If you’re looking for conventions in North America please consider checking out this article – click here to read.
We’re hitting the road again, but this time we’ll be exploring Europe. Arguably the heart of the board game renaissance we’re now enjoying, it should go without saying that its convention scene is top notch.
Festival International Des Jeux (February 24 – 26)
Location: Cannes, France
- Day Pass: € 10
- Full Convention: € 27
- Under 16 Years of Age: Free
For cinephiles around the world, Cannes is already a well-known festival destination. But what many outside of Europe don’t know is that it’s also a tabletop hot spot as well. The Festival International des Jeux is one of the largest gaming conventions on the continent, with attendance reaching 80,000 gamers in recent years.
Like most big gaming conventions, hundreds of exhibitors will be in attendance ready to demo their newest and best games for attendees. But this festival isn’t afraid of going old school, with checkers, chess, Scrabble, and contrée tournaments happening throughout the weekend, including qualifiers for the French contrée championship. The Cannes festival is also host to the Golden Grail award which is given out to the best RPG book that year. While the February date means it will still be too cold to partake of the nearby beaches, it’s still very much worth the trip.
Ludesco (March 17 – March 19)
Location: La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
Ticket Prices: Full Convention: € 5 – €20
Just across the border from France, you’ll find Switzerland’s largest game convention. The trip might be worth it just to visit the town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, a UNESCO heritage site famous for its handmade watches.
Considering the location, expect this convention to run like clockwork. The Ludesco website is one of the best and most user friendly, with a complete list of events and times posted well in advance to help you plan your weekend. In addition to the standard game library, there are hours of tournaments and organized play events. Magic: The Gathering players will be especially happy as they have multiple tournament opportunities. This year, the convention also caters largely to escape room fans, with dozens of escape games on the docket. Though I don’t think attendees will actually want to leave this convention any time soon.
FACTS (April 1 – 2, October 21 – 22)
Location: Ghent, Belgium
Ticket Prices: Full Convention € 17 – €175
While each convention is a little bit different from the competition, FACTS stands out even more due to the sheer scope of fandoms it caters to. While games are certainly a part of the convention, the show mainly bills itself as a comic convention.
Fortunately, there is a lot of overlap between the tabletop and comic communities. Show up for all the games in the Spellenspekatkel Zone, but be sure to partake of all the conventions other offerings. Some of the best cosplay in Europe will be on display, there are video games aplenty in the Gaming Hall, and of course your favorite authors, artists, and actors will be on hand for signings. Get your picture taken with actor Tyler Hoechlin (the Arrowverse’s Superman) and have your comics autographed by the likes of artist Joëlle Jones (Lady Killer, Batman).
GothCon (April 7 – April 9)
Location: Gothenburg, Sweden
Ticket Prices: Full Convention € 17 – €175
GothCon is Sweden’s oldest tabletop game convention. Archaeologists can confirm that this show goes all the way back to 1977.
It’s a pretty standard mix of RPGs, board games, miniatures games, and the like. However, unlike many of the other shows, this convention still has a cozy feel. Despite its many years in business, it has not swollen to the sometimes-claustrophobic size of other conventions, only pulling in around 2,000 attendees in recent years. If you prefer smaller crowds with lots of gaming, it might be time to give GothCon a try.
Play – The Games Festival (May 19 – May 21)
Location: Modena, Italy
Ticket Price Full Convention: € 27.00
The PLAY Game Festival would like you to know one thing: it is BIG. How big? Well, it’s the largest gaming convention in Italy. But sure, “largest” is pretty subjective, so let’s break it down by the numbers. Recent conventions have played host to approximately 45,000 attendees. The convention itself is 22, 500 square meters of gaming geekery. And the gaming hall is the largest in Italy. So while not the biggest on this list, it still boasts some impressive numbers.
While the event does not currently have any events posted on their website, one can only imagine that such a large event will have plenty to do.
UK Games Expo (June 2 – June 4)
Location: Birmingham, UK
- Full Convention: € 56.00
- Child Convention: €38.00
- Family Full Convention: €124.00
The UK Games Expo has rightfully earned its title as the UK’s premiere gaming convention. There are over 450 exhibitors and game and painting tournaments literally for days. It boasts hours of live entertainment, including various nerdy improv comedy groups, a live-action video game show called “The Dark Room”, Werewolf Live, and more. It hosts multiple “mega games”: games that feature 40+ players pitted against each other as post-apocalyptic survivors or wayward ships struggling through the void of space. There’s really nothing else on the island like it.
But UK Games Expo holds another distinction as one of Europe’s best conventions for new designers. Are you looking to break into the board game industry? Then bring your prototype and sign up for the numerous organized networking events, designer boot camp, or publisher/designer speed dating.
Pyrkon (June 16 – June 18)
Location: Poznań, Poland
- Special Package: € 84
- All 3 days
- Limited Edition Pyrkon Monopoly Game
- Separate entrance with shorter lines
- 4 program tokens
- Pre-registration for more program points
- Regular 3-Day Package: € 50
- Children 3-Day: € 25
Despite having spent only a little time in Poland, one thing has become abundantly clear: Poland loves fantasy. While there are numerous fantasy, gaming, and medieval festivals across the country, none brings all three together like Pyrkon.
Perhaps the convention’s single most exciting event is the Masquerade where some of the best cos play in Europe will be on display. And when I say the best, that’s not hyperbole. Winners of the event will become part of the Polish team sent to the Grand Finale in Paris to compete for the title of Europe’s best cos players.
Of course, everything else tabletop or tabletop adjacent will be available. There are more gaming opportunities than a single person can hope to tackle in a weekend, as well as a Science Block with premier lecturers, a Gaming Zone full of video games for attendees to try, and an Anime Zone featuring a live concert by Team Mili of Goblin Slayer fame.
Ropecon (July 28th – July 30th)
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Ticket Price Full Convention: € 45 – € 110
While Ropecon is slightly smaller than some of the other cons on this list, do not be fooled. This little con of around 4,000 attendees packs in the same level of content as a show ten times its size. Which is especially amazing when you consider that the show is entirely organized by unpaid volunteers.
When you look at Ropecon’s programming, it quickly becomes apparent that its volunteers are also its strength. Every workshop and performance is the hard work of a dedicated fan which means that the line-up is incredibly diverse. Wrestling, tightrope acts, and burlesque shows, and after-hour dance parties have all made it into the programming at one point or another. This show also heavily features LARPing of various genres, including The Inn, where characters can walk in and instantly take on the role of any number of characters populating that favorite fantasy hang out. It’s also the only convention to feature competitive puzzling where teams race against one another to complete 1,000 piece puzzles.
International Spieltage (October 5 – 8)
Location: Essen, Germany
Ticket Price Full Convention: € TBD
Whoa, whoa, whoa. You don’t know about International Spieltage? Essen Spiel? The Real Spiel?
Tell you what. I’ma let it slide this time, but I wouldn’t go saying that to just anybody, ok? That’s because Spieltage, or more commonly Essen Spiel, is the largest tabletop game convention in the world. Over 100,000 gaming pilgrims pass through its doors every year, including more than 600 exhibitors.
There’s really far too much to see and do at Essen Spiel than can fit in a description this size. However, the main draw is the fact that you’ll find more new releases here than anywhere else. Everybody wants to say they were one of the first to discover the next hot title, and Essen is the place to do it.
Dau Barcelona (November 19 – November 20)
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Ticket Price Full Convention: FREE
Ok, as an American, I’m already jealous of the ticket prices European convention-goers enjoy. But free??? Seriously? My capitalist brain can barely compute that notion, and I will now be writing a sternly worded letter to all of the big US conventions.
Similar to other conventions, attendees will have full access to an extensive game library and be able to interact with twelve different designers from across the tabletop landscape. There is also a dedicated children’s area and areas where festival-goers can learn about and play traditional Catalonian games. For game designers, there’s also the Game Design Jam. Rather than a competition, designers join forces to create new games over the course of the convention and sharpen their design skills through collaboration.
Still Want More?
Fastaval (Hobro, Denmark)
Viking Con (Copenhagen, Denmark)
ZuiderSpel (Veldhoven, The Netherlands)
Gratislavia (Wrocław, Poland)
CalCon (Kalmar, Sweden)
RiaCon (Estarreja, Portugal)
LisboaCon (Lisbon, Portugal)
MidWinter (Haugalandet, Norway)
Fantastikon (Split, Croatia)
Linz Con (Linz, Austria)
By Zane Messina