Flatcon Is Coming!

2009 September 28
by Vanir

Those of you paying attention recently may have noticed a small addition to our front page recently: the “Upcoming Conventions” section. We here at SR love going to conventions. We heart them. But, sadly, usually we only get to do one a year. A big, giant one in Indianapolis. But there are plenty of other ones out there. Yes, more than Dragon*Con. But you might not know about them. I personally feel extremely stupid for not knowing I had one all of a half hour away from my house until recently. And that’s why we’re going to try and highlight upcoming conventions wherever we can – so you never ever have to explain to your children why Daddy cries into a dicebag every October.

The nearby convention that I was completely unaware of happens to be FlatCon. Held Oct 2-4 at the Interstate Center in sunny Bloomington, IL (where I lived for almost a decade, hence the crying into a dicebag), Flatcon offers three days of good old fashioned gaming. The guys who run FlatCon (David Ross, Aaron Issac, and John Beemsterboer) were kind enough to take a few minutes out of their insane pre-convention schedule and answer a few questions about the proceedings:

1. Give us a little history about FlatCon and your involvement with the event.


Our single goal is to promote our gaming hobby.  We want to see this activity we spend hours enjoying shared with others.  Tabletop gaming is a blast!  It just has to be made approachable. We started the convention 10 years ago.  I originally had in mind running a Pinnacle (makers of Deadlands rpg and The Great Rail Wars miniature game) day.  A few folks were asking to run other games.  Aaron Isaac and I had just started gaming together, so he offered his organization skills.  The next thing I knew we had a small convention on our hands.  The first FlatCon was in the front of one game store and in the basement of another game store.  The two stores were a few blocks apart in downtown Normal, IL.  Records show we had 75 attendees, but I think it was more like 45.  My friends thought a higher number was better.  I didn’t care as we had a blast. From there we moved to running the convention at a local university.  Then eventually to our current location at the Interstate Center. For the last few years attendance has been around 450.

Aaron Isaac and I coordinate the 30+ volunteers who run the core of the convention.  These folks are the heart of the convention.  FlatCon would have never grown to what it is today without them.  It’s a very simple recipe.  Everyone doing one or two things for the convention adds up to the whole result needed.  This has really helped with volunteer burnout – especially in the key roles of Aaron and I.  I have a few volunteers that try to do too much, but we all quickly learn.  In a pinch we have several go to folks that will take on the extra bit needed to make the convention seem flawless.  In the first few years I never got to play games at our convention.  Now with our staff I play in 5 or more of the 7 slots.  Sunday during the last slot I’ll be playing The Great Rail Wars weird west miniatures game.  We have great traditions, and that one is mine.


I was the friend of a person (Dave Ross) who thought it would be fun to get people together who like playing games.  Since Frontier Wars (a local gaming convention to Bloomington) had stopped year ago, Dave envisioned Flatcon.  I helped with some moderate planning and building skills.

2. How is FlatCon different from other gaming conventions people have been to?


What makes our con maybe a little different from some other cons is that all prize support goes towards raising money for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Gamers for a Cure, a Relay for Life fund raising group, joins us for the third year in a row. Gamers for a Cure will be sponsoring a number of activities, including game demos, silent actions, a build-your-own-sword workshop and the ever imperative Prize Support Raffle. All proceeds raised from your prize support go to the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Gamers for a Cure raised over $1,800 dollars in one weekend last year.

For a “small” convention we have some fantastic gaming experiences.  Aaron Isaac is Over the Top!  He’s built a 11 foot 28mm scaled space station.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this station could actually orbit while you play.  He’s also done a 3D tunneled StarShip troopers planet.  We have also seen several Star Wars battles recreated, like the battle of Hoth.  We have a 6 foot in diameter globe to play Risk on.  Our historical gamers have some of the best terrain and painted figures you will see outside of the larger historical conventions.  Last year we had Alamo, Pirates, WWII, and many other recreated battlefields.  These game guides are really detailed and offer very approachable games.

My kids love this convention.  They’ve grown up around FlatCon along with several other families.  We strive to offer a family friendly convention.  My daughter has been a Guitar Hero and my son revenged my characters demise in an old west game with flair


Flatcon focused on customer service from the start.   What would make people have a great experience and what to come back to do it again.   Also one low cost for 3 days of games with exclusive games built for the convention being introduced each year.

3. What is Gamers For A Cure, and how can people help?


Our financial goal each year is to have enough funds to host another convention the following year.  Now we are expanding the goal and turning over the convention to new leadership.  These guys have been taking our convention to the next level.  They have given FlatCon a cause.  For me this has really been a feel good part of the convention for the last few years.  I am excited about having a focus of gaming for a cause. Joining FlatCon again this year is Gamers for a Cure, a group raising funds to help fight cancer. Gamers for a Cure will be sponsoring a number of activities, including game demos, a raffle, used game auction on Saturday, and a build-your-own-sword workshop. All proceeds raised will go to the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. The members of Gamers for a Cure have all been affected by cancer, having watched grandparents, parents, siblings, and spouses battle—and sometimes die—from the disease. One member, John Beemsterboer, helped his wife fight breast cancer after she was diagnosed with the disease while pregnant with their daughter, now 5.


Cancer is a devastating disease for any family to face. I want to do whatever I can to prevent others from going through what we went through. This is also an opportunity to support two great loves of my life: my wife and gaming.

4. What kind of games/activities can gamers find at the ‘con?


Tabletop Miniatures, Board and Card games, RPGs, RPGAs, CCGs, tournaments, computer console gaming Xbox,Wii, PS, computer pc gaming, videos, shopping, hands on activities – terrain making, painting, foam sword making … and more.

5. Any highlights or must-see events?


There are two Hoth battles – one with Legos™ another with 28mm miniatures.  These are huge games.  Also Aaron is bringing out the Space Station (11’ in diameter hex that you can play from the inside).


Every year there is a completion to see who can build the ‘over the top’ game of that year.  Past winners have included a massive Star Wars Hoth Battle, A 6 foot World Globe on which Risk is played, a 12 foot diameter Space Station for Space Hulk..  You see things at Flatcon you don’t see other places.

6. What are you looking forward to playing most this year?


The Great Rail Wars miniatures game on Sunday.  I plan to sling some lead with my undead cowboys.  Kind makes it hard to take’m down.


Last year the BattleStar Galactica board game was a hit with many of us.  We will try to navigate it this year with the new Pegasus expansion added.   I also look forward to playing in the annual RailWars tournament in which everyone has a great time and this will be the last year for Space Hulk on the large Space Station table.

Thanks to David, Aaron, and John for taking the time to tell us about FlatCon! I’m really excited about this thing, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that I’ll be helping a good cause. In fact, I will be attending Flatcon on Sunday Oct. 4. So, if you for some godforsaken reason want to meet me or put me in a murder van or something, now’s your chance. But bring either your WoW cards or a game of Catan. Because – no Catan, no van.


Location: Interstate Center, Bloomington IL

Website: http://www.flatcon.com

Contact Info: Contact Page (from their website)

P.S. If you’re organizing a local convention (or you go to one you’d like to see get a little more exposure) and you’d like to see an article about it on Stupid Ranger, please contact us at this email address: contact(AT)stupidranger.com

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