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Game Designer and Mini-Convention organizer and nice guy Daniel Newman writes about game design and organizing mini-conventions and being a nice guy.
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FeldCon 2016

Daniel Newman
United States
Brooklyn
New York
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Feld (n) - a board game designed by Stefan Feld, often consisting of innovative action selection mechanics and scoring systems referred to as "point salad" (see: Castles of Burgundy, Trajan, Macao, etc.)

I've been into hobby board games since about 2002 - back when we called them "German games" - after being introduced to Settlers of Catan. However, my discovery of Felds was much more recent, after picking up a copy of AquaSphere off of Amazon during TMGs purge of their overstock in January 2016. Rialto soon followed (also on sale). After I started talking about them, a friend from my local game group brought in Castles of Burgundy. That did it. I was hooked.

Fast forward to Origins in May 2016. I had become friends with Jessica Wade on Twitter (@feldfangirl) and we had declared that we would try to play all the Felds, as she had also just developed an affinity for his designs and had also only played a handful. However, it was my first big convention and as a designer I felt like it was my duty to meet folks from the industry I hadn't yet met and spend time playtesting my designs and others in preparation for designer speed dating so I wound up not really playing many games at all. One game of Bruges early in the week and an early morning game of Trajan on Sunday as well as a post-con game of Luna before I had to head to the airport that afternoon, but we fell quite short of our aspirations. However, my fervor to play as many of his games as possible was only increased and I procured my own copies of nearly all of his games that are in print shortly after returning home.



We lamented on Twitter our failings as burgeoning Feld fanatics, and one of us - I don't remember now whom - jokingly suggested that we organize a FeldCon, where we gathered folks for a game day where only Felds would be played. Surprisingly, several other members of the active Twitter board game community spoke up in support of the idea, and even volunteered to help organize it. The majority of them happened to be in the NYC area, so it seemed to make sense to hold it somewhere in that vicinity. I happen to live in Brooklyn, NY so that was perfect for me.

We wanted to do it this summer, so we through out some dates that didn't work and pretty quickly settled on the one weekend when everyone was free - August 13. It was right after Gen Con, but luckily most of the people who were interested in attending were not also going to Gen Con. We had a date!

Date - Check

Ben Warren from DiceBreakers said he'd look into some options for venue. He tried valiantly to find a space for free from a few different options, but they all seemed to fall through. On a whim, I asked a local game store (where I go for my regular Tuesday night gaming) if there was any chance I could hold a game day there and it just so happened that it was empty that day! What good luck!

Venue - Check

I posted on Twitter the information we had so far locked down and got a number of people who were interested. I set up a google doc with their information and a field to list the games they could bring. I wound up with about 25 people and a few dozen games, many with multiple copies.

Library - Check

We decided we wanted to keep it all pretty casual - mostly because none of us wanted to have to do much organizational work on the day - we just wanted to play games! But I thought it'd be fun to at least have a raffle or something so I reached out to Meeple Realty on a whim and asked if they'd be interested in donating an insert for a Feld Game for the con. I'd recently listened to an episode of Dukes of Dice (a podcast of whom Meeple Realty is a sponsor) and they had mentioned a Castles of Burgundy insert. Well, it turns out Meeple Realty was excited that I was running a Feld convention and would be happy to send me an insert for CoB!

Prize - Check

I felt a bit unsatisfied with deciding who got the insert via raffle. It's a great prize and deserves to be won, not randomly handed over. The whole idea of FeldCon, though, was to allow folks to play as many games that they haven't played before as possible so I didn't want the competition to be anything solely based on games won or points scored. Ben again came to the rescue and suggested a Feld-like point salad meta game, with points getting scored not just based on the games played themselves but other things that happened within the convention.

Brilliant.

I then came up with some categories and assigned values to them weighted by how they fostered interaction with new people and trying new games as well as teaching games. Game design is all about encouraging the behaviors you want from the players and I approached this in the same way. Once I figured out how people would score, I created a spreadsheet to easily enter the data from the scorecards and do all the pesky math so that I could spend just a few seconds entering each one on the day and not have to take too much time away from my own gaming. Because, you know, that was the whole point of the day - to get folks I don't get to see very often (and a few I've never met in person) to come play games that I don't get to ever play!



Meta-Game - Check

I was impressed by the level with which Ruth B ran her birthday mini-convention, RuthCon, so I decided that FeldCon needed badges too. Once again, Ben stepped up and came up with an idea for a badge which I then took and punched up and put everyone's names and twitter handles in. I then sent the pdf to Ben and he printed them out and tea-stained them and put them in fancy badge holders. He's a crafty one.




Badges - Check

With everything in place (including arranging free housing for those that drove in from New Hampshire, Virginia, and North Carolina) there was nothing to do but wait for the day.

The out-of-towners got in on Friday night and we met up to play a few non-Felds and get caught up. My mother-in-law (who was spending the summer in Maine and lives just blocks away) graciously let them stay at her house, so we gathered there for pizza and games. The next morning at 10 AM we all met up at the event and everyone else arrived shortly carrying bags of games. The library was impressive to behold.



Once it seemed most people had arrived, I gathered everyone together and went over how the convention would be run (grab a game, grab some people, grab a table, play) and how the score card worked.

People took no time at all to grab a game and get to it. Excitement was in the air. Wooden cubes and cardboard tokens were placed and taken with gusto. Every table in the shop was full with Feld-playing fools and it was fantastic.








And no con experience would feel right without Pikachu's Butt!



I finished my last game of the day (Macao, which is now my new grail game) at around 9:30 PM. There was one more game wrapping up in the other room, so I took advantage of the time to enter the final score cards that had piled up while I'd played. As soon as the last game finished, I entered the data and wrote the top five players on the white board. The meta-game wound up being super close, but Ruth pulled out the win and took home the CoB insert!



12 hours of Feld games left me a bit fried, but after cleaning up and closing the shop, a few of us headed back to my mother-in-law's house (dubbed FeldHouse for the weekend) and wound down with a few rounds of Deception: Murder in Hong Kong and A Fake Artist Goes to New York.

Then we took this photo.



And that was it! So much fun. So exhausting. Can't wait to do it again!

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