A few weeks ago I was asked by our good friend and publisher, Peter Vaughan of Squirmy Beast and Ad Magic/Breaking Games if I could demo Letter Tycoon at BoardGameGeek Family Con that ended just this last weekend (May 25th). As Dallas is just 4 hours from Houston, I was happy to help. Besides, I get to play games and also demo Asking for Trobils. How could I refuse?
I don’t know if you’ve been to the normal BGG Convention that happens in November, but it’s huge. There are people everywhere, but in a good way. I’m not overly fond of crowds, but when they’re all people who love boardgames like yourself, it feels more like a distant family reunion rather than some random group of people. It’s my favorite convention of the year really. Just pure gaming. Nothing wrong with that. The Family Convention was both familiar and different to me. I have some pros and cons to discuss about the Family Convention. First, the Cons.
This was the first year for BGG Family. Essentially, it was much smaller. A lot of people I talked to on the internet just a week away didn’t even know it was happening. I only knew because they announced it at the BGG Con last year in November. In fact, I don’t even see it mentioned on BGG’s own recent News. Maybe I’m missing it somewhere.
I think the numbers were around 450 attendees. I have to imagine that included the exhibitors and workers. I think I met half the people there and can recognize the rest in a lineup.
TOO SMALL FOR ITS BRITCHES
There’s some good things to be said about a small convention. As I said, I met a lot of people. That’s a good thing. The problem is, they held it in the same place as the original BGG Con. Comparing the two was inevitable. It was like watching a little kid walk around in daddy’s shoes. It was obvious this convention was too small to fit in the space they had for it.
There were empty rooms marked for wargames and RPGs. The gaming hall was cut in half and even then seemed only 1/4th full. In my opinion, we all would have benefited from a smaller area appropriate to the number of people.
In the original BGG Con, you’ll see “Teacher Wanted” and “Player’s Needed” flags everywhere. Walk around for a few minutes and you’ll be able to jump into a game. That wasn’t the case at this convention. The problem with a family based convention is, you’ve already got your formed group when you arrive. I went with fellow designer Erin McDonald. She not only helped with demoing Letter Tycoon, she also played games with me, because no one else would.
When you go to a convention with one or two other people, you can play games together, or split up and play with new people. In this con, that wasn’t possible. You think a father’s going to bring his two kids to a family convention and then say, “okay kids, go find games you want to play, I’m off to play Twilight Imperium for the day”?
Families came together and played together. That left stragglers like myself with hardly anyone to play games.
Don’t let those cons I mentioned above deter you from attending. Regardless of what I just said, I had a lot of fun. Here’s why:
Even though a smaller venue should have been used, getting to know everyone, or at least their faces, at a convention is pretty nice. If you had a nice game with one player on Friday, you’d see them again, several times on Saturday. It’s a lot easier to meet and make friends, at least for me, when you can see that person again soon after playing games with them.
STILL SOME GOOD ATTRACTIONS
While there weren’t many “celebrities” at the convention, there was a large area for demos of the recently announced Speil Des Jares and related awards nominees. All nine games were there to demo and learn. I heard a lot of talk about Elysium and Orleans. Broom Service seemed to surprise a few people I talked to, and I know more than most how much people enjoyed Colt Express because their table was right next to my demo table for Letter Tycoon. That entire area was a big hit.
BGG also had their poker tournament and events that everyone seemed to enjoy. I got much further in the poker tournament then usual, but that might be because I think only about 50 people played. They seemed to have many prizes for the drawings at the end, none of which I won even though I calculated the odds were much more in my favor due to a smaller attendance. The number 5045018 failed me. It failed me hard.
Stronghold Games was big there of course. I got to demo and bought Dark Moon from them. I was the evil traitor of course, but I was horrible at it.
There’s something about the children of board gamers. Maybe it’s because their parents spend time with them playing games. Maybe it’s the playing board games that help them become critical thinkers and good around adults. Either way, this wasn’t just a large room full of screaming kids like I honestly feared it would be. These kids were well behaved, respectful of games, and more importantly, good sports. If you worried that the convention would be filled with a bunch of brats, you have nothing to fear. I’ve met many adults who are more childish than these kids, and I’m not even really a “kid-person”.
I had fun, and I’ll probably be back again next year. I expect it’ll grow into those big britches of its older brother, the original BGG Con. Despite the cons I mentioned, I think it was a great success due to those who both ran, participated, and attended. It seemed very well directed and managed. I met some great people, even played a few games, and enjoyed demoing both Asking for Trobils and Letter Tycoon. If you have a family that enjoys playing games, this convention should be on your radar for next year. Make it your kid’s first convention. I didn’t see one unhappy kid there, and what better way to get them started in such a rewarding hobby that we all love.
Trobils got some love there too!