Shut Up & Sit Down have been in the board game reviewing / media creation business for a good number of years, now. Starting off with video content through Penny Arcade and then branching out to their own website with written content and podcasting on top of that, it’s safe to say they’re one of the best known groups of board game nerds in the industry. It was only a matter of time until they scooped up all of the great people they know in board games and tabletop nerdery to run their own convention, SHUX – and this past weekend that happened in gorgeous downtown Vancouver, Canada! I was excited to attend for a great number of reasons – the top of the list being “yay! A con in Canada!”, closely followed by knowing a number of the SUSD team and guests and having no doubts they’d run a fabulous event that made everything fun in a welcoming environment. Over three days, I was definitely sure of the fun and welcoming environment, and impressed with the team & their volunteers – plus the incredible team of Chris & Lisa Pope who greased the wheels and made everything happen.
The three days of the expo were PACKED with events and gaming. We snuck in some gaming at the hotel bar on the Thursday night, but the first official event I went to (after a mandatory stop at the merch booth for a shirt and that KILLER Kwanchai Moriya poster) was the opening ceremony. The core team of SUSD took the stage to mostly express their wonder at the crowd and that SHUX was finally happening, and they also went through the guest lineup, introducing the fine group of folks attending to run events or just be around for demos and gaming. What I really appreciated was the time taken to specifically mention the con’s code of conduct during this panel – the policy was posted prominently on the con’s site and also around the con itself, but it’s important to make specific note of these things. Kudos to the team for developing a robust code and making sure everyone could feel comfortable with it.
Because I was gaming the heck out of everything, I didn’t get to a lot of the terrific panels and slew of other events on the menu. I managed to attend two live podcast recordings – one of Cardboard! With Rich Sommer, and the other with Alan Gerding of Tuesday Knight Games. I’m a listener of both these, so it was great to be at a live recording of them – awesome also to have some of the con’s guests on for short spots, and hear the audience Q&As. On the Saturday morning, I got to take part in a panel! Well, sort of. I was a judge/helper at Grant Rodiek’s “Design With Your Hair on Fire” game jam, in which participants were “given a silly theme, a box of nonsense, and one hour to design a game”. It was more magical than any of us could have imagined. Games with dada-esque names like Breakfast Treachery, Volcano Garden and Speedo Oligarchy became real, participants who had never designed before grouped up and made incredible things. One hour and every game was this terrific little capsule of ingenuity and teamwork. Nonsense turned into wonderful sense! I was so pleased to see it all happen – it’s the most creative and fun game jam I’ve ever seen.
So, the aforementioned “gaming the heck out of everything” was pretty much true. When I wasn’t in panels, it was games (and you know, eating and sleeping I guess). Thanks to a variety of folks bringing games from their own collections I tried a good number of new titles – and I also supplemented this with games from the SHUX library! It was a few hundred games strong at least, a combination of the Terminal City Tabletop Convention library, as well as personal contributions from the SUSD team & friends of the show. So I tried out a few things, a nice spectrum really – London, a Dog’s Life and Between Two Cities. On top of all of this, there was an area set aside for indie developers to show their games, and a large demo hall with a surprisingly large presence from publishers doing demos. I had a moment spare on the last day of the con and sat down to try Okanagan: Valley of the Lakes, being shown my Matagot. I never did make it to the Loft area for social gaming, which I do regret – that, and not having the time for a megagame which seem enormously entertaining.
Speaking of gaming spaces – the space at SHUX for gaming was quite good! I never found the smaller or larger rooms overcrowded and always managed to find a spot to play. They weren’t too crammed together, either. I think I’d have liked a couple more smaller rooms to have somewhere with less din, but overall with ~800 attendees it never felt like I was packed in anywhere. For someone who’s likely never going to head to Gen Con again because of the numbers of attendees and the way spaces are set up, I appreciated SHUX for their setup. It’s a dream to be in a clean, well cared for venue that is kept that way during an event, and respected by fellow attendees and having everything administered so amazingly by the team – my only sadness being the lack of wifi (especially for international visitors!). And: those volunteers! So great to see them everywhere, helping out, snapping pics, being excellent.
I had mentioned on Twitter that there’s really only one thing to be sad about as far as SHUX goes, and that’s that it was over so soon. And that I didn’t wander in Vancouver nearly enough – how distracting to have your board game event in such a gorgeous place, honestly. I can’t recommend this con enough – and should there be another (I hope!), you should certainly make the effort to attend. With games and events of all types, friendly gamers and staff/volunteers simply everywhere, it was a delight to be there. Like a mini BGGcon, it’s got all the good stuff about the gaming community that I love. Thanks, SHUX team!