In the run up to my trip I posted on BGG, to see if anyone knew of a good gaming venue in Minneapolis, and several people replied suggesting either the Fantasy Flight Games Event Center or The Source. I had no idea that Fantasy Flight were based near Minneapolis, but upon finding out I dropped them an email to see if any of their design team fancied meeting up. I would have liked to have taken Codename: Vacuum, not to hawk it to them (though had they wanted to pick it up that would have been awesome!), but just to get some feedback from some very successful designers. Sadly, other than the brief message from customer care, I didn't hear back from them. It turns out that even if I had, I didn't have room in my suitcase for Vacuum anyway.
The post on BGG led to a couple of offers from gamers who were willing to pick me up downtown and run me over to FFGEC so I could get my game on. The thread quickly devolved into silliness though as they insisted they weren't axe-murderers!
The first night, Alfredo and his mate Jay who worked downtown offered to meet me at my hotel and then drive me to FFGEC via a look at The Source. We got the light rail to where Alfredo had parked his car, then swung by Arby's for some dinner (apparently an authentic American dining experience :) ). We had a quick look at The Source, a huge store, the likes of which I've not seen in the UK - seriously, it was enormous! Then we rocked up to FFGEC. Ahead of time, I'd had a look through Alfredo's 700-odd games listed on BGG and offered to teach him the ones it looked like he hadn't played, but I knew well: The Bridges of Shangri-La, Aqua Romana and Hey! That's My Fish! In the end, we played those three games and Alfredo and Jay enjoyed Shangri-La and Fish, though Aqua Romana not so much. It was a great evening and Jay and Alfredo were great company.
The next night, Fred picked me up from my hotel and drove me out to Brasa, a nice little restaurant serving food which I can't categorise, but thoroughly enjoyed along with nice beer :) Fred even offered to buy my dinner, but it was on expenses :) We got to FFGEC where we looked at the library and I picked out a few things I could teach: X-Wing minis, Lords of Waterdeep, Race for the Galaxy and Lost Cities. They had a decent library of games: at least a hundred, and not just stuff they made themselves, games from a wide range of publishers. The games cost $3 to hire, but for some unknown reason were free that night. We started with a game of X-Wing, during which I provided rules support for the guys playing on the table next to us too! FFGEC had a range of play mats, a couple of space ones, plus one of the Death Star trench run, which was all moulded and looked awesome! After that we played a couple of games of Race. Fred enjoyed both games and, in fact, bought X-Wing at the end of the night to play with his kids. I also bought a couple of things: the X-Wing minis dice pack that I've been after for ages and the extra wonders expansion for 7 Wonders - which includes Stonehenge :). I could just fit them in my suitcase!
In addition to the two nights of cardboard gaming I took our iPad with me and spent the time at airports, on planes and in hotel rooms playing a variety of board games on it. I played Carcassonne, Hey! That's My Fish!, Ra Through the Desert and Eclipse; some solo, some with my boss Ian, a Games Night regular and my travel companion. I am particularly impressed with the iPad version of Eclipse, I bought it for the trip so it was new to me and it's very slick. It's also given me an idea for the level three Codename: Vacuum art. I've recently knocked the level one art up a notch, and I like the clean, webpage inspired level two art, but I didn't like what I've done for level three, and had no real idea how to improve it. Until I saw the Eclipse iPad version. Time for some
I enjoyed my trip a lot, especially getting to meet gamers from across the pond and introduce them to some of my favourite games. It's a testament to the BGG community that I had two adventures that began with 'I met a guy on the Internet, he picked me up in his car and drove me to an out of town location...' and they both ended with a convivial evening of food and games, not a headline on national news!