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Wisconsin convention highlights board-game popularity

 

Associated Press

BOARD GAME enthusiasts converge on the Manitowoc County Expo Center for the annual Fire and Ice convention in Manitowoc, Wis.

MANITOWOC, Wis. (AP) - An annual board game convention seems to be growing in popularity, thanks in part to a rise in specialty games that combine skill and strategy instead relying on a roll of the dice.

Over 400 people filled the Manitowoc County Expo Center this weekend for the convention, HTR Media reported. That's up from about 50 when enthusiast Dan Kelm began the event in 2001.

Kelm, who's from the Sheboygan area, started the conventions as a way to meet like-minded people. He said people are attracted to the social aspect that's missing from video games and smartphone games.

"You can play electronic games and everyone is on their own screen," he said. But board games "really foster social engagement with other people having fun collectively."

Enthusiasts often credit a game called Settlers of Catan for renewing interest in board games in the United States. The game requires players to build and expand villages and roads by trading and acquiring resource cards. It came out in Europe in 1995 but didn't become popular here until 2004.

Since then, similar European-style games seem to have piqued game players' interest more than traditional "roll and move" games.

People who attended Saturday's convention came from across Wisconsin and from as far away as Indiana.

They said there's something special about playing games when people are sitting across from them and not just connected over the Internet.

"It's a lot more fun to smack-talk people in person," joked Crystal Kremer, 23. "But we do it in a fun, friendly way."

Some games require participants to act as a team, eradicate diseases or put out fires. Others involve cunning and strategy. But all are easy to learn and can be completed in an hour or two, Kelm said.

"I've been with players at our game group who are trying it for the first time," Kelm said. "Once they start playing, they realize how fun it can be, how intellectually stimulating it can be, and how they can just sit back and talk with people."