Sunday, May 24, 2015

Brian Schen and PubCon

Wargamers in Japan had a chance to virtually sit down with Brian Schen to talk about games, and the fantastic event he runs, PubCon. These conversations were had over email, and are presented here edited for readability. If you'd like to know more about Brian, or Pubcon, please contact him on Facebook.

WIJ: So Brian, tell us about yourself? Where are you from, what is your gaming background?

Brian: I am from the Ohio and I came to Japan in 2008 on the JET Program. I started gaming when I was very young with my family with the Red Box D&D. I was part of the generation in which all the middle school kids were playing Magic the Gathering. I never grew out of that phase like most of my classmates did. I started going with my dad to the local game store, moving on from card games to miniature games. 

First there was Warzone and Chronopia, and then Warhammer 40k. I still have my Imperial Guard and my Ork army, but I haven't played since I was in high school.
I started gaming in Japan in 2009 with the West Tokyo Wargamers. We played 15mm historicals, and then 20mm World War 2 Blitzkreig Commander. Now that group focuses on 28mm Napoleonics using the Black Powder rules.

While I was playing miniatures with that group, I also would take field trips to find other wargaming groups. I wanted to build relationships and networks within the community. One group I visited was the Tokyo Figure Society (TFS). They are a mostly Japanese group of figure painters, sculptures, collectors etc. I kept up with both of these groups and made a lot of good friends. One of the things I liked about the TFS is that they would meet in a coffee shop, then move to an izakaya and drink, all while discussing the hobby. I always wished that there was a more social aspect to the West Tokyo Wargamers.

The opportunity came to change all that when a friend from TFS told me that the owner of Good Heavens! knew about the miniature wargaming hobby and would be interested in hosting our games days. 

So that's how Pub Con was born.​

Good Heavens! Pub. WIJ Approved vitals and drinks!

Personally at this point I prefer organizing events and meeting people over actually playing the games. I have been studying Go recently and my brain is quite fried thinking about its strategy and tactics so I'm taking a break to just concentrate on building my tabletop-gaming network. I do run several party games like Cash and Guns or The Resistance at Pub Con, in case there are several people who don't have a game to play.

Cash & Guns game in progress.
WIJThere is a big push from the Wargamers in Japan and others like yourself to get the various clubs and collectives together on a more regular basis. With so few of us around, it only seems to make sense that we stay in touch and grow our communities together.

BrianI believe that there are a lot of gamers over here who gave up the idea of wargaming/board gaming etc because they didn't know that it was a feasible hobby in Japan. When I came in 2008 I certainly didn't think about getting back into the hobby. I originally wanted to just paint some figures on my own.

At the West Tokyo Wargamers we've had plenty of people coming out of the woodwork with huge collections or who've displayed great passion for the hobby after they had found a place to pursue it.

In order to find these people we shouldn't give up our ambitions to grow the size of our groups. I think even within the expat community there are still a lot of people out there who would like to play. Having an online presence is key and the more gamers put up blogs and meetup groups etc the more people will be able to find us. 

On top of that though I think it is very important to try and reach different groups/networks of people. Wargamers in Japan is great in that you can reach out to the military folk. I am working with board gamers from JIGG to promote my event. There is the JET alumni association, there are company English teacher blogs and forums, different Chambers of Commerce, private clubs, expat housing etc. Whatever group you can think of I think it is worth evangelizing the table top gaming world.

In order to reach the widest variety of people it is important to stress that there are events for all types of gamers. At Pub Con we have RPGs, Board Games, miniatures, and more!

Grand Prix action, watch out for that hairpin!
WIJWhat would you personally like to see happen with gaming in Japan? What is the next step of our events and meetups?

Brian: What I would finally like to see is a big convention, Gen Con style. There are smaller conventions like that actually already going on. Game Market at Tokyo big site was very cool: 8500 people were there this year. Magic the Gathering had a booth there, as well as many games stores, some of which sell Games Workshop. One booth there, run by a friend of the club, was selling Bolt Action and running demos. There is also something called the Japan Game Convention in Yokohama.

The West Tokyo Wargamers have visited very small events before to try and spread the word, but those groups were a mere drop in the bucket compared to the thousands of people who come to the big conventions. Also I hope that bigger sponsors will eventually take part and do a lot of the work for us. 

I don't think it will be too far in the future that we'll see a packed convention center with big crowds of people huddling around a table full of beautifully painted Napoleonic 28's or an exquisite 40k layout or one of the many other wargames that we in the expat/military community get to see very easily. Especially skirmish games like Infinity or Malifaux are great because those could get played even in regular Japanese card game based stores even.

WIJ: Larger conventions would be amazing, and i think something we'll see eventually for sure. We all need to do our part to keep the community thriving. You have mentioned PubCon, and I'd like to put out the details for the event here, and add it to our list of clubs/meetups on the right of the blog. Can you give us the details?

Brian: Here it is...

Club Name: Pub Con (a Japan International Gamers Guild [JIGG] affiliated event)

Club Location: Good Heavens! Shimo-Kitazawa

東京都世田谷区代沢5-32-5 2F
Tokyo-to Setagaya-ku Daizawa 5-32-5 2nd floor

Focus: Pub Con is a gathering of board gamers, miniature gamers, role players and other hobbyists for a monthly day of gaming, drinks and conversation at a gamer friendly English pub.

Structure: Brian is the organizer and in general will help new people navigate the different clubs that are taking part. We always have multiple clubs represented, but everyone is encouraged to meet new people and try new games. There will be a bench for people to put board games that they allow others to play. If you are interested in playing a board game from there please try to find the owner and check if you can use it at that time. Also there will be blank name cards and markers for you to make your own name card. Before you leave, remember to store the name card at the box we keep permanently at the pub.

The official time frame of Pub Con is 10am until 5pm. There is no fee to use the pub, but please buy a drink and/or lunch while you are there to support the hosts. There will be a deal especially for us: 1000 yen for all you can drink soft drinks and 200 yen off lunch. This event is non-smoking.

Games played most often: Bolt Action 28mm WWII is our standard miniature wargame at the moment. We have many regular miniature players however and are looking forward to play Saga, Black Powder, and a 15mm Rorke's Drift scenerio. We have terrain and 2 wargaming tables stored for us at the pub. Any skirmish size miniature game can be accommodated. As for other games we almost always play: Cash and Guns, The Resistance, Spy Fall, Cards Against Humanity, Dungeons and Dragons, and Lunch Money.

Special Considerations: As for board games, party games work especially well in the presence of food and drink. Bring games for others to play at your own risk. We've had no issues so far, but accidents do happen. As for the lighting, it is a pub so we have to work with what we have, but it is possible to move and arrange the lights so do make sure to ask if you think the table you want to play on is too dark. 

Also the location is not always correctly displayed in Apple or Google maps, so please always read the directions and reference the map provided in the announcement in order to find the right location. 

AFTER 5 pm: The event is official closed, but you can still stay in the pub and play games. However we need to put the pub back to its original set up, which might mean you being asked to finish up a game if it is taking up a lot of space. Please work with Brian so that we can maintain a good relationship with the staff, owner, and pub regulars. 

*You will need to turn in your all-you-can-drink soft drink tickets.

*You will have to buys drinks like you would at a normal pub. Please buy another drink or some food at 5pm if you plan on staying. 

*The pub will be smoking. Please be careful about your board games, miniatures, terrain etc so they don't get smelly! 

Point of Contact: The best way to find out more about Pub Con is to join the JIGG-Tokyo Meetup groupInformation will also be posted on the Wargamers in Japan Facebook page and the JIGG-Kanto Facebook page,

WIJ: Huge thanks to Brian for sharing all of his thoughts and experiences with us. If you get a chance to check in with PubCon we highly recommend it! The people are friendly, the food and drink are great and reasonably priced, and GAMES!

Fighting over the 7 Kingdoms gets serious!

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