I’m heading to PAX Unplugged over in Philadelphia in just a few days! That’s a gaming convention that I feel is a whole bunch of companies going to a gaming convention to see what it’s all about, and that’s what it’s all about. From what I’ve gathered, it’s going to be like RinCon, but with a much bigger open gaming library.

So over on reddit, someone asked about what to expect at this, their first ever boardgaming convention. Specifically, should they rush to the expo hall to purchase new games and limited edition items at crazy steep discounts? I wrote a short answer that turned into a longer answer, which turned into something that’s would be it’s own blog post. Ta da!

Regarding booths, money, and purchasing games:

Nearly every vendor should have a Square device, with which they will gladly take your money in exchange for goods, so for buying games and other cool stuff, that credit card should suffice.

You probably don’t need to rush to booths to get limited edition stuff because it’s not Gen Con, when some gaming companies shoot for debuting new items. However, you might want to because some vendors might have things available at the show that aren’t in distribution yet and you’re the type of person that wants those things now. Here’s an example from Gen Con: Fantasy Flight Games brought in pallets of Twilight Imperium 4 to that show and sold through most of them. That game won’t hit retail stores until after Thanksgiving. But they may still have stock of that game on hand and might bring it over to their booth at PAX. So it’s worth checking out. ((Hours after I wrote this, FFG just announced TI4 will be available on Thursday, the day before PAX Unplugged.))

Me? I’m hoping Fallout might be there, which isn’t supposed to be available until January.

Oh, you may want to get to booths early anyway for special things, like how AEG has their BIG GAME NIGHT tickets on sale for $32 but they only have 50 tickets. Or how Restoration Games has a small amount of pins for purchase.

But when you see a game at the convention, you’ll probably wind up paying full price for it. Some vendors that look more like game stores than game companies might start applying discounts as the show goes on. (I’ve seen this at PAX East and at Gen Con.) I don’t see the regular booths from Gen Con that do this on the list. Some vendors will throw in extra things for multiple purchases — at my booth at Gen Con, if you spent $X, we tossed in a t-shirt.

Bringing a bag? I’d wager all the big vendors have tote bags, like FFG has that ridiculous oversized tote bag and AEG has a similar tote bag that’s ridiculously oversized in a completely different way. Smaller vendors might have small plastic bags you’ll find at grocery stores or they might not have any bags at all.

A thing about the booths is you might be able to get into a quick demo of a game or even play a whole game session. I’m at the John Wick Presents booth (438 — come say hi!) and while I’m not sure what the plans are here, at Gen Con, we had a short rpg demo of 7th Sea that was anywhere from two to five minutes, depending on the interest of the attendees. I see Portal Games is going to be there in a large space: at Gen Con, they had two or three tables where you could play full games of their quite big boardgames.

One of the cool things about purchasing a game at a booth is you can get the people who worked on it to sign your copy of that game or book, if you’re into that sort of thing. Over at my booth (438 again), we’ll have John Wick himself there, who will sign anything you buy or bring from your home collection.

Regarding just attending:

There are a lot of great guides online about handling conventions. The biggest tips I can think of are:

1. Stay hydrated: Bring a water bottle. A good one, like from Hydro Flask.
2. Hand sanitizer: Use it, often. You don’t know where these gamers have been!
3. Identify yourself: Write your social media name on your badge. Or write whatever else you use to identify yourself online, in case you’re meeting other people you know from twitter or wherever you hang out.
4. Wear comfortable shoes: Don’t go out and buy shoes tomorrow to wear at the show. Get something nice that you’ve broken in. Chances are, you’re going to be standing and walking more during a show than you usually do.
5. Take food to the show: Go to Costco or BJs or Sams Club and get you a box of breakfast bars or similar stuff. Put that in your suitcase. Eat food, throw away empty box — now you’ve got room in your bag for that game you purchased. (Of course, OP is a local, so this isn’t particularly neccessary for them.)
6. Don’t eat convention center food: It’s usually overpriced and bland. There are several restaurants within two blocks of the convention center.

Rob has a great page about attending conventions, themed to this one, but really applicable to any, called “Attending PAX Unplugged? Here’s Some Tips to Make Your Con More Enjoyable”

Adam Jury’s three-part series about attending Gen Con is applicable to nearly all game conventions. Start at “Gen Con Indy Attendance Tips Part 1: Before the Show!”


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