Memoirs of a Convention Organiser
by Dave Percik
At a meeting of the Oxford University Diplomacy
Society in January it was discovered that no-one had seen the President since
before Christmas or knew what preparations he had made for the games convention
that the society was supposed to run days later. I was therefore inaugurated as
President for 1998-9 slightly early to deal with the situation. From such an
inauspicious start, it was gratifying to see how the members worked together to
produce a reasonably successful convention.
The venue was a good start. A room had been booked at St. John's College for
the whole weekend, but the college decided that they would rather use it for a
concert on the Saturday evening on the grounds that the organisers offered them
£250. This caused some people to wander around St. John's in the mornings, but
also resulted in the venue being a house, providing four rooms on two floors and
an interesting and extensive cellar that nay well be used next year. With a
refreshment table on each floor and occasional trips to the supermarket for more
biscuits and milk, most of the games-players' needs seemed to be satisfied.
The organising committee arrived early to set things up, then took money from
and gave information to people as they arrived. Some chatting took place with
people who hadn't been seen since the last convention, and there was a panic
when the amount spent on trophies was reported. Then it was time for the main
event of the day, and as thirty-five people went upstairs to contest the
Diplomacy tournament organised by Mark Stretch, poor Chris Dickson was left
almost alone with some old zines to deal with late-comers. I hope that he didn't
have too bad a time before those eliminated early on joined him for some games.
Meanwhile, I was busy. I received a reasonable draw despite having to play my
least favourite country, Turkey. I survived the proxy of the Austrian units to
Russia, and Russia's well-timed stab was foiled by an Italian betrayal. I ended
on twelve supply-centres, my best convention result, and, it turned out, just
enough to win the tournament. Suddenly the expense on the trophies became
Once the tournament was over, the players scattered around the building to
play other games. There were a lot of these around, the Diplomacy society's
cupboard being rather full at the moment and many people bringing their own
games to the convention. Prominent was Loupin' Louie, the ever-popular
convention game where players protect counters representing chickens from a
circling plane with paddles. It is probably necessary to see it in action to
fully appreciate it, but it is entertaining.
The keys had to be returned to the college porters at eleven, so once
everyone was out, various members and ex-members of the Diplomacy Society
adjourned to their traditional convention curry. After some eating, joking and
singing, we returned to our homes to prepare for the next day.
Very little sleep later, it was Chris' turn to shine, running the Settlers
tournament, while I looked after the door. After, of course, we had cleaned up
the mess from the previous day. The trophies available were displayed on the
admin desk, and as on the previous day caused a certain amount of comment. Susie
Horton seemed particularly interested in the trophy for first place, but was
told not to get her hopes up by husband David.
I was joined at the admissions table by several latecomers and some people
who had decided to sit out the first round of the tournament. Occasionally
interrupted by the hilarity caused by the draw, we played a couple of games of
Titan: The Arena. Not to be confused with the very long board game Titan, this
is a very good card game. Players bet secretly and openly on which of nine
monsters is going to survive a conflict, playing cards to gradually eliminate
the monsters one by one. At the end, bets on the surviving monsters are added up
to produce a winner.
After lunch, I joined a game of Age of Renaissance, about conflicting trading
powers in the early modern world. Despite not having played the game before, I
enjoyed myself. Unfortunately, it went on rather too long, and became rather a
free-for-all towards the end. Admittedly it wasn't helped by my being called
away a couple of times to deal with problems that had arisen, and then to help
clear up at the end of the day. Meanwhile, the Settlers tournament had been
convincingly won by David Horton, apparently with Susie in second. Had they
known something in the morning when they were looking at the trophies?
The convention ended with tidying up the venue, returning the keys to St.
John's and the games to the society's cupboard, and discussing how things had
gone. Finally, some well-earned sleep was had. I thought that things went well,
with only minor problems, and the society made enough money to cover its
expenses for the university's Freshers' Fair in October, which is the purpose of
the convention. That said, after the experience, the organising committee can
see ways in which the event can be improved, for example starting to organise it
a little more in advance, and next year should be better, assuming that the help
that I get is as good as it was this time. I'm looking forward to it already.
Perhaps I'll see you there at the end of January 1999.
first published in one Manís Rubbish (editor
Mark Stretch), issue 27, March 1998