Event calendar last updated: May 12, 2023
Click here for an up to date list of worldwide board game conventions
The board gaming hobby can be quite overwhelming for a newly budding board game geek. With thousands of new games coming out each year, it can certainly be hard to jump in head first. Maybe you’ve started your own gaming community, but you want an opportunity to meet even more gamers? Maybe you’ve started to build up a collection, but you want to get to try some of the new hot games before they come out? Checking out a board game convention might be the next best step for you!
If you’re still trying to get a grasp of the hobby, that’s totally fine as well! Go ahead and check out our previous article, So you like board games… What now?, before jumping head first into the convention scene.
If you are ready to take this next step, read on! It’s the perfect time to jump aboard since we are just kicking off convention season!
What is a board game convention anyway?
Board game conventions come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small intimate gatherings where people marathon through games, and some are weeklong events with large dealer halls and lots of gaming events. We’ll mostly be talking about larger conventions, but before we jump in too deep, let’s take a look at what the difference is.
Small Con vs. Large Con
For the most part, gaming conventions can be put into two categories: either small conventions or large conventions. Of course, small and large can mean different things to all people, so we’ll try to distinguish that a little more.
Small conventions are often also called “Local Conventions.” The reason for this is that most of them simply attract a local crowd instead of drawing people in from all over the country. These conventions usually host anywhere from 200 – 5,000 attendees. Usually, they are more focused on bringing people together just to play games and often lack an exhibitor hall.
Personally, I love these kinds of conventions. With their small size, you often feel like you get to know a lot more people, especially if you come back year after year. We have a local convention called Tennessee Game Days that has grown to about 700-800 people over the years. Now that I’ve been coming for the past few, there are so many familiar faces. I even have friends in other states whom I only get to see at the convention each year. The small intimate feel is a huge perk to these local cons.
Meeple Mountain also runs Nashville Tabletop Day, a single day event in April. It’s small, but growing, with attendance nearing 500.
The big conventions are always huge, vibrant, and exciting events. These can be hard to categorize because their attendance is so high in variance, but usually they host between 15,000 all the way up to 200,000 people. Most conventions that break the 15k mark of attendance will have a large dealer hall where you can buy games directly from the publishers and large event halls where you can sign up to play specific games or in tournaments. There is often not an emphasis on just playing games all day, and instead are focused on the shopping aspects, events, panels, etc. Large conventions can be quite overwhelming, so hopefully this article will help you understand them!
Online Board Game Conventions
Online events are on the rise! As bandwidth becomes cheaper and more reliable, more gamers are looking to save money on travel and lodging by attending online board game conventions (also called virtual board game conventions). Their numbers are small, but growing, and you can expect to see more in the coming years. If you’re not sure what to expect then make sure to check out our tips for attending an online board game convention so that you can get the most out of one. Then when you’re ready, check out our listing of online board game conventions in our master list.
Why should I go to a board game convention?
There are lots of great reasons to go to a convention! Everyone gets something different out of their experiences, but here are some prominent reasons that a board game convention might interest you.
You want to:
- play a lot of games.
- try the hot new games before they are released.
- meet your favorite designers, authors, artists, publishers, or media personalities.
- compete in large gaming tournaments.
- find really cool stuff to buy and take home.
- survey lots of different board games from different publishers to find something new that you might like.
- meet other gamers with similar interests.
- hear talks and panels about topics in the industry that interest you.
- get ahold of exclusive promotional cards/pieces/expansions for your favorite games.
If any of those interest you, then giving a gaming convention a shot might be right up your alley! In all honesty, there is so much more to do at conventions, but these are a few of the cool things that really stand out.
Ok! I want to go! Now what?!
Good question! The first thing you’ll need to do is decide on whether you want to go to a smaller or larger convention. For many people, location will be a big factor in this decision, while others may be willing to travel long distances. Let’s take a look at some of the options available. Most of these will be “large” conventions, but there are some smaller ones that squeak through based on popularity.
Most Popular Board Game Conventions
This is, by no means, an exhaustive list of gaming conventions. There are hundreds of game conventions each year, just in America, so it would be quite difficult to cover them all. The selections below are all either significant because of their pure size or following. Some may be “smaller” conventions, but they are still very prevalent in the board game industry or even run by a large publisher or media outlet. Check out the bottom of this article for an up to date list of worldwide board game conventions!
Small to Medium Conventions
BGG CON (& BGG SPRING)
Atlanta, GACheck out Phil & Justin’s experience at CMON Expo!
Dice Tower Con
|Geekway to the West
St. Louis, MO
UK Games Expo
Origins Game Fair
Philadelphia, PACheck out Ashley & Justin‘s recap of PAX Unplugged 2018.
I’ve picked a convention, how do I prepare for it?
Buy your badge
First things first, you’ve got to purchase a badge. Some conventions only last a day or two and only have one badge option, while others will allow for you to purchase a badge for individual days or just the weekend. Since most conventions run through both weekdays and weekends, you’ll need to decide what works best for your schedule. Purchasing a badge is usually simple and can either be done online or at the door. Be careful, though! Many conventions sell out ahead of time!
Housing can be one of the most frustrating parts of prepping for a gaming convention. Each con is a little different, but most are infamous for making this a true pain. If you buy your badge as early as possible, you should receive some sort of communication before the hotel sales go live. This can be a tricky process as some will have a “queue” system and others will have a “whoever can get through” set up. Either way, for larger conventions these websites will often become bottlenecked and crash. Honestly, there is often just a lot of luck here. Make sure you’re online the second they go live!
If you aren’t interested in a hotel or you weren’t able to get one, there are still lots of other options! I’ve used airBnB a couple times for this and it has worked wonderfully. You might have to walk a bit farther or drive to the convention center, but you also might save some money and stress, so it’s often worth it for many people.
Register for events
Each convention will have a long list of events that you can attend. These can range from talks/panels, gaming tournaments, game demos, and more. Some events will cost while others will be free. Most conventions open their events up to pre-registrations and many events fill up. Each convention website should have a portal that you can log into to find and register for each event. If you miss out on registering in advance, sometimes you can still make it into them, though! Most large conventions will offer “generic tickets” that you can purchase and spend for events. If it isn’t full, you should be able to spend these “generics” to jump in. If a “full” doesn’t have all of its registered attendees, you might be able to jump in with generics as well!
Make a plan of attack
The convention floor can be overwhelming! With so many booths to stop in and so many new games to try, it’s easy to see why you could get lost in the mix. To help ease this sensory overload, it can be helpful to have a plan before you even begin your travels to the convention. There are two things that can help with this: making sure you know which games you are interested in up front and preparing your path in the expo hall.
It can be hard to keep up with all of the games coming out each year, especially with so much going on during the convention season. One of the best ways to keep an eye out on new releases during the major conventions is through the Boardgame Geek Preview lists. Board Game Geek usually releases their preview geeklist a month or two in advance of each major convention. These lists have all of upcoming convention releases and their information listed in order by publisher. This is a great resource to scope out the games that really interest you the most. Be careful, though, as you don’t want to miss out on a game that you didn’t expect to enjoy by counting it out ahead of time!
Once you’ve found the games you are most interested, you can either register for demo events or seek them out in the exhibit hall. The advantage to demoing games in the hall is that you usually will only play a quick demo to get a feel for them. Of course, if you want to play a full game or don’t want to wait in a line, events might be better for you. If you do chose the path of the exhibit hall, it can be a huge help to familiarize yourself with where booths you want to visit are actually located. Most conventions will post a map of the exhibit hall ahead of time, and you can even print it out to highlight and draw the most efficient path for you!
One more thing to keep in mind is that sometimes it can be important to prioritize the “hot” booths first. Every year there are certain games that everyone knows will sell out quickly. If you want those games, you’ll need to make sure that they are your first stops! This can be hard to tell sometimes, but keeping an eye on the comments of the preview lists can help you gauge people’s interest.
So, what do you bring to a convention? Well, outside of the obvious answer of clothes, there are some things that I’ve found helpful to have on you.
- Hand sanitizer. Seriously. The “con crud” is real and you don’t want to mess with that! Think about it, tens of thousands of people in one room does not lead to good sanitation.
- Snacks. Cliff bars, trail mix, crackers. Whatever you need, make sure to keep some snacks on hand to keep yourself energized.
- Water bottle. Similar to the snacks, you’re going to want to keep hydrated to stay healthy.
- Battery chargers. My phone always seems to die twice as fast during conventions. The last thing you want is to not have a way to find your friends in the midst of tens of thousands of people!
- Games. Ok, I’ve overdone this too many times. In my experience, it isn’t worth bringing big box games unless you have a specific plan to play them. Instead, I always make sure that I have a couple small card games in my bag for those times where you’re stuck in a line or waiting on something to start.
Get Out of the Con
Yes, we know you’re there for board games. But if you’re traveling to a new city, then consider getting out of the con at least once and seeing sights. Visit an art museum, eat at a great local restaurant, or look for a board game cafe in that city.
Update: Since this piece was originally published we’ve added lots more Gen Con content. Make sure to check out our Gen Con 2017 wrap up, and Gen Con 2017 interviews, along with our newbie’s guide to Gen Con.
Run Your Own Gaming Event
If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, perhaps you should start smaller. Check out our guide to running a successful board gaming event and start your own event in your hometown!
I know this process can be quite stressful, but hopefully this gives a little bit of direction for your journey to your first convention! Do you have any other tips or tricks? Make sure to let us know in the comments below!
Worldwide Board Game Convention List
The following list of worldwide board game conventions is updated regularly.
Click here to add or update an event.
Can’t find the event you’re looking for? Click the crosshair icon on the top right corner of the map to expand it, then search for your event.
Stumptown Game Summit
Game Devs of Color Expo
Protospiel Online April 2022
Protospiel Online August 2022
Protospiel Online January 2023
Terminal City Tabletop Convention
Protospiel Online May 2023
Protospiel Online August 2023
Oz Bunny Con
PAX Australia (cancelled)
Brussels Game Festival
Board Game Fest
Calgary Tabletop Day
SHUX | Shut Up & Sit Down Expo
Niagara Boardgaming Weekend
Les Jeux Au Boute
Norwich Games Convention
Field Of Games
Tabletop Gaming Live
Warhammer Fest 2023
24 Hour Board Game Marathon
UK Games Expo
epic.LAN TT1 – Tabletop Weekender
Leeds Board Games Fest
Festival International des Jeux
Paris est Ludique!
LPO Board Games Holiday
Alchimie du Jeu
Berlin Brettspiel Con
Spiel (aka Essen)
Göttingen Game Designer Convention
Nuremberg International Toy Fair / Spielwarenmesse
Gaming By Sea – Summer 2023
Kobe Game Market
Roll Initiative Con
Boardgames By The Bay
Asian Board Games Festival
Singapore Toy Game & Comic Convention
Festival Internacional de Juegos de Córdoba
Play on Con
Rocket City Gamefest
Phoenix Fan Fusion
Consim World Expo
KublaCon Game Convention
Long Beach Comic Con
GACUCON Game Cruise
GACUCON Gaming & Cosplay Cruise
Battle Barge Cruise
Board Game Extravaganza
Anime Los Angeles
San Diego Historical Games Convention
San Diego Comic-Con
Big Bad Con
South Pacificon Game Fest
Compass Games Expo 2022
District of Columbia
Tampa Nerd Con
Gaming By Sea
Dice Tower Cruise
Game and Party Con
Board Games, Beaches & Brew
Meeples at Sea Spring
Dice Tower Retreat
Meeples at Sea
Escape Winter Con
Dice Tower East
Lair Con 2022
Pensacon Pensacola Comic Con
Tampa Tabletop Role-playing Games Convention
Furry Weekend Atlanta
Southern-Fried Gaming Expo
Siege of Augusta
Atlanta Game Fest
Comic Con Honolulu
Sioux City Games Con
Sioux City Tabletop Gamers Fall Convention
Gem State Gaming Convention
iCON – Idaho Convention for Boardgamers
The Gaming Hoopla
2020 D8 Summit Charity Convention
Who’s Yer Con
Lake City Game Fest
Louisiana Comic Con (Cancelled)
Southern Board Game Festival
Rising Phoenix Game Convention
Congress of Gamers Cruise Session (cancelled)
Epic Nerd Camp
Unpublished Games Festival
Congress of Gamers Summer Session
Congress of Gamers Fall Session
Congress of Gamers Winter Session
Congress of Gamers Spring Session
U-Con Gaming Convention
Fandom Fest of Southwest Michigan
Capital City Comic
30th Motor City Comic Con
Con of the North
Midwest GameFest Fall
Geekway To the West Mini
Geekway to the West
Mississippi Comic Con
Siege of Vicksburg
Mythic Con West (Asheville, NC)
JeffCon, the Final MACE
Whose Turn Is It Anyway?
Game On Greensboro
ReCon Board Game Convention
Playthrough Game Convention
Punchboard Paradise Con
Great Plains Game Fest
Granite Game Summit
Dice Tower West
World Series of Board Gaming
Great Escape on the Lake
Long Island Retro Con
Long Island’s Tabletop Gaming
Flower City Comic Con
Ice & Dice
Origins Game Day
Buckeye Game Fest
Con on the Cob
Twisted Lords Con
Tokyo in Tulsa
Rose City Comic Con
S’mores & Meeples Board Game Camp
Erie Days of Games
Pittsburgh Gaming Expo
Too Many Games
Winsome Choose Some
World Boardgaming Championships
S’mores and Meeples Board Game Camp
Save Against Fear
Soda City Comic Con
Rocky Top Game Con
Board Game Days
Tennessee Game Days Fall
Tennessee Game Days Spring
Nashville Tabletop Day
Music City Multi Con
Wild Game Roundup
South by Southwest (SXSW) Gaming
STAPLE! Present Indie Tabletop Game Day
Lone Star Game Expo
The Long Con
ChupacabraCon Gaming Convention
Alamo City Game Convention
SaltCON Spring 2023
SaltCON Summer 2023
SaltCON End of Summer 2023
TCEP 28: 28 Years Later
Dragonflight Game Con
Evergreen Tabletop Expo
Go Play NW
Emerald City Comicon
BGG @ SEA
BGG @ SEA
Strong Tower Gaming Convention
Free-For-All Gaming Event
Fire and Ice Convention
Nexus Game Fair
Midwinter Gaming Convention
Midwestern Gaming Classic
Protospiel – Milwaukee
No Brand Con
CharCon Game Convention
Cheyenne Gaming Convention