tl;dr Orccon 2016 = So. Much. Fun.
In hindsight, it probably wasn’t a good idea to watch the Deadpool premiere late Thursday night before going to Orccon 2016 the next day. I was in a sleep-deprived haze throughout my time at the gaming convention, but it didn’t slow me down. Being amongst my fellow gamers gave me the energy to play games and enjoy the festivities for two days.
Three times a year Strategicon events take over the L.A. Airport Hilton. Orccon (President’s Day weekend), Gamex (Memorial Day weekend), and Gateway (Labor Day weekend) offer gamers a plethora of gaming opportunities and board gamers, computer and video gamers, RPGers, LARPers, miniatures gamers, war gamers, and more all had a place to pursue their passions.
After a quick stop to pick up my badge (and a much-needed discounted parking pass), it was on like Donkey Kong. I entered the main ballroom to find game events, demonstrations, and tournaments already underway and before I knew it I was at a table for my first Gaming 101: a demo of Perpetual-Motion Machine. The host Jaye quickly explained the rules of this poker-hand-based game and we played a short session before the tournament, which I opted out of to see more of the convention.
Wandering around the ballroom was a real treat, something I did quite a few times; there was something for everyone. I saw Tsuro, Dead of Winter, Thurn & Taxis, Twilight Imperium, Liar’s Dice, Yahtzee, Tokaido, Boss Monster, No Thanks!, Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, Zombicide: Black Plague, and many more on the tabletops. Moods were light and friendly, as long-time friends caught up with each other and new friendships were forged between dice rolls and card flips.
There was a Catan National Qualifier and it was interesting to see the demographics of the convention change while it was on. Younger players, more women, and more people of color were in the event and for that alone, I’m grateful for Catan. Hate all you want, game snobs, but if Catan can get more people from various backgrounds into our hobby, then I’m a Catan fan for life.
I continued to explore every level, room, nook, and cranny of the Orccon on this first day. There were several rooms for RPGers, a large room for collectible games, and a small area for family-friendly gaming. I peeked into rooms that had D&D or wargame battles going on, I stopped by tables full of miniatures and dice, and I found the Open Gaming area on the lower lobby level. As noted by Orccon veterans, Open Gaming could use improved air circulation and cellular reception before it sheds its unofficial designation as The Dungeon.
The Dealer Room opened at 5pm and I found myself drooling over Broken Token’s Star Wars: Imperial Assault organizer. The Monstore and The Board of Games had a ton of games for sale and Dapper Dealer had a lot of cool tokens and what-not to bling out your games. There were various other companies hawking their goods as well, but I made sure not to spend too much time in the Dealer Room.
I was back in Open Gaming when I noticed three young people opening up a brand new copy of Flick ‘Em Up. I’ve wanted to play it for months and they kindly let me join them. After we’d punched out the tokens and assembled the town, we split into teams and happily took turns shooting at each other. Justin and Elise were the villains that eventually overran my and Deputy Bradley’s peaceful town. Fun game, good people. It was what Orccon was all about: meeting like-minded folk eager to play games, without judgment. There are no strangers at Orccon, just a lot of potential gaming buddies.
My body wanted to sleep in, but my mind convinced it to spend a full day at Orccon, so off I went to L.A. I got there at 9am, walked around and was getting ready to game when I realized that I had some work that needed to be finished. Ugh. Thankfully, the Hilton’s wi-fi and my half-awake brain were up to the task. I found an empty table near a father and son playing the Ticket to Ride 1910 Expansion, gave them a mental thumbs-up, sat down and opened up my laptop.
After I was done I went to the Games Library and borrowed a copy of Dominion Intrigue. Nothing like a relaxing round or two of a classic deck-builder to start the rest of my day, right? I walked downstairs to Open Gaming and the first table I saw was covered in Dominion boxes: the base game and nearly every expansion was there and my favorite sign (“Player Wanted”) was visible, so I joined Bill and after consulting his phone’s Dominion randomizer app, we were pulling decks from nearly every box. I hadn’t played with a few of the expansions and Bill was kind enough to offer some friendly pointers during the game we played with Matt.
I went back upstairs for the official Virtual Flea Market meetup in the main lobby. It was a terrific sight: dozens of gamers completing sales and trades they’d agreed to online. Being able to grow my modest game collection at reasonable prices was a godsend and I made sure to only buy smaller games since I didn’t want my backpack to turn me into a hunchback.
The main ballroom was packed and the action was similar to Friday: tons of events and demos at every single table. As of press time, the final attendance figures weren’t available, but Mei Dean Francis, Strategicon Director of Marketing and Public Relations, estimated over 2,000 people for the weekend.
There was a kids’ X-Wing tournament happening, and a lot more miniatures were out. I stopped by Paint-and-Take area, watching others paint figures, admiring their skills, and thinking about when I would tackle my Imperial Assault painting project.
Next, I went down the Math Trade area where I was waiting for my last purchase. I ran into my gaming buddy Patrick and his brother, who were also waiting to complete some sales. They were going to play in the Gruff event and had some time to spare, so they played a learning game with me (I liked it and want to play it again since I’m still wrapping my head around using the terms Fat and Crazy as character attributes).
Back at Open Gaming I saw Johnny and Fred, two of my other regular gaming buddies. I watched as they finished Pandemic: The Cure and joined them and two others for a fun game of Camel Up. Next, Johnny, Fred, his wife Rosie, and I played Tokaido with the Crossroads expansion and then Roll Through the Ages. After a delicious and cheap dinner from a nearby taco truck (have I mentioned how much I love L.A.?), I played Evolution with Johnny and Thomas, another one of my gaming buddies.
It was late when I got home and I gave my wife a recap of the day, just as I had the night before. This time, though, I surprised her with the near-new copy of Word on the Street I scored at the flea market. I gave her a quick rundown of the rules, played a sample round, and she loved it. It was the perfect end to a perfect two days of gaming.
While eating at the hotel is convenient, get some fresh air and walk to the Mariella’s Tacos food truck down the street for delicious Mexican street food. Cheap tacos and burritos are available, along with tasty drinks like horchata and agua frescas. On the night I ate there, they were serving an awesome birria (goat stew) taco that was by far my favorite meal of the weekend. I also opted for the spicy hot sauce, which had my mouth on fire for a few minutes; thankfully, the ice-cold pina agua frescas (pineapple drink) helped me regain my taste buds.