April 22-27, 1997
Enfield, Connecticut, USA
The Gathering of Friends is an invitation only game party hosted by Alan R. Moon each year. That makes it sounds like a stuffy, exclusive event which is not the case at all. Part of the charm of the Gathering is its focus. All of the folks at a Gathering are huge game fans that like the sort of designs that have been coming out of Europe over the last ten years or so. They are also incredibly friendly people. And the crowd is relatively small so its possible to play games with almost everyone that attends. In fact, last year there was a prize for the person that came the closest to playing at least one game with everyone in attendance!
The Gathering is small - only around 100 people. Its a great place to actually meet all those folks that write on the Net - Brian Bankler, Peter Sarrett, Tim Trant, and many others. And its a great place to meet folks that just lurk on the Net - Ron Clement, everyone's favorite Lesser Peon, Chuck and Ron, who hold down the gaming fort in Cleveland, and Keywood Cheeves, sports game God. There are celebrities, too. Mike Gray, VP of adult board games for MB and voted "Man most likely to have designed any unsigned game" ten years running, and Richard Borg, the prolific designer of Liars Dice/Bluff and a host of others, are just two of the many designers, writers, and luminaries that have attended. The Gathering has spawned a few of its own celebrities, too, like Brandon Brylawski, who invents a new group game for each Gathering.
But the Gathering is really about playing games. There are always one or two war games that come out and a smattering of people playing collectable card games (usually executives from game companies that wouldn't touch a CCG with a ten foot pole). But most of the folks play games by Knizia, Teuber, and Moon. Knizia may well win for most games played each year through the shear volume of his annual releases. Medici, Attacke, Members Only, and Vegas were all making the rounds last year. Klaus Teuber is the king of the mega-hit. There were over fifty participants in the Die Siedler tournament last year followed closely by thirty for the Adel Verpflichtet tourney. Teuber is the Babe Ruth of the gaming world. When he gets a hit its headed straight outa the park. And there's this fairly obscure designer named Moon, too. Curiously, lots of folks like to play his games, too.
The entire setup is friendly. The gaming is in one large room with many tables. Folks pile their games around the edge of the room for everyone to see. People are good about asking before playing your games and returning the games complete and in good condition (well, often better than they started what with component sorting, bagging, dusting, oooo-ing and ah-ing). Everyone gets along fine and there are very few ruffled feathers. Until its time to hand out prizes...
Alan is a fiendish host. Since there are tournaments, and there are a lot of them, there must be prizes. So Alan has everyone bring two games. The games are placed in a huge pile along one wall where everyone can lust after them. Finally, on the last night, the tournament winners get to take their pick of any one game from the lot. Then each game is held aloft and if you want it you shout. If two people want it they dice it out. If twenty people want it then pandemonium descends and everyone gives the tourney winners strange looks - why did they pass up such a gem? Eventually everyone leaves with five or six games. How does that work out if everyone just brings two games? I still haven't quite worked that out but I think it has a lot to do with Mike Gray having way too many games at home...
The Gathering is a lot of fun. Its not for everyone - three or four (well, if you're really fanatic I think you can do seven or eight starting this year) days of games can be gruelling and particularly hard on spouses. The venue, lovely Enfield, Connecticut, is hardly a hotbed of other activities. But if day after day of gaming with fun, friendly opponents is your idea of heaven then you should get on the phone and ask Alan for an invite. You can find Alan Moon at (508) 927-1184. Give him a ring and I'll see you at the Gathering.
The Game Cabinet - firstname.lastname@example.org - Ken Tidwell