So I went to PAX Unplugged back in November. Being my first PAX I was excited, being the first ever PAX Unplugged I had no idea what to expect. There were a couple other firsts for me there too. My first time to Philadelphia, and the first time I had gone to a convention with my family in tow.
Let me first say that Philadelphia is a fascinating city with a lot of history. My family and I went up a day early to do all of the touristy stuff we could. We visited Founders Hall and saw the Liberty Bell along with a ton of other old buildings and museums. Our family enjoyed our time there immensely.
The Con itself was an interesting beast. The convention floor was a decent size, about a third of the size of GenCon’s Dealer Hall. However, They broke the floor up quite a bit. Only a third of the space was actual dealers while another third was full of empty tables for you to grab a game and go play, the final third was used for the tournament tables and the main show stage.
Early on the first day, I was a bit underwhelmed… This was a PAX? It was tiny compared to GenCon. The Dealer space was taken up with a lot of cool vendors selling stuff I’d seen at GenCon along with what they had new since then, and a lot of catch-all board game booths selling every board game under the sun.
I’m a fan of board games, but mainly when I gather 5-6 friends together I’d like to play an RPG instead. I must say I’ve been spoiled by GenCon, it’s the only gaming con I’ve attended in about fifteen years.(gosh I’m getting old) That being said I’ve gotten used to how they do things: Register online to run events, then register to attend them. With Unplugged you can register to run RPG events ahead of time but you have to wait in a line early in the day to try to get a slot at one of the RPG games. It seemed like a huge hassle for not a sure thing. I may be wrong it might of went smoothly and everyone enjoyed themselves, but how the Enforcer explained the process too me made me just want to steer clear. Hopefully, they have a better fleshed out RPG running/Playing system next time. This was their first year, there were some kinks, and I am sure they will learn from them and only get better.
What the Con seemed to be about though was playing board games with friends. That is where the Con thrived. The Con had a massive collection of Checkout and Play games, and in the evening the convention hall was full of people at every table playing games. This is great if you came with a group of friends you could grab a game and start playing. You could learn a new game or visit an old favorite. It was neat seeing a lot of people playing games into the wee hours. However with my wife back at the hotel putting our little one to bed, our exchange student and I were relegated to playing small 2 player games, it seemed rather daunting to try and saddle up to another table with people, especially since most games were already in progress.
Of course, you had the panels, the Acquisitions Incorporated games, the Q&A’s and others which seem to be a staple of the Con. I was happy to have a chance to meet a few of the Rollplay crew as well as see the Acquisitions Incorporated game live, though the people watching from the comfort of their homes had a much better view.
Overall I would say the Con was a success. The city alone was such a delight and worth the drive up. The panels were fun, the dealer hall underwhelming but the atmosphere was great. I’ll probably attend again, possibly even next year, but I can’t see it becoming a yearly “must go” on my schedule like GenCon.