So I just got back from having a wonderful time at Strategicon (the biggest table top gaming convention in the Los Angeles area), which I go to three times a year.
Strategicon is a convention (a “Con”), but it’s a tabletop gaming convention as opposed to a Comic or Fan or Pop Culture Convention.
Wait – what’s a gaming convention?
I’m glad you asked, and I’m going to tell you what it is by writing a few words about my time at Strategicon.
When you walk into a gaming convention like Strategicon, the first thing you notice is that it’s a little bit more low-key than a comic/fan/pop culture con.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t a lot of people, but there’s less to see as you walk the halls of the hotel, and the people Cosplaying are clearly trying the do so in a way that is comfortable. There’s also less to buy, and even though there is a dealer hall, you can tell that it’s not the main draw of the Con.
The main draw of the Con is playing table top games.
Instead of attending panels, getting free merch, and meeting celebrities, everyone who goes to a gaming convention is going to play as many games as they can and see some of the larger games that only happen at a gaming Con.
When I say “game,” I mean almost every kind of game that exists. There is a tendency, though, for the games to be on the nerdier side, so the boardgames are the indie/Euro kind that have become popular in geeky communities over the last 20 years (and which I wrote a little too extensively about here.
Aside from the huge ballroom filled with people playing boardgames, Strategicon also has whole areas of the hotel reserved for Role-playing games, which are played in the same way as Dungeons & Dragons (the first roleplaying game). My kids usually role-play at Strategicon, and so they arrive with all of their D&D characters, dice, and notes, ready to play in games that convention volunteers are running all weekend, day and night.
My gaming at Strategicon is entirely about miniature wargaming, which has been a hobby of mine for as long as I care to remember. The hobby is involved and time-consuming, but the payoff is tremendous if you are nerdy in some of the ways I am.
As a hobby, a miniature wargamer will collect small models of historical soldiers, monsters, fantasy warriors and wizards, etc., and she or he will paint them, one at a time, with as much care and skill as possible. When enough of these have been amassed, a group of miniature wargamers will get together, decorate a table as a diorama (a medieval village, and scifi space ship, etc.), and then they will play a somewhat complicated wargame on the diorama, using their painted miniatures.
The end result is a kind of scale model of a historical or fantasy or sci-fi battle, but one where the pieces can be moved and the players try to outmaneuver each other to win the game. Because Strategicon is kind of a big deal, you will see some of the largest versions of this kind of gaming, with hundreds of miniatures on a side and elaborate buildings, cliffs, castles, and forests.
To some people, the idea of playing boardgames, miniature battles, and roleplaying games all weekend long sounds horribly boring.
To some of you, though, a weekend spent playing really smart and good-looking games sounds like an ideal vacation.
If you are that reader, you might be a tabletop gamer, and you should try to check out a gaming convention in your area.