This weekend, cards will be flipped, dice will be rolled and gaming fans will check into the Clarion Hotel for the fourth annual LexiCon board gaming convention.
LexiCon is a convention dedicated to bringing board gamers together and giving them an exciting experience. It opened in 2014 with nearly 1,000 attendees. Now, convention co-founder and director Chris Grzywacz (GREE-watts) expects 1,500 people to attend. He started LexiCon with friend and fellow director Greg Franseth, who owned 900 board games in the beginning.
“Even our game library is larger than most gaming conventions,” Grzywacz said. LexiCon has more than 1,500 games and has 15 volunteer staffers to keep it organized during the weekend.
Lexington has a really active gaming group, he said. LexiCon’s team hosts weekly game events around Lexington throughout the year at game store Rusty Scabbard, West Sixth Brewery, and Barnes & Noble. About 20 to 30 people show up at every meet-up, he said.
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“We love supporting our friends at Lexicon,” West Sixth founder Ben Self said. “We’ve been a sponsor with them from the beginning, and it is amazing how much it has grown. We also appreciate working with them to host Monday night game night at West Sixth on the first and third Monday of each month.”
Grzywacz said LexiCon is more social and open to new gamers than other game conventions he has attended.
“The primary focus of LexiCon, though, is to introduce new gamers to board gaming,” he said. “About half of the attendees have started gaming in the last year.”
The games featured at LexiCon aren’t typical board games. Gryzwacz said some games are like Pandemic, in which players compete against the game to win. Others are traditional American-style games, such as Ticket to Ride, a game about cross-country railroads, or eurogames, which have more indirect player conflict.
He said visitors can spend all weekend playing games. He knows of some players who start at noon Friday, go to bed at midnight and get up to start playing again at 9 a.m. Saturday. Food is delivered to the convention, so gamers don’t have to leave.
Before some of the tournament games, con-goers can learn games so they can compete. Some of these tournaments are qualifiers for Gen Con, the world’s largest and longest-running gaming convention, held in Indianapolis.
Grywacz said he doesn’t host LexiCon for the money. He said he makes 20 cents an hour during the event, and he has a “real job,” as a social worker for homeless people. LexiCon is about having fun, he said.
Jessie Dunne, a pharmacist at the University of Kentucky and coordinator of LexiCon’s game library, said she spends most nights in the month before LexiCon organizing the library. All games are logged electronically in a system and are owned by either Franseth or the convention, she said.
Dunne has been with the convention for three years, since moving to Lexington with her family and going to her first game night at West Sixth. Grzywacz said he needed someone organized to keep up with the ever-growing collection of games. Dunne volunteered.
“My favorite part is interacting with the gamers and getting their perspectives on what games to play,” she said.
LexiCon has a family atmosphere, she said. Dunne has seen many friendships form when strangers meet at the convention and play a few games with each other.