Heavy Con 2017 Report from Jason Dinger

Board Game Gumbo is pleased to present another convention report from our friend, Jason Dinger, a board game designer from Morgan City, Louisiana. He is the designer of the upcoming Spielworxx release for Essen 2018, Captains of the Gulf. He previously blogged about his trip to UnPub 2017 here.  He’s back with his thoughts following his first visit to HeavyCon.  Look for more of Jason’s thoughts on gaming and designing in the future.

Sitting on the plane as we fly back home to Louisiana, I can’t help but smile. This past weekend has been amazing. Memorable does not even begin to describe it.

Last Thursday, Donna & I traveled to Denver, Colorado to attend the 3rd annual Heavy Con. Heavy Cardboard is one of the industry’s premiere heavy gaming podcasts and Heavy Con is their annual 4-day convention celebrating and showcasing the beloved cardboard brain burners, both old and new, that we cherish so much.

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Dokmus (2016) designed by Mikko Punakallio and published by Lautapelit. (photo: Jason Dinger).

Heavy Cardboard, started in 2014 by Tony Fryer and Edward Uhler, is a weekly show that now features Edward, Amanda Uhler (Edward’s unquestionably-better half), and occasionally, a supporting cast of gamers from the Denver game community. With over 70 podcast episodes and dozens of YouTube teaching / play through videos, Heavy Cardboard has risen to become an invaluable source of entertainment and education in the world of board gaming.

Like most cons, there was plenty of gaming to be had, of course, and not just of the heavier variety. While there were several plays of Lignum, Tramways, various 18XXs, Kanban, and the like, games such as Dokmus, The Climbers, Strat-O-Matic Baseball, Isle of Trains, and Bullfrogs also saw lots of table time.

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The Climbers, being reprinted by Capstone Games in time for Essen 2017. (photo by Jason Dinger).

All the games that I played were wonderful, but the real highlight of the con was the people. I was finally able to meet, game, and just visit with so many amazing people that I’d previously only known online. Too many names to list here, but I am sincerely thankful for everyone who took the time to share a table with me, as we laughed, cursed, and had a fantastic time with something as simple as dice and cardboard.

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Call to Post, designed by Jim Keenan. (photo by Jason Dinger.)

As far as games go, the standouts for me at Heavy Con were unquestionably Call to Post (by Jim Keenan of Punching Cardboard Podcast) and Pipeline (by Ryan CourtneyRyan Courtney). Both games were fun, engaging, and had an emphasis on proper planning, action optimization, and economic engines that were loaded with theme. My only regret about playing them both was that I only got to play each of them once due to so many other people lining up to play them over the weekend. I’m looking forward to playing both of them again in the future and exploring the mechanics and nuances of these two unique, thematic games that are a breath of fresh air in a world where many new games feel like “more of the same”.

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Jim Kennan (Punching Cardboard Podcast), left, and Edward Uhler (Heavy Cardboard Podcast), right — playing Captains of the Gulf. (photo — and game — by Jason Dinger.)

The community within a community that Amanda and Edward (along with Tony) have built is truly something special. Heavier games don’t historically have the large audience that lighter, more accessible games enjoy. The Heavy Cardboard family (and that’s the only way to truly describe what they’ve created) has made incredible and measurable strides to change that. Almost 100 people came together from all around the globe to experience Heavy Con 2017.

For all the different games and people I got to play them with, I most enjoyed my time with Jim from Punching Cardboard. In addition to getting in plays of each other’s prototypes, we logged hours of gaming together including me losing embarrassingly to him in games like Lignum, The Gallerist, and Strat-O-Matic Baseball.

Even in defeat, it was an honor and a pleasure to sit down and enjoy a game (and plenty of NSFW good-natured trash talking) with a man who I respect and admire as much as I do Jim. He and I closed down the gaming hall Saturday night at 3am; continuing to sit and talk for another hour and a half about everything from gaming to game design, podcasting, family, work, and even a fair share of politics to boot.

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Pipeline by Ryan Courtney. (photo by Jason Dinger.)

On Friday, we got to witness the presentation of the 2016 Golden Elephant Award for 1822: The Railways of Great Britain. Edward presented the award to Scott Pederson of All Aboard Games, on behalf of designer Simon Cutforth. Alban Viard’s Tramways was the game that got my vote, as for as fantastic as I understand 1822 is, I had not yet played it. Though my pick didn’t get the top honors, it did win the 2016 Fan’s Choice Golden Elephant Award, narrowly beating out The Colonists by only 2 votes.

Between Friday and Saturday, I was able to meet and visit with several designers and publishers including Jeroen Doumen (Splotter-Spellen), Alex Soued (Eagle-Gryphon Games), Alex Berry (High Treason, published by Victory Point Games), Brian Wilcutt / Larry Cruz / Lyndon Martin (The Cost), Matthew Ward (WAM! reviews and The Dukes of Dice podcast), Travis Hill (Train Game & Low Player Count podcast), Carmen Petruzzelli (Game Surplus), and of course, Jim Keenan (Call To Post and Punching Cardboard podcast).

I don’t know what the future holds as far as the feasibility of attending other cons in years to come, but I can say without question that Heavy Con is the single convention that I will attend year in and year out.

Thank you to Amanda, Edward, and their wonderful group of local game group support staff. Thank you to everyone who took the time to play a game with me this weekend. Y’all rock and you put a smile on my face and joy in my heart, both of which won’t be leaving anytime soon.

Until next year…

— Jason Dinger @jasondingr

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