A Frostbolt of Fun
Let me just start off by saying that Winter Fantasy is a fantastic convention, probably my favorite. The first time I attended Winter Fantasy it was still called The Dungeons and Dragons Experience, aka DDXP. DDXP had some pretty awesome seminars, games being played all weekend, and so many great people to interact with. It still, to this day, is the only show where you can just sit down next to a game designer and strike up a conversation with them. They aren’t herded like cattle into secret meetings or lost in an endless sea of people.
Now that DDXP is Winter Fantasy once again, which by the way – fun fact: the history of the show is that it actually started out being called “Winter Fantasy” and was originally held at an American Legion, all put together by Gary Gygax for the best of the best in D&D players and here it is still going 38 years later. The show has has changed a little since it was DDXP when I first went but I think the changes are definitely for the better! There haven’t been any seminars in the past two years, which I do miss, but the addition of the GenCon board game library more than makes up for the lack of seminars. They have also added Pathfinder, Magic: The Gathering leagues, and there’s even more coming next year. This year Jerry and I only got to attend the convention for three days instead of the full four days but I’m glad we made it for those three days.
Good Things, Small Packages
You see, one of the best things about Winter Fantasy is that it’s so laid back. GenCon is great for a lot of reasons but it’s insanely busy everywhere in Indy for the entire four days. Just wall to wall people. It’s also expensive, don’t even get me started on the hotel situation for Gencon. Anyway, WF isn’t like that at all. The whole convention is only one small area of the Grand Wayne Convention Center in Fort Wayne Indiana, hotels are affordable (you can even get free rooms and badges if you GM for the Baldman crew) and there are only about three to five hundred people that attend the con so you’ll actually be able to hear yourself think. Don’t let that make you think less of this convention though, we all know quantity is not quality.
There are a few vendors that come each year and they sell nerdy shirts and buttons, board games, RPGs, dice, and a few other miscellaneous items like old issues of Dragon magazine. One of the vendors had exclusive Winter Fantasy dice (d6) this year. The vendors are nice and always fun to talk to, they usually run convention specials too which is nice. They’re also great just in case you forget your dice, or in our case, to get little gifts for the kiddos (since we usually don’t bring them along).
My absolute favorite part of this con is getting to hang out and play games with cool people. Since this convention isn’t huge, people have a lot more time to play games and get to know one another. We also always end up going to the bar at least one of the nights of this convention, there’s a great little bit of nightlife in Ft. Wayne during WF. In the past we’ve gone to a little place called the Thirsty Camel to drink or to Champions inside the Marriott, since it’s so close. The problem with Fort Wayne in previous years is that most of the businesses close down bars very early (midnight or earlier). This year we spent our evenings in a new place right across from the convention center called O’Reilly’s and they stayed open later. The staff there was very welcoming to the convention goers and even set up a buffet for us gamers on Saturday night – $10 for all you can eat bar food and $5 pitchers of beer! Many fun times were had there drinking and talking about games, music, and good times. I should also mention that there are some great restaurants in the nearby area as well, for instance we checked out Asakusa which was just 4 miles down the road and had some phenomenal sushi!
Just Keeps Getting Better
Another great part of this con is the GenCon board game library, which has been there for the past two years now. Last year Jerry and I spent almost the whole con in the board game area playing game after game, it’s a great resource for learning new games or having other kind and like-minded folks teach them to you – which beats the heck out of reading an entire rule book. This year they even had guys from the Mage Wars crew out doing demos of the game for people who were interested too.
We only had time to play a few games this time around but it was still very fun. Some of the games we played this year include 7 Wonders, Alhambra, and Smash Up. We also got to play a game of Risk Legacy with some of the Baldman crew which was fun even though my army suffered a lot of casualties due to some savage bear attacks by David Christ (“The Baldman” himself), and Jerry’s Saharan Republic troops, coined the “fleshy penis guys” by Rob Schwalb. As you can see, the game of RISK was a unique one, and not just because it was Risk Legacy which really helps RISK shake off its bad reputation but that’s a blog post for another day.
See You Next Year!?
A badge for Winter Fantasy will set you back $30, which is a hell of a steal for 4 days of gaming with awesome folks, and includes access to the Gencon board game library which also will earn you raffle tickets for the giveaway on the last day of the show where you can win badges for WF, Gencon, and a bunch more stuff. We had a blast this year and are already looking forward to going back next year, Jerry has some big plans to do some Obsidian Portal stuff as well. We hope to see you there!