This is an archived article that was published on in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Game on.

People who enjoy and find great social value in playing board games will hold their third annual convention Friday and Saturday in the old Fort Douglas Officers' Club at the University of Utah.

Within the fun-driven SaltCON is a serious competition to design games. The competitors know a win could reap rewards. The judges include Seth Hiatt, whose Layton-based company, Mayday Games, manufactures board games and their accessory pieces.

"If I enjoy the game, we'll produce it," said Hiatt, pointing to the upcoming debut of King's Vineyard, a board game that won the Ion Award at the 2009 SaltCON.

That game was originally designed by Utahns Dave Haslam and Sandeep Kharkar, who are finalists this year, along with Brian Kelly, Thomas Alex Davis, Brett Holbrook, Gregory Power, Jerry Miller, Dave Dobson and Andy Van Zandt.

Besides Hiatt, judges will come from Out of the Box Games, Sanity Studios and Games Unplugged.

Hiatt got into the board-game business somewhat by chance.

An accountant by training at Brigham Young and Utah State universities, he was playing the popular board game "The Settlers of Catan" several years ago. Hiatt liked the game but not its board — it didn't have a border to hold it all together and the game's tiles flipped over too often.

"I really liked the idea of having a border, so I made it," he said, noting that he was able to sell out his initial order of 50 borders "at pretty expensive prices."

With that success, he established Mayday Games.

Its name reflects his company's ability to come to the rescue when people encounter problems with the games they're playing.

"If there is a product or game out there that doesn't have what it should have, people can e-mail us and ask us to produce it," Hiatt said, describing the game-playing community as sizable as well as multinational. "We get several requests per week from game players."

While Mayday Games has produced two games in the past two years — "Space Junkyards" and "Hagoth, Builder of Ships" — much of its business involves accessories.

For instance, there is a popular game in Germany called "7 Wonders" that features cards elaborate enough that many people want to protect them in plastic sleeves.

"They're [the cards are] a funky size, so nobody makes them," Hiatt said of the sleeves. So he did, and now he's involved in cross-promotions with the maker of the game. Mayday Games has similar relationships with other games' manufacturers.

Most of the accessories Hiatt sells are manufactured in China, then moved to their destinations through warehouses he has set up in Layton and Portugal. Europe is big on game playing, he said, adding that he also has distributors in Japan, Australia and South Korea.

Being in the game business isn't lucrative. But by being an accountant, Hiatt believes in making a profit.

"You can't hope to make a lot of money, but if you do everything right, you can make money."

To SaltCON organizer Steve Poelzing, the success of Mayday Games is evidence of the universal appeal of board games.

"They are fun, teach us how to interact, simulate historical and contemporary events and, most importantly, provide a common bonding experience between players," he said.

Poelzing emphasized that the convention isn't limited to designers and that the professionals there will teach individuals and families about specific games and show them how to conduct tournaments.

An extensive library of board, card and party games will also be available.


P The convention of board-game enthusiasts will take place Friday and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to midnight, at the officers' club in the Fort Douglas section of the University of Utah campus. Cost is $20 for a day pass, $30 for both days. Group rates are available.