WellyCon is New Zealand’s premiere board gaming convention. Hundreds of avid gamers come together, bust out their cardboard cartons and plastic meeple and play board games with each other for two days straight, some even playing into early Sunday morning before returning the next day.
I had never been to WellyCon before, but others had told me about it a few years ago. Only three weeks before the event, I saw it advertised in the ComicCon New Zealand flyer. Apparently all the big NZ geek events were running on the same weekend: Queen’s Birthday weekend.
The bigger, more well-known geek event, also running Queen’s Birthday weekend was Armageddon Expo, the annual entertainment and pop culture event. I’ve been to Armageddon many times (even cosplaying as Gordon Freeman and Axe Cop), but found it less and less to my liking, as it focussed on cartoons, television and cinema, and less about video games and board games.
I asked my lovely wife for the privilege of going to just the Saturday of WellyCon, leaving her with our daughter. Lucky is the man whose wife lets him go to WellyCon without her!
A Community Mindset
Because I was going by myself, I wondered how games got started at WellyCon. It turns out that there’s a very large game library at WellyCon. It’s full of games brought along by other attendees and left to be played by others. You can rustle up a group, choose a game, claim a table, set up and start playing.
I wasn’t expecting to know many people there, and I wasn’t going as part of a group, so I decided to only join games looking for extra players. As it turns out, they have these big signs you can put on your table to make it easy for players like me to find your table.
There was plenty of parking at Wellington Girls in Thorndon, if you knew where to find it. I circled around before I found the tiny WellyCon sign leading in to the parking field.
Once through the door, I walked around the busy atrium, admiring the magnificent stack of board games, and spotting one of the signs, and jumping into a game of Star Wars Carcassonne.
Star Wars Carcassonne is a lighter version of the original Carcassonne where cities are asteroid fields, roads are trade routes, no farms (space is empty) and cloisters are planets, and a fun planet-conquering mechanic which lets you roll battle dice to steal them. None of us had played this variant, and one of us had never played a Carcassonne. We read the rules, and learned how to play, and enjoyed ourselves very much. And I won, which is nice.
Half-way through the first game, I got a text message from Adrianne, one of the organisers of WellyCon informing me that I had won a spot prize. After my game, I went to claim my prize.
Choosing from almost 90 prizes, I selected a set of plastic gems and gold nuggets for playing Splendor with. They are beautiful and decadent, and must add a further tactile experience to the game. I should not that at this point, I have played a lot of Splendor on my mobile phone, but did not own a physical copy of Splendor.
Much Game. Very Lose. Wow.
I ended up playing Shadows over Camelot with the same two people (Caleb and Fiona) and two other people. The traitor won by sabotaging too many quests, then falsely accusing another player to end the game. We didn’t complete a single quest. Fun game though!
— Brett Taylor (@Glutnix) June 4, 2016
After publically not collecting my lunch, and then correcting, and consuming it, I played a game of Splendor with some older gamers (not revealing my gem stash), and was thoroughly trounced. I got locked out of the ruby market, losing a lot of tempo in the process. I did, however, remind all those players that you can reserve a face-down card from any of the three stocks.
I had brought with me a selection of my least played games, hoping to trade them for slightly better games. WellyCon hosts a trading corner, where you can leave your games on a silent auction or for sale. I missed the (seemingly non-existent) face to face trading session at 12:30, but put all my games in a box marked “Offers” and waited for calls. Maybe not a great strategy, but I did get a call or two, settling one deal that day.
For the Hoard
Walking around I spotted a demo table with Cheeky Parrot Games showing off their Kickstarter card game Hoard, which I had already seen online. I sat down and played a full game with Tim Kings-Lynne, one of the game’s designers, and Julia Schiller, Director of Cheeky Parrot Games. They’re lovely people, and maybe they let me beat them at their own game. I got to talking to Tim and his exploits on the Miramar Peninsula working at Weta Digital, how the game has developed, and thoroughly enjoyed myself for a good while there.
After this I hung out with my old buddy Chris and Mel for a while, catching up on old games and old times. He also convinced me to put my games on silent auction. We then sat down and they introduced me to Codenames. Being the code master is hard! We played three games before I had to leave for the night and rejoin my family.
Last Dash for Cash
Before I left, I closed a trade! I traded a copy of Power Grid along with the China/Korea map expansion for $40. And on the way out, I passed by the Cerberus Games booth and spotted a copy of Splendor that had not been there all day, which I swiftly secured and took home.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself that day. Playing five different games, most of which I had never played before. I made new friends, won prizes, sold games at auction, caught up with old friends, and bought a game I have wanted for a while.
You should go to WellyCon!
Will I return for WellyCon 10 next year? ABSOLUTELY. My wife is supremely sore she missed out.
Should you? If you have enjoy learning and playing new and interesting board games, Definitely! And I learned there is a Mini-WellyCon coming up, maybe Labour Weekend? See you there?
Also published on Medium.