Convention Report – Climbing the (Bigger) Game Summit 2013

Climbing the (Bigger) Game Summit 2013
By The Warden

Could it already be a year since the last Game Summit? Why yes, yes it can. Did I go? Yes, yes I did. Was it the same as last year? No, no it was not. (You can refresh your memory by checking out last year’s review of Game Summit here.)

Since it’s initial festivities in the Fall of 2008, the Game Summit tabletop gaming convention held in Ottawa, Canada has steadily grown in size and scale. For the last three years, it’s been held in the Nepean Sportsplex to maximum efficiency and grew larger than the space could contain. To mark the fifth year of dice-rolling, card-tossing, wargaming awesome sauce, the GS team has taken it to new heights and across the border into the neighbouring town of Gatineau, Quebec. How far off course is this new location from Ottawa? It literally rests at the opposite end of the bridge with a clear and gorgeous view of Parliament.

Taking place at the Palais des Congrès de Gatineau, the new location is capable of holding twice as many attendees and vendors as before and it clearly showed when I first walked in just past 9 in the morning on the first day. Attendees were wrapped end over end waiting to pick up their badges and tokens and the space set aside for live gaming and tournaments alone was as large as the space for the entire GS event last year. There was no doubt things have grown for the GS team, lead by Marquis Cote of Uniforge.

The other difference was personal as this was my first gaming convention as a publisher/designer pimping my wares. Linking up with other local game designers and calling ourselves the Ottawa Tabletop Game Designers, we combined our powers to create one table of independent RPG offerings in the Game Designer’s Lab. In addition, each of us ran different games throughout the weekend, from the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game to Fiasco to D&D Next, as part of a bigger and wider selection for RPGs.

That being said, my experiences in this year’s Game Summit were a bit limited and different from previous years, but there were many improvements and areas for improvement noted by myself and others I spoke with during the con. To keep things simple, I’ve posted them below in subheaders.

Line-Ups and Tokens

Twice the size means three times the attendees if we follow the principle of abstract convention mathematics, which correlates to an inverse angle of inexperienced problems. One of the loudest complaints and concerns expressed this year was the lack of computers to process the large number of attendees ready and raring to go Saturday morning. Those of us working behind the scenes were able to get in and out without problems, but the early morning games were delayed by 30-45 minutes due to line-ups at the entrance. Based on my discussions with Uniforge, this will be corrected by next year.

Game Selection

More spaces = more tables = more games. Previous years found GS loaded to the gills with D&D and Pathfinder games while many d20 spin-offs rounded out the selection. Anyone trying to run something from the independent side of the steam were met with empty seats. Not anymore.

While there were close to a dozen Pathfinder Society games in progress throughout the weekend, there were just as many non-D&D clones to choose from. Running the Marvel RPG Saturday morning, I had to turn away late-comers and those who hadn’t prepaid to take on the Breakout at the Raft event featuring the X-Men – a far cry from my first time at GS. As an independent publisher and designer, this was very heartening to see and chatting with the GS volunteers indicates this will improve over time.

Along with the OTGD, which included Fraser Ronald (Centurion, Kiss My Axe), Jason Pitre (Spark), and Corey Reid (Dino-Pirates of Ninja Island), there were representatives for Drinking Quest (yep, a beer-chugging RPG/card game) and Quest of Ragnarok on hand to promote their work and sell copies direct to consumers.

Board Games, Baby!

The tabletop gaming world remains dominated by board games and the recent rise in these traditional, yet reinvigorated, games remains today. Powered by the success of Wil Wheaton’s show, Tabletop (represented by numerous volunteers running games featured on the web series), there were loads of board games to choose from, including the Pavilion’s offering of close to 500 used copies available for anyone to borrow for a couple of hours.

Add to that some of the numerous designers on hand to promote their own material, including Roll’n Bump‘s creator, Louis-Nicolas Dozois and FrankenDie‘s mad inventor, Al Leduc, demonstrating there is a game design community building within the Ottawa Valley. One of my favourite moments was sharing the gaming spirit with Louis-Nicolas Dozois as he learned how to play my RPG, Killshot, and I learned how to play his dice-rolling game, Roll’n Bump.

Shop ‘Til You’re Sleeping On The Couch

Finally, this year’s GS linked up with another growing gathering, The Ottawa Geek Market, handling all your game shopping needs. Without having to set aside space for sales within the tournaments and con games, the Geek Market had an incredibly impressive collection of merchandise to choose from, new and old alike. You could also find massive booths set up by local vendors such as the Comic Book Shoppe, Toys On Fire, and Blue Gryphon, just to name a few. Add the Garage Sale for private collectors to boost or relinquish their gaming goodies and there are many gamers trying to explain what’s in all those bags to significant others.

Growing Pains

Not unexpected, the sudden growth of Game Summit from its previous incarnations seems to have caught the convention’s organizers and volunteers slightly off guard, but as mentioned earlier, I have been assured such matters will be addressed and avoided by next year’s festivities. Personally speaking, these hiccups were balanced out by the $5 all-day sheltered parking provided by the Palais. All told, it’s great to see such revelry for tabletop gaming continue on in these frigid days.

(Unfortunately, I had some major camera problems on my phone and was unable to take any quality pictures this year. There are plenty others to find, including this slideshow presentation from Game Summit 2013.)

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