Where would you expect to find the French and Indian War happening next to power-suited Space Marines? No, not during an acid trip while switching between the History channel and Syfy. It’s at Texicon, an annual convention focusing on tabletop gaming that reconvenes in Hurst this weekend. If the game is played in person by multiple players, you’ll probably find it there.
Texicon was founded in 2009 by Karl and Kevin Pajak of Fort Worth. Twins who discovered tabletop gaming while at college in California, they found the local convention scene lacking when they moved back. While the East and West coasts had their cons and Indianapolis has Gen Con, North Texas had no equivalent, so the brothers made their own.
Focusing on tabletop gameplay, Texicon showcases traditional role playing games like fantasy RPG classic Dungeons and Dragons, miniature wargames like the science-fiction-driven Warhammer 40,000, and board games like the train-based Ticket to Ride. But it’s not being run by paid company spokespeople leading a Warhammer-style Ork “WAAAGH!”
“We rely on a volunteering network,” Karl said. “Whatever gamemasters want to run, our program has incentives. GMs have to run 12 hours worth of gaming to get a free entrance badge, which is typical of cons.”
Volunteering isn’t just for entry, though. It’s how the con spreads word of games, connects to manufacturers like Steve Jackson Games, and, most importantly, connects players to one another through the joy of playing.
Karl contacts game makers and publishers about having their games available to be demoed at the con by volunteers. “I’ll go to Gen Con, walk the halls, talk to [game publishers], send them emails,” he explained. “I know a lot of these guys personally. I’ll write them up, and they say, ‘Here you go!’ … Then a GM runs it, it goes in our game library, the GM is rewarded, players have access to it, and the manufacturer is rewarded because his game is run at our show. There isn’t another program like that.”
While there are certain games they try to push, it’s generally left up to the volunteers to run what games they want. The Pajaks and others manage the space and time for each game.
And that’s what sets Texicon apart from other gaming conventions: its focus on camaraderie.
“The way Kevin and I have run the con is, we have used it as a way to strengthen community,” Pajak said, done by having volunteers run games they’re passionate about and bringing people together with them, something he feels is lost with online and electronic gaming.
Project manager Brian Guarnieri agrees. “Our primary focus is on gaming for social interaction,” he said. “When you’re playing a mini or board game or RPG, you’re interacting as opposed to across an anonymous internet link.”
That sense of community extends to the non-gaming community as well. “We’ve opened our doors to letting in charities like Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Buckner [International], and Jonathan’s Place,” Karl said.
And not only do kids in need get to play games for free, Texicon has also partnered with the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History to give lectures on topics related to historical and military gaming, such as the aftereffects of the real life Battle of Midway, on which the miniature wargame Midway 1942 is based. The only things noticeably missing are collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering, but Pajak said card gamers tend to stick to the one type of game and that there are plenty of card game conventions already.
However, simply showcasing games and tournaments isn’t the only thing happening at Texicon. There will be a miniature painting contest, special guests such as Scott Morris of Passport Games, and, perhaps oddest of all, a marionette show featuring a professional puppet of Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons, presented by the Pajaks and others who knew and worked with the legendary game designer while he was alive.
With everything to do and the various types of games to play, the challenge would probably be to not make a connection with a fellow gamer. That camaraderie builds once the con ends, Guarnieri said: “Sunday night after everything ends, we go to Ol’ South.”
If there’s a better sign of solid end-of-night bonding, it has yet to be found.
Texicon, Fri-Sun at the Hurst Conference Center, 1601 Campus Dr, Hurst. $10-40. 479-653-0565.