Dave: Arcanacon is an annual roleplaying, minature and board game convention designed to suit both new and established gamers. Entry is free, yet participation works on a ticket system not unlike what you might find at a carnival or fair. Visitors purchase tickets and then exchange them for participation in an event. Games are run according to a strict schedule, so if there’s a particular game you wish to play, it’s best to pre-book your session online rather than hoping there’s space on the day.
If you’re new to roleplaying games, there are games that require little to no prior knowledge. Game Masters (GMs) run through the basics before kicking off the game proper. This is also beneficial for experienced players wanting to try something new either within or outside their normal gaming area. For those players, there is also the opportunity to try new game systems and play styles.
This year Arcanacon was held at Melbourne High School in South Yarra. The venue worked quite well, with registration, shops, a café, and the miniatures section downstairs, and the various board, card, and roleplaying games in classrooms on the floors above. The only downside of running the latter in classrooms was that it doesn’t really allow for spectators. This makes sense for an improved game experience, but did diminish the community feel a little.
The miniatures section was a different story altogether. The main area was dedicated to X-Wing tournaments; however, there were numerous tables running other games as well. Staff and gamers were very accommodating and more than happy to discuss their strategies, armies/fleets, rules, and opinions. The man running the X-Wing tournament, Django Upton, was very accommodating, and spoke with us at length about the game, the convention, and tabletop gaming in general.
In fact, that’s one thing that really stood out for me at the convention – everyone seemed keen and happy to discuss their hobby. Whether it was one of the volunteers working there, a participant, or even the staff working the shops; all were happy to talk and all were gamers.
Case in point, we spoke for about half an hour with Ian from KayJay’s Games & Hobbies Café, one of the sponsors. They’d not only set up a shop to sell games and addons, they also had four games setup for visitors to play. They were very knowledgable in the products on hand and given the sample games, attendees could make a much more informed decision about a purchase.
Patto: I’d have to agree with Dave on this point. I’m very new to the whole board/tabletop games thing and everyone I spoke with was more than happy for us to watch their games and explain how things worked. One of the things I found really interesting was the dedication that people put into the tournaments. From what I could gather, the tabletop tournaments (such as the X-Wing tournament) outline the guidelines before the date so players can plan ahead. This means that the point limit (which dictates how many ships can be played) is known before the day. In fact, one of the players I spoke to had spent 3 hours the day before planning out his fleet!
It would have been good to have had a chance to sit in on a Pathfinder session, or one of the other role-playing sessions. I understand that a huge part of these games lies in the immersion and you can’t really get the full experience without participating, but it would have been good to get an understanding as to how these games are played. The whole classroom setup is perfect for these sessions, though, as you can shut yourself off from the outside world and concentrate on the story that is unfolding before you.
Greg: I was surprised to hear that this was the 33rd such convention, but in reality, not having been exposed to role-playing communities prior to now, that can be understood. It was explained to me that the event is organised by a committee – this year with 8 members.
To be honest, Aracanacon fell outside of my expectations. When I picture a convention, I picture Comicon, PAX, or something similar. This felt much more like a tournament, so a word of warning to those considering attending in future. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a great event, it’s just not a place to go and SEE things, it’s a place to actually join in and play.
As much as attendees and GMs were very accommodating, I’m not perfectly clear as to how friendly such an event is to completely green players. Many of the games seemed to require players to bring their own equipment, so it would be best to contact the Aracanacon committee prior if you are keen to join in – I’m certain that this potential issue could be eliminated with advanced communication.
It would be a large task to organise such an event, but it really is by the community, for the community. With only 8 committee members, and fees that likely barely cover expenses, Arcanacon is clearly organised for the love of the games, and it came across in all of our encounters. Of course, it also meant that I was asked to help prepare food for attendees, but that just goes to show how lean the team is – without volunteers, it would be a struggle to pull off (perhaps even impossible).
From my perspective, the event felt like it required a little too much prior experience. I don’t feel as if someone could walk in off the street and really have a good time – but I don’t think the event is intended for those individuals as well. While the layout worked for what it is, it would have been nice to see some additional rooms for more casual activities – miniature painting, for example, or just an open games room where attendees can bring along their favourite games and try to organise an impromptu session with others. Perhaps this wouldn’t work for regulars, though, so it’s a tough line between providing what the regulars are expecting, and potentially trying for growth, or a new crowd.
That said, we saw only part of what was on offer, it’s hard for us to really comment on everything that the convention has to offer.
Overall, I had a great time – I was able to oversee the X-Wing Miniatures game, not to mention 1949: Secrets of the Third Reich, both of which were a blast to watch. Further, we spent a great deal of time talking with Ian in his store, discussing various other titles in great detail – this was really valuable to relative n00bs like myself.
If you love role-paying or miniatures, I’d recommend checking out Arcanacon – keep in contact with the creators via their website and get yourself into the sessions you want. You won’t be disappointed. If you’d like to just check out the event, again I’d recommend reaching out to the committee via the website. They are all quite approachable, and would be keen to help someone new discover their hobby.