Itzacon is a relative newcomer to the Irish con scene, at a tender ten years old. It is, however, my favorite of the smaller cons, taking place in March of every year in NUI, Galway. It has also been home to the National Game Writer Award since 2007, which is for people who actually write games, not about them.
This year’s event takes place on the 21st to the 23rd of March
Galways airport is no longer running commercial services so if you are flying in your best option is to come into Dublin and hop a train or alternatively fly into Shannon and get a bus.
If you’re traveling from the Midlands or the South of the country there are plenty of train and bus services available.
If you are travelling from the Northern part of the country and don’t have access to a car then Bus will be your only transport option. Feda O’Donnel have a fairly quick private service and Bus Eireann run a Derry or Belfast to Galway service also but they can be exceptionally long if you get your timing wrong. Seriously, check the time table carefully, there are literally hours in the difference.
There’s tonnes of it, from hostels to five star hotels, just be sure to book them in advance as Galway is an extremely popular tourist destination. The University is very close to to the city centre as you can see. The con is very close to the University road side of the campus.
Pretty much the entire building gets used for the con, so a quick guide: the main hall is to the left of the desk, it is mainly occupied by Wargamers and traders. I’ve never mentioned a particular trader before, but if you go and miss them you’ll probably be a bit irked. There will be a trader called Dungeon and Donughts, they sell bacon donuts (below), they do sell out of them quick so you’ll want to be fast.
To the right of the front desk there’s a corridor, go down that and the first door on your right is where the best console room you’ll find at any Irish con lives. Tooled up with a proper projector screen and many TVs, you can spend your time playing an eclectic mix of new and retrogames on equally aged consoles.
Pro-tip. If you turn right at the desk and walk to the bottom of the lobby there’s a little cafe on the left, the kitchen itself will be closed but it makes a nice area to chill out and play boardgames.
The screening and rpg rooms will be up stairs, the always friendly staff members will direct you if necessary. You will see weird looking people standing around holding odd signs, worry not, they are part of the live action point and click game, well, usually anyway.
Games wise, the emphasis here is more on tabletop rpgs, the majority of people are there to play games written by national award nominees.
The pub quiz is held on the Friday night and that’s where you’ll find that creativity is the real driving theme of the convention. It is the only pub quiz I’ve been at that has a make-and-do round, you get handed a load of plasticine and are given a time limit to create something. Great fun!
Saturday night is given over to shenanigans of varying types, this year it’s a fancy dress gala with a time travelers theme.
Pro-Tip There’s an almost separate room on the right hand side of the back door, it’s quieter than the rest of the bar and is a good place to talk or play more games.
There are stairs on your left as you come into the bar via the front door, they lead to a mezzanine, on which there are pool tables so you can spend your evening getting your shark on while enjoying the festivities.
Itzacon is the best con for food, less than five yards from the front door is a bar, in which is housed a pizza and sandwich franchise as well as a proper carvery. They also sell takeaway sandwiches and half decent coffee.
In the evenings the carvery is closed but the pizza place keeps going for quite a while which is handy for experienced booze hounds.
Only thing is they don’t open till 11am on a Sunday so you’ll have to get your hangover cure somewhere else if you are aiming for the morning sessions. On that front, there’s a Tesco and a Subway a few minutes walk away from the con too.
Overall, Itzacon is a blast, I’ve always enjoyed my visits there and it has a permanent place on my increasingly crowded calender. You should come sometime, it really is a lot of fun.