A couple of weeks back, I finally made it to my first gaming convention. I had originally planned to go to Gen Con this year, but decided to test the waters with a closer to home, easier to afford convention. Besides, one the guys in my gaming group is on the planning committee. I did not overly enjoy myself.
CarbonCon1. This was the first year that the con was known as CarbonCon (It being held in the small college town of Carbondale, Illinois). It used to be known as “Egyptian Campaign”, and was originally managed by the Southern Illinois Strategic Gaming Society. I always wanted to go, but could never mange it. After attendance slumped, our local gaming store, Castle Perilous took over for a few years. This year was the first year that Castle P wasn’t directly involved and the con was run under new management.
Now, in order to not have to pay registration fees, I agreed to run three events at the con. After all, I am a gamer, and what could be more fun than getting to run some games in return for getting to play a whole lot more of them? My schedule was:
Friday at 2:00, Lords of Waterdeep
Saturday at 7:00 Ultimate Werewolf
Sunday at 7:00 Long Live the King
I chose those games to run because I know that most people have heard of the first two. I expected them to fill reasonably quickly. In fact, I had high hopes that by signing up to run a group of up to 60(!) people through Ultimate Werewolf, I would get more than the usual five or six we get to play with. Long Live the King is more obscure and a lot more freeform. I wanted to expose players to a game they may not have encountered before.
So, I put in a request at work for the entire weekend off. I didn’t really expect to get it off, which is why I scheduled my events for the evening. In addition, I had made it known that if for some reason I couldn’t make it, my son would take over and take my badge, and run the selected games for me. As long as I didn’t end up closing one of those nights, I would have time to make it in. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was given all three days.
Friday was a half day at school for my son, so I picked him up, and we headed over. I made the mistake of neglecting to bring quarters. So when I arrived at the Student Center for the con, I had no place to park. I wasn’t too worried about it, since they all have credit card readers. Except that my card wouldn’t fit in. It turns out students have a special card they can use. Great. So I go looking or some free parking. I settle on the campus arena parking lot. After all, it’s the one place on campus that you can reasonably expect the public to use. Yeah, it’s a bit of a walk (…and I was dragging my chosen selection of games to play along with a bunch of games for auction). I get in, with a few minutes to spare to set up.
Now, the con was set up in one medium size room. Not too shabby given that it’s really a small con after all. They’ve blocked off one of the entrances, so you have to go past the registration desk to get in. There are numbers set up on various tables, and about a third of them are currently full of groups playing Pathfinder. The rest are more or less empty. Not a good sign. I get my registration done, and they show me where I am to set up.
It’s a small room. It’s around the corner from the main part of the con. There are no signs. One door, no windows, and absolutely no way for anyone to know I am there or that my game is ready to go. Oh, and it’s split between my game and another game unfortunate enough to get stuck in the back.
So I go check out the vendors, leaving my son to watch the table and to text me when we have players (though this is already half an hour past the start time). There are four of them, plus an artist. One is selling classic video gaming gear (at inflated prices), plus warhammer 40K miniatures. The next is our newest local gaming store (Fox Games) with a modest selection of stock. I take the opportunity to look over the box for a game (Doomtown: Reloaded) that they are giving away. I had already entered the drawing on facebook, so I thought it might be nice to know what it was I was potentially going to win. This vendor sold me “Legendary Encounters: Aliens”, and if I do a review again, that might be the first. (spoiler: I really like it!) They give me a t-shirt to go with it, so I thought was cool (though it was for the “vs. system” games, about which I know one thing: that it exists).
Vendor three was Card Masters, another recent startup in the area. My son and I usually swing by every Tuesday so he can play Pokemon the card game, and I bring a few games with me in the hopes of getting new people to play against. It was nice to see them there. Vendor four was a representative for Troll Lord games. He brought an entire table of Castles and Crusades stock. I really don’t think he made nearly enough in sales to justify bringing all of that with him, but…
I took my shiny new box of Aliens back to my room…no, no one had shown up yet. So I started sorting the cards. Long story short, the end of the event block came, and we started hanging out, looking for games to play. And there really weren’t. About 9, we packed it in, with plans to be in early Saturday. We get to the car…and we have a parking ticket. For parking in what should be the only public parking area on campus! Sigh.
Saturday, doesn’t fare much better. There is a silent auction, and if you are willing to pay a small fee, you can keep the proceeds. So I set up all of the games I’ve been carting around, with pretty clear starting bids that are just high enoug that anything that sells, sells for enough to pay the fee. I try to get into the Munchkin Quest game. Only the girl who was going to run it has lost it. So we end up playing Revolution instead. I lose. I meet a couple of new people, have fun playing Munchkin, Dominion, a few other small games, but spend most of it listening to the Troll Lords rep endlessly brag about how he got the job as their rep. For hours.
Then my evening block arrives (Ultimate Werewolf). This time they give me a larger table in the main area to work with. Now, in the weeks leading up to the con, on the con registration page, I know I have at least one player interested. She’s been volunteering for the con. I’ve talked with her a few times, making sure she at least is still interested. No one signs up, or expresses interest. In fact, the game is set up to run at the same time the cosplay contest is running. I try to get people interested on my own, but all I get are a bunch of people who are interested if we have a large enough group. No one will come over and show that interest, just ‘let me know’. The one girl who signed up months ago? She decides to drop out.
However, during all of this, Fox Games announces their drawing (which you have to be present for), and lo and behold, my name is the one drawn. I am now the proud owner of Doomtown: Reloaded. This one is a card game about the weird wild west, with a really cool poker based mechanism for gunfights. I’ve only played it a couple of times so far, but it is interesting.
Shortly thereafter, I give up on the con altogether, and cancel my third event. To date, I’ve spent $35 on a parking ticket, taken three days off work (one of which is the biggest sales day of the week, so it hurt in more ways than one), food, gas, a game I should have waited for (but am glad I didn’t), all to sit around, listen to one guy most of the time, gain a few bits of munchkin swag, and have nothing to show for it that I couldn’t have managed elsewhere.
Oh, and the auction? No one understood the forms. Everyone started bidding at fifty cents a game. Not one of them made enough to recoup the fee. I donated it all to the charity. I’m bitter about that. I should have made at least my lunch money back. But it was for a good cause, so I won’t complain too loudly. Plus they were all games I didn’t want any longer anyway.
Next year is going to have to be much improved, or I’m going to start saving my con money for the one in Quincy.
As I understand it, things didn’t go too well for the con organizers either. Most of the people who showed up played pathfinder all the time, to the exclusion of anything else. They barely covered operating costs. The vendors couldn’t accept credit cards because they had no wifi connection, and not enough outlets for their computers. And one local gaming store who were going to run the yugioh and magic tournaments backed out and started trying to convince attendees to go to their store for them.
Yeah, I gotta find a better con to get to…