Wandering Basel: Fantasy Basel

I learned early into my stay here that Basel has a big annual comic convention, which meant that I obviously had to go. I kept the first weekend of May free and got tickets as the event got closer. It had been a long time since I’ve been to a con (PAX Prime in 2016, I think) and there would be a special added convenience of being in walking distance of the con.

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Fantasy Basel is Switzerland’s big comic con, but it’s dedicated to more than comics and pop culture as it also does games (video games and table top) and the big attraction is really the cosplaying. Apparently some of the biggest events of the con were able the cosplay. I missed the big cosplay contest and that was apparently the big event.

The con spans three days and, obviously, I had to get the 3-day pass. It meant that I could go in and out as I pleased and could spread out my exploration of the event over three days.

The con starts at noon on Friday, so I missed most of the Friday activities. There wasn’t much earlier in the day that I needed to see and the goal of Friday was really just to familiarize myself with the layout of the con and to see the panel with Angus Macinnes, one of the actors from the original Star Wars movies.
The Layout

I learned very quickly how big the Basel convention center is. I walked around the first level and thought that the con was tiny, but then kept on going up to different floors with different themes.

The first floor reminded me the most of the main floors of PAX, where the big video game platforms have giant displays where you can test the latest games. I would have spent a lot more time at the Nintendo booth if I felt like fighting for space to play Smash, but the layout was cool. Of course, being the gaming floor, there were the big stores for both games and general electronics and the e-gaming stages that I knew James would have been all over had he been there.

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The second floor was a bit of a hodgepodge. There was a section dedicated to the upcoming movies, with giant booths dedicated to Aladdin, Avengers: End Game and Detective Pikachu and smaller booths for Dark Phoenix and Godzilla. There were also some booths dedicated to older movies/franchises, like Harry Potter and Indiana Jones and a franchise that we’ll eventually get a sequel to like Avatar.

The most important feature of this area was really the Detective Pikachu booth, where you could take a picture with Pikachu. After that, nothing else matters.

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Also, you could take pictures on a magic carpet for Aladdin and my phone ended up looking like what I imagine my photo would look like if i were ever arrested for flying a magic carpet while intoxicated.

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The second floor also had a section dedicated to Swiss video games. I loved this section because it reminded me of a much smaller version of the Indie Megabooth at PAX, which is my second-favorite part of that con (second to the tabletop stuff…and more on that in a bit). A large part of the second floor is also dedicated to a very large Artists’ Alley, one of the key staples of any good comic con. I can’t actually remember if the Autograph/Photo op area was on that floor or the third floor.

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Floor three had a large section for wrestling and tattoos, neither of which I spent much time at. There was a huge section for cosplay and costume repair. There were a lot of shops (so many loot boxes) and an enormous section on anime and Japanese culture. Actually, the best part of that section was the mini food court with booths selling various Japanese foods.

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Floor three also was the home of the table top section, where there were free play and demo board games. Had there been people with me at the con, this is where I would have spent a significant amount of time because it’s the best place to test new board games. Unfortunately, I was there by myself, so I lurked around and watched people play board games until I felt creepy about the situation and left.

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The third floor also had a space museum, which was pretty cool to walk around. They also did periodic talks and panels about space there.

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And, of course, no con is a true comic con without the main hall and the section dedicated to Star Wars cosplay, both of which were right next to each other. The 501st Legion was there as were the rebel equivalent (can’t remember the name). There were the droid groups and the prop groups as well. All of the standard staples of these events.

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The Panels

I attended a handful of panels at the event.

Friday’s was the panel with Angus Macinnis, who was in the original Star Wars trilogy. It was one of the last events on Friday, so it was surprisingly empty at this panel, which meant that I got to get pretty close to the stage. All of the Star Wars cosplayers also joined him on the stage. They actually kicked off the panel with a tribute video to Peter Mayhew (aka Chewbacca), who had just passed away a few days before.

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Saturday was May 4th, so the Star Wars festivities continued to the next day. Angus Macinnes returned for the big Star Wars Day panel and was joined by two of the original trilogy’s producers, Robert Watts and Patricia Carr. It was a nice behind the scenes look at the movies. They continued the Star Wars event with some big Star Wars fan films, but I left that to explore the con some more.

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The other big Saturday panel I wanted to go to was the Game of Thrones panel. I got there a little early and caught the last twenty minutes of Rick Whittles’ American Gods panels. I didn’t plan to go to that one because I haven’t seen it yet and didn’t want to get spoiled (even though I’ve read the book….). I’m glad I caught some of it, though, because he was hilarious.

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Game of Thrones was equally entertaining. Natalia Tena (Osha) and Julian Glover (Pycelle) were the two featured actors from the series and both actors talked about the fact that (spoilers) neither survived to season 8. They made their Iron Throne predictions (a lot of Tyrion love) and talked about their experiences on the show. It was entertaining.

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I didn’t come out for much on Sunday, but I did come to the closing celebration because they advertised some Detective Pikachu events. The events consisted of a trailer and a costume contest where the winner was someone dressed up as a member of one of the evil “gangs” from the games. Couldn’t remember which ones, but it was pretty spot on.
Cosplay

There were cosplayers everywhere and some of the cosplay game was pretty good. All sorts of fan groups were represented and there were, of course, people with the hybrid fandom costumes. I got some pictures with and of the Star Wars cosplayers. He’s turned around in the last photo, but it was also the first time I’ve seen someone cosplay as Palpatine.

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As I didn’t really bring costumes to Switzerland with me, I only went with low-key looks (as you could see from the pictures). I had a Rick Sanchez sweatshirt for the first day and my Spider-Man costume t-shirt finally had a purpose. I didn’t do anything for Sunday as I really only went for the closing event. I just had my Pikachu shirt.
The Food

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a con with as much food at the con as Fantasy Basel. And it wasn’t just that they had food there, but that they had a wide variety of food. The first floor had a number of food stands, many of which were the same ones that were at the Herbst Messe in the fall (I assume because they’re owned by the convention center). As Sunday was Cinco de Mayo, I felt obligated to get the quesadilla from the Tex Mex stand when I was there on Friday.

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The second floor had a section with dessert stands selling crepes, waffles, Italian shaved ice etc. The other side of the floor had another grouping of international food stands selling everything from gyros to empanadas to hamburgers. I got some shu mai from one of the stands for lunch on Saturday.

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The third floor had the Japanese food stands, where I got some karaage at some point and some very colorful ice cream. They also sold so many Japanese snacks. I almost got the ramen-flavored Pringles at some point, but decided against it (or forgot, don’t remember). They had boba too, but they didn’t have the taro flavor or the traditional tapioca pearls, so I skipped that one.

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Everything Else

While I would have liked a companion or two for the table top section, I have to say that I had a lot of fun at Fantasy Basel. It’s a bustling and busy con, but still felt a little more low-key than others. I like that they had a variety of activities and interests represented and that it wasn’t really just for vendors and celebrity photo ops (both of which were, of course, still represented). It was a nice event for geek culture and fun way to spend a weekend.

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