Fighting over who didn’t receive £200 for passing ‘Go’ and who gets to be the silver top hat need no longer be experienced in the confines of your family living room. There is a small but steadily growing society on the Rock who aim to bring together a wide range of gaming enthusiasts over a diverse range of board games, role play games (RPG), card games, dice games and ‘wargamers’ – these are the ‘tabletop’ gamers of Gibraltar.
The Gibraltar Tabletop Gaming Society (GTGS) was formed towards the tail end of summer in 2016 where it was approved as a GSLA-registered club. The idea came into fruition after a series of conversations between members of the Warbastion Club – exclusively a ‘wargaming’ club focused on the popular tabletop battle game Warhammer – following the loss of their premises. Warhammer is a strategy game involving two or more opposing ‘forces’ in a military-style simulation comprised of miniature figures (soldiers, monsters and armoured fighting vehicles) battling each other over a tabletop terrain. After various conversations about what could be done regarding location, it was clear that people had an interest in branching out and playing other types of tabletop games, and so the society was born.
The aim of the GTGS is to promote (and in many ways bring back) the social aspect of tabletop gaming. Back in the days of Sega, somewhere between the classic monochrome movement of Pong and today’s rather more action-packed Call of Duty, video games provided a wealth of social interaction as people would typically invite friends over to all gather around a TV, hook up a controller and play. However, with the modern-day ability to play with anyone (known or unknown) over the internet, the social aspect of gaming has changed. Cool as they are, modern video games often lose this fun social component when players aren’t physically there with you to interact and enjoy the experience.
Part of the appeal of analogue gaming is the friendships that can be formed across the table through a shared gaming experience. It provides an important lesson in cultivating skills that will benefit people of all ages. Depending on the game played, success can be achieved by applying social skills and communication, tactical thinking and intellect, creativity and storytelling, teamwork and cooperation, and problem solving. The games suddenly form a safe training environment which will help players before applying them to real life situations. With all this positive aspects of tabletop gaming in mind, the Gibraltar Sports and Leisure Authority (GSLA) liked what was going on and kindly provided the society with a room in the boathouse of the Bayside sports complex. A Facebook group has since been created to form a hub for players to meet up and arrange their own gaming sessions.
Alister Fa, Chairman of the society said: “Tabletop gaming never really left our community. This is especially evident in the summer, as local families spend entire days at the beach gathered around playing ‘Ludo’ or ‘Tablita’ as it’s known here. However, it’s usually our older generations who partake in these games. The GTGS are now trying to encourage the younger generation to get into gaming with their families while showcasing the wealth of other games that are currently out there.”
Tabletop games have a lot to be thanked for in the way of bringing people together in family homes, cosy cafes and even beaches or long distance transport! It is this love of good old fashioned fun that led to the opening of ‘games cafes’. One of note can be found nestled in the winding cobbled streets of Oxford. ‘Thirsty Meeples’ is a board game cafe that provides people with a safe haven to play one of the 2,500 games that line their walls, all whilst enjoying tasty homemade food!
Interesting side-note: A ‘meeple’ is the name given to the character or object representing the player in a board game. The word meeple is a mash-up of ‘meeting people’ and also ‘my people’.
If you like what you’ve read so far and want to get involved – good news! The Gibraltar Tabletop Gaming Society holds an annual public event that takes place at the Rock Bastion. It’s free to join and you are encouraged to bring your own game (although several committee members also bring in their own), play fair, and most importantly: have fun! The International Tabletop Day is a global event where over 80 countries host community events to celebrate this style of gameplay. This year’s event was held on April 29th but the society also offer a number of other similar events throughout the year, namely the D&D Adventurers League Game and Rock ‘n’ Roll Games Day. Additionally, they meet every Wednesday and Sunday at the Boathouse within the Bayside Sports Centre. Join their Facebook page for more details.
Another place you can go to escape into a self-created fantasy world is the new War Shop on Turnbull’s Lane. As well as selling comic books, board games and paints for miniatures, this hobby store also provides heavily detailed free tables for you to get your game on and wage war in Warhammer.
You may have heard of, or even attended Gibraltar’s recent International Comic Convention (GICC) where, asides from a thriving public gaming area, the GTGS hosted a live Dungeons & Dragons game where the audience got to participate and alter the narrative and which featured local personalities who previously had little to no experience in RPGs. This made for a pretty amusing scenario. Dungeons and Dragons (first released in 1974) is a legendary fantasy adventure game shared by heroes and antiheroes on a quest to solve dilemmas, engage in battles and gather treasure and knowledge. The game has experienced a recent boost in popularity after being featured on this year’s popular Netflix series, Stranger Things. (I’m still having Demogorgon nightmares.)
Battle games such as Warhammer and Dungeons and Dragons extend beyond the tabletop itself. Hours are spent by avid players crafting and carefully painting the figurines, or ‘miniatures’ used during gameplay. For some, this is more than just a game; it’s a hobby, and one that often takes considerable patience and skill.
If you like the idea of this type of gaming but lack the time or steady hand in which to make your own miniatures, games such as Star Wars: Armada come with pre-painted pieces, leaving you to get on with assuming your role as fleet admiral. This sort of fun doesn’t come cheap; a full core game set (which includes three pre-painted capital ship miniatures, ten unpainted fighter squadrons, and more than 130 cards and tokens) can set you back a cool sum of somewhere between £60 to £90. However, this is more than just a game, and can also be treated as a form of collectible series.
In recent years, a series of innovative games has brought about a renaissance in board game design and popularity. A large part of this is attributed to a web series on Geek & Sundry’s YouTube channel called TableTop. Host Wil Wheaton and several other celebrities have popularised the concept and also focused on highlighting several different games now considered to be modern classics such as Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Pandemic, and Fury of Dracula. His closing slogan: “Play more games!” is the cornerstone of the Gibraltar Tabletop Soc. This rising popularity is evident in the increase of local retailers now stocking these sorts of games, and also by the large amount of people who attended the public gaming area at the GICC.
Board games are constantly evolving. Some of today’s games can be a bit more complicated than Cluedo or Monopoly and many now contain elements of RPG, but they’re becoming much more readily accessible, quicker to set up and get into to play.
If scantily clad, buxom maidens in metal bikinis swashbuckling scaly opponents isn’t your thing, you are welcome to join in at one of the GTGS events with any game you wish to bring, from Cluedo to Uno! The society is nothing if not inclusive. (Although perhaps leave the Twister mat at home.) The stereotype that certain games are for particular age groups or even a particular gender is being challenged through public events held by societies like these, so gather the family, head on down to the next event and share the chaos of your kitchen table with other like-minded people!
words | Sophie Clifton-Tucker