My First ConsimWorld Expo Experience

frontier wars 728x90 KS

Who ventures into the desert in summer?  Wargamers! ~

By Christian Snyder, 18 August 2018

A big thanks to Ric Van Dyke who took and provided the photos; he is a much better and more reliable photographer than I!

Even though ConsimWorld and its Expo are a staple of the wargaming hobby, (and have been for almost two decades) I hesitate to write this, as I feel like I am letting out the secret of one of the best Expos in Wargaming. Besides putting these words to paper, I have recounted this information dozens of times to family, friends, peers, anyone who I thought might be interested in knowing what ConsimWorld Expo was like. Additionally, in my first drafts, I tried listing all the designers, developers, and great people that I met. But in doing so, I would undoubtedly leave someone out, and instead, I would prefer to just focus on the ConsimWorld Expo experience. So other than a very few, I am omitting almost all names. First, I will explain what I thought ConsimWorld Expo was all about, then what my excited initial reaction was, and finally, the deep and great appreciation that I have for ConsimWorld Expo after some simple introspection. First and foremost, this was my first ConsimWorld Expo, my first board game expo, and my first true expo/con-anything. So maybe a grain of salt or two is required, but take a read, and see for yourself.

The Grand Ballroom

The Grand Ballroom of the Tempe Palms Hotel packed full of Wargamers



First, a Little background

I was recently blessed to be at a point in my career and life where I was given some time to branch out. I was expected to learn and experience things not exclusive to my profession, things that maybe I could bring back, or at least enhance my personal development. I chose to jump back into Wargaming; miniature and hex & counter style, to develop my skills, ideas and opinions. I had a lot of fun with miniatures and board games in high school, enjoyed them through college, thanks in part to an instructor, and decided to get back to it after a long hiatus. Firstly, a lot has changed in such a short time (a dozen or more years), but the fun was just as I remembered it. One class I took included Sabin’s book on wargaming and a discussion and play of Frank Chadwick’s Battle for Moscow. This naturally led to me wanting more of that interesting system, and lo and behold, there was a Kickstarter out for a game with BFM as its brainchild; Frank Chadwick’s ETO Vol 1: Thunder in the East. Naturally, I went and pre-ordered a copy. But I couldn’t wait, and I wanted to see it, which led me to email the company and ask where it would be laid out to look at (key phrase: look at). The response from developer and head of the company himself was: ConsimWorld Expo! So, I just had to attend. In the middle of my latest cross-country move, I was going to just go and see this game, and this expo, for myself.

Serious wargamers having some serious fun

Serious wargamers having some serious fun


My first expectation of ConsimWorld Expo

I truly did not know what to expect, or what I would be seeing. It was just a “convention”, like all the little ones I had attended in New Jersey, along the Hudson, Washington or in Missouri. Little events with a few people with varying interests. Something that was going to be fun, but I certainly wasn’t overthinking it.

I looked it up online, saw a few pictures, and figured this was good enough. But really, I didn’t care because I only had one reason to attend: to see my game. I gave little thought to it until it got close enough for plane tickets. At that point I set aside a weekend, tops. But in trying to figure out what weekend, the first or last, I realized maybe this is a little grander than I thought. Reaching out, I understood that I didn’t want to miss the first couple of days, that’s when the opening ceremony and give away occurred, and I didn’t really want to miss the last day because of the auction and ending tournament. So, my expectations bumped up, I was intrigued.

As I signed up for my “Monster Game” I also signed up for my second and third choices. In doing so, I glanced at some of the games. Every single game I wanted to play, but just wouldn’t have the time for, was on the list. And those signed up for the games, industry known game developers and the like, were just as surprising to me. At this point, I started to realize that I wasn’t just going to some sleepy expo and was honestly starting to get excited. My new expectation was to be able to play or see all the games on my Wishlist (and unopened on the shelf) and get to maybe meet some of my favorite designers.

The Foyer

The Foyer to the Grand Ballroom, yet more games to play


My first Reaction to ConsimWorld Expo: Tempe, Arizona, here I come

Now I was excited! I was going to something cool, with awesome prizes. Cool Games. And to catch a glimpse of some of the people who designed my favorite games. It was going to be  great week in the desert and I was certain I was going to have a simple FUN experience. The last month before the Expo I read and re-read the rule book for Thunder in the East and played a game each of Ukraine 43 and Holland 44 with some buddies (just in case I could get the chance at Stalingrad 42 which I signed up for as an alternate). And finally, I was off!

It was hot, and I didn’t care. I just wanted to throw some dice. Get my Expo shirt, and some Expo pens, and any other good gaming loot. I was certainly excited, and the first few hours proved it to be everything I expected in the fun and excitement department.

Another look at the ballroom and tables

Another look at the ballroom, and the fun, at each table


Monster Games

First, I got to the VPG corner and saw what would soon be coming to me. That was exciting, and I would spend a lot of my time there. But also, I started looking about the flea market tables, and at the name tags. I was meeting a lot of people from board game companies, developers, designers etc. It was a truly great first impression. I didn’t want to miss a thing. I wanted to do everything but knew that I could not. I prioritized the welcome meeting, the opening meeting, and of course breakfast updates as the must attends. So much that I could do, my excitement was through the roof!

In short order I met the designer of the game I was there to see and the developer. I saw the printer proof of my game laid out on the tables, and immediately jumped in to play. It was a good first 48 hours, and I was truly lucky. At the opening ceremony, Marshal Enterprises did their big announcement, and John Kranz (Organizer extraordinaire, the man responsible for putting it all together) announced the winning raffle ticket for a copy of La Battaille pour le Prusse 1806 from Marshal EnterprisesAnd I was holding that ticket in my hand! My first win! It was an unexpected moment certainly, and in my baffled amusement I went up to receive my prize.


Prizes and deals

In the moment, I just knew I was receiving a white box with a game inside. I didn’t actually realize it was La Battaille, leading to a couple of dubious looks and a question of, “do you know what you have?”. My hasty reply, “well… I will find out shortly.” All it took was looking at the first beautiful map and I was ecstatic for my win.

The Flea Market Table

The Flea Market tables lined the Ballroom, filled with great games for great prices

Those ‘firsts’ were pretty entertaining. I was up early and stayed up ever later playing my favorite wargames and meeting new people. I nabbed great discounts at the flea market, and even in the dealer’s room I was happy to find the games at a discount. I was happy enough to not pay shipping! I walked away with Triumph and Tragedy, No Retreat: The Russian Front, Nemesis: Burma 1944, OCS: Sicily II, Strike of the Eagle, D-Day at Omaha Beach, The Picrocholine Wars, and two Revolution Games. I must mention at this point that I did come prepared. I dropped my kids off with my parents before arriving, trivial, yes. But they had no need of a large suitcase each on the plane, so I brought an empty one. And so, I shopped to my heart’s content, limited only by available funds and that extra suitcase space. In just building my collection, I was very happy.

John playing some OCS Third Winter

John Kisner (who organized more than a few OCS set-ups) and crew playing OCS: Third Winter
ed note: a David Mignery sighting! (far right)

In one instance, I went to the dealer room to look for Revolution Games’Gazala and Celles, as I had seen a review on them prior to arriving. As I looked, the Revolution guy behind the table was very helpful and informative. I told him what I wanted, and that I was mainly there for those two games. He was very appreciative of my interest in those two games, because he designed them! He even offered to play through the games with me. I truly wished I had the time, or maybe I wish I had made the time, but with everything else I was unable to take him up on the offer.

The littlegive away items were notvery little. VPG gave out some games as prizes, door prizes and special handouts. GMT offered up games, extra card decks, some mounted maps and (my favorite) counter trays. Legion Games donated some of their games (My son’s personal favorite being Target for Today, and yes, some lucky folks got a free copy). Revolution and Compass Games donated to the fray and were in the dealer room offering their excellent games for sale. Someone was almost always sponsoring coffee and the company of gamers was fantastic!

The bulk of what I brought home

The bulk of what I brought home with me, thankfully I had an extra suitcase


So many games to play . . .

The top games that I wanted to play, I got to play. I was very excited to do several playthroughs of Thunder in the East. Additionally, the next game I spent a significant amount of time at was Stalingrad ’42. I enjoyed an opportunity to get some play against the designer and seeing the latest rule updates was immensely satisfying. I sat down with the designer of The Last Hundred Yards and played a neat little scenario that I found to be excellent. My Sherman tanks playing cat and mouse with a German Cat, while our infantry had an intense confrontation, was certainly memorable.

I sat and watched several OCS games (if only I had more time) and looked at so many others. I swear I am going to come back one year and only focus on OCS. Maybe by then there will truly be another convention within ConsimWorld Expo, OCS Con! At the convention, a friend of mine told me about GMT’s Mr. President being tested, so I decided to stop in and take a look. I had intended to just do a walk by (no stopping), but 35 minutes later I was hooked. Shortly thereafter, I signed up with P500 and can’t wait to get it.

The begining of OCS CON at ConsimWorld EXPO

The beginnings of OCS CON at ConsimWorld Expo: A great group who came to play OCS’s many rich titles

While wandering through some of the smaller conference rooms, I got to see the beauty of Death Ride-Kursk, and while I wouldn’t know where to put that behemoth, it was great to sit and watch. It was a truly mega-monster wargame (a Guinness record contender as I understand it) in which I saw platoons and company counters battle across huge maps!


The final auction and tournament

To cap it all off, I got some more cool games, bits and pieces to take home. Watching the Tournament finalists battle it out with fourteen games as prizes next to them was pretty fun. And then on to the auction! It was my first game auction, but it was a lot of fun, even if that boy and his dad beat me in a bidding war (I let them, I swear) over SCS: Ardennes! While I didn’t win anything at the auction, I wasn’t too worried about it. It was a fun experience.

Strike Force One Tournament and prizes

Strike Force One Tournament, and a look at all those prizes

The true appreciation for ConsimWorld Expo was yet to come. I realized it while it was happening, do not get me wrong. However, it was those final hours that really tied the experience in for me.


Reflections on the whole week

While I was focused on gaming, and lots of it, going from 8:00 a.m. until sometimes midnight, there was so much more to the whole experience. Granted, for me this was a first, so I am not yet jaded, it has not become routine, and everything was a surprise for me. But I truly appreciated so many things about this expo in the moment.

John Kranz Alan Emerich Auction Extravaganza

John Kranz, Alan Emerich: The Auction Extravaganza in all its glory


The Atmosphere

When I walked in, I was a little nervous about only having emailed any of the people I was about to meet. I didn’t know what the experience was going to be like, or if there were some pre-established groups or cliques. But the moment I walked up to ‘my game’, where I was on the sign up, and had talked to the developer, I was among friends. It was about gaming for sure, and we didn’t really do any proper ice breakers, we just started playing. I would come back to this group time and again but branching out was just as easy.

VPG with ETO I and II

VPG with Eastern Theater of Operations I and II in the front corner where I spent most of my time


The People

Meeting the designers of my favorite wargames was just as easy as everything else was. Everyone was at ease and answered questions or were willing to talk about the games they were playing. And I personally didn’t encounter any problems trying to get into a game, the problem was more along the lines of, which one! There were always new pickup games starting, or places to fill at the monsters if you desired. John Kranz has a simple system of morning/afternoon announcements, flags and a dry erase board to ensure everyone can find players or games.

Games a plenty

Games a plenty: Everyone was very friendly, and getting into a game was very easy

But more important to me, than the friendly environment, were some of the great people that I got to meet. Seeing Youtuber Stuka Joe play Stalingrad: Verdun on the Volga and SPI’s The Plot to Assassinate Hitler game (an extremely cool game that models distance and locations in a very unique way) was just as fun as talking with him about B-17s (AH’sB-17 and Target for Today of course). Discussing the Plot to Assassinate Hitler, (and its loss to history with the downfall of SPI) led to an excellent discussion of wargaming in general. We even discovered that we had a mutual non-gaming friend from over a decade ago!

The Plot to Assasinate Hitler

The Plot to Assassinate Hitler by SPI, an altogether different wargame

Meeting, and playing games, with people from Australia, France, Germany, Canada, the UK, Belgium and Japan was a great time and made me so much more aware of the depth of this hobby. Talking to them in between games at breakfast, lunch or dinner in a truly relaxed environment was just as great. Exchanging email addresses to have that Vassalopponent for that game no one else in your state (or country) has the time to play is priceless.

Stalingrad Verdun on the Volga

Stalingrad: Verdun on the Volga, talking the ins and outs of this Campaign with Stuka Joe


The Seminars

While at ConsimWorld Expo I attended just about every seminar. Most were updates from the game companies. The head of GMT gave those of us in attendance a “State of GMT” complete with updates from the GMT developers present. The head of VPG did the same, a full and candid moment that I truly appreciated. It was a truly eye-opening experience into the industry side of gaming, beyond just simply appreciating the games.

I talked with designers about their playtests, if I didn’t get to play them myself, and received great insight into what motivated them to make their game in the first place. It was hard not to fanboy it up, to be honest. And I cannot say if I am disappointed or not that I didn’t get photos with my favorite personalities, (or a signed rulebook). I didn’t, but I certainly was excited enough. However, in the moment, I just wanted to listen and take in all the passion and experience for this hobby in one ballroom. And I wasn’t the only one. Over 50 newcomers were in attendance this year, so I was just one of many and it was a truly fun time to rub elbows with some of the leading names in the table-top games industry.

As of this writing, I have yet to finish my move and transition, so that has been my excuse to not reach out to most of the people I met and exchanged emails with while at ConsimWorld Expo. But it is my great hope to complete that task. I don’t expect to start up pen-pals, but when I need a Vassalopponent or want to play that great new game at next year’s ConsimWorld Expo, I will have those connections. And I do plan to attend, and keep attending, because I have found the convention that I want to keep making the commitment to attend.

VPG Corner playing Chariot Rome

The VPG corner playing Chariots Rome, making new friends and having fun



I was interested in only in showing up to play a game (a great game I can now say from experience), made the commitment to attend because of the prizes, big names and big games I would get to play, and I am coming back because of the wisdom, experience and friendships that make ConsimWorld Expo so great. If you have a deeper interest in the board game industry, really like wargames, really like monster games, really like meeting cool people, actually want to play “that” game on your shelf, or really just like the hobby, I encourage you to come to ConsimWorld Expo in 2019. And from what I hear, Expo 2020 is going to be even grander! John Kranz and crew really do an outstanding job making everyone feel welcome and setting up a truly classy event. I am very happy to have found out about ConsimWorld Expo, grateful for the experience, and still incredibly excited about the cool games I brought back with me!


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