We started a new tradition last year: Board Game Weekend (a.k.a Family Fun Days). Each January there is a board game convention in Minneapolis called Protospiel (German for “prototype game”). It’s attended by board game designers from all over the state converging in one place to test their newest game designs with the general public. It’s a really fascinating look into a very creative industry.
I (Rory) attended last year on a Friday afternoon. I had so much fun that I brought the rest of the family back for a full day Saturday. While there Becca and the kids happened to notice the hotel where the convention was being held had an enormous swimming pool and kid’s play area, and we talked about how nice it would be to have a room to retreat to with the kids.
So this year we made a weekend out of it.
It was so much fun. There were games for every one: for kids, for adults, for families. War games, card games, puzzle games, zombie apocalypse games. One guy had driven up from Kansas with his son showcase his game about moon phases with little wooden pieces he had carved and painted himself. Another guy was a graphic designer from Target who had made a card game about rebuilding ocean reefs. It was beautifully designed.
I also had a chance to meet and learn about game-making from some of the most accomplished designers in the industry. During one session I was watching a group of players test an expansion to a game called Root by Leder Games. When I asked about it, one of the play-testers told me the rules and then pointed to the guy next to him: “That’s Patrick, by the way.” He was referring to Patrick Leder, the owner of the company sitting next to him playing the game. “His last Kickstarter campaign raised $1.7 million.” I looked it up. It’s true.
This kind of encounter was common at Protospiel. First-time designers were testing their paper-and-pencil games alongside industry leaders with their highly polished designs and 3D-printed miniatures. The common thread in all of it was the highly encouraging atmosphere. Everyone was helping everyone make their games better.
Needless to say, I peppered Patrick with every question I could think of about making and selling games. I have been working on a board game about hobby farming and few other farm-themed titles for some time. I came home with a lot of great ideas and advice to help me finish.
It was a great weekend… But not exactly the ‘retreat’ we had expected. Most board games take at least 45 minutes to play. That’s about 42 minutes longer than a 2-year-old’s attention span, which adds its own handicap to whatever game we’re playing. Even though there were options for young players, I would say the event is best for kids 8 and older. But as you can tell from the pictures we had a great time.