By George Holochwost
The basement of the Hilton is the place to be if you are a gamer at DragonCon. A convention unto itself, the main gaming hall is filled with the furrowed brows and triumphant cheers of convention attendees engrossed in their favorite board, miniature, role-playing, and card games. With plenty of tables to host both tournament and casual events, this is where you want to be if you are trying to get your game on.
Needless to say, the popularity of hobby boardgames has soared in the last several years. Thanks to games like Carcasonne and Settlers of Catan, more and more folks are diving into this surprisingly rich pastime. When pacing the aisles of the Hilton lower levels, games such as Rio Grande's Dominion, Z-Man's Yggdrassil, and Fantasy Flight's Descent see multiple tables of play. Wanna try one out? Most folks are completely cool with you joining in as player three, four, five or eight of whatever they happen to be playing at the time.
So, what if you've flown half way across the country and didn't have room in your messenger bag for Twilight Imperium's nearly three foot-long box? No worries. The game room offers a five dollar sticker that grants access to a large game-borrowing library filled with most of what you probably have in your home collection.
In a slightly quieter section of the Hilton gaming hall, one finds the storytelling and monster-stomping antics of folks engaged in their favorite RPGs. At some conventions, you might find a gaming area where role-players are heaped right on top of folks playing much louder tabletop games. Not here. The Role-Playing area is the ideal place to run such classics as Dungeons & Dragons, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, and Shadowrun, with newer contributions such as Eclipse Phase, Legend of the Five Rings, and any number of home-brewed concoctions based on popular properties.
Card games abound as one would expect. Magic the Gathering players claim a massive portion of the gaming hall and banners depicting iconic art from popular card sets hang like medieval heraldry above the heads of victorious and frustrated players. In addition to Magic, Cryptozoic's World of Warcraft trading card game, Arcane Tinmen's The Spoils TCG, and White Wolf's Vampire: The Eternal Struggle.
If you are heading to the gaming room to see what's going on, I strongly recommend the section of the hall dominated by miniature games. Only at a convention of this size do you see the gorgeously detailed terrain and painstakingly painted armies that do battle on these tables. Whether it's Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Warhammer 40,000, Warmachine, Hordes, Battletech, HeroClix, or some crazy-plastic-Japanese-monsters-smashing-giant-dayglow-buildings-made-from-giant-legos game.
Whatever your game, you will find a place and people willing to play it in the Hilton gaming hall at DragonCon.