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Your Board Game Convention Roadmap: North America 2023

If you’re looking for conventions in Europe please consider checking out this article – click here to read.

Tabletop games are best with friends, so it stands to reason that having a few thousand friends makes them even better! For anyone already getting the nervous sweats at the thought, hear me out.  

Gaming conventions are a celebration of the genre that bring together thousands of gamers and publishers into one magical melting pot. Players have the opportunity to test their skills against new opponents, play for prizes, meet their favorite creators, get early access to hot titles, and discover smaller publishers for the first time. Their rising popularity also means that there are more and more options for fans to choose from, allowing attendees to choose based on size, content focus, and location.  

While some shows have already begun, convention season starts in earnest next month. To help anyone planning on attending a convention this year, I’ll be bringing you events from all around the world to help you find the one that’s just right for you.  

Today, we’re starting with North America. While Canada has a few smaller conventions, the vast majority of shows are located in the United States. Fortunately, there are literally dozens to choose from, so you’re bound to find something that fits your needs and location. Let’s dive in.  

SCG Con (March 3 – March 5) 

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina 

Ticket Prices:  

  • Individually priced tournaments, around $20 each 
  • Packages for multiple formats for $80 – $150 

In 1993, Star City Games began as an 800 sq. ft. Hobby retail store in Virginia. Over the years, though, it has grown and mutated into a 5,000 sq. ft. TCG retail behemoth. More impressive than its retail growth, though, is its series of SCG Cons. The stated goal of SCG is to spread the love of trading card games such as Magic: The Gathering and Flesh & Blood across the country through their 3-day conventions.  

These conventions are solely for fans of TCGs, especially aspiring pros looking to improve their game, score qualifying seats, or walk out with a fat prize purse. For instance, the March convention in North Carolina features $20k and $10k Magic tournaments, as well as a $2k Flesh & Blood series. With prizes like that up for grabs, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on their site to see where the next convention will be heading.  

Dice Tower West (March 08 – March 12)
Dice Tower East (July 5 – July 9) 

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada & Orlando, Florida 

Ticket Prices:  

  • Dice Tower West 
  • Full Convention: $130 
  • 3-Day Weekend: $90 
  • Dice Tower East 
  • Full Convention: $140  

Dice Tower Conventions are a way for you to sneak a game convention into an otherwise game-vacation. That’s because each of these conventions is a destination vacation unto themselves. Dice Tower East is located in sunny Orlando, home to Disney World, Universal Studios, and perhaps the “Florida” thing ever, Randall’s Knife Museum. You’re also just a short drive from some of the best beaches in the country. In other words, I’m really trying to help you sell this one to your non-gamer travelling companion.  

Dice Tower West is located in equally-sunny-but-much-sketchier Las Vegas! While your friends gamble their money away on slot machines, you can feel good about the fact that you’re giving your money away the honest way: buying board games.  

Both shows are produced by Dice Tower founder and board game powerhouse Tom Vasel, so you know it’s family friendly. Kids as young as 7 are welcome and get a slight discount at the Orlando convention. While allowed at the Las Vegas convention, children do have to pay full price.  But once inside, the enormous game library will make sure that there is something for everyone to enjoy. 

AdeptiCon (March 22 – March 26)

Location: Schaumburg, Illinois 

Ticket Prices:  

  • Full Convention: $50 
  • Premium Passes: $100 – $175  

Whereas SCG Con is North America’s premiere card gaming convention, AdeptiCon is its foremost miniatures gaming convention. While they definitely feature board gaming, including an expansive game library, minis are without a doubt the focus. Check the event list, and tournaments dominate everything else. Players of popular games like Battletech, Conquest, Infinity, Star Wars (Legion, X-Wing, and Armada), Warmachine, and Warhammer will find legions of opponents to face in combat. But there’s also plenty of tournament opportunities for more niche gamers as well. Hop into tournaments for Armada, Art de la Guerre, Bushido, the Batman Miniature Game, Dark Age, Konflikt ’47, Moonstone, and So. Many. More.  

This focus on miniatures means that all of the biggest publishers and designers are on hand to preview new figures and discuss upcoming plans. Many publishers also host their own painting competitions, allowing those of you handy with a brush the opportunity to leave with serious bragging rights.  

PAX East (March 23 – March 26) 
PAX West (September 2 – September 5) 
PAX Unplugged (TBD) 


  • PAX East: Boston, Massachusets 
  • PAX West: Seattle, Washington 
  • PAX Unplugged: Philidelphia, Pennsylvania 

Ticket Prices:  

  • PAX East:  
  • Full Convention: $244 
  • Single Day Passes: $67 
  • PAX West & PAX Unplugged 
  • TBD  

Years ago (Possibly eons, who even knows these things?) someone discovered that peanut butter and jelly, while good independently, mix together beautifully. PAX made a similar discovery, bringing video and tabletop games together into one massive convention. Only that convention was really big so they SPLIT IT IN TWO! 

Yes, PAX East & West are two behemoths of gaming that bring in over 250,000 visitors combined. Video games are definitely the stars of these conventions. Attendees can play video games for hours in the Free Arcade or put their skills to the test in major amateur esports tournaments like the Panda Cup Almost Pro $10k or the Nintendo VS series.  

While East and West also heavily feature tabletop gaming, PAX Unplugged is where it reigns supreme. In addition to standard tabletop convention fare, attendees can Learn & Play games with their favorite content creators; check out brand new, unpublished games in the First Look room; or enter for a chance to play in the Omegathron, a mega-tournament of random games that lasts the entire convention.  

KublaCon (May 26 – May 29) 

Location: Burlingame, California 

Ticket Prices:  

  • Full Convention: $130 – $330 
  • Family Weekend Pass: $230 

KublaCon is an event that whose organizers bring decades of experience. While KublaCon itself has been around for over twenty years, it is an amalgamation of two other conventions, ManaFest and GameCon, both of which started in the early ’90s. The convention is now spread between three different hotels in the Oakland area and features gaming of all types.  

This year, the convention is celebrating 60 years of Dr. Who, so make sure to pack your best fez and scarf. If you’re a game designer, you’ll also want to bring your best designs for the KublaCon Protospiel to see if your game can go the distance with discerning playtesters.  

BGG Con (May 26 – May 29) 

Location: Dallas, Texas 

Ticket Prices:  

  • Full Convention: $75 

For thousands of gamers, BoardGameGeek is our go-to site for game research and reviews. But in addition to providing a virtual information hub for gamers and designers, they also host a bi-annual gaming event in the Spring and Fall. Unlike other events that have become sprawling mega-cons, BGG Con makes an effort to keep crowds small, only allowing about 3,000 attendees each year.  

While there are exhibitors, the focus of the event is open gaming. This means a massive lending library, and generally less hustle and bustle. If you just want a relaxed weekend playing non-stop games, this is your convention. 

Origins Game Fair (June 21 – June 25) 

Location: Columbus, Ohio 

Ticket Prices:  

  • Full Convention: $95 
  • Single Day Passes: $10 – $45  

Origins is a Goldilocks convention. At 12,000 attendees, it’s bit but not so big like some of its larger Midwest cousins. This means it has some great programming, but the price is more reasonable. It also has lots of tournament and gaming events, but there’s less of a mad scramble for seats.  And its exhibit hall gives you access to a wide range of publishers without feeling completely claustrophobic.  

Honestly, Origins might be a near-perfect convention and is definitely worth it if you can make it out. In addition to more gaming than you can shake a polite, Midwestern stick at, the convention also boasts a film festival and standup comedy performances. There’s also the Unpub event where hopeful designers can get feedback on their games, and if you have nerves of steel, you can tackle the National Security Decision Making Game. This is a game of national defense that puts players in leadership roles of a country in crisis. I only recommend it if you’re current “existential crisis meter” is low.  

Gen Con (August 3 – August 6) 

Location: Indianapolis, Indiana 

Ticket Prices:  

  • Full Convention: $135 
  • Single Day Passes: $17 – $70  

Gen Con is the undisputed king of tabletop gaming conventions in North America. It’s also the oldest. Now, some folks might see a graying monarch and think they’ve grown weak, been softened by old age. But remember, an old king is a survivor. After all, everyone wants a shot at the top.  

Gen Con is no exception. Founded in 1967 by the legendary/infamous Gary Gygax, Gen Con has had 55 years to perfect its convention formula. Its gaming hall is cavernous, its game library is so large that it’s housed in a football stadium, and it regularly pulls hundreds of exhibitors each year.  Not to mention the thousands of onsite events including art installations, a film festival, tournaments, workshops, concerts, and much, much more. In fact, they have so many events that attendees are required to register for almost all of them beforehand. While their website is incredibly well designed and the event registry intuitive and easy to use, any attendees would do well to plan out their trip in advance.  

Dragon Con (August 31 – September 4) 

Location: Indianapolis, Indiana 

Ticket Prices:  

  • Full Convention: $135 
  • Single Day Passes: $TBD 
  • Eternal Membership: $4,500   

Where Gen Con is the stable, successful, middle-aged daddy of all cons, Dragon Con is the cool uncle that lets you stay up late and watch rated-R movies.  While almost as large as Gen Con, this show caters to every aspect of nerd culture rather than focusing exclusively on board games. Comics, video games, cosplay, RPGs, miniatures, board games; they all have a place at Dragon Con.  

While not an “adults only” convention, Dragon Con does feature more adult fare than the other cons. Burlesque producer and dancer May Hemmer brings a geeky burlesque show and poolside pin-up competition. There’s also a live wrestling event, an 18-and-up puppet show, and late-night, after-hours drinks at the Atlanta Aquarium. 

Still Want More? 

Salt Con (Layton, Utah) 

Geekway to the West (St. Louis, Missouri) 

GrandCon (Grand Rapids, Michigan) 

Chupacabracon (Austin, Texas)

Game On Expo (Phoenix, Arizona)  

Dream Con (Austin, Texas) 

RAGECon (Reno, Nevada) 

North Texas RPG Con (Irving, Texas) 

Rising Phoenix Game Con (Milford, Massachusets) 

Geek Girl Con (Seattle, Washinton)  

AdirondaCon (Glen Falls, New York)

By Zane Messina

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