Tips for introverts at gaming conventions

Andrea and Blair at Gottacon

Playing Chez Geek at Gottacon.

Gaming conventions are a great place to meet new people who share your interest, try new games without taking the risk of buying a game first, and to share your favourite games with others. But if you’re an introvert like me, sometimes conventions can be intimidating because they require a fair amount of energy and socializing.

Fret not! The good times and gaming at cons definitely outweigh the energy requirements. Over the years I’ve learned ways to make the most out of gaming convention while keeping my introvert sanity.

Here are my tips for introverts to survive a gaming convention:

  • Start small / go big. There are advantages and disadvantages to attending small conventions and bigger ones. Small conventions tend to be quieter, but more intimate. Bigger conventions make it easier to disappear with the crowd, but the noise level and number of people are also a lot more stressful. I plan my activities and break times for each type accordingly. If it’s your first time going to a con, determine what size you’re comfortable with against what you hope to get out of the event.
  • Take a friend. This ensures you’ll always have a buddy to play games with. It’s even better if you have an extroverted friend who knows your introversion. I’m terrible at introducing myself and making small talk, but husband is awesome at it. Or if I’m feeling particularly bashful about approaching someone I want to talk to, he either helps to give me courage or is willing to step up and help me approach them.
  • Find a quiet space. Whether it’s a quiet corridor or a coffee shop down the street, find a space where you can get out of the noise. This will help you build your energy reserve back up again. This is especially important if you aren’t staying at the con hotel and don’t have your own space to flee to!
  • Stay at the convention hotel. By having a space that’s my ‘own’ that’s only a short elevator ride away means I have that quiet space I can escape to when I just need to get out of the noise and be a zombie for an hour. I know this can be costly, but over the years I’ve found this is the best option for me attending a convention. Otherwise, try to stay with a friend who lives close enough to the convention and doesn’t mind you returning to their place by yourself for a few hours.
  • Take breaks. Don’t feel pressured to DOALLTHETHINGS. Instead of gaming 12 hours straight, set your own pace. Watch games being played, go for a walk, or borrow a game from the library and read it’s rulebook.
  • Stay fed and hydrated. This will help you keep your energy levels up for longer.
  • Teach a game you know. Not only does it automatically give you something to talk about that you like, but it’s also a way to ensure you have a captive audience. The only downside to this is if it’s a particularly noisy event space, it’s really easy for an introvert to lose their voice as they fight to be heard. After DMing one session of D&D5e last year at a con that was in a gymnasium, I could hardly be heard when I spoke for the rest of the event…
  • Volunteer. Sometimes having a specific task to focus on makes it easier for me to break out of my shell, especially when I’m having a low energy day.
  • Go outside your comfort zone. I’ve made awesome friends, learned new games, and had some cool opportunities happen because I was willing to go outside my comfort zone. That’s not to say you have to be uncomfortable for the entire event, but sometimes introducing yourself to a game designer, trying a new game, or volunteering will be worth it. (Of course, when I say go outside your comfort zone, I don’t mean try something that is or makes you feel unsafe. Trust your gut).

Introvert friends: are there any other tips for introverts at conventions I missed?

GAMA Trade Show 2017

Blair and I just had a gamer bucket list item scratched off! We just returned from the GAMA Trade Show in Las Vegas. Hosted by the Game Manufacturers Association, this five day show focuses on games from the business perspective: designers, manufacturers, and game stores are all represented.

Three days of the show are focused on learning. There’s a Designer’s Track aimed at game designers. There’s also a few panels focused on game published. The bulk of the learning is aimed at game stores and the selling of games. Blair and I were attending on behalf of Pastime Sports & Games, so we focused on the game store aspect.

Goodness did we learn a lot! There were lots of great insights shared by experienced retailers. Panels I attended included:

  • Forging the Fires of Awesome – Paul Butler discussed what makes certain games a success in a game store while games a flop. There was a distinct focus on the power of handselling, merchandizing, and demo tables.
  • Business Plan – Presented by Travis Parry, this session looked at business planning for game stores.
  • Selling the Fun, Not the Meeple – David Steltenkamp focused on handselling strategies. In particular, selling the emotional benefits of a game, rather that the game’s parts.
  • Just a little excited to be at the GAMA Trade Show.

    Financing 101 – Presented by David Steltenkamp and Aaron Witten, this session looked at the basics of store finances. I’ve never done this part of store business, so it was a fascinating look into profit & loss statements, balance sheets, etc.

  • RPG Evolution – Paul Butler examined the role play game landscape beyond D&D and Pathfinder. Including fostering a community, stocking a diverse range of books, barriers of entry, and other opportunities to grow an RPG section.
  • Lights, Camera, Game On! – Tony Cox, Scott Neal, and Stephen Kirwan looked at streaming as a new advertising channel for game stores. Topics discussed included content ideas, tips and tricks, and the benefits to the bottom line.
  • Challenges of a Cooperative Store – Mike Kistler tackled organizational leadership of a game store. Focus on store values and mission, staff training, setting policies and following through.
  • International Tabletop Day – Ivan Van Norman discussed what’s planned for this year’s ITTD and how it can help game stores.
Andrea and Blair point to a Dungeon Crawl Classics banner.

Checking out Dungeon Crawl Classics in the RPG room.

Then there was a day and a half dedicated to upcoming game releases. Publishers got to preview their new new games for 2018. Some of the presentations were powerpoints, where others gave you a chance to demo the games.

There were so many panels that Blair and I had to divide and conquer. I got to attend presentations by CMON, Paizo Organized Play, Asmodee, Upper Deck, AEG, Paizo, and Mayfair Games.

A half day of the show is dedicated to the Exhibit Hall. Game publishers can setup booths for attendees to actually see some of the games, get demos, and talk one-on-one to publishers about the games. It’s also an opportunity for stores to place orders at trade show prices.

Forthcoming games I’m excited about:

  • Yamatai (Asmodee) – Feels like Five Tribes, but is a heavier European-style game.
  • Pandemic Legacy Season 2 (Asmodee) – Enough said.
  • Legendary X-Men (Upper Deck) – A larger expansion for Legendary deck building game.
  • Unicornus Knights (AEG) – A cooperative adventure game by Seiji Kanai, the creator of Love Letter.
  • Oath of the Brotherhood (AEG) – A worker placement game like Lords of Waterdeep, but pirate themed!
  • The Captain is Dead (AEG) – A cooperative space-themed game. Essentially Star Trek meets Pandemic.
  • Blair pretending to shake hands with a Starfinder character on a poster, while Jason Bulmahn laughs.

    Blair being a goof with Jason Bulmahn.

    Starfinder (Paizo) – A new scifi-theme RPG from the creators of Pathfinder.

  • Colonists (Mayfair) – An epic strategy and worker placement game. This can take five hours for a whole game, but you can also just play certain eras for a shorter game.

In the evenings, attendees have the opportunity to play game demos. Our favourite was the RPG room. We got to participate in a demo of Dungeon Crawl Classics.

We also had the chance to sign up for a Starfinder demo. We were taken to a small conference room, just the right size for an RPG game. Paizo game designer Jason Bulmahn ran us through starship combat for the game. I got to play the engineer (surprise, surprise). Not only did we get a preview of a game we’re looking forward too, but we got to play it with the creator of Pathfinder, a game we love!

Overall this was a fantastic trip!

Terminal City 2017

This past weekend was Terminal City Tabletop Convention! In it’s fourth year, our favourite gaming convention was back for two days at Bonsor Recreation Centre in Burnaby.

Our attendance at it was a bit different this year. We’d bought tickets, but TCTC’s organizer, Shannon, reached out and asked if we’d be willing to volunteer. So instead of attendees we got to be volunteers!

This year I DM’d my first ever convention game of Dungeons & Dragons 5e. I was nervous going in, but I’d spent a lot of time in the weeks leading up to TCTC prepping, so at least I was ready. My session was called “Intro to 5e” and it was meant as a learning game for newbies who were interested in tabletop RPGs or to 5th edition. I ran the 5e Starter Box, because it’s a great scenario to get people into 5e, it comes with pre-generated characters, and gives newbies a chance to dip their toes into the actual role playing side of things (rather than being so mechanics focused). My session filled up on a few weeks ago, which helped to bolster me a bit. It turned out to be a lot of fun!

Day one hosts the ever popular Gamer silent auction. You can put games you no longer play into the auction for $2 per entry, and pickup new-to-you games for a decent price! We always bring in games, and always end up with a haul of new games.

Blair and Aaron as Game Stewards, check out Tsuro. Photo by Rebecca Blissett at the Vancouver Courier.

Blair volunteered as a Game Steward. Attendees could borrow board games from the Game Library, and then Blair and other Game Stewards were on hand to teach the various games. It’s a great option for convention goers who weren’t able to get into schedules games. And if a game they wanted to play wasn’t scheduled, it was an opportunity to play it!

In the evening we borrowed Dice City from the library. It seemed intriguing to try. It reminded me a lot of Machi Koro, in that you roll dice to activate powers, and have to build your city up to gain points. We enjoyed it so much it got added to our ‘to-acquire’ game list.

We also tried a game called Bear Valley. Players have to follow a trail while avoiding bear attacks. Unfortunately we found the instruction booklet overly complicated and had to give up on it.

Obligatory convention dice picture.

We got to play Nevermore on Sunday. It’s a card drafting game somewhat like Sushi Go, except here you’re trying to build a suit of a certain type, and then attack your opponents. Not a bad little quick game. The artwork on it is really lovely.

Blair helped to run a Pandemic Survival tournament. It’s definitely an interesting take on traditional Pandemic. Multiple Pandemic boards are setup exactly the same way (the player decks and outbreak decks). Cards are flipped at the same time, and whichever team of two can find a cure for the three viruses in the least number of steps, wins.

Terminal City 2016

One of our favourite conventions took place this weekend. Terminal City Tabletop Convention happened in Burnaby at Bonsor Recreation Centre. This year we were able to attend both days, and our friend Chris joined us.

Saturday was the busier of the two days, both in regards to attendance and the number of games we played!

It’s also the day the ever popular Board Game Silent Auction takes place–something we always look forward to. The auction is a great chance for us to find new homes for games we don’t play anymore (it’s only $2 per entry) and it’s a chance for us to pickup new-to-us games for a good price.

Friend Chris and DM Sean playing 5e.

Even since Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition was released I wanted to give it a try. I’d heard good things about it, namely that they really slimmed the system down and put a greater emphasis on actual role playing. Plus watching Critical Role just helped to increase my interest in the game. DM Sean was hosting an intro to D&D5e session using the Starter Box, and we were fortunate that there was space for all three of us to jump in.

Sean was a great DM, helping us learn the system, and weaving an interesting story that put the system into action. Overall I was impressed with 5e and am looking forward to getting my hands on the Player’s Handbook and possibly running my own campaigns in it.

Learning Machi Koro at Terminal City.

After lunch we borrowed Machi Koro from the library and Chris taught us. It’s a deck building game that’s part strategy, part luck. On your turn you roll a die, which activates abilities in your city, which in turn earns you money. You use the money you earn to build more buildings, and eventually build landmarks. First person to build all their landmarks, wins. I LOVED it. So much so that we ended up purchasing a copy… *cough cough*.

Next up was a 6-person game of Star Trek Attack Wing. We learned this last year at Gottacon, but it’s a fun game nonetheless. In a simple game, players control various Star Trek vessels and try to blast their opponents out of the sky, being the last vessel standing. This is done using certain ship maneuvers (each ship is different), and different attack abilities. Then you roll dice against your opponent. There are characters and technology that are added to your ships to help enhance them. In a more advanced game, you play certain scenarios based out of the Star Trek universe.

Castle of Mad King Ludwig

I taught Castles of Mad King Ludwig for our last game of the day. Players are trying to build the craziest castle to impress the Mad King. They do this by purchasing rooms and adding them to their own castles. You get points for particular arrangements, having the most of a certain type of room, and having the most square footage of a certain type of room. This is one I really enjoy that’s on my wish list.

It’s amazing how quickly a day can go at a convention! Only a few games played, but it takes up the whole day.

The next day we checked out proto-alley. TCTC has always been a big supporter of game developers, always making room for them to demo and get feedback about their in-development games.

First up was Overpopulation. You’re randomly given a type of government, which gives you your starting resources. Then you have to balance building resources, keeping your people alive, and earning points.

The lovely cards that make up Townbuilder.

Next we checked out TownBuilder, to see what designer Eric Raué had done in terms of updating since we last played. This game is part resource management, part deck building. Both Blair and I love it, and we can’t wait for it to eventually go up on Kickstarter.

Next we played Eric’s new proto-game, Garden of Shadows. Here you play as ninjas trying to wreck havok during the Emperor’s party.

All in all we had a blast again. Thank you Shannon for coordinating another great year of Terminal City.




Tabletop Day 2015

Happy International Tabletop Day!

We hosted another Tabletop Day event. This time we were at Pastime Sports & Games, and the store sponsored the event with prizes and event space. We had to host it on Sunday, even though the official ITTD was Saturday. But that didn’t discourage people from showing up, we had 50 attendees  throughout the day who were eager to play board games with us.

Terminal City 2015

This past Saturday, Blair and I attended Terminal City Tabletop Convention in Burnaby.

In it’s second year, Terminal City is a two-day convention dedicated solely to tabletop games. This year’s event moved across the street to the Bonsor Recreation Centre in the Metrotown neighbourhood of Burnaby. Like last year’s event, this year’s TCTC was packed with gaming demos, tournaments, an awesome silent auction, a dedicated indie game section, and a kids’ zone.

“Teacher Wanted” sign at TCTC.

I love the friendly environment of this convention! A neat feature was the “Players Wanted” and “Teachers Wanted” signs that were available. If you were wanting to play a game and looking for more players, or wanting to learn a game, you could borrow one of these signs so that people knew you were looking to game. It was a great way to break the ice because then folks could simply jump in on a game without the awkwardness of trying to figure out if there was room for you. We met a lot of awesome people this way.

We arrived about an hour into the convention having started, so we weren’t able to jump into some game demos. Instead we checked out the con to see what folks were playing, had a peek at the silent auction, and went over to the proto alley.

Because the game demos had already begun, we borrowed a copy of Tokaido from the lending library. Blair really wanted to learn some games that have been featured on Tabletop, so this was a great opportunity to do it.

Learning Tokaido.

Our friend Adrian from Giant Monster Games had spotted us with a “Teacher’s Wanted” sign on the table. He jumped in to teach us and another couple how to play. Tokaido is a fun, easy going game that’s quick to learn. It requires a bit of strategy, as you need to figure out what goals you want to achieve and how much risk you’re willing to take (since other people can fill up spots trying to earn pieces towards goals too).

After that we borrowed a copy of Forbidden Desert. This time around we had Shannon, the TCTC organizer, as our game teacher! He taught us and another newbie how to play.

Our completed ship in Forbidden Desert.

I have to say, I loved this game so much we may have purchased a copy during the con…. This is another one that’s easy to learn, but it’s also a team game, so you have to work together to find all the pieces to your flying ship before the desert kills you. Originally we thought we’d won this game, but looking at the rules again a few days later it turns out we didn’t.

The next game on deck was Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards Duel at Mt Skullzfyre. The concept is that you’re a wizard trying to kill off all the other wizards. Odds are, you’re going to be killed. A lot. You build your three part spells using cards, and unleash them. Be warned, if you don’t have a high enough initiative odds are you will be killed. But if you have a high initiative and attack people, they will attack you back on your turn and you will be killed. I found the concept kind of neat. The instruction booklet is really poorly designed, so it was a struggle for us to read the text and figure out how to play. Fortunately we found someone who knew how to play to teach us!

A roomful of happy gamers!

Next up we took a crack at Wits and Wagers. One person asks a question, and then everyone has to make a guess at what the answer is. Then you reveal all the answers and everyone bids on what they think is the closest to the real answer without going over (all answers are numeric). This wasn’t a bad game, but I think there are other party games out there that get more laughs and engagement from the group.

The silent auction closed about then. Because it was up on the stage it was pretty funny to see the people camping out next to bid sheets to make sure that their bid was the winning one.

We snuck out for some dinner after that.

Learning protogame Town Builder.

On our way back we headed to the protoalley to learn Town Builder. This is a card game where you try to collect resources and build your town, to make a better town than your competitors, and score points based on certain goals. The goals will vary from game to game too. We both loved that the game was simple to learn, but there was still a lot of in-depth strategy and planning you needed to do. It’s a good game for both casual and hard core gamers alike. We can’t wait to see this game launch on Kickstarter and are eager to get a copy!

After that we played a quick game of The Hobbit Love Letter, before deciding that we were pooped and were ready to head for home. Unfortunately we weren’t able to make it back for the Sunday due to ongoing home renoes.

All in all we both love Terminal City and can’t wait for next year!

Gottacon 2015

Gottacon’s vendors hall.

We were excited to head to Victoria for one of our favourite conventions, Gottacon! Gottacon is dedicated to bringing together gaming geeks of all sorts. This con focuses on being an inclusive gaming experience with a broad spectrum of games: from RPG and table, to miniatures, trading card games, LAN games, and more. Gottacon also offers a variety of panels, workshops, and special events.

2015 was Gottacon’s seventh year in existence and our second year in attendance, and we definitely had a blast! Our friends Deanna and Ethan from Guardians of the Geek were able to come with us, so it was great to be able to share this awesome convention with them! We will be reviewing games we played in future posts, but join us as we recap the weekend!

Playing Lords of Vegas on the ferry to Gottacon.

This year the convention expanded to two locations: the Victoria Conference Centre (inside the Empress Hotel) and the Crystal Gardens (technically part of the VCC, but across the street). This year’s attendence was expected to be 4,000, so an increased size in venue was to be expected!


We were fortunate to have local game store Pastime Sports & Games sponsor our trip to Gottacon this year. So on Friday we got early entrance to the vendors hall in order to setup the booth. Overall we all had a lot of fun manning the booth; we got to talk games with other gamers, share in laughs with other vendors, and overall got a vendor’s look into conventions. My favourite part was how excited folks got when they spotted an out-of-print RPG book they had been looking for.

After that the con kicked off, and we had the chance to explore everything it had to offer. The Crystal Gardens building is where we all spent most of our time, as it featured all of the board games, indie games, miniatures gaming, and the vendors hall. The main convention centre hosted the video games, RPG games, panel rooms and theatre, and the collectable card games.


Wargaming area at Gottacon.

After a tasty breakfast, we headed out for day two!

I caught the Creating a Hook 101 workshop, which looked at creating interesting stories as a GM that hooked players into it. In my experience as a GM for an online RPG, I know how frustrating it can be to come up with exciting hooks only to have half the players think it’s fun and the other half give it a sad trombone. Tips I picked up include 1- Have a question players need to answer, 2- Create mini-interludes that you can slip in whenever the game slows down, being sure to tie them back to major plot points, 3-When players make a joke suggestion, threaten to use them… or actually use them (also called chumming the dungeon), and 4- Make sure to have smaller scale hooks, so that the bigger ones have more meaning.

Proto-alley at Gottacon.

Saturday also featured the annual Gamer Silent Auction. Gottacon debuted a new app for this, that included tracking of items, bidding, and notifications if you’d been outbid. If you didn’t have a phone, computers were available to register bids. I found this so much better than the previous, paper system. Last year I couldn’t get in to the auction room to place a final bid because people were stalking the tables to make sure their bids won. My only negative feedback about the app was that it didn’t show you if you had the highest bid on an item; it only notified you if you were outbid. So if you wanted to login and check on other items, there was no way to tell if you had the high bid until you were notified. I also heard a few complaints from other participants (apparently the system crashed preventing people to place final bids, but I didn’t experience this). I hope they keep the app for the auction next year, but work to improve it based on feedback, because the benefits that I got out of the app definitely outweighed the negatives.

Learning Star Trek Attack Wing.

Blair and I were able to learn how to play Star Trek Attack Wing from a seasoned pro. It’s one of those games that you can take seriously, getting to know all the cards, bonuses, etc etc, or just play for fun. Blair got really hooked into the game. I enjoy it, particularly because I’m a Trekkie. Also, they have the Enterprise, NX-01! This is a great game for two players, because you can each have one ship or you can have more, and the strategy every time you play it will be different.


I have to admit, I was disappointed in the amount of attention paid to video games this year. It felt as though video games were front and centre at the convention and even in all the promo leading up to the event, while all the other types of gaming felt pushed to the side. I understand the want and need to chase sponsors and keep them happy, but it would still be nice to give a bit more balanced promotion to other events.

All in all we loved this convention, and can’t wait for next year!

Unpub Mini Vancouver 2014

With City Builders: Rome creator Andrei Filip.

This past weekend, Blair and I had the pleasure of attending the first Unpub Mini Vancouver at Magic Stronghold in Burnaby. The event brings game developers and table top players together to playtest games and provide feedback, so that game developers can improve and refine their games.

I have to say, I had a lot of fun at this event! It was a busy afternoon as we played games, got to know other fellow gamers, and had a good chance to chat with various game developers. One takeaway that was definitely apparent was how friendly and welcoming the table top community is.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to make it for the whole day, but we still had the chance to play three of the games being demoed!

City Builders: Rome by Andrei Filip
A cooperative game where you must build a city in Roman times in the hopes of earning glory back home in Rome. At the same time, you must keep your population happy, keep raiders and looters at bay, while building your city before time runs out. Overall we both enjoyed the game. Initially the number of building type tiles was overwhelming, but the game was quick to learn.

Learning World Defense Force from Adrian at Giant Monster Games.

World Defense Force by Giant Monster Games
This is a fast-moving, cooperative card game where players work to destroy monsters that are attacking the world. Don’t work fast enough, and the monsters will eat the world population.This game had the group of us laughing hysterically as we tried to kill the monsters before the timer ran out.

Tree Up! by Robin Carpenter, Agentic
This is an easy to learn tile game where you build a tree and work to get inhabitants to move in for more points, while fending off attacks from your opponent. The concept of the game was really cute, and makes for a great game both for those new to gaming and for those experienced. It was nice to find a game that was for two players — since there’s not a lot of good ones out there — that provided a challenge for both but still fun.

TreeUp! by Robin Carpenter and Agentic

Other games that were demoed included Berlin Noire by Edward Disher, Custom Bot Combat by Kody Otter, Sloops! by Sébastian Bernier-Wong and Peter Gorniak, Town Builder by Eric Raué, For Greed or Glory by Parallax Games, and The Shrine by Jay Cormier and Shad Miller. We look forward to being able to playtest these titles at a future date!

Terminal City Tabletop Con 2014

Terminal City Tabletop Convention happened this past weekend in Burnaby. This was the first year for TCTC. It’s size made it a more friendly affair. Con volunteers and guests were incredibly friendly, and you could tell from the atmosphere that everyone there was passionate about tabletop. You didn’t feel like you were mobbed in the crowd, and other gamers were happy to have you jump into their games.

As we were checking out the second one, someone came over and asked if we’d like to play Shadows Over Camelot. Since neither of us had played, we decided to jump in! We had a full group playing, attempting to fight evil and fill the round table with white swords.

Learning Shadows Over Camelot.

There was a traitor among us, who’s goal was to fill the table with black swords or overcome Camelot with siege engines. I was a little nervous since I drew the traitor card, but in the end I managed to win. I’ve heard this game is a tough one for the ‘good’ side to win, so I’m eager to play again.

After that we asked if we could join a game of Smash Up. Science fiction villains team up to take down bases and earn victory points – how could that not be fun? I got to be dinosaur wizards, which felt rather epic.

Destroying bases in Smash Up!

TCTC also featured a Proto-Alley, where local game designers could demo and play-test their new creations. Our friends from Giant Monster Games and Parallax Games were there. Though we didn’t have the opportunity to play any of the games in Proto-Alley, we did have the chance to connect with some local developers. Hopefully we’ll have some new game reviews for you soon!

Terminal City also featured a large board game library, where convention goers could borrow whatever game they liked for free. We took out Fleet Admiral and gave it a whirl.

Overall I definitely recommend Terminal City Tabletop Convention, and am looking forward to next year!

Tabletop Day 2014

Happy International Tabletop Day!

Blair, Deanna, Ethan, and I were very excited to host an event to celebrate one of our favourite hobbies. Hosted in Surrey, BC, we had 50+ attendees. Plus we had indie game developers Giant Monster Games and For Greed or Glory on hand demoing their proto games.

Thanks to everyone who game out to help us celebrate the day.