Board game conventions are an outstanding way to meet new gamers, see the latest products, play some games, and connect with the community. In a perfect world we’d all go to Gen Con, PaxU, and Essen – play the hottest new games, eat killer local food, and stay up all night for weeks on end.
Unfortunately, few of us always have tons of time for every awesome convention that comes up. Maybe work is always pressing in August or your best friend’s wedding is smack in the middle of Origins. Life has a way of getting in the way of life sometimes. But don’t skip a board game event opportunity just because it can’t be the perfect, optimal experience! With a little forethought you can have your con-cake and eat it too!
1 – Buy EARLY. In addition to getting a discount, you’ll likely be able to get your ticket shipped to you or at least be fast tracked by print outs if you buy your pass and/or event tickets months ahead of time. Standing in a Will Call line stinks, especially for bigger cons like Gen Con where the wait can easily be two hours.
2 – One day tickets. Most cons offer a one day option. While one day may not be enough time to see EVERYTHING at the convention center, its usually just fine for hitting the highlights and still getting to spend a few hours on the thing you enjoy the most (game demos, shopping, discussion panels, etc.)
3 – Go early, or late. Thursdays and Sundays are typically the least busy days of a convention. Beating the crowd means you’ll spend less time waiting to get the attention of your favorite publisher or trying out the new hotness.
4 – Find a map. Looking for a map online can save you hours of aimless wandering. Don’t depend on getting a map at the con (sometimes these disappear fast). At the very least, find a map of the convention cente, so when your favorite media personalities says they’ll be in Room 123 you’ll know exactly where to go.
5 – Have a Plan. Events, demos, guest appearances and the like are announced ahead of the actual convention dates. Take a half hour on the bus or during lunch to plan out which events you really want to attend.
6 – Dress comfortably. We have all worn those fantastic 4 inch heels out for the night and wound up home hours before the club closed with aching arches. Do yourself a favor and go casual. Whatever you’re the most comfy in, whether its yoga pants or a cute sundress, keep heavy shoulder bags, painful shoes, and too-tight jeans in the closet for another day.
7 – Bring the kids. No sitter? No problem. Many conventions now offer family days (most often Sundays) and cheaper priced kid’s tickets as well as spaces for kids to game. Negate the pick up/drop off delay and introduce the munchkins to your favorite hobby.
8 – Or Don’t. We love ’em, but sometimes crowds and small kids aren’t the best mix, especially with limited time. Exchange play dates with a friend or hire a local college student to give you a a day to explore without kid-wrangling.
9 – Ask around. Board game social media is filled with fantastic folk that are happy to answer questions and give advice. Crowd source your big questions. Contact your favorite vlogger or writer for spicifics, particularly if your likes and life path seem to be similar and you think their advice would be handy. Those in the know are usually happy to share.
10 – Enjoy. Don’t cram 11 events into 9 hours. Don’t try and fit in EVERY demo. Nothing will burn you out and leave you hangry, exhausted, and unproductive for days after faster than over doing it. Set a few small goals and above all – HAVE FUN!
Whether you’re there for an afternoon of casual gaming or 4 days worth of events, panels, and midnight werewolf, everyone should get to enjoy at least one great convention experience. Don’t let time be your limiter!
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. ~ JRR Tolkien