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Subject: How would I go about organising a game con? rss

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John Farrell
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I have got myself in with this bad bunch that regularly runs Warhammer conventions. They suggested I could maybe run a board game con. The idea has merit, but I want to think it out pretty hard before I commit to anything. My particular difficulty is that I have only been to one con myself, so I don't have much of an idea of what I am aiming at.

Let me throw some concepts at you, and tell me what you think.

Advertising - I would be hoping to attract 60+ players. How do I find them? How do I convince them to travel to attend?

Traders - the club has good contacts with the shops, getting traders along shouldn't be much of a problem. How much notice do they need?

Canteen - people won't stay if they are starving to death. The club has experience in staffing a canteen.

Tournaments - How are tournaments generally run? Where do you get prizes from? What's a prize table all about anyway? Where do I get 5 copies of Settlers?

Free Gaming - What if the unwashed hordes lose one of my Stink Beans? How will I cope? Where can you get games for free gaming?

Kids - I love my boy, he is well behaved. That is not always the case at cons.

Admission - How much admission would you pay for a 2 day event?

Venue - the club has a regular venue which is suitable, and owns more tables than you can roll a dice at.

Splainers - This worries me most. We're not going to have everyone playing Monopoly all the time. Someone's gotta teach them Bohnanza and San Juan. If I have 60 players, I might need up to 15 splainers to keep them settled. How do I get people to commit to a weekend of teaching games, even if I can find them?

Crass Commercialism - My initial feeling is that there is no point teaching Caylus in Brisbane, because you just cannot buy that game here, and you may never be able to. I would like to ask the traders what Euros they sell, and teach those, so it would be San Juan and Bohnanza and Tutankhamen and Kahuna and Roborally. But what about Munchkin, they sell a lot of that, and Cluedo and the Game of Life and Scrabble? Can I draw a line? Where?

Any ideas would be much appreciated. If anybody has done this before and can send me their well-organised dossier, I'd be very appreciative. If anyone wants to push a barrow, this is as good a time as any :-).

John
 
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I haven't the slightest idea, but this recent Tom Vasel interview was interesting reading...

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/684709#684709
 
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Fraser
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Friendless wrote:
I have got myself in with this bad bunch that regularly runs Warhammer conventions. They suggested I could maybe run a board game con. The idea has merit, but I want to think it out pretty hard before I commit to anything. My particular difficulty is that I have only been to one con myself, so I don't have much of an idea of what I am aiming at.

Let me throw some concepts at you, and tell me what you think.


Firstly where I am coming from. I used to go to a lot of roleplaying game conventions and also was one of the organisers of of the big ones in Melbourne for many, many years. My convention organising and attendence days came to an end when Daughter the Elder arrived, we just didn't have the spare time to commit to that sort of thing anymore. The convention I was involved in ran a three and half day event annually which peaked at over 500 attendance in the glory days and settled down to around 300 in later years.

One clear advantage of an RPG convention over a board games convention that I can see is that you, the convention organiser, dictate how long games will take. The tournaments were designed to run for two and half hours in a three hour reserved block. That way everyone started pretty much at the same time and also finished at the same time and the next session could start quite smoothly. Not really possible with board games, you can pretty much guarantee that the High Society game will be finished before the Civilization game meeple

Firstly, you probably want to decide on what your target audience is, or who you would like to get. Off the top of my head the categories are:
d10-1 Gamer Gamers, i.e. already serious gamers who have quite a few games of their own, but would be coming along to meet new gamers, play with new people and to play games that they haven't been able to play before because they either haven't got a copy, or nobody in their group wants to play. They probably buy games from OS or down South. These people would mostly look after themselves.
d10-2 Quasi Euro Gamers. They have probably already got Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne and are interested or open to trying other things. Given a copy of the game and one or two people willing to teach newbies they are probably good to go.
d10-3 The Monopoly types. Your advertising has got them curious, they are going to require more hand holding than group d10-2


Friendless wrote:
Advertising - I would be hoping to attract 60+ players. How do I find them? How do I convince them to travel to attend?

60+ That's a good venue! Type d10-1 and d10-2 you could probably find via here, local games shops, local games groups and clubs (both board games and roleplaying games - for a long time all my gaming friends were both roleplaying and board gaming gamers). Type d10-3 would require more effort and $, probably general advertising which is somewhat expensive and no real guaranteed return.

Convincing them to travel. Difficult. Something about your event has to attract them, either the games or the people that they are not going to get at home. More difficult for the first instance of a small event.

Friendless wrote:
Traders - the club has good contacts with the shops, getting traders along shouldn't be much of a problem. How much notice do they need?

As much as possible. I would have thought at least a couple of months would be nice. Especially if they are going to do free advertising all that time.

Friendless wrote:
Canteen - people won't stay if they are starving to death. The club has experience in staffing a canteen.

Good. Pre-registration helps with budgeting the canteen supplies.

Friendless wrote:
Tournaments - How are tournaments generally run?

A murky area. In my personal opinion, Euro games for more than two players are not at all well suited to tournament play.
Friendless wrote:
Where do you get prizes from?

Sponsors or convention funds
Friendless wrote:
What's a prize table all about anyway?

Some sort of junket. Beats me, never has existed at any roleplaying convention.
Friendless wrote:
Where do I get 5 copies of Settlers?
Sponsors, convention funds or mates.

Friendless wrote:
Free Gaming - What if the unwashed hordes lose one of my Stink Beans? How will I cope? Where can you get games for free gaming?

A risk/expense of the convention, or they are donated by the sponsors. Otherwise people are bringing their own games.

Friendless wrote:
Kids - I love my boy, he is well behaved. That is not always the case at cons.
Needs to be an upfront policy decision (and once made it should be adhered to).

Friendless wrote:
Admission - How much admission would you pay for a 2 day event?
Your budget should tell your overall cost is going to be and your expected number of entrants. That will set your minimum price. My gut feel for a childless individual $15-$30. But I am neither, so what would I know!

Friendless wrote:
Venue - the club has a regular venue which is suitable, and owns more tables than you can roll a dice at.

Are their adult size chairs to go with all those tables? And is available without outsourcing your son? If so you are a lucky lucky man.

Friendless wrote:
Splainers - This worries me most. We're not going to have everyone playing Monopoly all the time. Someone's gotta teach them Bohnanza and San Juan. If I have 60 players, I might need up to 15 splainers to keep them settled. How do I get people to commit to a weekend of teaching games, even if I can find them?

Don't really know. Your type d10-1 players would automagically fill this sort of role, as would some of the type d10-2 players. That's pretty much how it worked at ConVic. Grab a game, or probably more to the point grab someone who knows game X, then grab game X and then grab a suitable number of players. It sounds chaotic and generally is, but it can work.

Friendless wrote:
Crass Commercialism - My initial feeling is that there is no point teaching Caylus in Brisbane, because you just cannot buy that game here, and you may never be able to. I would like to ask the traders what Euros they sell, and teach those, so it would be San Juan and Bohnanza and Tutankhamen and Kahuna and Roborally. But what about Munchkin, they sell a lot of that, and Cluedo and the Game of Life and Scrabble? Can I draw a line? Where?

Teaching what is available is a good point. However your type d10-1 players will probably bring along Caylus and the other unobtainables. If they are bringing them they will want to play them and may even deem to play them with others. Hey it might even convince the local trader(s) that perhaps they should broaden their range.


Anyway I have never and do not intend in the near future to run a board games convention, well other than KiddieCon, but that realistically is unlikely to top 20 people, but that's my brain dump for now. Let me know if there is anything particularly stupid or worth attempting to expand on.
 
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Please send me a message if and when you finalize a date - I may be keen to pop across the ditch !
 
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David Fair
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Friendless wrote:
I have got myself in with this bad bunch that regularly runs Warhammer conventions. They suggested I could maybe run a board game con. The idea has merit, but I want to think it out pretty hard before I commit to anything. My particular difficulty is that I have only been to one con myself, so I don't have much of an idea of what I am aiming at.

Let me throw some concepts at you, and tell me what you think.


OK, i will answer based on what I know of convention organization from my association with GCoM's GameDays & EuroQuest, and PrezCon, and others

Quote:
Advertising - I would be hoping to attract 60+ players. How do I find them? How do I convince them to travel to attend?

I would recommend you advertise here, by buying a text ad, and to get word out to as many large groups to spread the word as possible. Inform GCoM, the CABbieS, the BPA, the Denver Boardgamers, etc.

Quote:
Traders - the club has good contacts with the shops, getting traders along shouldn't be much of a problem. How much notice do they need?

I think a good amount of time, 6 months or more, would be ideal.

Quote:
Canteen - people won't stay if they are starving to death. The club has experience in staffing a canteen.

Umm, sounds like you are considering holding this somewhere where you have more options. i would say make certain your location has plenty of eating choices nearby. Many people prefer to get away from the con to eat.

Quote:
Tournaments - How are tournaments generally run? Where do you get prizes from? What's a prize table all about anyway? Where do I get 5 copies of Settlers?

Contact the publishers, and see if you can get some donations, or a reduced price for prizes, if you feel you need them. Prize tables are done by the attendees: everyone brings a game, and everyone takes one. Think of it as a swap, or an Ultimate Trade list.

Quote:
Free Gaming - What if the unwashed hordes lose one of my Stink Beans? How will I cope? Where can you get games for free gaming?

Have the attendees bring them. Inform people that they need to take care of the games as if they were their own. People usually do. Have a good supply of ziplocs on hand, and keep lost and found bits box.

Quote:
Kids - I love my boy, he is well behaved. That is not always the case at cons.

Make sure parents know they have to keep their kids in line.

Quote:
Admission - How much admission would you pay for a 2 day event?

Two days? I likely would not attend unless it was least 4, unless it was very close by. If I have to travel, and stay in a hotel, i want more than 2 days out of it.Around $40-$60 seems good.

Quote:
Venue - the club has a regular venue which is suitable, and owns more tables than you can roll a dice at.

Make sure it is near a hotel, and get a convention room rate there. Or just have it the hotel.

Quote:
Splainers - This worries me most. We're not going to have everyone playing Monopoly all the time. Someone's gotta teach them Bohnanza and San Juan. If I have 60 players, I might need up to 15 splainers to keep them settled. How do I get people to commit to a weekend of teaching games, even if I can find them?

I don't see the need. Games have rules in the box, and people who are interested in that game can teach themselves. This is too hard to organize any other way.

If you have tournaments, make sure each tournament has a "judge" or GM, and make sure each of those games has one official demo time.

Quote:
Crass Commercialism - My initial feeling is that there is no point teaching Caylus in Brisbane, because you just cannot buy that game here, and you may never be able to. I would like to ask the traders what Euros they sell, and teach those, so it would be San Juan and Bohnanza and Tutankhamen and Kahuna and Roborally. But what about Munchkin, they sell a lot of that, and Cluedo and the Game of Life and Scrabble? Can I draw a line? Where?

Hold tournaments of what games you think will draw the most people. Let everyone who attends decides what to play by letting them bring the games, and everyone borrows from the common library (and takes excellent care of the games they use).
 
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David Fair
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Just saw that you were Down under, so my idea on contacting big US-based boardgame clubs may not help much.

Make sure you use BGG's geek datbase to contact potential attendees, and advertise in all your locaal game stores. Reach out to the RPG communities and miniatures, and advertise at their cons and events.
 
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Valdir Jorge
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Hi there!

Fraser wrote:
One clear advantage of an RPG convention over a board games convention that I can see is that you, the convention organiser, dictate how long games will take. [...] Not really possible with board games, you can pretty much guarantee that the High Society game will be finished before the Civilization game

Well, the CanGames (http://www.cangames.ca/) convention in Ottawa, Canada has a very interesting concept for this: three blocks of four hours during the day (9 am to 1 pm, 2 pm to 6 pm and 7 pm to 11 pm) and all games must follow these times. So, a longer game like Civilization would probably take two blocks (from 9 am to 6 pm, for instance) while shorter games would be coupled with other games to fill the four-hour slot. For instance, this year Maharaja had the first half of the Saturday afternoon and TtR had the second half. For next year I'll be trying my hand at GM'ing small card games like Take 6, Mamma Mia, Vom Kap bis Kairo and Bohnanza in one four-hour slot.
 
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Vickie Watson
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Hire me! I'd love to come to Australia!

Just kidding, of course...about the hiring part. Althought this is what I am working toward as a business, help in organizing/planning game conventions, I'm afraid my expertise is more limited to the USA. However, I can help in at least getting you thinking about a few things.

And if you would like to correspond directly to me via email, you can reach me at: vwatson99@jam.rr.com

Ok, first thing you need to decide on is what type of Boardgame Convention do you want? Are you wanting this to be profitable or just for fun (to break even in money)? Invitation only, Open to everyone, but pre-registraion required, or Open to everyone and allow walk-ins, daily?

Secondly, you'll need to decide if you want to follow a strict schedule of only tournaments with very little open gaming, or a lot of open gaming with very few tournaments, or a good mixture of both.

Once these things are decided, you can move forward to how long to hold the convention, how much to charge, sponsors, etc. As I said, I would be happy to correspond with you via email and help you with general questions. You would definitely need about 6 months to get everything organized and planned, but with a good plan and a lot of follow up, you can have a very successful Con.
 
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John,

Maybe I should have started the previous reply with a little about myself in case you had not been reading about BGG.con. Derk and Aldie pulled me in to help them with the organizing and planning of BGG.con because of my involvement in another convention, Gulf Games. Gulf Games was started by Greg Schloesser and 2 other families almost 8 years ago and is held twice a year.

Since the second Gulf Games, I have been heavily involved in the planning, organizing and decorating for every convention we have held, and we are coming up on number 17. Gulf Games is a little different from other BoardGame conventions. Our conventions are held in a different location each time, and so the planning/organizing is also different each time. Different hotels, different amount of space, etc.

Our convention is kept small, 80 to 125 people to keep the family closeness that we want. BGG.con was also different for me, and my first large convention. We had close to 300 people, but from the reviews we have been receiving, I think we can call it a success. And Derk and Aldie were extremely happy with my ideas and suggestions (and with the decorations) and I have become a permanent part of BGG.con of the future.

That being said, I am more than happy to discuss with you via email my ideas to help you in your venture to run a successful Con. In any case, I wish you the best.
 
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Daniel Edwards
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Your biggest issues with that number of people are:

1. venue; and

2. what people don't seem to realise when they embark on these things, public liability insurance.

If you organise a convention and someone gets hit in the eye with a meeple and needs surgery then you as the organiser may be exposed to some liability for that injury.

Now obviously all sorts of events get organised all the time without worrying about these things. I however wouldn't want to take that sort of risk with people I don't know.

Must organised groups and clubs should (emphasise should) have insurance and you may be able to get around that issue by running the event under their auspices.

I know that all sorts of events have been run in the past in conjunction with QUGS using the universities insurance and facilities (which also provides a discounted rate). You might like to contact the executives of the club in that regard.

Briscon has been run for many years. I don't know who the current organisers are but they may be able to assist as well.

I'd certainly attend if Im available and contribute with games. Id pay $30-40 for a weekend. Not sure about others though.
 
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John Farrell
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myopia wrote:
1. venue; and

2. what people don't seem to realise when they embark on these things, public liability insurance.


The good news is that those things are already sorted. The event would be run by the Queensland Gamers Guild which has public liability insurance, volunteer insurance, all the sorts of insurance that they've heard of. The venue would be the college where they run all of their events, including The Big Weekend which is much bigger than anything I am proposing. The only thing that is stopping me from running board games as a part of TBW is that there really is no more room for more players at the venue. QGG also has experience in running a canteen and arranging volunteers to staff it, e.g. they know other volunteer organisations to contact if they need them. The venue is a long block from Centro Toombul, and maybe 1 kilometre from the railway station but closer to bus stops on Sandgate Rd, and there is adequate parking for the proposed size of the event. There are also KFC, Pizza Hut, Super Chicken about 1 kilometre away at the corner of Junction Rd and Sandgate Rd.

I am really only thinking of a smallish event which will attract locals, but the one con I attended interstate was smaller. I can't think of much hotel accommodation in that area. If people want to commute from the city, it is only 20 minutes on the bus or train - I have walked that far in about 2 hours. I will have to investigate what other facilities are available in the area.
 
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