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Two weeks ago, we went to Elfia, Europe’s biggest costume event. It’s a bit of a mix between a Renaissance faire and a convention. There’s cosplayers, people in medieval or otherwise historical dress, dogs in costume… A little bit of everything, really.

We go to Elfia every year, and every year, we play “Elfia Bingo”. Here’s how it goes:

Creating the Bingo Cards

Everyone gets a Bingo card that they can fill in themselves. It’s easiest to go with a 3×3 bingo card and nothing bigger. I’m not sure I’ve ever crossed off every item on my card. Honestly? Convention Bingo is hard to win.

So everyone chooses 9 things they want to see at the convention. This can be pretty much everything. You can choose a specific character or a whole show/series you want to see a cosplay of. This will depend on how popular a show is and thus how likely you think you are to actually see someone cosplay this thing. For instance: 5 or so years ago, I had “Critical Role” on my bingo card. The show had only been running for a while, and I didn’t manage to spot a SINGLE cosplayer of the series. This year, I put Fearne from Critical Role campaign 3 on my card. Even this was perhaps too easy, as I spotted upwards of 5 Fearnes that day. Oh, how times change.

My old bingo card from years ago. Bizarrely, zero Critical Role Cosplayers were spotted that day. Other Dutch items were “Someone fixing a costume”, “Someone on a horse”, and “Creepy thing that stands still (and glares at people)”

It’s likely that some of the things you want to see at the con may be easier than others. To counter this, you can put some more difficult ones on your card. A character from an older video games series, or from something that’s just come out can serve to balance out the 30 Jesters from Critical Role that you’ve put on your card.

Make no mistake, though! You may actually end up surprised at which characters you cross off the card and which ones you don’t end up seeing! This year, Robin had Moraine from Wheel of Time on her bingo card, which I was sure she would be able to cross off within seconds of entering the faire grounds. Unfortunately for her, no Moraines were spotted that day.

While specific characters and franchises are an obvious choice for bingo card items, it can also be fun to include situations or concept to your card.

Think of:

  • a cosplay that is so huge that the person inside has trouble navigating the con;
  • a beautiful dress with a train that is torn and filthy from people stepping on it constantly;
  • Someone fixing their broken cosplay;
  • Two people in the same cosplay talking to each other;
  • A costume that’s legitimately terrifying (for several years, there was a guy with what looked and sounded like a real chainsaw running around. Trust me when I tell you no one felt comfortable walking near that guy);
  • A genderbent cosplay;
  • A sexy cosplay of an unsexy character;
  • A child wearing an insanely good cosplay;
  • A dog in a costume
  • Two friends together at the con, wearing costumes that are basically polar opposites;
  • etc.

The Game

It’s important to bring paper and some kind of writing utensil to the con. We often make our bingo cards in the train or car on the way there. The game starts as soon as you enter the convention grounds. Anything you see before your ticket has been scanned does not count.

How competitively you play the game will depend on you. I find it really depends on what people have on their cards. If someone is genuinely excited about spotting a specific character, I will be the first to point that character out to them if I see it. We’re all just here for fun after all, and seeing that character makes that friend happy.

However, if a friend has something on their card that’s a little more generic and they’re not as excited about (take for instance Else from Frozen 2), it’s a different story. If that’s the case, and I see Elsa, my response might be a little different. “Ohhh you didn’t see that Elsa cosplayer?? Gosh what a shame, 🙁 I’ve seen like 3 by now.”

You’ll want to balance it out. You’re not here to ruin your friend’s day! But you are here to win.

If ever you’re not quite sure if someone is cosplaying the character you think they are (”…is that Grog from Critical Role or the guy from God of War??”) you have to go up to them to ask before you can cross it off. Be sure to explain the game to them while you’re at it! If only so they understand why you look so smug when they talk about their costume, and what exactly it is you’re maniacally crossing off a little piece of paper.

I’ve said before that the game is hard to win. But what if you do win? We’ve personally never given a prize to the winner of Elfia bingo. You could, but it’s slightly against the spirit of the game. It can be disappointing enough not to see your favourite characters cosplayed at a con. Without prizes, your only victory is seeing people cosplay the characters you love, and I think that’s just real neat.

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