Michael Pennisi
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Carpentersville
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I attended The Chicago Toy and Game Fair on two of the three days it operated: Friday and Sunday (originally I wasn’t supposed to go on Sunday but my plans changed and I found time to attend) so I think that I have pretty good perspective from which to comment.

The new venue for ChiTAG is the Schaumburg Convention Center which, although I didn’t see much of it, seems excellent. It has big wide corridors, lots of windows, and LCD displays. I hear the food service leaves something to be desired, especially in the pretzel department but what do you expect from a convention center? Besides Schaumburg offers some of Chicago’s best dining anyway.

The fair started at 4:00 pm Friday and my wife Christy and I walked into the convention area at 4:30 on Friday night and saw… well from a gamer’s perspective… not a whole lot. I’ll start with the highlight: Rio Grande’s booth, front and center with a large gaming area. Scott Tepper and crew were already demo-ing away. There was a decent selection of lighter Rio titles for sale including a few Essen releases. I bought the Ark expansion, which is just a deck of cards with new animals but no new rules. This is actually nice because I can use them right away even in a game with first-timers.

We then took a quick, and I do mean quick, tour of the rest of the fair. Hasbro had a display with mostly mainstream games and Heroscape. You may think to yourself “big deal, the Devil had a booth at ChiTAG” but actually it is a big deal because Hasbro’s presence “legitimizes” the whole fair. Not too far away was the “Knucklebones” area where free copies were being given out. If you haven’t checked out Knucklebones, you should because, other than the title, it’s a pretty darn good magazine about games.

The designers of Gift Trap had a large display and were demo-ing the game. Tom Vasel reviewed this game favorably on an episode of the Dice Tower and the game does look very good. In fact I don’t think Tom’s review painted as good a picture as seeing the game played live so if you get a chance, check it out at a local game store. The Guys from Gift Trap actually made a point of using Tom’s and Greg Schlosser’s reviews as testimonials along with the game’s BGG ranking. They were selling the game for $35 which seemed a little high to me. I guess sales were a bit flat because they changed the price on Saturday and when I returned on Sunday I wound up buying a copy for $25. Had I paid $35 on Friday night, I would have been pretty ticked-off. As it is, I’m excited to give Gift Trap a spin on Thanksgiving.

In another larger area was Tumbling Dice which I really like. They were selling it for $54 which was an excellent price and I was very close to buying it. I passed because I just don’t know how much it would get played and I'm considering getting a crokinole board. They had another game that involved marbles and plastic bowling pins but it just looked silly.

Gamewise, those were the highlights for me. There were other serious games on display like Mimic, a nature-themed CCG, and a bunch of games from Australia. The “Sequence” company had a booth showing off their entire line. While these games didn’t really excite me, I’m glad they were there. The sad part of the fair was seeing the dozen or so independent productions. The designers want you to come and see their “amazing” game which is just a roll and move, trivia, or monopoly clone and you try to move on without making eye contact. These games made me feel like I how feel when I see puppies for sale in a store. I want to help them and take them home but that will only perpetuate the practice and lead to more being made.

In the non-game area of the fair were some pretty cool displays for kids: a giant bouncy dragon, another bouncy ball-house, croquet, Medieval Times demos, and a few other things that I forget. At least this year there was no Comcast or Sears Hardware.

Winning the award for most bizarre display: Armor of God pajamas. Yes you can dress your child up in pajamas that include a cloth helmet and shield-shaped pillow, all adorned with crosses. Your little “crusader” can run around the house looking for infidels, evolutionists, and homosexuals to capture and turn back towards Christ or suffer the consequences.

This may seem insignificant but a hint of GenCon flavor was added to the fair with the presence of the “Stormtrooper club”. You know the guys that spend like $2K on those Star Wars outfits. I saw maybe six on Friday night and there must have been about 10 of them around on Sunday. I know it’s geeky but that’s the point.

I did get to play a few games on Friday but I didn’t write down much. I played Hermagor with Christy and fellow gamer / neighbor Ray Peterson. Ray was wearing his avatar as a button did a good job promoting the Eagles game group. I wasn’t sure about Hermagor at first but I warmed up to it as we played. It’s much better than the designer’s previous game: Oltre Mare. Hermagor is like two games linked together. The first game is a purchasing game involving a grid of about a dozen goods and special tiles that you are trying to capture by placing down tokens adjacent to the tiles. You have to pay money to place these tokens. The second part of the game involves traveling around the board to sell goods that you have purchased. You have to pay to travel but you get paid when you sell a good and there are bonuses available along with the ability to alter the prices of goods. This part of the game feels like a little like Elfenland or Thurn and Taxis. The winner is the person with the most money which means playing this game can involve a lot of min/maxing if you like to play that way The the game play is interesting, I found it a little mechanically fiddly as money moves between players and the bank quite a bit. I then played the always delightful Igloo Pop which I have yet to come close to winning. That was about it since it was now 9:00 and Christy and I wanted to eat.

I went back to the fair by myself on Sunday around 11:00 am. It seemed a little dead but there was a Bears game at noon. By 3:00 it was a little more crowded, I tried out Mimic which I had seen at Origins and GenCon so I figured I should give it a try. The object of the game is to score points by making sets of two pairs but there are a bunch of twists, literally. The scoring mechanism is a little weird to get your head around at first but then it makes sense. The game itself just didn’t do a lot for me but I wouldn’t call it bad. I ran into Ray Petersen again and we ran into Zev Shlasinger who was there on behalf of a small retailer selling his games to the education market. We all tried the prototype of Notre Dame, which Scott Tepper taught us. It’s been a while but Alea has another winner in Notre Dame. The game is pretty simple to play and, while Scott went through all of the cards and abilities with us, the symbols are pretty intuitive so most gamers will learn this game with only a short explanation. What I like the most about it is that there are so many ways to score victory points that the game overwhelms you with decisions. Even the game board is pretty cool as it “morphs” depending on the number of players. The only aspect of the game I really didn’t like is the draft mechanic. Every turn starts with card passing and the cards you wind up with are the actions you can take that turn. Well I mostly like the draft mechanic but he problem is that you always pass the same way so there is very much an “attack left” mentality to this and the game can be upset by a bad passer. I’d like to see the card-passing alternate directions. Regardless, I’m looking forward to the release of this one.

Notre Dame was the only game I played on Sunday as I spent the rest of my time talking to Zev, Ray, and Mark Taraba who showed up around noon. Incidentally, Mark also bought Gift Trap so that’s two ‘geeks who thought the game was worth buying.

Final Thoughts

After attending the ultimate game gathering last weekend at BGG.con, you might think I would be inclined to rip ChiTAG to shreds. You’re wrong and that’s some attitude you got there mister… ChiTAG isn’t BGG.con, GenCon, or Origins and it doesn’t want be. It would like to be the Amercan Essen and no, it isn’t even close to Essen BUT that’s a pretty good goal as far as I’m concerned. Having seen this fair grow over the past four years I will say that they are moving (slowly) in the right direction. The new location and date were great steps. The con was focused on toys, games, and fun which is also the right thing to do. Now it just needs to grow. We can either help it grow or beat it to the ground and then bitch that there are no good big game cons in Chicago.

To that end, I would suggest more short term advertising. I didn’t see much press except in Knucklebones until the weekend of the fair. Also, we Chicago-area gamers need to attend it and just play games there. I had brought a box of games with me on both days but I never saw enough people around to start up anything. We are all willing to go to a game store or one-day con to play, why not here? That’s not really hard for us to do and I think the effort would do a lot to build up atmosphere. It was only $5 to get in and the fair is in a highly accessible location.

A final suggestion I have would be to form a partnership with the Chicago Tribune. Every year the Trib prints a holiday game gift guide. I think it would be great marketing to have those games available to demo and purchase at ChiTAG. This, I think, would build towards a more Essen-like atmosphere.

It’s getting better…
 
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Mike Harris
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I agree that it was small (I went around the same time you did on Sunday). RGG and Z-man were nice to see (along with the "Devil"). ChiTag does have a long way to go, but it is a nice start towards being Essen-like (I say that without ever going to Essen). I plan to go next year.
 
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Nomadic Gamer
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Yep, moving a con 'loses' some people till they figure out where it is.
The Saturday open gaming was light, being stuck in the back, but the Rio Grand area had 30-40 games at any given time.
It a great location, parking was easy and FREE.
We gamed till they kicked us out (just before Alhambra ended).
We had people watching us game after the show- we gamed with some others
in the lobby for quite a while....
and did I mention parking was free??

 
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Mark Wilder
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My girlfriend and I only made it for a couple of hours on Saturday, but it was okay. I want to support it, so I will go for as long as they have it.

An interesting sight: Four people from the Hasbro booth (or, at least, wearing Hasbro name tags) at the Rio Grande booth playing Carcassonne. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, but then again, I didn't see any farmers in play.
 
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Bob Flaherty
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My family went on Saturday for a couple of hours. My kids (6, 4, and 2) really seemed to like it. The best part for me was my two year old son wanted an autograph picture of Tommy Hawk (Blackhawks mascot). So, I took him up there wearing my St. Louis Blues sweatshirt. He waved his fist at me, and I didn't think he was going to give my son a picture. But he did.

I agree that it was small, but my wife enjoyed it more than I thought she would. She picked up a flier advertizing for next year and mentioned going back.

I wished I had more time to spend in the open gaming area, but it was a fun way to spend the morning with my family.
 
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Clinton McHugh
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I snuck in briefly on Saturday morning and chatted with a rio grande rep about a few games and gave them a try.

I'd been looking at Thurn and Taxis for a while but wasn't convinced I would like it. After trying it I knew I would enjoy it and my wife would love it, so I picked it up (she thinks it is awesome).

I also picked up Fiji on a lark, but we haven't tried it yet.

The 2-player Medici game didn't do much for me, but Gloria Mundi (sp?) seems like it could be a cool game. I considered grabbing it but decided to keep my spending down.

W/r/t to the con as a whole, I was a little disappointed, but I guess that's because I expected more set-ups like Rio Grande had. Obviously not a Gamer's convention, but still... I had my hopes.

C'est let vie, maybe next year.
 
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King of All Simians — Not a Mere Diplomat
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As one of Tepper's demo crew for RGG, I had a great time! The pretzel I had on Friday night was execrable, and the small game designers were sad, but those are hardly deal-breakers for enjoyment. I never even made it over to the Hasbro corner, though I kept meaning to want to.

From the perspective of someone who stayed stationary in the high point, it was interesting to see the mix of folks coming through. A decent amount of hobbyist gamers were in attendance, but a lot of kids/parents/grandparents. I wish that we would have had some more kids' games for 'em. Chicken Cha Cha Cha was popular and the supply for sale was exhausted by noon Saturday.

The stormtroopers are always good to see--if you missed 'em at the con, or missed the con entirely, here's a stereoscopic pic of them!



Just cross your eyes, like you were looking at a "Magic Eye" poster at the mall back in '89. The double images will create an image in the center, in 3D!
 
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:C.h.r.i.s. M.c.G.o.w.a.n:
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I am an optimist by nature and had read all of the threads on prior year ChiTAG events. I am in my first year of re-discovering the joy of board game playing. From what I read I knew it wouldn't be like GenCon in Indy or like KitCon in Elgin. I attended on Friday night and all day Saturday.

ChiTAG met my expectations and I made the con what I wanted it to be - a place to play some games, meet some people and support the hobby. I decided prior to the event to list a few games that I really wanted to play - Breaking Away and Carcasonne. I was able to demo Carc (thanks Holmes for teaching it) and Timothy Hunt brought Breaking Away (one of my favorite movies) which we played Sat afternoon. After that it was all gravy - mmmmmm gravy.

I was very pleased to see 32 tables set out for FREE open gaming. Now, it wasn't well labeled and was never really heavily in use by players. I would like to thank Mary Couzin (ChiTag organizer) for providing space at an event like this that I am sure some of the vendors probably were not real enthusiastic about. Other games that I got to play were Lady Bohn (Bohnanza variant), Memoir '44, Battleline, Medicci vs. Strozzi, Tumbling Dice, a prototype that Zev (of Zman Games fame) had and I'm sure a few others.

I had brought some easier games along (in hopes of teaching them) and did not do a good job reaching out to the people (general public) who wandered about the aisles. I am putting together some thoughts for next year so that ChiTAG can grow and survive. I would love to have a regular CON so close by.

I also met a half dozen NEW local gamers and saw another 20 or so local gamers from EAGLES and the FLGS that I play at. Looking forward to next year and being a bigger part of it - somehow.

I'll be at WolfCon in Chicago this Saturday - probably wearing a Jim Thome Philadelphia Phillies jersey - look for me and say hello. Telling people in advance what you'd be wearing worked for Jeremy - at least 5 people mentioned his Blame Canada t-shirt as they approached the open gaming table we were at.
 
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Eric Kaun
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Despite owning an alarmingly high percentage of the Rio Grande catalog, and having spent more thousands than we can count over the past few years, ChiTAG was our first game-related fair/convention ever. We wanted something low-key, as we're not very social and were worried about being overwhelmed by hard-core gamers, so it was a good starting point.

I gather that the core idea (a one-stop-shopping quest for families) is the same as Essen, and I think it's a worthy goal. Yes, it needs to grow, much. Hopefully the location (where it'll also be in 2007, according to the blurbs) will continue to draw more people.

The hotel was swanky; our room cost something like $115/night, which is outstanding for that sort of hotel. The restaurant was expensive ($30-$40 for dinner entrees), but the buffet was excellent and cheap ($15) for what you got. Probably many people will stay elsewhere at a lower price, but given what even low-end hotels are charging, the price seems relatively worth the convenience.

There needs to be a better setup for open gaming, and I think we (I'm enthused about doing it more myself, thanks to davedanger) need to make some adjustments in our selling (and these are just off-the-cuff opinions). We need to get someone on the ChiTAG team active on BGG. We need to have BIG SCREAMING SIGNS that tell people passing by to join in - in fact, I think we need to encourage people to interrupt our games, so we can discuss what we're doing, other games, start a new game with them, etc. There's still plenty of time for the "real thing" after hours (and thanks again to davedanger and Joann for such a hospitable welcome to the gaming community!).

Maybe we need to have some basic literature to hand out - web sites like BGG and even Amazon and Thoughthammer etc. where they can buy "unusual" games, etc. I plan to work up a page or card or something that describes gaming in a nutshell (esp. the sad state of American gaming, although I'll have to be gentle), and has info for people to follow up.

Anyway, enough of that. Hopefully we can also get the open gaming area moved to a more visible area. Probably Rio Grande wouldn't have wanted us close by, which is understandable, but the back area was very spartan and uninviting.

I wondered whether organizing the room by category / age would be useful. I don't see any advantage in having board games next to dolls, costumes, etc. Does Essen organize based on child age, type, etc?

Just my $0.02.
 
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Mary Couzin
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Just to set the record straight on the sighting of Hasbro guys at the Rio Grande booth at ChiTAG seeming to be having a good time playing Carcassonne, there were really only two, Mike Gray and me, Mike Hirtle. The others were a young lady from USAopoly and Trey from GAMA. Mike and I collect and play a great number of "real" games and Mike Gray is renowned as perhaps the greatest expert in games in the world. No kidding. I am no slouch either having over 1200 games in my collection. And, again for the record, there were farmers in play and, in fact, the game turned on a critical placement on the third to last tile played that linked one of my farmers in the "big" field giving me the win. Just wanted you to know that there are a number of true gamers at Hasbro. Mike H
 
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Mary Couzin
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Not sure what the difference between "quick reply" and "reply" so am doing both...

Just to set the record straight on the sighting of Hasbro guys at the Rio Grande booth at ChiTAG seeming to be having a good time playing Carcassonne, there were really only two of us, Mike Gray and me, Mike Hirtle. The others were a young lady from USAopoly and Trey from GAMA. Mike and I collect and play a great number of "real" games and Mike Gray is renowned as perhaps the greatest expert in games in the world. No kidding. I am no slouch either having over 1200 games in my collection. And, again for the record, there were farmers in play and, in fact, the game turned on a critical placement on the third to last tile played that linked one of my farmers in the "big" field giving me the win. Just wanted you to know that there are a number of true gamers at Hasbro. Mike H
 
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Mary Couzin
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As Mike Hirtle started his reply, so will I. 'Just to set the record straight', my name showed up for his reply since I sent him the link to this thread about Hasbro in the Rio Grande booth and he clicked on it, so somehow the Forum thought it was me. I found the Hasbro comment amusing because DiscoverGames member's games aside, I have probably played more Eurogames with Mike than any other type.

I would like to thank everyone for your comments and support.

We didn't reach the attendance we had hoped despite the extensive media we received (almost 5 pages worth and we aren't finished compiling included TV live feeds, radio, internet, guerilla marketing, newspaper ads and stories, and much much more - check under www.chitag.com under Press, I'll update the list tomorrow). We don't know if it is in part due to a new unfamiliar location, the football games or what. The Chicago Tribune's idea of partnering is to pay them substantial sums of money and they'll put their name on it. Last year we had our Fair Program go out to every subscribing household in Chicago and it didn't draw many people. The Gift Guide doesn't come out until after Thanksgiving, so I don't know how we can get involved. We had terrific coverage in the Herald - both in terms of articles, one of which was on the main page, and ads. Perhaps we can talk to the Herald about doing a Gift Guide.

I haven't been to Essen for a number of years, but don't recall open gaming tables because I thought the majority of companies had the tables in their booths, so there wasn't the need. I'm sure many of you have attended, am I remembering this incorrectly? I can certainly set up the tables differently next year. We placed them as far from the stage as we could so it would be quiet enough to play.

We would very much appreciate your input and help for 2007 and welcome anyone from BGG be part of our team. We are working so very hard to make this happen and have found it far more challenging than expected.

My Best,

Mary
 
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Alan Reeve
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I'll add my feedback.

a) I'm a bit confused as to the direction of ChiTag. Yes, games... but why is Mary Kay there pestering my wife and I wasn't quite clear on the relevance of the Schaumburg Park District.

b) The ChiTag website is horrible. The framed layout where I have to scroll every little section makes it less than pleasant to use than most websites... and there were no directions to the fair that I could find (i.e. a bad link to the convention center and then after a Google search revealed what the link was supposed to be... their site didn't yet have direction either). And finally the change in email address due to some technical difficulties... that shouldn't happen either. Obviously I don't know the details behind it, budget, ...etc but the website should be a pleasure to use and provide the information that I need without having to work at it and there shouldn't be email issues. My company does websites if you're interested :-)

c) Lack of advertising. I would have expected some sort of banner to let people driving by on the busy, busy highways know what was going on just a hop, skip, and a jump away from their automobile. I don't know what the city allows and maybe city restriction are why it wasn't there, but if possible I'd have something. I seriously doubt I'd have found out about it if I wasn't heavily into this hobby. It sounds like some good advertising was done and I just didn't see that. I did see the ad in Knucklebones as I subscribe to that, but I don't see that as the ideal advertising venue for ChiTag at this point as your target audience is the Chicagoland area.

Obviously it would be nice to have more stuff going on and attracting vendors is the core challenge with running these as without the vendors the attendees don't come back and without the attendees the vendors don't come back. I know we made one purchase from a vendor directly related to ChiTag and let them know it. I do with this fair the best as I certainly want to see it grow and prosper.

- Thanks, Alan

P.S. FYI, Friday was my only day there just in case anything changed for Sat/Sun.
 
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Mary Couzin
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Hi Alan,

Mary Kay was there since there a lot of women walking around and to attract the mainstream to a game convention we have to have things that attract a whole family - Radio Disney, Ronald McDonald, characters, sports mascots, slot car racing, etc. We have to make this a fun event to come to and they discover games while they are there. I have received many emails over the years indicating they came for something other than games, but rediscovered or discovered games while there. If the mainstream was turned on by advertising games, they would be at a gaming convention. We want to get the public to consider games as an entertainment option. We want to grow the industry.

Schaumburg has a sign ordinance that prohibits signage and we met with the Mayor and expressed our concerns. He said there is a sign on 90. True, but it is a small sign. We asked for banners in the streets like they have at the Australian Games Expo and they said if they do it for us, they'll have to do it for everyone. Our team has discussed the possibility of renting a billboard in that area next year.

Regarding the website, I understand your comments and we are talking about changing it. As Chi-Tag is yet to turn from red to black, we have to consider our budget carefully. The error message is no longer on the site. We had to change hosting servers 2 weeks before Chi-Tag. The previous hosting server was no longer responsive as they must have been going out of business since the last post on their site was from 2003. Moving the site was a nightmare. The timing could not have been worse.

Regarding directions, you are so very right. I tried to get directions for the site and the convention center and Schaumburg government were not responsive for a map. Then I emailed mapquest to get a link that you could click on with the destination being the convention center. I didn't receive a reply from them. Unfortunately I didn't pursue harder as other work got in the way. This is definitely something I need to work on now for next year.

Regarding the advertising and as I mentioned in my last post, if you click on Press on the chitag.com website, you will see the advertising, both free and paid, was extensive. We were on the front page of the major suburban newspaper in that area, live feeds on ABC as well as coverage on other stations, we were on many radio stations and even paid for 262 radio spots on WLIT and about every place an event could be posted, we were there. We even trolled suburban haunted houses and passed out thousands of flyers not to mention personally emailing every principal in Cook and Dupage counties as well as many in Will inviting their staffs free to Chi-Tag. One of the exhibitors emailed homeschooling families as I did inviting them as our guest to the networking event on Friday night.

If, you have a promotion suggestion, I would love to know what we are missing. We sent out thousands and thousands of PR releases to thousands of places. In addition to Aaron Gessner working the PR, we had an intern focused on PR and she did a terrific job.

Considering the coverage we did receive, we should have pulled in many more people. I now think we will grow based on word of mouth. We had better traffic on Navy Pier, but they were less engaged and purchased less. One of the girl scout leaders said that she had seen the advertising in previous years and only came this year since her troop was getting a badge for inventing. She didn't understand the difference between Chi-Tag and a ToysRUs. Now she is not only sold on the concept, but plans on bringing everyone she knows next year. She is the only attendee I heard this from and we had many attendees that have been following the show. That is very encouraging.

I very much appreciate your letting the vendor know you purchased in connection with Chi-Tag. I desperately want this to work for the vendors and want them to come back. You are right about the Catch 22 situation. I still think this can work and will give it another year.

Thank you for your feedback.

Mary

 
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Todd Sweet
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My 2 cents also:

1) Agree with Alan that a clear direction is needed. I was really disappointed that there were so few "mainstream" vendors. Hasbro was there with 4 demo games (no Heroscape). I was really thinking the convention would have been a lot of the Hasbro-type booths. Howerver, where are the other mainstream game companies? I didn't really want a convention of lots of independent roll & move game designers. Where are all the toy companies with their new toys for Christmas? You have the Star Wars characters, but not a Star Wars toy in sight to buy. I would think the main goal should be to have the companies there that the average American is going to see on the shelves at Wal-mart, Toys R Us, etc and then bring in a few independents trying to get discovered and the Rio Grande type companies for the hard core gamers. BTW, why isn't a company like Mayfair there? They are local and they can come to something like Wolf Con the following weekend that probably got less than 10% of the attendance of Chi-TAG.

2) Need more local advertisement. Need to get into the weekend calendars of the local papers. Sounds like you did a good job with the Herald, but try The Chronicle, Tribune, Sun Times and free papers like The Reader, Republican, Sun.

3) The open gaming area was EXCELLENT for what it is. The location I thought was perfect since it was out of the way of the vendors and noise from the stage, but very easy to see. Of course, everything was easy to see since the overall size is small. Everyone has to remember the main point is not an open gaming convention, but open gaming needs to be a part of the convention to 1) get the hard core gamers to come out and 2) let the public see the fun and diversity available.

4) Agree the website needs improvement.

5) The Schaumburg location and date were great improvements over last year. You are out of the city for those who live even further west or those who won't drive in the city. Your free parking was obviously a hit with many I talked to also.

6) The price is right! $10 for a whole family for a day is just GREAT in the Chicagoland area for entertainment.

Overall, my biggest disappointment is with the vendors in attendance. I know that is probably the hardest part of putting on a convention, but the future direction of who to include needs to be crystal clear. I know you need to pay the bills, but having the park district, Mary Kay, a dishwasher product and other un-related vendors distracts from the gaming/toy experience and sends a signal that the convention is in trouble and desperate for anyone to take space.

FYI - I was also there only on Friday from 4pm - 10:15pm when I was kicked out while open gaming.
 
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Alan Reeve
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I wondered if it was a local ordinance the prevented advertising with some sort of signage/banners for people driving by as I know my client's have to deal with that in some areas for their signage. That's too bad that it is indeed the reason. I was surprised that the Convention Center didn't have any sort of 'current event' sign either, but presumably that's prohibited as well.

- Alan
 
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Jeremy Carlson
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I'm gonna join in here and throw my opinion into the mix.

I'm a gamer. I know that sounds obvious, but wait just a second to hear me out. Everyone here is a gamer, too...right? Be it Euro to Ameritrash to War....you and I are gamers.

What is my point? ChiTag is not a game convention. It isn't even a toy convention, as I saw very little in the way of toys. Frankly, I don't know what the hell ChiTag is. I kept hearing it was geared towards educators. If that was true, I couldn't tell.

Yes Rio was there, as well as Z-Man (Zev was totally kewl to hang out with). But are 2 companies really worth going to a convention for? I know you guys above are putting a good spin on this event. That it will grow and be fantastic. But it is not there yet. Its not even close.

They did have open gaming. The good part was I met a couple of people that live around me (props to Chris and Andy), and I got to try a prototype for Zev. But really, what good is open gaming when there are only like 6 people gaming? I could have set up a game night at my house that would have had more games played.

Parking was free and it was cheap to get in.......and? What exactly was I paying my $10 for? Lets say you are not a typical BGG gamer. Lets say you were a toy collector. The name is Toy and Games after all. Where were the toys? I didn't see much of anything, and that is my point. There was no focus at this event.

This wasn't a convention. ChiTag was a completely disappoint in most regards. It seemed more of a place to let your kids jump around in a Moon Jump. Which would be fine if that is what I was going for.

The really bad part was, I didn't expect much, and I saw even less than that. I think this "convention"...and I use the term loosely, needs to be put out of its misery.
 
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Eric Kaun
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hughthehand wrote:
What is my point? ChiTag is not a game convention. It isn't even a toy convention, as I saw very little in the way of toys. Frankly, I don't know what the hell ChiTag is. I kept hearing it was geared towards educators. If that was true, I couldn't tell.


My understanding of Essen (based on ignorance) is that it's a whole-family toy-and-game fair - exactly what ChiTAG is aiming for. Essen has been going and growing for years; hence its size (not to mention the apparently higher European appetite for board games). Check out http://www.icv2.com/articles/home/9555.html for some comments on the "weight" of products at Essen; I'm sure you can find others.

ChiTAG doesn't have to be just toys, or just games.

hughthehand wrote:
But are 2 companies really worth going to a convention for? I know you guys above are putting a good spin on this event. That it will grow and be fantastic. But it is not there yet. Its not even close.


True, and that little kid across the road will never make a good (insert profession here). He/she is too small and annoying to be in the workplace.

hughthehand wrote:
But really, what good is open gaming when there are only like 6 people gaming? I could have set up a game night at my house that would have had more games played.


The point was to get the public to learn about games. To that end, I think we (gamers) need to do more, collectively.

hughthehand wrote:
I didn't see much of anything, and that is my point. There was no focus at this event.


Does there need to be? Toys and games, to most families, fit into the same niche - for kids. This is an opportunity to educate people, gently, on how shallow that view is.

hughthehand wrote:
I think this "convention"...and I use the term loosely, needs to be put out of its misery.


If it doesn't catch on, it will go away quietly. "Put it out of its misery?" What are you going to do, go next year and tear the booths down? This is a silly argument; it's a small event that many of us (apparently not all!) hope will grow. Things do grow, y'know. Seeds don't look much like trees, but someday they will.

I can't speak to the early years of Essen, but common sense says it was probably much smaller its first few years than it is now. As was the case with Origins, GenCon, etc. etc. etc.

In the meantime, I have to go put the kid across the street out of his misery. He'll never make a good adult. :-)
 
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Alan Reeve
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hughthehand wrote:
I know you guys above are putting a good spin on this event. That it will grow and be fantastic.


hughthehand wrote:
I think this "convention"...and I use the term loosely, needs to be put out of its misery.


So do you want it to grow or be put out of its misery? The point of this forum, I think, is to try and help it grow by complimenting what was done right and criticizing what was done wrong. It's easy to say "I didn't like it" or worse... it's hard to come up with reasonable suggestions to help it grow.

I agree that there's a bit of an identity issue as I stand by my thought that Mary Kay and the like (i.e. I'm not anti-Mary Kay... they just have a big enough brand name that I remember it) shouldn't be there. My wife didn't go thinking it's a Toy/Game fair... please let there be a makeup vendor (or whatever they sell)... she went more with the idea of looking for toys and games for our daughter. It shouldn't be a situation where people come looking for other stuff and wow... there are games here, too, and thus get introduced back into gaming.

It's also the case that the target should not be BGGers... we're a subset of the target. The target probably needs to be families with 5-15 year old kids... get the kids to nag their parents to go... and then provide a reason that the parents will have fun, too. Anyhow, I'll just email other suggestions directly vs. taking up forum space.
 
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Mary Couzin
United States
Illinois
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To answer questions and shed some light on the beginnings of Essen, I offer the following:

Essen has an entire hall devoted to trampolines, bungee jumps, toys and activities for the kids, as least they did the year I was in attendance.

What follows is from a friend in the game industry in Germany who has been encouraging me for the past 4 years when I asked about Essen’s growth.

Essen has become what it is due to the fact that there has been a consequent co-operation between the organizers of the event and the games industry. When Essen started in 83 they had about 3.000 visitors. In 84 they doubled the figure and the school, where it took place originally, was too small so they went to the exhibition centre. Now they have more than 140.000 visitors every year. At that moment in 85 the new location was too big, it was a risk! At the end of the day we played volleyball in the exhibition hall because there was so much space between the booths, which cannot be imagined today. But the people involved in the show they saw the potential of the event.

Background information: In Germany we have an association of the toy industry (which is normal, and you have the TIA). In this association we have subordinated group of currently 18 games manufacturers that we call Fachgruppe Spiel… we meet twice a year. (Of course we do not talk only. We do things, e.g.: We started a common website and we will run a project in German schools to make pupils and teachers play.)

In 85 this group decided to support the show in Essen and to make it THE games event. Consequently all the members of Fachgruppe Spiel have been present at the show since then. I think this was a very important decision because all the companies really focused their activities on Essen and they did not support other events with the same impetus. (end of quote)


Unlike Germany/Europe, in the States we have Hasbro and Mattel with the lion share of board game sales. From their viewpoint there is not a compelling reason to exhibit if it is to help the smaller guys. If I can’t build the attendance with the lure of the type of activity that brings the mainstream, they won’t come.

We also do not have game companies co-operating to form a group like Fachgruppe Spiel. Can you imagine Mattel, Hasbro, Rio Grande, ZMan and others sitting down to figure out how to promote board games and starting/supporting an Essen type fair? I think not.

No, in America, we have just me trying to make this work against all odds and with very little help. I am blessed to have a few people, especially Anita Daniel and Aaron Gessner, who believe as I do that this can work and who work with no monetary compensation. I would love to have Mattel and the other toy and game companies at the Fair. I have been courting them since day 1. Mattel came out to see the Fair this year as did many companies. We were thrilled to have Hasbro there this year. I have funded this venture out of my own pocket since I believe promoting games can make a difference in our culture.

Again, if anyone wants to help in this endeavor, I welcome your ideas and support.

My Best,

Mary
 
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Alan Reeve
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MCouzin wrote:
Unlike Germany/Europe, in the States we have Hasbro and Mattel with the lion share of board game sales. From their viewpoint there is not a compelling reason to exhibit if it is to help the smaller guys. If I can’t build the attendance with the lure of the type of activity that brings the mainstream, they won’t come.


And then to top it off, Hasbro doesn't even bring HeroScape... a game that they do have in the mass market channels and is something that makes people stop and take note... much more so that the Operation (and others) banner they had. In other words, Hasbro comes and, in my opinion, fails to promote their own company the way they should. But that wraps back around my my identity issue... obviously they think Operation is the only type of product they should be exhibiting at the show. In fact, Todd even asked them and they said they only show HeroScape at shows like GenCon.

I fully see some of the problems and that last message was really insightful for myself. I wish I knew a bit more about Essen and the European market for when I read people trying to make analogies to it.
 
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Michael Hirtle
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Mike Hirtle from Hasbro again. This time posting only once AND under my own name. Who said those Hasbro guys couldn't learn anything?

And again setting the record straight. The previous poster was obviously only at ChiTAG on Friday. We saw pretty early on that our TP 80's edition game wasn't right for the crowd that ChiTAG was attracting, so we took it down and part of our team went out to the local Toys R Us and loaded up on HeroScape product and we built a big display where the TP game had been located. This was clearly the right move as this was, next to Cosmic Catch, the biggest draw in our booth for the rest of the show.

Hey, we live and learn. I think we will do a better job next year now that we have a better idea of what the show is about.
 
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John Hanley
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Hello all

I have just come across this thread and thought I should add my two cents in. I am one of the Australians that came over for the event and granted it was not Essen, it was a wonderful event. I had the chance to show games that are sold around the world that Aussies have created (including the USA party game of 2006). I had the chnce to meet other game inventors,see new games and catch up with some friends. I also had the chance to show off the Australian Games Expo that is the Australian version of this style of event. These events are important as they get gaming out to the general public. The game geek is already converted and it is the people that do not know that Heroscape or Reef Encounter or Snorta or Squatter exsist.

I want to thank Mary and her team for the effort that they have put in. Give them praise and give them critisism but help them make this event get better and better.


I hope to see you again next year.

John
 
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