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"What's the worst game convention you have ever attended?" Topic

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20 Apr 2024 12:09 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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Personal logo Murphy Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Mar 2023 11:24 a.m. PST

As the name says, "What is the worst game convention you have ever actually/physically attended?"
Why was it "the worst"?

I'm wondering if there are certain patterns about these cons and maybe some of your experiences will validate some ideas I have been having lately.

Let's hear from you.


79thPA Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2023 11:34 a.m. PST

Worst cons to me haven't had anything to do with location, venue, food, etc. but, rather, poor gaming experiences in which GMs don't know how to run convention games (like the guy who had to explain things for almost 2 hours before anyone moved a figure!), and people who run monster-sized games using rules that were not meant for monster-sized games.

cavcrazy24 Mar 2023 11:54 a.m. PST

To me, anyone who takes on the responsibility of running a game, has my total respect. It's not easy and it is a labor of love. I think the key to having a good experience is to play a game you are familiar with. I also go and play with no real great expectations. I'm just looking to push lead and laugh with friends.

Col Durnford24 Mar 2023 11:55 a.m. PST

Local Denver con shortly after they gave up local control to a convention management company. It was several years ago and I have never been back.

1) They stopped refunding the visitor's fee in ($5.00) dealer hall credit and upped all entry fees.

2) Miniature gaming hidden away in a small room.

3) But the worse of all was the number of cosplay folks running around.

Stryderg24 Mar 2023 12:14 p.m. PST

No bad cons. Just sub-optimal experiences with other players:
1. not paying attention/talking with friends instead of rolling/moving
2. First time playing a game and getting disjointed that someone else "won"
3. lack of personal hygiene / invasion of personal space
(That almost sounds like a war game in itself)
4. Not recognizing social cues (like someone starting to walk away should be a clue to wrap up the conversation)
5. Oh, and no one showing up to play the game I put on (Battling Big'uns, Pirates on Lilliput Island)

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Mar 2023 12:17 p.m. PST

I hate to call a con "bad" just because it doesn't suit me. That said, there is a characteristic I don't like. Or more, I don't understand.

You sign up for or walk up to (a designated walk-up) "beginners welcome" game and arrive to the other nine people being decades old friends from the same area who game this exact version of this exact game every other week.

1) If you were just going to game with the usual suspects, why did you pay to go to a con?

2) If everyone else plays this all the time together, with the house rules they use, it is not likely to be beginner welcome.

TSD10124 Mar 2023 12:39 p.m. PST

Cold Wars 2020. Not because of the con, but because so many people skipped out when Covid was becoming an issue, some of our games had no one show because of it. We threw in the towel and left by 3 PM Saturday.

Perris070724 Mar 2023 1:06 p.m. PST

Gen Con. Many years ago now. Went expecting some historical gaming and there was nothing remotely interesting to me. I think the only "historical" game I saw was Axis and Allies, and of course, it was already full. Didn't even find anything interesting to purchase.

Rotundo24 Mar 2023 1:20 p.m. PST

Gotta agree with TSD. It was so disheartening to set up a huge game. Inbetween games, all my cop friends, med personnel, and professional firefighter had to return to thier respective States as they declared States of Emergency. Through no fault of HMGS, I was bewildered and angry, and scared. Ended up cancelling our second game and watch one news channel or another the rest of the day. I was literally torn between formulating a plan to wrest supplies from people, or ignore everything. Anyway, I was never really affected in too bad a way. No one could really pay attention to toy soldiers that weekend. Lord knows we tried.

HMS Exeter24 Mar 2023 1:29 p.m. PST


The convention where the venue's water supply failed Sunday morning (translation-no toilets) wasn't the worst. Though, I've never seen a convention pack up and bug out faster in my life.

The con where a plumbing mishap necessitated running a septic hose through the lobby to a pump truck at the front entrance was also not the worst.

The con where I tried moving my car late one night and wound up getting lost and driving on the golf course cart paths was also not the worst.

The con I went to, sure I was finally over the flu, but wasn't, was also not the worst. I had enough strength to get back to my room. I ate room service and binged the cable channel's Memorial Day war movie marathon until I felt able to venture out Sunday.

THE worst con I ever went to was an HMGS Fall In, the year they decided to experiment with the Maryland Timonium Fairgrounds as the venue. Woof!

The venue consisted of 2 exhibit halls about 100yds apart, and a hotel about .25 miles away. Lots of people showed up, but there was no "spark." People wandered around the vendor hall lethargicly. There were some nice historical games, but about 1/3 of the game hall was carved off to a Warhammer event, whose noisy, boisterous participants seemed to make the HMGers uncomfortable. A shuttle bus ran, whose driver was perhaps the most misogynistic, misanthropic human being I ever encountered. It's not unusual for a driver to voice the internal monologue of their displeasure with other drivers, but for a bus driver to do so in a profanity laced flame fest,…wow, just wow.

I commuted, as I lived 13 miles away. I have since referred to this con as "The con of the living dead."

14Bore24 Mar 2023 1:39 p.m. PST

I got nothing to complain about

Personal logo Mister Tibbles Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2023 1:40 p.m. PST

To me, anyone who takes on the responsibility of running a game, has my total respect.

Ever have a husband and wife run a game with the husband verbally abusing his wife the entire game? I have. Got up and walked away.

I was in a Napoleonic game that was being developed. Had to sit and listen to the "designers" argue with each other over rules, while we would sit for several minutes doing nothing. Another where I got up and walked away. The rules were published and quickly faded away.

Never a bad con. Several bad GMs. Thankfully the bad GMs have been in the extreme minority.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2023 2:06 p.m. PST

I have to stand corrected. I have had bad experiences at cons, but I don't think I have attended a con that was just an overall bad experience.

epturner24 Mar 2023 3:02 p.m. PST

I have never had a bad "convention", but I've had bad experiences at conventions, mostly due to poor or inexperienced GMs, poor scenario design (what seemed like a good game at home, wasn't with 10 total strangers who have never played the rules before) or maybe when a site specific event happened, like weather or plumbing failures.


DaleWill Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2023 3:42 p.m. PST

The only 2 bad gaming experiences both happened to be naval games. First was a Napoleonic naval. I told the GM I had no experience with the game but wanted to learn. Was told to ask questions of the ‘old-hand' next to me as needed. Later I'm begin screamed at for not listening. Told him you said to ask him for help and I needed help plotting movement. Stayed but should have got up and left.
Second was a WW2 naval. GM forgot most of his stuff off site so we started half hour late. Once started he kept getting more and more frustrated with the newbies asking questions after they were told to ask questions. After an hour or so of game time, 3 of 4 newbies quit. We just ended the game there.
Luckily most games and GMs are great.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2023 3:52 p.m. PST

Only have two to go by.

One in 1992, when I had a rulebook stolen… but won $500 USD in a tournament.

The rest are all Nashcon, which has been great every time.

14Bore24 Mar 2023 4:24 p.m. PST

Would also give a big thank you to those running games.

Personal logo Saber6 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian24 Mar 2023 5:12 p.m. PST

Most have been good.

Usually I take away ideas on how NOT to run games/scenario. Like play along the long axis of a table in a horse and musket game (no one engaged for HOURS). Other experinces like above where the GM did not know the game or was filled with their friends

Personal logo Virtualscratchbuilder Supporting Member of TMP Fezian24 Mar 2023 5:42 p.m. PST

1). Origins 84 – BIG Napoleonics game. Leipzig I think. 4 hr slot. 3 hrs to pack the table with units. Then 1st turn – nearly an hour for side A to move hundreds of figures all the while listening to a guy say "I'm impetuous" over and over as he charged a cave corp into a huge battery. Had not even finished resolving casualties when time called. Side B myself included never touched their figures.

2). Same Con. Not a bad experience but an "oh brother" experience. GQ2, Second Guadalcanal with 1/2400 minis. Very first broadside of the game blows up my cruiser. Gamemaster felt bad, another player gave a couple destroyers to me though so all ended well and got me hooked on GQ2.

3). Twistercon, maybe 2006? Pigwars. Was just getting into the game. Saw "pigwars Vikings" in program. Description was in Gaelic but what the heck. Odd from moment one…. Players play Vikings, gamemaster plays Irish. First turn, Vikings land and storm off ships. Irish turn. Guy says "suddenly you are all frozen in place. He moves a bunch of naked amazon figures around us and says "they are stripping off your clothes and beep beep beeeeeep (<— me self censoring). All the while this guy's 14-15 yr old Goth daughter and her boyfriend are at the end of the table swapping spit and feeling each other up UNDER their clothes. I excused myself apologizing that it was not my cup of tea, and the guy says "shudda read the description"

Personal logo Virtualscratchbuilder Supporting Member of TMP Fezian24 Mar 2023 5:55 p.m. PST

The most fun I ever had was running a "kid's table" at a Dalcon around 2000. Alternated simple WWI aircraft, simple mech battles with 4" figures, and simple 54mm medieval in one hour no sign up needed intervals. Cycled through each 4 times and was packed out every time. Lots of dads and young ladies played too!

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2023 6:43 p.m. PST

GenCon the year the Wizards of the Coast took over running it when they acquired TSR (1997?). MtG events got prime locations, everything else was buried. TSR had always run things very even-handedly.

I probably still have a button somewhere that was turned out that weekend: "I found the miniatures games at GenCon" Several blocks away from the con venue down in the basement of some dark building. Trekked through the rain to get there too.

Also, Origins in Philly the year that WotC ran it was pretty miserable organisationally too. I see where my problem pattern is located…

Grattan54 Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2023 8:30 p.m. PST

Never had a bad con, I have just had a few bad games at cons.

jefritrout24 Mar 2023 8:56 p.m. PST

I would agree with TSD and Rotundo. Cold Wars 2020 in that everything I wanted to play was cancelled or the GM didn't show. My game for 8 people and 7 slots preregistered only had 1 person show up. Talked 2 others to play and I jumped in. There was a negative energy. Got to see some friends, but not a great con.

Prince Alberts Revenge24 Mar 2023 9:55 p.m. PST

I've attended the vast majority of the Historicons, Cold Wars and Fall Ins for the past 20+ years. Attended Barrages, Scrum Cons and a few other smaller regional cons. Positive ovelall experiences through and through.

I've had bad games and isolated bad experiences but not bad cons. Cold Wars 2020 was surreal because of the fears of pandemic and I worried about selling in Wally's. It was syill a good con and I remember many good times from it.

Personal logo gamertom Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2023 10:24 p.m. PST

I've gone to various conventions over the past 45 years and I am hard pressed to say which was the worst one. Here are factors that I have encountered that, if they had been combined in the same convention, would have ranked as the worst:
1. Disorganization such as can't find registered info, no real method to signing up for games, no event listings (or inaccurate ones), time listings off, or no one at registration point.
2. Bad venue location such as too crowded, way too noisy, very bad lighting, set in an outdoors tent (like those used in outdoors wedding & reception, especially in cold weather – there was one Little Wars where this happened for some of the gaming), poor toilet facilities (well recall several Little Wars held at a local "resort" where gaming and vendors were in the indoor racketball and tennis building with two toilets for the facility).
3. No local food service, long delay in getting food, no water provided, sodas only being available from vending machines.
4. Lack of games due to GMs canceling or poor scheduling by convention organizers.
5. Poor GMs as noted in previous posts on this topic.
Fortunately I have not attended a convention where all of these factors were present. That or it was such a terrible experience that I have expunged it from my memory.

Mr Elmo25 Mar 2023 4:24 a.m. PST

The Little Wars in Rochelle. "You get what the bartender made"

Mrs Elmo and I still laugh at that.

14Bore25 Mar 2023 6:42 a.m. PST

If anything, really just started going to Cons these last few years though went to Fall in maybe 15 years ago, walked around and didn't play a game as knew no one, no idea what rules so left not long after.
What I missed all these years are my worst

David Manley25 Mar 2023 8:06 a.m. PST

The final NWS show at Fort Brockhurst in the mid 1990s. MAde worse since, to my shame, I was one of the organisers. The part of the team who were looking after advertising "forgot" so we had hardly any visitors. The place was dead, most of the organising team sloped off and Liz and I ended up having to look after the gate (there was a slow trickle of people) and keep the traders "happy" – which was impossible since they were universally massively hacked off. and since we got the venue for free there was no incentive for anyone to make an effort from a financial perspective. Liz wrote a four page analysis of all the stuff that went wrong with the show, the others took umbrage at an "outsider" criticising the event, and I spent the next year going to other shows and having trader friends remind me of what a disaster it was. We never ran another show again, thank God

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2023 11:58 a.m. PST

I'm with cavcrazy on this. If you want an abstract discussion of things which can and do go wrong with a convention, fine. But I'm not going to pile on some con director doing work I certainly didn't volunteer for.

Incidentally in contrast to several other comments, Cold Wars 2020 lingers in my memory as a really good convention--one of the best, in fact. Yes, a little thin, but a good and familiar site all spruced up, they were especially accommodating of the flea markets and all the people there were the guys who couldn't imagine NOT showing up for Cold Wars--effectively, Gideon's band. Great guys to spend a weekend with.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2023 12:43 p.m. PST

In the abstract, naming no names
1. Commuting. Having to drive to and from the site every day is bad. Having to drive out to find something to eat is worse, and needing to catch a bus to get from one part of the convention to another is never a good idea.
2. Wrong or absent information. Erroneous game descriptions, running out of programs or maps.
3. Trying to beat the attendees into submission. Scheduling activities so that people who have travelled hundreds of miles and paid money will do things only at times convenient to someone else. Midnight in the dark attic flea markets are a good example.
4. First, let's give a speech. The wargamers are all standing in line waiting for something to start, and either the "leadership" or the site owners decide to lecture to the helpless audience.
5. Just too small. No one's fault necessarily--unless, as noted, the publicity is bungled--but as the convention gets smaller, the chances of finding a friend, a game you'd enjoy or some piece of wargaming gear you want or need decline with it.

1, 3 and 5 will sometimes keep me from attending. 2 and 4 can't really be anticipated, but they diminish enjoyment.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2023 1:34 p.m. PST

I've just been lucky, I guess. My range of convention experiences has ranged from "had a great time" to "that was just fantastic".

So for me, the question translates to, "what was the least awesome convention you've ever attended?"

I'm not sure what the answer is.

Eumelus Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2023 2:31 p.m. PST

I'm with you fellas – some games/events have been disappointing but no overall bad convention.

For those in the general vicinity of Indianapolis, I humbly suggest that GenCon today is not like it was perhaps in the 1990s. Every year I've attended for the past several, there have been plenty of historical miniatures games. Of course in terms of percentage of table-space they're overshadowed by the uncountable legions of board- and RPG-games, but they're definitely offered. I'll be running a 28mm Fredericksburg scenario (6 players) three times on Saturday this year.

Striker25 Mar 2023 2:54 p.m. PST

"I found the miniatures games at GenCon"

I remember that one! I played in a Harpoon game. Only had 1 bad game at a con but never a bad con.

Prince Alberts Revenge25 Mar 2023 9:21 p.m. PST

GenCon might be the worst convention experience for me only that I didn't manage to go!

I was staying at the Marriott across the street, I was in Indianapolis for work and working 3+ weeks without a day off. I decided to try and get the one day Sunday convention pass but when I went to register the line was incredibly long. I had limited amount of time and opted to give up in the line. Maybe one day I will revisit the issue.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP26 Mar 2023 5:47 a.m. PST

4. First, let's give a speech.

Was this before the appointed time or after (including a few minutes before, but the event started late and the con knew it would)?

For the second case, "Hey, dude, so-and-so is late … go do something to placate the huddled masses" is a reasonable response. IMHO, this isn't handled well if it doesn't start with "So-and-so is late [because … if the reason won't hack people off], so I'm here to …" and then discuss something related.

An instance or two per hundred events is mostly random adversity. One in ten is probably bad planning (but might be mitigated by a significant uncontrollable event). In between those, I would really look at the reasons.

Martin Rapier26 Mar 2023 7:24 a.m. PST

I'm struggling to think of any bad ones, they range from 'fine' to 'great'. I tend to be fairly selective about which ones I go to. I only ever went to Fiasco once as the venue was just way too dark and not worth the travel time, but it was still a decent show.

rxpjks126 Mar 2023 8:09 a.m. PST

Advance the Colors.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP26 Mar 2023 2:50 p.m. PST

eto, mostly it's been a preliminary to something not late but with a set opening time--usually flea markets--and the blatherer just couldn't resist an audience who couldn't escape without losing their places in line.

Speeches, like meetings, generally do not have reasons. ("They were all standing there, and I had a microphone" or "it was Tuesday" do not justify annoying more or less innocent victims.)

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP27 Mar 2023 9:59 a.m. PST

Have to agree with many here. Occasional bad game, many great games, and never a bad convention. Have to admit hard to have a bad time when meeting up with friends I correspond with but usually only see at cons.

GamesPoet Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2023 6:58 a.m. PST

The worst conventions have been those attended in Fredericksburg where the noise level was so loud in the main hall that it was difficult to hear the GMs running their games that I attended there.

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP31 Mar 2023 11:21 a.m. PST

Strippokercon – really awful.

If only there had been some way to realise in advance how horrific it would be….

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP02 Apr 2023 12:05 p.m. PST

I'd forgotten that one, GamesPoet! It really was better after the first year, though. Harder to navigate, but quieter. I never missed one until I moved out of range.

Grumble8710606 Apr 2023 8:10 p.m. PST

As several have observed, Cold Wars 2020.

But for me, it had nothing to do with the convention. I ran a Friday game, which went OK as I recall. I even set up for my Saturday game.

But next, my spouse ended up in the ER (not COVID-related) and then the hospital. I canceled my Saturday game, told the coordinators I would not be volunteering any further shifts, and only showed up again at the hotel to pick up my game (which someone else had kindly packed up).

The only relief from all this was that we live in Lancaster, and my spouse's doctor was right there.

Dragon Gunner15 Apr 2023 2:34 a.m. PST

My one and only Con I ever attended, advertised as miniature wargaming, RPG, card games and COS Play. Vendors would be in attendance.

It turned out there were no miniature games, it was all RPGs and Magic the Gathering. There were no vendors and I was beset upon by COS play people getting in my face attempting to get my attention. I turned around and walked out as fast as I walked in angry, I had paid an entrance fee.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Apr 2023 4:35 a.m. PST

That's odd …

A con not having what was advertised is a bad thing. I'm just not used to cosplayers trying to get in people's faces. IME, they tend to be cliqueish – the peeps I came with, peeps in the same genre of outfit, or catty to peeps in the same outfit (rarely, but spectacular when it happens). But usually nice peeps …


… even these two Cold War adversaries can get along!

Dragon Gunner17 Apr 2023 3:08 p.m. PST

The COS play people did not upset me it was the complete lack of anything I was interested in and advertised would be there. People seeking attention do not bother me.

WaltOHara19 Apr 2023 9:29 p.m. PST

I remember the Timonium fairgrounds convention. That was a mistake, I agree. There was hardly any room between tables, the floors were solid concrete, I worked as a volunteer for much of the convention. We didn't read the contracts well-- we assumed someone would empty trash, that was extra. We assumed someone would fill water stations, that was extra. We assumed someone would clean the hell hole bathrooms at night, that was extra.

wingnut11 Jun 2023 11:21 p.m. PST

@ Games Poet,
Fredericksburg 2013? Sorry about the noise, that was our table….


dapeters13 Jun 2023 1:15 p.m. PST

GM in a game decided that while one side was going to win, it was not how he had envision it, so he moved one side's entire army 3/4 into the game.

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