The Big Con

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In the past month I've attended two board game conventions-- Seattle-based Sasquatch and Dallas-based BGG.CON.  On the surface they might seem like two very similar offerings, since both were multi-day events at hotel ballrooms where attendees played board games from morning to night.  Both had special events-- a game show, a puzzle hunt, the Artemis starship simulator-- and both ran from Wednesday through Sunday.  At both events, I'm an invited guest and sing for my supper in the form of a game show event that I run on Saturday night.  But the cons are quite different, and the difference comes down to a matter of scale and priority.

BGG.CON had about 2000 attendees this year, a dramatic increase over last year's 1200.  Sasquatch had only about 80.  At Sasquatch, all the hot games from Essen make their first local appearance, and while older games are also available the focus is really on trying out the new goodies.  The hotness is also in evidence at BGG.CON where an entire room is devoted to nothing but the new, but a library of over 4000 games is also available for everyone to use.  The result is that as you walk around the ballroom, you see everything from newly punched sprues to dust-covered boxes.

At BGG.CON, I never manage to actually play very much.  This year, I got in 3 games of Suburbia (the only Essen game I'm certain to buy) and one each of CopyCat, Urbania, Tichu, Cheeky Monkey, Fleet, Tweeet, Unexpected Treasures, and City Tycoon.  That's over a span of about 4 days.  I suspect if you surveyed the 2,000 attendees, you'd find that my record is among the lowest of all-- even worse than some people who only showed up for a day.  How can I be there for so long and play so little?  Playing games really isn't why I'm at BGG.CON.  First and foremost, I'm there to host the game show.  That means some of my time is spent going over preparations, setting up the room, coordinating with the staff, and so forth-- not to mention running the show itself, which this year involved three back-to-back-to-back shows from 8 PM to almost 2 AM.  A bunch of my time was spent outside of the hotel on dining expeditions.  BBQ is a priority for me when I'm in Dallas, since you really can't get it in Seattle, and this year's discovery of the Pecan Lodge was a delight.  It was so good, I went there for lunch two days in a row (the brisket and pulled pork were fantastic, but the Hot Mess was why I'll go back again next year).  Most of these trips this year were made with friends, but often I go with people I barely even know, and that conviviality is one of the highlights of the experience for me.  There's something great about strangers in a strange town going out to dinner together.  The rest of my time is spent hanging out with friends I generally only see at this event.  If we manage to play some games at the same time, so much the better-- but I'm just as happy to kick back and flap our gums for a spell.  Some of my favorite times at BGG.CON have been the late-night chats with staffers like Jon and Lanie Theys, the kinds of chats that make you wish they all lived in Seattle instead of a few thousand miles away.

Sasquatch is a completely different story.  I know almost everyone at Sasquatch, so whatever game I wind up in, there's a foundation of familiarity and relaxed camaraderie.  I'm happy to play with just about anyone.  Finding a group isn't a problem.  Games are therefore the focus of the event.  The chance to hang out with someone doesn't compete with the chance to get in another game of New Greatness.  I'm there to play.  Meals and snacks are included as part of the event, which has a profound positive effect.  You don't need to figure out when and where to go for food-- it just comes to you, and you barely have to leave the game table to take advantage.  The smaller and more intimate setting ironically made it easier for me to get into a game, which meant I played more games at Sasquatch.

If I know you and you want to get in on the Sasquatch action, drop me a note-- the event is invitation only, but invitations are pretty freely extended.  In addition to the main event in late October, there are four free game days throughout the year.  The next one is 1/26, then there's another in May, and again in August.

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