One thing that always astounds me is the capacity for people to innovate. The other day I watched an add for revolutionized eye glasses. They are weighted in the back to keep them from falling off of your face when you tilt your head or do something active. (I hear people do things that are active, but this information is secondhand.) I was blown away that someone had made good improvements to something as commonplace and established in it's design as eyeglasses. I am waiting for the day when I wake up to find that the drinking glass has been turned on it's head and for the improvements to seem so obvious once I am exposed to them. "What the hell were we doing all that time, drinking like cavemen. Why didn't someone think of this before now!" we would all exclaim before consuming our favorite beverage in the way of the future..... Moon straws or whatever.
In 18xx terms, I have always been rather preoccupied with the innovation that is lost, forgotten or abandoned. This has put me somewhere in the periphery of the periphery, 18xx is not what I would consider 'the mainstream' when it comes to gaming in general. Oh, we are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were even 5 years ago in terms of circulation and availability and I daresay the 'community' of people has grown to a decent size, but lets not kid ourselves. We are still a niche within a niche. My particular proclivities do rear their head in my tastes and interests and so it would make sense that it would bleed into the format, structure and content of the Convention I helped to produce.
In years past, we have struggled somewhat with 'identity', as it were, but I felt that last year, we came into our own. I have come to decide that the place we fill in the hobby is a forum for players to come and explore those lost ideas. I hold fast to the notion that somewhere in one of these games is the mechanism or idea that inspires the next generation of innovators to push past what has been held as conventional wisdom. (This may explain my fondness and admiration for 31) Somewhere, buried in one of these games forgotten by time and gamer's alike, will be an idea that breeds the new 'family'. These are the hallmark games, the milestones that push the hobby in new and interesting directions. 1873 did this and spurred a family of games. (Good on Wolfram for picking up on this because 18Ruhr is super duper and DO has come a long way.) 1822 did this, Simon may not have understood what he was doing to the hobby at the time, but you can't attend an event without seeing a table with men pushing cubes around auction tracks.
This year, just as in previous years, we will have 2 feature game. One is new and one is old. The new feature game this year is 1840 by Lonny Orgler (More on that in the coming weeks) but this year may be the first year where we have more than one old game to feature. The reason for this is that we will have in attendance a player with the same sort of special disease that I have, a curiosity for old, forgotten curiosities. (Again, this is a teaser, pay attention in the coming weeks.)
In 2017, we played whatever and got our feet wet with planning a con and executing the thing. In 2018, I decided then that on the Sunday of the con, I would be selfish and play something I had always wanted to, and we did. Kimmo, Kurt and I sat down to tackle 1827. (There are previous blog posts about that, so I won't relive it here.) Last year, we decided upon 1899KP. This is a game set on the Korean Peninsula and has the distinction of having the most racist rule book I have read to any game, ever.
The volume of work and the people involved in these projects can not be understated. Translating rules, overhauling graphics, communications with designers and people, all so that we could table and fight with some antiquated design that never saw the light of day. Why? Why do all this? Well, because I've decided it's important mostly, but also to discover. To discover what could have been, what we could do within this new framework we think we are familiar with and to discover the thing that improves the eyeglasses. I am chasing that lost idea that turns our notions of 18xx on it's head, so we all can say 'Why haven't we been doing this all along?" Romantic, maybe. Productive, probably not, but the process has put me in touch with some of the most generous, patient and interesting people I have had the privileged of coming across, and while it's maybe not the intended goal, it's not nothing.
So in closing, if you're wondering what makes Hattanooga special, it's a few things. The people are tremendous, as is the pulled pork. But if I had to pick one thing that makes this con different, it would be the feeling of discovery I share with the people who take opportunity to sit with me and play something together for the first time, maybe ever. I have a short list of selfish ideas for this con's Sunday, but more on that in another post.... I started this blog with a picture some of you might be curious about and I want you to hold onto that feeling. Bring it with you to Alberta in May, I'll help you to see what that can turn into. ;)