The OrcaCon 2017 T-shirt by Raven Mimura reflects the second convention’s theme of race and accessibility. (Raven Mimura / Orcacon)

The OrcaCon 2017 T-shirt by Raven Mimura reflects the second convention’s theme of race and accessibility. (Raven Mimura / Orcacon)

Geeks unite: Tabletop games convention is back for a second year

OrcaCon is back as the only tabletop games convention in Snohomish County.

The second gaming convention featuring board, card, role-playing and miniature games — from Agricola to Zombie Dice — is Jan. 13-15 at the Holiday Inn in downtown Everett.

The three-day convention is packed with scheduled games, open games, tournaments, speaker panels and workshops, as well as play tests and demonstrations.

Gamers can meet industry leaders such as game designers, artists and retailers; shop for games, miniatures, dice, artwork and other geeky stuff; and play and win a number of games from the convention’s demo library.

Don’t know how to play? It doesn’t matter. Game hosts will be there to teach you. Do you like more hardcore board games? Schedule an event for experienced players to join you.

“Our mission is to provide a safe and welcoming space for people of all skill levels to play tabletop games,” said Donna Prior, an OrcaCon founder and executive director of the convention. “Last year, 11 percent of attendees had never bought a game or didn’t know how to play.

“OrcaCon is for people who already love games, but it’s also for people who are new to the tabletop game hobby.”

More than 700 attended the first OrcaCon at the Everett Holiday Inn last year, with some from as far away as California, New York and Great Britain.

This year’s convention has expanded to offer more gaming space, a better variety of speakers and merchants and more experts from the table-top gaming industry.

“To see that whole room filled with people almost brought a tear to my eyes,” said Steve Hobbs, one of the OrcaCon founders. “I couldn’t believe it was happening. All these nerds and geeks were here in Snohomish County, having fun playing games.”

With just fewer than 600 gamers already signed up, Hobbs estimates that more than 1,000 will attend OrcaCon 2017.

The board game library is stocked by Card Kingdom and has close to 70 staff-recommended games available for attendees to play at the convention. Sign up to play a game in one of 230 events or on your own time in open play.

Another library — Play &Win — has more than 50 demo games from Double Exposure that you can play and potentially win through a raffle. With each game you play from the library, you receive a raffle ticket. There is no limit to the number of games you play.

There are also 24 panels and workshops scheduled throughout the weekend. Speakers will talk about race and accessibility in gaming — this year’s convention theme — while workshops will cover game design and publishing, event hosting, how to be a better game master and more.

Members of Adventures League and Pathfinders Society will be running the role-playing games, Dungeons &Dragons and Pathfinders, respectively. In addition, 21 game companies will be playtesting or demonstrating their latest and greatest games.

The Dealers Hall will feature a variety of merchants selling games, books, art, toys, costumes, furniture and gaming gear, including dice bags. OrcaCon pint glasses and T-shirts will also be available.

OrcaCon’s official beer, The Blackfish Stout from the Edmonds-based Salish Sea Brewing, will also be back on tap. Gamers can order from a custom menu from Tommy’s Bar or purchase a variety of grab-and-go snacks.

Special gaming spaces include the Kickstarter Room, for backers of this year’s event, and the Quiet Room, for those who need to take a break from all the noise of the convention. There will also be a space for painting miniatures to then play with in RPG games.

The all-volunteer organization that runs OrcaCon was formed over a game of 7 Wonders.

Three friends found themselves reminiscing about the many fun times they had at the former Dreamcon — and wishing for another tabletop games convention in Snohomish County.

“We used to go to Dreamcon, which used to be a part of Snohomish County for many years, and then it stopped about 20 to 30 years ago,” Hobbs said. “We wanted to create an event so that nerds and geeks who love games don’t have to go to Seattle to play.”

They all had volunteered, worked and even run conventions in Washington — such as PAX, Emerald City Comicon, Sakura-Con and Dragonflight — so they knew just what to do.

“We’re lucky to have so many volunteers who want to help organize, run games or speak on a panel,” Prior said. “Most of the volunteers do other conventions and have a lot of connections. It’s super helpful because they’re all invested in the tabletop community.”

Here are the founders’ top three games they’ve been playing lately:

Donna Prior likes Dungeons &Dragons, Marrying Mr. Darcy and Codenames; Steve Hobbs is into Axis &Allies, Istanbul and Splendor; and Barry Wilson likes Cavern Tavern, Tiny Epic Western and Quadropolis.

Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; sbruestle@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @sarabruestle.

If you go

OrcaCon is an inclusive tabletop gaming convention for geeks who love to play or want to learn to play board, card, role-playing and/or miniature games in Snohomish County.

The three-day convention is Jan. 13-15 at the Everett Holiday Inn, 3105 Pine St. Passes are available for one or three days.

The convention opens Friday at noon and closes 4 p.m. on Sunday. Registration at the hotel is Jan. 12-13.

Three-day passes are $65. One-day passes are $40 Saturday, and $30 Friday and Sunday. Discount passes are available for children 7-17. Children under 6 get in free.

See the schedule of speaker panels and workshops, sign up to play games and tournaments, and browse the board game libraries at www.orcacon.org. Email info@orcacon.org for more information.

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