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Highlights of BGG.Con 2010

Mary Prasad
United States
North Carolina
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Note: This report was delayed first due to the demise of Boardgame News, then due to personal issues – still, I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures at BGG.Con 2010!

2010 was the sixth year of the BoardGameGeek Convention or BGG.Con, which was held once again at the Westin Dallas Fort Worth Airport hotel, November 17-21, 2010, now five days long instead of four! Attendance was about 1100, up from the previous year's 925. This pretty much maxed out the current space. BGG.Con is set to move to the Hyatt Regency in 2012, allowing them to expand membership once again. In 2011, though, it will be held at the same hotel, the aforementioned Westin, November 16-20. Unfortunately for those of you who want a ticket for 2011 but have not yet purchased one, BGG.Con 2011 sold out in only five days! There is a waiting list for tickets.

Typically there is a long line for registration but it moves fairly quickly. Well, technically there are two lines, dividing the alphabet by last name. Check out my short video of BGG.Con registration, which although less than five minutes long, took me around ten hours to put it together (thanks to having to reinstall/upgrade iMovie and having to relearn the interface, ugh).

This year attendees were required to wear wristbands. There is a shot of one in the video above; look for Michelle Alden as the lovely model. These were not a fan favorite. Some people were able to talk registration volunteers into allowing them to attach their wristbands to their badges or lanyards but this will not be allowed in the future.

John Boone posted this humorous photo on BGG

The upside was that the hotel restaurant usually discounted food 10% automatically upon seeing the wristbands. I found out about the discount only last year (sadly, after the convention) and never did remember to ask – ditto for most of the people with whom I dined. For some reason the badges themselves didn't solicit the same automatic discount.

Speaking of Food...
The hotel restaurant isn't bad, in fact some of the food is quite tasty, but the service can be really s-l-o-w at times. This year, Rio Grande Games generously sponsored a restaurant bus! The bus made a loop each hour beginning at 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. from Wednesday through Saturday. There were three stops along the way then back to the hotel. A sign was displayed near the bus entrance showing the dining options at each stop. Coupons were available in each guest's swag bag and at registration. (If you watched the video, you should have seen the close-up of the sign.)

Free Stuff!
This year's swag included the convention program, coupons, a map of Irving (i.e. the hotel location), a pen, and a GeekBuzz card. The GeekBuzz card is like the GeekBuzz system BGG uses at Spiel in Essen, allowing attendees to vote on their favorite games.

According to the leader boards, 7 Wonders came in first by a large margin, with 104 votes. Train of Thought was second with 58 votes and Navegador third with 56. I'm not sure why the rankings were not listed by number of votes – anyway, the top ten are below. Organizers hope to publicize GeekBuzz more in the future so likely you'll see more votes next time.

1. 7 Wonders 104
2. Train of Thought 58
3. Eminent Domain 39
4. Navegador 56
5. London 42
6. Sun, Sea & Sand 30
7. Prolix 14
8. Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game 32
9. Antics! 31
10. Factory Fun 22

Each attendee received a game from Tasty Minstrel Games and Queen Games. In total, about 2,500 games were given away as door prizes.

Badges came with a game library card (barcoded for extra efficiency) and two tickets – one purple* and one yellow. For the purple ticket, attendees were directed to keep the half that said "KEEP THIS COUPON" and turn in the other half for a chance at the Space-Age Prize Randomizer™ (formerly the Die O'Magic™). The Space-Age Prize Randomizer™ contained more tickets: yellow for another chance at the Thought Hammer drawing (details below), purple for another chance at the BGG.Con Sponsors' nightly drawing, blue for a copy of The BoardGameGeek Game, or green to go to the green room prize table. (Alas, once again I missed out so I still don't know what wondrous prizes were available with a green ticket.)

The yellow tickets were for the Thought Hammer drawings, or the "Drawing Formerly Known as Midnight Madness." Attendees could also buy additional tickets at the Thought Hammer table to support charity. Attendees could chose which prize category they wanted by placing half of their tickets into one of the corresponding boxes, e.g., war games, family games, etc. Tickets were drawn throughout the day; the winning numbers were posted on a board near the Thought Hammer table.

*Jeff Anderson calls them purple, but they are clearly pink. Okay, magenta, if you want to be specific.

Thankfully, this year the nightly prize drawings were changed to 10 p.m. rather than midnight. Us old folk appreciate the earlier time. Prize drawings were held Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, culminating with the grand prize drawings on Saturday night at 7 p.m. – including the much coveted (by me anyway) Crokinole board. Oh, and the awarding of the Golden Geek Awards.

Rick Thornquist with one of the coveted Crokinole boards

Game Library and Hot Games
The BGG.Con game library contains over 3,200 games. Check out the collection listed under the BGG user ID "Geekdo."

Scott Alden (R) showing his parents around the Game Library

This year's top ten checkouts included:

Number of Checkouts/Game Name
49/51st State
49/Isla Dorada
40/Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer
38/Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game
38/Glen More
35/Dominant Species

The library was moved to take up one side of the Oak Ballroom. The other side was for the Hot Games room. The most recent Essen releases were on the shelves closest to the check out stand. This year the Essen releases (blue barcoded games) had a four-hour time limit on them. The organizers requested that they be played in the adjacent Hot Games room unless those tables were already full. The rest of the games in the library were organized alphabetically, for the most part. Checkouts and check-ins were handled efficiently with the barcode system. Attendees received a barcoded library card with their badges.

Game library room hours ran from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 1a.m. from Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday. Games may be checked out overnight, except on Sunday.

Scott chooses a game for his parents (So cliché!)

There were about a dozen games in the Hot Games room, including Troyes, Luna, Vinhos, Settlers of America: Trails to Rails, 7 Wonders, Navegador, London, and yet another release of Sid Meier's Civilization: the Board Game. Volunteers were available to answer questions or teach a game.

Proto Alley
If you have a game design and would like some feedback, or if you are a gamer who would like to try some prototypes, this is the place to go! Be sure to read the rules and playtesting guidelines before participating. Proto Alley was open on Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Mark Kaufmann of Days of Wonder - he's so friendly that it's hard to catch him with his mouth closed

This year's vendors included Tasty Minstrel Games, Queen Games, Days of Wonder, Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG), Z-Man Games, Eagle/Gryphon, Asmodee, Mayfair Games, Steve Jackson Games, Plaid Hat Games, Wattsalpoag, Troll & Toad, Geek Chic, Gary Games, Chair Massage Therapists, and FedEX. Funagain actually had an entire room for a mini-store.

No Shipping Math Trade
Once again, Mischa Krilov organized the no shipping math trade. Be sure to submit your game lists early; 2010's deadline was November 1st. Results are posted in plenty of time for games to be packed up for the trip. If you plan to trust baggage handlers with the games, make sure you pad them well (although nothing short of steel reinforced bags will guarantee no damage by baggage handlers). For first-timers, Mischa posted a Newbie Guide to Math Trades as well.

(L to R) Paul Gerardi and Zev Shlasinger of Z-Man Games

Flea Market
One hour was allotted for the Flea Market, beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Bring all your crap — uh, unwanted games and sell, sell, sell! Buyers, feel free to negotiate with the sellers – they love when you do that! You should sign up beforehand and check out the rules. Rules and information were posted in the BGG.Con forum. You may also want to participate in the virtual flea market. As a warm up, check out the forum thread "Your Best Flea Market Deal". It's interesting to see what people were able to pick up at the flea market.

Crazy Booth Photos
Once again, Jon Harrison and Nataline Viray-Fung ran the Crazy Booth during the Con. It was free and looked like a lot of fun. Check out some of the photos on BGG.

Tournaments and Other Events
If you are interested in tournaments, there are several to choose from at BGG.Con. There are also some other non-tournament events as well. For the first time there was a Battling Tops tournament (4 p.m. Saturday). The usual Texas Hold'em Poker Tournament was held Friday night at 8 p.m. for the first 150 players. No money was involved and amateurs were encouraged to play – they even gave some play hints to those who showed up at 7:45 p.m. This year there was a Tichu tournament! Jeff Anderson ran the tournament – he said there were 64 teams (!) but neither he nor I remember who actually won. Of course once my team lost, I was too tired to stay to find out. It was a LONG tournament and we didn't get time to eat until quite late (next time I'm brining snacks). Stephanie Kelleher was my partner for the tournament – thanks Steph! It was a valiant effort. I'm sure they cheated somehow.

The Spiel-a-Thon Charity event raised over $1,800 for the Spiel Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to donating board and card games to children's hospitals and senior citizens' centers. The event was held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday. Two player teams played for 25 to 30 minutes at a time in a trivia game specifically designed for the event. Prizes were awarded to the winning team. The entry fee was a $15 donation per person or $30 per team.

The Photo Safari – renamed Photo Synthesis – was held on Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. To summarize, teams of 4 to 6 people create rebus puzzles whose answers are the titles of games. A digital camera with removable memory card capability was required (no Smart Cards). Organizers provided the rest, including printers, paper, and poster board. Each team was allowed to print and use up to 15 images in their puzzles. Each game title was worth 1 point but up to an additional 6 bonus points could be earned for creativity. The winning team was announced at the grand prize ceremony on Saturday night. Each member on the winning team was awarded a prize.

The Steve Jackson demo crew

The Puzzle Hunt was probably the most disruptive event during the convention. It was held Saturday from 2 p.m. to about 4 p.m. This time they did not cap the number of participants and the organizers would help you find team members if your team was short of four players (the max). The reason it was so disruptive is that the teams had to come up with the items in the puzzles; they were running around the hotel asking people for these items. Many people were trying to play games, including me – and we were sitting out near the lobby, not near the main gaming. We were interrupted so many times during the puzzle hunt that we were getting very frustrated. I'm sure others felt the same way. Hopefully next time they will change the format to be less intrusive to non-participating gamers.

The Game Show is always a big hit. They tend to fill to capacity so be sure to sign up early if you plan to participate. Teams of four competed as usual, but in a new twist the goal was to get as few points as possible in order to win. The Game Show was held Saturday night at 8 p.m.

Rock Band was available to play in the lecture hall, usually in the evenings. I'm not sure the acoustics are ideal as I noticed some really off-key singing, sadly including my own. It was difficult to hear the words over the music and echo (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!) but it was still a lot of fun.

Final Notes
Hotel information: Westin Dallas Fort Worth Airport, 4545 W. John Carpenter Freeway, Irving, TX 75063. Phone 972-929-4500. If you fly into the Dallas Fort Worth airport, the hotel has a free shuttle. Call the hotel on the courtesy phone after you get your bags and meet them outside where indicated. Don't forget to tip the driver! Be sure to reserve a spot on the shuttle for the return trip – it can get quite full on the last day.

Thanks to Jeff Anderson for providing information and details when my memory failed yet again. Also thanks to you, Aldie and Derk, as well as the rest of your BGG.Con staff for a fun filled event!!

(L to R) Jeff Anderson, Derk Solko, and Scott Alden
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