Accessible, equitable game convention lures thousands to Schaumburg, Harper
Brian Spray traveled from Cleveland to Schaumburg this weekend to test out his skills in Keyforge, one of numerous games under the umbrella of AdeptiCon, billed as the world's premiere miniature war gaming event.
Spray, 25, began playing Keyforge in November. He and his friend and co-worker Chad Shamrowicz, 50, also of Cleveland, enjoy the game's accessibility and camaraderie.
A deck of cards to play Keyforge is only $10 and each is unique; it's not a "pay-to-win" type game where players with the biggest budgets spend and spend to collect the top cards, build a super deck and wipe out newer players.
"This here gives everyone a fair shot," said Spray Saturday afternoon during a break at Harper College, which in addition to the Schaumburg Convention Center was a site of weekend tournaments. "Even those competitive people are still helping each other out while they play."
This weekend was Spray's first time at a convention; he wasn't playing too well, though. He had won only one game while losing two, and to advance, players had to win four of six games. Still, Spray was enjoying himself.
"It's cool to see the different walks of life people are from," he said, noting one gamer he met at the convention center Friday was a local attorney who came straight from court to play. "That's cool, that's different."
Grant Titus, 25, of Lynchburg, Virginia, and Trevor May, 26, of Atlanta, had been to conventions before and were excited to be part of the relatively new Keyforge game.
"It's a new scene. It's really undefined," Titus said, noting that players can figure out what strategies and card combinations work best as the game evolves instead of just Googling a winning combination for a more established, older game, such as Magic.
"It's unexplored, really ...," May said. "There's a certain allure of being in on the ground floor of a game."
Added Titus proudly: "We're experimenters."
In this tournament, each player got three decks and once a person lost a game, that deck was eliminated so players couldn't use the same winning deck over and over.
Kara Finley, 29, and Michael Yang, 30, both traveled from Madison, Wis., to participate.
By midafternoon Saturday, Finley was 1-2, so she had to win the next three games to advance. Despite the odds, she said what made Keyforge fun is each card deck is unique, randomly generated and ready to play, which eliminates the pressure of trying to assemble a deck.
"I find deck-building to be incredibly stressful," she said.
Yang was 3-0 and only needed to win one of the next three games to move on.
"Anyone can play this. There's a more equitable playing field," said Yang. "I've have not played any game that's played the same today. The puzzle is much bigger."
Organizers say that over the past 16 years, AdeptiCon has become an international destination offering some of the largest and most eclectic war gaming tournaments, hobby experiences and board gaming events available for people of all ages.
The convention runs from 8 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Schaumburg Convention Center, 1551 Thoreau Drive.