Anne Holmes is a star in Cheeky Parrot’s firmament. We first connected via a Facebook board gaming group for women when I was looking for volunteers to demonstrate Hoard at a retailer event in the US. It was Anne who connected me to Double Exposure, a service that arranges promotional appearances for games, trains and dispatches an army of volunteer Heralds to demo and talk up a title, and systemically provides what I was starting to try to DIY from afar. Anne has become our star Herald, going above and beyond to show the game off at local game stores and at her own event, the Midwinter Gaming Convention. I asked her recently if she would mind answering 5 quick questions and unsurprisingly, she was happy to comply:
Q1: For me, a seed was planted with my first game of Carcassonne about 15 years ago but then things escalated in 2011 when I teamed up with a friend and invented our first games. What started your involvement with modern board games and the gaming community?
Anne: My world of gaming began two decades ago with Live Action Role Play, specifically the Machiavellian world of Vampire: the Masquerade. Out of that LARP, and my subsequent deep love for Tabletop Role Playing Games, the annual Midwinter Gaming Convention was born. It wasn’t until recently that I dove into the realm of board games and I did so specifically to be able to better serve my guests at the show by learning as much as I could about that aspect of the gaming industry. Along the way I fell in love with teaching games, and building community through the rich offerings modern board games have to offer.
Q2: What is the board gaming scene like in Milwaukee/Wisconsin? Is the hobby mainstream or confined to certain demographics? Are there many specialist retailers and board gaming groups/clubs?
Anne: Board gaming in Milwaukee is alive and well, with a wide variety of events happening nearly every day of the week. There are many game stores and other venues that cater to weekly meet-ups and special events both in the Metro-Milwaukee area and the state as a whole. Gaming in general has a deep history here in Wisconsin, and the hobby hasn’t seemed to have missed a beat in all these years.
Q3: You’re the director of the Midwinter Gaming Convention, which has been going for 19 years and started as a LARP gathering. What are some of the challenges you faced in growing the event to what it is today?
Anne: There have been many challenges over the years, and each year inevitably presents new ones to conquer. The show has had to convince guests that while LARP is a foundation of what we do, it isn’t the only thing we’re good at. Because LARP has a culture of travel, we have the unique challenge of growing “backwards” so to speak, as about 80% of our guests travel from out of state to join us, as we work to grow on a local level each year.
As a woman-run convention, there have been many struggles specific to that aspect of the show. Yet I feel every struggle encountered has helped define the show, given it identity and a deep set of core beliefs and goals which guide every decision moving forward. So many people have said it “can’t be done” or it “shouldn’t be done” and that only drives me to make each year more epic than the last.
Q4: I’m actually astonished at the generosity of Hoard’s heralds, volunteering their time to teach and expose the game to new people at retail locations and conventions. What do you enjoy about being a Herald?
Anne: One of my core beliefs and goals is to make gaming as accessible as possible to everyone. Running events as a Herald for Envoy allows me to teach games to people of different experience and skill levels, and learn from them as we play. In return I am able to offer feedback to the publishers that bring these games to life and help tie the community together, bridging the gap between player and creator. It’s another way I am able to facilitate and do my part to grow the hobby and industry. Participating has also allowed me to further my goals of community, bringing gamers of every type to the table together.
Q5: What other games are you playing these days?
Anne: Hoard is always in my gaming bag, and I love every opportunity I have to bring it to the table. I love introducing people to the idea of cooperative play through Castle Panic, letting themselves be silly with a game of Sparkle*Kitty, and seeing what absurd blueprints can be created in The Palace of Mad King Ludwig. I’m also in love with nearly everything coming from FoxMind Games including Manhattan and Slide Blast.