The Meeple Guild - Convention time

Going a little bit off on a tangent this week, it seemed appropriate to spend this week’s column on a great event three members of our highly informal Meeple Guild attended recently.

Heading out in the rain of June 15 the trio headed east to Brandon for a day at PrairieCon.

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PrairieCon is a gaming convention that runs over three days each June, and this year marked its 40th anniversary, which in itself tells the tale of how popular the event is.

It is of course not a unique event, there are gaming conventions held all over the place, most notably GenCon in Indianapolis and Spiel Essen, held in Essen, Germany. Both are the sort of destination events that make most board gamers bucket lists.

Brandon’s PrairieCon doesn’t hold quite the same allure, but it’s close at hand, and organizers do a great job of ticking off the key boxes of what most attendees want in a convention.

There are essentially three elements to the event, and each would be the best aspect of PrairieCon depending on who you asked.

The first is an array of game demonstrations and tournaments, affording participants the opportunity to sit down and try a new game with somebody on hand who at least knows the basics of the game, or to be more competitive in a tourney.

The games are interesting, although this year the games we most wanted to try were in time slots too far removed from when we planned to attend to make it work.

Next year we may plan better, or even offer to run a session, something we did a few years ago that can be fun too.

The second component is the vendors.

Game players tend to be spur of the moment buyers, or at least our crew is, so we have a love/hate relationship with vendors. The more on-hand, typically the bigger the selection of games, which is good for impulse buys, less good for the pocketbook.

With the emergence of online sales the number of vendors has seemed to decline at PrairieCon, although a fellow doing chainmail on-site did allow me to purchase a neat owl for my better half, which is a good thing.

Finally, PrairieCon does a game auction Saturday evening. It is, for us, the highlight event of the convention.

Fellow gamers bring games they no longer want and they are auctioned off to the highest bidder. We walked out of the convention with actual armloads of games, having picked up Zombicide and three of its expansions, the core books to the Scion RPG, Hex-A-Gon, Planet Steam, and well you get the idea.

The games are typically ones we have had on our radar for various reasons -- the steampunk theme of Planet Steam, or that Power Play is both a deckbuilder and a hockey game – but we have never quite pulled the trigger on purchasing them. The auction typically means you buy games for half retail, or potentially far less than that, so suddenly games that never quite become a purchase priority are too reasonable to pass-up.

Will all our purchases be great games? Highly doubtful, but there is a risk with any game in terms of how well-liked it might be, but it will be fun playing our new games in the coming weeks, and some may even be reviewed here.

In the meantime, a shout-out goes to the organizers at PrairieCon for doing such a great job with the event. We certainly plan to be there again in 2020.

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