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Am I conning myself?

I wrote all this after reading Matt's question on the Deep Cuts guild:
MplsMatt wrote:
I was curious what conventions folks here attend and what you think they're doing well. Do they nail the venue or the crowd or is it just the gaming on offer? Maybe it's just simple geography that drives attendance.
For me, it's definitely people and geography first, followed by the games.

I've never been to a "big" convention. No Origins. No GenCon. No whatever.

My first board game convention was Niagara Boardgaming Weekend in 2007. It's a pure "open gaming" convention. I loved this format, meeting many great people. I had just moved to Binghamton from Buffalo. Driving up for NBW was also an excuse to get back up north to play games with the group that I missed.

NBW - more fun than a barrel over the falls

Going to NBW got me an invitation to a small private con run by Scott Nicholson in June '07, which was a ton of fun, and led to me meeting Alan Moon, which got me an invite to the Gathering of Friends in April '08, which was a WEEK of fun.

In '09, I went back to NBW. I decided not to go back to the Gathering for many reasons, but mostly because I couldn't justify the cost and time involved in what was essentially a week-long selfish vacation, abandoning my growing family to do my own thing. My wife has always been gracious towards my gaming, but I didn't want to abuse that grace. Also, at that time, the event always took place the week before Easter, which just made it even more difficult to get away from family at that time.

NBW - better than casinos AND cuban cigars

'09 was also the year that I met Bill Ashbaugh from Oneonta and got invited out to Billapalooza, his gaming birthday bash.

In 2010, I took a break from all cons, public or private.

In 2011, I went to GMT East, after having slowly become more involved in wargaming. This was a blast, but I slowly realized over the next year that I'm not really a wargamer. I definitely like many war and historical games, but my family and general life situation is such that long, involved games are just hard to get to the table.

GMT East 2011 - One Newbie's Experience

2012 and 2013 were years in which I did not go to any cons, and at times thought that I might be cooling on being so deep in the hobby.

2014 was the year that I started regularly reuniting with childhood friends for 4+ days of renting a place, hiking, gaming, drinking, relaxing. At first, we called it NOMAAM Weekend (my friend Josh had to explain the reference from Married with Children), but we've just referred to it as Mancation every since. It's been great for me and made me realize that I need at least one weekend away a year for my own mental health. We've been doing it every year since. This past year was the first year that I wrote an AAR.

You guys really call it Mancation? And you just live on beer and board games for days?

Last year, in 2018, I also made it back to Billapalooza in Oneonta for the first time in a long time. I also made it back to NBW in 2017, which I did write about:

NBW XIII - Getting Stopped at the Canadian Border with a Backseat Full of Board Games

I still tell people that NBW is my favorite public con, because it is. Unfortunately, the cost involved and the 5 hour travel time, just makes it hard for me to get to, especially when I've already taken time off from work for Mancations (and they keep seeming to get longer!) and more important family trips and events.

So far, in 2019, I've been to one private event at a friend's place.

PartheCon 1: Parthenogenesis

This sort of weekend of gaming was something that we could have easily done when we were younger. Now it's a special event. But you know what? It is special, and I'm grateful for these moments of being able to get away and act like a teenager with the same guys I was acting like a teenager with, and playing games with, when we were teenagers!

These weekends, and Mancations, are great for getting the trashier dudes on a map stuff played, great for rowdy days and nights. They definitely scratch that itch. What I haven't really found yet is something similar to scratch the heavier longings. I'd love to go to an Age of Steam Con, Heavy Con, or something like Trains & Chits, a place where everyone was agreed on the task of melting their minds. I know that I could go back to GMT East for a wargame fix, but the hotel is expensive and the drive is far enough to discourage me. I've got to dig around local groups and the BGG 'find users' feature, and find the weird gamers in nearby upstate NY areas, the kind that wouldn't mind playing Soo Line followed by Sea Evil followed by Time of Crisis. I'd like that.

What's next in Cons for me in 2019?

I've already registered for MepaCon in Scranton, PA, and have signed up for sessions of Mutant Crawl Classics and XCrawl. I'm excited for that.

Later in the year will be Mancation (ManCon VI) and the inaugaral CuseCon in Syracuse, NY (about an hour north of me), where I'm hoping to play some DCC as well as find plenty of open gaming. I'll probably go to RoberCon again here in the Bingo area. And then there's always FATFROG, which I realized I didn't mention. It's the Friday After Thanksgiving Family Reunion Over Games that happens at my place on Black Friday.

So, what have I learned about myself after writing this? It's what I already knew. I don't care about the big cons. I want to play games I like with people I like. If that means being silly and calling a planned day of gaming at someone's house a "Con", well, I'm not above doing that. Because those are my favorite Cons. And sometimes it feels like the amount of effort that we put into planning and coordinating everyone's schedules to make something like this work has got to be as difficult, or more difficult, than what it takes to pack a stadium with new shiny things.
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