This year your friendly neighborhood knightly news guy made the rounds at various Southern California gaming events. And, yes, I was rocking my favorite shirt at each one (don’t worry, I washed it after every wearing). Here’s a look back at some of the highlights on the tabletop.
Gamex (May 27-30)
I managed to enjoy two half-days at Gamex, the second of Strategicon’s tri-annual gaming conventions in Los Angeles. Not only did I have a bachelor party to attend on Friday night in Pasadena, but I was also going to the big Star Wars Reads event in Rancho Cucamonga over the weekend. Yes, this meant a handful of one-hour-plus drives between the Inland Empire and L.A., but that was fine by me. Board games, Star Wars, and bachelor party shenanigans made the whole hectic weekend worth it.
Gamex was again held at the LAX Hilton and it didn’t seem as crowded as February’s Orccon. I arrived on Friday afternoon, wandered around the lobby, and found gamers playing Pandemic Legacy. After I checked out a Mystic Vale demo in the main hall I got to meet one of my favorite board game Tweeters, @MeepleLady. We quickly bonded over our shared Filipino heritage and Southern California roots as we talked about local spots and favorite eateries. We chatted for a bit before she started a game of Thurn & Taxis and I went to Open Gaming to play games with new and old friends before I made my way through L.A. to Pasadena. Not an easy feat on a Friday of a three-day weekend, but you do what you have to do.
I survived the bachelor party and the next day I was back at the Hilton for the weekend madness. I ran into Todd, the organizer of the Virtual Flea Market, and picked up my auction win from him, a like-new copy of Saint Malo (buying games for less than half of retail is a favorite hobby of mine). I’d just participated in a math trade on boardgamegeek.com and I didn’t have anything for the Gamex Math Trade, but it was another successful trade according to organizer Rick Baptist: “The average rate of successes in math trades is about 17 percent, and we routinely see 25 to 35 percent. One time we had 51 percent which created a HUGE amount of trades.” For those who haven’t participate in a math trade before, Rick said, “Math trades can seem daunting to a newbie but it’s really not that difficult once you do it one time. It’s a great tool that allows you to have complete control of what you want to trade for what.” This link has some good information for those uninitiated in the ways of the Math Trade.
Back in the dealer’s room I chatted with Michael Coe of Gamelyn Games, producers of one of my favorites last year, Tiny Epic Galaxies. I was so excited about the Tiny Epic Galaxies expansion Into the Black that I forgot to ask him about Air Land and Sea, which they were promoting. Oops.
Finally, I travelled back downstairs to Open Gaming, which is my favorite part of any gaming convention. I enjoy the upstairs gaming activities in the main hall, but Open Gaming is where it’s at for me. I can game with a few of my friends here, but I can also make new friends as well, thanks to the “Player Wanted” signs at so many tables. And, best of all, all kinds of games are here, from the newest and shiniest to the vintage and obscure. One of the games I’d been dying to try was Quadropolis and thanks to @MeepleLady and her friend Mark, I was able to play the game, which I thoroughly enjoyed. New games and new friends: the sign of any good gaming event.
Monstore Game Days (June 11 and September 7)
Every three months or so, The Monstore gaming store hosts an open game day. While this isn’t a convention per se, it is a solid day of gaming widely attended by local residents. Tabletop action takes place in the store’s huge open play area and there are several events throughout the day. There’s also a raffle with several prizes given away, the ever-popular game auction with deals galore, and just for good measure your five-dollar admission fee includes a few slices of pizza.
I attended the June and September game days and ran into a few of my regular gaming buddies at each one and got to play a few new-to-me games, including The Refuge: A Race for Survival and Hit Z Road (which I ended up reviewing here).
Gateway (September 2-5)
On Labor Day weekend I found myself back at the LAX Hilton for the third of the Strategicon conventions, Gateway. Like Orccon and Gamex the main hall was where most of the action happened, as games of all sorts were being demo’ed and played. The Boardgaming 101 sessions were again a big hit as players could sign up for a one-hour tutorial session of a particular game before plunging into a tournament. As always, the liveliest bunch of gamers was at the Circus Maximus game, where leader Jamie Vann led the chants of “Flip! Flip! Flip!” among the players and their chariots. I made a mental note to play this one at the next convention, if only to participate in that chant.
I met Geoffrey Greer of Past Go and talked about his latest game, the solo Sans Allies, which had just been fully funded on Kickstarter. I also demo’ed his Parenthood, a funny card game about raising children. Fast forward a few months and I ran into him again and bought the final version of Sans Allies.
Down in Open Gaming, lots of post-Gen-Con games were being played, with Terraforming Mars being the big hit. I hung out with my regular gaming friends and we played Rolling America before I went back upstairs to take photos of the gaming action.
However, the highlight for me at Gateway was hanging out with my old friend Rick, who made the trip up at the last minute. We caught up with each other’s lives, then grabbed a table in the hotel lobby to roll dice, flip cards, and challenge each other during games of The Manhattan Project: Card Game, Diamonds, Paperback, and Tiny Epic Galaxies.
Long Beach Comic Con (September 17-18)
Back in March I went to the LBCC’s sister event, the Long Beach Comic Expo, which earned rave reviews from yours truly as a reasonable facsimile of the original SDCC, back before it became a nearly overwhelming monstrosity. The LBCC was like an extension of the March festivities; consider it Days 3 and 4 of the Long Beach Comic Expo, just a few months later.
Like the first convention, comics were at the forefront. Cosplayers were everywhere, seemingly in every nook and cranny of the convention center. In the back of the hall was the tabletop area, with AEG, Cool Mini Or Not, Steve Jackson Games, and Renegade Game Studios represented. Once again I ran into Brian from AEG, who always does a bang-up job of teaching the games from AEG’s catalog. This time, he taught Greedy Greedy Goblins, the real-time game from Richard Garfield. Later I came back for my first play of Dice Heist, which was a good filler game.
I also got to drool over the Kickstarter edition of The Others: 7 Sins. While it wasn’t being demo’ed when I was there, I got to check out all of the minis and get pumped about playing it someday. After I took a quick stroll around the convention (where I came across an early preview of the Evil Dead 2 game) I came back for a final game of Cartoon Network Fluxxx. Not my favorite game, but it was nice respite from wandering the convention floor.
Overall, it was a fantastic year of attending gaming conventions. I may not have tried everything on The Hot List, but I did make new friends and reconnected with old friends as well. While I still haven’t made it to my personal Holy Trinity of Gaming Conventions (Gen Con, Origins, and BGG Con), I’m grateful for the hard-working folks who put on these events in my neck of the woods. There are a few more I’d like to attend next year, including Kingdom Con and EsCon, so hopefully I get all my ducks in a row so I can do even more gaming in 2017.