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Subject: What makes a small, local convention worth attending? rss

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Eric Engelmann
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I run weekend cons for 200-350 gamers. They typically have a modest tournament program (overall awards instead of awards for games), math trade, auction store/flea market, a semi-local games vendor, a game library, demos of "hot" new games, support for open gaming, etc.). I try to provide activities that local meetups and gaming at a friend's house don't offer.

So, my question for BG Geeks is, what features/events do you most like or most wish you had in a small, local convention?
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Trent Boardgamer
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You already have what I would want covered. Games to play, room to play them and nice people is all I want as a minimum, anything else after that is just candy.
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Joe Huber

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Eric Engelmann wrote:
So, my question for BG Geeks is, what features/events do you most like or most wish you had in a small, local convention?


Smaller (<100), no tournaments, no vendors, no game library, no demos. Friends and new friends getting together to play games.

What you've described is at the large end of what I'd consider attending, and that only if it was of a longer duration than just a weekend.
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The main one is space to game and to move around without having to bump into people, hunt for chairs, etc. If you have 350 gamers, you will have some tables with two people, some with four, some with six, some with a pile of bags and games on them, some doubled up for giant Pitchcar tracks, some with maths trades or other unexpected things, etc. So I would want heaps of tables (90 maybe?), spaced apart so that some of our larger brethren can move comfortably between them. Likewise with chairs: you have 350 people, but sometimes a table will have 3 players and 3 empty chairs. So tons of stackable chairs too, maybe 1.5 per person?

Tournaments are a really big negative for me. They take up a lot of tables, pull people out of pickup games in progress, have noisy announcements (some guy yelling "ROUND 3 OF THE SETTLERS TOURNAMENT STARTS IN TEN MINUTES") etc. Likewise other scheduled events.

A games library is good, as is a small vendor. The games library will need a prominent lost and found area for misplaced game components.

Some other nice to haves for the games library: perspex sheets for wargames and print and play, dice towers, poker chips for 18XX, that sort of thing. Cheap ziploc bags as a stretch goal. 'Players wanted' signs that people can put on a table are handy too.

Availability of food and drink is a big one. By default at these things you tend to get a hotdog, coke, and fries as the only offering. There will be people who want to eat something healthy, people on a diet, diabetics, vegetarians, food intolerances, etc. Something as simple as having fruit for sale can make a huge difference. Likewise with drinks -- I would want to be able to get water, juice, real coffee, and craft beer if possible (even if it's some mass market beer like Sierra Nevada). Just being near a supermarket can sort out many problems.

Good clean bathrooms are a necessity.

What else? Close to transport for people from out of town or lacking a car.
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Pete
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The games.

Pete (states the obvious)
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Pete
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When I go to a huge convention, I feel like I'm missing most of it (which, of course, is true). But when I go to a small convention I feel like I'm a bigger part of it and that I can come away from it feeling like I really got it all.

Pete (will tend to play 10 full games and a bunch of demos each day either way)
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Eric Engelmann
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sbszine wrote:

Some other nice to haves for the games library: perspex sheets for wargames and print and play, dice towers, poker chips for 18XX, that sort of thing.

Ahhh! A nice set of chips and a dice tower will be nice additions to my cons' library. I really never considered that. Thanks for that feedback!

P.S.
I bought a nice numbered chip set, two dice towers, and for map users, one of those 24"x36" poster frames with slide-on plastic edging and a clear plastic top. I'll try to get a couple more of the frames over the next few months.
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Larry L
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Eric Engelmann wrote:
I run weekend cons for 200-350 gamers. They typically have a modest tournament program (overall awards instead of awards for games), math trade, auction store/flea market, a semi-local games vendor, a game library, demos of "hot" new games, support for open gaming, etc.). I try to provide activities that local meetups and gaming at a friend's house don't offer.

So, my question for BG Geeks is, what features/events do you most like or most wish you had in a small, local convention?


Sounds fantastic.
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Bill Cook
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Organized open gaming. Examples of things I can't usually do at home:

- Play an "epic" game that requires 5-7 people and many hours
- Play 4-5 shorter games, each with different groups so I meet lots of new people

Facilitate that somehow. Don't just have a big room with lots of tables and expect everyone to hook up on their own.

DIY Support:

Have vendors (or even the con) selling all the little bits and pieces that can be a pain to order due to high shipping or minimum order sizes.

Have some machinery that people can use who just want to do 1-2 thing so it's not worth buying.
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Ian Toltz
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Keeping it small. I have a lot of trouble with big crowds.
 
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Susan
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Where do you hold your cons Eric? Are you charging an entry fee to cover con expenses?

I run Arizona ^mini Con which started out as just a 3 hour garage sale and has grown to over 350 gamers and counting but at its core its just game sale + open gaming for 1/2 a day.

Finding a reasonable space + access to tables and chairs as sbszine above states is key.

How often do you hold yours? We do ours twice a year, but there seems to be desire for quarterly.

Yours sounds lovely! Do you have a website? Would love to check it out.

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Larry L
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Do you provide table flags for open gaming? (People place a flag at their table when looking for players. Both cons I attend do this for open gaming space.)
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Susan
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RingelTree wrote:
Do you provide table flags for open gaming? (People place a flag at their table when looking for players. Both cons I attend do this for open gaming space.)


A local Phoenix gamer:
Jessica Green
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came up with this amazing design for our twice a year ^mini con for finding both teachers and players (you just switch out the sign depending on what you need):



Can't wait to put them to good use this Saturday (selfish plug) at www.ArizonaCon.com.



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When I ran Ameritrash game events at a local convention, I had people show up who owned or were thinking of buying a game and wanted to learn the rules. Also, I ended up running casual games where some gamers thought more people was a good idea to have in games (it isn't). You can also have game events of hardcore long games that nobody's group is willing to spend a weekend playing (eg. Advanced Civilization).
 
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Brad Miller
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The people

(States the obvious)

 
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Eric Engelmann
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isellsunshine wrote:
Where do you hold your cons Eric? Are you charging an entry fee to cover con expenses?

I run Arizona ^mini Con which started out as just a 3 hour garage sale and has grown to over 350 gamers and counting but at its core its just game sale + open gaming for 1/2 a day.

Finding a reasonable space + access to tables and chairs as sbszine above states is key.

How often do you hold yours? We do ours twice a year, but there seems to be desire for quarterly.

Yours sounds lovely! Do you have a website? Would love to check it out.


Not trying to market (at least with this thread <grin>), but here's help for running small cons: http://tinyurl.com/condirector
Here's info on the cons I run: http://congressofgamers.org
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Pete
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Windopaene wrote:
The people

(States the obvious)

A nice sentiment, but I don't think that's true.

Pete (would probably not attend if those same people were not gaming)
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Eric Engelmann
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ActorOrSausage wrote:
Attractive women in revealing cosplay outfits.

As a married guy, I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in looking at attractive women in revealing cosplay outfits. My genes switched off when I got the ring...
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weesh ful
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the games are only half the reason i go to a con.

I also like panels and such from industry insiders. they don't have to be super famous, they just need something interesting to present on.

Also, there are lots of games that can only be done in large groups, and I'd love to take advantage of that.

---

Regarding tournament stuff, that seems fine, as long as you aren't interrupting everyone with announcements all the time like that other guy was talking about. PAX South managed to run tons of tournaments without disrupting the other gamers.
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Dennis Ku
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Honestly, I want it to be conveniently located near public transit, and there need to be a lot of food options within walking distance.
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Thumis Dalidalisa
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I think the key to a Con's success is how smoothly it gets people into games. There's nothing worse than the feeling of walking into a big room of people and feeling there's no easy, appropriate opportunity to play.

I understand why people don't like tournaments, but tournaments do provide guaranteed games of a title. I play in WBC's Combat Commander tournament not because I think I'll win or enjoy hyper-competitive play, but because it gets me into 5-6 games with little fuss.

Similarly, I think people (unless they have real social anxiety disorders) don't react negatively to the larger size of a con per se, but rather to the feeling that a huge room makes one feel that much more anonymous and unwelcome.

So, I think creative mechanisms to welcome people into games (e.g. those signs that say "I'm looking for players") and even a staff person devoted full time to "match making" people who seem to be floating with games looking for players.

I also really enjoy auction stores and they always seem well attended. They pay for themselves, so why not.

Finally, I also like an opportunity for local designers to bring games for people to try. Seems to increase the net sum of happiness in the world as gamers can try something new and give opinions that are valued, while designers get needed feedback.

And +1 to convenience to public transit. That can make it or break it for some people and is good for the planet.
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mortego
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I would like to see:
Gaming Library
Plenty of tables available for gaming (not for people's trunks of terrain that won't be used)
Game vendors
Food vendors
An appearance by Chainmail Girl
Raffles
Live DT Q&A show laugh
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Gary Tanner
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Kolumel wrote:
I think the key to a Con's success is how smoothly it gets people into games. There's nothing worse than the feeling of walking into a big room of people and feeling there's no easy, appropriate opportunity to play.


I agree 100%. And as someone who suffers from social anxiety (and runs a convention in spite of it), I can say I'm a huge fan of scheduled games that people can sign up for in advance. I've gone to big and small conventions without sign ups that I've played only with the people I've come with or not at all. I've also played so many games at conventions (again, big and small) that I've barely had time to eat, shower and sleep. The difference for me is always the structure of scheduled games.
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Kathleen Nugent
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A web place beforehand, either on BGG or on the specific website for the con, where people can ask for certain games to be played and recruit other players ahead of time. This worked extremely well for me last winter at a local con. I added my game wishes to a BGG geeklist and people volunteered to teach, to bring a copy, or to be one of the players. The geeklist was available at least a month before the con so there was time for lots of back and forth communication to decide on time to meet and with which players.
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Game variety, chance to play something I don't own.

Welcoming people, open seats at tables. It's disappointing if a game is only listed once and already full. With 250+, I'd expect we get beyond simply playing with people we already know. Sometimes it's enlightening to play against those we can't anticipate based on prior plays.

Space between tables and good lighting.
 
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