Uncommonwealth: Board game fans — and we're not talking Candyland — bring convention to Lexington

ctruman@herald-leader.comApril 7, 2014 

  • Lexicon Gaming Convention

    When: May 2-4

    Where: Clarion Hotel and Convention Center, 1950 Newtown Pike

    More information: Lexicongaming.com

    Admission: Adults: $15 Friday or Sunday, $20 Saturday, $30 weekend; ages 9-13: $12 Friday or Sunday, $15 Saturday, $20 weekend; younger than 9: free with a paying adult.

Greg Franseth and Philip Holland are sitting among enough board games to keep them busy on a desert island for a few decades.

At West Sixth Brewing on a Monday afternoon, the men are talking about board games, their love of board games and the celebration of all things board and card game that they're planning, called Lexicon, next month at the Clarion Hotel in Lexington.

As children, many of us cut our teeth on Candyland. We grew into Monopoly, Sorry! and Clue. As we grew older, we might have tried Taboo or Trivial Pursuit.

But the types of games driving newer board-game enthusiasts are strategic and intellectual, with an element of fantasy thrown in.

For example, Franseth, 43, director of research information systems at the University of Kentucky Research Foundation, said the popular game Settlers of Catan unwinds "like a Stephen King novel."

Lexicon is sponsoring the regional Settlers of Catan championship.

Franseth owns 700 games and does podcasting at Board Game Pirate Cast. But it's not necessary to own entire rooms of games to be an enthusiast, Holland said.

"It depends on how much you want to invest and what you find entertaining," he said.

Four adults may play the board game BioShock, which costs about $60. That can be a cheaper night's entertainment than going to the movies, he said, and it's replayable.

Franseth and Holland aren't alone, and the board game trend isn't just in Lexington. Cafe Meeples in Richmond, which opened in late 2013, has linked board and card games with gourmet deli and grilled sandwiches and coffee.

Ron Flickinger, owner of Café Meeples, said he wants to open a similar restaurant in Lexington, probably in the Richmond Road/Man o' War Boulevard corridor. "We have the business plan," he said.

Just for the record, a meeple is a person-shaped figure used in board games. The name was coined by a woman who was playing the game Carcassonne, a tile- placement game in which players draw and place a tile with a piece of southern French landscape on it.

Board gaming is even starting to catch fire among celebrities: Wil Wheaton of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Rich Sommer (Harry Crane on Mad Men), Joss Whedon (creator of TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Nathan Fillion (star of Castle) and Ben Baldanza, chief executive officer of Spirit Airlines, are known fans. In February, the Associated Press ran an article about Baldanza and several of his employees playing Power Grid, a city-planning strategy game.

Holland, 33, said board games always have been a part of nerd culture, as are card games, notably Magic: The Gathering. In 2000, ESPN showed the finals of that year's Magic world championships. The game also has a huge competitive following in Las Vegas, second only to poker in card game event draws.

"Geek culture is very 'in' right now," Holland said.

Franseth began playing war games as a teenager in Charlotte, N.C.; in the mid-1990s, he started playing Settlers of Catan, created by Klaus Teuber. Teuber is a superstar in the adult board games market, having also created Löwenherz (aka Domaine), By Hook or Crook, Hoity Toity and Barbarossa.

Holland, who works in operations for Fayette County Public Schools, said he appreciated the independent thought and camaraderie the board game community provides. After graduating from Tates Creek High School, he lost his gaming friends to other pursuits. The Lexington board gaming community has given him new friends.

"This is a fundamentally social hobby," Franseth said.

This is the first year for the Lexicon convention. Gen Con in Indianapolis drew 49,000 in 2013.

"We want to make sure we're meeting a demand that's out there," Franseth said.

Cheryl Truman: (859) 231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service