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The Con Game

Discussions about organizing and running local gaming conventions.

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Latest Activity: Sep 16, 2014

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Comment by Rob Bottos on August 12, 2009 at 1:54pm
I started up my own game convention here in British Columbia. Having attended Origins and GMT West I opted to model my Con. after GMT West and HomerCon. Mostly open gaming and players are encouraged to set up games ahead of time and then reserve a table space. I also make sure to leave a certain number of tables unreserved to accomadate walk ins at the door. In my first year of running BottosCon I put the Con. together in about 2.5 months and had 32 people show up. I had gamers from Oregon, Washington State, Vancouver Island, as well as Vancouver attend. In my second year I had to find a new location as the hotel we had been at wanted to jack up the price and tack on a mandatory catering charge. We re-located to a cheaper venue in Surrey that was able to accomadate more gamers and last year we had a little over 40 attendees. One guy even flew in from Ottawa, Ontario. Last year I added an ASL tournament to my convention and this will now draw at least 10 games to my Con. and help to make sure I cover my costs. I think the key for a small convention is to keep things simple and keep things friendly.
Comment by David Allen on December 15, 2008 at 5:15pm
>Balance, flexibility, and a sense of humor!

Agreed! And, if possible, Chainmail Girl!

(I understand she is getting married, however. I doubt Mr. Chainmail Girl will be letting her attend cons dressed in loops of wire anymore.)
Comment by John Bobek on December 15, 2008 at 5:02pm
Having some flexibility is the key to keeping the customer happy. You won't please everyone. The dawdler will always arrive late. Still, some judges can and do add them in anyway (I used to- I officially planned for 10-12 players and expected 20). Then, there's no help for when one game draws 50 people who want to play. Then you either compromise and find something else, or sit and watch the game and hope someone has to leave early.

You can't always blame the convention when a game cancels. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons. Still, it helps to have someone ready to judge a large game as a backup. Yeah, I know I would be the "ideal" as I have nearly everything and can accommodate small hordes of players. But, it's been hard to get to a convention lately.

By the way, the reason I'm not much of a fan of the all pre-registration is that I've gone to high volume conventions such as GenCon (Horticultural Hall, Playboy Club, Kenosha, and Milwaukee). and I was the event coordinator for a convention in Chicago at Loyola U. There was always a good number of people who were "walk-ins." They either just heard about it, or literally, were walking by and noticed the "cons" attending and went to check it out.

Balance, flexibility, and a sense of humor!
Comment by David Allen on December 15, 2008 at 3:39pm
Seems like perhaps a good compromise would be to provide for pre-registration for, say, 50-80% of the player capacity of the game but leave the balance open to walk ups. Of course, then people who diddled around and got to the game late expected to join as a walk-up are SOL.

I don't think there is every going to be perfect solution. Personally, as a fan, I will patronize conventions that allow me the opportunity to guarantee entry into a game if I am willing to plan ahead and make the committment to play, vs. someone who plans poorly or is only marginally interested in playing. I will not invest in the expenses of travel and time to attend a convention that makes it difficult for me to locate and participate in games, or get left out of games I really wanted to play.

On a related topic, there is a game convention that I probably won't attend this yea. Last year it expanded to start one day earlier, so I pre-reg'd for four games on the first day and three out of the four were GM no-shows.

Game conventions MUST make customer service their number one priority or risk going out of business just like any other commericial venture.
Comment by John Bobek on December 15, 2008 at 12:14am
I don't have much time this weekend, so I'll just summarize. The first problem with preregistration is that in many cases, it locks people out of games. I understand your desire to get into the game you wanted, but say they're filled up, you didn't register fast enough. Now, you're at a convention with little to do but wander and shop. The origninal GenCon's had no preregistration. Then, one year, there were sign up sheets at the con early in the morning. If you took too long having breakfast or just slept a little late, you arrived to find nothing to play in. Eventually, they went to the preregistration by mail.
In the earliest conventions, I worked the kitchen with Elisa Gygax at Horticultural Hall. I played in some games, notably David Arneson's naval game (Battle of the Nile if I remember rightly). Over the years, I judged games, rather than play them. I was in a Rorke's Drift game where an English officer or sergeant couldn't command someone from another platoon, the storming of the Tulieries, and a few others, less notable. I typically judged 12-18 games in 4 days as there just weren't many miniature games for the number of potential players.
First problem. Judges who limit their games to a few players. A miniatures game takes up space. To limit it to 4 or 6 players is to waste the space. Try to get judges to plan for 2, 4, or 6 more players than they specify. Some of the restrictions are scenario driven but that's easy to change. Some restrictions are rules driven. That's harder to change, short of changing the rules. (Now you see why I wrote all my own!)
Second, have some extra games that can be joined that are not preregistered. That way, people who came late, didn't preregister (usually because they weren't sure they were coming, or they just heard about it!), or my personal bane, their game was cancelled, have a chance to play something!
I could go on, but I need to do some school work.
Comment by David Allen on December 13, 2008 at 1:42pm
Others issues include how to handle pre-registration (or not) for events. As an attendee, one of my highest priorities is to be assured that I will be able to play the games I want to play when I get to the con. That generally means I would like to be able to pre-register AND receive confirmation that I am in the game I signed up for.

I've seen the extremes, from absolutely no pre-registration (or even schedule) of games to being able to pre-reg for any game and receive a confirmation. Personally, I like to fill up my dance card so that I know that I won't have any unplanned dead time. (I also almost ALWAYS show up for events I have pre-reg'ed for, as a courtesy to the GM.)

One area con I attend has no pre-reg and no schedule of games. Most of the GM's and players are locals and know who is running what game when, but not me, since I am from out of town. So, I'm stuck with walking around and asking people when which games will be where, then I track down the GM and ask to play. Not the best system.

The other issue is how to handle games that were not on the schedule in time for pre-registration, or games that perhaps were added in real time at the con. One 3-day long area con I attend only lets you sign up for a game on the following day after 10PM of the current day! That's a real hassle if you don't plan on being there that late on the day before the game you want to play.

So, I am curious how others handle pre-registration and on-site sign-up for games at conventions they have attended or run.
Comment by John Bobek on December 13, 2008 at 1:02pm
What did you have in mind as "other issues?" I have a little experience in helping run conventions.
Comment by David Allen on October 19, 2008 at 1:39pm
The convention we hosted was Gamers Reunion in Rochester, MN. Thanks to the dedication and organization skills of several people involved, it was a VERY well run convention attended by about 180 people over three days of gaming. We would like to have had more, and need higher numbers to continue to hold the convention annually.
Comment by David Allen on October 19, 2008 at 9:04am
My local gaming group held its first convention this year in September. It was a major success as far as quality and a marginal success financially. I would be interested in discussing ideas about improving the attendence at local gaming conventions, as well as other issues.
 

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