Gaming Convention Review

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SCARAB 2013 – Columbia, SC

SCARAB is something that is taking the gaming community by storm in the Carolinas.  Del Collins and his team have put on a gaming con in Columbia, SC for the past 3 years.  With a clear vision, solid staff and good leadership, SCARAB has developed a solid foundation that is going to do nothing but grow and flourish over the next several years.  However, SCARAB is more than just the con.  SCARAB is actually the organization behind the con as well as dozens of game days throughout the year, throughout South Carolina and northern Georgia.  So the SCARAB Convention is just one facet of what they do for the gaming community but it’s the culmination of all their efforts the previous year.

Justus Productions has gone each year for the past 3 years for Friday and Saturday.  For the past 2 years, SCARAB the convention has been a 4-day event spanning the Martin Luther King holiday weekend.  It is held in a very interesting place – a Scottish Rite center in Columbia, SC, along with some space in a Days Inn two doors down.  However, this is the last year they will be using the Scottish Rite Center as they are moving across the street to a much larger space next year.

Admittedly, Jeff and I do not stay the whole time but that’s the best he and I can do with family and wife obligations.  We try to make the best of our time, however, and SCARAB supplies plenty of opportunity.  There is always a whole host of games to choose from.  In the past, the hard part was finding them and signing up.  It seems that they have refined their system enough that it’s easier to find games now.  They use the Warhorn for the games that have limited seats and need sign up, while the demos are available anytime.  They also have one of the largest game libraries I have seen at smaller cons of this nature and a good staff manning it as well as plenty of people willing to teach what games they know – and they know quite a few.

The location is not the most ideal, I’ll admit.  In three years of attending, I have always felt it kind of awkward in the space.  But I understand why they use it – it was easy and cheap until they can build their war-chest enough to move to a bigger space.  They pack in a lot of tables in both the main room and the auditorium.  It’s usually pretty tight but most gamers don’t seem to mind.  They don’t have a dealers room per se, but dealers do line the walls of the main room , which is an interesting twist.  In total, they can probably host about 200 to 220 people uncomfortably and by peak times, they are pretty close to that.

Two doors down at the host hotel (a Days Inn), they also use space there for miniature war games like Warhammer 40K gaming.  On average, they have 20 to 30 gamers in there at any given time.  This year, they hosted a qualifier for the Carolina Gun Bunnies Invitational, which is held at MACE in Charlotte.  That area was very busy with lots of Privateer Press Warmachine and Hordes gaming.

The best asset SCARAB has is its staff.  They have on a given day, 15 to 20 individuals in SCARAB shirts walking around making sure things are going smoothly for everyone.  It’s quite obvious they care about the time people are spending here and want to make sure it is worth the money you spent to get in.

One of the few complaints I have about this year’s SCARAB was the over-abundance of one RPG on the schedule.  Del, owner and manager of SCARAB, is also the local Pathfinder Society (PFS) coordinator and it felt like PFS was way too prominent on the schedule.  Don’t get me wrong, I am in full support of Pathfinder and Paizo.  I love Pathfinder and what they have done with it. However, if I want to appeal to a more broad base of gamers, I would make a stronger effort to have more of other games.  There were a few Savage Worlds games and some tables of Time Warriors, an Open D6 game by Fourth Dimension Studios, but not a whole lot more than that.  This may have been a space issue.  If so, with the new place they are moving to, this is easily solved.  More space means more opportunity.

I am not a huge fan of the Warhorn site either.  It is a marked improvement from what they had done in the past, but there are other tools out there that do it better.

One of the reasons both Jeff and I like attending SCARAB is because we get a chance to play games.  Last year, we played a ton.  This year, we played one (Star Munchkin), which we thoroughly enjoyed.  The rest of the weekend was spent chatting with other con organizers and gaming professionals, trading war stories.  It was a true pleasure to chat with people like Foruth Dimension Studios, Empire Games, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Beautiful Brains Books and Games, and StormCon as well as SCARAB.  That’s another reason we enjoy SCARAB – a more relaxed chance to chat with people we know from MACE.

2014 is a long way off, but I do look forward to seeing SCARAB in its new location, with more space and more stuff.  They are adding an anime track, expanding their appeal to anime fans.  I admire the diversity and the willingness to expand outside the gaming focus.  SCARAB wins the good citizen award from the Carolina gaming community for their efforts with their con as well as all the gaming they do throughout their area.  They work with many of the major publishers, manufacturers, and distributors to work deals to get more and more game events out there for you to play at.  And the SCARAB Convention is just one big example of that.

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