Sam Lam I Am
To play is human; to win, divine.
There is no shame in losing, if you remain unafraid to play again. -Losers
Just came home from my first Gen Con. Before that I'd only ever been to my local convention - SaltCON, which is held near Salt Lake City, Utah. I thought I'd discuss the positives of both. It may seem like I'm comparing the Olympics to a local swim meet, but bear with me.
My favorite thing to do at conventions is play in tournaments. I also love participating in math trades, and I'm about as frugal as they come. So I'll cover those issues, but I may not cover things other people are particularly interested in.
SaltCON gives you a lot of bang for your buck: I think I paid $40 or *$45 for a 3-day badge. What does a badge get you?
*A game library that every attendee can use for FREE.
*An additional library of play-to-win games you can play for FREE. Play during the convention and you are entered into a drawing to win. (This year my family came home with three play-to-win games.)
*Tables with a dozen or so hot new games set up to play for FREE. If you want to learn, official volunteers often are available to teach you the basics for FREE.
*Tournaments you can sign up for and play in for FREE. My favorite tournament is Dave Bailey's Master of Games Tournament where competitors face off in 4 different games. The winner is the person with the best overall placement in all 4 games.
*SaltCON has an area set aside just for the Math Trade, where people come and put their traded games. There is also an area set aside as a flea market. Participation in both is FREE.
*Door prizes, with a nontrivial chance of winning (I figured with my 3 kids we had maybe a 10% chance to win something).
*The main hall has vendors, and it is possible to visit all of the booths in an hour or two. Small enough that there is space for smaller vendors. For example, you've heard of Broken Token, but at SaltCON I picked up a sweet organizer for Terra Mystica from Daedalus. http://www.daedalusproductionsinc.com/
We also get a good presence from companies with local connections like Mayday Games, Tasty Minstrel, and others (also saw both of them at Gen Con).
SaltCON this year has close to 1200 attendees - a small enough crowd that you get to know people, even have a chance to talk with the organizers.
At Gen Con everything is bigger, better, and more expensive.
*The badge is more expensive $90 for 4 days. (Not to mention travel and hotel for non-locals!)
*Nearly everything comes with a price tag - game library, learn hot new games with a teacher, etc., you pay usually $2 per hour at whatever you are doing. After attending SaltCON, I found it annoying to have to pay to play games, and this is probably the only thing I disliked about Gen Con.
*Math Trade - on the negative side no dedicated math trade area, but on the positive there were 2-3 times as many participants and games listed compared to SaltCON.
*The dealer hall at Gen Con is truly impressive. Vendors of all kinds, peddling all kinds of games, accessories, niche markets, new games, even a Board Game Church there just to tell you that Jesus Loves Gamers. It would take a LOT of time to try to visit everybody.
*Tournaments. You have to pay to play, but the variety, size, and level of competition is impressive. There were national championships in Catan, Agricola, Carcassonne, Diamonds, Wizard, and others that I didn't have time to notice. The Train Gamers' Association had a huge assortment of tournament games going at all hours. Popular games like Ticket to Ride must have had hundreds of competitors in the field. In every tournament I played in there were very skilled players.
*Giant versions of games. Giant Robo Rally, Giant Power Grid, Giant Catan, Giant Carcassonne, Giant King of Tokyo, even Giant Shear Panic. I did see at least one of these at SaltCON, but again Gen Con just has MORE MORE MORE.
*Variety. Oh, you like to play RPGs? Miniatures (of any genre)? Collectible card games? Video games, Social deduction games, Cosplay? Euros? Gen Con has you covered, no matter what niche you occupy.
*Celebrities. I got to shoot the breeze with Vlaada Freaking Chvatil.
Gen Con had over 60,000 attendees. So for an introvert like me, it could be kind of intimidating. However, everywhere I went I found friendly people that I got to know for an hour or two and will likely never see again in my life. One advantage of the pay-to-play system at Gen Con is you can join games by getting tickets even if you are a total loser, are at Gen Con by yourself, and have no friends.
SaltCON is a budget-friendly weekend, bring the kids, break out some new games without breaking the bank.
Gen Con is for the person who wants to take it to the next level and is willing to pay some coin to do it.
Sounds like SaltCon is on par with St. Louis' Geekway to the West. They both sound very similar, and your list is very similar to my comparison between the two.
Both types can be very fun as long as you know what to expect going in. If you go into one expecting the other, you will be disappointed.
I like board games more than most people.
When I die I want people to look at the condition of my games and say, "Man, he really played these alot."
Yep. Apples and Oranges are both good.
I've been to Gen Con for 2 years. Never been to Salt Con, but I'm told it's very similar enough to Bryce Con, which I did go to once.
I'm assuming the hotels in Salt Con are much more expensive, as Bryce Con was only $25 or $45. It's quite a contrast when the hotel rooms of a con are cheaper than the badges for another con (Of course being remote is a the tradeoff)
These differences in cons are pretty much akin to differences in various board games. Good to do as many as you can to get what you'd like out of them!
That said, I won't be going back to any of them. Bryce Canyon is a 7 hour drive, which is just too much for me to do again. Salt Lake City adding another 2.5 hours would be OK if I had any "use it or lose" it vacation days. Gen Con now requires me to fly there, which is a "no way in hell" for me. TBF with Utah... I haven't done much cons that are only a few hours away, as those are pricy (even though not bank breaking)