ConCarolinas 2016 Gaming Report!
To coin a phrase that might not be politically correct, 2016 was the year we endeavored to “… make CC Gaming great again!” After a 3-year absence from ConCarolinas, they invited us back to run gaming. Those three years took their toll, however. Trust me when I say that we had an uphill battle to fight.
We have never done anything at this venue – the Embassy Suites in Concord/Concord Convention Center – but I was familiar with it. It is a great space, but I know it’s expensive. And I do not mean that in a small way. Convention Centers are far more complex to deal with and far more pricey and I applaud ConCarolinas for their willingness to afford such a great space. We were given a room that was about 7200 sq ft. I was able to fit 56 tables for all varieties of gaming – RPGs (organized play and general play) , miniature games and tabletop board and card games.
GM turn-out was as to be expected – light. We lined up a few Malifaux events, Star Wars X-Wing events, had our usual lineup of games from Steve Jackson Games, Atlas Games and Looney Labs Games all run by No Ordinary Gamers, and the Hull Breach guys put on a Charity Event for Operation Supply Drop. Pathfinder Society, D&D Adventurers League and Shadowrun Missions all had a good schedule lined up thanks to Nathan, Tim, and Mac (respectively). The only major disappointment was the lack of general play RPGs. About half my round tables (meant for RPGs) did not have RPGs, but as it turns out, I needed them for other things like Empire Games and other cards games, etc.
I was pleasantly surprised with a perfectly setup room Thursday night when I dropped off some stuff. The room was huge as you can see in the picture below. My biggest concern was noise.
Friday players trickled in and I got to meet some of our old friends again as well as some new ones. Most were MACE regulars but a few were new. I got a table of three for my Call of Cthulhu 7th edition game and we had a good time. Friday night attendance was lighter than I liked but it stayed reasonably busy most of the night. Enough PFS and D&D AL games ran to keep those coordinators happy, although we were not prepared for all the D&D players at the door.
When I ran gaming for this con from 2002 to 2012, I remember Friday being light. Being a rebuilding year also was a factor. We definitely surprised some folks that did not seem to know we were back and many complimented us on our organization and variety. We did get a few requests for events we did not have – like Magic, the Gathering and more Savage Worlds. Hopefully, next year we can accommodate them.
James Doster and his No Ordinary Gamers team stayed busy, as usual. At a sci-fi con, there are many casual board or card game players that just want to drop in and play a game. They usually don’t care what and they don’t want to learn it by themselves – perhaps more so than at gaming cons. Doster’s line up of Steve Jackson Games, Atlas Games as well as games from AEG and Looney Labs were a perfect place for me to send them. They are a great team to work with.
If not No Ordinary Gamers, it is Empire Games, whose passion for gaming and their game I Drank What? always makes their tables fun. Thanks to Scott and Dave for their dedication to JustUs as well as ConCarolinas. They are a strong cornerstone for our events.
A local group demoing Wyrd Games arrived, lead by a wonderful person that did the same thing for us at MACE – Dawn. Along with her was a couple of guys named Jon and Chris. I want to thank them all sincerely for their hard work and great set up. They arrived Friday night and were there all weekend with great demos and tournaments.
Also arriving Friday night was the demo team from Prodos Games, demoing primarily Warzone, with a little Aliens Vs. Predator board game. Thanks to them for bringing a great set up and running games.
Also arriving Friday night was the return of our regular Battletech guys to ConCarolinas. After a bad experience a few years ago at this con, they willingly came back now that we are running things again. They had several games throughout the weekend.
Things picked up Saturday some, with only one major disappointment. The planned X-Wing tournament fell through when I got a message from the tournament director who had injured himself the night before and could not make it. A few casual games of X-Wing ensued, but I wish the tournament had made. It would have been fun. The room got really busy toward late afternoon, as games like Infinity, Space Movers and more arrived and ran demos to all that showed up.
I had the pleasure of playing quite a few games – Sheriff of Nottingham, Fortress America, and my favorite game of all weekend – Cthulhu Wars! The last one is an amazing game. I like to call it the game of “unnecessarily large plastic pieces!” It’s like Risk with Cthulhu mythos monsters. I ended up playing it twice that weekend and it is so fun. I had a blast with it!
Another small disappointment was a breakdown in communication with one of the guests. Stephen Cobb loves to sponsor a tournament of his signature game, Death Stacks. Unfortunately, he never contacted us prior to the convention. He walked in about noon with 8 hours notice to add the tournament to the schedule. I did that, but of course it was too late. It did not make. With proper communication and promotion, I am sure it will be better next year. I just hate that he spent the money on three trophies and no one showed up.
We had a higher percentage of games making on Saturday than Friday, and I think we reached about 200 gamers including the LARP. Speaking of the LARP, it did reasonably well despite the change in room and the noise issues that came up. We will work on those issues to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We also had several unpublished games including Spellslinger card game, Pizza World, and a race game (that unfortunately I did not catch the name of) that came in last minute.
Sunday slowed down again, although we had some good games make. The guys from Otherworlds RPG ran several games and I think they did reasonably well for Sunday only events. I got to play Cosmic Encounter as well as Kingdom Builder. I also got in my second game of Cthulhu Wars.
I heard there were other things going on at the convention like panels, guests, costuming, music and other events, but I was too enthralled in gaming to check them out. The dealers room was well stocked but I only got to visit our dearest friend Dan from Walt’s Cards. My focus was gaming and I did not want to take my attention off it.
Lessons learned from this year’s return to ConCarolinas are many but nothing we have not seen before. Charlotte has a strong gaming community and it has to be re-tapped after three years of neglect. It is a small hurdle to get over but I am sure it can be done. At its peak when I was running gaming, we estimated about 300 to 400 gamers at ConCarolinas by 2012. We can build that back up. Coordinating better with some of the gaming guests is going to have to happen. Most of their games had to be cancelled because programming put them on panels that interfered with their gaming slots. I was happy with the layout but may adjust it a little to allow for easier traffic flow, which might mean less tables.
Thanks again to all those that ran games for us and that attended. If I forgot to special mention you, I apologize. We were glad to be back at ConCarolinas and hope to have a future there.