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Subject: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2017) rss

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Chris Montgomery
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Joliet
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Introduction

This year there is a not a lot updating to be done. I have put significant updates in bold italics for those changes I have made to make repeat readers able to skim the article. I have also attempted to correct some typos (and perhaps created some new ones).

The History of this List

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. With the Con selling out in record time now for a few years running, I am not sure how many new-comers will be attending, but I want to keep the tradition alive.

I have attended BGG Con every year from 2008 forward, and this year will be my tenth (!) year. I don’t have any plans to ever stop coming to the convention as long as BGG continues to host it - though the way tickets have sold out this year, it is likely that at some point I will miss the window and fail to get tickets. I'm trying to brace for that eventuality.

While reading, please give Marshall P. and the other BGG Con veterans all the credit for the good information, and blame me for all the bad.

Additional comments and advice from veterans are more than welcome! Please post below. If you are a new attendee (or even second-year returning attendee), please post any questions you would like answered and someone will be along to help you.

Local attendees are very welcome to post a short article on how to attend the convention for local attendees. Things such as teh best time to drive in, costs for tolls, local contacts, how to car pool, or what-not. Since I know nothing about it, I haven't commented on that, but I thought it might be worth having for newb locals.

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. That’s one shirt per day minimum. 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. :-) Note that while any convention has its share of unwashed, sour-smelling gamers, BGG Con, in my experience, does not have a huge problem with it. Please consider this your public service announcement.

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. The last couple of years there were so many games in the library, they didn’t bring them all to the convention. They nearly doubled the size of the space for library two years ago, mainly adding space for gamers to mill around -- rather than having aisles, all the shelves are now along the walls with a huge open space in the center to allow more people into the library and less gamer-per-square-yard density. Anyway, the point is, you should be able to find something you’d like play without feeling like being stuck in a sweaty-human sardine can.

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. More on that later.

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, or at least decide who will be bringing it.

(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, or arrange for someone else to do so.

(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. If you want to bring a couple games on Tuesday night, these games are typically faster, lighter fare, though you will see a few heavy-hitters, too. But most of the games Tuesday night are shorter, lighter games and are thrown together ad hoc, on the spot. Again, if you aren't picky, you will be able to get in a game at some point on Tuesday night without having to bring anything.

Money. You will likely spend some dough in the Vendor hall during the week, buying must-have games. You'll also spend a good chunk of money on food. I typically budget $100 a day for food and game-buying. Spend more there, less over here. If you are sure you don’t want to buy any games, you will likely need at least $40 a day for food unless you make a trip to the grocery store, in which case you can save some money.

Accommodations. Stay at the convention hotel. The convention hotel is the Hyatt Regency DFW Airport. If it's full, remember this advice for next year - the convenience of being in the same building as the convention cannot be overstated. You are permitted up to four guests per room.

The Hyatt DFW also has a limited number of mini-fridges for those would like one - last year the fridges were allocated via a thread on BGG that was monitored by a hotel liason. They go quickly, and there aren't many of them, though the hotel stated last year that they intend to expand the number and availability of mini-fridges, so this year might be better than last. Prior years, the cost of the mini-fridge was $15 for your entire stay (not per day), but I would expect those prices to change at some point, so just remember that past practice is not an indicator of future performance.

The best way to obtain a room at the convention hotel is to reserve your room as early as possible once the block of rooms open.

If you are unable to get a room at the convention hotel, BGG.Con has two official overflow hotels: Hyatt Place Grapevine and Holiday Inn Express & Suites. Grapevine has a mini-frig in nearly every room. Holiday-Inn has a mini-frig in about 80% of their rooms. Both hotels have discounts for con-goers. Go here for more information (scroll down).

I made some calls around this year to other (non-convention overflow) hotels and a bit of advice is to make sure you check with the hotel about shuttle service to and from the convention space. Most hotels will get you to the airport, but you need to get to the Hyatt. One of the best ways to do this is to stay at a Hyatt in the area. There are also cheaper options for hotels that will provide door-to-door service, but you have to ask them about it before reserving your room. Most of the hotels I spoke with that provided door-to-door shuttles either had an up to 60 minute wait from when you call, or had the shuttles shut down at some point in the evening. So, buyer beware - and speak with the actual hotel you will be staying at, not any of the call-bank 800 numbers.

Electronic Devices. Cell phones work sporadically in the lower level (where the con is). Rumor has it that AT&T has the best signal. I have AT&T and have never really had a problem (always at least two bars). For phone calls, you may have to go to the main floor. Tablets are a common sight to occupy downtime. The hotel does have wifi, but I am not sure it is open to non-guests of the hotel. Please ask the front desk about that if you would like to try and save on your data package.

For those staying in the hotel, the hotel includes free wifi with a room - your room will have a sheet on how to use it while on the premises, but there were some complaints that the wifi did not work very well in the lower level, where the majority of the convention takes place.

Bring your cell phone charger. In the rooms, outlets are in abundance. In the convention space, you should be able to find an outlet if you really need one, but use common sense. Best practice is to charge your devices while in your room/sleeping, but typically there will be outlets available in the con area as well.

Food. Those with a vehicle, or who want to take the shuttle, can save some money by buying/bringing food to the hotel for snacks, drinks, and maybe even lunches. If you have a mini-fridge, this proposition is much more palatable. My roomies will usually make a grocery run on Tuesday afternoon and stock up on drinks and dry goods. If you don’t do this, don’t worry at all. There are a plethora of delivery services for food, and the hotel does a great job of providing food during the Con. But of course, this will cost you money.

If you have special dietary needs, however, you will need to figure out your food situation prior to the convention and plan on making a trip to get the food you need.

Other Miscellaneous Things to Bring. Aside from clothes and money, you don't really need to bring anything. Most people seem to bring a game or ten, some bring food, and almost everyone brings an electronic device (cell phone, tablet, etc.). Other things to consider, but are certainly not necessary are: a backpack to haul around purchases and/or games, hand-sanitizer, and a small selection of hot and cool clothing (the weather can be hot, cold, or in between, and thermostats in rooms can vary). I am sure that other veterans may have additional suggestions.

Travel

Getting to the Hotel. If you fly directly into the DFW airport, the hotel will send a shuttle around to get you. Call them when you get in.

If you arrive at the *other* airport (Love Field), the DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) is a very cheap and efficient option. I used it the last two years. For a couple bucks ($2.50 for a two-hour pass and $5.00 for an all day pass), you can get from Love Field to the hotel. Travel time is about 1.25 hours from baggage terminal to the front desk of the hotel.

How do you get there? When you exit the terminal outside the baggage claim area of Love Field, go up the incline, out to the main sidewalk (where arrivals are picked up) and turn to your right. Go all the way down the sidewalk to the end where you will find a DART sign for Bus #524. Wait for the bus (every 10-15 minutes or so). Only one bus line runs at this stop, so you can't get on the wrong bus. Get on the bus, pay for a card (they do not provide change) and ride the bus to the Inwood/Love Field station. Go up to the elevated train platform. Two train lines operate at this station, Green and Orange. You want the Orange line. Get on the Orange Line headed to DFW Airport and ride to the end of the line. When you arrive at DFW, exit the train terminal via the tunnel in the middle of the platform (you might be dropped off on the opposite side and have to cross over the tracks). Do not exit the terminal at the end of the platform (like I did my first time), this will take you down to a lonely bus terminal. Instead, exit through the tunnel in the middle of the platform and walk down the curving sidewalk to a busy street where arrivals are coming outside. Go left down the sidewalk to the first set of exit doors for the baggage claim (arrivals). Call your hotel, give them the door number, and ask them to send a shuttle.

The only draw back to the DART is that you are responsible for lugging your luggage. I bring a backpack and two cases, and it wasn't a huge inconvenience, but you should be aware of this requirement.

If you don't want to just take my word for it, you can find more information about the DART system from Dallas Love Field here: https://www.dart.org/riding/lovefield.asp

If you want to use a cab, beware that they are going to be expensive. I used a cab from Love Field to DFW (which was about a 20-minute drive) and ran me $45 (not including tip) between airports (I did this a couple years ago, but I was floored by the price). It is convenient because they will drop you off right in front of the hotel, but be prepared to pay for it.

There is also a shuttle service, which I know nothing about -- some attendees have used a shuttle from Love Field to the Hyatt, which with a group could be a middle ground between the DART and a cab. It comes with the convenience of door-to-door service, unlike DART, and rates (with a group) well-below cab fare. I believe this has to be scheduled/arranged before you arrive, and hopefully a veteran can come along and explain in the details and prices of how to arrange this option.

While at the Convention. If you have a room at the hotel, you don't really need to go anywhere. If you do wish to do a bit of traveling for some reason (to see sights and/or to eat a nice dinner and so forth) you have a couple of options. The easiest, and not-too-hard-to-find option is befriending someone at the Con with a car, who is making a run. You *may* be able to tag along, but use social common sense. Lots of locals attend the con, and lots more drive in for the convention from surrounding areas. If you don't have a friend/new acquaintance with a car, then the hotel has a shuttle that makes the rounds. They stop at various parts of the DFW area and can get you to Target, some restaurants, and the downtown area. Typically for free. Ask a BGG Con staffer/volunteer, or the front desk.

When to Arrive

The con starts Wednesday morning at 10:00 a.m. and runs from then until Sunday afternoon/evening. Most people clear out Sunday morning after checkout, but there will be a small number of hangers-on Sunday morning through early Sunday afternoon. By 3:00 p.m. or so, almost everyone is gone including the vendors and the convention staffers are breaking things down.

Tuesday Night. If you arrive the night before (a few hundred attendees do), you will have to pay for an extra night, but you can get in 8-10 extra hours of gaming. The excellent, wonderful Con workers and volunteers will typically set aside some space for gaming starting around 3 p.m. on Tuesday. You can also game in your room prior to that, if you are rooming with someone. There should be a sign somewhere on where and when the Tuesday night gaming will be.

Last year and the year before, the Con used the rest of the rooms in the hotel for gaming -- the conference rooms on every floor were able to be used, as well as the conference suite on the 11th (?) floor. Gaming Tuesday included these areas.

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. Ad hoc games are thrown together all afternoon and evening and it is not hard to get into a game. As with the con itself, use social common sense. Some groups want to game with their friends. Most games being organized will accept anybody, provided they don't already have a full complement of players.

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). They'll put you to work helping to make the con the best it can be -- you will likely make some friends doing that, too, and you might find that you like it so much, you'll want to help out next year.

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 100-200 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 should be a night to test the waters and you should feel free to participate. Please note that it is not hard to get into a game on Tuesday night, but it’s harder than during the con itself. This has to do with the fact that the only games available are ones that the con-goers have brought with them.

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. And an epic game here and there. And sometimes, sometimes, an 18XX. 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.

Play until your heart's content -- in fact, stay up late if you want. The lines for registration are long and there shouldn't be any real hurry to get downstairs in the morning unless waiting in line is your thing. More on that below.

Wednesday. 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 and getting in line early gave you a better chance of getting the good schwag while people at the end of line were left with less-savory choices. The Con organizers typically change the free-game format from year to year. The last few years there has been a raffle to enter (for Saturday night), and then there have been two sections with games . . . you pick one of 2-3 titles at the first station, then one of 2-3 titles at the second section. So being at the end of the line doesn't change your choices too much. Though if they run out of copies one particular title, they will replace it with a substitute.

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 few 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 may want you to sit for a demo and/or ask a few questions about their wares. The point of Bingo is to get more traffic through the vendors and provide you a benefit for doing so. Once you have demoed a game, or sometimes, if you just ask them to stamp your card, they will. Fill your entire card, and you get 100 geekgold. Or, if you don't want to spend that much time in the vendor hall, completing lines on the card can get you 10GG each line. The rules will be right on the card, so if they change the rules this year, you find out easily.

It will take you roughly 2-3 hours to get your card filled. This is a great way to get exposure to games you might not have heard of, play some games outside your comfort zone, or play a demo of that new, shiny game you've been thinking about blind buying.

(2.) The convention schedule. 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, (d) the game show, (e) the Battling Tops, and (f) Artemis (dedicated rooms). You can find a full listing of events here. 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. Registration opens for the sign-up events 24 hours ahead of start time. You should get in line early for the popular events as the line can form more than 24 hours out - popular events include Poker, Tichu, and the game show. They typically have a roped off line near the elevator bank, at the end of which is an easel. The sign-up sheet is at the front of the line. Be sure to check if you need to sign-up for events and don't miss the sign-up!

(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 metagame. I have never played, but if there is a game, instructions will be inside. The last couple of years I don't remember there being a game included, but it could always come back, so check your bag and see what's inside.

Some advice about getting in the registration line . . . 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 Noon or so, once the line has 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. If you remove your wristband, the replacement fee is $5.00 for each replacement band. Before you get too upset, the reason for this perma-wrist-band “issue” (it's not an issue) is that local geeks crash the Con and don’t pay the registration fee . . . the organizers try to police this. If you can, help them police non-badge holders. You paid for the con, and there is only so much space.

The second thing you cannot lose is your badge on a lanyard. It will include 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 your badge and its contents. They’re very important.

You are not eligible to play in the convention area unless you have your wristband and registration badge visible. Note that there is no BGG Gestapo going around verifying anything, but if they (or another con-goer) notices that you don’t have your credentials, they can ask an admin to resolve the issue. You will then be required to provide the necessary documentation or leave the convention space.

Sunday. Checkout is typically at Noon. If you purchased games and don't have space in your luggage there is a Fed Ex station set up outside the Main Hall where you can package, pay for, and ship your purchases home. It opens Saturday afternoon (I think) and runs until close of the convention on Sunday. It is not cheap, but it might be cheaper than the $50 over-weight penalty that the airline will slap on you for overweight luggage. Also remember to leave a tip for your housekeeping staff - we've always had great service from those hard-working staffers. For out-of-towners and international attendees, note that the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) goes through bouts of budget cuts and other silliness, so it is possible that you could unexpectedly have fewer security personnel running baggage checks and screening at the airports. The TSA has advised planning on a 3-hour wait. I don't necessarily think it's that bad, but be warned. If you are leaving from Love Field and driving/taking a cab, make sure to give yourself 30 minutes to get to the airport, too. If you are returning via DART, plan on 75-90 minutes travel time.

As you leave, start planning for next year . . . you *will* want to come back.

How to Get Into a Game

This is where the con really starts. You’ve arrived, checked in, got your wristband, 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. BGG Staffers constantly monitor hall and table usage during the con and re-evaluate everything from room layouts to peak times constantly. According to recent year usage, there has always been table space somewhere to play . . . maybe not in the main gaming hall, but in the side rooms. The BGG Staff is very on top of this and I have never had trouble finding a table. I've had to wander around a little bit on Friday and Saturday before finding an empty table, but there has always been one.

Over the past couple of years, the admins have played around with how the convention space is used . . . one 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. Last year the main gaming hall was all tables all the time with no vendors. This year may be different. If it is, understand that the admins are always trying to optimize the gaming experience and any decisions that are made are not made lightly, contrary to some opinions.

Regardless, you’ll want to mill around for a bit and get your bearings. If you are there for Wednesday check-in, the Hyatt 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, especially Friday night through Saturday because the local gamers have time to attend.

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. Or set it next to your chair, or under the table. 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:

(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 a time to minimize crowding. In years' past, you had to check your bags. They have dropped this requirement for 2017 (and I think they have not had a bag check for a couple of years now). The open format for the library makes it easier for the con staff to keep an eye on things. If the policy does change back to a bag check, please don’t complain about it. Back checks (when they have them) have never been a big deal, does not take a lot of time, and they have always had a staffer present to watch the rack with your bags. And even though the convention, the hotel, and their staffs are not responsible if you have anything lost or stolen, to my knowledge, nothing has ever been stolen off the bag-check at the library. But be prudent -- maybe keep your wallet and expensive electronics with you.

Anyway, once you’re in the library you might simply be approached by someone else to play a game. 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 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. Go to the tables at the entrances to the main hall and grab a "Players Wanted" standee if available. Place the standee on the table next to the box lid and set up the game. Typically, you’ll get several people to walk by and ask if you need a player. Say sure. They’ll sit down. And just like that, you’re in a game. If no standees are available, skip that step.

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 and the standee flag, 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 you, eventually, about 80% of the time.

A note about the standees . . . they have “Players Needed” and “Teacher Needed” standee flags. Early in the Con, these will be at a premium. If you use one, 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.

If #3 fails you can go back to the library, or . . .

(4.) Skip the Library and Walk the Main Hall -- Get In a Game That’s Starting Up. Find someone else doing No. 3, and ask if they need a player. Make sure you actually want to play the game. If you're a newb, or haven't played in a while, say so. Tables with “Player Wanted” flags are easy. Just make sure you are interested in the game. You shouldn’t feel pressured to play a game you aren’t interested in. Do yourself and the other players a favor and keep looking. If you see a game starting that you would like to play, don’t hesitate to ask if they need a fourth or a fifth or whatever. 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 games where the rules haven’t been explained yet. Many Con-goers come to the convention to play games they have never played before - it's not unique, and in fact is probably more common than not. But 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 (but if it's a game you're interested in and you know the rules for it, you can listen to the explanation, of course and ask to play). 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 an introvert should not have much problem playing games at BGG.con. Geeks share the love, and all you need to do to get some, is ask nicely.

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're 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 about playing the game as you do about hanging out.

[NOTE: The previous comment #1 drew quite a few posts in previous years. Many con-goers expressed positive experiences with learning the rules as a group. However, since this was a very negative experience for me, I have left it in. But please note that YMMV, and since it’s your convention experience, you should make the call. My experience, however, was very negative. Another situation is the Hot Games room, where the new Essen releases are -- in those games, no one knows the rules unless they read them before hand, so you should expect to learn the rules as a group.]

(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 that I’ve never played before, might be a “pass” for me unless it's one of my must-play games. Or unless it’s a game I really, really, really, really want to try and I don’t think I can get it played back home.

(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 the 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 early or 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. (See what I did there, with those percentages?) You have to decide at that point what you think courtesy requires. Typically, unless all the players want to quit, or the experience is really, mind-numbly horrible, you should try to finish the game.

(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 (but once, only once in eight years). 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. Sometimes missing the game is unavoidable, but usually its due to bad planning. So if you get into a pre-arranged long game, 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. 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 hence need some preparation.

For instance, 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. So the Meet-Ups are the method by which you can get into that epic game of TI3, or that 12-hour WWII game on the Eastern Front, or that brain-crunchy euro . . . or . . . you get the idea. Typically, these games will require you to read the rules before the Con and be ready to play with a minimum amount of game explanation (though some Meet-Ups do organize teaching games, too).

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 wargames of all shapes and sizes.

(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. Typically, these games are organized down the side-hallways on the lower level (the main convention area). The games are *easy to find* at night, around 9 or 10 p.m. More recently, epic games of Two Rooms and a Boom and One-Night Ultimate Werewolf are also popular. Last year, Secret Hitler also seemed to be played everywhere - but maybe it just appeared that way to me.

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.

Additional social lists also crop up every year. For the past few years, there have been tasting events organized by users (not in the convention space). One is a beer tasting/swap and the other is a scotch tasting swap. Typically, these take place on the hotel's room-floors (not the convention spaces). One veteran rented out a suite to host a large group, if I recall correctly. There's also other user-generated social meetings, such as Heavy Cardboard's meet-up, the Wargamer Meet and Greet, and many other options. You should monitor the BGG Con forum to keep abreast of these options, if you are interested. They can all be great opportunities to meet geeks at the convention, break the ice, or just have some fun. Important Note: The scotch and beer-tasting events and any other events outside the convention spaces are not BGG sanctioned events. These are just geeks getting together outside of the convention. You are expected to follow all the hotel's rules regarding use of the facilities and BGG Con bears no responsibility for participants nor has any control over these spaces.

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, the bulk of the thousands of games that are played are unscheduled and spontaneous.

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.

But if you just enjoy all types of games, you should get your fill of as much gaming as you want without being pressured by schedules and time tables. Take it easy. Relax. Try not to rush it. There will be this immense pressure to maximize your time and game, game, game with every waking moment. You may or may not be able (or even want) to resist this pressure, but most of the veterans have a much more casual approach.

In addition to spontaneous gaming, 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 worthwhile. But that depends on what you find interesting and what you want your con experience to be.

With a couple of exceptions, as a wargamer, I have about 50-75% of my waking hours scheduled before I get off the plane. I like to leave most of my nights 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. Also expect the flea market to be packed, packed, packed. If you don't like crammed spaces, you may want to reconsider this one. Though perhaps a recent attendee of the flea market could comment on this.

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 has attended BGG Con in several different years. You may see some designers. Eric Lang has been a frequent attendee at BGG Con the past several years and it seems to be - being an outsider to the industry - that there is actually quite a bit of industry stuff going on at the convention. Heavy Cardboard podcast had a meet-up/rally the past few years, IIRC. Keep an eye on the the main BGG Con wiki page which is regularly updated the closer to the Con we get.

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 thousands of entries on the geeklist 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 and con-sanctioned tournaments. You may get shut down if you to organize a tournament and if it is more than a few people, I would clear it with the admins prior to the con. If they would prefer you didn't run the event, don’t take it personally. Because it’s not personal. Tournaments just sort-of run counter to the experience that the con-organizers are shooting for. BGG Con is about unscheduled, free-form gaming.

Prize Drawings – In years past, prize drawings were held every night, but since the arrival at the Hyatt, 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. They give away lots and lots of *bundles* of games. 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.

Tichu Tournament -- This one is self-explanatory. One thing to note is that you are expected to have a partner for this one, I think.

Find out a complete list of the special events [url=https://www.boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/BGGCON_Special_Events#]here[/u].

Do I Need a Car?

No. There’s a shuttle to and from the DFW 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, order delivery, and/or eat at the concession stand. The hotel has a very large selection of delivery-food services. As previously mentioned, if you do want to take a culinary break it’s not so hard to hitch a ride with someone who has 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 that if you take the bus, it’s an hour from the time you are dropped off before the bus will be back again. 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 restaurant with passable food. It's a little pricey though, but not astronomical. The food is edible but four days of it might wear thin. The hotel also has a coffee shop open during the day with breakfasty-snacky-foods, which is good, but it’s also Starbucks-prices-expensive. During the convention from Wednesday through Sunday 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. The concession stand’s quality . . . think college dormitory cafeteria. Edible, good in a pinch, etc.

For amenities, the hotel has a convenience store with things like cigarettes ($10 a pack!), pens, paper, etc., all at exorbitant prices. The OTC medications here are really expensive - I was trying to get rid of a medical problem one year and I think a package of medicated throat lozenges cost me around $20. They do sell pop and candy, too, but again, expect to pay.

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. The mornings at the coffee stand can spradically have long lines, so be prepared for that. The employees work really hard to get orders completed quickly and last year I had at least one line that wrapped around the counter and through the restaurant -- it took about 10 minutes just to get to the counter. But typically, there won't be a long wait except sproadically in the mornings.

Lunch – Typically this is from the hotel concession in the convention area. This service is very fast, since all the items are already prepared. You have to purchase tickets (they accept cash and credit cards) and then you use the tickets to get food. 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.
Another alternative some days can be the groceries you may have purchased on Tuesday by going to your room. This is an easy place to save money. But the concession stand is so . . . convenient.

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 and you should have a cell phone number to give them so they can call if they can't find you. (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 and we eat dinner out at least twice.

If you have the time, the best option is with a car. You can get out and eat some “real Texas” food; by that I mean try Babe’s chicken, Hard 8, some other BBQ place, or you could try any of the really good fast-food options within 15 minutes of the hotel. No. 4 is probably preferred if you can, 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 (or last year it was Board Game Tables) usually has a display area for a few days of the con and you can play on their tables to try them out and even sign up to order a table through their helpful sales people. Be careful, or you might be walking away having put a downpayment on heirloom quality gaming furniture!

LIBRARY. The library is located in a 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. Don’t worry about your bag. They have a volunteer assigned exclusively to bag checks and they are always under observation. That being said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keep large amounts of cash and valuable items like your cell phone on you, not in your bag.

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. I personally haven’t frequented this area a lot, but the game tables are nearly always busy. You may have some difficulty getting into some of these games depending on how hot they are.

VENDOR HALL. In years past, vendors were few and far between, but as of 2012, the Vendor Hall keeps getting better and better (bigger and bigger). There were over 100 vendors last year with a dizzying array of products and demos and fun. Last year, the vendors were divided up into a large vendor area and a separate, smaller (yet still huge) vendor area. These areas were located pretty far apart in the main gaming area on the lower-level (the large vendor area was across from the main gaming hall and the smaller one was near the elevator bank). 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.

DEMO ROOM. This room typically has vendors with their games set up and ready to play and give you a demo of their upcoming titles. I usually spend a few hours in there demoing games when I have some downtime. You will also find interesting gems.

SIDE ROOMS. The side rooms are organized into various (and many) sub-divisions, including conference rooms for quiet play around a large table . . . spillover rooms for open gaming . . . 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

[*** Those entries with three asterisks indicate incorporated advice from previous threads and aren’t necessarily my opinions, but I felt was sound advice..]

*** DO -- Fight the Con Crud, Observe Cleanliness ***

It shouldn’t have to be said, but enough people have commented in the past that it apparently does. I’ve not noticed any super-bad violations, but there’s enough posting consensus that I decided to leave this one in. So here it goes.

Wash your hands often. Pick up after yourself. Throw garbage away. Take a shower. Use deodorant. Brush your teeth. Change clothes once a day. Clean up spills. Offer to help pick up games when you are done (most people like to put their own games away, though). If you see garbage sitting around, save the volunteers a headache and throw it away. Then wash your hands. These things help to make the con a clean, good smelling, and more enjoyable environment for everyone.

Finally, drink lots of water. It’s free, and the hotel staff is awesome about keeping the water troughs full throughout the Con. Sometimes late at night they might be empty, but it’s important to keep yourself hydrated. It also makes you use the bathroom more, which is an opportunity to wash your hands one more time.

If you *are* sick, please observe additional cleanliness while at the Con to help avoid the spread of any colds/flu/illness. Even if you aren’t sick, you may have handled pieces to a game from someone who was. Or a chair. Or shaken hands with them. Lots of gamers have unconscious habits. It’s human nature. We have lots of shared resources at the con including chairs, gaming bits, etc. Try to do your part to keep the convention space clean.

I have taken to carrying around hand sanitizer - you don't have to, but it's convenient. Especially if you have a cold or other illness, it can help prevent you from passing it to someone else.

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 play 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.

My [cmontgo2] favorite experience of this type was a demo game for a Monty-Python-esque party game on selling fantastical items to your fellow-gamers, like fat-free picture frames and electronic hot dogs. Whoever made the best sales pitch wins, as voted by your opponents. Another? Pack and Stack. Neither of these games was something I was particularly interested in, but both were hella-fun. Say YES.

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 or gal 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 with caffeine and you almost feel like you’re hungover. You might be the kind of gamer who - at least one day of the con - *is* hungover. That’s okay. It’s vacation. While there are die-hards at the convention who spurn sleep, I would advise against it.

I typically head up to the room at about 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. I am also typically so wound up that it takes me awhile to fall asleep. I 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. 6-7 hours of sleep. 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 non-gaming social interaction. It’ll be worth the time spent, and you might conclude the experience with friends, friends who will be there next year.

*** DO -- Play games with strangers ***

Reach out to gamers who don’t seem involved if you have an extra space at your table. If you are a veteran, try to play games with gamers outside your clique. Games played against strangers can open up new ways to see how a game is played. Who knows, you might even find a new member for your con clique.

If you are new to the Con, get out and play games! I had a regular group by my third year or so. It’s fun to have a group of people you see once a year and have a ready-made group for the convention. The fastest route to that is to get out there and play games . . . you’ll be sure to meet people that you hit it off with and before you know it, you’ll be coming to the Con to see your friends as well as play games.

Another “play games with strangers” corollary is to attend the first-timers meet up. It’s geared toward getting you acquainted with the convention and meeting and finding players and how to navigate the con.

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 so many years! I think part of it is that every game generally will have at least one new player. At least. 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. All 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 okay, even a benefit. I organize and play a game of Here I Stand at every con - this year will be my eighth 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? Old games that still have a strong following? 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’s 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 – 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 unless tickets the following year sell out in fifteen minutes and you couldn't make it to the computer in time. This convention is an experience worth having -- and you *will* want to come back.

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.

Edits: [Reserved].
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
Also, some eat-out food suggestions from a helpful veteran from last year:

ikiru wrote:
repthrd wrote:
Can anyone point me to the discussion on places to eat? We are driving in and would like to make sure we hit all the places we should!


What are you interested in trying?

Here are my quick recommendations:

BBQ? Here are my recommendations:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/189536/bbq-evangelist-...

Here are some other places I like to take people to:

Empamundo - Argentinean Empanadas. The Chrizo, Brisket, and Criolla are my favorite savory ones. The dessert ones, like Guava and Cheese are also amazing. They are $2.50 each and you will get filled up on 3. Call ahead for a to-go order and get back to gaming fast!
http://www.yelp.com/biz/empa-mundo-irving

Mi Dia - Mexican. Unique, from scratch Mexican Restaurant. Table-side Guacamole is excellent (choose from lots of ingredients...bacon puts it over the top for me). Great patio for outdoor eating (I think the weather will be nice this year for BGG Con). I recommend anything beef.
http://www.yelp.com/biz/mi-dia-grapevine?osq=mi+dia+from+scr...

Torchy's Tacos - Tacos, like you have never had before...with catch names too. Feeling like a Dirty Sanchez, extra trashy? Fried Avocado? Want to sink your teeth into a Democrat? Torchy's has got you covered. Fun place to get your taco on!
http://www.yelp.com/biz/torchys-tacos-southlake

Vila Brazil - Brazilian Steak House on a budget! Love those steak on a stick places...hate the price? Vila Brazil is your restaurant. The salad bar is more authentic too! BYOB to boot (and there is a liquor store across the street). I have a hard time eating at the big name places because of Vila Brazil.
http://www.yelp.com/biz/vila-brazil-irving

Kebabs to Go - Small kebab place attached to a 7-eleven gas station. While the Kebabs are the star here, the eggplant side dish is the best eggplant dish I have ever had in my life. The kebabs come with 2 sides, I just end up getting 2 orders of eggplant. Small family hole in the wall kinda place. Order ahead, grab your kebabs to go, and get back to gaming!
http://www.yelp.com/biz/kebabs-to-go-irving-3

Andalous - Mediterranean cuisine...cafeteria style. The pita here is no nonsense, crazy good. Order the 1 meat/2 side platter and get them to do half and half order of the different hummus flavors. The Egyptian okra is amazing and you cant go wrong with the lamb shank. One plus, you can scream the name of this place and sound cool. Andalous!
http://www.yelp.com/biz/andalous-mediterranean-grill-irving

I could go on all day. What kind of cuisine are you interested in? Irving TX is one of the top most diverse cities in the country.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/trulia/2012/11/13/finding-divers...
What this means is that there are good restaurants to be had, especially if you are looking for something unique!

Good luck!
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
Thanks Chris. This'll be my first year...
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
Awesome, Chris. Well done!


wifwendell wrote:
Thanks Chris. This'll be my first year...


You mean I finally get to meet Mr. WiF? thumbsupthumbsup
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
Grats on your first Wendell!


Chris, one thing re: new people and meetups. There are a lot of non gaming meetups as well. There is usually a beer room crawl and a scotch room crawl where you bring a local bottle of whatever and people go between rooms doing tastings. This was a fantastic way for me to meet new people a couple years back. There are a ton of others usually organized on the BGG.con forum.
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
I'm going to update to add this.

BTW, if any local veteran wants to do a section on attending the con for locals, I will incorporate it into the article. Having no local experience, I don't want to advise newb locals on how to attend their own convention.
 
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
It is vital to highlight precisely that - they are unofficial events, not affiliated with BGG con, merely arising out of communal interest of attendees (much like the annual disc golf group).
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
leroy43 wrote:
It is vital to highlight precisely that - they are unofficial events, not affiliated with BGG con, merely arising out of communal interest of attendees (much like the annual disc golf group).


We can't emphasize this enough. These events have no affiliation with BGG.CON in any way - what goes on in your own hotel room is your own business.

Per Texas Law and hotel policies the only alcohol allowed in convention spaces is that purchased from the hotel bar. And in those cases we expect you to act and drink responsibly.
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
I would add that after the con is closed and cleaned up, Jeff usually arranges with the hotel to have a ballroom area left open for Sunday gaming for those who have flights on Monday or such. It's very chill, people bring the games they bought or won during the con, and the last few years, we've brought the last of our food from our room down and shared it with everyone there.
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
5 years in a row for me.
 
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
xpiredsodapop wrote:
5 years in a row for me.


11 here.
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
For those of you driving in from the North, Bucees Fort Worth is opening this coming Monday, May 23, 2016.

http://www.star-telegram.com/news/business/article78049652.h...

Just head down I35W to 114. All the Bucees Nuggets your heart desires!



From there, after you have loaded your car with nuggets, fudge, and jerky, you can head down 114 to the airport! Make sure you share!
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
Shouldn't this thread be pinned rather than the 2015 edition?
 
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
So the Mrs. and I come in from I-30, and we usually make a stop in Rockwell for our annual BGGCon trip to Whataburger.. Is there anything between Texarkana to Dallas that we should be checking out coming in from that route?

Year 4! Woo!
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
Great article! A few comments:

1. The Grapevine Shuttle service (which takes you to various restaurants as well as Target) normally costs $5 for the day. The last several years, Rio Grande Games has graciously provided free use of those shuttles. There are several lines; make sure you take the right one for where you want to go.

2. Note that the Exhibit Hall (aka "dealer's room") doesn't open until Thursday at 10 AM. This is a change from previous years (when it was open on Wednesday).

3. You're limited to four hours on any "hot" game checkout from the BGG library. This includes most Essen 2016 releases and a few others (e.g. Scythe). Other games less in demand can be checked out overnight; note that there's a time limit even for those though (24 hours?).

4. If you want to play in the Hot Games room (top 15-20 Essen 2016 releases), I recommend organizing a group beforehand, especially for the top 5. Single players looking to get into one of those games may have to wait until Sunday.
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
Yuglooc wrote:


4. If you want to play in the Hot Games room (top 15-20 Essen 2016 releases), I recommend organizing a group beforehand, especially for the top 5. Single players looking to get into one of those games may have to wait until Sunday.


Thanks for the comments!
One advantage for single players is that they may have more flexibility in waiting for the next game or slipping into a 4 player game when the next group has only 3. Other tips for the Hot Games room, I recommend getting there in the mornings. That seems to be less crowded. You may also have better success during the times that are hosting big events, like the Poker Tourney.

Bonus tip...you could always wait till BGG Spring, after all the new games have been totally vetted and focus more on playing the good games rather than just the new ones...
 
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
Yuglooc wrote:

2. Note that the Exhibit Hall (aka "dealer's room") doesn't open until Thursday at 10 AM. This is a change from previous years (when it was open on Wednesday).



Do you have a link to this update? I know it was bandied about regarding having back-to-back cons, but isn't happening this year
 
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
In the OP here:

BGG.CON 2016 Will Go Live 3/3 3:pm

edit: Not a fan of this change.

 
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
fnord23 wrote:
In the OP here:

BGG.CON 2016 Will Go Live 3/3 3:pm

edit: Not a fan of this change.



Interesting that their is enough media to have a media day. Plus, it is 3/4 of day of no sales for the exhibitors.
 
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
Hsart wrote:
So the Mrs. and I come in from I-30, and we usually make a stop in Rockwell for our annual BGGCon trip to Whataburger.. Is there anything between Texarkana to Dallas that we should be checking out coming in from that route?

Year 4! Woo!


Me, almost out of gas on the side of the road.
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
BosonMichael wrote:
Hsart wrote:
So the Mrs. and I come in from I-30, and we usually make a stop in Rockwell for our annual BGGCon trip to Whataburger.. Is there anything between Texarkana to Dallas that we should be checking out coming in from that route?

Year 4! Woo!


Me, almost out of gas on the side of the road.


Not this year though....
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
Regai wrote:
BosonMichael wrote:
Hsart wrote:
So the Mrs. and I come in from I-30, and we usually make a stop in Rockwell for our annual BGGCon trip to Whataburger.. Is there anything between Texarkana to Dallas that we should be checking out coming in from that route?

Year 4! Woo!


Me, almost out of gas on the side of the road.


Not this year though....


If that happens, it'll make the news as an airplane will have landed on I-30.
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
The Flea Market has been renamed to the Board Game Bazaar!
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
Does anyone know which local places deliver? The food section mentions some do, but I would love to get an idea of which ones before I get there. This will be my first year and my wife and I want to really get in lots of games.

This is a great write up, by the way, with so much valuable information.

Thanks!
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Re: Tips on BGG Con from a Veteran (Updated for 2016)
The hotel has menus for delivery. Just ask the front desk.
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