I’ve been playing boardgames my whole life, but I’ve never been to a boardgame convention. Most of them are too far away, requiring me to take time off work and invest in expensive travel and lodging. It just hasn’t been in the cards. Since 2020, however, attending a con hasn’t been in the cards for anyone thanks to a global pandemic that has asked people to lock themselves down. This is when “virtual conventions” started to become a thing.
Virtual cons promised an opportunity to connect with gamers, play or demo some games, and experience the convention through a computer screen – without the need for travel or crowds. Before last week, I had already been to a few, including SPIEL.digital and Camp Capstone. Each had strengths and weaknesses, but none have felt much like I was connecting with people, and I’d become pretty skeptical of virtual cons.
That was before 2021’s SDHistCon Spring Deployment, a historical online gaming convention put together by Harold Buchanan and his team, which wrapped up this past Sunday.
Everybody likes lists! In the spirit of list making at the turn of the year, I’ve captured a few thoughts on the games that I am looking forward to in 2021. I’m not optimistic about playing much in 2021, given we are still… well, you know where we are. So while I’m certain I won’t add all of these to my shelf, I’m keeping each of them target locked for now. You know, in case stuff changes. Of course, there are probably plenty of cool games that haven’t been announced or I haven’t discovered yet. It’s only January, after all. With that said, here’s my best look forward… into the future!
Whenever I teach a game, there comes that inevitable moment where I’m explaining how to win, and 9 times out of 10, it ends with “and the player with the most points is the winner!”. The redundancy of that statement led me to start thinking about all the possible manners in which victory is or could be measured in a competitive boardgame. Points can’t be the only method, right?
Boardgame conventions and fairs are a celebratory event in the hobby and industry. Designers, publishers, printers, distributors, and fans wait all year for big gatherings like Gencon, Origins, UK Games Expo, BGGcon, GAMA trade show, Dice Tower Con, or Spiel… but in 2020, thanks to COVID-19, none of these, or the myriad of smaller local conventions, are happening.
Publishers have had to deal with production and shipping delays and adjustments, and figure out new ways to spread the word about their games that doesn’t involve gathering. For a hobby whose very existence relies heavily on across-the-table interaction, COVID-19 seemed mildly disastrous.
Thurston Howell III: “Gentlemen. I am Thurston Howell III and this of course is my wife, Mrs. Thurston Howell III.”
Mrs. Lovey Howell: “Charmed.”
Igor: “Capitalist! Exploiter!”
Thurston Howell III: “Capitalist? Exploiter? I was wrong Lovey. They’re very friendly!”
– Gilligan’s Island
These days there are a few thousand new boardgames released every year. Most of us are not rich. I can’t afford the time or money to play anything more than the tiniest fraction of these titles. It’s easy for a game to get lost in the shuffle, even if you’re a well regarded card game from a well respected designer. Such is the case for me and Reiner Knizia’s High Society. First released in 1995 in German, it was the 2003 Uberplay edition that introduced the game to the English speaking world, and quite possibly the 2008 Gryphon Games edition that popularized the game in English. I had heard about the game many times, but it wasn’t until Osprey’s gorgeous 2018 edition that I acquired a copy. It was a full year later before I had a chance to finally play it, and fall in love with this game that let’s me pretend to be rich!