November 26th - October 28th, 1996

Report by Annie Shillabeer (

I knew I had arrived in Ireland!!

It was the early hours of the morning and from the cold tap flowed hot water and the hot tap produced cold water. But that was the least of our worries! Carol Huxter and I having arrived in Ireland with no real idea of where we were going, other than that the con was being held at the hospital and we had accommodation sorted out by Darragh, one of the organisers. Unfortunately, he omitted to tell us where the accommodation was; slight problem there. However, it all sorted itself out with the help of a friendly taxi driver. At least we didn't end up sleeping on the streets of Dublin!

When we finally arrived it was about midnight. The pub was brimming with fairly drunk gamers. We didn't take long to catch up.

The Royal Hospital

The next day we found the con, which is held at The Royal Hospital Kilmanham, Dublin. It was only a short walk away from the pub where we were staying, passing the Guinness brewery gates to reach it.

Gaelcon could of done with being signposted within the hospital grounds, it was assumed you knew where you were heading. The hospital grounds and building were impressive. Inside you had these wonderful huge halls, flagstone floors and the odd suit of armour here and there. Its great setting for roleplaying. The building was built in the 18th century and used as a hospital for soldiers. It was renovated by the government in the early 80s to house the Irish Museum of Modern Art. The Museum takes up the East And North Wings. Gaelcon was held in the West wing which is usually used for European Union events and Banquets and suchlike.

The Gamers

Altogether about 700\800 gamers attended each day, mainly Irish, with a few Brits and Americans thrown in.

The halls were full of role players, magic, magic, and more magic. We formed the second table of board games being played. At first, finding board gamers proved as difficult as trying to find a Dublin pub that doesn't sell Guinness.

Even then we had to abandon the table when Warhammer was announced to be played next to us and a stampede of mad Warhammer players charged through. But, despite that, we met some folks and played some board games. To begin with the constant loud announcements were a nuisance, but you got used to them over the course of the weekend.

The Games and Events

Played Once upon a Time. One player was really good at it. I then discovered he was James Wallace whose name graces the game. No wonder he came out with such a bizarre storyline each time! Played an assortment of games throughout the day, including some new ones from Essen: X Pasch, Sabotage, Schwarzmarkt. Played a game of Settlers and was told by another player, Bret Patterson, that I'd won. I hadn't noticed. He then realised he had, in fact, also won a couple of rounds earlier and not noticed. After my go, Carol was about to announce her victory. The fourth player, Wayne, disappeared by this stage to run an event. A strange game.

Chris and Fran Bayliss and Second Games Galore had stands at Gaelcon, The Model Shop and some other Irish shops were also present. There were a lot of organised events on during the weekend, mainly free form events and Role Playing. But the assortment was excellent, including Rage, Call of Cthulhu, F.U.B.A.R, Cyberpunk and Magic. There was even a celebrity Twister. I never made it to take a look at that; I bet it was fun. You also had lots of seminars, which again I also missed. They included subjects on games snobs, winning and losing gracefully. They were not as well attended as previous years, with up to 30 people at each one.

The Pub Quiz and Crawl

The pub quiz on Saturday night was an experience. We raked our team together to include Diane from Peru, Reiner Knizia, Ashley and Linsey from London, Carol and myself. We were hoping this assortment of people would put us in good stead for the questions. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the wrong approach because unless you were an Irish warhammer player who shopped in games workshop, you had absolutely no chance what so ever. When the question "What was the first Traveller Adventure" was asked and Diane volunteered "Thomas Cook", it dawned on me that we were doomed in a big way. We grabbed Danny Victor towards the end of the quiz and he helped push our measly score up by a few points.

After the pub quiz I somehow got mingled in with a mass exodus heading for the pub door and ended up at Fibbers night club. The night club was great: very busy, good music and friendly people. It was great fun. We followed that up, when the night club closed, by deciding to play a few more games back at the pub where we were staying. I was finding it extremely hard to concentrate by now, after lashings of beer, and I sneaked off to bed, hoping nobody would notice. I found out the next day they did as there had only been four of us in the first place. I'd forgotten that minor detail.

The Slave Auction (!!?)

On Sunday night the charity auction was held and that really was great fun. There were about 200 gamers packed into one pub room. The auction raised an impressive 2,891 pounds which Tom Conway topped up to 3,000 pounds by donating the extra 109. All the money went to Children in Need. There were some very silly prices being paid on things. Two female slaves, Helen and Megan, went for 400, much to the annoyance of Jarred, who really wanted to capture Helen for some slavery. John Tynes had the letter H shaved into his head, H for Hamish the mascot. He raised 240. A black bordered alpha lotus, not even in mint condition, went for 500. I bid and managed to get some VIP tickets for Lepracon next year. They went for 51, which included accommodation for one, free entry, transport and a few other bits and bobs thrown in. Jim Beatty, however, who organises it, was really generous and turned it into accommodation for two.

After the auction, we stayed on in the pub, with the intention of going to a night club when the pub closed. But the pub didn't closed until 4am. I then attempted to play a few games, but numbers dwindled and I was forced to go to bed. A good job the pub served breakfast until midday.

The Aftermath

I asked Darragh how he felt the con went: "The attendance was up and most things went off quite well although events. It's quite hard for these not to get lost in the main mass market events. Figure games were much more popular than previously and there was a new level of interest in the traditional figures especially amongst the workshop fans. Board games ran well but It's very hard to give them the attention they deserve as most of the prominent board gamers in the country are tied up very heavily with the administrative side of the Con. UK attendance was a up again, as each year goes by word seems to spread and our UK publicity gets a little further a field."

By Monday, a lot of people looked seriously worn out and the con was a lot calmer than it had been. Gaelcon is definitely a boozy friendly one, definitely not for non drinkers. Next year it clashes with Essen, a shame but the organisers can't do anything to alter that. They have even said that if the price of the hospital goes up again, they may even be forced to cancel it.

Some how I can't see that happening, as Gaelcon seemed to be a con to be reckoned with.

The Game Cabinet - - Ken Tidwell