Destination: AthensCon 2018 — Greece's biggest geek convention with plenty of playtesting

AthensCon is supposedly the biggest geek convention in Greece — and naturally I’ve been really looking forward to attending the two-day con. While there was nothing on-site to say it, I believe this was the 4th annual event of its kind. It was held in Tae Kwon Do and Handball Olympic stadium originally built for the 2004 Summer Olympics. Honestly, I expected the venue to be overkill, and I was partially wrong — while there was some empty space, it was pretty to focus on the two floors of stuff going on. The lower level (what must have been the handball court) and the upper ring both have a lot going on.

Destination: AthensCon 2018 — Greece's biggest geek convention with plenty of playtesting

This is an all-geeks-welcome sort of con, so there’s something for everyone — comics, video games, fantasy, cosplay, tabletop games, anime, manga, sci-fi, even some (foam) swordfighting by some medieval enthusiasts.

Destination: AthensCon 2018 — Greece's biggest geek convention with plenty of playtesting

As with most cons like this, there isn’t a whole lot of crossover between the various clans of geeks. This is one booth that was surprisingly busy — with a couple of dozen computers and older gaming consoles on display, the decades worth of retro computers could easily keep you busy most of the day.

Destination: AthensCon 2018 — Greece's biggest geek convention with plenty of playtesting

LOL.

Destination: AthensCon 2018 — Greece's biggest geek convention with plenty of playtesting

From some of the older video games around to some of the newest — Playstation’s booth was one of the biggest ones. They focused on Gran Turismo (in one of the nicest rigs I’ve ever seen) and a Spiderman game (not pictured).

Destination: AthensCon 2018 — Greece's biggest geek convention with plenty of playtesting

I didn’t come here to play Spiderman or stare at cosplayers, though. My main draw was Epitrapezio’s play-testing contest, a local community in its 9th year of running contests. Being at AthensCon made it easier for anyone to take in some unpublished games still in playtesting. Above is Spice Empires, a clever area-control game of perfect information.

Destination: AthensCon 2018 — Greece's biggest geek convention with plenty of playtesting

Presenting Diaresis (essentially the Greek word for ‘to divide), an abstract, 2-player game about dividing the space and claiming it for yourself via your cubes. One of my favorites — short, simple to learn, and strategic.

Destination: AthensCon 2018 — Greece's biggest geek convention with plenty of playtesting

Some swordfighting (with foam swords) happened within spitting distance of the Star Trek booth and the Star Wars booths. It made me want to see a sword fight between one of the 501st and the Trekkie enthusiast wearing a Captain’s uniform.

Destination: AthensCon 2018 — Greece's biggest geek convention with plenty of playtesting

Ahh, yes, back to the games. No idea how busy things got after I left (the con didn’t close until 10pm), but Sunday afternoon was easily the busiest time.

Destination: AthensCon 2018 — Greece's biggest geek convention with plenty of playtesting

Dicechantment — a real-time dice-rolling, card-taking game. Roll four colored dice until you get three of a kind, then take a card and place it in your tableau, rotate a card already in your tableau, or take a cube. When time runs out, score points.

Destination: AthensCon 2018 — Greece's biggest geek convention with plenty of playtesting

Just one of the many cosplayers around.

Destination: AthensCon 2018 — Greece's biggest geek convention with plenty of playtesting

Go ahead, mash up Monty Python and Star Wars – it works!

Destination: AthensCon 2018 — Greece's biggest geek convention with plenty of playtesting

Amidst everything else geeky was at least a couple of booths selling plenty of magic tricks, alongside the occasional demonstration.

The verdict?

As a fair, AthensCon is worthy. I was surprised to find almost zero non-Greeks. (Of the two I met, one was half-Green working at a booth, and the other was a partner of one of the game designers.). Athenscon, while put on for Greeks by Greeks, does a great job of presenting a pretty wide swath of geekiness to an ever-growing audience. Getting there was… interesting, though. If you didn’t know where it was, you wouldn’t have seen any signs about it unless you’re basically at the venue already. There was no signage guiding you to the entrance, so hopefully the stream of people will be headed in the right direction.

The playtesting event, however, needs some serious work if it’s to grow. It was the first year held at this location, but the ninth year of the contest. A dated, non-mobile-friendly website is no place to send playtesters to vote. The only reason I learned anything about the event’s workings was from asking people. I didn’t see any sort of overview of the games on-site or much in the way of signs or descriptions.

The voting system is only decipherable if you have help, and designers were sometimes nowhere to be found to show their game. Instead of asking designers to be present from open to close of a long two-day conference, perhaps there’s some way to schedule or stagger things in some way… The games were generally quite good, though the event’s organization needed to be better.

Admission was 7 € for a one-day pass (which got you a stamp on the wrist) or 10 € for the weekend / two-day pass (which got you a colored bracelet). It’s clear there’s plenty of passionate game-makers in Greece (some of which came to Athens specifically for this event, since they live elsewhere in the country), and I’m glad to have met some of them.