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For those unfamiliar with Fastaval, consider this post required reading. Written after returning from Fastaval in 2022, it was extensively edited and corrected after the fact thanks to a number of folks I met there to help me ensure the facts correct. (There, as here, all errors remain my own.)

I started this post on a Danish train, ably ambling from Hobro Station towards the Aalborg airport. It is Monday morning, a little under 6 days after arriving in Denmark for arguably the weirdest board game convention / event I’ve ever had the privilege to attend. My bags are haphazardly packed. I have a full day of international travel ahead of me. I’m finding it easier to stay awake when doing something active with my mind, and this counts. To say ‘I’m tired’ is a massive understatement – it’s ‘tired’ in every way: physically, mentally, emotionally…

And I can’t wait to do it all again.

Time to rewind the time machine

To tell the story about why I took 4 flights and spent a week abroad, I’ll need to rewind the time machine back to September 2023, when entries for Fastaval 2024 officially opened. Yes, the process of getting your game into Fastaval starts that early, and the rest of the process between then and the show is described on that page. I found out that they had 69 pitches, and Orbit got accepted as one of 22 games in early October 2023, giving me plenty of time to make plans to attend.
When I wrote about the conventions I would be attending back in December, Fastaval was unique. This is not a ‘con’ to discover publishers, purchase the latest hot games, or peruse clearance sales for bits. My personal metric, ‘personal intangibles’, was fulfilled by seeing friends and embracing as much of the weirdness as I could.
So off I went…

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Arriving on Wednesday was smoother this time – last time I made the mistake of flying into Copenhagen, neglecting to consider Danish geography. Hobro, the city where Fastaval is located, is some 3 hours from Copenhagen Airport, and a train ticket booked on the day cost a pretty penny. This time, I flew Birmingham > Amsterdam > Aalborg (roughly pronounced ‘All-borghh’), which at least promised a shorter train ride and more convenient timing. I had arranged to stay with three other designers at the Hobro Camping grounds in a four-person cabin about 3 kilometers from Fastaval, and we’d travel together around town as needed.

The first twist came after arriving in Denmark – the data from my UK SIM card failed to work. An ESIM was quickly procured and data began flowing again. The second twist: there was no sign pointing the way toward the train stop from the airport. I knew from Google Maps that it was a short, few hundred meter walk, but the direction was not clear until I logged into the airport wifi. (The short answer for next time: exit out of the airport and turn right. You should walk past a bus stop and the end of the train spar ahead after a few hundred meters. The ticket machine has an English option and the signage is exactly as expected.)

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Once my campmates arrived and we dropped off our things, we got our Fastaval badges, dropped off our games, and began to get reacquainted with the space. To the Danes, it’s a gymnasium; to the Americans, it’s a high school – however you describe it, the main auditorium was the main room, with coffee and the library of board games to boot.

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Along the main room’s wall are the games selected for Fastaval, both for this year (on the right) and from previous years. If you look carefully, you can see Transylvanian Lottery from 2022 on the top shelf.

This year, my game was Orbit, a 4x-rondel-building game for any player count – literally 1 to infinite players. Each player just needs one ‘kit’, which has about 30 hexagonal tiles, 3 spaceships, 3 cubes, and 4 large cards. These could be blinged out in a bunch of different ways, but mechanically speaking the kits would be identical.

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A look at a game in progress – each turn, one player is the General, who verbally chooses an order that all players (including them) must take. Scout lets you rotate your ships and make the hexes more valuable, Mine lets you collect resources, Buy lets you tractor beam in more things into your solar system, and Zap makes you destroy something.

The game ends when anyone has assembled a solar system of 12 tiles around the sun or their pile of hexes runs out. Everyone scores points based on the three goals they randomly chose at the start of the game, along with any points in their solar system (the gold banners), and the most points wins.

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The event’s special guest of honor, Rita Modl (Men at Work, Colour Lines, Crazy Donut Party, and more) offering some advice during the opening event of the Game Rush: think you could make a game in 48 hours? This is your chance to find out!

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This year, the theme was ‘cycle’, and we spent some time brainstorming and sharing ideas… with 30 designers, they added a new wrinkle: each designer received a random card with a color on it. Your game would need to primarily use this color. You were encouraged and incentivized (but not required) to partner up with other designers to give you access to additional colors.

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A demo of Perils of the Deep, by Søren Brandborg and Mark Elsdon – gateway-plus, press-your-luck, deck-building with a lot to like.

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The main hall holds the cafe, and with it your typical selection of paid caffeinated drinks. The People’s Coffee (Folkets kaffe) is located between the kitchen and the snack area – it’s not quite as good, but it’s free and fast.

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Along with a fellow designer named Daniel, I present you with a preview of our Game Rush game, called Flareburst. There are two concentric rings that rotate inside a square frame, which holds each player’s hex token showing their health. The yellow cubes are flares – energy that will radiate outwards from the center towards the players, damaging your base’s health if you’re hit by it.

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And now, on a completely unrelated note… I don’t know whose hat this was, just that it was sat on a table and I thought I needed a good selfie to round out the post.

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The last official thing on the schedule each day was just called ‘TV’ – a crew would film skits about life at Fastaval and the games / scenarios to try and show their work around midnight in the two larger gathering areas.

It’s worth noting that there were generally English subtitling, and I really appreciated it. At the same time, there are so many in-jokes and cultural references used that it was impossible for me to understand them all. I’m reminded that in order to have inside jokes, there needs to be an ‘in-crowd’, which necessarily means there is an ‘out-crowd’ that I’ve accepted my role in.

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For players, the meeting board showed you which games were about to start, and which rooms they would be in. If you wanted to join but didn’t pre-register, just show up and see if there’s room.

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And now, presenting something else a little counter-intuitive: Saturday morning bingo, anyone? Danish bingo looks left to right for a complete row, and the first to a complete row wins the prize! Prizes ranged from a free sandwich in the nearby cafe to some dice to a free game donated by someone. Money raised went to charity, and I appreciated seeing dozens of game-lovers essentially playing a game of chance at a board game convention.

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Presenting Mole Racers by Tomas Falemo and Jenny Holf – a tiny box game where players race around a track – with their eyes closed. It was such a cool game with an emotional center. If you’re the one racing, you have to be careful not to go too far. If you’re an observer, watch to ensure they don’t crash into something else.

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The Fastaval Reallocation Project – your chance to give away some games you don’t want anymore and pick up some more. People would bring their games, then anyone hoping to pick up new games would choose a number, wait for it to be randomly called, then run out to pick up a game! The only rule: you can’t ever sell the games, just give them away at a future date.

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On Sunday, we had a number of talks (including one from yours truly, about being full-time in the board game design industry). Asger talked about business structures and models of board game publishers, while Rita talked about the SaZ, Bastian about data merging, and Jakob about the segments of the board game industry.

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Orbit got nominated for Best Innovation! It’s an honor to be nominated.

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Sunday night: The Otto awards show has no shortage of entertainment, awards, and presentations, and although the primary language spoken from stage was Danish, there was an English translation available via a specifically set up Discord channel.

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One of several awards given out – congrats to Jasper de Lange for his award-winning game Bohemians! I wanted to play it, but never had the chance. Perils of the Deep (seen earlier) won the best game award, while Mole Racing won the People’s Choice award (awarded purely based on how many votes a game has received).

What else happened at Fastaval?

I mean, I’m sure there were plenty of shenanigans throughout the RPG / scenario side of things. I wish I had explored some of them, but thanks to the archival efforts and judges notes (and the reality that the community is very friendly), it would be relatively easy to learn about any of them even now.

What was different the second time around?

I feel like I planned a bit better – I got to play most (but not all) of the games I signed up for.

Working on a Game Rush game with a co-designer was an intriguing experience – Daniel and I worked well together, and I look forward to seeing where we take Flareburst together.

My demos of Orbit all went well, but I wish I didn’t have to make a few last-minute tweaks… and I wished I had planned ahead to have one version of the game instead of two ‘generations’ of the same game. More than a few of the playtester feedback forms noted a few fiddly elements the prototype had, and some of them come back to the differences between the two generations.

Beyond all that, I knew what to expect this time around – the weirdness, the general format and flow of things, and the community. I didn’t feel as out of place, which was great, and it was great to connect with the folks I saw last time while meeting a lot of new faces.

I definitely found myself getting worn out faster than last time, even as I tried to pace myself a bit better than last time. I’ve spent a lot more time focusing on being healthy, eating healthy, and when I’m removed from my usual routines I feel it.


Fastaval remains the place of ‘intelligent weirdness, embraced enthusiastically’ – you can choose how to embrace it, and how deep you want to go down the rabbit hole… but it’s a fun time however you’re able to enjoy it.

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