Sean and Marlis of The Nerdd had the opportunity this weekend to attend a northern Utah gaming convention. SaltCon Gaming Convention started in 2009, and in the past ten years has grown to three events a year. Tickets are $30 for up to 39 hours of gaming available. During the show we played five different games in between talking to different staff, vendors, and attendees. Overall, the convention was very fun, relaxed, and casual.
SaltCon has three events a year, the primary show being in the spring, with around 2,000 attendees, as well as two smaller shows in the summertime, each around 500 attendees. The convention is hosted at the Davis Conference Center in Layton, Utah, which is a beautiful venue, and not so large that you can get lost, like other conventions I’ve attended in the past.
The convention center mainly comprised of three areas, the open gaming floor where there are hundreds of tables for you to claim and start playing games, the RPG room where you could play Dungeons and Dragons or other TtRPGs, and the Game Library, where you could check out any of the hundreds and hundreds of games. Literally an entire room of bookshelves that were full of different board and card games.
We were able to demo two different games, meaning that these games haven’t been published yet, and we playtested them with the creator, so that he could see how players reacted to his game, and where mistakes might be for him to fix. That alone is extremely fun.
Of the 500 attendees, we didn’t notice very many teenagers, it seemed like the youngest prominent demographic were post-college. There were some couples, a few families, but for the most part it seemed like a place to meet up with friends, or make new ones. They made this very easy by having “Players Wanted” signs you could put on your table when you are playing a game, so that others would feel welcome to join your game.
Unlike other gaming conventions, SaltCon focuses on one thing: tabletop gaming. That might seem obvious at first, but there isn’t an area for Smash Bros. or a Tekken Tournament, this is largely a screen-free event. Not only that, but there aren’t panels, special guests, or parties associated with the event. Though the floor opens 9am Friday morning, and doesn’t close until 11:59pm Saturday night, that entire time is dedicated to sitting at a table and playing games. That’s not to say there aren’t special events or a schedule, as you sign up for various TtRPG one-shots, with banners all over the place, each with a different game for you to discover. Some TtRPGs we noticed included:
- D&D Adventurers League
- Monster of the Week
- Call of Cthulu
- Blades in the Dark
As mentioned before, there weren’t a slew of children at the event, but that’s not to say that the show is not child-friendly. Of the hundreds of games, many of them are easy for kids to pick up and learn, and just as many are complex for the experienced gamer who needs a bigger hit. In the Spring show, there are a few more kid-focused events going on, but in the summer conventions, there are just the games.
There weren’t very many exhibitors at this convention, but the few were there to drum up attention for their brand by running a scheduled game, and everyone who attended their game were given free swag or even tickets to their own event.
As far as vendors, again there are more at the Spring convention, but as we spoke with the event coordinator, he said that he didn’t plan on having vendors, so the ones in attendance were all because they wanted to go out of their way and be a part of this event. When asked why, the primary reasons included that the cost of a booth was relatively low for conventions and that board games are expensive hobbies, and so gamers are used to spending a little more, to get custom 3-D printed map terrain, or other high-end merchandise. Your average attendee of a Comic convention might be willing to buy t-shirts, Funko Pops, or a small piece of home decor, but gamers are willing to pay more to add to their hobby.
While the venue was very clean, well-lit, had plenty of available parking, there wasn’t very much food that was easily accessible. In their lobby was a snack bar with chips, cookies, beverages, or a pretzel for vending machine prices, but if you are looking to get a meal, you have to leave the venue, and probably drive. There are lots of restaurants within a 5-minute radius, so it doesn’t take much, but at least a 10 minute walk if you don’t want to drive.
We spoke to a couple volunteers, and asked why they decided to work at the event, as opposed to just attend. Obviously there is a certain level of love for gaming, but we found two main draws to volunteer if it’s something that interests you. The first is that it is easier for you to run a game yourself in the RPG room. The other is that outside of set-up and tear-down, you are only required to spend four hours on the floor, being available to attendees, whether that’s assistance, questions, or teaching games you’re familiar with. So ~4 hours of work get you 35 hours of free convention time.
The lack of a schedule can leave you feeling a little lost, not knowing what you should do next, but just grab a game, a “Players Wanted” sign, and get going. Definitely attend this with friends if you can, especially if you have social anxiety, because you can feel a little lonely. If you are planning on attending this event in the future, know that there is no need to be there right when the doors open, and pace yourself.