Running a Board Gaming Event: Your Toolkit

Over my years running Hamacon, I built up a Google Doc I called the “Hamacon Analog Gaming Bible.” These first few posts will be an adaptation of that. The first section is my packing checklist, so let’s start there:

  • Canvas parachute bags. There’s a ton of different solutions for carrying board games, but this is my favorite. They’re relatively cheap and can carry just the right number of games–enough that I can get most of my collection in 4 bags, but not so many that they’re too heavy to carry.
  • Label maker. To be safe, I mark every game with the owner’s name.
  • Laminated signs with place card holders. I don’t remember who I stole this idea from, but it’s a great way to communicate information about a table to attendees. (I make my signs with card stock, trimming away the excess laminate with an Xacto knife. You can get a low-end laminator for around $20 and laminator pouch refills are relatively cheap.)
    • “Scheduled Game” or “Reserved For.” Use these to reserve space for scheduled games (D&D sessions, demos, etc.) Remember to leave space so you can write the name of the game.
    • “Game Library,” “Game Check Out,” and “Scheduled Game Signup” signs. Points attendees in the right direction. I eventually made “Game Library” signs that said “games not for sale” and “free checkout – ask a staff member,” because you’d be surprised how much you get those questions.
    • “Looking for More Players.” Leave these at your check-out desk and encourage attendees to freely take them. It’s helpful way to communicate to attendees who might not be comfortable approaching a table of strangers that they’re welcome to join. More, uh, enthusiastic attendees will also enjoy waving these around wildly.
    • Table card holders. The type you’d see in a restaurant (also holding laminated signs). I found sets of 10-12 on Amazon for $20-$30–just search under “table number holder.” The first set I bought was 8″, but opt for the tallest you can reasonably carry so they stand above the crowd.
    • Wet erase markers, white board cleaning spray, and paper towels. You can use these on lamination, which makes it really easy to modify signs (and other pages like pre-gen characters) on the fly.
    • A few blank signs. Just in case you need another type of sign.
  • Index card boxes, index cards, and large paperclips. Useful for keeping track of check-outs (I’ll discuss my system in a later post). I typically write the name of the game on a card, attach the borrower’s badge, and place it in the “checked out” box. When the game is checked in, I return the badge and place the card in the “checked in” box so I can collect stats on what’s getting played.
  • Three-ring binder and hole punch for game signups. For each scheduled game event (demos, D&D sessions, etc.) I create a signup sheet. Each sheet show the name, the maximum number of seats, and the time. I put them all in a binder labeled “Scheduled Game Signups,” with tabs for each day of the convention.
  • Computer speakers. I don’t bring these every time, but I have a set with my con running gear just in case. One year I had someone submit a Werewolf game with music, which the panelist had expected to run in a full panel room.
  • Useful extras for attendees to borrow. I make sure to have a lot of expendable items on-hand so that attendees can borrow anything they need for a game. I tend to use 3″ plastic food containers for things like dice and counters, so they’re individually packaged.
    • Dice. Several containers packed with dice, including both full sets for D&D and d6’s/d10’s to use as counters for Munchkin, etc.
    • Counters. Several containers packed with small glass stones (sold as vase filler at craft stores).
    • Pads of paper, ink pens, and pencils. Nothing fancy (in fact, cheaper is better), but it’s useful for both players and staff.
    • Ziploc bags, clear packing tape, and paper towels. You never know when they’ll come in handy.
    • Trash bags. Set one of these up under the staff table first thing. Seriously. You would never expect how much trash you’ll accumulate over the course of a weekend.
    • Surge protector and extension cord. Depending on your venue, the nearest power may not be easily accessible from the staff table, and inevitably someone will need to charge their phone.