This last weekend was spent playing board games with other board game enthusiasts at FallCon, here in Calgary. FallCon is an annual convention where multiple tournaments are held, used (and new) games are auctioned off, the Canadian Game Design award is presented, and attendees can borrow from a library of hundreds of games to play with each other. This has been happening for 24 years now.

This was my first time attending. As such I wanted to learn as many games as possible so I signed up for each of the five tournaments so I could be taught the new games. This worked well as the newbies were usually lumped together at one table (typically 4 concurrent games would be played and the 4 winners would play in the final). I was also able to contribute to the conference by doing the 12-page layout for the program (got to reacquaint myself with InDesign).

Friday night I played a recently released stock game called Airlines of Europe. It wasn’t too difficult to learn and gameplay went smoothly, especially with a facilitator on hand to answer rule or procedure questions. I lost, but I enjoyed the game and I’ll likely play again since the lead organizer for FallCon is my friend and he owns (or houses) most of the games.

Following the tournament I played a familiar game with 5 other some available gamers called 7 Wonders. Since I was the only one to have played before, I taught everyone and promptly lost. I then joined a guy named Justin and we played 3 rounds of Lost Cities before entering an hour long amicable political discussion (he’s a candidate for the new provincial Wild Rose party).

Saturday morning came early as I only got to bed at 1 a.m. and had to get to Jasen’s house by 7:20 a.m. in order to catch a ride and drop our car off for Amber. I familiarized myself with my morning tourny’s game: Dominion, a fantastic deck building game. I got the hang of it after a couple games and then won a couple casual games of it afterwards – a definite confidence booster. Following this I ate some tasty concession food while watching a friend finish his game. The Following tournament was another recent board game called Pantheon – a convoluted game with so many components, I didn’t enjoy it as much. It took a while to finish as we were all new at the table.

With a little time before the auction and game design award, I learned to play a fun little card game called Jaipur with Marc, a cohousing friend also attending.

After the award presentation, FallCon organizers set to auctioning off 500 games in an amazingly efficient way. I think the top selling item fetched nearly $200. Other games went for as little as $1. I picked up Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers for a decent price, though I was hoping to get Dominion – but those copies went for $40+.

I began to develop a mean headache through the auction and by the end I was nauseous and developing a fever. I tried to wait it out, but ultimately Amber had to come pick me up. I groaned all the way home and threw up on arrival. Plus side: I fell asleep and was fully rejuvenated in the morning. Minus side: I missed the opportunity to learn Troyes.

Sunday, I learned another new game: Merchants and Marauders. Our group played for nearly four hours when typically a game can be played in 90 minutes, but again, we were just learning.

These board games are far more sophisticated than Monopoly, Candyland and Risk. The variety of strategies, defence vs. offensive tactics, and depth of content are astounding. Another terrific aspect of such games (and game conferences) is how it teaches us about how to live in community and what it teaches us about ourselves. Competition is one of several components to enjoying a board game and one best competes when there are others to play with – thus one must strike a balance between self and community.

I had a great time! I’ll better prepare myself for next year’s con.

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