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Your Board Game Convention Roadmap: Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia 2023

Welcome back, travelers! Last week we covered board game conventions in Europe in which I was repeatedly reminded just how much more affordable European conventions are compared to American conventions. But I’m not bitter.  

I’m deeply and intensely bitter.  

But seeing as how we’re travelling light, I’m leaving that emotional baggage behind me because it’s time we were moving on. Buckle up and double-check your passport because we’re taking yet another huge leap, this time all the way to Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia.  

Game Market (May 13 – May 14)  

Location: Tokyo & Osaka, Japan 

Ticket Prices:  

  • Day Pass: $11  
  • Early-Access Day Pass: $22 

The Game Market vies for the top spot among Japan’s tabletop conventions. For those travelling from outside the country, it definitely has the best website and the most available information, meaning your visit will be much simpler. The fact that the event takes place three times a year means travelers can likely fit this event into their itinerary.  

The Game Market has much of your standard convention fare plus a children’s corner for kids to stay and play. But unlike North American and European conventions, which share quite a few of the same publishers and titles, Game Market offers 9,208 playable game opportunities, many of which you will not find in the Western market. For example, there’s Yokai Karuta, a very creepy looking card game about terrifying yokai. Or Dice Fighter, a two-player battler using dice and has chosen to pattern all the art off of the blocky polygons of the Virtua Fighter video game. Finally, there’s the incredibly bizarre looking Patata Batata: Sweet Potatoes in the Garden. In this game, players must save a garden of potatoes from a hungry tanuki. Not an odd theme, per se, but the artwork featuring sweet potatoes with veiny, bodybuilder physiques cemented in the top spot of “Weird Games I Desperately Want to Play”.  

World Hobby Fair (TBD)  

Location: Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, & Nagoya, Japan 

Ticket Prices:  

  • Day Pass: FREE 

Full disclosure, this event looks like it is either on hold or possibly dead, likely due to COVID. While we in the States have decided to take our chances and plow on, many of the conventions in both Asia and Australia continue to be affected. It is also notoriously difficult to find information on this particular convention, a frequent complaint among convention bloggers.  

Assuming the show continues, it takes place 4 times a year, each time for 1 day only. It is entirely free, and there are lots of freebies handed out by some very recognizable companies such as Bandai, Takara Tomy, and Nintendo. However, most of these are reserved exclusively for children, so make sure to borrow a child before going if you’re not bringing your own. But be sure to keep track of them as the show is quite popular. The Japan Times reported that the 2014 Osaka convention took place in the Kyocera Dome, a baseball stadium able to seat 55,000 fans.  

Pokémon World Championships (TBD; Likely August) 

Location: Yokohama, Japan 

Ticket Prices: $TBD 

This event is much more niche, but Pokémon fans are legion, so expect quite a turnout. The World Championships includes the TCG Championship, but also several digital championships as well. While the tournaments are all by invitation only, spectators are welcome to watch all of the gym-battling action in person and participate in side-tournaments. 

This is a particularly exciting year for PokémFans as this is the first year that the Pokémon World Championships have been held in Japan. That’s right, Pikachu is finally coming home. 

Tokyo Game Show (TBD; September) 

Location: Tokyo, Japan 

Ticket Prices: 2022 tickets were $17 

While this is not a board game convention, its status as the biggest gaming event in Japan means it deserves a spot on this list. Around 300,000 attendees flock to this event to get a sneak-peek at the next year’s hottest new titles.  

But fans can do more than just look. Free trial play is available for new releases, from major platforms like PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo down to indie publishers found only on Steam. The convention also features the best cosplay in Japan, a country that’s already known for the quality of its cosplay community. 

Board Game Con (May 6 – May 7) 

Location: Seoul, South Korea 

Ticket Prices: FREE 

This convention is pretty straight-forward: Come out and play board games. Publishers have plenty of available demo copies and are happy to teach you how to play.  

While the websites for both this convention and the Seoul Boardgame Festa are pretty sparse, Youtuber Rachel Kim has a video that gives an inside look at Board Game Con.  

Seoul Boardgame Festa (TBD; November)  

Location: Seoul, South Korea 

Ticket Prices: FREE 

While very similar to Board Game Con, Boardgame Festa is the older of the two, having been around since 2015. Like Board Game Con, the goal of the show is to generate interest in Korean board games. To that end, it boasts over 500 different board game experiences for festivalgoers.  

CanCon/WinterCon (January 21 – January 23; July 16 – July 17) 

Location: Canberra, Australia 

Ticket Prices: FREE 

Australia’s largest tabletop convention is located in the capital, Canberra, and organized by the Canberra Games Society. CanCon is the larger of the two events, pulling in around 5,000 attendees each day, but unfortunately that event has already concluded for the year. Fortunately, the smaller WinterCon is coming up in July. This means anyone in the Northern Hemisphere taking a summer vacation to Australia can still attend their winter convention.  

Initially the convention put a much greater emphasis on miniatures games, but in recent years it has expanded to encompass tabletop games of all types.  

PAX Australia (October 6 – October 8) 

Location: Melbourne, Australia 

Ticket Prices:  

  • Full Convention: $175 

PAX Australia was the first, and so far only, international expansion of the Penny Arcade Expo. Like PAX East and West, the show focuses on gaming across all genres, combining video and tabletop games.  

Like its North American cousins, PAX Australia features staples such as the Omegathon, a convention-long tournament consisting of seemingly random games whose contestants are chosen at random from among attendees. It’s also heavy on tournaments, including for tabletop games. Despite it being almost eight months away, the tournament schedule already has multiple slots for King of Tokyo, Dominion, Carcassone, 7 Wonders, Ticket to Ride, and Splendor.  

ConQuest (April 7 – April 9) 

Location: Coburg, Australia 

Ticket Prices:  

  • Full Convention: $45 – 52 
  • Vendor Hall: FREE 

Outside of PAX, ConQuest is quite possibly the best produced of the Australian conventions. The website is easy to navigate with a crystal clear list of events. While most people would expect this level of professionalism, it is especially impressive in this case considering the convention is entirely volunteer run.  

While all types of games are represented, RPGs and LARPs are the main event at ConQuest. These include “parlour LARPs” which are RPGs for large groups of people, typically contained to a single room, that put much more emphasis on role-playing than dice-chucking. Fans of RPG organized play can find big names like the D&D Adventure League and the Pathfinder Society. A first for me, though, was seeing organized play around the Stargate Phoenix RPG, as well as organized play for the One Page Rules miniature game.  

WellyCon (June 3 – June 4) 

Location: Wellington, New Zealand 

Ticket Prices:  

  • Announced one month before the convention 

While possibly the smallest convention on this list at around 1,200 attendees, WellyCon is still the premiere games convention in New Zealand. Come for the natural beauty, stay for the National Catan Championships. 

Also Check Out:  

G-Star (Busan, South Korea) 

GhengisCon (Wembley, Australia)  

Concentric Games (Adelaide, Australia) 

OzBunnyCon (Melbourne, Australia) 

Ettin Con (Blue Mountains, Australia) 

Gamefest Brisbane (Brisbane, Australia) 

Board Games by the Bay (Various, New Zealand) 

By Zane Messina

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