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Seven SnowCons Gaming!

January 13, 2015
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Tabletop gaming convention at Cross Insurance Center for its seventh year

Seven is a notoriously lucky number. There are seventh sons of seventh sons that go on to rule kingdoms. And SnowCon is hitting its lucky number seven for the annual tabletop gaming convention, this year to be held at the Cross Insurance Center on Jan. 16, 17 and 18.

For those not in the know, SnowCon is an annual tabletop gaming convention that allows enthusiasts of all manner of games, from role playing games to all manner of unique 'hobbyist' board games. With the cold weather here, it's a great time to head inside, find a group of like-minded people and try some games that just look cool and are pretty much guaranteed to be fun.

'Some people look at games and see a $50 game as expensive. You have to look at it as entertainment spending,' said Todd Caron, one of SnowCon's organizers. 'How much does it cost to take a family to the movies? Say you get a $50 game that plays four to six people even if you only play it twice, it's cheaper than a movie that may or may not have been good. That's how I look at games. Look how much use you get out of it and it's not as expensive as it seems.'

And though hobby games are a bit more obscure than, say, 'Monopoly' or 'Sorry,' Caron said that they are being picked up by the larger retailers, including Bull Moose and BAM (Books A Million). The biggest difference between the two is play style.

'Not to be dismissive of mainstream games, but [hobby games] are more fun. [Mainstream games] tend to railroad roll and move,' said Caron. 'Hobby games try to have multiple paths to victory, lots of decisions to make as a player. There is a wide variety of gameplay within the same game.'

Playing a game, or watching a game be played, can be one of the best ways to see if you like it. And this year, SnowCon is giving players a chance to not just win the game but win a physical copy of the game. There are certain games that will be designated 'Play to Win,' meaning if you play one of the games, you will have a chance to walk home with a copy (you don't have to win the game to win the game - you just have to participate for chance to picked).

Don't let the notion that you don't understand the rules stop you from trying. Caron said that many of the games are designed with rookies in mind. Characters are pre-rolled, and most rules can fit on an index card so players can follow along.

'Many of the games are specifically described as introductory for people who have never played the game before,' he said. '[For RPGs], you'll be provided with a character already rolled up. You just sit down and start playing. It might be handy to have a set of specialty dice but someone will loan them to you anyway.'

One of the pillars of the SnowCon culture is being welcoming to those who haven't played these games, as well as being welcoming to women. In the seven years that it has been a con in Maine, they have averaged a solid 70/30 male to female ticketholder ratio - something that one of the organizers is pretty proud of.

'I never went to a gaming convention before we made SnowCon. And we built it the way we thought a gaming convention should be. It never occurred to us that those experiences would be so diverse and have ramifications for those who were participating in the gaming community,' said Monique Bouchard, one of the founders of SnowCon, along with her husband, Drew Bouchard, Gibran Vogue Graham and Todd Caron. She had read about unpleasant experiences that women had at gaming conventions.

'I remember reading it with a sense of shock, because I seldom think of myself as a woman gamer' I think of myself as a gamer. Part of the beauty of the community [of SnowCon] is that they are all gamers,' she said.

There will also be a large variety of role playing games (RPGs) active during the con. RPGs are a sort of storytelling, where the players take on the roles of characters in various settings. The dice used add an element of chance. The settings can be in the realms of fantasy, science fiction, horror and literally everything in-between. SnowCon wrangles some award-winning world-class game masters (the person running the game in question), including Chris Pierce. This year there is also Theatrical RPG with Andre Kruppa , who uses lights and sound effects to create an immersive experience for players.

'The other thing that excites me about SnowCon is that it's one of the cons where you have a chance to play with the game creators,' said Bouchard. 'One of the creators of Bakerstreet' [will be there]. The Harrisons that are writing the books for some of the RPGs [are attending]. You can sit down across the table with Mark Leaman, who went on to kickstart this phenomenal game, ['Cabin Fever']. You can play with the people who made these games and that's not something you get to do every day.'

She noted that they have been able to get some great games, including the ability to host some Pathfinder Society Games. Paizo Publishing created the RPG 'Pathfinder,' but Pathfinder Society allows players to track their characters progress through multiple campaigns around the world that are linked in a database online. So if you play your Pathfinder Society character at SnowCon, the GM will then add your experiences and rewards to the database, and if you play at another convention or elsewhere, those experiences carry over.

'We are always excited to find out who the Game of the Con will be. Past honorees were a Maine-based game called Geekdom.' Another Maine game was Cabin Fever;' and another winner was 'Moosetache Game' which went on to be receive accolades in Games Magazine [was Game of the Con],' said Bouchard. 'We don't know [who will be named Game of the Con] until SnowCon happens. We listen to what the players say about new games, watch what they're playing, figure out the feedback and investigate. Then we have a discussion and put together what we've heard from players.'

Fans of the game 'Settlers of Cataan' have a chance to prove their prowess at trading sheep and wood and other raw materials. There is a pre-qualifying tournament that will be kicking off bright and early. Four rounds of 'Cataan' will be played, and the winner becomes a pre-qualifying spot at TotalCon in Massachusetts. The winner gets a seat at the tournament, as well as access to the con itself.

Caron said that crowdfunding games has been something that has been picking up speed in the last few years. And some games that are being featured at SnowCon have been successfully crowdfunded through online sites like Kickstarter or Indigogo some raking in millions of dollars, while others aim for more modest, but nonetheless successful goals.

SnowCon has also helped spark groups that meet year-round, including the Bangor Area Gamers Guild. This is a group for adult board game enthusiasts to meet and play various games. You can find them on Facebook.

SUBHEAD: Let the Geekery Commence!

So You Meet in a Tavern kickoff party - Friday, Jan. 16

Many RPGs have the party of characters meet in a tavern or inn, and so begins SnowCon. This year it's being held at Tantrum Nightclub and Lounge (193 Broad Street in Bangor). The 21+ event features music, bar specials and NerdProv (nerd improve) comedy.

Jan. 17

Registration and vendors open at 8 a.m. the games begin at 9 a.m. and proceed throughout the day and into the late evening. The game room closes at midnight.

Jan. 18

Registration is at 8 a.m., gaming starts at 9 a.m. At 7 p.m. there is the afterparty and award ceremony.

There is still a chance to order tickets at a discount until Jan 15 ($40 for the weekend, $30 for Sat. only and $20 for Sunday only). At the door, passes are $45 for the weekend, $35 for Saturday only and $30 for Sunday only. SnowCon has a family rate; passes for a family of four or more (kids ages 12+) are capped at $180 for the weekend.

For more information, including ticket information or to purchase passes, visit www.SnowConMaine.com or find them on Facebook.

Editor's Note: We corrected the spelling of Mark Leaman's name and the game he created. We apologize for the error.

Last modified on Tuesday, 13 January 2015 22:20

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