Meeple Mountain Goes to Playthrough 2024!

Join Tom and Will at Playthrough Con 2024, the Raleigh area convention for all things gaming!

Playthrough, the Raleigh area convention for all things gaming, took place over the March 16-17 weekend. Two of our North Carolina area reviewers, Tom and Will (plus Will’s husband, Brock) attended. Here are their reports on the proceedings.

Tom’s Take

The Raleigh Convention Center is located at the edge of Downtown Raleigh, walking distance to the North Carolina State Capitol building, the Museum of Natural Sciences, and the Governor’s mansion. It is also near the endpoint of Raleigh’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, held that same morning, something that made parking a bit of a challenge.

The lower floor of the Convention Center was home to this year’s Playthrough event. Two walls of the 150,000 sq. ft. exhibit hall were filled with video game screens with seated driving games along one wall, with a combination of PC and classic video game consoles along the other. About a third of the floor space was turned over to gaming tables. There, people could join D&D one-shot sessions, play games from the Playthrough game library, or have longer game sessions with some of the exhibitors.

Playthrough also boasted an Escape Room, something I hadn’t seen at a local convention before. Other vendors included people selling classic video games; a variety of D&D accouterments; aluminum chainmaille jewelry; plushies; custom keyboards; custom video game controllers; reenactor swords and armaments and crocheted video game characters. There was even an impressively well-stocked board game store.

And fudge. Don’t ask me why. The fudge people had a triple booth (or 30’ long).

As for board games, there were about a dozen small publishers demonstrating their games. While most of these were card-driven games, they attracted a steady amount of Saturday morning attention.

Fable’s End, an “Expandable Card Game” was being taught in a corner double-booth surrounded by white-barked trees with orange clouds of leaves. The five or six staff on hand were each busy with players studying the cards in front of them. The long table sat at least five pairs of players and was busy each time I passed by.

The Fable's End booth
The consistently busy Fable’s End booth

I stopped to learn Terrible Lizards, from Oddbox Games. This is a dinosaur building and battling card game where players try to construct a dinosaur from their hand of five cards. Dinosaur cards come in four parts (heads, bodies, arms, and legs), each with a damage and defense stat. On a turn, you’ll add parts to your tableau, then attack by rolling a six-sided die and adding that number to your attack stats. The other dinosaur’s defense stats are subtracted from the attack stat and the remaining number is damage taken. The first player to lose all 30 damage points loses the game. (I lost pretty quickly.)

Terrible Lizards: The card game
Terrible Lizards: The card game

Two tile-laying games caught my attention. The first was Hero’s Crossing, a game one of my weekly gaming groups brought to the table a few years back. The D&D-esque characters are drawn in 8-, 16-, and 32-bit artwork, with each upgraded component being visually enhanced as well. It’s a game we remembered enjoying, so look for a full review in the coming months.

Hero's Crossing
Hero’s Crossing (Look for a full review soon!)

Devon, with Infinite Heart Games, taught me Rabbit Island: Explore, Build, Conquer, a game I played with two other interested attendees. The short version of the game, with the teach, took less than 30 minutes to play. We started by building the board, two path tiles at a time, until the board was complete. Then, we moved around the path using movement cards, following the arrows on each tile. Depending on the tile we landed on, we could either collect carrots (the game’s currency) or we could pay carrots to build on the tile. Building allows you to harvest additional carrots when other players land on tiles you’ve built on. However, those other players can pay carrots to build on top of your building. Scoring is based on the number of buildings at the third, second, and first levels. It looks like a friendly game, but it’s actually pretty cutthroat.

Half of the Rabbit Island booth.
Half of the Rabbit Island booth. (Look for a full review of Rabbit Island soon!)

Infinite Heart Games was kind enough to provide me with a review copy (thanks Infinite Heart!) , so expect to see that soon as well.

Will’s Take

My husband and I were thrilled to be back in the swing of things at Playthrough this year! We sadly had to miss 2023 due to scheduling conflicts and were determined to make it back for 2024. Playthrough began in 2016 with more of a focus on video games. Over the years, the convention has grown to accommodate more corners of the geek world, and this year’s convention was the biggest yet. The space had more than doubled, as had the number of booths.

After several passes around the venue hall chatting with vendors, it seems like Playthrough’s growth continued this year. Many vendors said they brought what they thought was enough stock for the full weekend but were already sold out of many products. The lion’s share of the booth space is used by makers and creators selling their wares. It’s nice to see so many smaller vendors supported by the event, but walking through the venue, sometimes your eyes can glaze over from the number of shiny dice sets on display. My husband steered me away from several impulsive purchase decisions, but we still came out the other side with a nifty set of laser-etched coasters for each of the D&D 5E classes. (Blood on the Clocktower, I will one day own you, I swear.)

Thre were a handful of independent game designers present, as well as a ton of retro video game vendors with some really obscure vintage wares. Do I need that copy of WWF No Mercy for the N64? No. Do I want it despite the slim odds of me ever playing it? Yes.

Such a cool collection of booths to check out, including Dave & Busters. I dunno! Why not? They had a little booth where kids could win fun prizes. It was neat. This isn’t exactly an event built for media or industry connections at this point, so why not dedicate booth space to fun, creative stuff? That’s not to say this event cannot eventually become more media-focused and attract larger publishers or booths. However, I think this event’s grassroots nature lends itself well to smaller creative vendors.

While the event has grown to support more hobbies and professions, it has also perhaps bitten off a little too much. Walking through the whole venue is a sensory overload experience, and sometimes that can be fun, like hearing the dings and chimes of vintage pinball machines.

The vintage pinball machine, placed against the tiled wall that bounced all the sounds back into the wider area.
The vintage pinball machine, placed against the tiled wall that bounced all the sounds back into the wider area.

Unfortunately, the few panels I stopped by to listen to suffered from the sound of the panel being drowned out by the loud noises from the arcade cabinets located behind it. Again, these are simply growing pains that I’m confident event staff will work out over time.

The second row of games behind the stage.
The second row of games behind the stage.

I only managed to get in a couple of plays during the convention (introducing Sagrada to a friend, and playing Takenoko for the first time in a decade), which was slightly disappointing. I had debated bringing some of my own games from home but decided to just rely on the board game library, and it was unfortunately lacking. There were plenty of copies of standard fare mainstream games (Battleship, Candyland, etc.) with a smattering of some more strategic games, but the library could use some buffing up.

The lackluster Playthrough Games Library
The lackluster Playthrough Games Library

Anyone looking to come to this to play the new hot games would be better off bringing your own copies, but the good news is there’s no shortage of table space and there are plenty of players to help fill groups. Compared to the table space shortage at PAX Unplugged 2023, I was happy to see how comfortably everyone could find a seat.

Less than half of the tables set up for RPGs and board games.
Less than half of the tables set up for RPGs and board games.

It’s an ambitious undertaking to try to grow an event to accommodate so many varying interests, and so far the Playthrough team is passing the sniff test. My personal hope for 2025? I’d love to see some space or tournament time dedicated towards some miniatures games, and maybe branch out into that world. A “paint and take” miniatures area would feel right at home for an event like this.

As a bonus, I want to give a shout out to Sidequest Bar & Lounge, only a few blocks away from the Raleigh Convention Center. It was a short hike and the perfect post-convention wind down for me and my group. The decor rules, the themed drinks are on point (including non-alcoholic mocktails if that’s your vibe), and they have a pretty impressive game library of their own to peruse. Definitely give them a look if you swing into town for Playthrough 2025!

About the author

Tom Franklin

By day, I'm a mild-mannered IT Manager with a slight attitude. By night I play guitar & celtic bouzouki, board games, and watch British TV. I love abstracts, co-ops, worker placement and tile-laying games. Basically, any deep game with lots of interesting choices. 

You can find my middle grade book, The Pterrible Pteranodon, at your favorite online bookstore.

And despite being a DM, I have an inherent dislike of six-sided dice.

About the author

Will Hare

I didn't know what to write for this, so I asked an AI to make a bio for me.

Will Hare is a board game enthusiast who dares to ask if life itself is just a series of dice rolls with no winner or loser. When he's not busy reviewing board games, he works in digital marketing, honing his skills selling products and services he'll never use. He'd discovered the secret to happiness, but you'll have to solve three riddles before he'll tell you.

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