TLDR: a growing convention that delivers a full weekend of games - Friday to Sunday - at a great venue.
This was the fourth Convergence convention. This was my the second one I was able to attend. Last year I managed to referee 5 out of the 6 games I offered, though the last one has only had 2 players. This year was better in so many ways.
It's in Stockport, which I'm familiar with due to my bi-annual visits to StabCon in the same town. It's based at Element Games - which occupies several massive rooms in what seems to be a redeveloped warehouse. There are inexpensive hotels just over the road. I managed to get into one just a short walk from the venue even though I booked at the last minute in the week running up to the event.
The venue remains very impressive. Through the doors is a games store packed from floor ceiling with all manner of games and accessories. Through this is a massive hall with a basic cafe type counter - selling mainly drinks , including bottled beers, and snacks. (Pint of Diet Pepsi £2.50, bottled beers £3.20.) There are no food offerings on site. However, the venue allows you to order in food from outside - there is a pizza menu on the counter - or bring in your own. There is a good fish and chip shop only a couple of minutes from the front door of the venue and an excellent bakery offering superb pies and sandwiches. (Not open on Sunday, alas.)
The hall is full of tables which are mainly used - it seems - for Wargames. The walls are stacked from floor to ceiling with all manner of massively impressive Wargames scenery, from all epochs and genres, and battle mats abound. You feel the urge to grab some to use on your table.
The convention is a full weekend convention - that is it offers a Friday night TTRPG games slot, three on Saturday and two on Sunday. There were also board games and wargames. The hall was mostly filled on Saturday with a HUGE X-Wing tournament and by various jaw-dropping wargames on Sunday. Proper Marvel Superheroes battles and huge purple aliens vs. I know not what. And more.
TTRPGs are partly prebooked using WarHorn with some places being reserved for sign up at the event. Prebooking was healthier than last year. Most of my games had enough players to run before the event - though I noticed some players signing up for more than one. One signed up for all 6 slots.
About half a dozen TTRPG games ran in most slots, most with full tables. These were all at the far end of the room past the Wargames/X-Wing tables but before the - extremely popular - figure painting course.
These were all rectangular and lined up parallel. They seemed a bit close to each other so I suggested that the Referees “69” by sitting at alternating ends, which seemed to work very well.
The Pathfinder game was back, run by a personable and extremely impressive "Iron GM" I know. He seemed to retain his playing group all weekend - which didn’t surprise me.
I was a bit embarrassed by all the people who knew me and greeted me by name who I had absolutely no memory of ever meeting before - a consequence of playing with almost 1,000 people a year, I suppose.
I offered games in all six slots. And they all ran with full tables - the smallest being 3 players and the largest being 6. Drill to the Heart of the World (Steampunk), Blakes Seven (a return of the game that had only garnered 2 players in 2019), d6 Hack classic Dungeon from an old White Dwarf (alas exactly the same one I’d offered in 2109 - I need to refer back to this blog when planning), a Manifold Horror game (different from 2019, luckily), a Judge Dredd game and concluding the The Murder on the Occidental Express (Steampunk again). All were great fun with good players who just wanted to have a good time. Highlights included:
- a real life engineer nearly derailing my “drill” game by coming up with a really obvious and sensible engineering solution.
- Pete turning up early to the Blakes Seven game to grab Avon.
- Because I thought the d6 dungeon wouldn’t fill the full four hour slot, I started with one of my one hour demo games - not realising how well they dovetailed. The ending was epic!
- Having the Con organiser as a player in my evening horror game.
- Seeing players start out as Judges saying “The Law is the Law” and ending up in a three way legal debate. They turned the sentencing over to the Rookie Judge. His clever solution was so devastating it caused dropped jaws amongst players and senior judges alike.
- Pete and another player resurrecting their Friday evening characters for the Sunday afternoon game. Including...... Owl boy! A 19th century Steampunk Batman knock off.
Another improvement was the venue staff circulating unobtrusively, taking drinks orders. This upped their takings and made the gamers’ experiences better. They were universally wonderful, many - if not all of them - gamers themselves.
Unlike last year, the number of games remained healthy through to the last game on Sunday. I’ll admit after running 6 games I was feeling tired by Sunday afternoon.
(This wasn’t helped by me having to rush in the mornings - Hotel Breakfast 8am, game starting at 9:30am. And the hotel having LOUD functions on both nights - music so loud earplugs didn’t work and the floor literally shaking. I won’t return there.)
My last game ran short so I was able to leave a bit early.
I gave Peter a hug, but to be honest I hadn’t even noticed him playing in all 6 games because he ran 5 totally different characters.
The con organiser had given all Referees an Element Games voucher but I couldn’t find anything to buy so I left in the Tip Jar for the wonderful staff.
For me, Convergence is a small but growing, friendly, TTRPG convention tacked onto a larger general gaming convention at a great venue in an area with lots of inexpensive accommodation, making it a cheap residential convention which offers and delivers plenty of TTRPGs. It is simply great fun and is growing healthily. I loved it.
Rail Travel: £41.20
Accommodation: £102 (including breakfast)
Food/drink: c. £50
Cost per game: £33.87
Cost per hour: £8.47
You would have to pay for an entry ticket., but this would include all games. I could cut costs by buying Advance single rail tickets and shopping for hotel deals further in advance. Also - and I HATE saying this - by not travelling up on Friday. Skipping that one game would save a whole night’s accommodation costs.