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Event Report: Stabcon

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Regular readers of the magazine will know that one of our regular columns is the monthly Event Report section, where we talk to an organiser about an upcoming convention or games day. In addition to this month's report on Manorcon, we also got to talk to organiser James Hamilton about this year's Summer Stabcon, which starts tomorrow in Stockport at the Britannia Hotel.

Can you tell us a bit about the event?

Stabcon is a twice yearly boardgames and RPG event. In many ways it is closer to a games club that meets twice a year than a regular convention. Another way of thinking about it is that it is like the games room of a big SF con without the SF con attached.
There is a core of regular attendees and most people who come do so either because they have been before or because they know someone who is attending. This means that there are far fewer people looking lost that you might get at your more mainstream convention.

How did Stabcon first come about?

The very first Stabcon was run in 1979 at a hall of residence of Manchester University. It was aimed as being a Diplomacy and Dungeons and Dragons convention and there were tournaments for both games. The name Stabcon comes from the act of turning on your ally in a game of Diplomacy which is commonly know as a Stab.
Stabcon ran roughly once a year with a few gaps for the next 10 years or so, the tournaments went away and it just turned into a regular meet up of people to play boardgames and RPGs. Eventually, real life caught up with the organiser and he stopped running the event so there were no Stabcons.

In 1990 Michele and I went to an RPG and boardgames convention in Cambridge, I think it was called Conjunction. We had a great time and decided that it would be good to get something happening again in Manchester. We checked with the former organiser of Stabcon and he was OK for us to use the name. We took advantage of the membership list of Conjunction and Stabcon was reborn in 1991.

The first one went well, everyone had a great time and the general consensus was let’s do it again soon so rather than wait a year Summer Stabcon was born.

How has Stabcon changed over the years it’s been running?

Other than getting more attendees and moving from the hall of residence to a cheap hotel not a lot has changed. We still have a mix of RPGs and boardgames.
The original Stabcon did not have a trader present. That changed in the mid 90s with one local trader attending with a stall. The trader has changed once in the duration of Stabcon and now Fanboy3 from Manchester bring some of their extensive selection of games and set up at the end of one of the rooms.

What’s the biggest challenge of running an event like this?

At the moment the biggest challenges are making sure that the people that make Stabcon what it is sort their act out and book before we sell the remaining tickets. We are now at the point where the size of the venue is the limiting factor on the event and we don’t really want people who have been to 20 or more conventions to not be able to come if they want. Managing bookings and keeping the place healthily full while not over full is the biggest issue we have.

What are some of the most popular games at Stabcon events?

There are Dungeons & Dragons campaigns played at Stabcon that have been played for 20+ years now. Every event there seems to be a new hotness with at least one game being played on 4 or more tables at once. I suspect that next Stabcon the hotness will probably be Wingspan but I may be wrong.
One game (or series of games) that has been solidly popular over the last few years is Quartermaster General. It helps that I love the game but even so there is almost always at least one Quatermaster General in play and often four or more across the room.

What are your plans for the future?

At some point it would be nice to hand over the reins and let someone else do the work so we can just focus on playing and having fun.

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