Conventions – GottaCon & Toronto

I’ll write a much longer blog post later when I have time, just got back from the second convention in a row that we have gone through and am still somewhat bushed.  On a personal good note though, I have managed to somehow miss the Con-lurgy.   I too am amazed.

We did GottaCon at the start of this month and the new location and format had both it’s high points and low points.  Being based downtown, the convention was amazingly well situated with food options easy to get to and hotels a short walk away.  The fact that the convention was split over multiple rooms and floors was a bit of a problem in terms of concentration of events, but it did mean that con-goers could just focus on what was most important to them.  It was also really, really nice to have carpeted floors to stand on.

For us, the big problem was having to move-in / set-up the day before and setting up for the school event that was a huge bust.  The children basically paid no attention to us as vendors, which was understandable – but it did cost us a significant increase in funds to arrive a day early and staff the booth.  Hopefully, this will be changed again.

The board game section was once more buzzing – there were 22 ‘main’ tables and another side room with another half-dozen tables, all of which were packed during the busiest periods.  In fact, there weren’t enough tables at some points during Saturday.

Overall, we enjoyed ourselves at GottaCon and will definitely be back next year.

As for the other convention, we visited as Fortress Geek; so I’m going to just say that if you do live in Toronto; the Toronto Comic-Con is a ton of fun.

Post Con Report : Gottacon

We just came back from Gottacon and while we are still recovering from the 15 hour days.  Gottacon this year was as big, if not bigger than last year and it was an interesting year all around.

Day 1

Load up and go.  We generally pack the day before and just load the van in the morning to catch the 11am ferry and this year was no different.  Load out was easier this year in general too – we tried our best to restrict what we were bringing across to games we knew were going to sell and dropped a bunch of other games.  It didn’t help that sales throughout the week were good enough that we actually had less of some bestsellers in-stock than we had expected.

This year we skipped staying at the Howard Johnson in an effort to save our backs (horrible beds) and booked another motel (the Super 8).  We had about 2 minutes in the room, long enough to drop off clothing before we had to rush to Gottacon and begin unpacking.  As usual, a single booth never seems enough space when you start out and we certainly ended up with boxes unpacked and hidden beneath the tables.  A quick walk-around showed that we had a lot more competition this year too – there were a total of 5 game stores and another independent seller at Gottacon this year.  That was obviously slightly worrying for us, but it seemed many game stores had decided to ‘specialise’ in one area; whether it was miniatures, CCGs, accessories or board games (us).

Kaja in the booth - a brief moment of rest
Kaja in the booth – a brief moment of rest

Once the doors opened at 5pm, the next 6 hours passed by in a blur.  Con-goers were streaming in much more quickly this year, which meant people were playing and shopping immediately.  This was a major change from the year before and we have to give kudos for Evan & Carson for fixing the lineup problem that arose last year.

Game tables were packed almost immediately between the various demos, tournaments and open play.  If anything, we definitely needed at least another 3 tables for open play it seemed.   At 11.30pm we decided to call it a day, though we might have to look at staying open later next year.  Certainly con-goers were still running around shopping it seemed, though at a significantly slower pace by that time.

Day 2

Day 2 started at 9am for us (okay, 9.05am when we got to the Con) and almost immediately we started doing sales.  Sales moved in fits and starts throughout the day, with customers coming in waves as various games and panels finished.  This helped us pace the day, giving both Kaja and I time to take quick breaks to look around the Con.

2013-02-02_14-47-25_787_Victoria2013-02-02_14-48-48_875_VictoriaThere was definitely a lot to see – the board games tables were constantly packed with players with over 16 tables in-play at any one time. Day 2 was also the day of the costume contest with some amazing costumes on display.  On the left is our favorite of the con.

The other sections of the con were always busy though we didn’t see much of it at all.  Certainly the miniature section was very busy whenever we glanced over.

The silent auction as always had some amazingly good deals, with a wide range of items ranging from board games to miniatures to fantasy books available.  The silent auction is probably one of the better parts of the con with such a wide range of products available at sometimes a steal of a price.

Starlit Citadel was running 2 tournaments ourselves, the first a Race for the Galaxy tournament in the morning that had 12 participants and later, in the evening a Dominion tournaments with 23 participants.  The Race tournament went off without a hitch with a lot of happy players and I’m quite happy with the new format (single game elimination with the winner going to the final round where 3 games were played for a $15 gift certificate prize).

The Dominion tournament on the other hand was a bit of a mess, with too many games played (i.e. too much time) and too much confusion.   I’ve definitely got to edit the tournament format; though thankfully everyone involved was generally happy with the overall experience.  Certainly, the finals was nail-biting – everyone ended up winning a game (tie in game 1 between 2 players) so the winner’s were decided by overall points.  The overall winner came from behind and won by amassing 40 points in a last round filled with Witches & Curses.

Sales were busy but started tapering off towards the evening, which meant that Kaja managed to make it to the RPG Improv for the Standard Action Panel.  In Kaja’s words – “I got to play a Goblin“.  That might have been followed by a squee.  I understand there were props, plot cards, singing and a video.

With most gamers having wandered off by 12.30am; we decided to call it an evening  and headed to bed.

Day 3

Day 3 – the final day – started at 9am too but really, most people wandered around like zombies till at least noon.  With sales and traffic slow, I took the chance to do some gaming and broke out Glory to Rome Black Box and Clash of Cultures.  Both were great games to play, with the new edition of Glory to Rome doing some things better (easier sorting and design) and others worst (diagonal stripes that hurt the eyes – really?).  Clash of Cultures was a lot of fun, it’s a streamlined Civilization game that is to civilization games what Eclipse is to Twilight Imperium.  I’m definitely looking forward to trying that one again.

In the afternoon things picked up, with more customers coming by to purchase last minute products.  At this point it seemed some of our over-zealous streamlining of products brought hurt our sales with quite a few games out of stock.  There were also some customers who came by looking for last minute con deals who left disappointed as we don’t do con deals.  Overall, sales were much slower than last year’s con – a factor it seems due to the last minute deals the rest of the vendor’s room was conducting.

Packing up was murderous – long days made both of us move a lot slower than normal and the lack of a proper load-out option meant that load out took forever.  Gottacon definitely needs to work out a better plan for that since by the time we drove to the ferries, we had missed our reservation window.

Last Thoughts

GottaCon was a lot of fun and certainly (in terms of sales for us) worth going.   While the increased competition did hamper us a bit, the increased number of con-goers seemed to make up for it.  I certainly think most attendees had a good time as well, with the amazing amount of gaming that was going on.  The larger number of demos and tournaments were great and the panels seemed to do very well with attracting interest from players who wanted a break from pure gaming.

As a gaming event, Gottacon is probably the biggest there is in BC by a large margin.  It’d be nice to see a similar event in Vancouver, with the current closest options being VCon and Bottoscon in October & November respectively.

Some things that could have gone better include:

  • more ventilation (especially by Saturday evening, it was just ridiculous how stuffy it was)
  • more variety in dealers booths (and a larger dealer area).  While I personally wouldn’t want more game stores, I do believe the con could do with a wider variety of dealers
  • a better load out plan – having the main loading area blocked off during load out because the video gamers were busy was a pain
  • more water – having volunteers drop by with water was great.  Having them drop by only twice during the 3 days was not
  • healthier food choices – while I understand we’re all gamers, it’d be nice if the cafeteria had some healthier food options rather than just pizza / donuts / chocolate bars on offer.

GottaCon 2012 Con Report

What an amazing weekend. GottaCon 2012 took place between February 3 – 5, 2012 in Victoria and it was packed. A lot of gaming (and selling for us) happened throughout the weekend and we had a lot of fun catching up with old customers and meeting new one’s too.  I would say it was our most successful con so far, though it was also our most tiring.

Before the Con

Getting ready for a con is generally a multi-day event.  We put an order through a few days beforehand in an attempt to increase stock for the event; especially for games we expect to sell well.  Once we do receive the stock, the evening before the event we pack everything that has to go up so that on the day itself, load-up is easy. It’s particularly important for GottaCon for us since it’s a multi-day event in Victoria which means we can’t just restock throughout the week if we are missing product.

Friday

As always we stayed at the Howard Johnson in Victoria, mainly because of the price and convenience factor.  It’s not a luxury location; but really we are barely there anyway.   After that, it was the 2 1/2 hour unloading & set-up for the con.  Unfortunately unlike previous years, we couldn’t drive most of the way in for unloading which meant we got a ton of exercise.

Starlit Citadel's Booth at Gottacon 2012
Starlit Citadel's Booth at Gottacon 2012

Due to an extremely long and not very well organised line-up; most visitors didn’t stream in till much later than the 5pm start time. However, once they were in, the Con-goers were quite happy to browse around, grab seats and start their various games. While we were meant to shut down at 9pm; due to the slow-start we stayed open till 10.30pm before calling it a day.

Saturday
Saturday would be a roller-coaster day. After an early breakfast, we proceeded to get ready for the first sponsored event we would run – the Race for the Galaxy Tournament. We had 15 players turn-up, and the games begun. In between of course, Kaja and I took turns manning the booth, running the tournament and wandering around the Con.

The tournament went well, though I think next year we’ll adjust how we run it. We ran the tournament in 2 rounds, with 3 games each. That seemed to take too long, so we’ll adjust it to 3 rounds only, with 1 game in the first 2 rounds for next year.

With customers arriving in fits and starts, we got a chance to talk to our booth neighbors – the webcomic creators Sam and Fuzzy and Weregeek’s Alina; both of who are great people and even better Con neighbors. We were also next to TableTopScenery who make the most amazing Miniature Scenery.   Almost makes me want to become a miniature gamer just to own some of their stuff.

During the slower parts of the day, I also managed to make my way around the Con, poking my head into the RPG section; the auction and visiting with Standard Action‘s cast and crew.  It was great catching up with them again as well as many of the other distributors that we knew.  We also bumped into Ed Healy of the Gamerati & Critical Gamers; both of whom were quite cool.

The Dominion Tournament we ran started at 7pm and would run till 12.30am.  We had 32 players in the tournament and likely could have had more if we could fit them all in! With so many players, we had to run 3 rounds; which meant a long-night.  We finally called it a day at the booth at 11pm and got a chance to play our first game of the Con – Galaxy Trucker.   I truly enjoy Galaxy Trucker, though even with the timer on we were all moving slow.

With the game and tournament finished, we made it back home and crashed out.

 Sunday

Being the last day of the Con, we had a slower start to the day and made it to the tables a tad late.  At first, it started slow with only a few players around and so I sent Kaja off to game.  A relatively bad move as by 10am the booth was slammed for the next 2 hours with customers coming by having made up their minds.  Thankfully, she was playing close by and could drop by to help when it got really bad.

Sunday was a hectic day.  While we had few lull’s; it was overall quite busy and time just flew by.  After 3 days; the hall was getting extremely stuffy and warm (though not as bad as Saturday night) and that didn’t help keep our energy levels up.  Thank god for good booth neighbors and understanding customers as I phased out at points.

The rush to pack-up and get everything squared away for the 7pm ferry was a tad too chaotic for my liking but we did manage to make it.  With about 1 minute to spare for our reservations.  Unfortunately, we managed to forget a box which Carson & Evan of GottaCon now have. Ugh.

Monday

Post con, all the enjoyable administration began. Unpacking, resorting, inventorying all damaged items during transit.  Then checking all our receipts, making sure they matched up with our stock and sales, counting our cash and balancing the books before making the final deposits.   And then of course, getting back to our usual routine!