April 14, 2024

Buckeye Game Fest 2023

Brant Guillory, 3 May 2023

Buckeye Game Fest is a game-playing-focused convention in Columbus, OH that’s adjunct to, but very much not run by the Columbus Area Boardgaming Society1.  They use the CABS library and their attendance is CABS-heavy, but it’s not officially, legally, or in any other way a CABS thing.  It’s still a grand old time.

We’ve talked about BGF before, and not that much has changed on the particulars.  The War Room still opens up on Monday, where the rest of the convention doesn’t open until Thursday, and most of the gameplay is on Friday/Saturday.  This year, however, intentionally or otherwise, there seemed to be a larger contingent of fellow wargame content creators there (Cardboard Conflicts, Bill Simoni, the usual Player’s Aid guys, plus us & Ardwulf and more).  Additionally, Blue Panther set up a pair of sale tables, one in the main vendor room, plus another over in the War Room, specifically.

click images to enlarge

For what it’s worth, the rest of the vendor room was pretty sad.  As Ardwulf pointed out, if you’re a local store, right there in town, and theoretically limited only by car capacity & number of trips, why would you show up to sell games at a convention only bring about a dozen or so copies?

There were a few other people in that room, over Steve’s shoulder in the picture above on the right, but it still didn’t look all that full, especially compared with what you see at a comparable smaller con like MACE.  That said, this is not a convention where you’re looking to do a lot of shopping, so it’s OK that it’s not very impressive.

What was impressive?  The main gaming room, which was pretty full.

BGF23 x1

This is the panorama from the entrance to the vendor room, with most of this room spreading out right down the center of this photo.


So what did we see in the main game hall?  War of the Ring, Twilight Imperium, Mosaic, Clash of Cultures, Terraforming Mars, and whatever else you see in here, which is, quite frankly, a lot.  We didn’t take as many pictures in here (or make as many trips through here) as we did last year, but you can still get a sense of what was going on in the room on Friday afternoon.


Plus, the mandatory panoramic shot of the CABS library

BGF23 x2

OK, so the War Room – this is what you actually care about, right?  Here’s a reasonable look at what was being played across Friday & Saturday, interspersed with some thoughts from the luminaries that were present for Buckeye Game Fest.

The two ‘big’ tables were both playing La Bat games, with all their jazz math funky fractions and base-6 math.

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Plus, this happened

No, we’re not sure how, either.


This is only my second time at BGF but last year and shaping up this year to be some of my favorite experiences in gaming for the year! I get to meet and play games with people I only see once a year at the con, and the small intimate atmosphere and focus on gaming vs consumer focus of larger cons is great. It’s a chance to play large games with friends that you don’t get to do normally! It will always have a circle in the date on my calendar!


~~ Russ, from Cardboard Conflicts


As to the other stuff we saw in the War Room?  David Thompson was teaching Night Witches (co-designed with Liz Davidson), Undaunted:Battle of Britain (which will be with us at Origins!) and Sniper Elite


Super relaxed gaming experience, more akin to having friends over for the weekend than attending a con. We had some great feedback on our prototypes, so that was very helpful. I finally met Grant & Alexander from TPA, and had an in-person interview, so that was great. It kinda felt like a reunion, with Brant, Gary, Thompson, Steve, Christopher, etc. The food court received a direct hit from a Russian “inflation” warhead, probably an Orlon10 kamikaze drone, was not expecting just how expensive that had become.


~~ Tim Densham, from Catastrophe Games


David also checked out Russ’ postcard game (Last Stand of the Swiss Guard) about the escape of Pope Clement VII and the Swiss Guards holding out while he does, that had a neat mechanic of the Pope escaping down a secret tunnel that doubles as the turn track.


This was my 3rd BGF, but only the 2nd in the War Room. The War Room felt a lot busier this year on Thursday and Friday, but not as crowded as last year’s Saturday. That might be because of the half marathon being run that morning in Columbus which closed a bunch of roads downtown.
BGF is one of those cons that are big enough for something to always be going on and small enough to be easy to talk or game with your favorite people. I had my “big” game (At Any Cost: Metz 1870) scheduled since last year’s con and I’ve already penciled in Empire of the Sun for 2024 with the same guy.
Ardwulf was a great host, chatting folks up when he wasn’t doubled over examining his La Bataille map. Grant and Alexander from the Players’ Aid ran themselves ragged playing just about anything with everybody who was interested. David Thompson was there and, upon request, was willing to show off at least 4 games he is co-designing that are at various stages of being ready for publication – from June’s Undaunted: Battle Of Britain, to Witchcraft (same game system as Resist!), to the Night Witches prototype, to an early prototype for a WWII game. Of course Brant was there running some games, talking up all things Armchair Dragoon, and being a great ambassador for the hobby.
Want to play one game over 3-6 days – you can do it. Want to play a ton of varied consim and historical games – you can do it. Want to spend most of your time in the main room playing other kinds of games and just dip a toe in – you can do it.


~~ Bill Simoni


Tim Densham and the Catastrophe Games mafia were there with games both in-print (ZurmatFall Blau, and Stonewall Uprising) and “not yet” (Sadr CityTrue Command, and others)


…it’s a friendly, relaxed wargaming atmosphere. You can set up monster/grail games all week, or just sit down a few sessions of your shorter favourites and everything in between. Considering it’s in Columbus, there were people there from as far as Florida, who came and enjoyed themselves. Huge credit to CABS for putting on a great event.


~~ Alexander, The Player’s Aid


Our own Armchair Dragoons events were just a pair of games each of Brief Border Wars and Shores of Tripoli (which actually got played twice in one session).  We kept it light to fit some smaller games into the War Room, and also to not kill ourselves after coming in from Reno at 6am on Friday morning


We were able to play some big wargames at BGF because they had big tables, lots of space and we had many willing participants. Got plays of Unconditional Surrender!, Sword of Rome, Time of Crisis, Cuba Libre x2, Andean Abyss x2, Fire in the Lake, Battlegroup minis, Quartermaster General 1914, Land and Freedom and more all in the span of 5 days. Great venue. Great organization. Great accommodations. Well worth people coming to BGF annually.


~~ Grant, The Player’s Aid


And here’s a bunch of what else was on tables: White Plains with Bill Simoni, a couple of COIN games with The Player’s Aid, Fire & StoneNevskyDie Festung Hamburg, some different Commands & Colors games, Battleground minis, Chaos Order, and others.


BGF continues to be an awesome con. Very much focused on playing games first and foremost. It’s an amazing time for me, specifically, because I have the opportunity to play games with my non-wargaming co-workers in the main gaming spaces, my wargaming buds, and also demo my stuff (both preview forthcoming titles and prototypes).
And the environment is so friendly and chill. Throughout the weekend I met a ton of people, just by having an open spot at a game. Everyone I met was friendly.


~~ David Thompson


And while we didn’t make it into the Artemis Bridge Simulator this year, we did stop and watch the giant Diplomacy game for a bit

Dates are not yet announced for the 2024 BGF, but you can be sure we’ll let you know when they are!


Thank you for visiting The Armchair Dragoons and saddling up with the Regiment of Strategy Gaming.
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Brant G

Editor-in-chief at Armchair Dragoons

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