We're just getting back and settled from the Canada plays conference for Lion Rampant and Asmodee distribution. We've virtually attended the Lion Rampant open houses for the past few years through COVID-19, and this was our first opportunity as a board game store to attend an in person event for Lion Rampant. It was the first "Canada Plays" event with asmodee and Lion together. The event was held in Burlington, Ontario - a super short drive for us (less than an hour!) at the Pearle Hotel which is right on the waterfront and absolutely gorgeous. We arrived and settled in on the Sunday afternoon before heading to the terrace for welcoming cocktails and charcuterie. This was the second distributor conference we've been able to attend in person, so the goal was to talk to as many other people there as possible since we knew what we were in for (food, talks, games and a trade show the next day means not much time for networking) The Sunday night spread was gorgeous and it wasn't too cold out, so being on the terrace was pretty welcoming - we got about an hour to settle in and chat with other retailers before listening to the opening talk about Disney's upcoming collectible card game, Lorcana. Mandi of Salt and Sass games has hosted the virtual Lion Rampant open houses for the past few years and was in person with us to kick off and host the weekend as well - we were so excited to actually see her host and she even made her way to every table during the welcoming event, it really started things off on a comforting note when it feels like you have even the slightest personal connection with the host and organizers of the event you're at.
After all of the settling and socializing with other board game store owners about what they offer, we called it a night to save our energy for the important stuff - games!
Bright and early on Monday morning, the nerds gathered in a meeting room for breakfast provided by Wizards of the Coast (MTG and D&D, of course) Check out the sweet centerpiece I got from the table just for leaving last and asking nicely >.<
After breakfast, the talks start and the trade floor opens. We can bop in and out of the informational talks that game publishers give in the food room and check out the trade floor to network with people and have more one on one chats with the tables on the trade floor.
The amount of new stuff coming out that involves PLUSHIES is astonishing! I went back to the teeturtle table a few times to just admire what they were offering and ended up with so much adorable swag! Keep your eyes open for the new plushy things we'll be offering as we expand our retail section!
Arcane tinmen provided dinner for us in a beautiful wedding-esque setting with a harpist and a beautiful dinner. Seats were assigned which was interesting since you get comfortable with the people you met over the weekend at the cocktail opening and talks. It was actually nice to be forced into meeting some new people, and we were sat with some asmodee and lion rampant staff as well which felt really personal and intimate considering how new everything was for us.
Finally, pandasaurus provided games and gaming after dinner for everyone to play test new stuff that's up and coming! This is usually our favourite part of any con - but with so many attendees it looked like a lot of waiting and we opted out since we were SO FULL from the 3 hour dinner.
Takeaways from Canada Plays 2023: -Burlington, Ontario has a gorgeous waterfront and a bustling downtown core. -A lot of board game stores in Canada are actually hobby stores that carry fine art supplies and toys as well as games. -Disney Lorcana is going to be huge and super simple to teach and play -If you forget your business cards, you can convince people to follow your Instagram instead (let's be real, that business card is sitting in the bottom of their purse for who knows how long anyhow) -The plushy market (squishmallows, teeturtle, reversible plushies) is BOOMING and it's making its way into board gaming, too. -A simple food and drink menu with several events each week can go a long way when it comes to building a community and paying the bills. -Almost everyone that runs a game store is guessing about everything they do and more than happy to talk to other owners about it!