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Subject: What distinguishes one convention from another? rss

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Donald M.
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Having never been to a major convention except Comic Con and local ones, I wish to know what is different for each gaming convention.

They are seem to be the same except in different locales.

If they are all mostly similar, then I should coordinate going to one where I am also taking a vacation. I mean to sight-see I might go to fro example, Niagara Falls or some scenic tourist spot and then catch a Con as well.

Another thought is just go to a huge one like Gencon, Origins or Essen.

Whee would you go for a first time unique experience?
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Scott M.
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Orlando FLA,
Dice tower convention.. July 4-8
Disney is a stone throws away...
you game, fam visits the mouse..

cant beat that...!!

400 tix left..
last year was 3500 people.
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Gregory Amstutz
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Oiler1 wrote:
Having never been to a major convention except Comic Con and local ones, I wish to know what is different for each gaming convention.

They are seem to be the same except in different locales.

If they are all mostly similar, then I should coordinate going to one where I am also taking a vacation. I mean to sight-see I might go to fro example, Niagara Falls or some scenic tourist spot and then catch a Con as well.

Another thought is just go to a huge one like Gencon, Origins or Essen.

Whee would you go for a first time unique experience?


Ive been to several smaller local Cons, plus one slightly larger Con in L.A

There are several major differences, and scores of minor ones. The biggest difference will be the overall size/scope of the Con. Larger ones will have things such as Dealer rooms, auctions or flea markets, sponsor booths, scheduled events, tournaments, special guests speakers, panels, and even door prizes. The smallest ones are just a bunch of open tables and people playing games. The larger ones tend to be better organized but can still appear chaotic due to the size, while smaller ones tend to have less formal organization and are more just like a large game meet-up. And of course, the overall theme of the Con will make a difference as well. Cons that are primarily centered around miniatures events will be different than those aimed at boardgames, which will differ from ones with focus on CCGs. Of course, I say things like "tend to" or "usually" because there just is no hard and fast rule for Cons. Each one will have it's own unique flavor.

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Eric Engelmann
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Oiler1 wrote:
Having never been to a major convention except Comic Con and local ones, I wish to know what is different for each gaming convention.

They are seem to be the same except in different locales.

If they are all mostly similar, then I should coordinate going to one where I am also taking a vacation. I mean to sight-see I might go to fro example, Niagara Falls or some scenic tourist spot and then catch a Con as well.

Another thought is just go to a huge one like Gencon, Origins or Essen.

Whee would you go for a first time unique experience?


There are huge differences among types of cons. WBC focuses on gaming, especially for people who enjoy playing with strong players. My small, local cons focus on events you can't do at local game shops, meetups, or friends' houses, Essen focuses on new games. Some have lots of RPG, CCG, or CosPlay, to various degrees. Some are HUGE, and some are small. Some are "destination" cons (cruises, mountains, resorts, my own to couple with DC tourism, etc.) Given how often this is asked, I'm thinking of writing a wiki for the subject.
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Ian Toltz
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I only attend one convention a year. It's a small local one which explicitly caps attendance at a small number (150 or so, I'd guess).

I have a lot of trouble with crowds, and I find every other convention I've ever been to extremely uncomfortable. This one works for me because the groups are small and there's an open space where I can play games if the main room gets too crowded and noisy for me to deal with.
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Aaron Gelb
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I would say that if you liked the buzz of Comicon, and you want a mind-blowing 3-4 days in the hobby, GENCON is the one to go to...at least once.

Its got tons of events, games, demos, and the exhibition floor is the most similar to that of Comicon, but filled with GAMES (and other geekery.) I've been twice and its like being in heaven. But its BUSY and crowded, and flying to Indiana isn't always easy or cheap. But to me, totally worth it...it doesn't disappoint!

I hear Origins is pretty big, and great, and a bit more dedicated to serious gaming than is Gencon (Gencon might be a bit more about the exhibition hall, demos, etc)

And then there are 1000's of local conventions in different cities, some have no exhibition halls, some have modest ones, and they are often dedicated to mostly just gaming.

Adepticon is in Illinois and is dedicated to Miniature Gaming.

I've only been to Gencon and Strategicon in Los Angeles.

Essen would be SUPER fun, but I don't think I can go to Germany without my wife, and then asking to be left alone for a couple days at a game convention...not gonna work.
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Matt Lee
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Much of it has been posted above, but it really boils down to a difference in focus and scale.

If you want to just play games like at a meetup but for a longer stretch (a whole day or over a weekend), smaller conventions would be more likely to fit your needs. Small, organized space with people just there to play games with others and not much else, if anything. These tend to be focused on only one or two specific types of gaming (tabletop, computer, console, etc).

Medium sized cons usually benefit with some (or heavily) scheduling of games at specific times for people to check out, usually for special new or popular games, but will usually still be heavily open gaming. Sometimes a local designer may be there in person promoting their games and you may have local vendors available as well to help the convention runners to offset the venue costs. Often, you find a good mix of the different types of gaming are represented decently well.

Large cons, like the big comic cons, Gen Con, Pax conventions, and Origins, often cover all types of gaming, but due to the popularity and money involved in putting these conventions on, computer/console gaming often has a very large presence, but you can often find many smaller companies there who want to be exposed to the larger general public available at these events. Scheduled events will fill up if it is popular enough, and usually open gaming is limited to side venues (like nearby hotel public spaces) due to the costs of the convention center space.

So, besides the scale, you will have completely different experiences.

From a more personal point of view, a small convention like Octacon (held at a library and sponsored by a game store) was about socialization and open gaming, but choices are usually limited to what the convention runners own/know about and what attendees actually brought with them.

A "medium" sized convention like Dexcon has a bigger overall focus and spread out, but expands past just the popular games and the favorites of the convention runners so you have a good chance of finding new games that you can try and like/not like. The appeal of buying a game right there you like after trying it is a possibility if a local vendor has it in stock at the convention too.

A huge convention like Pax East may take you out of your comfort zone, but exposes you to all of the different types of gaming and you may find that you like the spectacle and variety, but I also find that actually playing games happens less often without working for it due to the large attendance, lack of open convention space, and doing other things like going to panels or waiting in a line to preview a new game before it comes out. Since I can only be in one place at a time, time spent at a computer game publisher's demo is time I can't be playing a board game.
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Michael McKibbin
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I guess the most important question is, what are you looking for in a con? Lots of open gaming? BGGcon or Dice Tower Con might be the right choice for you. Hot new games and a chance to meet big names in the industry? Essen or Gen Con. Like to roleplay, cosplay, or play CCGs in addition to tabletop gaming? GenCon. Like console gaming in addition to tabletop gaming. Try one of the PAX events. Want to play in tournaments against top notch opponents? Try the WBC. Each of the big cons offers a different experience, so it really depends on what you personally are looking for from your con experience.
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James Arias
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Agree with the previous two posts.

Personally I look most for tons of cosplayers (they make for great pictures & people-watching), big awesome dealer rooms (that aren't just extended FLGS storefronts), open gaming with demos (this was my first exposure to DUST Tactics), and any "extras" like costume contests or concerts (saw GWAR in college this way).

I'm in Florida and my main cons to consider are...

DragonCon - size, breadth of geekery (including 70s/80s), concerts, a parade ("look kids they needed a whole section just for Halo characters), etc.

MegaCon - smaller but growing nicely, and in my backyard.

Star Wars Celebration - just the one time because I'd never been.

Sadly, I've never been to any of the huge events mentioned by others, or even to Dice Tower yet.

Southernfandom used to be a good site for cons to list themselves on, but as haven't visited that site in a while (I'm always out of town when the most interesting events are going on).
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Donald M.
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I live far away from any major convention city so it will either be a air trip of thousands of miles or a 4 or 5 day drive.

I really like to see a major con, so to justify the expense I hope I will find enjoyment out of it in general. I love playing games, but to go so far to play only games instead of doing something unique seems like not a good use of money. I can play games locally any time. Of course I will enjoy playing with new people and new games so that's a plus.

It will be a long drive from the prairies of Canada to anywhere east. May go to the Twin Cities, Chicago, before I reach Columbus or Indy. Also a side trip to see my friends in Buffalo or Toronto would be nice.

I can always fly but then I can't bring much back.
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John Weber
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The three large ones you mention (Essen, GenCon and Origins) are primarily trade shows sponsored by the game publishers. It's a chance to sample the new games and often purchase them before they reach mainstream distribution. The space and opportunity to play games is limited unless you are in a dealer area, and frankly I tend to focus on buying new games as opposed to playing them when going to these type of conventions, and usually going for just one day is enough time to cover the dealer area (keep in mind I haven't been to Essen, which is like 3-4X larger than GenCon, which is the largest in the States).

I tend to prefer smaller Cons, particularly ones where I know many of the other attendees beforehand. Having said that, while many novice convention goers tend to shy away from conventions with scheduled competitive play, I find signing up for tournaments can be a great way to meet new gamers, I've developed some long-term friendships with people I happened to be randomly paired with at a tournament table.

If it's your first time attending such an event, hopefully you can go with a group of people you know so you won't get lost in the crowd, so to speak, but I've found 90-95% of the people at gaming conventions to be fairly open and welcoming to newcomers. Try to do your research and find out what games are likely to be played there, hopefully some of your favorites or new games you'd like to learn.

Your Geek status doesn't mention what part of the US you are from, but one genre of gaming events that is fairly new are smaller gatherings put on by game designers who have mostly unpublished prototypes who are looking for feedback to improve their games. One group whose main event is on the East Coast (Baltimore) but is active with smaller events throughout the US is called Unpub, so if that interests you, you might check out their website at unpub.net
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Max Jamelli
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John Weber wrote:

I find signing up for tournaments can be a great way to meet new gamers, I've developed some long-term friendships with people I happened to be randomly paired with at a tournament table.


I can echo everything John says in his post. I met John through WBC and we've been friends for years now. Always like playing at his table.
 
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Donald M.
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I am going alone to places where I know absolutely no one.
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Eric Engelmann
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Oiler1 wrote:
I am going alone to places where I know absolutely no one.


The cons I run, and many others, ensure that there are plenty of popular, scheduled games you can just drop in on (if you know the game), demos and coached games you can join without any prior game knowledge, special events open to all, and a wide variety of signage designed to help gamers find each other in open gaming areas.
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Donald M.
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Eric Engelmann wrote:
Oiler1 wrote:
I am going alone to places where I know absolutely no one.


The cons I run, and many others, ensure that there are plenty of popular, scheduled games you can just drop in on (if you know the game), demos and coached games you can join without any prior game knowledge, special events open to all, and a wide variety of signage designed to help gamers find each other in open gaming areas.


Actually I get along with everyone so it isn't a problem except I tend to be at least 20 years older than most I play with.

Which con do you run?

I may go to Gencon as it will be a nice adventure. Only problem is it is in the hot summer and high season. Tons of people will be there.
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Mike

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I wouldn't travel far for anything that isn't a big con. Even then I am not sure the travel is really worth it.

GenCon is only okay imo. There was a point where I would have said it was the best Con experience for gaming to go to. I can't say that any more. I don't think it is really good at anything anymore. Events are hard to get into and getting a place to stay is difficult. It is overly crowded because of things unrelated to gaming that they want to include. Even the strongest piece, the dealer hall, I don't think is great anymore. Many companies run out or have limited stock of hot or new titles, most things are full MSRP, and it is too crowded and takes too long to demo games. I have gone for years straight but it is one that I am now 100% done with.

For me the large Con with the best experience currently is Origins. At this point it has enough unique events to rival GenCon. The layout of the convention is 100X better. Getting into events is 100X easier. Getting housing isn't a problem. You have was less downtime wondering between things. Quick food at the Con is 100X better. I could literally go on and on. Only negative I would say is the nicer food places are more limited.

Even with that I would say the most enjoyable experience is at smaller cons if you really want to play games. The overall games that I get to play at small cons is never matched at the larger cons. You can stack events right on top of each other and get into almost every event you really want. Also I hardly buy anything at Cons so the dealer hall is wasted on me.

last thing is I would warn you about trying to make a larger game convention into a longer vacation. You will be walking a lot at the game convention and you can really burn yourself out ahead of the convention doing a lot of sightseeing.


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Eric Engelmann
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Oiler1 wrote:
Eric Engelmann wrote:
Oiler1 wrote:
I am going alone to places where I know absolutely no one.


The cons I run, and many others, ensure that there are plenty of popular, scheduled games you can just drop in on (if you know the game), demos and coached games you can join without any prior game knowledge, special events open to all, and a wide variety of signage designed to help gamers find each other in open gaming areas.


Actually I get along with everyone so it isn't a problem except I tend to be at least 20 years older than most I play with.

Which con do you run?

I may go to Gencon as it will be a nice adventure. Only problem is it is in the hot summer and high season. Tons of people will be there.


I run Congress of Gamers Conventions on weekends in the DC area. http://congressofgamers.org While attendees love them, they aren't worth a long drive or the flight hassles/costs unless you bundle with DC tourism.
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Michael Sosa
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For me the difference between conventions comes down to tournaments. Conventions that focus on them are attractive (WBC, Prezcon) while those that are just huge open gaming like the recent one in Philadephia seem to me to be a waste of my money. Sure its a spectacle but one I'd rather not pay to see.
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Belisarius88 wrote:
For me the difference between conventions comes down to tournaments. Conventions that focus on them are attractive (WBC, Prezcon) while those that are just huge open gaming like the recent one in Philadephia seem to me to be a waste of my money. Sure its a spectacle but one I'd rather not pay to see.


Funny I feel almost the opposite. Tournaments don't interest me. The reason I go to conventions is to meet new people and play games I don't get to at home. At PAX Unplugged I was able to play Alien Artifacts, Azul, Ethnos. Evolution: The Beginning, Ex Libris, Farlight, Flipships, Go Nuts for Donuts, Indian Summer, Lazer Ryders, Majesty for the Realm, Spirit Island, and Unearth.

I like Prezcon, but I spend most of my time at open gaming, ignoring the tournaments as much as I can.

Admittedly I have family in both cities, so didn't pay for a hotel at either.
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J.S. Bridges
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Oiler1 wrote:
Having never been to a major convention except Comic Con and local ones, I wish to know what is different for each gaming convention.

They are seem to be the same except in different locales.

If they are all mostly similar, then I should coordinate going to one where I am also taking a vacation. I mean to sight-see I might go to fro example, Niagara Falls or some scenic tourist spot and then catch a Con as well.

Another thought is just go to a huge one like Gencon, Origins or Essen.

Whee would you go for a first time unique experience?


Having been to GenCon, Origins, GrandCon, , TN Game Days, Lexicon, CinCityCon, CincyCon, and Acadecon, it really depends on what you are looking to do both at the convention and in the city you are visiting. If you just want to play games and visit a free library of hundreds to thousands of titles, in general, visit a smaller con. If you want massive tournaments and hundreds of booths to buy things from and gaming is secondary, go to a bigger con. But buying, gaming, and events are vastly different from con to con.

It's kind of hard for anyone to tell you which one to go to without knowing you personally. For example, the food and beer in a city is just as important to my wants as any gaming that will happen. Who can go with me to a convention is important because some of my friends just want to play games and others just want to buy games all the time.

I always recommend that people go to the website or Facebook page of whatever con you are considering and rummage through everything to see what it provides. If it interests you and fits your gaming needs, comment on a specific forum here or on the Facebook page to find out more. Other than that, I suggest to just start going if you can afford it and explore your options. Because I explored CincyCon and Acadecon, I figured out they were just not my thing because of mostly wargaming/miniatures (CincyCon) and mostly RPG events (Acadecon). I know not everyone has this option, which is why I suggest researching in advance.

For my 2 cents, if you want:

Sitting down and just playing games...go to a local convention and meet some people. I would bet there is something local(within a few hours drive/flight and between 100-1500 people) for almost everyone in North America.

Buying stuff...Gencon or Origins. These are the largest two purchasing conventions in North America. Even though most local cons will have some booths for purchases, these two probably have the most.

Overall...Origins. There are things to purchase, gaming to be had, events if you want them, a good city for food and beer, and all of this with about 15k people, so not too crowded or expensive.
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Related blog post I wrote up here...
https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/16626/conventions-ive...



These are some attributes, in no particular order:
-parking
Cost? how ample (e.g. if you don't show up by x am, you're going to be hard pressed to find a spot)? How much? How far from the venue? Do I have to parallel park? Do I have to keep feeding a meter every X period of time?

-badge/admission
Cost? Do they sell out

-additional costs
e.g. Gen Con does "carnival style" where you need tickets for many events

-# of attendees
larger ones have more amenities, features, guests, and resources, but smaller ones have more control, and more "down to earth'

-location
City? Open area?

-time of year
-# of days

-types of games played
Minis, euros, ameritrash, historical miniatures, RPG

-other activities
Some are bg-ing that happen to have video gaming, comics, and misc. stuff. Others are primarily those other things that happen to have board gaming. One was at a casino.

-food options
local eateries. Cost. Availability. One is hosted in a casino, so costs were on the lower end

-dealers, publishers, vendors
Sell and demos games

-panels/seminars
Gen Con has them. Ancient armor and weapons. Bg design. Manufacturing side of bg. They even have odds and ends like bondage stuff Even smaller ones like EuroQuest had the creators of Chicken Caesar and Viva Java: The Coffee Game talk about their experiences and tips for running, getting funded, and fulfilling the pledges
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Donald M.
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josephsibleybridges wrote:
Oiler1 wrote:
Having never been to a major convention except Comic Con and local ones, I wish to know what is different for each gaming convention.

They are seem to be the same except in different locales.

If they are all mostly similar, then I should coordinate going to one where I am also taking a vacation. I mean to sight-see I might go to fro example, Niagara Falls or some scenic tourist spot and then catch a Con as well.

Another thought is just go to a huge one like Gencon, Origins or Essen.

Whee would you go for a first time unique experience?


Having been to GenCon, Origins, GrandCon, , TN Game Days, Lexicon, CinCityCon, CincyCon, and Acadecon, it really depends on what you are looking to do both at the convention and in the city you are visiting. If you just want to play games and visit a free library of hundreds to thousands of titles, in general, visit a smaller con. If you want massive tournaments and hundreds of booths to buy things from and gaming is secondary, go to a bigger con. But buying, gaming, and events are vastly different from con to con.

It's kind of hard for anyone to tell you which one to go to without knowing you personally. For example, the food and beer in a city is just as important to my wants as any gaming that will happen. Who can go with me to a convention is important because some of my friends just want to play games and others just want to buy games all the time.

I always recommend that people go to the website or Facebook page of whatever con you are considering and rummage through everything to see what it provides. If it interests you and fits your gaming needs, comment on a specific forum here or on the Facebook page to find out more. Other than that, I suggest to just start going if you can afford it and explore your options. Because I explored CincyCon and Acadecon, I figured out they were just not my thing because of mostly wargaming/miniatures (CincyCon) and mostly RPG events (Acadecon). I know not everyone has this option, which is why I suggest researching in advance.

For my 2 cents, if you want:

Sitting down and just playing games...go to a local convention and meet some people. I would bet there is something local(within a few hours drive/flight and between 100-1500 people) for almost everyone in North America.

Buying stuff...Gencon or Origins. These are the largest two purchasing conventions in North America. Even though most local cons will have some booths for purchases, these two probably have the most.

Overall...Origins. There are things to purchase, gaming to be had, events if you want them, a good city for food and beer, and all of this with about 15k people, so not too crowded or expensive.


Your post hits the nail on the head. I want to get an experience s unique as possible that I cannot get at home, so I will go with the intent of seeing the publishers and talking to the people in the industry.

From what you said about Gencon, I am having second thoughts. I may go to Origins instead. It is less crowded and I get to see the latest in the industry I hope.

In the Fall, I may go to Germany, as I got tons of Air Miles. I can make it a European holiday and if the crowds are large so be it. At least I will have the experience of going to the largest convention in the world of this type.

If those plans fall through then I will seek to go to another convention other than the big 3.




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Dwight Powell
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The last three years, I’ve attended both Origins and Gen Con, but if I could only go to one con, it would be Origins. I’d highly recommend Origins, especially if you are going alone and want to spend most of your time playing games. Gen Con is an amazing experience, but it’s so crowded and mostly about seeing all the latest releases (and waiting in lines to buy them). Origins, on the other hand, is more about playing games.

One of the major contributing factors here are the “What are you bringing and playing playing” GeekList that is organized here on BGG. I’ve used these discussions to find pickup games with a lot of people, mostly strangers, some of whom I now look forward to seeing every year. Here’s the 2017 GeekList

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Mark B
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Dwiggy444 wrote:
The last three years, I’ve attended both Origins and Gen Con, but if I could only go to one con, it would be Origins. I’d highly recommend Origins, especially if you are going alone and want to spend most of your time playing games. Gen Con is an amazing experience, but it’s so crowded and mostly about seeing all the latest releases (and waiting in lines to buy them). Origins, on the other hand, is more about playing games.

One of the major contributing factors here are the “What are you bringing and playing playing” GeekList that is organized here on BGG. I’ve used these discussions to find pickup games with a lot of people, mostly strangers, some of whom I now look forward to seeing every year. Here’s the 2017 GeekList



I couldn't agree more with Dwight. Origins is nice mix of lots of people, some spectacle and new game releases, but still has a focus on game playing and not too crowded. I also attended Pax Unplugged this year and it had a similar vibe.

If you are looking to combine a con with sight seeing, take the time of year into account. Florida in July is not the best time to go to Disney World. June is Columbus is nicer than November in Philadelphia (although Philly has some great historic sights and has a slight edge on Origins in the category of food options, though there are some marvelous sights and wonderful food in Columbus).
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Kevin Brown
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MavWeirdo wrote:
I like Prezcon, but I spend most of my time at open gaming, ignoring the tournaments as much as I can


Lots of people use tournaments as scheduled open gaming. If you show up at this place at this time you will get to play this game with people who know how to play. There's some appeal in not having to hunt for players or teach.
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