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Once again the annual ConsimWorld Expo took place in the Phoenix area and, luckily enough, I was able to travel over to check out the festivities. Organizer John Kranz did it again as, from my observations, it looked like this was the biggest Expo yet with somewhere in the vicinity of 250 attendees over the week of June 25th through July 1st. The focus of the Expo is conflict simulations (or what I simply refer to as wargames) and folks could take part in massive multi-day “monster” events as well as single session games and plenty of open gaming was available too!

Something I especially enjoy about ConsimWorld Expo is the fact it’s a very relaxed atmosphere and no one is rushing around from one game to another or stressing out about getting into a panel or open event; this show is for kicking back, having fun, and chatting with friends both old and new. You also have an opportunity to talk with legendary designers like Chad Jensen, Joe Miranda, Alan Emrich, and the game master himself, Frank Chadwick, in an unhurried environment. This isn’t to say these are the only designers of note you’ll chat with by any means! There’s also plenty of playtesting going of which gamers are welcomed into taking part. I saw the new title coming from Consim Press, The Hunters (which looks mighty interesting and impressive), Volko Ruhnke’s Andean Abyss and Joel Toppen’s Navajo Wars (both coming from GMT and both look amazing) and even had a chance to sit in on John Welch’s upcoming design The South Will Rise Again! (I even bounced out a few ideas to John during the game and – shockingly – he didn’t laugh them off) which we sneak peeked a while back right here on TGG.

If anyone out there is a fan of huge “monster” games CSWE is surely the place to play as many attendees are involved in these classic titles all week long. These people aren’t chained to the game table though and I saw loads of folks taking part in two games at the same time since downtime can be substantial in those massive battles and campaigns. I can’t say I have the patience any longer for spending more than an afternoon or two in front of a single title but if that happens to be your cup of tea you’ll go hog wild! There’s even what I believe to be the world’s biggest Down in Flames tournament that you can jump into (and out of) at any time.

CSWE is held in the perfect location as well as the Tempe Mission Palms is right in the heart of downtown Tempe, AZ so there are plenty of places within a five minute walk for grab a bite to eat or an adult beverage (or three) to beat the heat. I can’t chime in too much on the hotel itself as I live a short 30 minute drive away, but the facilities are top notch and the staff is helpful and friendly. Over the years I’ve seen some smaller conventions undermined by the location they were held but that’s not the case with the Mission Palms!

This year the Exhibitor area was double the size and companies such as Victory Point Games, Legion Games, Warlord Games, Decision Games, Grognard Simulations, High Flying Dice Games, Numbskull Games, Blue Panther, and a couple which escape my memory were on hand. The exhibit area is only open an hour and a half each day as the company representatives spend much of their time gaming with attendees as well as demoing or playtesting new and upcoming titles.

One event not to be missed is the Saturday night auction. Not only are there plenty of deals to be found but the zingers tossed out by VPG’s Alan Emrich makes it a must see even if you don’t bid on a single thing. This year Alan was joined by “Hawkeye” – sorry I wasn’t able to catch Hawkeye’s official moniker – and they teamed up for loads of laugh out loud wisecracks!

On a personal note, I had a great time catching up with John Welch, Hermann Luttmann, Lance McMillan, Gene Billingsley, Nate Hanson, Alan Emrich, Patrick Stevens, Randy Lein, and plenty of other folks in the industry! I was shocked… I say shocked… to find so many people at the Expo were fans of TGG and visit or listen all the time. I even got in more gaming than I usually do when I’m out covering a convention and along with the playtest of John Welch’s design, I was able to introduce John, Lance McMillan, as well as local TGG fans Jason and Matt to 1812: The Invasion of Canada. Twilight Struggle made an appearance too as I showed Lance to ropes to one of my all-time favorites!

For those who made their way to ConsimWorld Expo 2012 a wonderful time was had by all! If you didn’t attend, all I can say is you truly missed out and you’d best make your plans early to sign up for next year’s Expo. I’ll hope to see you there May 27-June 2, 2013!

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