This past Saturday, I attended the Granite Game Summit fall event held in Nashua, New Hampshire. My partner unfortunately had to work and I decided to take the plunge and go alone. Now, I do not like going to events with lots of people alone for many reasons: I am an introvert, I value one on one or small group conversations rather than large crowds, and I tend to enjoy gaming with people I already know. The added layer on top of all of this was entering a new space and not knowing the dynamics and social identities that would be present. Further, I did not know whether or not I would be microaggressed and how I would handle such an event with people I did not know. Do I call it out even though I do not have relationships with people at the event? Or do I let it slide and deal with in internally? I actually did “know” a couple of people attending the event, mostly through Twitter interactions. While I have had very good conversations on Twitter, I still find it weird to call people friends who I have never met in person. So here I plan to recap my day, share a little bit about the people I met and the games I played. Spoilers: I had an amazing time.
After my 1 hour 15 minute drive up to Nashua, I arrived at the Holiday Inn a little after 9am. I entered the hotel and immediately found where the check in table was. I was greeted by the wonderful @, one of the organizers for the Granite Game Summit. On my event badge was my Twitter handle which she recognized and that was a great way to start the day – a friendly conversation and introduction to the full day of gaming. I went back out to my car to get my bag of games. At G2S, gamers supply most of the games and create a shared, public library. I staked out table 12 with my games, hoping the many attendees would enjoy what I brought. After I floated around for a little bit, I found my way into a small, chaotic, short card game… The day had started and there was no turning back!
The first big game I played was the new edition of Shadowrift with a group of folks from Manchester, NH. I was invited to join four others and instantly felt the friendliness of these gamers. Shadowrift is a cooperative deck-building game where players take on the role of heroes attempting to protect a village and close all five shadowrifts. Each player starts off with the same ten cards in their deck and is able to purchase more cards that allow players to cast spells or attack enemy monsters. Every round, the shadow rift spawns enemy monsters which do terrible things like wound players and kill villagers. This game was brutal and we lost in a fairly terrible style, accumulating masses of fire damage and letting the villagers fend for themselves. I found the game to be a very interesting and fresh take on the deck-building mechanic. I would definitely look to play this again – plus, the new edition looks fantastic!
I was thinking about going to grab some lunch when I spied a “Players Wanted” sign across the room for Haspelknecht, a game about coal mining in some century before this one. I was interested in this game ever since Capstone announced it was going to publish the game. I find the theme decently interesting, but what really caught my eye was the technology tree aspect. Besides managing a farm and mine, players have the option of developing technology, which will gain them special abilities, upgrades, and end game scoring potential. Because that was the aspect of the game I was interested in, my entire strategy revolved around the technology. While my fellow gamers had super efficient mines, I may have mined a total of 6 pieces of coal, selling only 5 pieces. Oddly enough, I won the game by a healthy margin. Haspelknecht is a game I need to play a couple more times to get a sense it but I enjoyed my first play and met more friendly gamers. After the game ended, I took a walk around the hotel in the parking lot. I have found it is amazing to get my legs moving and blood pumping after sitting in the same spot for hours on end. I needed that small amount of exercise in order to continue gaming!
When I came back into the hall, one of the people who played Haspelknecht with me wanted to start a game of Raiders of the North Sea with a friend. He asked if I knew the game and, what a surprise, finally, a game I previously played multiple times. I was able to recall the rules and teach them the game, which was great because it was 4pm and we have already been gaming for 7 hours… For me, it was nice not to have to learn a new game and slog through a rulebook. Raiders of the North Sea is a viking themed game where players are gathering resources to go raid fortresses and outposts for glory points. I find this game to be very clever in its worker placement mechanics. The worker pool is shared and different workers are better at different things. A player places a worker on their turn at an empty space, doing that action. Then they pull a worker (not the one they just placed) and take that action as well! Players have to be conscious of what their opponents are doing so they do not accidentally set them up due to the shared worker pool. I had a wonderful time with the two other gamers and they invited me to dinner in the pub. We chatted for about the next hour – games, weather, wild animals, Dodgers vs. Cubs, football, Extra Life, the spring convention, etc.
After dinner I played three games with folks I knew from my gaming groups. Unbeknownst to me, they also came to G2S and I was happy we got to get a few games to the table. I played 7 Wonders: Duel, Splendor, and then the classic press-your-luck game Circus Flohcati. You might have guessed that this game is all about a flea circus. This was the new edition from Grail Games with bizarre artwork of circus performers with flea heads. The theme might be bizarre but the game is very fun and light, flipping cards, hoping you do not bust before getting a high card. I love small card games and they provide some of my favorite gaming experiences – Circus Flohcati was no exception. I had a lot of laughs with my friends that night.
In the middle of the evening, I was able to meet up with Erin, half of the @ podcast and blog. We had been chatting over Twitter for the past couple of months about a project we want to do regarding diversity and representation in board games. First of all, it was fantastic to meet in person, just to get to know each other a little bit. Second, it was amazing to brainstorm about the many projects we hope to do regarding diversity in gaming. I got to hear more about her new podcast she will be launching in the next month or so and share some of the plans I had for my blog. It is interactions like this one which motivates me to keep going to conventions and board gaming events. I am even more excited for our project and I cannot wait to share our finished pieces. Hopefully, you all can look forward to a multi-part series posted between our two blogs.
My last game of the night was with two of the folks from Manchester. They suggested Imhotep, a lighter ancient Egyptian themed game where players are trying to build different monuments with their blocks. I am always hesitant on Egyptian themes… and I plan to write a post about ancient civilizations and culture and when do they become more myth and legend, similarly to ancient Greek and Roman culture. Anyways, the mechanics were simple, place blocks, get more blocks, or sail a ship with blocks on it to a monument. Each different monument scored in a unique way during the game or at the end of the game. This was the perfect style and weight of game to end the night on. I left G2S with a myriad of positive experiences of playing games and meeting new people. I will definitely see you in the spring!
Reflections on diversity: The board game hobby still remains dominated by White men. My geographical location also does not help the racial diversity, but I was able to connect with a few gamers of color. The gender diversity (on the binary) was very skewed as well. As I continue to do social justice and inclusion work within the board game hobby, the more these dynamics are very salient to me. This by no means is a criticism of the convention/event or its organizers. I think the responsibility of creating diverse and inclusive communities relies on everyone. And I find that were are in the beginning stages of dialogue in board gaming around diversity. It is definitely a frustrating time; however, I remain optimistic and hopeful on where the hobby is going. Granite Game Summit is meant to bring people together and build healthy and inclusive communities. I am all for their mission and will continue to support their efforts.