01 June 2019

Geekway to the West

The Geekway to the West Logo: a green meeple under a blue arch that resembles the Gateway to the West arch in St Louis. Next to that, in white letters, is the title, with a white arrow pointing to the right under the 'to the' part of the title.

My friend John has been trying to get me to go with him to the Geekway to the West convention in St. Louis, MO, for several years now. I wasn't able to go, because work obligations prevented me from being able to take the time off when the convention was happening.

Until this year.

I went to the 2019 Geekway, and boy did I have a great time!

For those who don't know, Geekway to the West is a board game convention that takes place annually in the St. Louis area. Unlike Gen Con, which is dedicated to tabletop gaming of all sorts, and which has tons of panels on all sorts of gaming-related topics, Geekway is focused exclusively on board games. Pretty much everything there is about playing, buying, selling, or trading board games. They have some tournaments, and a few special events (like the 'fancy gaming' event, and the game design contest, and the craft fair), but other than that, it's all board games all day.

John usually goes up with several of his friends, but this year, I was pretty much the only one that was available. So as soon as I finished work on Wednesday, I picked him up along with his children, and we drove until we reached a friend's house in St Charles, one of the suburbs of St. Louis. We got a few hours of sleep, ate breakfast, and drove to the convention centre.

It was like coming home.

Not long ago, I drew a little comic to express how isolated I sometimes feel, when the people around me don't appreciate the things I enjoy. It looks like this:

Panel 1: a man sees giant block letters that spell 'thing.' The man looks joyful and surprised. There are an exclamation mark and a heart above his head. Panel 2: The man is addressing a group of five other men. He is gesturing towards the 'thing,' with two exclamation marks, a heart, and a star around his head. Panel 3: the five men turn to walk away, with looks of disgust, boredom, or disinterest. Around them are a check box with an x in it, a circle and line 'prohibited' icon, a thumbs-down icon, an X, and a bubble bursting icon. The main character looks surprised and disappointed. Panel 4: the man is alone with the 'thing,' sitting on the floor facing towards the 'thing.' Around his head are a broken heart icon, a sad face with a tear icon, and a heart.

Walking into an entire convention hall packed with people who share my love of board games? Yeah, that was a nice feeling.

The entrance corridor at the convention hall. There are lots of tables around the place, filled with people playing board games.

That's just the entrance. Through the doors on the right is the main hall, which is much larger, and was packed with people at tables. Something like this:

The main convention hall. A large area filled with tables, with most of the seats taken by people playing board games.

That's only half the hall. I was standing about midway down the hall, looking towards the vendor area. There are at least as many people out of frame on the right.

People can bring their own games to play, or play the games they buy in the vendor area, but the main draws are the games library and the play-to-win library. The library is straightforward: you scan the game you want to check out, then scan the barcode on your visitor badge. Then you play the game. Bring it back and check it in when you are done.

The play-to-win library is similar. There are two big differences: first, they have multiple copies of each game in the play-to-win library.

And secondly, each time you play a game in the play-to-win library, you're entered in a drawing to win that game.

When you check in a game, you log on to a computer in the play-to-win room. It shows the games you've checked out but haven't registered. You're allowed to enter the names of the people who played with you, so they have a chance to win it too. You are given the option of rating the game on a scale of one to five.

Then, on Sunday morning, the computer randomly selects one person from the list of people who played the game (ignoring anyone who's already won a different game) for each copy of the game in the library. That person gets to take that copy of the game home!

I won a copy of War Chest, which I will (of course) review at a later date. John won a copy of Expancity, which his son enjoyed, so we were both pleased with our prizes.

A copy of War Chest and a copy of Expancity, both with stickers on them proclaiming them to be play-to-win prizes and the names of the winners, on a table next to a toy tribble.

Pretty much all day on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, we checked out and played games from the play-to-win library. We got a couple from the regular library from time to time, but mostly, we just played games. From the time we arrived around 10 in the morning until about midnight. Then we had to wrangle John's offspring so we could get some sleep in preparation for the next day.

On Sunday, we played a couple games from the regular library (as the play-to-win library was closed in preparation for the announcements of winners) until they announced the winners. Then we collected our prizes and drove home.

A game of Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra in progress. Several player boards with translucent coloured tiles arranged on them. Seven round discs, one with four of the coloured tiles on it, sit in a ring in the centre of the table, with a number of the coloured tiles in the centre of the circle. There is a score tracker nearby, with coloured scoring markers on it.

We learned some awesome new games (such as Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, as seen in the photo above), played some familiar ones, and even learned a couple that we didn't really care for so much.

John sitting across the table from me as we play a game called On Tour. The box is standing up to be clearly visible. Each of us has a dry-erase board marked with a map of the continental United States. Some of the states have numbers written on them. A set of cards sits nearby, with three dealt out in the middle of the table, each one showing a region of the nation, with a state in that region marked. Two ten-sided dice sit nearby.

All in all, I enjoyed it very much, and I am already looking forward to going back next year!

If you're in the Missouri area (or close enough to travel), and you like board games, I highly recommend this wonderful convention. And if you're there, and you see me, come by and say hi! Until then,

Game on!

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