My International TableTop Day: New Hobby, New Crew

On and off since I moved to Cairns, I’ve been in the odd effort to get a tabletop roleplaying game scene moving. Most recently, I set a Facebook group up and helped the newly-opened KerSplatt! Comics and Collectables choose which products to stock its RPG and card gaming shelf with.

Yet for all my enthusiasm about tabletop roleplaying games and investment in the hobby, I’ve done very little actual gaming. It took me ages (and quite a bit of money) to realise that I wasn’t really enjoying the hobby.

It took two separate events to realise where my interest really lies – board games.

KerSplatt Comics and Collectables
The front of KerSplatt Comics and Collectables, way back just before opening day!

It’s worth mentioning here that KerSplatt! Comics and Collectables is at the heart of both the events. Mal Reynolds – er, sorry, Semmens (yes, I do call him Captain Mal every now and again) – has a firm business head on his shoulders, and he’s keen to ensure he can give his customers what he wants.

Probably the biggest surprise product line for him has been collectable card games, mostly Magic: The Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh! Since not long after opening, these cards have reliably been moving off KerSplatt!’s shelves, and co-owner Amy Milligan has become the organiser for regular tournament nights.

Still, when folks came in asking aout RPGs and non-collectable card games, Mal asked me about what would likely move. I suggested Dungeons & Dragons, which he supplemented with Pathfinder after a lot of enquiries about it, and the Warhammer 40,000-based RPG lines (a no-brainer what with Cairns’ Games Workshop store right next door).

RPG Meet-N-Greet: Passing It On and Stepping Away

Not long after I set the Cairns Tabletop Roleplayers group up on Facebook, Mal suggested doing an RPG Meet-N-Greet. On one hand, the event was definitely a success. With twenty confirmed Yes-es on the event in Facebook, we figured we’d be satisfied with slightly more than ten actual arrivals, but instead at least thirty RPG enthusiasts turned up!

From the RPG Meet & Greet at KerSplatt!, February 27th, 2013
From the RPG Meet & Greet at KerSplatt!, February 27th, 2013

Although no games were played – I don’t think we really had the time to set anything up – I watched as a solid core of northern beaches gamers formed around Beth Cahill, who began to work her connections with the JCU gaming and anime club to get a venue for some gaming. After that night, the Cairns Tabletop Roleplayers group on Facebook saw a massive up-take in members.

It was around that time, though, that I began to realise (once again) that tabletop gaming just wasn’t for me. After settign up Cairns Tabletop Roleplayers, I’d catch myself thinking about whom I could hand the management of Cairns Tabletop Roleplayers to.

A little before the event, I watched an episode of the Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day-produced web series TableTop. Every week, Will gets a bunch of assorted folks, from friends to fellow actors to major league hobbyists, together to play a particular non-electronic tabletop game.

Back in mid-February, Wil, Nerdist host Chris Hardwick and actors Kevin Sussman (The Big Bang Theory) and Sam Witwer (Battlestar Galactica, The Vampire Diaries) got together to play the Dragon Age tabletop RPG with designer and founder of Green Ronin Publishing, Chris Pramas, as the game master. And I found that when the “game” elements of the session came in, the episode actually got less interesting.

The meet-and-greet recharged my batteries for a bit; I was even enthused by the idea of playing (which after demand began to drift back toward game mastering) Paranoia. But when I picked up the book and began to read though it I started to realise that it was filled with the sort of stuff that I found dull when watching that episode of TableTop.

Later again, I was in KerSplatt! when I bumped into one of the gamers who turned up for the meet-n-greet. He talked at length about his play with friends, but it was all the usual war stories about traps laid by conniving game masters and his character making epic, video-game-y attacks that laid hordes of enemies low in one combination of feats. Clever play, sure, but again, nothing that really made me want to sit down aroudn a table and roll dice.

TableTop Day: New Friends and New Play

One other thing that Mal asked me about back when KerSplatt! had just opened was other games that gamers would enjoy, and my first response was Munchkin, a (non-collectable) card game that riffs off the “kill monsters, take their treasure, gain experience levels” aspects of roleplaying games to make a very entertaining (and hilarious) game. I’m glad to say that Munchkin and its line of expansions have also been keen sellers for KerSplatt!

Late last year, I happened across a Facebook group called “Cairns Boardgamers.” As Vickie and I have been keen on organising a board game evening at our place for ages, I got in touch. The organiser, Andrew Stingel, was interested in finding a venue (the group’s get-togethers had been mostly at his place and during nine-to-five work hours), and I was one of several who suggested the Plan B Cafe.

Yet even though Plan B was just up the road (sort of) rom us, it was only when the Earlville Library took notice and offered their facilities as a venue that I began joining in – and in those few meet-ups I think I’ve had more fun than I have in the last… well, two decades of (mostly not) playing RPGs. Every game I’ve played at each session I’ve been to has been new to me, yet never less than fun.

Then came the big event. This Saturday gone, March 30th, was International TableTop Day, so declared as it was the first anniversary of the airing of the first episode of TableTop. Andrew and Mal organised a session at KerSplatt! to coincide with it.

The first TableTop Day at KerSplatt! Comics and Collectables.
The first TableTop Day at KerSplatt! Comics and Collectables.

I headed over there (try as I might to drag Vickie along with me, she wasn’t having it) and got to have some great games with the crew. And just as much as I remember the enthralling complexity of the games I played – Lords of Waterdeep, GoSu, Sentinels of the Multiverse and Android: Netrunner (yes, finally), I remember just as much the banter I got to share with my co-players – Andrew’s kids Liam and Caitlin, Alwin Koo, Peter Flatman and Thomas and Dani (a couple whose last names I didn’t get but would be glad to play with again).

On top of that, there was some talk about continuing each Saturday’s Games at the Library on at KerSplatt! after Earlville Library closes at midday – which is great news for me, because (a) we can get some shopping in beforehand and (b) the odds are much better I might be able to get Vickie along for one!

So, a couple of days ago, I handed management of the Cairns Tabletop Roleplayers group over to Beth Cahill and stepped out. I probably should have said something on the group first, and if you happen to be a member reading this, no, there was no backstabbing or other shenanigans behind my sudden disappearance; it’s just that I can be a thoughtless twit at times. I’m glad that I was able to help get something going for you folks!

In the meantime, I can’t wait for the next opportunity to front up to a session with Andrew and the rest of the crew at KerSplatt!

Are you curious?

What hobbies or interests have you left behind?

What’s your favourite non-RPG tabletop game?

What did you play on International TableTop Day?

If you enjoyed this, I reckon you’ll dig:

International TableTop Day

Cairns Boardgamers

KerSplatt! Comics and Collectables

Games I Played:

TableTop Day Logo from the TableTop Day website. Photo of TableTop Day at KerSplatt! from Andrew Stingel’s Facebook page.