The hallways of the Ypsilanti Marriott Hotel were filled with people excitedly recounting the day’s triumphs and defeats to one another.
In the rooms above, the cheers of momentary success mixed with the laments of failure as their occupants rolled countless dice, shuffled numerous cards and emptied the contents of many a board game onto the dozens of gaming tables.
Hundreds of gamers from the Midwest and beyond braved the cold and snowy weather to attend this year’s annual U-Con Gaming Convention on Nov. 24. This year’s guest of honor was Leonard Balsera, the lead designer of Fate Core from Evil Hat Productions.
“I went because a friend of mine was running a game,” said Trenton Sexton, an Eastern Michigan University student. “I jumped on and everything turned out good.”
The origins of the convention date back to 1989, when the University of Michigan’s “Wargaming Club” held a series of scheduled games in U of M’s Student Union which became the first U-Con. It has grown to encompass all things dice-based as well as video games.
“I played one long four-hour table top game and a bunch of board games,” Sexton said. “It was all really fun.”
In addition to the various card, pen-and-paper, and board games running at U-Con, the event also brings in specialty businesses from far-and-wide.
“It’s not a big con, but it’s big for the area and it’s got a lot of people,” said Kris Bezeau, the owner of Our House Games, a local shop in Monroe, Mich. specializes in board games.
He’s attended five of the past 10 conventions.
“It’s been pretty successful,” Bezeau said. “We’ve met a lot of new people. It’s done pretty well for us.”
While some people attend U-Con to promote their established business, others use it to launch new companies and products.
Aron Zell is a U of M graduate with an engineering degree and has come to six of the last nine U-Con conventions.
“I really like the atmosphere at the convention and I like the staff,” Zell said. “They’ve always been nice and friendly and very helpful. It’s been a good experience.”
Zell came to this year’s U-Con to debut his new game, “Sea of Stars,” a table top role playing game.
“We’re trying to make people aware of it and get it out there,” Zell said.
He has spent the past several years designing his game from the ground up. Most of his focus was making a realistic “hard science fiction” universe that incorporates actual physics theories and scientific research.
“I found there was a lack of true science fiction table top games. It’s something I wanted to play, so I started making a setting and system I wanted to play,” he said.
Zell ran a demonstration of his new game to a sold-out table at the convention and said he was optimistic about its future. This year’s convention appeared to be a rousing success for more than just Zell.
“I’ll definitely be coming back next year,” Sexton said. “Compared to other conventions I’ve been to, it’s dirt cheap. It’s a nice, sort of quiet setting instead of a huge 500 person convention hall and you get to go with your friends.”