Monday, April 17, 2006

The Gathering

I've been reviewing the games over at my blog, but since people asked....

While I was in grad school, a friend was invited to the Gathering. He then got invited to "Bill Cons", long weekends of gaming at Bill's place in Baltimore. As I had joined Alan's "1200 club" (which pre-bought all of his games) I got an invitation to Bill's (where I met Alan). After I finished grad school, Jacqui and I went to the Gathering. We've both been back every year, until this year when Jacqui couldn't go.

The Gathering is just like dozens, or even hundreds of get togethers every year, with the notable exception that the host is one of the most important designers in the world. This attracts game companies and other designers of note. Some designers bring new games or prototypes, which attracts attention. So it's the 'first look' for a lot of games, which sets trends (right or wrong). I've seen plenty of arguements that the Gathering got this or that game wrong, and many of them are true. But any group of people who get together for a week to play games can be counted to have opinions and discuss them (at length). Ten years ago there were few web and print journalists writing up the games, but now with BGG, Rick Thornquist, etc, you get coverage and instant analysis.

For me the new games are the least of the draw (although it's certainly nice). Originally it was just the chance to play a ton of games, but I've spent the last few years playing new games for a bit, then retreating to old favorites (or longer games that are tough to play in a typical game night). People routinely spend hours just chatting. Playing prototypes sounds like fun, but a few years ago I instituted a "I don't play prototypes" policy (which I waive for one designer since he knows my tastes and only offers finished games).

There's no reason we couldn't do something like that. Everyone chips in a bit for a large conference room and we're off. [Jacqui and I have been talking about doing something like that, and we've done it before]. I've been to a dozen of these smaller group things and they're quite fun. You've been doing it with the "Let's all go to DL and play all day" days. It's just a matter of scale and media attention. (If we were the first people to play a new game, we'd get lots of attention, too). The Gathering started as a weekend with 20 people. It's just had time to grow.

I won't kid anyone that the gaming isn't fun, and new games are a big draw; but a good group is its own reward. As we all know.


At 11:37 PM, April 17, 2006, Blogger Simon said...

I think I can honestly say you're preaching to the choir about the reward of a good gaming group.

Cheers all.

At 9:45 AM, April 18, 2006, Blogger Ted Kostek said...

Thanks for the post, Brian.

This is something we should think about. How much does a small/medium room cost for 12 hours?

At 12:04 PM, April 18, 2006, Blogger Dennis Ugolini said...

This is something we did a lot of in LA. I was never part of the organization; BGGers Scott Woodard and Mark Johnson would be the best people to ask.

We started with SoCal Games Day, which was open to everyone interested. The first few sessions were held in a small room in the back of a PetCo. It was later moved to the basement of a bank, and then finally a church multipurpose room, always for very reasonable fees (but I don't know what those were -- gotta ask the people above).

Once SoCal Games Day grew very large, we set up a smaller, invitation-only get-together called Springspiele (or Summerspiele, or whatever the season happened to be). This was held at a hotel next to Ontario Airport. If we occupied a certain number of hotel rooms for the weekend (somewhere around 6-10), they gave us a conference room for free.

At 12:04 PM, April 18, 2006, Blogger Dennis Ugolini said...

By the way, how do you start a new post on this blog? I want to do a session report for yesterday, and I'm humiliated that I can't figure this out.

At 1:07 PM, April 18, 2006, Blogger Jonathan W. said...


First click on the little Blogger symbol on the upper left hand corner of the site.

If you are logged in it will show a list of the blogs that you are part of, and than click on the "San Antonio Board Gamers" link.

From there you just need to click "create new post" on the left hand side of the screen.

At 6:47 PM, April 18, 2006, Blogger Brian said...

Just FYI, there was a rotating yearly labor day gaming thing (called, appropriately enough, "Thing") that Jacqui and I set up one year. We got a board room good for ~20 people. I believe it cost us $250, with $15 knocked off for each hotel room (per night) rented by the group. Of course, that was five years ago, but usually hotels let their business sized rooms go cheaply over the weekends.

For twelve hours, we can probably just use DL or someone's house.

At 10:12 PM, April 18, 2006, Blogger Rob said...

Sounds like a lot of work...

All it would take is joining the "regulars" from DL, Purple Cactus (it gets pretty busy on weekends), etc and put them all in one room. Or this may be a bad idea...

I love the concept (after all, I signed up for this year's BGG.con), but I just have no clue where to start with this. Count me in though.


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