Kingdom Con Review
It’s been a little over a week since Kingdom Con ended, and I am still processing everything I encountered while I was there. This was my second year in attendance, and Kingdom Con’s 7th year of operation. I wrote about my experience last year
, but I came out of it this time with an even deeper and more profound understanding of what Kingdom Con – and its community – really is.
The short version of Kingdom Con is “a 4 day community-driven, gaming-centric convention that feels like partying with 1000 of your closest friends in a lovely Hawaiian themed San Diego hotel”. The convention features vendors of games, terrain and accessories, competitive tabletop tournaments across a range of franchises (although mostly Warhammer and WARMACHINE), game demos run by official representatives and community volunteers alike, prizes just for showing up and playing (and better prizes for winning), a non-trivial amount of drinking and revelry, and a healthy dose of friendship and fanciness.
Just to start you off with a frame of reference of my particular viewpoint: I work in video game development specifically on the video game adaptation of a popular tabletop IP, have been attending comic conventions for 15 years and cosplaying as long, and am a lifetime video gamer who become an adamant pen and paper RPG player about 6 or 7 years ago. While geekdom and conventions run in my blood both professionally and as a hobbyist, I am comparatively new to board games. My point is that I get around the convention circuit and have been on all sides of the equation, and I can say with certainty that this one is unlike any of the others. It has been probably the most integral part of adding “proud board gamer” to my geek cred resume.
At its core, Kingdom Con is a community event. Not just in that it’s run by volunteers – an essential part of any successful convention. But rather the general atmosphere as soon as you arrive and throughout the extent of your time there.
Kingdom Con is run by Ross Thompson, one of my favorite people in geekdom and one of the most charming and charismatic people you will ever have the pleasure to meet. He is a staple across a magnitude of geeky communities – board gaming and tabletop, comic conventions, video games, SCA medieval re-enactment and Wasteland Weekend. So, he brings a unique mindset and set of experiences to the event. This mindset is a big part of what sets the tone for the event. Ross began running the convention at a mere 19 years old (which is impressive in and of itself; what the hell am I doing with my life?) As soon as you arrive, you are greeted by the staff, and usually Ross himself, who spends most of the con in the main hall smiling and giving tours and hugs. It is immediately apparent that this event is inclusive and that you are welcomed, encouraged to game outside of your immediate circle of friends. For what are your fellow Kingdom Con attendees if not friends you haven’t yet met?
Everything about the event reinforces these ideals. Meet, game, drink and be merry! There is a large board game library where you can check out one of many hundreds of games. Don’t know how to play it? Not enough players? No problem! Take a yellow flag with you to your table to let others know you are looking for additional bodies. We checked out Betrayal at the House on the Hill and within 2 minutes of sitting down at a table had 2 new players who were ecstatic to teach us one of their favorite games. I played games with strangers, I played games with friends, family and coworkers, I played games with members of my company’s community, and played in demos run by other companies.
Even the people at Kingdom Con who are there to work (which is to say, make sales, and introduce new people to their products), didn’t ever feel like they were selling to me. Everyone’s passion truly feels genuine, and everyone is just excited to be playing games with people. There is no bullshit, no pretense. It feels so far removed from my everyday experiences in Los Angeles, where you are constantly treated like a stepping stone used to advance other people’s careers and agendas. It is easy to support people’s products when they so obviously love them and truly just want to share in the experience of their art.
Beyond the people who were running games in an official capacity, there were plenty of volunteers running demos of their favorite games as well. I got the opportunity to try out a bunch of fun stuff I never would have had cause to otherwise.
Other notable attractions and events at Kingdom Con include:
-Fancy Friday, an evening of gaming while wearing your most dapper attire (so many fabulous hats, suits, and dresses! Beautiful people!)
-DrunkQuest, a 155 person drinking tournament held in the main hall, the excitement in the air is palpable here.
-The treasury, where you can trade tokens gained for playing and winning games throughout the weekend in exchange for a variety of prizes (I got so many games, and all I had to do was play!)
-WARMACHINE and Warhammer tournaments, all weekend long, for the most hardcore of attendees.
-Painting classes, for the artistically minded.
-Demos, demos, demos.
-RPG gaming outside in the bungalos.
-Armored combat and rapier fighting, on behalf of the fine folks of the Society for Creative Anachronism.
-Enjoyment of the hotel’s amenities! There is definitely no downside to the convention being held at the Crowne Plaza (they also host a killer convention called Tiki Oasis during the year). The hotel staff is friendly, courteous, and obviously loves having Kingdom Con there, which says a lot about the type of people who go to the event.
All in all it’s some of the most fun you can have at a convention, and the fact that it takes place in a hotel means gaming goes all hours of the night and feels very intimate and personal. There were other events happening at the hotel simultaneously, with groups you’d think would have no overlap with the gaming community, and even they came and gamed with us. Seeing people in full armor playing Warhammer across a man in full Vulcan biker leathers was not something I ever expected to see, but now I have, and it’s because of Kingdom Com. Board games, truly the great equalizer. Although I left with my wallet significantly lighter, the memories I made were priceless.
Article by: Geek Girl Mistress Zelda
Photographer: Kevin Mack
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May 12 2016