Fallcon 2014: The auction


This past weekend was the 27th edition of Fallcon, Calgary’s annual celebration of all things tabletop. With multiple vendors, over 70 scheduled events and nearly 1,000 games available for free play, it can be an overwhelming experience, even for those already indoctrinated into board game culture. Do you pre-register for a round of a familiar favourite, or try to assemble a makeshift group to learn something new? Should you take the chance to try an out-of-print classic that you’ll likely never see again, or is it better to seek out something you can take home to your own gaming group?

Judging from the hundreds of gamers in attendance on Saturday afternoon, there isn’t really a wrong answer. Instead, Fallcon acts as a chance to simply indulge; with three solid days of “friendly competition,” there’s no real fear of missing out. Chances are, if you want to try something, you’ll be able to, with some combination of friends and strangers, all connected by a fascination with dice, decks and poorly translated rule books.

While the focus is definitely on the games, the real centrepiece of the weekend is the Saturday evening auction, a genre-spanning unloading of gems and junk alike. An assortment of 400 games culled from the collections of attendees is sold over the span of two-and-a-half hours — nearly a game every 20 seconds, even without accounting for a handful of technical hangups and a seventh-inning stretch that naturally features its own mini-game.

As you might expect from a group that dwells on strategic resource management for giggles, the auction is exceedingly efficient. Rather than taking individual bids, the auctioneers have bidders hold up their hands, then drop out as the price quickly ramps up, with the winning bid going to the last man standing. It’s a system that prizes speed over profit, which is handy when you’re waiting through hundreds of games for your chance at a copy of Space Hulk, and even with the auction list posted well in advance, stellar deals abound. It’s a great way to start up a collection, and even if you aren’t planning on bidding, it’s an event worth marvelling at.

Also pretty marvellous is the clear love the Fallconners (staff and attendees alike) have for their hobby. Some of them own hundreds or even thousands of games, and that kind of investment of both time and money boggles the mind. And I’m not going to lie — seeing a child who is named after the world’s largest board game conference (Essen) is both strange and hugely endearing. It’s the kind of dedication that can only come from moderately obsessive types, but they’re as welcoming a group of obsessives as you’re likely to find. After all, an obsession that encourages socializing with strangers and indulging in friendly competition can’t be all bad.

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