ManorCon 2019 report and cons in general and possible newbie guidance….

Having just returned from a fabulous weekends gaming at ManorCon 2019 at Leicester University. I got involved in an interesting conversation online with someone who didn’t have as good an experience as I had. It got me thinking….

ManorCon is one of my staple cons of the year, I’ve been going for about a dozen years now. However I am always meeting new people, making new friends and catching up with old ones and generally having a good time. This year was no exception. A large number of friends who usually go were not in attendance this year, but I still knew a good number of people there. Sure enough within a few minutes of getting to the venue I find myself playing a game of Photosynthesis with one chap who I know and another who I never met before. This was Friday afternoon. Sunday afternoon, it was time for me to leave. For the first time ever, the food was good enough for me to eat on site, a vast improvement on previous years, although the standard was very low in the first place. The bar had a decent selection of ales to attack and there was plenty of gaming space.

It was very much the same as last year, but with a slightly better food although the service was just as bad as ever.

However the discussion that has led to this article is that I was talking to people who could not find games to take part in. At first this surprised me, quite a bit, as there is usually something going on somewhere. I was never without a game. I am not a huge wanderer, but I do like to play with different people and do wander a bit. What surprised me more was the fact that the person concerned said on a number of occasions when he approached a group who was just setting up a game if he could join – and there was room for another player – they said no. In over a dozen years of attending cons this has happened to me once. I was hurt when it happened, but I thought afterwards if they are that selfish and anti-social then would I want to be spending my precious gaming time with them? Will I ever approach that person again? Never! Am I bitter? You bet! Even now, several years later. This poor person had it FOUR times in one weekend. I’d be really annoyed and upset. This is not what our hobby is about. How discouraging would it be for someone new to the hobby?

When it comes to cons, ManorCon is a bit of a dinosaur. Hardly changes, lots a familiar faces I only see once a year there. Is it welcoming? Thinking about it, possibly not? Especially for newbies unless they have arranged to meet someone there beforehand. Why not? A number of reasons. Firstly a lot of people going there have been going to the event for decades and only see each other once a year and are pretty much closed off to anyone else, but from my experience most close groups of friends are happy for others to join in, but I guess the older you get the more grumpy and anti-social you get – or is that just me? Another point is that there are no “players wanted” signs. At the events I have been to in the past where they were in use sometimes they were hardly used, some used a fair bit. Would these help people struggling to find a game, get a game? I would have thought so. Another big thing that I thought would be an issue with the con is the table layout. The main room is laid out in huge rows of tables with one break in the huge row as long as the room and not leaving too much space between the rows. If memory serves me correctly there was about 5 rows of tables.

Why would this be an issue for people without a game?

It doesn’t invite people to wander between the rows. They wander around the edge of the room or through the one gap in the middle of the rows. People don’t want to wander by squeezing between the players chairs in the middle of games in the middle rows. People on those tables in the middle of the rows could be looking for players, but the two shall never meet. On the Saturday the main room was full, all the table space was taken, so it wasn’t as if the con was poorly attended. So I would say that there are cons that are more suitable than ManorCon for first timers.

If you have never been to a con before, the below is Stews guide on how to get a game and cons in general.

  1. If you are on your own be a wanderer. If you set up a game on your own at a table, you could sometimes struggle to get players. Try not to be afraid to ask to join a game if you see someone setting one up.
  2. If there are two (or more) of you set up a game. If you want to meet new people, set up a game that lots of people like and will jump in on if they see space. Terraforming Mars springs to mind right now. Wanderers are more likely to approach you.
  3. If possible set up somewhere people are likely to come past you. If you hide in a corner somewhere you are less likely to be noticed. As much as I like to hide in corners, at cons it isn’t a good way to get into games.
  4. If the idea of being a wanderer scares the life out of you, try to meet up with someone whom you know from one of the online pages, email the organisers beforehand or even approach someone on the front desk and hopefully they will assist. I know this happens at MidCon.
  5. Make sure you know where the gaming areas are. A lot of cons have multiple gaming rooms.
  6. UK games Expo and Airecon are not like most other cons. Most cons are mainly about playing games with a possibility of a retailer there.
  7. If you are extremely super shy and all the above scares the living daylights out of you – go to Bastion in Conwy in January. If you can’t wait for that long, or only want to do a day, go to the GNOME all dayer in Horwich in September. I can vouch for that lot who run that event, very approachable and will do what they can for you.


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