I was back at Fan Expo this year to focus on what the goings on in board and card gaming were up to. Fan Expo has such broad programming that it’s interesting to see what’s being hit up, talked about and frequented around the convention centre, whether it’s certain games, or exciting vendors, or really fun cosplay.
The stand-out fun for me as an official press-type sort was getting to moderate panels this year! We’ve always got such a wealth of talent in local and not-so-local guests and it was fabulous to see the slate of panels on offer this year. The two panels I moderated were both fabulous and informative for budding industry professionals – Game Design VS Game Development: What’s the Difference? and Graphic Design VS Illustration: What’s the Difference? From freelancers to full-time professionals, the folks on these panels gave a wealth of information about their experiences and work, which was golden to folks attending who have any interest in the industry at all. It was certainly my pleasure to facilitate the discussions, and know there were many other panels that were well-attended about the board gaming industry and beyond.
I was a small part of the beyond, getting to be on a panel! Media in Tabletop: From Articles to Podcasts and Beyond was a fun group of folks, all Canadian (Erica Hayes-Bouyouris – Meeple Syrup, Mike Primeau – Nights at the Game Table/Path of Play, and Mandi Hutchinson – To Die For Games and the Dice Tower) including our fabulous moderator, Sen-Foong Lim (Meeple Syrup). It may have just been that it was Sunday morning, but there were far fewer folks in attendance for this than the other panels I was a part of – could this mean that we just have more folks in the Southern Ontario area that are keen on the industry side of things more than media? Regardless, it was lovely to chat all about what we do – and all of our content was so different, that it gave some good perspective to the audience. Perhaps we can take a different angle on the topic next year – what would interest you, dear reader?
As with every Fan Expo, I love to spend time up in the big board and card gaming room, where there was a fantastic game library again thanks to the Toronto Area Board Game Society (theirs has bulked up over the few years Breakout Con has been running), plus local gaming ambassador Karen Holah – who also organized a great pile of play to win titles. This was fantastic to see, and it was a great way to draw people in when they’re browsing and get them to try something new. A number of publishers were present for demos and tournaments, like Catan, CMON Games, USAopoly and Pandasaurus – but I don’t feel like this was publicized as well as it could have been. Overall I get that feeling for the entire board gaming space – the signage isn’t really up front and centre where the flow of people might see it and there’s no messaging really anywhere else at the event to indicate what folks could do other than a small note about the board game library in the schedule.
What I’d love to see is more of a connection between the gaming space upstairs in the 700s area in the South Building to the larger exhibition hall space downstairs in the same building. There seems to be a lot of grouping of video gaming, for instance – it would be so great to see a dedicated island of tabletop gaming for folks to gravitate toward and be immersed in. Vendors dealing in analog games were spread out, or lumped into comics vendors – and like David mentioned, it’s a shame that our local Toronto brick and mortar stores don’t have space at Fan Expo. Mandi and I weaved our way around all of the aisles and came upon a couple of publishers (or, one more of a distributor of Magic Maze!), we met the lovely folks from Randoph ludo-pub in Montreal, but that was really it. Here’s hoping that board and card gaming can burst out of its niche and see a bit of a rise in years to come, allowing publishers and vendors alike to have a noticeable presences.
One last thing I wanted to mention was the fabulous presence of folks supporting budding designers. Panda Game Manufacturers were handing out design kits and chatting with folks about the ins and outs of publishing and manufacturing. And our pals from ProtoTO were there helping to facilitate prototype testing and also connecting new designers with established folks to allow for discussion and advice. The playtesting and demo section up in the board and card game room was consistently busy during show hours, and it’s so great to see that community flourishing at Fan Expo too. I’d love to see design competitions and game jams in the future, too!
A quick note to finish up on some of the games I got to try over the weekend – a surprising amount considering how busy the convention was! I finally had a chance to play Century Eastern Wonders, and it was so great – can’t wait to give it another try and combine it with Spice Road. Local designer Jeff Lai was demoing his deckbuilder Draconis Invasion, and I had an interesting time with it, even managing to eke out a win with my bad guy kills. Caryl of Quiche Games taught myself and others Root and I was honestly surprised how fun it was! I think I was expecting a far more serious war-gamey experience. Friends of mine won Micropolis in the play to win, so to end the weekend we all played that – I think that one needs to join my collection. Of course it wasn’t all me learning fun new stuff – I busted out Railroad Ink and Welcome To for some fun larger group goodness and also had a great time sharing Illusion with friends.
Were you at Fan Expo this year, and did you get a chance to play anything? Were you at panels, or even popping in for RPG sessions? I’d love to hear what you enjoyed! See you next year, fellow con nerds.