For more than 40 years, Canberra’s annual Cancon games convention has delivered the latest and greatest in board games for newcomers and seasoned veterans alike.
During COVID-19 lockdowns, many of us reached for the games cupboard in search of Monopoly or Scrabble to pass the time.
Table-top games are one of the world’s biggest industries, and an ever-growing range is available to suit all ages and skill levels.
This year is Cancon’s 43rd annual event, and despite being cancelled in 2021 due to COVID-19, it’s happening again this weekend of 22-24 January.
The annual event is the place to see what’s big, what’s new and what people are playing in the world of games.
Canberra Games Society (CGS) member and public servant Tim Sleigh is organising this year’s event.
“Pretty much any game that you can play sitting at a table, you can play at Cancon,” he says.
The group has been gathering the newest games from across the globe to put on show at the convention.
“My crack team of board games people are currently going through those games at the moment getting them all ready for the convention,” says Tim.
“You can play some of the latest games that have come out without having to buy them just to find out if you like them.”
Cancon has something for everyone, from popular family-friendly card games such as Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering, to table-top sci-fi battles set in the grim, dark future world of Warhammer 40,000.
This year, miniature battle games such as World War II-based Bolt Action and Star Wars: Legion have emerged as some of the more popular titles.
If you’re looking for something new, the convention features a Board Game Library where you can try before you buy.
“If you really like the games in the games library – if you find one that you like – you can meander up to the trade stand and pick up a copy of it,” says Tim.
In previous years, there were numerous experienced players on hand to help people with games they may not have seen before.
However, this year with COVID-19 restrictions this may not be possible.
“In a normal year, we’d actually have people there to teach you how to play the games,” says Tim.
“We’re hoping that’s going to work this year, but we’re not 100 per cent certain how it’s going to go.”
While there may be restrictions to the event, the pandemic hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of CGS members.
The club still meets every Thursday to play, except during Canberra’s lockdowns.
“You’re playing with masks on, you’re sitting opposite a table about one-and-a-half metres apart from each other, and you’re not sharing dice,” says Tim.
“You just play carefully, following all the current guidelines and doing what you can.”
The 2022 Cancon is strictly ticketed, with capacity limits and QR code check-ins.
But while crowds may be smaller than usual, organisers are still hoping to see thousands of people coming through the doors this weekend.
“If you’re stuck at home with your family and you’re sick of Monopoly, then get them a good board game,” says Tim.
“In Canberra, we’re pretty good, we’re like 98 per cent double vaxxed so you’re reasonably safe.”
Tickets have been selling fast and event organisers expect up to 2000 people through the doors across the three days.
“We’re making it as safe as we can possibly make it,” says Tim. “Hopefully next year’s going to be better.”
Cancon 2022 runs from 22-24 January at Exhibition Park in Canberra.