196 people gather over the weekend for first-ever Austi-Con

A gaming reunion

As Matt Worden, Jeff King and Dave Allen gathered at a table in the Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn Austin Conference Center Saturday to play Web of Spies, it felt a more like a reunion than a convention. The three men shared stories of how they joined the gaming community and past experiences with clubs and events.

That s really what s cool about a small local con versus regional or national cons is you get to know everybody and you know them, Worden said. A lot of times before you show up, you know the people that are there. It s just intimate, it s nice. The men were three of the 196 gamers who turned out Friday through Sunday to the first Austi-Con organized by Michael Jordal and his wife, Kate.

Austi-Con featured a weekend of table-top gaming with a focus on tabletop gaming with about a dozen to 20 games played at any given time. The Jordals brought some games for people to play, others brought games to put on a table to let anyone play over the weekend, and people were invited to play games they brought in. Gathering for gaming is nothing new to Jordal. He volunteered as a helper with Gamers Reunion in Rochester, and he held gamers weekends at his Austin home and often invites friends over for gaming nights. But Austi-Con falls somewhere in between those, Jordal says, adding he s happy to bring an event to the region.

Gamers Reunion has been gone for several years now, so it kind of fills a little bit of a void, Jordal said.

In this region, there s not really like an event quite like this.

196 People Gather Over The Weekend For First-ever Austi-Con John Dahlstrom, as the dungeon master of a game of Dungeon Crawl Classic, sets up a situation.

A fabulous display

In Web of Spies, Worden of Minnetrista, King of Austin and Allen of Rochester led spy agencies around the world against one another on missions to gain assets and resources to eliminate other agencies. The game looks similar to Risk with spies on a board; however, the men noted the similarities pretty much end there. Each player gets a series of pawns and cards and interactions are one-on-one. Game time is about an hour. Worden has been gaming for about 10 years when he first learned about the gaming scene, and he now helps design games. Worden recalled growing up in a card-playing family, but he and his brother start making up their own variations and rules, pitting army men against one another.

So that was kind of my original gaming, but I didn t realize the level of really good strategy games out there, he said.

Worden has worked as a data analyst and computer programmer, so he decided to try programming games, like board games on a computer. That s when he was introduced to table-top gaming.

196 People Gather Over The Weekend For First-ever Austi-Con Pieces from a Star Wars game sit ready for play.

King has been gaming for many years and reviews games too. He and Worden also run their own event, Proto Spiel Minnesota, where people bring games to be tested and to get feedback.

Matt Worden and I are constantly around games, King said. Allen has been gaming for about 46 years but jokes, I m still not any good at it.

He inherited two games when he was 12 after his brother passed away in the early 1970s and he started playing then. King recalled playing role-playing games, but then he started with Rochester Gamers Community and was introduced to other games. Allen plays almost exclusively military games, and brought a large-scale map for The Battle of Little Big Horn. The game s terrain, which is actually based on the map of the historic thanks to research, impressed Allen s fellow gamers.

It s a fabulous display, Worden said.

Worden said he The three said they d likely return next year, as they all know Jordal, though Allen joked he s going to recommend Jordal eliminate the hyphen in Austi-Con. Worden was pleased with the turnout for the first time, and Allen was pleased it was free, which made for low risk for people to attend.

People are enjoying themselves, Allen said.

196 People Gather Over The Weekend For First-ever Austi-Con Players take on Fire & Axe: A Viking Saga during Austi-Con Saturday at the Discount Holidays © Holiday Inn and Convention Center.

Let s play

Matthew Hanson came to Austin from Minneapolis for Austi-Con on Saturday and was impressed with the event.

It s their first year, so they re starting small, but they seem really organized and seem to have stuff together, he said. It s really encouraging to see and hope to come back next year if they have it again.

He largely plays role-playing games. He played Dungeon Crawl Classics and led a game called, Savage World with his own world setting and storyline printed through www.drivethrurpg.com. The game is good for groups of four to six and features a set up world and gaming characters such as zombies and heroes like dwarves to move across the landscape. One reason Hanson attends such conventions is to help introduce new people to his favorite games and to gaming.

196 People Gather Over The Weekend For First-ever Austi-Con A game waits for players.

Similarly, Don Zimmerman of Rochester described the gaming community as an open and inviting group of people. He suggested people interested in gaming should attend an event like Austi-Con, where he said people are willing to teach and introduce players to new games

In general, the gaming community is a really positive community, Zimmerman said. It s a lot of, Oh, you want to game? Come on, sit down, let s play. A real pleasant atmosphere in general for gamers. Zimmerman organized a Heroscape tournament on Saturday with 16 players and was pleased with the turnout for Austi-Con and the Heroscape tournament.

It s fantastic to have a gaming convention to come to and have a bunch of people come and get together, he said.

The game features maps that can be designed with a series of interconnecting pieces with a simple goal: Wipe the other armies out, Zimmerman said. A typical rounds last an hour, which finishes most games. The group played four rounds on Saturday. The tournament was Swiss-style, where players square off against one another and the winner is the person to earn the most overall points through the most kills.

196 People Gather Over The Weekend For First-ever Austi-Con Peter Jacobs and his son Henry figure out the game High Noon Saloon.

It s just fantastic

Players over the weekend were entered into a raffle for games donated by publishers if they played them over the weekend. Another table featured games on sale through a silent auction to benefit autism day camps at the Hormel Historic Home.

On Saturday, Jordal said he plans to host a second Austin-Con

I would very much like to do it again next year, and it sounds like people are really hoping I will, Jordal said. He was pleased to see people attending from Austin, Albert Lea, the Twin Cities, Rochester, Iowa, Wisconsin and as far away as Fargo. Next year, Jordal may add a registration system, and he sent out feedback forms to gauge what people would like.

But over the weekend, most seemed pleased with the turnout and the chance to come together over games.

A big thanks to Jordal for running this, Zimmerman said.

It s just fantastic.

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