policy I must assume. So I stand by my use of the phrase 'backwater', which seems as least as apt as it might be harsh. It may well be that a bigger convention aimed at the gaming hobby as a whole is economically and logistically impossible here in Scotland. But then that would just prove my 'backwater' point it seems to me.

In the end though, if SESWC are happy to keep holding Claymore and wargamers are happy to keep attending, who am I to complain? I'll just have to live in hope that someone else might feel like making a stab at the task of organising an event of the broader scope I'd love to see. In the meantime maybe I could see if I can't get more out of a future Claymore? Who knows? Time will tell I guess.

John ;)

Andrew Paul said...

"And yet the single largest and longest running hobby event in Scotland simply does not represent this, as a matter of policy I must assume."

Along with almost every other gaming convention in the UK (and elsewhere). Really, things like Origins or Gen Con are in the minority, rather than the standard.

Anonymous said...

I must admit to being dissapointed with my first convention.

I didn't know what I was expecting but it wasn't that. I think i was expecting to be invited to play games or at least be given a list of games to be played tried and sold.

I was let down and won't be attending another.

Still, gubbing John at Up Front so often and so thoroughly more than made up for that.