Friday, February 16, 2018

Muddled memories of Mayfair ribbons

I thought long and hard about what else I wanted to write about Mayfair Games closing up shop while that was still fresh and on my mind. I mean, when I started really playing and collecting games, Mayfair and Rio Grande were the two major ways to get European-style games in the US (Boy, has that ever changed) I’ve played a lot of different games that I got from them. 

But when I started looking through the lengthy list of games Mayfair has published or distributed over the decades, I realized it was too wide a range to really pin down. I’ve already written about Catan and I’ve never cared for the crayon train games (For me, they've always been hours of tiny, incremental moves) Too many games to generalize.

However, what has been uniquely Mayfair for me has been my experiences with the company at Origins and GenCon.

Yeah, I’m talking about the ribbons.

I’m not sure when Mayfair started the ribbon program. I want to say that it was around 2005 or 2006 but I am convinced I went to a few years before the ribbons came along. If I’m wrong, I’m sure someone will correct me.

Here’s how it worked. You could earn different ribbons named for the different resources in Catan by demoing various Mayfair games. When you had a set of the five resources, Mayfair marked the ribbons (since you got to keep them) Then you got some tchotchke, a raffle ticket and (most importantly) a 50% off almost anything Mayfair coupon.

You could trade ribbons with other folks or trade in three of a kind for another. Since, at least initially, train games were the only way to get Ore, that encouraged a lot trading of one kind or another. Almost all the train games took place in the Puffin Billy room and were longer than the other games.

Now, I might be completely wrong about these next two memories and I’m sure someone will call me out about it if I am. But I believe Mayfair didn’t add the resources from Cities and Knights until a least a year later, those let you get a Knight of Catan ribbon, along with another raffle ticket and another tchotchke.

And, I would swear that GenCon didn’t have a lot of Essen style demo tables when I first started going in 1999. (I’d also swear it was mostly war games and RPGs) I _think_ Mayfair was one of the first companies to do that at GenCon. The last time I went to GenCon in 2014, companies had demo tables everywhere.

There are two games that I got to really enjoy, entirely due to the ribbon program. Station Master, because it was the shortest game to get Ore so we played it every year, and Patrician, which was one of the handful of games at the Knight level. I had previously tried out both games at minimal player levels and not liked them. Thanks to the ribbons, I played them in larger player counts and found they were really good then.

The ribbon program was a big part of our convention experiences. Me and my friends, we’d look forward to playing those games and getting rewarded for it :D It changed the way we experienced the exhibit hall.

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