We spent last weekend enjoying our yearly trip up to Gamehole Con in Madison Wisconsin. It is one of my favorite conventions of the year, and I would love to see it continue to grow. If you have not been to this one, here are ten reasons you should consider going next year.
- Family Friendly Environment
Gamehole Con would be my first suggestion for a family looking to bring older children to their first convention. There are a variety of events geared specifically towards helping children have a good time while exploring board games and RPGs. This kids track allows parents to feel comfortable that games will be age appropriate and engaging.Even outside the kid’s track, Gamehole Con fosters an environment that is welcoming to children. During most of the weekend, I had at least one child at my table. All of the adults were very welcoming to these children, giving help as needed.
- Well OrganizedGamehole Con is easily one of the best run conventions I have attended. Every aspect of a attendees visit has been considered. There is never a moment that I am concerned about trying to get tickets, being stuck in a line, or worried about losing tickets. The focus on having completely digital tickets has been an improvement for Gamehole Con. It is easy to purchase and exchange tickets. The will call process is simple and straight forward.
When signing up for events, players have table numbers where their event will take place. There are signs everywhere to help keep players informed. The whole process runs smoothly, and there was never a point where I felt frustrated or confused.
Gamehole Con takes steps to make sure that attending is affordable. The badges are only 60 dollars for the entire weekend. This gets player’s access to the game library, paint and take area and game demoing. Then tickets to attend events only cost a dollar or two each, and they are easy to return if someone’s schedule changes.
Additionally, Gamehole Con provides free parking for all attendees. This makes a huge difference, because the parking would otherwise be twelve dollars a day. They also provide cups that attendees may purchase when registering to allow for cheap refills the entire weekend. The convention center drinks can be pricey, so we have found the refill cups to be tremendously valuable.
- D&D Plushies
Each year Gamehole Con releases a new Dungeons and Dragons plushy. I look forward to seeing what next year’s plush will be every year. This year’s was a Displacer Beast. The other plushies were Bulettes, Owlbears, Mimics, and Otyughs. They are unique stuffed animals and can only be bought at Gamehole Con.In addition to the plushies, there are also D&D adventures released at Gamehole Con. Many years, the fall book release is first released at Gamehole Con before it goes to retail in the coming weeks. It is awesome to be some of the first people to look at new source books and create characters from those sources.
- VIP Easily Accessible Part of the reason that Gamehole Con has early book releases is that it is heavily supported by Wizards of the Coast. This means that many of the team behind Dungeons and Dragons attend Gamehole Con. Unlike conventions that are busier, Gamehole Con gives plenty of opportunity to meet and talk to these designers and streamers. They are often walking around the main D&D hall, so it is easy to grab a quick picture or get something signed!
- Well Run D&D
With Wizard of the Coast’s involvement,the careful planning of the Gamehole Con staff, and the input of the Adventurers League admin the entire D&D experience is the best run D&D I have seen at a convention. Rather than dealing with mustering, each ticket comes with a table number that players will sit at. When signing up for events, players are able to see which DMs will be running the game, so they can sign up for past favorites.The hall itself was divided into four sections this year. This helped keep the noise level down, while still allowing for a large space and plenty of tables. There were a variety of events to choose from including adventures held in Faerun and Ebberon. This year I participated in four different epics from season nine and the new season nine open. They even ran Liar’s Night, a special Halloween Epic because the convention started on Halloween.
- Food Trucks
Right outside of the convention center each year are six or seven different food trucks to choose from. The food from these trucks is excellent and diverse. This is especially convenient for players who pack their schedule full of events. There is no need to leave the convention center to get food. The lines outside stay pretty short due to the fact that they are open all day. It is easy to grab a bite to eat on a short break.
- Close Knit CommunityGamehole Con begins to feel more like a family each year that we attend. Year after year we see many of the same faces, and it is starting to feel like we have played at least one game with almost everyone who attends over the last five years. This leads to a very welcoming environment, and because it is local to the Midwest, we have actually made friends at Gamehole Con that we still play with at home.
It has been awesome getting to know everyone who attends, and now it feels like we are going to see friends when we attend Gamehole Con.
- Great Vendors
The Vendor Hall at Gamehole Con has really expanded over the last few years to include some awesome booths. There is a great mixture of board gaming related items and RPG focused booths. Many of the booths that attend are small businesses, and it is great to have the opportunity to sit down with booth owners and discuss their passion. Some of our favorite booths include:
RPG Coasters- This booth sells excellent wooden coasters, wall hanging and dice rollers. All the coasters come in different shades of wood, and have intricate designs depicted different aspects of RPGs.
Archania’s Workshop LLC- This booth focused on 3D printing components for RPGs including scenery and characters.
The Rook & The Raven- This booth sold journals for RPG players and DMs. The pages were interchangeable and included wet erase sheets to keep pages from suffering from wear and tear.
The Laser Works LLC- This booth sold laser engraved plastic hit point counters that I really like. They sold them in a variety of colors with different RPG classes as designs. They were really sturdy and kept the number inputted.
David Lee Pancake- This artist sells handmade dragon sculptures. One of my dreams is to purchase one of his dragon heads for our wall behind our gaming table!
Black Oak Workshop-This booth sells a variety of dice and dice bags. I met them originally at Gen Con a few years ago to demo Meeple Steeple. They are super friendly and I love the quality of their dice bags.
Hrothgar’s Hoard- This booth sells a variety of wooden tabletop RPG accessories such as their DM system, dice wands and dice dungeons. They are very talented with their wood working abilities. Their products come in a variety of gorgeous woods, and they hold up well to use during gaming.
Noble Knight’s Games- This booth represented a local friendly gaming store. They stood out this year because of their buy one get two free ding and dent sale. I was able to find Capital Lux at this sale, which I have been searching for forever. They had a nice variety of games and RPG accessories as well.
Gaming Paper LLC- This booth sells a variety different styles of RPG maps. They are our go to for wet erase maps. My husband is especially fond of their single sheet grid paper for large dungeons with many hidden doors or traps.
- Easy to Demo Games
Gamehole Con also hosts local board game publishers to demo their games. Each year there are different publishers present, but it is always easy to get in demos of the games available. This year I was able to demo both Rurik: Dawn of Kiev from Piecekeeper Games and Cartographers from Thunderworks Games. Both of these games had caught my eye at Gen Con, but because of the crowds I was unable to demo them.These publishers also often have demos of upcoming games as well. It is easy to get into these demos at a smaller convention, and it is fun to see what will be available in the following year.
I have also really enjoyed getting to know some of these publishers over the years. Gamehole Con introduced me to Adams Apple Games and Piecekeeper Games. Both of which have become some of my favorite publishers. It was also at Gamehole Con that was I able to demo some of my favorite games like Skulk Hollow and Gearworks.