Monique Bouchard estimates that between her and the six other organizers of SnowCon, Bangor’s yearly tabletop gaming convention, they own a combined total of more than 300 board games, role-playing games and card games.
“At some point, you lose count,” said Bouchard. “It’s easily enough to fill several shelves. It’s a lot. … We’re never lacking for games to try.”
SnowCon, which is in its ninth year, each January brings together lovers of tabletop games — from classic favorites such as Settlers of Catan and Dungeons & Dragons, to new, never-before-played board games being tested by their creators — to compete, share stories and socialize. Bouchard and SnowCon co-founder, Bangor City Councilor Gibran Graham, have set this year’s event for Jan. 14-15 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, with a kickoff party on Jan. 13 at Mason’s Brewing Company in Brewer.
“We’ve had people come from out of state and tell us this is one of the friendliest, most welcoming cons they’ve ever been to,” said Graham.
The thing that makes SnowCon unique among other weekend-long events in the Bangor area is that unlike a festival where someone might come for an hour or two, regular SnowCon attendees stay for many hours, if not for the entire weekend. Attendees can either sign up for preorganized games via the warhorn.net registration site (though registration ended earlier this week), or register onsite on either day of the convention.
“We have people that get there at 8 a.m. and stay until the doors close,” said Graham. “It’s hard to have an accurate attendance record, because there are people that stay for 12 or more hours. Two hundred people all playing games all at the same time is a lot of people.”
Both Bouchard and Graham are often surprised by the games that become hits each year. For instance, Dice and Dudes, a game that Bouchard and her husband, fellow SnowCon organizer Drew Bouchard, invented on a lark, became the runaway hit of the con a few years back. The game entails taking game pieces, figurines, action figures and other random objects, and rolling dice to decide what happens to those pieces — making up some of the rules as it goes along.
“It was just so much fun. … Some games can be really loud and boisterous, while some people would rather have a more quiet experience,” said Monique Bouchard. “We can offer both at SnowCon.”
In addition to the gaming library supplied in large part by SnowCon organizers’ own collection of games, attendees also bring their own games to play — in fact, for lovers of board games who sometimes find it hard to find people to play with, SnowCon is a kind of two-day party.
“I think a lot of people might have this game that they really love, and nobody will play it with them,” said Monique Bouchard. “Well, you certainly can find people to play with you here.”
SnowCon is for the third year in a row hosting an Iron GM Local competition, the winner of which will be sent to the Iron GM Regional qualifying round. Iron GM is a competition for game masters (also known as dungeon masters), the people who run role-playing games. The winner at SnowCon will advance to the Iron GM Regional at gaming convention TotalCon in February in Massachusetts, and the winner there will advance to gaming convention GenCon in August in Indianapolis.
The larger tabletop gaming community has seen a lot of growth in recent years, especially in the realm of new games being creating by individual people or groups. In the second week of January alone, there were 118 tabletop game projects in search of funding on Kickstarter, with many hundreds more receiving funding over the past few years. More new games and Kickstarter-funded games will be featured at SnowCon this weekend.
Kicking off the festivities is the annual “So You Meet In a Tavern” party, set for 8 to 11 p.m. at Mason’s Brewing Company in Brewer. The party, for those ages 21 and over, will feature a costume contest themed toward tabletop games, and a trivia competition themed towards gaming and nerd culture and featuring J.R.R. Tolkien bonus rounds.
For more information, visit snowconmaine.com, where you can purchase passes or browse the many scheduled gaming sessions set for both days. The cost for advance tickets is $40 for the whole weekend, or $25 for Saturday and $15 for Sunday. Tickets at the door cost slightly more.
Correction: The nature of the local round for the Iron GM competition was misstated in a previous version of this story. Additionally, an earlier version reported that ticket prices for a single day are $25. Ticket prices are $25 for Saturday, $15 for Sunday, and tickets at the door cost slightly more.