Lessons Learned While Demoing Games at a Non-Gaming Convention
Scotty Dickey
United States
Brandon
Mississippi
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I've just finished a weekend of demoing games at the Mississippi Home Educators Association (MHEA) Spring Conference. A fellow homeschooling father and I ran a booth sponsored by our local boardgaming group. Our intention was not to actually sell games. We simply wanted to promote boardgaming as a wonderful family activity, and the concept of incorporating family boardgaming into the home education experience. We had a wonderful time introducing families to some terrific games. In addition, we learned a few lessons along the way. I thought I'd share a few of those lessons here.
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1. Board Game: Ask Zandar [Average Rating:4.65 Unranked]
Scotty Dickey
United States
Brandon
Mississippi
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Don't Be Afraid to Ask

I'm not in the habit of writing to business owners and marketing directors. With a little encouragement from Stephen Conway, co-host of the Spiel podcast, however, I found myself contacting Matt Mariani (Out of the Box) and Jay Tummelson (Rio Grande). I told them what we were planning to do. Both men were extremely encouraging. In addition to kind words, they also sent demo copies of the games we intended to highlight. This got us really excited about the project. It was also great to have new copies of the games to give away as door prizes at the convention.

I also contacted the great folks at Thoughthammer. They sent promotional material for display. Again, I hope that some of the folks we pointed in their direction will purchase games. I know we handed out a ton of fliers to folks asking where to get copies of the games they played.

I only wish I had thought to contact my FLGS, The Dragon's Lair. Maybe next year he will join us and bring a bunch of copies to sell.
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2. Board Game: Voice of the Mummy [Average Rating:7.33 Unranked]
Scotty Dickey
United States
Brandon
Mississippi
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Protect Your Voice

My wife and I frequently host game nights. I teach a lot of games. It didn't occur to me that my voice might not hold up. It is one thing to teach a few games to friends around the kitchen table. It is quite another thing to teach the same three games over and over for an entire weekend, all the while trying to speak above the noise of over 1000 conference attendees. Next year I will definitely bring a thermos with hot tea, some lozenges, and another helper or two to share the teaching duties.
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3. Board Game: Say What!?! [Average Rating:5.42 Overall Rank:12810]
 
Scotty Dickey
United States
Brandon
Mississippi
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Remember: We're Not All Geeks

I was prepared for the fact that I would need to be able to make the case for the educational value of some boardgames. However, I wasn't prepared to have to defend boardgaming in general. Most of the folks we spend time with already believe:
boardgaming = goodness
However, not everyone has come to the same conclusion. I had to take a step back and make the case for boardgaming as a wonderful, non-electronic, highly-social, thought-provoking, REALLY FUN activity for families. Fortunately, the point was not difficult to make. I'm really proud of the how many parents left our booth with a new or renewed enthusiasm for playing games with their children. For the general public, the world of designer boardgames is largely unknown. If the only boardgames I knew about were the ones lining the shelves of my local department store, I wouldn't give it much thought either. We have a great hobby. For many, it is just a matter of discovery.
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4. Board Game: Target [Average Rating:6.05 Overall Rank:8197]
Scotty Dickey
United States
Brandon
Mississippi
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Target Your Audience

Before the conference, I had imagined that I would be playing lots of games with parents. I wanted to introduce them to games that they could then play with their children. It didn't work out that way. I did speak with many parents. I spent the vast majority of my time, however, playing games with children. That was fine. I had a blast. However, I didn't hit my target audience as hard as I would have liked. I'm now convinced that we could have encouraged more involvement from parents by structuring our booth differently, and having at least one other person to help. I'll not go into the details here. If anyone is considering doing something like this and would like to hear our proposed changes for next year, drop me a geekmail. I'd be happy to talk shop.
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5. Board Game: Point Of Law [Average Rating:4.59 Overall Rank:14846]
Scotty Dickey
United States
Brandon
Mississippi
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Lay Down the Law

I was running the booth alone for much of the first day of the conference. I had several games set up on tables, ready to play. This felt like the natural way to go about it. I run my game nights that way. However, this wasn't game night. This wasn't my home. These weren't invited guests. From the beginning, I should have had a list of rules prepared to share with everyone who came to our booth.

1. No Food or Drink at the Table.
2. Do Not Bend the Cards.
3. Ask Before Opening Another Game.
4. Put Away Your Game After Playing.
5. No Children Under 6 Years Old Unless Accompanied by a Parent.

These things became rules fairly quickly. By the end of the weekend, I was very comfortable laying down the law. When I became more assertive about stating and enforcing the rules, things were much better. For the most part, the children I dealt with were extremely well behaved. However, the one or two children who were the exception caused more trouble than I should have allowed. I'll do a better job next year.
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6. Board Game: Kids Rule! [Average Rating:4.67 Unranked]
Scotty Dickey
United States
Brandon
Mississippi
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There are Worse Ways to Spend a Weekend Than Playing Boardgames with a Bunch of Really Great Kids

Though I want to structure things next year such that we have more opportunities to meet with parents, I certainly wouldn't want to have fewer kids around. These guys were really great. We had a blast teaching them to play these games. They kept coming back and bringing more and more friends. My favorite part was seeing these kids teaching other kids how to play the games they had just learned. I became even more convinced that we need to do a better job of getting these quality games into the hands of more children.
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7. Board Game: TransAmerica [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:893]
Scotty Dickey
United States
Brandon
Mississippi
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TransAmerica is Awesome

Since it was our first attempt at anything like this, we decided to start small. Rather than demoing games with educational value for multiple subjects, we decided to chose one subject - geography. The games we highlighted were TransAmerica/Trans Europa, The 10 Days Series of games, and Ticket to Ride. I had played and enjoyed each of these games. Over the course of the weekend, my opinion of TransAmerica rose significantly. It had a tremendously broad appeal. Adults, teens, and young children played and enjoyed this game all weekend long. Even the young kids picked it up quickly and were soon able to teach their friends to play. Every game we highlighted was excellent. In the end, however, TransAmerica was the game of the weekend.
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8. Board Game: Group Photo [Average Rating:4.00 Unranked]
Scotty Dickey
United States
Brandon
Mississippi
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Take Plenty of Pictures

When you're jumping from table to table, it can be hard to remember that you promised to send photographs of the event to various people. Here are a few of the pictures we were able to get:







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