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Subject: Tips on BGG.con from a Veteran (updated for 2014) rss

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Chris Montgomery
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Joliet
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This thread and post have gotten 1,000,000 points of love from the past, and it's time to bring it back. Since Marshall hasn't done so for some years, I will.

For those who don't know . . .

In 2008, 2009, and 2010, Marshall P. (mdp4828) did an excellent series of articles on BGG Con for newbs and how to enjoy it.

It has been four years (I think) since Marshall updated his thread, so I decided to update myself instead, with all new information, and a slightly new layout. Much has changed with BGG Con since 2010, including a larger number of attendees, a huge retail space, a new venue, and more and better ways for geeks to connect.

I have borrowed liberally from Marshall’s well-written articles where they are still pertinent (much of his information is!), but I have changed and modified liberally, as well, were I felt it necessary. Please give Marshall all the credit for the good stuff, and blame me for all the bad.

As for myself, I have attended BGG Con every year from 2008 forward, and this year will be my seventh (!) year.

Planning Your Trip: What Do I Bring? Where Do I Stay?

Clothes. Anyone who has attended a convention has had to deal with geekstink. Please don’t be *that guy*. Pack enough clothes (especially shirts) so that you can freshen up. The smell of anxiety sweat, bad breath, and unbathed geekiness should be kept to a minimum. While I’m at it, plan on showering every day – at some point – please. :-)

Games. If you aren’t a picky player, you don’t have to bring any. In fact, in most cases you won’t need to. The BGG.con library is, frankly, mind bogglingly huge. This year it is over 4,700+ titles. You should be able to find something you’d like play there. More typically, you’ll just be walking around, and see someone setting up a game with a “Players Wanted” sign, and “BAM!” just like that, you’re in a game.

The are a couple of exceptions to the “don’t bring any games” rule:

(1) If you’ve agreed to play a specific game at a specific time with specific people, then it might be a good idea to bring a copy.

(2) Ancillary to #1, if you participate in any of the Meet-Up Lists (more on those later), and you have said you’ll bring a game, be sure and bring it.

(3) If you have a game to you want to play that, for some reason, is not in the library, you will likely need to bring it.

(4) If you plan on arriving early (Tuesday night) you might want to bring a game or two because the library (and Con) won’t be open yet and you’ll be at the mercy of what others have brought. You should still be able to get into a game, though.

Money. You will likely spend some dough in the Vendor hall buying must-have games and you'll spend a good chunk of change on food. I typically budget $100 a day for food and game-buying. Spend more there, less over here. You will likely need at least $40 a day for food, though, unless you make a trip to the grocery store.

Accommodations. Stay at the convention hotel. If it's full, remember this advice for next year. The hotel has a limited number of mini-fridges for those would like one. Reserve it at check in. It's $15 for your entire stay (not per day).

When to Arrive

The con starts Wednesday morning at 10:00 a.m. and runs from then until Sunday afternoon.

If you arrive the night before (many do), the excellent, wonderful Con workers and volunteers will typically set aside some space for gaming. There should be a sign somewhere. Gaming on Tuesday night is sporadic, but plentiful. Quite a few geeks use Tuesday night to reconnect with friends from years-past, so *sometimes* getting into a game can take a little while. As with “How Do I Get Into a Game?” (below), you should feel free to walk up, watch a game, introduce yourself, etc.

The staff will also be very appreciative if you’d like to volunteer 30 minutes or an hour of your time. You don’t have to, but if you feel like doing so, just ask anyone in a Geekdo hockey jersey, or anyone setting up (they’re both easy to spot).

In any case, there will be some ad hoc gaming going on Tuesday night amidst the setting up. Between all the convention rooms last year, I’d say 50-100 people were gaming in the late afternoon into the night. If you arrive early in the afternoon on Tuesday, the rooms may be in use for a different hotel function. You’ll just have to wait until it’s over.

In any case, Tuesday night, feel free to participate, but it’s harder to get in a game at this time than during the con itself. Most of the gaming going on is typically lighter fare . . . but you will see the odd-ball 5 or 6 hour wargame once in a while. If you brought any light games, this might be a fun time to break them out, start setting up, and ask passersby if they’d like to play. You may have an opponent sooner than you think – especially if it’s a quick 60 minute or less game, or a popular game for which most boardgamers know the rules.

On Wednesday morning, the registration line starts forming very early. After several years of attending the con, I don’t get in line early. It’s kind of up to you to decide how long you want to stand in it. The line moves fast once it’s open, but one reason people get there early is for the free game selection. In years’ past, there were special schwag rooms that had some really awesome stuff. The Con organizers typically change the free-game format from year to year. The last couple years there has been a raffle to enter, and then there has been two sections with games . . . you pick one of two games at the first section, then one of two games at the second section.

At registration, you also get a bag full of adverts and other stuff. Inside, you will typically find a lot of coupons and adverts for vendors in the vendor hall, but don’t be so quick to toss them in the garbage. Also included the last two years has been:

(1.) A vendor card for Vendor Bingo. Each space has the name of a vendor on it. If you visit that vendor, they will stamp your card. Fill your entire card, and you get 100 geekgold. It will take you roughly 2 hours to do this, and you’ll get to see some really awesome stuff.

(2.) The convention schedule is inside. Take some time to review this. You will have many options and you should see if you are interested in them. Very popular events are: (a) the Poker Tournament, (b) the Tichu Tournament, (c) the Flea Market, and (d) the game show. I’ll let you look up the details for these events if you are interested, but they pretty self-explanatory. Some of them you have to sign up for ahead of time.

(3.) Occasionally, there’s a meta-game in which you can play against your fellow geeks to solve a puzzle, collect tickets, or some other game. I have never played, but if there is a game, instructions will be inside.

I really don’t worry about getting in line early. I usually sleep in, or go to breakfast, or go play a short game and register around 11:00 or so, once the line is pretty much died down. Again, while not necessary, if you really have nothing to do, you could see if the con organizers need help with anything . . . there’s usually some last-minute stuff that needs doing.

Included with the registration materials are two things you cannot lose:

First, your wrist band, which must remain on your wrist throughout the con (yes, geeks shower with it on). If you really have an issue with this, speak with the organizers. They may be able to make an accommodation. The problem is that local geeks crash the Con and don’t pay the registration fee . . . they try to police this. If you can, help them police non-badge holders.

Second, your badge on a lanyard with your name, userID, and Avatar. In the back of your badge is your library card and a raffle ticket or two for the Saturday drawings. Make it a high priority to hold on to all three of these things. They’re very important.

How to Get Into a Game

This is where the con really starts. You’ve arrived, checked in, got your badge. The excitement is high. There’s a large crowd milling around, greeting each other, talking. Certain voices rise for a moment and catch your attention then fade into the background. It’s heady stuff and you’re ready to dive in.

The first thing you’ll notice is all the tables. If you arrived the night before, or checked in early, they’ll be mostly empty. You’ll think that there are more than enough tables, that it’ll never be a problem finding an empty one. You’d be wrong. At peak times the hall is going to be crowded and table space will be at a premium. Particularly, Friday and Saturday nights are huge nights for the main hall. Last year they set aside about one-quarter of the main hall to play hotness games, and new games. This area was roped off, but you could certainly walk up and ask any of the reps to show you how to play. More likely than not, though, you’ll want to mill around for a bit and get your bearings. If you are there for Wednesday check-in, the new venue is really large, and there’s ample space to get into a game *somewhere* – but expect the main hall to be pretty busy during most of the Con.

Also remember to be considerate and don’t take up more table space than you need. A two player card game doesn’t require a whole table. Rather than tote around a massive stack of games and leave them on the empty table space next to you, consider a trip to your hotel room or your car to store that stuff. It takes a bit of time, but it’s a courtesy to your fellow conventioneers.

So now you want to play a game. Since BGG Con is focused on spontaneous open-gaming, just pick a spot and start playing . . . if you’ve got a lot of friends no problem, but say you don’t know anyone. There are four things you can try, and at some point I typically do all four.

(1.) The Library. Go to the library. Just go and wander around in there. First of all, it’ll be so enormously huge that you’ll spend a bit of time just taking it all in. Let the anticipation and promise of all these games wash over you. Don’t be in a hurry at first. It’s an experience just to scan the library tables. Be kind to the volunteers working the library. Early in the con, it is busy, and hectic. They usually only let a certain number of people into the library area at once to minimize crowding. You must check your bags. Don’t complain about it.

Often, once you’re in the library you’ll often simply be approached by someone else to play a game. Stay there long enough and it’s inevitable. If you’re approached about a game you’re not keen on feel free to make a counter proposal. In a few cases, people are looking to play a specific game, but in most cases they’ll happily play something else if you suggest it.

(2) Instigate a Game Yourself. The second thing you can do is be the instigator yourself. You’ll notice some people are kind of “window shopping” in the library. They don’t seem to be looking for a particular game per se. These people are more likely looking for other people to game with. I’m not shy and I don’t hesitate to go up to somebody and just ask them – hey, you looking to play a game? Success rate is about 50%.

(3) Check A Game Out of the Library and Set It Up. If the first two options fail you’re not out of luck. Just check out a game. (Remember that library card you got when you registered? You didn’t lose it right?) When you check out a game you hand your card to the attendant. They scan your card and scan the game. You can only check out one game at a time.

Take your checked out game to the main hall. Find some table space. Set down the game, and take the box-lid off and set it upright and lay the bottom of the box inside the lid so that it stands on end and everyone can see the game you are setting up. Finish setting up the game. Typically, you’ll get several people walk by and ask if you need a player. Say sure. They’ll sit down. And just like that, you’re in a game.

What if you get the game set up and no one asks to play? Put on your auctioneer hat, grab the lid of the box, hold it above your head and walk around the game hall and in a loud voice (don’t yell too much, “I need four for Power Grid!” When you walk by a group of players who aren’t in a game, ask, “Power Grid?” Make eye contact. Be friendly. Don’t be offended if no one wants to play. This should work for your about 80% of the time.

They have added for the past couple years “Players Needed” and “Teacher Needed” standee flags. Early in the Con, these will be at a premium, but if you are able to snag an appropriate standee, use it while you’re setting up the game, then walk around with the flag and the lid when looking for players if no one drops by. When you are done and have your players, be a nice chap and return the flag as soon as possible to the collection table where you obtained it so that other geeks can use it.

(4.) Get In a Game That’s Starting Up. Find someone else doing No. 3, and ask if they need a player. Make sure you’re actually wanting to try the game. If you're a newb, or haven't played in a while, say so. Your final option is just to cruise the game tables looking for games about to start up. If you see a game starting don’t hesitate to ask if they need a fourth or a fifth or whatever. I have had about a 50% success rate with this too. Often times you’ll even be accosted as you walk by a table that needs another player. They’ll ask you if you want to join. It’s hard to stay out of a game at BGG.con

My only word of caution on this method is be sure to only invite yourself into games you know the rules for, or that the rules haven’t been explained yet. If you are a newb- or never-played player, be up front about that, and ask if they are going to be teaching the game. DON’T be offended if they say they’d rather not teach. DON’T try to join a game that’s in the middle of being explained. DON’T take anything personally. You will get in a game – many dozens if you are like most attendees.

Really, don’t be shy about getting yourself into a game. People are very friendly, and it’s very easy to get into games. Before my first con I was somewhat worried about this aspect but not anymore. Even a complete introvert should not have much problem playing games at BGG.con.

Words of Caution About Games You Play

More likely than not, your problem won’t be finding a game, but deciding which one to play at any given moment. After several years of attending the con, I have a bit of advice about picking which games to sit down and play.

(1.) Be wary of sitting down to a game where no one knows the rules and they’re going to learn how to play *right now*. This is a recipe for frustration and dissatisfaction. And everyone is trying to be polite and few people are having fun. I do not play these games at BGG Con because it typically takes 2-3 times longer to play, you usually play the game wrong, and you usually end up really bored as one person reads the rulebook out loud, then tries to explain to you what they just read. Once the game starts, confusion and frustration typically ensue as players ask, “So now I guess I do this?” I have a 100% dissatisfaction rating with this type of arrangement. So, LESSON: Make sure at least one person at the table knows how to play, or has played before and can explain the rules with a minimum of having to look through the rulebook. The one exception to this rule is if you with a group of your friends and you are socializing and having a good time, and everyone knows everyone and you really don’t care at all about playing the game as you about hanging out.

(2.) Be wary of sitting down to a teaching game where you don’t know the rules and the game is a loooooong game. While I’ve had lots and lots of teaching games at BGG Con, any game that’s going to take more than 4 hours to play, and I’ve never played before, might be a “pass” for me.

(3.) A corollary to Word of Caution No. 2 is that whatever amount of time a player tells you a game will take, add 50-100% to that. Usually there will be some form of a game explanation or refresher. Usually, one player (or more) will be a newb, or won’t have played the game in a long time. Usually, someone at the table could take a little while to decide what to do on their turn. You have to remain polite; be friendly. You will be newb at some point in the Con, and you will be extended the same courtesy. So go into it with a friendly attitude and an expectation that the game will take longer than advertised. If it ends on time, great! Go find another game.

(4.) If you really aren’t enjoying yourself, and a game has gone on a long, long time, and you sense that the other players are frustrated and perhaps wanting to stop the game, don’t be afraid to suggest just that: “Hey guys, you know, I don’t mind if we call it here and declare Sarah the winner. It’s been a good game, but I’m not sure how you guys feel about keeping it going.” 50% of the time, the other players will also want to stop. 50% of the time they won’t. 50% of the time, one of the players will want to keep playing. You have to decide at that point what you think courtesy requires.

(5.) If you are in a pre-arranged game (via the Meet-Ups), go to the game and play it. I have (ashamedly) not gone to a game that I had prearranged, I informed the players the day before, and I still feel ashamed about it. I have also had to miss or cancel games due to things beyond my control . . . like my ride getting back from dinner on time, or my flight being delayed/cancelled due to weather and having to sort that out. Get the cell number of your other players (or at least the organizer) so that you can stay in touch. But if you prearrange a game, you owe it to the other players to show up . . . especially if it’s a long, complicated game that they won’t be able to find players for – you should have thought about that before you signed up for the game. And I bet you you’ll have a really fun time playing it, anyway.

The Meet-Up Lists

There are several geeklists organized each year by sub-genre players (usually). These geeklists are for setting up set-piece games with set players to meet and play at a specific time. These games are typically longer and/or more complicated games that can’t be taught in 20 minutes at the con and need some preparation. I am a wargamer, and I set up a Wargame Meet-Up every year. Wargamers are a sub-group of the gamers at BGG Con. The games typically have 15-40 page rulebooks and a “short” game can be 4 hours long. These types of games need to be pre-planned because there’s not going to be spontaneous games like this breaking out all over. Here is a typical list of the Meet-Ups:

(1.) The Wargamer Meet-Up List. Usually goes up at the very end of August or early September. Allows you to get into complicated wargames.

(2.) The 18XX Meet-Up List. Usually goes up a month or so before the Con. Organizes games of the 18XX ilk and sometimes other railroad games.

(3.) Epic Games Meet-Up. There is sometimes crossover here between the wargames meet-up and the epic games meet-up, but this is the list for getting into Die Macher and long, large, multi-player games that might, or might not, also be wargames or economic sims, or Ameritrash, or long, grueling Euros.

(4.) RPG Meet-Up. The Con organizers have been focusing on getting more RPGing at the Con. If you are into RPGs, check out this meet-up.

(5.) Werewolf Meet-Up. BGG has legendary Werewolf games. You can usually get into a game around midnight on any night of the Con, just wander around until you find a group of 20-30 people standing around, laughing and lynching villagers.

There may be other meet-ups, and you should check the BGG Con Forums for information on them. I will say it again: If you commit to showing up for a prearranged game, do so.

How to Schedule Your Time

BGG.con is mostly unscheduled open gaming. Though people do schedule specific games ahead of time, and there are certain con sponsored events that are scheduled ahead of time.

How much of this scheduling should you do? My advice is “it depends”. For the average, typical, first-time attendee, I would say, “Not Much.” But if you are a dyed-in-the-wool wargamer, you should check out (and probably get into) a few wargames that you really want to play. Likewise for other niche games that aren’t in the mainstream . . . like 18XX, or any of the other meet-up lists.

There are also the Con Events.

I’ve not ever really been seduced by the siren call of the special events, but I know many geeks who are and have enjoyed themselves immensely. For me, I have mostly decided they’re not worth while.

With a couple of exceptions, as a wargamer, I have about 50-75% of my time scheduled. I like to leave most of my night free for spontaneous gaming. Most players like to leave the vast majority of their time open – and it’s what the Con is all about. So I would caution you – especially for your first con – against scheduling very much at all. Take it easy. Keep it low pressure. Check out what’s out there. Meet new people. Try new games.

Aside from the Meet-Ups, here are some of the events you’ll have the opportunity to schedule in advance:

Flea Market – Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s a mad dash when it first opens as people try to secure the good deals. You should check the time . . . it used to be early Saturday morning, which is when many geeks are in their third sleep-deprived night. Be sure to check the time. It only lasts an hour. If you want to go to the flea market then you already know who you are, otherwise don’t sweat this one. Also - unlike registration, it is highly advised that you get in line for the flea market early; it’s a first-come, first-buy situation. Come late, and there will probably be a lot of picked-over stuff.

Treasure/Puzzle Hunt – This is an hour or two affair where you form teams and try to complete a puzzle that’s structured like a treasure hunt (the solution of one puzzle leads you to another puzzle etc…)

Poker Tournament – A no limit Texas Holdem tournament played by about 100 to 120 folks. Don’t be afraid to join this even if you’re not a poker player. In fact, since no money is at stake and the level of play is generally amateur, this is a good place to get your feet wet with this game. This generally happens Friday night, and unless you’re on tilt from the get go it’s probably going take at least an hour. Longer if you do well at all. So make sure you commit the time for this event. You must sign up for this event at the Con.

Game Show – This is another team game, the format of which varies. But, you generally answer silly and fun trivia questions while accruing points for some kind of bragging rights. You don’t need a team beforehand, I don’t think, but you do need to sign up in advance.

Special Guests – There may be some kind of round table discussion with podcasters or some game designer. You’ll probably know way ahead of time if this event belongs on your schedule. Tom Vasel was at BGG Con 2013, for instance. This year, Alan Moon is expected to be present. The main BGG page will have the names of other special guests.

Math Trade – Each year there’s generally a no shipping math trade. This is a great opportunity to swap games at no cost. But it is chaotic . . . basically everyone shows up at a specific time and everyone makes a mad dash to find their counterparts and exchange games. It typically takes about an hour. In the end, it is stressful but quick.

Virtual Flea – Every year there is a virtual flea market that starts up a couple months before the Con where you can buy games for pick-up at the Con. If you do so, you can meet at the appointed time to pick up your purchases (and pay for them), or you can get the contact info of your seller (buyer) and call them when you get in town. It’s a good way to pick up some games without having to pay shipping, and there’s always some interesting things in the offing. But the geeklist can be a bear to dig through . . . there were over a 1,000 items last year. Still, check it out!

User organized events – There will likely be some user organized events like tournaments for certain games, certain monster games, “mega games” where people play several copies of the same game side by side, or specialized discussion groups. You’ll be on your own finding out about these and attending them or not. Typically, the meet-ups will have information on this. The Con organizers discourage tournament-like settings, however. So if you are thinking about organizing something yourself, steer clear of “Game X Tournament” type of arrangements. While there are some tournaments at the Con, these are typically con-organized tournaments. You may get shut down if you to organize a tournament. Don’t take it personally. Because it’s not personal.

Prize Drawings – In years past, prize drawings were held every night, but last year and the year before, prizes have been taken care of Saturday night. I have no idea what they will do this year, but your raffle ticket is your chance to win. Be sure to find out about how the tickets are processed and when/where you need to be. For these tickets, YOU MUST BE PRESENT TO WIN. If you aren’t, and they call your ticket three times, it is discarded. They draw another ticket, and you’re out. I would highly advise you to make the raffles. Some of the prizes are very valuable. One year they gave away a Geek Chic gaming table worth $1,700. They always give away at least one Crokinole board. Don’t. Miss. The. Raffles. They are exciting, too – as you cheer, and Oooh and Ahhh.

Do I Need a Car?

No. There’s a shuttle to and from the airport, and once you get to the con you don’t technically need to leave if you’re willing to eat at the hotel restaurant and/or the concession stand. You can also order out delivery food including pizza. If you do want to take a culinary break it’s not so hard to hitch a ride with someone who does have a car. You will meet lots of people. Also, there is usually a vendor-sponsored bus that makes the rounds every hour in Dallas-Fort Worth dropping off and picking up at specific locations. Just remember it’s an hour from the time you are dropped off. With travel time, it could be two hours from leaving until you get back. The hotel also has free shuttles to various areas of town. Check them out.

Eating

Your convenient options are limited. I mean, you are in an airport complex. There’s the hotel, which has a very good restaurant, a little pricey though. The hotel also has a coffee shop open during the day with breakfasty-snacky-foods, which is good but Starbucks-prices-expensive. There is also a concession stand set up downstairs near the elevators that typically runs from 10 a.m. or so until about 8 p.m. at night. It serves up reasonably priced cafeteria-quality food such as chicken tenders, pizza, Red Bull, drinks, hot dogs, chips, etc.

For amenities, the hotel has a convenience store with things like cigarettes ($8 a pack!), pens, paper, etc., all at exorbitant prices.

My typical day for eating goes something like this:

Breakfast – This is coffee at the breakfast counter, something out of the display case, like a parfait. Not too expensive ($5-10) and holds me over till lunch. Most important it’s quick quick quick. No delay to my gaming time here.

Lunch – Typically this is from the hotel concession. I will get chicken fingers or something else in the offing. Last year they had french fries. Yum. The food was passable and reasonably priced, but the biggest draw was convenience. I spent about $10-15 for lunch each day, depending on what I ate. Random prices? A small Red Bull for $3, Fries for $3, A good-sized slice of pizza for $4. Medium-sized coffee for $2. As an alternative, if you have the time, you can eat in the hotel restaurant. The prices are reasonable and the food is good.

Dinner – This could be any of four options: (1) Concession Stand (again) – if you’re still raring to game, this is the go-to choice, (2) Hotel Restaurant – I didn’t do this hardly at all. If I had the time to sit down to a meal, I’d rather it was off-premises for dinner, (3) Take out – pizza or something similar is doable, but make sure you tell the company where you’re going to meet their driver. (4) if someone has a car (I fly in so I never have a car), you can go eat off-premises. I meet friends from years past, so usually someone has a car. With a car, you can get out and eat some “real Texas” food; by that mean try Babe’s chicken, Hard 8, or just hit a fast-food place. No. 4 is probably preferred, since most restaurants are within a 20 minute drive. IMPORTANT: for No. 4, be sure to get your parking ticket validated so that you can get back in without paying the exorbitant airport parking fees on your way out. There’s lots of other fast, good, food, too: Five Guys, for instance, In N’ Out, etc. Typically, it is rather easy to get a group of people to go to dinner together, and someone almost always has a car – lots of regionals and locals attend this con.

Layout

In 2012, the Con moved to the Hyatt Regency at DFW Airport. This new convention space had a lot more . . . space. The old convention location was getting crowded and cramped the last year the Con was there, and with the new space came new organizational challenges. The layout of the Con is basically this way . . .

MAIN BALLROOM. The main ball room is where all the action is. It’s the table games and slot machines of the casino. Here is where most of the conventioneers go, and most of the games are played. It is typically, busy, loud, exciting, and fun. At times, you may have to yell to be heard. Geek Chic usually has a display area for a few days of the con and you can play on their tables. Be careful, or you might be walking away having put a downpayment on heirloom quality gaming furniture!

LIBRARY. The library is located in large space with one entrance and exit. Be courteous, check your bag without complaint, and be patient if the line is long. It moves quickly. Remember to return hot games to the library as soon as you are done with them.

HOT GAMES. The hot games room is where you can find all the most-recent Essen releases and what-not for play. They also sometimes have demo games of upcoming games here, as well.

VENDOR HALL. In years past, vendors were few and far between, but as of 2012, the Vendor Hall keeps getting better and better. There were over 40 vendors last year with a dizzying array of products and demos and fun. Bring your bingo card. You can get GG, if you’re into that sort of thing. It is also here that you can buy the recently-released Essen games, sometimes at a discount.

SIDE ROOMS. The side rooms are organized into various (and many) sub-divisions, including conference rooms for quiet play around a large table. Wargame rooms for large-ish, longer-ish games, RPG rooms, Werewolf rooms (yes, entire rooms for Werewolf!), and of course the pre-planned events like the Poker Tourney, etc. Get out there and explore.

THINGS TO DO (AND DON’T DO) AT BGG.CON

DO – Play games from “Off List”

We all come to BGG.con with a list of games to play, either physically written down or in our heads. These are the hottest new Essen games (they get them delivered within a couple weeks . . . SHIPPED IN, MAN!). There’s the holy grail monster games, that game in the top ten you’ve never played before, whatever. And, invariably your list is longer than the time available to actually play. At best, if you maximize your effort to be playing games at all times, you’ll get in maybe 35 short to medium length games over the course of the con. Fewer if you throw in a couple of monster games. And fewer still if you try and get a good-night’s sleep.

My recommendation is that somewhere in the middle of relentlessly scratching games off your list you pause to play some game you’ve never heard of, or dismissed already. There are a lot of surprises out there. At some point during the con you’ll be approached by a stranger to join them in a game that’s not on your list. Accept the invitation.

The biggest surprise for [Marshall P] at BGG.con [Year?] was playing “You Must Be an Idiot”. A party game of all things. What a waste of a precious hour to play a party game! Well, I didn’t regret it. It was one of the most fun games at the con that year. Now, it doesn’t always work out (see Geominoes), but trying an off-list game is definitely worth a shot. It might end up being a dud, but you should be surprised at least once, if not more, by playing an off-game.

REPEAT FROM EARLIER: DON’T – Learn a game at the table

The worst experiences at the con for me come from a situation in which everybody means well. A few times I’ve joined up with a group intending to play a game, but nobody knows the rules. So we proceed to sit down and try to learn the rules “together”. Stop right there. This is a recipe for disaster. If nobody at the table knows the game, and you can’t find some third party to teach the game. Don’t play the game.

All that happens is that the rules end up being read out loud and neither you nor the reader are able to effectively internalize them. People interrupt to ask questions, even if you make it through the rules you generally get something wrong, it’s just a headache waiting to happen. If you HAVE to play that game, then the thing to do is get your hands on a “TEACHER WANTED” flag, and wait until one volunteers. If no one does, I highly advise you to move on.

Another good idea – if you *really* have to play that game – is to check out a game overnight and teach yourself the rules in your room or some other quiet place so that you’re ready to go after a short refresher the next day.

Another exception to this rule is, of course, the HOT GAMES room. There, you will be expected to have a bit of a bumpy road, but even then you can often find someone willing to teach. Take them up on it.

DO – Teach somebody the rules to a game

A consequence of the “don’t” above is that you should make every effort to teach a game that you know, even if you’re not going to play in it. If you see someone setting up a game and trying to learn the rules, they have a “Teacher Wanted” sign – help the poor guy out if you have the time. Or if someone politely asks you to teach a game, do it. This small favor really “greases the wheels” of the con. Everyone (I am convinced) at the Con plays a game they have never played before, and SOMEONE at the Con knows how to play it. With any luck you’ll get the favor paid back at some point. Also, this is just a courteous thing to do. It’ll make you feel better, it’ll make the players happier. It’s win, win.

DO – Get enough sleep

It’s tempting, oh so tempting, to trade sleep for game time. I recommend against it. It’s ok to push your sleep to lower levels than you’re accustomed to, but don’t push it too far. You might end up getting more “time” at the con, but it’s not quality time. Each year I’ve gotten more sleep than the last, and each year I’ve enjoyed myself more. In both of the first two years I had a “bad day”. Typically it was Friday, after very low sleep nights on Wednesday and Thursday. Two nights of almost no sleep makes the next day – not fun. You have to pump yourself up caffeine and you almost feel like you’re hungover. There are die-hards at the convention who spurn sleep, but I would advise against it.

Typically head up to the room at about 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. Although, I would be so wound up that it would take me awhile to fall asleep. Then I’d get up around 9:00 AM and head back down. This schedule seemed to keep me fresh enough to enjoy the entire day without crashing. A few of my games were early ones . . . 8:30 a.m., and on the nights before I tried to get at least 6 or 7 hours of sleep per night. You will enjoy yourself more, I promise.

If you do get into that 1:00 AM game of Werewolf and don’t get to bed until 4:00 AM. Be nice to yourself, go to sleep and . . . wake up whenever you wake up.

DO – Eat out with strangers

The draw of the con can be almost drug like. You begin to begrudge every moment not spent on the floor either playing in a game or actively trying to get into a game. Taking time to get something to eat will be seen as a major imposition, necessary but wasting valuable game time. Something to be done as quickly as possible.

The rush through meals is inevitable, and not even a bad thing, but I do recommend slowing down for at least one meal a day. At this meal, typically dinner for me, go out to a leisurely sit down restaurant with somebody or a group of people. Maybe with people you know from last year or maybe with strangers, it doesn’t matter, but mix it up each time. Have a normal adult conversation with these people that drifts away from the topic of games, games, games.

Often the easiest thing to do is just go out to eat with whoever you just finished a game with right before meal time. Usually one of them will have a car. Sometimes you’ll make arrangements to meet somebody for a meal at a certain time. However you do it is fine, just take advantage of the opportunity for a little social interaction. It’ll be worth the time spent.

DON’T – Take the games too seriously

Whew is this one true! I’ve been kind of surprised to observe that games at BGG.con take about 50% to 100% longer than at my local game group. People just plain play slower at the con than I’m used to. I’m still surprised after attending the con for six years! I think part of it is that every game generally is new to most of the people at the table. Geeks want to get in games that they haven’t played before, understandably, and they want to try the new thing, and they want to play a competitive game.

But, I think the main thing is that when playing with strangers there’s a certain unconscious desire not to seem “stupid”. That is, people at the con seem to more carefully consider their moves, and take more time to make them, than I see in other settings. It’s not bad sportsmanship – I’ve never seen that at BGG.con – nor is it some ultra competitive desire to win the game. I think it’s just some natural human psychology of wanting to validate your “gamer creds” in front of strangers who are your peers.

The thing that helps to keep me moving is to realize that at BGG.con every game is a learning game. In almost every case there will be someone, usually more than one, new to the game at hand. When it’s someone’s first game at the table then I automatically consider the whole game to be a learning game. I don’t mind allowing take-backs, maybe discussing in general an obvious missed move, and just plain playing faster, things I wouldn’t want to do with experienced players. When I realize that every game is a learning game the pressure to impress is off so to speak, and so is the pressure to over analyze. The game can speed up and be a little looser.

I know some people play slower than others, and I’m not saying anyone should change their inherent style. I’m just asking that you watch out that you don’t slip into slower play than you usually would otherwise. It seems easy to do at the con. Don’t take the game too seriously, that’s all. It’s a learning game.

DO – Play games more than once and play oldies but goodies

I used to think it was my duty to only play “new to me” games. Any game that I had played before was a wasted game. Now I realize that playing a game I liked more than once is ok, even a benefit. I organize and play a game of Here I Stand at every con - this year will be my seventh consecutive year of Here I Stand. I love it. It’s fun, and where else can you get six people together to play who all know the rules . . . of course, it’s planned beforehand.

I usually also end up playing lots of oldies but goodies. The advantage to these games is that you get to play them against new people with new strategies, and typically, players know the rules to these games so there’s a minimal teaching/learning period. And you get to see the game in play against fresh blood.

DON’T – Keep games checked out of the library when you aren’t playing them

This is just a common courtesy to your fellow gamers, and it applies mostly to the new hot games. If you keep a game too long, you WILL have a loudspeaker announcing your name and asking you to return the game. Uncle Aldie will come calling, my friend. Don’t make him do that.

When you see this year’s hot game sitting in the library, but you currently have plans to play another game, you want to check it out and “reserve it” until you can play it later. But please don’t do that. The goal should be to keep these games in constant use, not sequestered by someone not playing them at the moment.

It’s less of a pressing issue for other games. I don’t think anybody’ll mind if you check out older games and reserve them for later . . but new hotness games? Please play ‘em or return ‘em. Every decent geek at the con thanks you.

DO – Explore

You shouldn't be miserly with your time like it was an action point in Tikal. Don't seek the con experience, absorb it. Don't schedule your time (or at least not most of it, some exceptions always apply), go with the flow. Play a game you've never heard of. Play one of your old favorites that never gets to the table. Play a game you're burned out on (because you'll be playing it with new people). Play a tournament even if you're not competitive. Play for fun even if you are competitive. Play fast if you're slow, slow if you're fast. Leave open gaming to attend a special event. Leave the hotel to eat at a good restaurant.

Explore.

DO – Be Considerate of Shared Convention Resources

Please, please, please. I beg you. By all that you hold dear. Do not keep a game checked out of the library unless you are playing it or imminently going to play it. That is simply not fair to your fellow convention goers. We're all gamers, we all want to play the latest and greatest game. We all may not get a chance to play every last game on our "must play" lists. Such is life. Please don't "hoard" library games. I and 3,000 other people thank you.

DO – Say thanks to the staff

It clearly takes a lot of work to put this show on, and the people who are doing it for you are volunteers. They’re giving up their own precious game time so that you can have the best experience possible. At some point, when you get a chance, just say thanks to one of them. If everybody does that little bit they’ll know their efforts are appreciated.

DO – Come back next year

In fact, I think that once you’ve experienced BGG.con you won’t be able to stay away!

Well, that’s all I can think of for right now. I hope this was valuable to some of you.

See you at the con.
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If you're an introvert, you might think it will be hard to find people to play a game with you. To reiterate what Chris says, it's not. "Shopping a box lid" is very, very effective, and all you have to do with walk around with the lid held above your head. You won't be the only one doing it, and you'll only stand out to people who notice your game and want to play it with you.
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Thanks so much for this Chris!

This will be my first year attending, and will be my first BIG convention period.

Your list had a lot of things for me to keep mindful of, and I can't wait to get down there and enjoy the con!

Darren.
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dbezzant wrote:
Thanks so much for this Chris!

This will be my first year attending, and will be my first BIG convention period.

Your list had a lot of things for me to keep mindful of, and I can't wait to get down there and enjoy the con!

Darren.


Welcome! And most of the thanks goes to mdp4828. I grafted most of his articles into this one, and modified it . . . but you are welcome. It took me about 3 hours to coalesce his three years of advice into this one, then update it with current information.

You are all very welcome. And I look forward to seeing everyone at the Con!

Game. On.
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Just wanted to add one more "Do" - Drink lots of water from the water jugs the hotel has placed just outside the main room. They dry out the air in there, and I have gotten a couple of nose bleeds as a result. Keeping hydrated stops that.
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lipman wrote:
They dry out the air in there...


This cannot be overstated. Dry air usually doesn't bother me, but since moving to the current location, I find that I am constantly thirsty and by Saturday my skin is killing me.
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On the bright side, I didn't feel overly warm in any of the rooms from body heat . . . they kept the place pretty cool, I thought. The side rooms were the exception. The low ceilings in there help the room fill up with body heat quickly if the rooms are packed . . . but it wasn't usually a problem.

But yes, drink lots of water . . . the staff was *excellent* at keeping the water troughs full during the day, but at night, you can find yourself on your own, IIRC.
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Great article!! A few comments:

1. There is the Grapevine Shuttle that will take you to various food options (fast food and casual dining) as well as a Super Target (where one can fill up on snacks and pick up reasonably priced sundries you forgot to pack). Last year, Rio Grande Games provided free tickets (normal cost: $5). You'll have to pay the $5 if you wish to use the shuttle on Tuesday.

AFAIK the shuttle does not go to the Hard 8; thus you'll have to hitch a ride or drive there.

2. Hot games room: As there are usually only one or two copies of most games available for play there, you may have to keep checking back for your chance to play them. It's recommended that you organize a group beforehand if you want to play the hottest games.

3. Sign-ups for the tournaments opens 24 hours prior. If you wish to sign up, do so early - they can fill up quickly. For the Game Show, you can sign up as a team or individual.

4. There's usually at least one 18xx game going on Tuesday night.

5. The Flea Market will be packed! You'll feel as if you're in a can of sardines much of the time.

6. The convention supplies "Looking for Players" and "Looking for Teacher" flags/markers in the Open Gaming area. Don't hesitate to use the appropriate one when setting up your game.

7. If you decide to get in line early, bring some games that can be easily be set up, taught as needed, and played while you wait. I've seen a number of games of Love Letter played in line, for instance.

8. The hotel restaurants and buffet are 10% off for convention attendees (be sure and have your badge on). This does not apply to the gift shop and snack stand.

9. The hotel (through its FedEx/UPS - don't recall which - kiosk there) will provide shipping services (including boxes as needed); it's pricey though (although probably less than the overweight or third bag charges on most airlines).
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I've found that I can successfully sit down with a group and learn a new game without any problems. Far from a recipe for disaster. I've done this with a few different games. It's not ideal, but it gets the job done. I suppose it's really relative though. I'm not going to sit down and try to learn Twilight Struggle, but I may be able to learn Quarriors.

One Do/Don't I didn't see was - Do: BATHE

The last couple of years there has been a pungent and very distracting odor. I'll be the first to admit that we exist in a hobby where the stereotype of the traditional "gamer" is unfortunately true. There are many who take care of themselves just fine, but there are a fair few who roll through the con in what look to be pajamas that haven't been washed in a month. Last year, by the end of the weekend I, and many others I gamed with, were getting headaches because of the smell.

Otherwise, solid advice!

Edit: One thing I did before the Con last year was download pdf copies of any game I was interested in trying. I spent about a month before the Con reading instructions and watching videos on particular games so I would have an idea of how to play the game and teach it to others. I did this mostly for the Hot Games but also had a few older games I really wanted to learn and play.
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I agree that you don't want to play a game where one player is reading the rulebook out loud to everybody else to 'teach' the game. But if it's a medium-length game, and you have time to sit quietly and read the rules, then teach them the same way you would if you'd just bought a game and were bringing it to game night... well, that worked out just fine for me at the con.

Not everybody can do this. But if you can teach quickly and confidently, while still being up front about the fact that you haven't played before so some details might be wrong, go ahead and do it! Often there's no other way to get in a game of those weird "off list" games that nobody's played before.
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More tips:

Please wash your hands...lots! Take the time in between games to hit the restroom and really give your hands a wash. It only takes a few minutes. Don't rely on sanitizer. Lots of people have little habits like touching their face, biting their nails, running their fingers through their greasy hair...all without knowing it. There are a lot of shared resources (game bits, tables, chairs...lets not even get started on handshakes and wristbands...). Lets all pitch in and be considerate and wash our hands. Maybe we can fight con crud one hand at a time!

As a returning member of Team Geek, I can say that if you need help, please do not hesitate to ask anyone in a Team Geek jersey. That is what we are here for. Feel free to ask where anything is, how to check stuff out, what is a good place to eat, how to use the flags, what time do things happen, how to play a game (if we don't know, we can get someone who does!), or even if you need someone to play a game with. Team Geek's main goal is to make the con Awesome for the attendees. Feel free to also just talk with a Team Geek member. We don't bite all the time.

Please do participate in geek buzz! If you play a game you really like, take a couple minutes to give it some buzz. In your badge holder, you will receive a card with a code. You use that code to log in to the computers you see set up in the main lobby. After you log in, you can give the game you just played (or played earlier) some buzz. The buzz is tallied and a listing of top games are displayed on the projectors. I have used this system many times to figure out what to play and have found some gems!

In the Hot games area, please be considerate to other players. I know people like to play with a certain group, but if that group is not ready to play when a game opens up (they are finishing up another game or coming back from lunch..we all know that could take more time than anticipated), don't be a chair hog. 5-10 minutes? ok. 20-30? Maybe let the next group in.

Along those lines, please be good and set the game back up when you are done playing. If you are awesome, then hang around and teach the next group the basics of the game. I find that once you get the next group going with the base mechanics, they can easily fill in the rest from the rule book.

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Agreed with the personal hygiene thing - bring a change of clothing for each day you're there, even if you have to pay the airline extra to transport a second bag and/or leave a few games at home. That's in addition to the (at least) daily shower and deodorant.

Remember to allow for room to carry back the swag you'll get as well as any purchases.
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Best to be proactive with the personal hygene thing. Bring a suitcase full of axe body sprays and maintain a personal mist the entire con. People will hate you for it, but you'll never smell again.

Er...scratch that. Just bring clean clothes
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markaaronmassey wrote:
I've found that I can successfully sit down with a group and learn a new game without any problems. Far from a recipe for disaster. I've done this with a few different games. It's not ideal, but it gets the job done. I suppose it's really relative though. I'm not going to sit down and try to learn Twilight Struggle, but I may be able to learn Quarriors.

One Do/Don't I didn't see was - Do: BATHE

The last couple of years there has been a pungent and very distracting odor. I'll be the first to admit that we exist in a hobby where the stereotype of the traditional "gamer" is unfortunately true. There are many who take care of themselves just fine, but there are a fair few who roll through the con in what look to be pajamas that haven't been washed in a month. Last year, by the end of the weekend I, and many others I gamed with, were getting headaches because of the smell.

Otherwise, solid advice!

Edit: One thing I did before the Con last year was download pdf copies of any game I was interested in trying. I spent about a month before the Con reading instructions and watching videos on particular games so I would have an idea of how to play the game and teach it to others. I did this mostly for the Hot Games but also had a few older games I really wanted to learn and play.



Never once had a bad experience with this at BGG.Con. Overall, I think it is way over-hyped at BGG.Con, but you have experienced it, so some have.
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Can't reiterate the water drinking enough. Most Con Crud can be avoided by drinking lots and lots and lots of water.

Personally, I've never noticed a huge problem with geekstink at BGG.con. I'm sure it happens, I just can't remember it being an issue. Then again, I've never spent a lot of time in the Hot Games room, which probably has the highest constant concentration of people.

One huge tip that I think needs more emphasis: Follow Wheaton's Law. Don't be "that guy." Unhappy with the way your partner played in that last round of Tichu? Make a mental note to complain about it in your diary later, eat a donut, whatever it is you need to keep it to yourself. Don't explosively berate your partner. I have had this experience; it made an unfun game for everyone - including the dude who was so worked up over his partner's playing that he ruined it for everyone else. It's not just for partner games: if you win a game, be a good winner. If you lose, the same applies.

A final tip/request: DO play games with people from outside your clique. The larger BGG.con has gotten, the more I've noticed that people seem to form gaming cliques and not play with others. This creates the odd paradox that it's easier to find games on Wednesday when fewer people are at the Con (YMMV, but this is my experience). Cons can be kind of overwhelming, especially for us shy types. Reaching out to someone who's looking lonely is a great way to pay it forward. As a corollary, if you are invited to play with a group of people and you like them, DON'T follow them around the rest of the Con. If you see them and they're looking for another player, feel free to ask if you can join. But don't follow them around and cling to them; we call these Con Stalkers - and you don't want to be one.
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ikiru wrote:
More tips:

Please wash your hands...lots!



Yes! Please do! Curb the con crud.
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I love these tips and I have just a few to add (everyone has an opinion right?) and I will repeat some of the others as well.

- Please pick up after yourself. This seems to be the worst on Friday night and Saturday. Don't leave your cups, beer bottles, plates and other crap all over the table. Just clean up after yourself. It usually gets very crowded so don't stack your empties next to you. Last year I watched people from Team Geek going around with rubber gloves and trash bags picking up the trash. That shouldn't be their job. Help them so they can enjoy the con more as well.

- Brush your teeth. Smelling like you ate the ass out of a dead rhino isn't pleasurable during a game.

- Do wash your hand regularly. Bring along some Germ-X or hand sanitizer.

- Do bathe each day. It has never been a major issue for any reason, but I have run into the occasional foulness. Just go take a shower, put on deodorant, and put on clean clothes. I am sure the hotel has laundry services if you really need them as well.

- Do drink lots of water or Gatorade or something. Yes, beer and soda/pop/coke (depends on which part of the country you are from here in the US) are good, but keep water or something else going in that will re-hydrate you. It is amazing how much we don't really don't realize how little we are truly drinking when we are focused on something else.

- Don't use up a whole table with a small group. If there is a table with 8 chairs (4 on each side) and there are 4 of you, don't just plop down in the middle two chairs one each side. Just sit at one end or the other so others have room as well.
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cscottk wrote:
markaaronmassey wrote:
I've found that I can successfully sit down with a group and learn a new game without any problems. Far from a recipe for disaster. I've done this with a few different games. It's not ideal, but it gets the job done. I suppose it's really relative though. I'm not going to sit down and try to learn Twilight Struggle, but I may be able to learn Quarriors.

One Do/Don't I didn't see was - Do: BATHE

The last couple of years there has been a pungent and very distracting odor. I'll be the first to admit that we exist in a hobby where the stereotype of the traditional "gamer" is unfortunately true. There are many who take care of themselves just fine, but there are a fair few who roll through the con in what look to be pajamas that haven't been washed in a month. Last year, by the end of the weekend I, and many others I gamed with, were getting headaches because of the smell.

Otherwise, solid advice!

Edit: One thing I did before the Con last year was download pdf copies of any game I was interested in trying. I spent about a month before the Con reading instructions and watching videos on particular games so I would have an idea of how to play the game and teach it to others. I did this mostly for the Hot Games but also had a few older games I really wanted to learn and play.



Never once had a bad experience with this at BGG.Con. Overall, I think it is way over-hyped at BGG.Con, but you have experienced it, so some have.


I was just talking to a buddy about this post and we both agreed that last year was the worst. I've been a few years in a row and it was always there, but nothing bad. Last year was absolutely awful. I'd walk into the main room and feel like I was swimming in BO. Hopefully this year will be different.
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jeshortz wrote:

A final tip/request: DO play games with people from outside your clique.


Yes, yes yes. I love gaming with my buddies from here in Austin. I love gaming with my buddies I've met at previous BGG.Cons & the site from around the country. I also go out of my way to game with random folk thanks to the "looking for players"/"looking for teachers" flags.
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jeshortz wrote:
A final tip/request: DO play games with people from outside your clique. The larger BGG.con has gotten, the more I've noticed that people seem to form gaming cliques and not play with others.


My first BGG Con I knew almost nobody, but I wasn't shy and signed up for a bunch of games with folks on Chris' excellent wargamer meetup list, and also played a whole bunch of games with a whole bunch of folks I didn't know and had never met.

My second BGG Con, I played games with folks I'd met the year before, and new people too.

My third BGG Con, I had established friendships and traditions from the first two cons.

My fourth and fifth cons, I played games with all the friends I'd made from years previous, and felt that I barely had time to see/spend time with them all, but still managed to squeeze in a few games with new to me folks.

This year, I expect it'll be more of the same. It may seem counterintuitive, but the larger the attendance, the harder it probably is to get together with folks.

I do encourage first timers to attend the special session they've set up (a grand idea) to get you meeting and greeting new people. This year there's also going to be a wargamer meet and greet on Wednesday night.
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Zoe M
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Can anyone comment on the security of the bag check at the library, or whether there are exceptions for small purses?
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Froggy McFrogface
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Two years ago I worked the library a couple of shifts, and the bag check was quite secure.
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Zoe M
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LennyS wrote:
Two years ago I worked the library a couple of shifts, and the bag check was quite secure.


Thanks!
 
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Brian Baird
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Dunyazad wrote:
LennyS wrote:
Two years ago I worked the library a couple of shifts, and the bag check was quite secure.



There are people specifically checking in/out bags to the bag check, to ensure it's secure etc. It's not just a shelf to dump a bag on.

I appreciate the humor of having to check in/out bags to check in/out games.
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Mc Jarvis
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I'm always checkin out bags and checkin out games.
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