Board Game Conventions

Courtesy KublaCon

KublaCon is touted as the largest multi-genre gaming convention west of the Mississippi. My 5 days in San Francisco showed that the power of this gathering lies in its people. Mike Eckert, executive producer of KublaCon, expected his staff of 67 to cater to over 4000 people in this 19th year of the convention. Kubla is spread over 3 hotels south of San Francisco and includes Tournaments, Miniatures Gaming, Role Playing, LARPing, Board Games, Collectible Card Games, Painting and nearly every aspect of our strange little world. Special guests abounded, with the program listing nearly 20 designers, authors (I saw Andy Weir watching a game of Terraforming Mars), YouTubers and industry insiders.

The game development and design scene is very strong at Kubla, prompting Scott Rogers (Pantone, Rayguns and Rocketships), game designer and co-host of Ludology Podcast, to call it “one event in the industry I will never miss.” The Protospiel room, spearheaded by Jeremy Commandeur, housed true greats of the industry, who showed each other extremely early designs in a safe, open environment. I was lucky enough to see Matt Leacock (Pandemic, Forbidden Desert) demonstrating a new dexterity game, as well as Scott Rogers showing off Rayguns and Rocketships the Card Game and Castle Climbers. Early designs available for the public to play also included Lanterns Dice: Lights in the Sky and Wizardz Bluff, as well as Kickstarter projects Papillon, and Fickle. Open the the public, the KublaCon Game Design Contest has 30-40 entries judged by greats in the industry, with the top 4 games open to play throughout the convention. Past years have all created published games, including critical success March of the Ants in 2014.

One of the most impressive features of KublaCon is the community. More than once I saw people leave their prized games with complete strangers, or even in an empty room, with no fear of anything being stolen. Communities banded together in the long lines, feeding each other and reserving prized places waiting for events. The feeling of community was best seen in a tradition of call and echo, where one person will yell out “Kubla!” and the entire hotel will roar with an echo of “CON!” It just makes one proud to hear a sole 8 year old scream out his war cry and be answered by thousands of supportive gamers. For the very young, KublaCon hosts kids’ gaming and crafting rooms, occasionally dressing them up in armor and weapons and marching the army of gamers-in-training throughout the convention halls, intimidating the masses.

I was able to play great games at KublaCon, both rare and relatively unknown (Smartphone Inc) and popular (you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting Wingspan or Terraforming Mars). Impressive giant scale versions of favorites King of Tokyo, Shadows over Camelot, Azul, Tak, and Captain Sonar adorned the front room. I found fantastic deals in the flea market and dealer hall. But the thing I will remember the most from this convention is that every person I spoke to had the most amazing experiences and stories –  from Disney Imagineers to Google Executives to Game Designers to Cancer Survivors to long distance friends rarely seen, Kubla truly was a convention of the people, and I look forward to next year.

Chris Cocks, president of Wizards of the Coast, will be giving the keynote address at the first PAX Unplugged convention. PAX festivals have been at the forefront of gaming since 2004, and now consists of the PAX West, East, South and Australia conventions. PAX Unplugged promises to extend gaming and nerd culture into the analog realm, celebrating tabletop board games, and stands to compete with the big boys at GenCon and Origins. Chris Cocks has been at the helm of Wizards of the Coast since 2016, but has a long history in gaming, working for such big names as Microsoft and LeapFrog.

The inaugural PAX Unplugged Convention will be held in Philadelphia, PA from November 17-19, 2017.

Courtesy of Gen Con

Gen Con LLC has announced that David Hoppe took over management from Adrian Swartout after GenCon50. Swartout served as CEO for GenCon for the past 10 years, and will continue to share responsibilties during the transition. David Hoppe is no stranger to gaming, having spent 5 years as director of business operations for XBox Live, and was a consultant for Upper Deck from 1995-2002.

You can read the full press release from GenCon here.

Blick in die Halle 3. --- 08-10-2015/Essen/Germany Foto:Rainer Schimm/©MESSE ESSEN GmbH --- Verwendung / Nutzungseinschränkung: Redaktionelle Foto-Veröffentlichung über MESSE ESSEN/CONGRESS CENTER ESSEN und deren Veranstaltungen gestattet. NO MODEL RELEASE - Keine Haftung für Verletzung von Rechten abgebildeter Personen oder Objekten, die Einholung der o.g. Rechte obliegt dem Nutzer. Das Foto ist nach Nutzung zu löschen! --- Use / utilisation restriction: Editorial photographic publications about MESSE ESSEN / CONGRESS CENTER ESSEN and their events are permitted. NO MODEL RELEASE - No liability for any infringements of the rights of portrayed people or objects. The user is obliged to seek the above rights. The photograph must be deleted when it has been utilised!

Every year in October, gamers from all over the world descend upon Essen, Germany for one of the world’s largest board game conventions. Last week they came again, and in greater numbers than ever before. According to the final report issued by organizer Friedhelm Merz Verlag, Essen Spiel 15 boasted crowds so big that the convention was forced to open the doors early every single day, overall an incredible 162,000 visitors, 910 exhibitors from 41 different countries, an exhibition space of 63,000 square meters and more than 1,000 new games being released. In other words, bigger and better in every category.

Game designer Klaus Teuber was also on hand – with over a thousand fans from all over the world of his global hit game Catan – to break the world record for the largest game of Catan ever played, playing on a game board of almost 500 meters in length!

Take a gander at the full Essen Report below and be sure to mark your calendar for next year’s SPIEL, scheduled for Oct. 13 – 16, 2016.

Sunday 11 October, 2015

Essen –

Final Report from the international games event SPIEL 15 with COMIC ACTION

SPIEL 15 in Essen – the world’s biggest fair for board games came to an end today, this year setting five incredible records: More visitors, more exhibitors, more exhibition halls, more new games and a CATAN world record to boot!

Inspired by the motto: “The whole world’s playing – and its playing in Essen”, 162.000 games fans, licensees and buyers came to the world’s biggest fair for board games thus breaking last year’s record of 160.000 visitors. Contrary to every on-line trend, board and card games are more popular than ever before. This year’s SPIEL provided an impressive picture of that fact.

Spread over an exhibition space of 63,000 sq. meters, an increase of 9% in area, 910 exhibitors from 41 different countries – that’s more than ever before, even more than last year’s 832, all presented their companies and products at this year’s international games event SPIEL ‘15. Over four days it was possible to put thousands of board and card games to the test, amongst them more than 1,000 new releases (850 last year) which were being presented to the public for the very first time just ahead of the Christmas sales period that is so vital for the sector.

Early in the mornings the crowds at the box office and in the exhibition foyer were so large that the hall doors had to be opened 20 minutes before the official fair opening time every single day.

On Saturday 10 October 2015, 1,040 players set a new CATAN world record at SPIEL ’15 in Essen. To achieve this, CATAN Fans from 25 different countries played together at a game board of almost 500 meters in length, smashing the previous record of 922 players. Alongside CATAN inventor Klaus Teuber, former German national football star and board game fan Jens Nowotny, amongst others, took part in this very special game. This event was designed to mark the 20th anniversary of CATAN’s release. Even ahead of SPIEL 15 the German board games industry had reported a buoyant increase in sales of 8.4% across all product sectors in the first two-thirds of the year 2015. This roused hopes of strong Christmas business sales.

Hermann Hutter, chairman of the interest group “Die Spieleverlage e.V.” (Association of Games Publishers) in which all of the leading German board games publishers without exception are members, was highly delighted with the way the games event had gone. “SPIEL 15 has been a great success. The wide-ranging activities staged by all of the games publishers have been enthusiastically received by the visitors and the queues at the booths were indicative of the massive interest in the exciting new releases being presented by the publishers. Lively buying and ordering gave the exhibitors reason to be cheerful. Games are becoming ever more popular and sought-after. In the weeks to come, the new games on show here are certain to become a major talking point amongst gamers and in the shops and they are sure to bring exciting evenings to many, many people. The prototypes being exhibited during the event by the hundreds of games writers in attendance are a sign of how creative the sector continues to be and even today, 2016’s range of games promises to be a very successful one indeed!”

The COMIC ACTION event, which is incorporated as part of SPIEL, was also extremely successful. Steffen Volkmer of Panini Comics reported, “The event went wonderfully and again was better than the previous year. We were delighted to be able to welcome thousands of enthusiastic fans at our booth. There were long queues for the signing sessions by our comic artists and the artists themselves were more than happy.”

The next SPIEL with COMIC ACTION will take place from 13–16 October, 2016 at the Messe Essen. Please find press photographs attached!

Event Organizer: Friedhelm Merz Verlag, D-53173 Bonn, Bismarckallee 8. T: +49(0)228/342273,