My Experience at STGCon

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Posted August 26, 2015 by Crystal Pisano in Nerdy Bits

This past weekend, my husband and I traveled to St. George, Utah for the first ever STGCon Board Game Convention. It was a three-day event that consisted of tournaments, learn-to-play sessions, open gaming, and raffles. It was also my second-ever board game convention. I’ll discuss the event as a whole first, and then I’ll go into what games I played during the weekend.

THE GOOD STUFF

For a first-time event, I was impressed with the organization of registration, the game library, and the staff. One of the event’s organizers told me that they owed everything to their wonderful volunteers and that things wouldn’t have been so smooth without their help. That was obvious to me in every interaction I had with them. There was almost never a wait to check a game out of the library and the people working there were helpful in suggesting games to me when I wasn’t sure what I was looking for.

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The Game Library

The game library had a huge variety of games. I was pleasantly surprised at how many games they had available to check out. Truthfully, it made me regret lugging three bags of my own collection to the con. I only played two of my own games over the course of the entire weekend and I brought around 20 games. *Note to Self* You can always play your games later. When attending a con with a game library, bring less games.

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At least the games I brought and played were AWESOME

There was plenty of space for open gaming, separate spaces for tournaments and RPGs (neither of which I participated in, so I can’t speak to the experiences there), and even a games-after-dark room after 10pm where people 18 and older could play more adult-themed games like Cards Against Humanity.

Whether we were playing with complete strangers or other friends from Vegas who had also come to the convention, we never had a hard time getting a game going and there were plenty of friendly people willing to play with us and teach us new games.

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Here we are learning how to play Codenames

There was also a nice vendor area where local stores and some publishers were selling games. I’ll admit I didn’t check this area out very extensively but they had a lot of items available for purchase and it seemed like the local stores were offering some great discounts on games.

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Some of the vendors

 

THE LESS-GOOD STUFF

The Indoor Pool – The Red Lion Hotel (which apparently just changed ownership, as a month ago it was the Lexington Hotel and Conference Center) was generally ok but had one major issue that I could not overlook. Lots of hotels have indoor swimming pools but, in my experience, those pools are generally in an enclosed area of some kind. At this hotel, the indoor swimming pool was not enclosed in any way. It was smack dab in the middle of the building’s main room and the strong smell of chlorine wafted through every part of the hotel—the restaurant, the conference rooms, the hotel rooms, and hallways—as a result. By day two of the conference, the smell was making me sick and I had a headache that wouldn’t go away no matter what I did. At $70 a night, the rooms were decently priced, but I would have happily paid more if I didn’t have to deal with the chlorine smell the entire weekend.

Play-To-Win Raffles – I wasn’t a huge fan of how some of the raffles (specifically the play-to-win raffles) were handled. First off, I acknowledge that having raffles at all is a wonderful addition to any con, and that it is incredibly generous of the con’s organizers and various publishers to donate/provide items for raffles to the attendees. I never attend a con expecting to win anything, but if I do, it’s a nice bonus. The event’s organizers deserve major props for putting together such a large collection of games and game-related items to give away to the attendees.

On Friday night and Saturday night, there were regular raffles that all attendees were part of based on tickets we received during registration. It was very clearly stated that you had to be present to win and they stuck to that rule, which was good. Both my husband and I were lucky and each won a prize on Friday. On Saturday, we left the hotel to go to dinner which took longer than expected and we missed the Saturday night raffle. I was later told that my name had been called and I would have won another prize if I had been there. No harm, no foul. I knew the rules and had won something the night before so I didn’t mind that I missed it the second time around.

Then there were the play-to-win raffles on Sunday. Over the course of the weekend, if you checked out a game from the play-to-win library and played it, your name was added to a bucket for a drawing to win that specific game. There were somewhere between 40 and 50 games that were part of the play-to-win raffles. In the rules listed in the program for the event, it stated that no one could win more than two play-to-win games. It said that if you won more than two, you had the option to turn one back in and take the new one so you could walk away with the two you wanted the most.

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The buckets for the play-to-win raffle tickets

I, my husband and a couple of our friends played a total of eight of these games over the course of the weekend. On Sunday, we were very tired and ready to drive back to Vegas, but wanted to make sure we stuck around for the raffles.

Once they started drawing names, we were surprised to see the same people going up to collect games more than two times. One gentleman collected five games, claiming that he was the representative for gamers whose names were called but were not present.

This was upsetting for a number of reasons. All of the other raffles held over the weekend were “must be present to win.” Also, since we were from out of town and obviously wouldn’t have been able to have other people “claim” games for us, locals who had friends that could get games on their behalf had an advantage in that they could win games without being present.

Another frustrating aspect of these raffles occurred when people had their name called for a third time and they decided to trade in one of the other games they had won. Rather than drawing a new name from the returned game’s original pool of tickets to re-award that game, they pooled the uncalled tickets from ALL the games together and pulled a name from that. While this technically benefitted people like me (who didn’t play all the games and now had a shot at winning games I didn’t play), I didn’t think this was fair. I think just the people who took the time to play the game should have been in the redraw.

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Part of the main game room

To me and the people around me, it seemed unfair that a large number of people’s names went uncalled while others were claiming multiple games for themselves or for people who weren’t present.

Unruly Kids – Let me first say that I think it is truly great when parents game with their kids and bring them to events like this to expose them to more games, socialize, and spend time together as a family. Those parents are awesome. Unfortunately, not all parents do the right thing when they attend events like this. My issue stemmed from kids who were running around or hanging out in the main gaming room, seemingly unsupervised, and not even playing board games. At one point, I was playing a pretty in-depth game with some friends and we were constantly being distracted by two young kids at the table next to us who were playing video games on handheld consoles, yelling, knocking over chairs, and being generally obnoxious. I wanted to ask them to move but didn’t want to cause drama, so I kept my mouth shut. I imagine their parents were elsewhere in the room playing a board game and just left the kids with the video games to keep them entertained, but I didn’t appreciate having my gaming interrupted by their shenanigans. Obviously, this problem wasn’t caused by the event’s organizers. I considered asking one of the staff members to do something about it and perhaps that is what I should have done, but in the grand scheme of things, I just didn’t think it was worth it so this is partially on me for not acting on my instincts to get the problem resolved.

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I didn’t take a picture of the kids because that would be a jerk thing to do. So here’s another picture of people enjoying gaming!

TO SUM IT UP

Chlorine, raffle and annoying kid issues aside, I truly did enjoy this event. If the venue stayed the same I would most certainly not attend again (because UGH CHLORINE), but if they moved to a new location I would definitely be willing to make the two-hour trek back to St. George. I met a lot of really nice people while we were there. The gaming community in St. George seems active and the people were very friendly. A few of the games we played over the weekend were taught to us by people who literally walked by our table, saw our heads buried in the rulebook and offered to teach us the game and play with us. I am horrible about remembering names but I wanted to shout out some special thank yous to Daniel, David, and Dale for being kind and teaching us some new games. (Apparently gamers whose names begin with D are especially friendly and helpful!)

THE GAMES I PLAYED

Ok, so you’ve read this far… now let’s get to the games I played! I won’t go into too much detail about each one as I might review some of these games more in-depth in the future.

Viceroy – A member of my weekly board game meetup had mentioned this game and said it was good so we gave it a shot. I am not sure how I feel about it. It isn’t bad, but I didn’t love it either. Having only played it once, I definitely want to give it another shot. I feel like this is one that we either got some rules wrong or might need some rule tweaking to make it great.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig – This was the second time I had played this game and while I still completely suck at it, it is a lot of fun. I get great joy out of making the pieces of my castle fit together neatly, but I tend to not pay enough attention to the end game bonuses which usually causes my downfall.

Let Them Eat Shrimp! – Based on the name alone, I did not have high expectations for this game but it was cute and fun. Placing your fish onto the board definitely had some strategy to it and I am sure this game is great for families with kids. I probably won’t add it to my collection, but I’d be willing to play it again.

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Let Them Eat Shrimp!

Codenames – The hotness from this game emanated across social media during and after GenCon so I was happy to get to check it out in person. We played through four games and had a blast with it. I got a bit frustrated when I was trying to get my teammates to guess the cards “disease” and “microscope” without making them guess the assassin card that happened to be “lab”. Before I realized “lab” was the assassin, I thought in my head “Oh! I’ll give the clue “Science 2”. Then I saw the assassin card and made a horrified face as I realized how awful of an idea that was and promptly scrapped it.

Animal Upon Animal – Needed to kill 15 minutes while waiting for another game to start. This game fit the bill. Cute wooden animals that you stack on top of each other. My husband was surprisingly bad at this game and watching him get so frustrated about such a simple, silly game actually gave me a bit of amusement.

PitchCar Mini – Someone was offering to teach this game and after hearing Tom Vasel praise PitchCar over and over in so many of his videos and podcasts, I knew I wanted to check it out. Even with just the base set (and the mini one, at that) it was a LOT of fun. I could see myself really loving the bigger version with all the cool expansions.

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I won my first game of PitchCar Mini!

Mysterium – Technically we played the Polish version, Tajemnicze Domostwo. Pronouncing those two words is a game in and of itself! A kind man (whose name I sadly cannot remember) had played before and offered to be the ghost so my friends and I could all be investigators. While we didn’t end up solving the case, we came REALLY close and had a lot of fun in the process.

Dead Man’s Draw – This press-your-luck card game where the suits each have different powers was interesting and fun. It was fairly simple and we only played it once, but I could see this being a great filler game or a way to get non-gamers into the hobby.

Nevermore – This game had some interesting mechanics that I really liked. I enjoy games with a drafting mechanic, and in this, you take two cards from your first hand instead of just one which gives you a little more power over what you end up with. I also like that players that lose all their health aren’t eliminated; rather, they are turned into ravens and have a shot at getting back in the game and even winning.

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Quoth my husband who was turned into a raven: Nevermore!

Lanterns – This tile laying game was one of my favorites that we played over the course of the weekend. The theme was perfect and even though the game had a lot of strategy, it was a very zen experience to lay out all the lanterns and collect sets of cards.

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Lanterns

Flick ‘Em Up – This was one of the games I brought with me to play. I had just received it in the mail the week before and was itching to get it to the table since I love dexterity games. It was a LOT of fun. We played through two of the 10 scenarios.  As an added bonus, I read the flavor text in a superb western accent. SUPERB. If anyone says my accent was lacking, they are clearly lying.

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I was trying to concentrate so I could kill all the lawmen!

Stockpile – Apparently this was a sleeper hit at GenCon but I honestly hadn’t heard much about it before this event. We decided to check it out and teach it to ourselves. I haven’t played a lot of economic games and it isn’t a theme I’ve ever had much interest in but HOLY COW this game was awesome.  I was quite surprised by how much I loved it. I’ll definitely be adding this one to my collection ASAP. It’s simple enough that you could teach it to just about anyone and I can see both entry level and experienced gamers all enjoying this game immensely.

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Who knew economic games could be THIS fun?

CV – This was the second game from my personal collection that we played. I have owned this one for a few months and haven’t ever gotten it to the table. I purchased it because Richard Ham of the “Rahdo Runs Through” YouTube channel had raved about it and he was not wrong. Each of the four players had a lot of fun creating the life story of their person which led to some really enjoyable moments.

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CV

Dixit – By the end of the day on Sunday we were all mentally exhausted and just waiting around for the play-to-win raffles to begin. Two of my friends said they’d never played Dixit before so we pulled it out and played a couple of rounds just to show them what it was all about.

The only other thing of note that happened over the weekend was dinner on Saturday night. We went to a place called Anasazi Steakhouse where the steaks are served to you on hot volcanic rocks, so you cut up and cook each piece of the steak to your liking on the rock. It was awesome. I was shocked I’d never heard of this concept before and even more shocked that a restaurant like doesn’t exist in Las Vegas (that I am aware of).

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DELICIOUS steak cooking on a volcanic rock

So that’s it for my STGCon recap. Feel free to comment below with any thoughts you have regarding my experiences or share any experiences you’ve had (good or bad) at smaller board game conventions!


About the Author

Crystal Pisano