Over Labor Day weekend at the Sheraton Hotel near LAX airport in Los Angeles, California, Strategicon was having its Gamex convention. This convention is more of a 4-day slumber party; it was the most relaxed and open convention I’ve ever been to. Rooms filled with games, whether they be video games, board games, card games, role-playing games, or miniatures, they had them all and they had them going 24 hours a day. If it looked like something was closed, it was because no one was playing at 4 in the morning, so you could start it.
I should let it be known, prior to going to this event, I was not the biggest board game fan. Board games for me were fun for the first 20-30 minutes, but then it would just drag on and on for me. I enjoy table-top role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, and video games, and can play them for hours and hours (which at Gamex I was able to do), so about half the convention originally had grabbed my attention. This convention had me leaving with a desire to spend well over 100 dollars on different board games if that gives you an idea on how fun this convention was. So I can’t even imagine what it would have been like for some of my friends who absolutely adore board games, or the ones who love nothing more than working on miniatures.
We should probably go through this place by sections. We’ll start with the area I was stationed in, Board Games HQ. This was in the ballroom and it was packed with tables available for all manner of board games. This place was brightly lit and ready for you to play games with friends and strangers alike. You could even play with the event’s special guest, Richard Borg (game designer and creator of such games as Liars Dice).
The room also had a Games Library, a huge collection of board games available for free rental. You could find all sorts of games that were from the very latest to some of the most popular oldies. You would ask for a game that was available, then trade your ID for the game, and were able to keep it out as long as you liked.
Beyond the Board Game Ballroom there was a store front where vendors from gaming stores from all over could sell their wares. You could buy dice, miniatures, games, books, swords, and more. The hot item I saw kids playing with everywhere were toy swords from the Treasure Nest (no link is given since they don’t have an online presence), a store in Texas that treks out to LA for the Strategicon events. They had plenty of things for LARPers or fans of Renaissance Fairs, including necklaces, chalices, swords, and more. Other stores had just about anything you’d need for board games or role-playing games.
There was also a card games room filled with people playing Magic: the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, Legend of the Five Rings, and plenty of others. Tournaments were going at all hours and they had awesome Legend of the Five Rings banners set up. Outside the card room a few tables were set up as a flea market for those with stuff they wished to sell, but were not stores like the vendors in the other room.
There were two miniatures areas, one to play and one to build. The building area even had a place for you to paint a free miniature of your choice. This area was popular with kids especially, since they could spend time painting toys (that’s cool all on its own). This was where I noticed that Gamex was for young and experienced gamers alike. The tables for miniatures gaming were great to walk by as you’d see a dozen different landscapes with what looked like giants surrounding them.
The entire second floor was dedicated to tabletop RPGs, if you wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons, World of Darkness, or a myriad of other games. I saw people play-testing the latest edition of D&D that had just come out. I bumped into The Dead Gamers Society, an Orange County based group of gamers who play in the World of Darkness settings. There was room after room with tables set up to have three games playing at a single time. Literally dozen of games being played at a single time. The Pathfinder Society was on the first floor running games, as well.
The most frequented room on my trip was the video game room so I could play Diablo 3. It never seemed to be empty, even at 4:30 AM. This was where kids and adults could play PC, Xbox 360, PS3, or Wii games. They had a library of games to choose from, and you could always bring your own to play. Minecraft, League of Legends, Modern Warfare, and Diablo 3 were the popular titles of the event. Pizza boxes lined the table and reminded me that this really was a big slumber party. You could even enter tournaments to win prizes like a Diablo 3 Barbarian mouse pad.
Gaming wasn’t the only thing to be found there. iO West Theater was on hand with Doctor Who Live, Comic Book Live, and Drunkards and Dragons to bring the laughs. I was very sad to learn that by the time I’d arrived I’d missed the Doctor Who Live show, but I’m betting it was stellar, so don’t be a fool like me and go see Doctor Who Live when you can. I was there for Comic Book Live where the crew was aided by Mikey Likey from iO West, and had special guest Richard Borg interviewed by Neil Figuracion. This led to a dark world where board games were outlawed worse than any other drug, and the undercover cop who gets too deep into the world of illegal games. Awards were given for the best new game on the market, Russian Roulette, and plenty of other wonderfully bizarre places.
Drunkards and Dragons had a packed show with a story of a magical toaster and the southern fairy poultry-mancer (power to control chickens) who desired its power. He had to deal with the crazed wererabbits destined to unlock its power (whether they get that power is an entirely different story), and the gelfling (yes, the Dark Crystal muppets) dancer/prostitute and her dragon pimp. The whole thing led to a chaotic set of fights that created the wererabbit/fairy-hybrid abomination, the frairie. The show was so interactive that I even got smacked in the head by the inflatable D20!
Buzzed! was another show from iO West. It’s a game show based off the game Times Up!, run by Neil Figuracion and Liz Ebeling. The game is three rounds with three groups of two guessing what the noun is that their partner has to convey without speaking. Each round gets progressively tougher in how to convey your noun; the first round has you able to say as much as you want to describe the word. The game has 31 words to go through, and each round uses the same ones, so you can start to guess what they are with you and your partner getting into what words and gestures refer to what words. The second round amps up the difficulty by making it only one word, and finally round three is no words, only gestures and sounds. Watching people try to get their point across gets sillier and sillier as you see them try to figure out how to convey someone like Margaret Thatcher. Prizes are given to not only the folks on stage, but for the audience, as well, who get chosen to partake in strange challenges. Winners get card games as prizes (at iO West you get drink vouchers), and we get to see how gestures like Spider-Man can lead someone to believe John Ferrer was the answer.
Gamex was a lot fun. I got to play such great games as Cards Against Humanity (I won a lot so I guess I’m really good at being a horrible person); Dice Age with its creator Tristan Convert (it’s like Dada the art style: the game); the D&D board game with members of Drunkards and Dragons; and ending my trip with dueling Neil Figuracion, Liz Ebeling, Markeia McCarty, Gian Molina, Breon Bliss, and others to the death in Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre. We played games well into the night, I saw people continuing the fun by playing games such as Werewolf, and knew that while my games had ended, the fun of gaming was still going on in that hotel at Gamex.