From Conception to Convention Prelude & Part 1: How I Got Here


In the beginning Creators created paper. Now the paper was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the paper, and the Spirit of the Creators was hovering over the paper.  And the Creators said, “Let there be games,” and there were games. The Creators saw that this
was good, and they separated the thick paper from the thin paper. The Creators called the thick paper “boards,” and the thin paper they called “cards.” And there was turns and a round–the first play.

And the Creators said, “Let there be a vault between the surfaces to separate floor from  ceiling. So the Creators made the vault and separated the floor under the vault from the ceiling above it. And it was so. The Creators called the vault “tabletop.” And there was turns, and there were rounds–the second play.

And the Creators said, “Let the paper under the ceiling be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. The Creators called the dry ground “the play area,” and the gathered pieces he called dice. And the Creators saw that it was good.

And then the Creators said, “Let the cards and dice produce actions: rolling and movement on the board that produce resources and victory points, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The cards and dice produced actions: resources and victory points according to their kinds. And the Creators saw that it was good. And there were turns, and there were rounds–the third play.

And the Creators said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the ceiling to separate the day from the night, and let them serve to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the ceiling to give light to the game room.” And it was so. The Creators made great fluorescent lights–to govern the day. The Creators set them in the vault of the ceiling to give light to the game room, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And the Creators saw that it was good. And there were turns, and there were rounds–the fourth play.

And the Creators said, “Let the game boards teem with many pieces, and let meeples set upon the game board across the vault of the tabletop.” So the Creators created the great meeples of the board and every plastic mini with which the game box teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every cardboard chit according to its kind. And the Creators saw that it was good. The Creators blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the plastic baggies in the game boxes, and let the meeples increase on the earth. And there were turns, and there was a round–the fifth play.

And the Creators said, “Let the land produce card games according to their kinds: the collectible, the deckbuilding, and the living, each according to their kind.” And it was so. The Creators made the card games according to their kinds, the CCGs according to their kinds, the deckbuilders according to their kinds, and the living card games, according to their kinds. And the Creators saw that it was good.

The the Creators said, “Let us make gamers in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the meeples and the minis, over the CCGs, over the deckbuilers, and over the living cards games.”

So the Creators created gamers in their own image, in the image of the Creators he created them; male…and, well…mostly male he created them.

The Creators blessed them and said to them, “Roll dice and make movements; shuffle cards and deal them out. Rule over the meeples and the minis and the cardboard chits.”

Then the Creators said, “I give you every mechanism on the face of the whole earth and every rule to define your playspace. They will be yours for interpretation.  And to all the meeples and minis and chits and cards–everything that has the pulp of paper in it–I give every board and tile and tableau for placement.”  And it was so.

The Creators saw all that they had made, and it was very good. And there were turns, and a round–the sixth play.

Thus the players and the games were completed in all their vast array.

By the seventh day the Creators had finished the work they had been doing; so on the seventh day they rested from all their work. The Creators blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it they had a convention, enjoying all the work they had done.

Part 1: How I Got Here

I have been an active member of the board game community for approximately 8 years now, and it has been an interesting journey. I first got
turned on to the world of not-so-typical board games when I was a mystery shopper  and got an assignment for the Wizards of the Coast store in my local mall–remember those?

Part of the shop required me to interact with a sales associate, present a problem, i.e., “I need a gift for…” and the sales associate had to
engage me, ask me questions, and present me a solution.

I usually used this budget to acquire the latest book for my ever-growing Dungeons & Dragons collection, as I was an avid RPGer.  However, my wife’s birthday was coming up, and I thought I would use the  mystery shopping opportunity to purchase her a game. In retrospect, this might have been a bit of a “Homer” gift. (If you’ve seen that episode you know what I mean. If not, shame on you.)

I entered the store and did my usual wandering, waiting to be approached. Once I was greeted and presented my need, the store associate–the
manager as it happened–immediately pulled from the shelf this strange game called Settlers of Catan. This was around the year 2000. I looked it over, considered her recommendation, and promptly made the plunge. Little did I know this was but a crack in the dam…

After a few very enjoyable plays of Settlers, life moved on.  It was 2002, I was growing in my career in sales, and joined a networking group.
Part of the weekly meeting was a 10-minute presentation by one member, and when it was my turn, as part of the introduction I answered the question “What is something no one knows about you?” My admission: “I’m a gamer.”

At this point I was mostly a role-playing gamer, but that would soon change. After that meeting, 2 long-standing members of the group came up to me with that knowing smile and admitted, “I’m a gamer too!” My circle was about to expand.

Shortly after that one of those members invited me to this event called Origins. I had never heard of the event, and was not even aware that
gamers gathered together on a scale like this. Sure I had been into comic books as a kid, and attended those conventions, but game conventions? Who knew?

I was all primed to join this gamer and his crew at Origins in the summer of 2004 when my world was turned on its head. We were sitting around playing D&D with some friends one Saturday night, and my wife who was pregnant returned from a trip to the bathroom. She waddled downstairs and said, “I think my water broke.” Good, right? Well, no…not at 24 weeks. My wife and I went right to the hospital and she did not emerge until 8 weeks later with our newborn premature son of 4 lb 2 oz. Needless to say, no Origins for me that year.

However, time passed and my son grew healthier and when summer of 2005 rolled around, the Origins question was posed once again. I was given the all clear by my wife to attend. And that 5 days opened up the floodgates. I had the best time I could remember having for a very long time, and I came home infected with a bug that I would never be rid of. I am proud to say I have not missed an Origins since.

In 2006 I attended once again as a participant, and in 2007 I decided to volunteer for the convention and see what that entailed. Mostly for me it entailed sitting outside of the Film Room reading for hours and hours every day. And I was to repeat this in 2008. (No, I’m not sure why I did it again, but no matter.)

In 2009 and 2010 I changed the orientation of my attendance once again and decided that I wanted to be part time volunteer and part time GM. You see, not only was I ready to spread my wings beyond the Film Room, but I had been driven to the GM route by a number of bad experiences.

One of my main motivations for participating in scheduled board gaming events was to become familiar with games that seemed interesting,
and find out if they had that certain something that would make me buy them.  Well, that was unfortunately a failed experiment as often as not. Time and again I had experiences where the GMs were unqualified to teach me, as they had a very poor grasp–or in some cases even no grasp–of the rules! I also had experiences where I had paid to play and I was simply handed a box and told to go at it. To me that was unacceptable.

I simply could not believe that game publishers were having their games represented without realizing how poorly it was being executed. Not only was I turned off playing a game, but I sure as heck was not going to buy it.  And when it comes down to it, these publishers wanted their games to sell.  There had to be a better way. Well, I said that if I wanted it done better, I should just do it myself. And that I did.

I spent Origins 2009-2011 teaching games, and I’d like to think I taught them well. These were games that I knew because I had spent countless hours playing them prior to the convention. I made alliances with publishers and let them know that I wanted to represent them well. And I am honored to say that many of them placed a lot of trust in me, sight unseen, to do right by them and their product.

[This year at Origins 2012 it was even better! I led a team of GMs, the West Michigan Tabletop Gamers, and we demo’d some of the coolest new games from small and midsize publishers. We represented 8 companies, 30 different games titles, and ran almost 150 events! We hope we provided a great time and left the players feeling good enough about their understanding of the game that they could buy it and teach it to their friends.]

Around this time I was also beginning to tap into the gaming community at home. I had always been gaming with my friends, but I knew there
had to be others I did not know that enjoyed this great hobby. And with a little bit of Googling I found the Grand Gamers. And despite my inability to attend a lot of events, I was welcomed into the group with smiles and kind words whenever I showed.

Because of my busy schedule, I decided to create my own event: 3rd Wednesday Gaming at our local Barnes & Noble. (And this was long before
they stocked games like they do today.) What began about 2 years ago as a sparsely populated 2-5 person event has grown into a regularly-attended 10-15 person event every month.

Now despite my annual engagement with Origins and another small local convention called Marmalade Dog, and despite the friends I got into
gaming, and despite the great people I was meeting and gaming with, something was missing.

Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan. It has a lot of great art, theatre, and restaurants. But you know what it does not have? A
board gaming or comic convention. The east side of the state has some great events, and yes, Origins and Gen Con were just short drives away in their respective directions, but the time has become right for Grand Rapids to have its own. And now we get to the point of this blog.

I am going to start a convention in Grand Rapids MI. I have had this thought on and off over the past few years, but never taken action. Why?
Life: family, career, and myriad other reasons. Something would always get in the way, and the dream would fade. But not this time. This is my public declaration: come Fall 2013, GrandCon will be born.

And this blog, put out no more than weekly, but at least monthly, will detail for you, dear reader, the journey. There is a lot to do: budget,
venue, legalities, insurance, volunteers and countless other things that have  not yet even occurred to me. But the important part? I already have it in motion.  And this will happen. Just like when you aim to lose weight–and I have done that too, from 306# to 215# in 2004–you need to say it out loud and be held accountable. So I hope that not only will you enjoy the missives detailing this journey, but I want you to come back to me with your advice, thoughts, and doubts. Your comments on what I do right, what I do wrong, and what I can do better.

I look forward to revealing the details of GrandCon as we journey together. This blog will be published first here on Dice Hate Me–THANK YOU CHRIS!, and then appear on BoardGameGeek about a week later, as well as our Facebook page: There will also be website coming soon.  Thank you for coming this far with me.  I hope you get as much joy in reading about the journey as I do in making it.


Marc Specter

Manager, GrandCon

Recorded April 2012

Related posts:

  1. MACE 2011 Convention Wrap-up
  2. MACE Convention Wrap-up
One Response to “From Conception to Convention Prelude & Part 1: How I Got Here”
  1. Matt Riddle says:

    looking forward to it, will try and make the kickoff next year!!

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