Tabletop.Events = Amazing.

This is going to seem like a sponsored post but OMG I just heard about this website a few days ago and you absolutely must hear about it in depth if [a] you are a gaming convention organiser in the USA or Canada, or [b] you are a gaming convention organiser anywhere else in the world.
HERD THOSE CATS, PEOPLE! WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY.

https://tabletop.events is effectively 90% of what I’ve been trying to build with Shoestring over the past twelve months, except that I hadn’t heard of it. It’s designed to be game convention management in a single software solution, and I can’t find many holes in it at all. The features are there, the user interface is…pretty damn usable, especially when balanced against the cost versus the benefits of having everything in one place, and documented really well.

Hang on, why would Matt be telling us about something that effectively rivals his own system?

You’re about to find out, though I first need to tell you exactly what their system provides. Buckle up! This website has documented the process of organising a games convention, and then lays out the tools for aspects leading up to the event (including required equipment), tasks during the event, and even sells customisable supplies to complement their offering. Step-by-step articles to lead you through the process of being a ConOrg? Check. Ticketing, badges, scheduling, marketing, web presence, merchandising, library management, reporting, table signs…it’s all there. Seriously. Checkity-check-check-check-check.

I’ll gladly talk about each of these in detail, but my two favourite features which I would straight-up kill to have in our system?

  1. Optional automated scheduling of games into a timetable based on your spaces and preferences, and
  2. Requiring attendees to book before they can reserve seats for registered games.

Here’s the big catch, if you didn’t guess it already:

https://tabletop.events only accepts USD/CAD currencies at present. Understandably, they haven’t received enough expressions of interest to put the considerable effort into supporting other currencies, so if you are an outsider like me, and crave what I’m about to describe, let them know you’d like to give them your money.

Alright, so let’s go through their system in some detail, so you can see the effort they’ve gone to in not only building these tools, but organising them in the most straight-forward and helpful way imaginable. I’m not going to tell you it’s the most user-friendly system ever built, but it’s a one-stop games convention in a box, and it’s easier to understand than running one without it, let alone building equivalent tools from scattered systems without their outgoing and well-reasoned documentation.

It’s Hard to Find Good Help These Days

Nevertheless, they’ve done it. Go to https://help.tabletop.events and see for yourself! There are even pages here teaching you how to encourage your attendees to commit earlier, which is one of the biggest challenges in getting your convention to run at all — early commitment means not only being prepared for numbers, but having the funds to prepare the space and equipment to support them. It’s like they really get me! This site is built by ConOrgs, for ConOrgs. The help is not just about how to use their system, it’s about how to create and run the event their system is designed to support. Extra miles, people.

Checklists and Beyond

The first thing you see when managing your convention here is a collapsible checklist, teaching you what needs to be done to set your convention up. You set the dates & times (multiple days supported, obviously), your venue and its spaces, the badges attendees/staff/exhibitors need to enter, and what types of submissions you’ll accept. Once your event is listed, you can choose to approve or reject submissions, manually or automatically schedule games, and allow badgeholders to register tickets for those games — automatically building a mobile-friendly, customised schedule for each attendee in the process — and set up scanner-friendly point-of-sale and game library systems. The games library supports direct import from your BoardGameGeek account.

Okay, so the game library isn’t on the checklist, but it’s optional, just like the customisable, automated electronic billboard screens, keeping your attendees informed about events in specific spaces, or the whole venue. They thought of everything, I mean it. Not everything is mentioned in their (extremely helpful) quick video overview, and no doubt things are being added too regularly for that to ever cover the lot, but if you look around, it’s all there. There’s a heap of design functionality to customise your branding throughout online and printed materials. Typing this, I just noticed that there is social media integration, too. They’ve built robots to replace almost everything I do. It’s a dream.

Show Me The(/Shut Up and Take My) Money!

So I’ve waxed lyrical for a while here, and you’re probably wondering about fees. I’m not going to lie, the costs are a little higher than what we pay TryBooking for purely a ticketing solution, but this is so much more than worth it. If, like me, you’re outside the America/Canada, it doesn’t matter, because there’s currently no way to give these brilliant people your foreign money. I’m looking forward to having the option in the future, that’s for sure!

Merch Support and Other Supplies

You can set up your merch store inventory here, too. Optionally adding to badge types for complimentary or included items. Amazing.

But wait, there’s more!
YOU GUYS IT IS INCREDIBLE

Another thing: The system allows you to print scannable stickers for library games, as well as badges for attendees, but what if you need badge supplies, or customisable table signs? DEAR LORD THEY DO EVERYTHING:

Customise that sweet sign at https://help.tabletop.events/article/230-designing-players-wanted-signs

I’m Running Out of Breath

I was going to walk through all the pieces (and will in future blog posts if you ask me nicely) but it’s all there on their website if you sign up and create a sample convention to play around with. The whole shebang is produced by the folks who brought you The Game Crafter, a print-on-demand solution for indie designers to produce and sell physical manifestations of their work.

I hope this looked like your dreams, because it vastly resembles an end to many of my nightmares, primarily a way to be sure that someone could step into any of my many shoes without needing to know what I know, or have specific technical skills. Tabletop-(dot)-Events makes the process manageable in such a way that not only could anyone do my job, but many people could share tiny pieces of it, and be supported by systems and documentation, designed by like-minded professionals to make it much, much easier.


-Matt Horam,
ConOrg for
EttinCon.org
info@ettincon.org

You can view all our articles at EttinCon.org/blog.