Dreamation 2017 Convention - Full Report
I woke up Saturday morning after 4 hours sleep with a pounding headache, the entire left side of my head was a tightly packed ball of agony from the root canal I had two days before, and I was in desperate need of coffee. This was not how I wanted to start the weekend of my first DoubleExposure event. Flash forward several hours, I had taken some Advil, drank some coffee, and made the 2 hour journey north to Morristown, NJ along with my editor Dean to attend Dreamation, one of several conventions that DoubleExposure runs over the course of the year. By this point I was feeling pretty pumped. I am a longtime convention veteran. I've been to cons centered around almost every one of my geeky interests. Horror cons, comic cons, video game cons, I've attended them all, and yet somehow I'd never been to a convention for the one area I love the most, tabletop gaming.
Even though I had never attended a DoubleExposure event, I have friends that run the Frontier Dawn LARP who always speak very highly of their events. They said you can find any sort of game you want to play, whether it be board games, RPG's, or live action role playing (LARP).
When Dean and I got the the hotel where the convention was held we were immediately surprised by two things. First, the size of the hotel was gigantic with the convention spread out over 3 floors and several rooms with people playing every game imaginable. The con was busy but with this layout it never felt packed. The second unexpected item we found was just how game focused it was. Most conventions are dominated by dealers and guest tables, however this one had a fairly tiny dealers room and most of the guests were small game designers who self published games. We spent a short time perusing the non-gaming areas of the con and got a chance to talk with some of the designers and guests, but outside the friendly folks at Breaking Games, who produce the ridiculously fun party game, Billionaire Banshee, there weren't a lot of people with which to speak. This was fine though. My primary objective was to find non-stop pickup games in the open gaming room and play until my brain felt like mush.
This is the point we hit a snag due to my lack of planning. We found the board game room but as it turned out there was more structure than expected. After inquiring about borrowing a game from the game library (a pretty common thing at these events) we were told that all the games were pre-scheduled and we would have to sign up for specific time slots. So armed with the correct info and a strong desire to actually play a game at a gaming convention, we headed back to registration where there was a huge wall of sign up sheets for events. After a few minutes of looking over this literal wall of words we started to have the sinking realization that we should have actually planned ahead and signed up for events online as many slots were filled up. It turns out that you can very easily game non-stop for days at Dreamation, if you actually prepare for it. Not to be deterred we signed up for several events with open slots, got some (surprisingly good) convention food, and sat down to at an empty table to eat and wait for our Dragon Dice novice tournament to start. While waiting, we were serendipity joined at our table by a friendly couple, Dan and Kim. After a while of talking to our newfound friends, we found out that they were part of a board gaming podcast called MFGCast (I have an obsession with podcasts) and they were waiting for the same event we were! It seemed like thing were finally turning around after a rocky start to the weekend.
From this point the rest of the day was a whirlwind of activity. We learned Dragon Dice, a game I've had since a child but never could figure out the rules for, and played in a novice tournament in which I lost and Dean came in second. We took a short break after this to check into our hotel, get some food, and decompress before retiring for more gaming and finishing off our night with a round of Dragon and Flagon, a game where players are fantasy adventures having a bar fight on a board with 3-D furniture.
Even though I was a little disappointed at first due to my misunderstanding of how the event worked, day one was a great success and I had a blast. I was ready for a good nights sleep and couldn't be more excited to finish off the weekend on Sunday with the Dreamation board game auction.
After one of the best nights sleep I'd ever had in a hotel (next to that one time I made a nest in a large closet), I was ready for my continental breakfast and a round of furious bidding at the auction. We got back to the convention site and found the auction room early so we could check out the items for sale., and found out that it was also the snack room. Even though I didn't eat much, it was a nice homey touch to the convention, and the spread had a pretty wide assortment of snacks and breakfast food. All the items in the auction were laid out on several tables with their starting bids listed, and while there were some items starting at close to retail, most started between $1-$5. The tables contained almost entirely board games but there were some odds and ends, such as graphic novels and a few handmade dream catchers. I took detailed notes of everything I wanted and settled in for several hours of auction madness.
While we were waiting for the main event we ran into our convention buddies, Dan and Kim, and passed the time deciding which games we wanted to compete with each other over. I also met a couple from the Philly area who go to a lot of the same horror movie events I go to. Our group all sat together during the auction and it made for a pretty jovial experience. Roughly 3 hours later I had only gone $4 over my $100 budget and had walked away with 9 games, several of which were un-opened. Dean only spent $40 on two games, but with those games being Robinson Crusoe and Lords of Waterdeep he got quite the bargain. My haul went as follows:
- Voila - $1 – A dexterity party game about stacking acrobats. It was the first lot in the auction and I won uncontested. Still sealed.
- Giza - $6 – Euro style game by Mayfair. Still sealed.
- Road Rally (Sealed) - $3 – Simple looking racing game. I love Formula D so why not?
- War of the Ring - $30 – One on one fantasy warfare in Middle Earth. The #2 wargame on Board Game Geek, this one has an MSRP of $100 so I was shocked to pick it up uncontested at $30 and even more shocked to find it was opened, but un-punched and un-played!
- The Napoleonic Wars - $7 – Heavy multiplayer wargame produced by the excellent publisher, GMT.
- Buzztime - $1 -Home trivia system like what they use at bars and restaurants. Can't go wrong with a speculative buy for a buck! Also came with the 5 – 6 player expansion.
- I'm the Boss - $5 – Classic “take that” style mob game about backstabbing your buddies.
- Pixel Tactics 1&2 - $14 – Pixel art style fighting card game. Still sealed.
- Cry Havoc - $37 – 2016's super hyped robot area-control game. Mini expansion included.
Needless to say I was pretty pleased and ready to head home. After emptying my wallet and loading up with games, I left to the sounds of other auction goers congratulating me on my haul.
As Dean and I walked to the parking garage I felt a twinge of sadness. The day before I showed up feeling awful and being disappointed that I had failed to plan well enough, yet I still ended up having a great time. Dreamation was a great experience for my first real tabletop convention. Talking to the attendees and the staff, it always felt like everyone was equally excited to be there, and between the sprawling nature of the convention and the focus on pure gaming, it almost felt like I was gaming at someone's house surrounded by friends rather than at a con. There were some issues with the event to be sure (cough cough, that website...), but I'd be glad to come back, and if another DoubleExposure event, such as DexCon are like this, than I'll be back sooner rather than later.