Saturday, 8 October 2016

A New Podcast is born - End The Turn

So as with my post on Roll Against Cancer (hopefully have shareable news on that soon) I have another one of my revised Hobby Objectives to update you all on.  This time it's More Involved.

Tomorrow at roughly 6pm UK time a new podcast will launch.

End The Turn is a drunken promise I made at UK Games Expo to my good friend +Liz Mackie

Unlike other drunken promises I may (or may not!) have made at UK Games Expo this one is now a reality.

End The Turn is a podcast about the hobby, focusing on RPGs and Board Games but also likely to cover other stuff in and around this wonderful hobby of ours.

So what does that mean for A 2nd Chapter?  Nothing specifically.

I'll be posting content here and I'll be posting / podcasting content there.  Some of that content will blend between both but some of it will be different.  You're definitely going to get more RPG related content over on End The Turn alongside Board Games. A 2nd Chapter will continue to be about my views and thoughts about my hobby and the hobby and I think they're compatible outlets.

So have a listen when we launch and let me know your thoughts either here or via the End The Turn avenues.


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Starting A New Game Store....

... No not me.  My life as we know it would be over if I contemplated that!!

The awesome Gary Ray over at Black Diamond Games in Concord, California has recently started collating and posting a HUGE amount of intelligent planning and thinking in general about the process you should go through if you're looking at Starting A New Game Store.

Whilst some of his content is U.S.A. centric I'd say 99% of what he says translates to other regions of the world.

In my opinion Gary is a visionary of how hobby retail, specifically game hobby retail, needs to be run.  Invariably during my tenure at KOA I referred to his blog for insight and guidance when things weren't going well and ultimately it was his blog that helped me come to the conclusion that I needed to cease trading as KOA.  Well that and the mountain of debt that I acquired and continue to pay off...

So if you're interested in bricks & mortar retail in general and specifically in how the game hobby retail business operates you'd benefit from reading Gary's blog.

Part 1 is here -

He's currently (at time of writing) up to Part 10.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Roll Against Cancer

As part of my revised hobby objectives I set out to be more involved in the hobby at large and to organise events.

Roll Against Cancer does both of these.

I've been involved in charity events in the past, mostly during the 1st Chapter but also through events at DWARF over the years.

I've am close to people who continue to fight Cancer and have lost people due to Cancer.
As have many other people I know.

I can't cure Cancer.
I also can't raise enough money on my own to cure Cancer.
I can help though.

Roll Against Cancer is an attempt to help but what is it exactly?

Well right now this is embryonic but this is what I want it to be -

  • Event will be from 10am to 10pm on a Saturday
  • RPGs - I want at least 4 tables of RPGs running over at least 2 slots (preferably 3)
  • Board Games - I want a board game library for people to pick up and use but I also want to have some scheduled board game events and hopefully a demo team from Esdevium
  • Wargames - Not sure what to aim for here as I don't want to dilute / detract from other local events.  Perhaps X-Wing or Warmachine / Hordes or perhaps something else.  Depends on what the Scottish scene can handle.
  • Card Games - Unlikely to have anything that will compete with the Magic scene but will take that under advisement from my network.
  • Game Jam Lite - I want to use this as an opportunity to have a Game Jam Lite.  I say Lite as there's no way we could host a full on Jam.
  • Something published (PDF and/or Print) - I want to use my network to get game related "stuff" collected and published to either a) raise funds or b) be a give away to all who attend or c) something else.  This needs a LOT more thought.
  • Raffle / Prizes - Not wanting this to turn into a rewards scheme for people necessarily but it would be good to get some stuff together to thank those who come and also provide additional incentives to those who would consider attending.
  • Seminars / Talks - Nothing grand here but I'd like to have something along these lines.
  • Introductions - I'd love to have people who have no connection to the hobby to support us in some way.
  • Plus of course I want to raise money to fight Cancer.
So it's essentially a mini-convention.

The specifics around What, Where, When and How for Roll Against Cancer will go on that web page but I will post about it here too.

That said. If you want to help, let me know as I'd love some input.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

A Fresh Look @ My Hobby Objectives

So way way back on 20th August 2013 I posted this on my Hobby Objectives.

This is what they looked like almost 3 years ago and where I think I'm at with them.
  1. Sustainable and regular gaming.
    Think I've got this covered.
  2. Play more with more.
    Again largely got this covered.
  3. Home based gaming.
    Hmmmm... not quite happening other than on rare occasions.  Will it stay as an objective 3 years on? Not quite.
  4. Play something new at least one in every six gaming sessions.
    I think I achieve this every gaming session now, particularly with board & card games.
  5. Visit more game shops.
    Not really managed this and not sure I feel the need to drive it as an objective.
As per my post on the RPGLifeUK TweetUp at UK Games Expo 2016 I think I need to revamp / rethink some of these as in reality I've either demonstrated that I'm doing some of these with little or no effort due to circumstantial changes OR they just no longer apply...

So if I was writing these now they'd look something like this -
  1. Balanced gaming.
    So right now I've got the regular gaming largely in the bag but I'm heavily leaning towards Board & Card Games and whilst's that's been fantastically rewarding... I want to get some RPGs back onto my gaming agenda and I also want to play Battletech : Alpha Strike on a more regular basis. So really what I want is balance to my gaming hobby.  How do I achieve that?
  2. More gaming overall.
    So this is how I achieve 1 unless I re-start RPGs at DWARF Fridays but right now I can't see that.  So how do I do it? ENT Fridays. One of the challenges with DWARF for RPGs is the slot length on a Friday.  ENT has the capability to host RPGs on Friday nights for approx 4 hours and I see that as a way of scratching that itch. DWARF Fridays will probably default to board games with us playing Pandemic: Legacy and likely some Battletech : Alpha Strike added for good measure at both ENT and DWARF.
  3. More involved.
    What do I mean by this? Well, I think I'm pretty involved in my local / regional hobby through clubs (previously ORC, DWARF and of course in the past couple of years with ENT) and of course having KoA helped define that to a certain extent. However if there's something that I've wanted it's to be more involved or more precisely "involved" in the hobby as a whole.  How do I go about that? Well that's what I need to define but I suspect it's going to be a combination of things.  There's more definition needed here.
  4. Event Attendance
    Similar to 3 in that it's about being more involved in my hobby. This however is a more direct response to the #RPGLifeUK tweetup where if I took anything away it's that I need to attend more events / cons / whatever.  2016 won't be terribly good for that I suspect as work is going demand a lot of my free weekends between September and the end of the year but I'd like to go some way to tracking this objective in 2017.
  5. Organise Events
    So this one does relate to 3 to a certain extent but it more focused. Bottom line here is I want to organise and deliver an event or series of events which would showcase the hobby. This will likely have a combination of micro and macro entries but in the end what I want to do is enable growth of the community through events.
So that's where I'm at now I think.  It's a decidedly different set of objectives to those I set out with when I started this blog but I'd suggest far more of an evolution than anything else.

The next step is to start delivering against them.  Let's see how that plays out.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

UK Games Expo 2016 - Teaching with Games Seminar

So the seminar was billed as - "How are games used to teach and learn? Games Jams, boardgames sessions and design are increasingly used in universities around the UK to help the next generation of games developers explore gaming. Come and find out how games help us learn, what academics are getting up to in various universities around the country, and where you can learn games design! 

Dr Esther MacCallum-Stewart is joined by Douglas Brown, Brian McDonald, Patrick Morrison and James Wallis."

Well, did it live up to that?  Kinda sorta...

The seminar covered two key things -

  • Game design whether it be video, mobile or whatever has it's foundations in board game design.  If you can design a board game then you have the building blocks for any sort of game.
  • Game Jams are cool (more below) and give attendees the opportunity / challenge to create a game from scratch over roughly 48 hours.
What it didn't cover was the use of games as an tool for education as it was focused on the use of tabletop games as a design method as part of an educational programme.  No biggie, I still got stuff out of it just not what I wanted or went in to get.

The topic of using games as a tool for education is what "Teaching with Games" suggests it would be about.  Granted the description doesn't spin that way and does lean more to the game design aspect.  I would have liked to have heard something for the former but was happy with what I heard ultimately anyway.

Core element of the seminar that I took was the power of Game Jams.

So what is a Game Jam then?  Well it's like a lot of "creative bubble" events. You enter with nothing more than a desire to create something and leave with an idea developed and physically represented by a prototype.

In the 1st Chapter I ran 24 Hour Comic Book Day and 24 Hour RPG / Game Chef events at the shop.  These are essentially Game Jams by a different name.  Arrive with nothing, take some keywords and formulate an idea either on your own or in a team then turn it into something tangible.  Sites like 1000 Monkeys, 1000 Typewriters specialise in distributing that kind of content in games at least.

The Game Jams that the panel talked about tended to 48 hour events (long enough to crash and burn then recover to achieve something) which is different from those I've hosted and I can see the advantage of that.  Especially in the case of 24 Hour Comic Book Day which is 24 pages in 24 hours, a much harder task than you'd consider on the face of it.

So having taken away the Game Jam guidance they gave I think I see their inherent advantage over the one's I hosted in the 1st Chapter.  Not least of which is the 48 hours involved as the number of times someone "won" a 24 hour event was few and far between.  Giving them 48 hours enables that reset and try again opportunity plus of course it also means you're more likely to come out with a pretty decent prototype game and associated components!

For those interested in holding a Game Jam here are some links -

Global Game Jam

Scottish Game Jam
Moray Game Jam Website -
Glasgow Caledonian University Game Jam -

Plus Game Jam Central -

If you do host one or are interested in doing one, let me know!

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

UK Games Expo 2016 - RPGLifeUK TweetUp

As per my previous post about RPG Life UK I met up with some twitter folks to talk about RPGs and other stuff.

Tweetup Part 1 - Hilton Thursday 8pm

For something that was largely a random collection of twitter folks this went better than it probably should have.  Ok, so we didn't really get into any kind of debate about the UK RPG Scene or anything like that other than to conclude early on that there really wasn't one.

The group chat seemed to only last for about 15 to 30 minutes but after that we largely split off into different groups to chat about all things hobby and not just RPGs.  Also had the benefit of chatting with a retailer post the retailer event to get the inside “scoop” on what was coming out.  Some cool stuff was talked about (Mystic Vale I'm thinking of you) but nothing ground breaking or market changing etc.

There was one particularly interesting snippet from the overall conversation - "There are lots of RPG conventions in the UK so we don’t need any more."

Ok so this wasn't what was actually said but it was how I interpreted what was being said.

We didn’t really get into this in the tweetup but I've been reflecting on it since the tweetup itself and I suppose my underlying thought here is that it’s not actually reflective of the UK.

It may be reflective of England but then that’s probably not a surprise given the relatively healthy state of the English RPG con scene.
It is also probably a reflective position as the diversity of RPGs people were interested in and able to talk about at the tweetup likely has a causal relationship to the diversity of the cons where RPGs are played in England.  A lot of the games people talked about were small press and relatively obscure (to me), including a decent selection of home designed systems.  All of which is great but serves to remind me that I’m not gaming enough, or specifically not RPGing enough to enable any form of diversity in my RPG gaming.  Something that I need to resolve or accept.

Tweetup Part 2 - Beer Bus Saturday 2pm

A few extra / new faces this time and it was a more general meet & greet.  Managed to chat with Adam from RPGKitchen about Game Jams / Game Chef (I’ll include content in the post I’ll do on the seminar) which was a lot of fun.

Again it was a pleasure to chat with folks who have a similar interest and for want of a better word “belong”.

Conclusions?  Well other than I need to do more of this sort of thing I also took away a number of outcomes that I will endeavour to achieve.  Let's cover that in a future post though as I think reality it's as much about a re-visit of my hobby objectives as it is anything else.

Monday, 6 June 2016

UK Games Expo 2016 - Summary Thoughts


I had fun, met some great people, played some great games, bought some games, drank beer (some good, some not) and all in all had a great time.


  • Travel there and back went smoothly. No real delays and we made good time despite some crazy drivers on the road at times!
  • RPGLifeUK TweetUp - Will cover that in a separate post, both the tweetup(s) themselves and the outcomes I am considering, but all in all it was fantastic to be able to meet up with folks.
  • Seminar on Games in Education - Also a separate post but at a high level the seminar was a) overly focussed on those who want to work in the industry (negative) and b) great at providing an insight into the Game Jam process (positive).
  • Using the NEC really gave the con a feeling of scale and of course fantastic presence with general public.  What it also enabled was a fantastic amount of game space in the Hilton which removed the need for what must have been an expensive marquee from last year.  There are niggles with the split site (see below) but overall the UK Games Expo team delivered.
  • Trade presence. Good balance between small press <=> publisher <=> retailer and but still some notable absentees. Someone needs to kick people like Wizards Of The Coast to make sure they know how big a deal this convention is becoming. 12,500 unique attendees (current estimates) is a huge deal.  Last year the Origins convention in Columbus Ohio reached 15,938 unique attendees with a turnstile attendance of 43,791 over 5 days (versus an estimated 25,000 over 3 days at UKGExpo).  This isn't to be sniffed at as Origins is a flagship event for the hobby.
  • Food trucks were fantastic serving some fantastic food at great prices.  I can't compliment them enough.
  • General ambiance of “comfortable happy” with added sprinkles of fun. It was a more relaxed experience compared to last year where the whole con felt rushed and compressed.  There was room to breathe this year.


  • Split site…  Ok so I always knew that this was going to be a grumble topic. 2 perspectives of the split site arrangement between the NEC and the Hilton.
    • The NEC set up - Hall 1 is pretty big. What that meant was that on the Friday the hall felt bigger than the con needed, on the Saturday that was less the case though as the masses turned up. Is that emptiness a bad thing?  Well no but it sends a signal (to me at least) that the event wasn’t necessarily getting the industry support that it requires.
      Now to be fair(er) the leap in space from single site is significant but at the same time there were areas of non-use in the hall and areas of “poor” use in the hall.  By non-use I mean there were cordoned off areas that were actually empty.  Devoid of content.  Not small areas either. Unsure if this was a necessary evil or something else was at play...
      Poor use elements would include the seminars being in a cordoned off area that struggled to cope with the background noise of the wider hall - or at least they did in the case of the 1 seminar I attended.  Not exactly a representative sample I know.  I would have thought that seminars would have been better served in the Hilton OR if they'd used / created an actual room in the NEC for them...
    • The dual site nature - It’s a short walk which is absolutely fine. I’d almost go so far as to say it was a good thing to encourage attendees to take in some fresh air and move (other than round the trade hall) as the temptation is to sit and play games all day.  The kicker is though that by having the con split it breaks the ambiance and atmosphere a little. It also breaks the attendees into 2 distinct groups.  Those who are there “just to shop” and those who are there to game throughout the con.  If I’d been playing in RPGs all weekend or even the Heroclix events I wouldn’t have done as much browsing in the trade hall never mind any actual shopping.  Plus given that 99% of all the ticketed events were at the Hilton I don't really understand why the ticketing was at the NEC...

      Obviously this is all a learning curve for the organisers as the inclusion of the NEC has added some extra funkiness.
  • Bring Buy - I think this has become too big to be something that can be adequately managed. It's almost become one of those "big cons don't do it" things.  To give it the space that it would need to make it work better & smoother and avoid it being disruptive to surrounding traders I think the con would reach or breach that point where it made sense financially.  Yeah it raises a fantastic amount of money for charity, truly a fantastic amount but there must be a tipping point where the square feet it would need would cost more than the money involved.
    Or an alternative is found... 

So there are more bullets under Highlights than Lowlights and in reality the Lowlights are more about the challenges that scale brings to any event.

There are other things I still want the con to do that it isn't and other things that I'd change / seek to improve on but those aren't Lowlights per se...  I may re-visit my evolutionary steps post from last year to look at what I’d change for future years but in reality there's very little wrong with UK Games Expo and that is something to celebrate.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Pre UK Games Expo 2016 Thoughts

So Thursday sees the return of UK Games Expo which this year is bigger than ever and is celebrating it's 10 year anniversary.

Those who've been with the blog for some time may recall that I went last year (see here, here, here, here and ultimately here for info) and thoroughly enjoyed my time there.

This year I plan to approach it in a similar way to last year.  No events booked and treat it like a gamers holiday where I'll float about, chill out, play the odd game, buy some stuff and of course have a few drinks with friends (real and virtual).

That said... I will be doing at least 2 things different from last year.

My previous post about RPGLifeUK is one of those things.

The other is that they've introduced Seminars, or more precisely Seminars I'm interested in.

Namely - Hall One Events - 14.00 Teaching with Games:
How are games used to teach and learn? Games Jams, boardgames sessions and design are increasingly used in universities around the UK to help the next generation of games developers explore gaming. Come and find out how games help us learn, what academics are getting up to in various universities around the country, and where you can learn games design! 

Dr Esther MacCallum-Stewart is joined by Douglas Brown, Brian McDonald, Patrick Morrison and James Wallis.

This is similar in context to a seminar I went to at Gen Con but different enough to pique my interest. Also helped by the inclusion of the phrase  "Game Jams" as there's been some chat about those at ENT of late.

So expect some sort of post-UK Games Expo assessment of how the event has progressed in 12 months.  I suspect the split-site element may bug me a little but let's see.

If you're there then pop along to the RPG Life UK meetup if you can and say hi.

Monday, 23 May 2016


So a while back I stumbled upon a Twitter chat using the hashtag #RPGLifeUK

Curiousity got the better (?) of me and I started to interact with the chat and found myself amongst fellow hobbyists with a particular interest in Roleplaying Games.

Now that's not really a surprise.   What was a surprise though was how easy I found the conversation to interact with.

Backtrack a little...

Twitter has never really worked for me.  As a medium for conversation I've mostly used it to promote ENT and for direct messages.  Very rarely have I found it conducive to conversation.

A large part of that is because I don't usually access social media during office hours, not because it's banned or anything, moreso because when I'm at work I'm almost always in "work mode".  So my Twitter use was and still is largely binge based at night when I settle down post work and post family stuff.

Anyway, as I said I discovered #RPGLifeUK and for reasons unknown I decided to make a suggestion.
Which has turned into -
So, if you're going to be at the Hilton at 8pm on Thursday 2nd of June and fancy chatting about RPGs with some random Twitter folks then let +sy matt or myself know.

See you there! I'll be the one in the geek t-shirt.  Oh wait...

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

And we're back...

At least for now.

I've kinda drifted away from the blog for a while.  I'd say it's been the best part of a year since I really blogged anything of note.  So why am I back?

I suppose you could call it a checkpoint or perhaps something more fundamental than that but I just felt the need to say - this is where I'm at - and measure that against - this is where I want to be.

So where am I at?

Twice monthly board gaming at East Neuk Tabletop continues with the regularity of a regular thing. The community that +donjondo and I have built growing regularly. Still suffers from the retention challenge that a lot of community groups experience but it's getting there.

Irregular / not quite monthly gaming (largely board gaming) at DWARF also continues albeit not with the regularity that I'd like.  That's mostly work related but other factors come into play too.  It should improve with a few of us playing Pandemic Legacy though.  If I can up my DWARF visits to twice a month I'd be happier.

And that's it.

Where do / did I want to be?

Well... I want to play more and I want to play RPGs too.  Right now that seems a distant possibility. Largely down to available time due to Real Life stuff but also I'm not convinced I have the right facilities to do it.

ENT doesn't feel conducive to RPGs, not for any particular reason other than we default to board and card games (not a bad thing).
DWARF similarly doesn't feel like it works all the time, largely down to slot size (<3 hours).

So what are my alternative options?

The artist formerly known as Friday Night Gaming (in Anstruther) has rebranded as Monday Night Gaming.  Unfortunately that's a non-starter for me scheduling wise.  Not that FNG was a regular thing for me (especially during the colder months as the venue didn't have heating...) so it's not really a loss in that sense but it has removed an option other than in very rare occasions.

Home based gaming is something that can happen albeit rarely. I had a gathering a few months ago after a DWARF Saturday session (which I'll come back to) which was great fun.  Board & Card gaming from 9am until about 3am playing a variety of games with people I enjoy playing games with - what more could I ask for?  Other than doing it more often of course, although probably not til 3am!

DWARF has a monthly Saturday meetup, the trouble with that though is my ability to plan attending is curtailed by Real Life.  In many respects a Saturday mid-morning to late afternoon gaming is the perfect opportunity to roleplay.  Harks back to my time at ORC Edinburgh.  I think if nothing else that's the most likely of options. So long as it's not on an ENT weekend I should be able to go on those occasions when the stars align.

That's largely it and it really boils down to DWARF Saturdays.  The next one is on the 25th June which "clashes" with ENT on the 26th so unlikely but maybe...  The problem with DWARF Saturdays and RPGs though would be momentum.  I want something more guaranteed or at least semi-regular.  Although in saying that it would lend itself to more oneshot style RPGs which would work for me, especially from a prep (or lack thereof) perspective.

So I think I need to consider whether any of the above are actually viable or indeed whether I have other options as yet unexplored...

Let's see where this goes.