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IndyCon 2014: Why Small Conventions Are Great or How I’ll be Spending My Weekend

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IndyCon - The Room

For the past seven years there’s been one weekend each year where I clear my calendar and experience 3 days of board gaming bliss with many of my dear gaming friends.  I live in Indianapolis so it might seem relatively safe to assume that I’d be talking about Gen Con.  However, despite having lived here for nearly 3 years and in Indiana for almost 8 I have yet to attend Gen Con.  Crazy, I know.  In fact I used to live in Milwaukee, the previous home of GenCon and didn’t make it then either.  Sometimes things just don’t work out.  Instead I’d like to talk about another local convention here in Indianapolis that I have been able to attend every year since it started, IndyCon.  It’s small, friendly, and all about playing some games and having a good time.

What is IndyCon?

IndyCon - BannerBack in 2008 I decided to look for my very first board gaming group without knowing much about the hobby or what I might be getting myself into.  I lived in Muncie (about an hour north of Indianapolis) back then and found a group in Indy through BoardGameGeek.  I’m not really much of a social type but took a chance and checked it out, luckily I fit right in with the group.  Everyone was very friendly and accepting, it was exactly the group of people that I’d hoped to find and it didn’t hurt that they all liked to play games either.  Shortly after I joined they started talking about a small convention that they were hoping to start later in the year.  I had always thought of conventions as huge, loud affairs with hundreds or people packed into a convention center but this one was going to be a small, informal event with just friends and family of people in the group.  They were planning to rent out a hotel conference room for the weekend and just play games, simple as that.  It sounded perfect to me, I dislike crowds and all I want to do is play games anyways so what could be better?

Back then it was called Indy MiniCon because we didn’t get started until Friday afternoon and packed up early on Sunday but since then we’ve dropped the “Mini”, expanded to a larger space, and stretched it out to nearly three full days.  But we’ve worked to still keep it small and informal.  The game library is made up of personal collections from the people in attendance and grows throughout the day on Friday as people trickle in.  It is quite the site to behold.  There’s a feeling of community to amass and share our games.  Perhaps you’ve got some hard-to-find gem that someone else has been dying to try out or maybe you just ordered the latest and hottest new game that’s freshly punched and begging to be played.  Standing in front of the shelves filled with games on Friday morning is a thrilling moment.  There are so many possibilities for how to enjoy the next three days!  I like to tell people that if there’s something you want to play then chances are you’ll be able to find it and someone who will be more than happy to play (and teach).

Looking back at Previous Years

This will be the seventh year for IndyCon and I’m just as excited as ever, it’s become my staple favorite gaming weekend of the year.  But before I share the juicy details about how I plan to spend my coming weekend I’ll share a little bit about the previous six years.

IndyCon - Playing
Playing Railways of the World at IndyCon 2013

I went into the very first IndyCon with a simple plan: get in as much gaming as possible.  I’m not kidding, I showed up early and played games straight through the night and kept going well into the next night.  I don’t know exactly how long I played games for but it was probably around 30 hours straight or maybe a little more.  The details are hazy from that year and the next when I would basically do the same thing.  Even though I can’t recall the games that I played, I do remember being relatively new to board games so I was determined to try as many new games as possible.  Each new game was an exciting endeavor into mechanics that I had never seem before or an exploration of a new theme.  I’ve continued to use IndyCon to try out new games but have since sought to strike a balance between that and enjoying old favorites.

Beginning with the third year (2010) we moved to a different hotel that had a bigger conference room and started early on the first day.  By this point I had a crew of guys that stayed up all night gaming, it was quickly becoming our annual tradition.  With the earlier start time I was able to extend my streak for how long I could game, clocking in at 41 hours straight two years in a row.  Don’t worry, there were breaks for eating and other necessities but I was awake the whole time.  I’ve since been blessed with a wonderful daughter and come to value my sleep more dearly so this tradition came to a stop in 2012.  I still stay up late into the night but have outgrown my crazy days of gaming until I drop.

One of the gaming highlights throughout the years has been the Crokinole tournament that started in 2011.  You see I’m Canadian and grew up playing Crokinole so it’s a truly nostalgic experience for me to get to play it as an adult.  There was a lot of pressure as the resident Canadian to represent my country in the tournament.  It was perhaps my proudest moment from that year when I came through and won much like the Canadians often do in Hockey or Curling.

There have been many other games and memorable moments throughout the years.  I distinctly remember trying out Battlestar Galatica for the first time late one night and had it come down to the very last turn in a last ditch effort to pull off the win.  I also remember trying to wrap my mind around Troyes at about 30 hours into one of my game binges (it didn’t go well but I still enjoyed it).  I even did the unthinkable and played a game of Founding Fathers because it was literally the only open game late one night, I enjoyed the company but not the game.  I’ve played some of my favorite games for the first time (London, Homesteaders, Keyflower) and there are others that I don’t often get to play that finally make it to the table (Sid Meier’s Civilization, Railroad Tycoon, Galaxy Trucker, Power Grid).  There was that time that I got saved from a game of Arkham Horror before I knew any better.  And then there was the year that Wolfie attended and I like to think that it inspired him to make this blog into what it is today.  Each year there is also a raffle for dozens of games that get donated by our wonderful sponsors.  I’ve picked up a couple gems that may not have made it into my collection otherwise (Furstenfeld, Fealty, Metro, Dream Factory).

For those that want the extended details, I’ve chronicled that last four years on BGG with riveting geeklists (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013).  It’s exciting stuff but I won’t have my feelings hurt if you decide not to click on those links, I promise.  Sniff.

What I’m hoping to play this year

Enough nostalgia, it’s time to move on to IndyCon 2014.  By the time you reading this I will either be waiting impatiently for the doors to open, setting up my first game, or well into a marathon of gaming (or perhaps sadly packing up and heading home).  If there’s anything that I’ve learned from previous years it’s to come prepared so here’s my lengthy and unrealistic list of all the games that I’m hoping to play.

IndyCon - Library
So many games to pick from!

Crokinole - ThumbCrokinole tournament – I failed to mention that I have yet to repeat my first place performance since the first tournament.  I’m hungry for another win and the stakes have been raised since that first year with a Crokinole board now going to the winner.  I got a shirt when I won.  I’m not bitter or anything.

Race For The Galaxy - ThumbRace for the Galaxy (draft) – I love Race for the Galaxy but there’s an extra special draft variant that makes me absolutely giddy.  It takes a group of experienced Race players to even consider wanting to play this way and every year I seek out enough players crazy enough to try it out with me.  This year I’m hoping to try a draft with Alien Artifacts and see what kind of crazy combos we can pull off.  Wish me luck!

Railways of the World - ThumbRailways of the World (possibly transcontinental) – I try to get this one in every year with relatively good consistency.  We’ve always wanted to try out a transcontinental game and I put out a call for a game first thing on Friday morning.  If we get enough players to show up then we may actually get to pull it off this year.  Regardless of player count I always enjoy a good game of Railways.

Homesteaders - ThumbHomesteaders – I learned this for the first time at last year’s IndyCon and absolutely loved it right from the beginning.  I picked up a copy of the first edition in a math trade shortly after and then waited patiently for a chance to finally get the second edition.  I finally succeeded earlier this year and have been itching to play my brand new (to me) copy.

Keyflower - ThumbKeyflower – I also learned this one last year but unlike Homesteaders it didn’t click right away.  But it did lodge itself in my brain and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  It’s still stuck in my head but I’ve finally come to realize with how good of a game it is.  I’ve been on a quest to play it as much as possible this year and I’m hoping IndyCon will be no exception.

Snowdonia - ThumbSnowdonia – I’ve really been wanting to play this but I’ll need to be the one doing the teaching and haven’t previously made the time to really absorb the rules.  I sat down with them for the second time earlier this week and along with a partial learning game I’m hoping it will be enough to get the rules right on my first outing.  This is supposed to be a relatively quick one so maybe I can even get it in a couple of times.

Ginkgopolis - ThumbGinkgopolis – This one’s on the list because Ginkgopolis is amazing and I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t include it as a game that I absolutely want to play.  Will it win out over all the new hotness?  I certainly hope so but I’m not the one that will need to be convinced to play it.

Voluspa: Order of the Gods - ThumbVoluspa: Order of the Gods – I preordered this and wasn’t expecting to get it so soon but Stronghold had extra copies so they sent out some of their preorders early.  I was fortunate enough to be one of the lucky ones but alas, I haven’t gotten the chance to try it out yet.  It’s pretty quick so maybe I can get it in as a filler inbetween other games.

Sid Meier's Civilization - ThumbSid Meier’s Civilization – I try to play this one every year with some experienced players so that it can go at a decent pace.  We have a crew of people lined up to play but no time set to play it so we’ll see if it happens.  I recently traded this out of my collection so I’d really enjoy getting the chance to play it again.

The New Science - ThumbThe New Science – There were a number of people from my group that were asking to play this one and I jumped at the opportunity for some old fashion scientific fun.  I’m very much looking forward to many successful experiments and prestigious publications.

Russian Railroads - ThumbRussian Railroads – I played this one for the first time a couple of weeks ago and was amazed at the sheer number of options for point scoring.  I picked a pretty straight forward path and stuck with it during my first game but have wanted to revisit the game for more adventurous experimentation.  The more I think about it the more I want to play this again.  Maybe this will be one to play a couple times if I continue to enjoy it?

Terra Mystica - ThumbTerra Mystica – I played this some time last year and was blown away by how smoothly it played considering how much was going on.  Everything just seemed to work together so naturally.  I’ve been wanting to revisit it but haven’t quite gotten the chance.  It seems IndyCon is as good a time as any to finally give it a second play.

Nations - ThumbNations – I’ve played this twice and been really impressed with it both times.  I’d like to play it without any new players so that it can go a little quicker than my previous games but it’s not an absolute deal breaker.  If it wasn’t so long it might even be one that I’d want to get in several games of, we’ll see.

Glass Road - ThumbGlass Road – I was disappointed by this one when I tried it earlier this month but I’d really like to give it a second chance before it joins the ranks of Ora Et Labora as an Uwe game that likely won’t see any more plays.  My first game was with 2 players so I’d like to try it with at least 3 for my second try.  Maybe I’ll have a change of heart?

Madeira - ThumbMadeira – Someone from my group recently picked this up and I know enough about it to want to try it out at least one time.  It seems there’s a lot going on so I’m curious if it will prove to be too much for me or if it will all fit together nicely.  I’m not going to be trying really hard to get it in but if the opportunity presents itself then I’d be happy to give it a go.

Will I do anything else?

IndyCon - Eating

Three days is a long time to just play games, right?  It never seems to feel that way by the end but as I’ve learned from years of pulling all nighters to pack in as much gaming as possible, having a balanced life is important.  So I’ve got some snacks packed and plans for dinner each night, that should give me the energy I need to make until Sunday.  And as with the last several years I plan to get some sleep so that I can actually function properly after the con is over and my family needs me once more.  I’ve also got some friends that I’ve invited as well as some that I only see once a year at IndyCon so it would be nice to catch up with them.  Maybe over a game or just taking a break and chat.  As the years go by my urge to squeeze games into every single second has gone down and my desire to enjoy my company has gone up.  I would like to make an effort to simply enjoy some time away from my responsibilities, time to relax and fellowship with my fellow game enthusiasts.

That pretty much wraps it up.  I’ll be reporting back at the beginning of the week with my stories of another amazing IndyCon.  We’ll see how my actual games played lined up with what I had hoped for.  Maybe there will be a couple surprises along the way (and hopefully no disappointments).  In the mean time feel free to share your own stories from conventions that you’ve attended, big or small.  Are you lucky enough to have a local convention or two?  Or do you like to hit the road and attend the big shows to get a sneak peak at all the newest games?

I love optimization and engine games with tableau builders and card driven ones being my favorite. This usually means medium-heavy euros and medium-light card games.

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