More than a game: Calgary's board gamers gather for annual convention

·3 min read
Avid board game players from Calgary gathered at the Telus Convention Centre over the weekend for the 35th edition of the FallCon Board Game Convention (Dan McGarvey/CBC - image credit)
Avid board game players from Calgary gathered at the Telus Convention Centre over the weekend for the 35th edition of the FallCon Board Game Convention (Dan McGarvey/CBC - image credit)

Creativity, community, and collaboration.

That's what being an avid board game player means for many Calgarians.

For more than three decades, avid tabletop gamers have been gathering at FallCon — an annual board game convention — for a weekend of games, live auctions, and the chance to test some prototypes.

Between Aug. 26-28, the Telus Convention Centre is playing host to board game fanatics of all ages, experience, and levels of interest for the 35th edition of the convention.

It was the first time that the event was held at that venue rather than its usual location at the University of Calgary.

"It's really a hobby that has been growing over the last few decades. I think what attracts people to board gaming is that there's a lot more themes and styles of games than there used to be in the 70s which folks like myself might remember," said Colleen MacNaughton, the president of the FallCon Board Game Society.

Dan McGarvey/CBC
Dan McGarvey/CBC

She said the location change speaks to the popularity — and the growth — of the community in the city.

"It's also a way to do things face-to-face — we spend a lot of time in front of computers at work, we spend a lot of time scrolling on our phones. It's a chance to get together with friends and have a laugh, that's why I think we're seeing it grow."

A social experience

The format of FallCon allows players to play games across a wide selection of themes and interests. This can be done as a family, in a large group or head to head.

For some games, players collaborate to try and beat the game as opposed to competing against one another. It's part of the social aspect of the hobby that tabletop players have come to love.

Dan McGarvey/CBC
Dan McGarvey/CBC

Dan Roscoe is one of those people. He's been playing board games for years.

"I've been a life-long gamer. It's what we do, it's our hobby," said Roscoe.

"For me, probably my 15 closest friends are people that I've met at these conventions, it's awesome. It's a good place to meet like-minded people that you want to spend time with." 

That comradery is something that keeps him coming back to events like FallCon.

A professional hobby

Calgarians also get the chance to play new games at one of the vendor tables or in Prototype Alley. 

Chris Cooke, avid board gamer and professional video game designer, brought his own game to the convention this year.

His game involves combat, cartoons, and a meat grinder.

"I playtested that a bunch, and it was terrible," said Cooke. "But it slowly got better and better each time I tested it until it ended up into what it is now — a chaotic, kind of battle royal game for three to five players."

Cooke's game is all about hatching a scheme and watching it go "hilariously wrong."

Playing and making games is something he said became a favourite pastime.

"I'm pretty extroverted, so it was a way for me to spend time with friends, it became a regular activity we could do without having to think too much about what we were going to do that weekend," he said.

"It's a really awesome way to spend time with people."