I am a big fan of Gencon, Gencon is a huge gaming convention that takes place every year, currently situated in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is a great festival with loads of games, vendors, and geek culture. The main exhibit hall can only be described as a shopping mall for gamers and geeks, with half a city block’s worth of goods. It is amazing.
Sadly, I’ve missed out on the last few years while I try to get my life in order (writing these damned books!). This year, however, my girlfriend convinced me me to go. It was her first time (to Gencon, get your mind out of the gutter, Grimdark…) and her enthusiasm was infectious. Since I signed on late, I had to scramble for hotel and badge, but Tommy Gofton, a local gamer and real life fixer in this case, came through for me and made it happen. Here are my impressions of the show.
1) Indianapolis, the host city: The city of Indianapolis continues to impress me as a host city for Gencon. Last time I was there was 2009, and the city is much improved as a host site since then. More of the local restaurants are showing their Gencon Spirit and the city is much more active during all con hours. The food trucks were brilliant. I felt very welcome, even with 40,000 bikers having a get together two blocks away! (I’m not joking, it was cool)
2) Man, that Vendor’s Hall: My Gencon experience centers around the immense vendor’s hall. It takes me several hours to get a feel for everything in the hall, excluding playing demo games and enjoying conversations with enthusiastic vendors and gamers. The vendor’s hall this year was as spectacular as ever. There were fewer “new” releases due to the prevalence of games releases over kickstarter, but the show always tended to overpower smaller releases anyways. The geek accessories were stunning and the booths were amazing. I overspent this year, and could easily have spent orders of magnitude more.
3) What, no Wizards Booth?: Wizards of the Coast did not have a booth in the vendor’s hall. There was a large area reserved for playing D&D in the main gaming hall and magic was, as always, omnipresent, but WoTC declined to put together a vending hall display. Perhaps they are saving up all their mojo for next year for the 5th edition D&D release?
4) The Gamers Movies (Zombie Orpheus Entertainment): So Tommy and his crew, as well as some of the people I drove down with (Todd and Monica) were in a gaming movie, working with Zombie Orpheus. Since I went with them I politely decided to tag along and watch Gamers III, Natural One, and Humans and Households. I wasn’t expecting much, despite having heard good things about The Gamers, Dorkness Rising. I find many shows about Geeks, like The Big Bang Theory, annoy me. The Gamers Movie that I watched (III) was awesome, striking the perfect balance between highlighting the oddities of gaming culture without belittling it, Made with love, I suppose. Even Raw and not fully edited I loved Natural One and Humans and Households. It takes quite a bit to get me to laugh like that, well done!
5) Shadowrun: This being the year of Shadowrun, the venerable RPG came out in its fifth incarnation. I was suitably impressed and decided to make that my big purchase for the con. The Catalyst booth looked as busy as some of the much larger players, like Fantasy Flight and Paizo, which is impressive. This combined with the success of the Shadowrun Returns computer game, really has made this a great year for a much loved series of games.
6) Author Pannels, Where did these come from?: So Gencon is frequented by Fantasy authors, many of whom are gamers and have worked for WoTC, or other game companies. R.A Salvatore, Tracy Hickman, Margaret Weis, and Ed Greenwood are hardly lightweights. But this year I was impressed to see juggernauts like Brandon Sanderson and Patric Rothfuss at the convention (who game, but are not affiliated with game companies). The author pannels were almost as good as the gaming pannels. This is another area that continues to grow and impress. I was particularly taken with Lucy A Snyder at the Dark Fantasy panel, her crisp command of the subject made for an excellent discussion. With a growing spate ofquality author events, I can only see this aspect of the con being more enticing in the future.
7) My Privateer: I went to the convention looking for a Typhon (pictured below) for my Legion army, for Privateer Press’ Hordes game. Man, I have been trying to get my hands on that beast for six months… I was disappointed that they were out at the Privateer Press Booth. However, after a day and a half of searching at the con, I finally found one up for trade! In addition to my hunt for rare models, Privateer also dropped the card game High Command, which I saw everywhere at the show, despite it not being on any hot lists. I played a demo of High Command, which is somewhat similar to deck building games like Ascension and Dominion, and really enjoyed it. I also had lunch at the Ram, which has a Warmachine themed menu during Gencon.
8) Paizo, Fantasy Flight, and Boardgames: The biggest and most impressive booth seemed to be Fantasy Flight Games. They had lines all the time and several new products including a Star Wars RPG(?). Paizo apparently kicked ass with a thousand person game of Pathfinder and a great new card game. Boardgames were really strong at the con this year.
9) My Indy Pick: I always try to pick up an indy RPG at Gencon, This year it was Dungeon World, a product that was Kickstarted last year. Unlike many games I have picked up (indy and otherwise) this one seems worthy of play and really does live up to the hype of combining old school dunegoneering with some new ideas.
10) Cosplay is King!: The costumes were crazy. Even children were getting in on the action this year, Todd and Monica from our party cosplayed. So many costumes…
- I missed the Evening with Patrick Rothfuss Event. Tickets were sold out 😦
- I missed the 1000 person Pathfinder Game. Did not even know til afterwards. Damnit, why?
- Took a picture of an awesome Dark Elf Samurai dude and my flash screwed it… I need lessons 😛
- I played D&D at the WoTC Candlekeep event. It was my Girlfriend’s first time playing in 20 years or so. We grabbed a table with a father and son team from Saskatchewan and managed to survive the event. It was enjoyable despite a tired GM and a noisy play-space. I played a cleric. 5th edition looks to be shaping up well.