It’s the first weekend in December, which means it’s time for Melbourne MeepleCon 2015! MeepleCon is a 3-day tabletop gaming event held at the Darebin Arts and Entertainment Centre in Preston. This is the third year MeepleCon has been running, and it’s grown in size and fame since its humble beginnings in a chess club in inner-city Melbourne a couple of years ago.
Across the three days more than 200 individual “meeples” are expected to attend the con. Honestly, I had no idea the meeple community was so large in Melbourne. So I checked with the Australian Bureau of Statistics and it turns out that Melbourne does indeed have the highest concentration of expat meeples per capita in the world outside of Carcassonne itself. We really are a very multicultural city. [None of this is true. Essen, for one, has a much larger meeple community – Ed.]
Anyway, Marianne, AB and I went down to check out the convention on Friday night. By the time we got there just about every table in the main hall was already full of games in progress, but due to a really quite impressive games library there was no chance of anyone missing out on playing a session or two. Some of the games we saw being played included recent hits like Mysterium (the original Polish version Tajemnicze Domostwo was in the library for gaming purists and Slavophiles), epic adventures like Shadows of Brimstone (a game I’ve yet to play but which looks amazing), plus perennial crowd pleasers such as Resistance. For the more active gamers there was even a session of Johann Sebastian Joust about to start when we arrived, which is as nutty and fun as it sounds: http://www.jsjoust.com/.
We were told that other local games stores were due to set up stalls over the weekend, but on Friday night only Unhalfbricking, the online games store run by Julian Clarke of ConVic fame, had gone unplugged and IRL to sell games to the hungry meeples of Melbourne. There’s also a flea market scheduled for Sunday, which sounds great except that I’m a bit concerned about fisticuffs breaking out over any rare or out-of-print games that might turn up on the tables.
It wasn’t just players who were representing the local gaming community either. MeepleCon also features Designer Alley, a showcase for the growing number of boardgame designers in Australia. We were lucky enough to see a few preview games in action, including Pirates: Scourge of the Seven Seas, Rum Runners, and Rockets & Robots. Well, to be strictly accurate Rockets & Robots is actually a recent release, but we did get the opportunity to chat with its principal designer Sye Robertson, who also created Rum Runners. It’s fantastic to see the passion of Australian game designers like Sye, who are really working to put this country on the gaming world map. Don’t get me wrong – it’s players who make local gaming communities strong and vibrant, but if Australian gaming culture is to shift from one of passive consumption to active production, it’s the local designers and game publishers we need to get behind. Best of luck to all the designers who showed up to MeepleCon!
Overall, MeepleCon 2015 looked like it was on track to being a fantastic success, and this was just the first night. A big congratulations is in order to Matt Utting and all the other organizers who put together this event. From the straightforward online ticketing system, to the cool little custom-made name badges we were given on arrival, to the set up of the gaming rooms, everything just worked really well. But beyond everything else, MeepleCon had such an open, friendly feel to it. This can only go down to having a great gaming community, so thank you to all the people we spoke with and who made us feel so welcome.
If you haven’t already got your MeepleCon 2015 tickets, there’s still one day left – so do yourself a favour and get down to Preston. Stay tuned also for the video story we shot for MeepleCon, which will be appearing on Games vs Play very soon. See you all at the next convention and remember – if you’re game, we’ll play.