ESCONDIDO — Hundreds of board game enthusiasts from around the region attended the ninth annual EsCon Gaming Convention, a three-day event featuring hundreds of unique and trending new board games for players to experience.
More than 240 players flocked to Escondido Charter High School’s American Spirit Theater between Jan. 5 and 7 to choose from a library of around 500 board games to play. Most of the board games belong to Steve Paap, the founder of the convention.
“It’s primarily open gameplay,” he said about the convention. “We provide a library of 500 games that are available for anyone who wants to play.”
Paap said he stays up-to-date with the latest trending board games to keep his library fresh and interesting for convention goers.
After choosing a game, players sit down at one of the dozens of tables and begin to play. Signs are provided for players to use if they are looking for additional players to join their game or if they need teachers of the game to lend a hand.
Unlike in a tournament setting, where the atmosphere can be more intense and competitive, the EsCon convention is meant to provide a fun, easygoing environment where players learn together, play together, and support each other’s wins.
“Tournaments tend to have a competitive spirit, while the vibe we’re looking for is open gaming and trying new things while playing together,” Paap said. “We’re all trying to have fun and experience the game, and even though winning is often the objective, it’s not the main reason we’re here – it’s to experience the game and have fun.”
For Paap, who discovered his passion for board gaming in 2006, the main driver is the social engagement that comes with learning and playing board games with others. He favors cooperative games, where players work together to reach a common goal rather than against each other. Finding the right group to play with is key, he noted.
The convention also featured tables stacked with various games for sale and two game designers who were present to showcase new board games that have launched or are launching soon on Kickstarter.
One of those designers is Los Angeles-based Ta-Te Wu, who was showcasing his latest game, Aqua, a set collection tile placing game where two players work as art curators tasked with curating an exhibition of impressionist-style paintings while maximizing points. The game takes about 15 minutes to play and is meant for ages 10 and up.
Wu not only designed Aqua but also painted all 18 of the different paintings featured in the game.
Aqua recently debuted on Kickstarter.com and has already surpassed its pledge goal with 238 backers as of Jan. 9, with 22 more days on Kickstarter to go.
Wu has also created games, including Fork, Boba Mahjong, and Cleocatra, among several others. His website, sunrisetornado.com, provides more information about the games and illustrators that he has worked with in the past.
Mission Valley-based Trevor Kerth was the other designer at the convention, showcasing his first original, new game called Pantheum: Demigods of Olympia, due to hit Kickstarter.com in May.
Pantheum is a two- to four-layer game that takes about 40 minutes for ages 12 and up. Now a strategic, area control, and engine-building game based on Greek mythology, the game’s earliest origins stem from a 30-day challenge Kerth gave himself to create a new game by combining tic-tac-toe and rock, paper, and scissors.
“It has developed so much more beyond tic-tac-toe and rock, paper, scissors,” he said. “It’s an in-depth strategy game of controlling different areas and trying to reshape the land by bringing in different landscape tiles onto the map, interacting with other players, hiring demigods from Greek mythology to help, and sometimes cooperating with other players but mainly competing against them to foil their plans.”
More information about Pantheum can be found at get.archwoodgames.com.
The convention has grown in size after nearly a decade of attracting board game players to North County, outpacing its previous locations at Cal State San Marcos and the Best Western Escondido Hotel for its latest location at Escondido Charter High School’s American Spirit Theater.
“We’re very proud of how we’ve grown mostly through word of mouth,” Paap said, noting that the convention hasn’t done much advertising over the last nine years.
Paap and fellow convention organizers are looking forward to celebrating its 10-year anniversary next year.
“We’re going to do something special for our decade anniversary,” he said.