by Terence Jason Dorman, Awesome Manager of Inspired Writings
With Gen-Con fast approaching, it is inevitable that Michael or Will will soon put out the call for volunteers to help work The Spoils booth and/or judge events. While I’ve only ever spent a minimal amount of time at The Spoils booth, I was Head Judge for the past two Gen-Cons and last year’s Origins, so I know the judging side of volunteer work with quite a bit of expertise.
If you are interested in judging Gen-Con this year but don’t really know what to expect, or just want some tips, this is the article for you.
The first thing you should expect, and look forward to, is working alongside the deliciously hilarious and fun Director of North American Operations, Will Clark. I worked closely with Will at all three events mentioned above and can say without a doubt that he made those events run extremely smooth and with a lot of fun. Will is a great guy and, if you’ve never met him, working with him at a big event like this is one of the best ways to get a large dose of not-as-big-as-he-use-to-be Will.
With that said though, keep in mind that, if you volunteer to judge, Will may be one of the only people you work with directly. The three events I worked during my time as Judge of Great Justice had a slew of volunteers to work the booth but no judge volunteers. This is likely because many judges would rather be playing than judging, which is something I can understand at an event as big and fun as Gen-Con.
If you are stuck with the unfortunate circumstance that is a small team of judges, do not fret. It may seem that you are out of your league judging a major convention when you are accustomed to only working your local gaming store, but this is not the case.
Hopefully, though, this won’t be the case this year as I’m predicting a lot more people volunteering to judge than prior years. The game is definitely on its upswing and I think a lot of people will want to take part in making that swing a success.
The only real differences I’ve found between working a local event versus working a big convention is time. At your local store you may only have to be present/active for one or two events a weekend. At an event like Gen-Con, The Spoils will likely have 10-12 events that you will be overseeing. Don’t get scared, just make sure you find time to rest when you can.
Also, remember that you are doing the exact same thing you do at home only at a convention with a slightly larger scale. Sure, there may be a thousand people in the CCG hall where you will be working, but you only have to worry about the 10-30 people playing Spoils events at the time. Just be sure to ignore the noise of the hall and focus on your task at hand, which is making The Spoils’ events fun and exciting for everyone.
If you are worried about how often you may be asked to make a ruling, don’t be. I was shocked to see how few times I was called for a ruling during my first Gen-Con. I attribute this to two key facts:
1) Most of the people playing Spoils at a major event are experienced players who know the rules well.
2) Most players are using decks that are well known, therefore it is less likely for “weird” game situations to arise like they do at your local store when players are trying new things.
This does not mean you won’t get called for rulings, though, so make sure you are brushed up on the rules and have a copy of the latest Comprehensive Rules Reference on you. I’ve found that most questions I get are usually easy ones to answer as they come from new players trying out The Spoils for the first time, so be sure to explain your rulings to the players in case they are new to the game.
As I mentioned in my last Blarg post, it is extremely important for you to be personable. Not only are you representing Arcane Tinmen and The Spoils when you judge an event at a convention, but being personable will also help you have fun. I’ve met dozens of people over the course of the past two years that I know and speak to only at these events. Being friendly with your players helps alleviate your desire to play as you will be able to take part in their victories and defeats and essentially become part of the tournament yourself.
One other suggestion that I have for you all, that I consider very important, is to take some time to get away from the gaming hall. Find one of the other judges or volunteers to cover for you while you go out to grab a bite to eat or check out a particular booth in the Dealer Room. These few minutes away from the tables will give you some time to collect yourself and enjoy the convention as much as everyone else is.
Last, and certainly not least, is to remember to have fun! It may seem scary volunteering for your first major event but I promise that, after day one, you’ll be having a great time. Spoils players are the nicest and most fun group of people around and their good attitude will certainly rub off on you. Plus, you never want judging to feel like it is work as events like these should be vacations for all of us, players and judges alike.
If you think I left anything out or have other questions about what it is like to judge a big event, leave a question in the comments section and I will be sure to get back to you. I may not be judging events this year but I can still help make sure the judges who decided to go will be as prepared as possible, so ask away!