The good citizens of Milwaukee may be shocked to discover that their fine city has a long history of geek heritage. In addition to (at least) two nerd-friendly bars and having a prominent fictional character statue as a downtown tourist attraction, the city was the longtime host to Gen Con. Sadly, the world’s largest tabletop gaming convention left for greener (and flatter) pastures in 2003. This year, from June 19-22, the Nexus Game Fair hopes to recapture some of that 4th-level magic with a convention located at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center. Milwaukee Record met up with operations manager Chris Hoffner in a back table of a shadowed tavern to see what rumors he could tell us.
Milwaukee Record: Why did you decide to start Nexus Game Fair?
Chris Hoffner: To fulfill the needs of gamers that want to bring a large-scale, all-inclusive gaming experience back to a Milwaukee venue. Many of us remember Gen Con. While we will by no means claim to be the next Gen Con, we hope to bring a major, cosmopolitan gaming experience back to this area of Wisconsin.
MR: How is Nexus Game Fair balanced between board games, miniature games, and role-playing games?
CH: Although not a purely equitable mix of these types of games, we do have strong presences in all three types. Plus, we also have a limited number of collectible card game events and electronic gaming events. There will be challenging role-playing events in a variety of genres and using a number of popular rules systems. We will have some dramatic miniatures events. Our free board-game library will have more board games than most attendees have likely ever experienced. Our hope is to make Nexus the most inclusive gaming convention in the region. We have certainly dedicated ourselves to that goal.
MR: Tell us about your special guests. Who is your favorite?
CH: My favorite? I’m not sure I could point to just one. Can I pick six favorites? A dozen? We are extremely fortunate, in our first year, to have so many industry icons, both from the earliest days of gaming to some relatively new up and coming writers and designers. I’m thrilled that so many of them are willing to actually sit down and play the games that they have created. To give our attendees the opportunity to play with the designer is an incredible opportunity, and not one afforded at too many shows.
MR: What are your favorite games to play?
CH: I’m a fan of all types of gaming, and have played collectible card games, role-playing games, board games, and miniatures. I have even dabbled a bit in live action role-playing on a few occasions. And that is really the mission of Nexus Game Fair: inclusion. If you enjoy ANY aspect of the gaming hobby, Nexus is the place to be.
MR: Any gaming convention in Milwaukee must deal with the ghost of Gen Con. Tell us your favorite Gen Con memory.
CH: I remember a Saturday evening event, sometime in the early 1990s. Gen Con was in the MECCA, and we were in the final dramatic encounter of a multi-year, multi-Gen Con role-playing event. Victory was nearly in our grasp, but then, the fateful 11:45 p.m. announcement came over the loudspeaker. The convention hall was closing in 15 minutes. I remember our group of players all looking around the table at each other, pondering what to do, before we all collectively scooped up our dice, books and backpacks and took the game outside. By outside, I mean we played that game to the end on the sidewalks in front of MECCA. And yes, we won.
Nexus Game Fair runs June 19-22 at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center. Four-day passes are $45. Visit nexusgamefair.com for more information.