I’m pretty certain that everyone in any aspect of gaming has heard of the juggernaut that is GenCon. Likely many have also heard of the Origins Game Fair or the German Spiel de’Jahres festival. These are giant celebrations of the gaming hobby. Being as massive as they are though, they can also be extremely expensive events to attend and it is because of that, that I recommend putting in some sleuthing work on your end. You see, conventions happen all the time, all over the place and you probably just don’t know about them. I’m blessed to be in Illinois, where there are a lot of conventions, thanks to probably Chicago and the fact that the Midwest is a vast plain of nothing which just kind of makes people seek the escape which gaming provides. I’m going to spend a couple of posts in the near future talking about different conventions that I attend.
Let me start by saying why I attended and then I’ll write plenty about what they have on offer. My wife. Well, there you go. No, not really, but without a doubt my wife was a massive part of why I attended the first time. I discovered the con through a friend and since my wife actually enjoys playing board games with our friends and family I suggested it as a possible fun weekend away from the kids. We enjoyed ourselves so much that it then became our own secret little vacation every year. We’ve never left the con disappointed in our experience and always feel like the money is well spent to go. We love the Fancy Dress night event and we’ve always enjoyed the charity events hosted by The Spiel Foundation. There is just so much to do there that you never run out of things to keep yourself occupied and in that type of environment even when you don’t know people everyone has such a generally friendly open mind that you can almost always strike up conversations and find things in common with complete strangers.
To get us started I’ll talk about Geekway to the West. Geekway is a board game convention held in St. Louis every year and I believe it is at this point in its fifteenth year or some such, but I’m probably off a bit. The point is that they’ve been around for a while and I’ve had the joy of being an attendee of the convention for the last five years and have enjoyed it thoroughly. While many conventions embrace large groupings of different gaming genres Geekway is almost exclusively board games. There are people who run Werewolf there and you could technically classify that as a LARP if you wanted although it would be the lightest kind of LARP imaginable. I’m also sure there are some people who do get together and play things like D&D cloistered away in their own rooms but for the majority of attendee’s the con exists simply to cater to our love of sitting around a table and playing a fun board game.
Geekway has evolved over time and is currently held in the St. Charles Convention Center in St. Charles, Missouri. It has expanded over the years and I believe this year is boasting a sold out attendance of nearly 3,000 gamers. Geekway is a family friendly event and open to anyone who wants to purchase tickets. The Geekway group has a number of special things they do especially for the convention. When you register every year that I’ve attended although (although they’ve discussed this may be coming to an end in the future) you get a free board game which means that to buy your way into the 4 days of gaming your basically just buying a game. The convention hosts a rather nice library of board games that you can rent out during the convention to play which means you don’t have to bring anything with you if you don’t want to, as even old favorites will probably be available to check out and play from here. There are tournaments aplenty and mostly fan organized at that so while there may not be anything in the way of prizes other than bragging rights there are definitely competitive groups you can join up with to really get your game on.
If you interested in obtaining new things the vendor hall has grown pretty much every year too. They boast not only established and independent game publishers but also booths of artistic and craftspeople making everything from geek related pint glasses and keychains to high end board game tables. Sunday has a time set aside for a massive flea market that you can buy, sell and barter games around with other attendee’s and the convention itself hosts a massive math trade style table every year where you can enter lots of games and then hope that your grouping of games is popular enough to get you an early draft in to choose the ones that you want out. One of my wife’s favorite events has been the Fancy Dress evening which started I think our 2nd year in attendance. It was really just an excuse to dress up for an evening and play games and that first year many people came in all the finery. Ball gowns, bridesmaids dresses, tuxedos and suits. The 2nd year is when the cosplay began showing up which is great.
In an effort not to drone on too long with this already long winded post, there are a ton of reasons to go to Geekway. It’s held every year on the 3rd weekend of March so if you reading this when I post it or near you’ll realize that it is only about a week away. This will be the first year that we’ve taken our oldest son as well and we expect he will also get a great deal of enjoyment from the convention. That’s certainly not to say it’s a cheap ordeal to attend, but it could be significantly worse. Single registration is $65 for the weekend and then of course there is the hotel cost as well as food costs to consider. On average we spend about $400-500 on the weekend but as I said, we’ve never felt like it wasn’t money well spent for us as a weekend trip. If you’d like to learn more head over to their website: http://www.geekwaytothewest.com.