Holy GenCon moly
Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s my story of how #GenCon2015 went down.
A happy accident
For months and months I had talked to my husband, Jacob, about attending GenCon. It’s the biggest State-side convention for the board gaming hobby (second only to Essen, in Germany). I knew it was pretty much a pipe dream considering our anniversary was the following weekend and we already had a trip planned to celebrate that. Oh, and GenCon is in Indianapolis, Indiana – over a thousand miles from where we live in Colorado. So there’s that too.
As much as I day-dreamed about attending and how much fun it would be to be one person in a sea of over 60,000 game loving friends, I knew in my head it wasn’t going to happen, at least this year. Until, that is, I made an unexpected trip home for some family things the week before GenCon. Not knowing what the coming days would hold, I booked a one way ticket to Evansville, Indiana (only a few hours south of our state’s capital).
I took things one day at a time and made the call on Friday night to drive up to Indy and purchase a one-day pass for Saturday.
I knew what to expect. I had watched plenty of videos and read blog posts and searched the GenCon site many times. I knew what games were being released, what the big hits were supposed to be, and that there would be people everywhere and gaming 24/7.
What I didn’t expect was just how much fun I would have. I woke up super early that morning and was ready to go. You know, like the kids that wake up on Christmas morning ready to run downstairs to see what Santa brought them. Yup, that was me. I walked around the exhibit hall all day and didn’t care that my feet were getting super tired. I played games all night and just could. not. get. enough.
Here’s the run-down of my day:
Parking, registration, and all of that good stuff. I expected crazy long lines, but things actually moved quite quickly. I even had a problem with my ticket (booking it last minute, I accidentally booked it for Friday at 11:40PM on Friday night, whoops!). Thankfully, getting things switched over was no trouble at all. Huge props to everyone on the GenCon crew!
I met up with Mark and Randy from Boardgame Corner. Randy gave my friend Christie and I the lay of the land while we were waiting for the Exhibit Hall to open. It was so good to see them, and super fun to watch people coming up to them and thanking them for their contributions to The Dice Tower.
The Exhibit Hall opened and we were on our way in. I made it a sum total of 10 steps before spotting the AEG booth. It was set up with a slew of white tables, each with a game all set up ready to go, and a representative from their company to teach you how to play. I chose the Dark Seas table. I had heard of the game prior to that morning, knowing it was a GenCon release and I liked the artwork on the box cover. (I’m always and forever a sucker for good artwork.) Randy joined us along with one person we didn’t know. We learned how to play the game from the AEG rep and began taking our turns.
We played two rounds of the game (2/3 the length of a normal 4-player game) and then we were on our way. It was definitely fun, but I didn’t totally love it, and the day had just begun, so I knew I had plenty more to see.
We wandered for a bit, taking in the vast isle ways of the hall. (To paint the picture, there are nearly 400 booths in the Exhibit Hall, some large and some small, spread across 30+ isles. One could spend the entire 4 days of the convention there and still probably only see half of what there is to see.)
A few weeks prior, I had been telling Christie about the game Castle Panic and how much fun it is. She was interested in Dead Panic, so when we saw the Fireside Games booth, we made our second stop of the day. There was about 15 minutes left in the game of Dead Panic another group was playing, so we decided to wait and then take a stab at it ourselves. The Fireside Games rep walked us and two others through how to play the game as we were playing, so we didn’t waste any time. The way their demos work is that they set a timer and you get to play the game for as long as the timer is running, then it’s the next group’s turn.
In this game, you’re basically a group of survivors stuck in a cabin in the middle of a zombie outbreak. You’re trying to collect pieces to a radio, assemble the radio, and call the escape van to GTFO. At first things got really crazy (it definitely seemed more intense than Castle Panic). We did lose one of our survivor members and they turned into a zombie (which I think is a really cool aspect to this game, that sets it apart from it’s predecessor). But, we finally got all of the pieces to the radio! We were ready to make our escape… and then our timer went off. We’ll never know if we would have made it or not, but I instantly knew that I loved the game.
Ultimately I decided not to purchase the game because I knew I could find it easily back home. That said, this is certainly one I would like to add to my collection.
We wandered some more through the hall and took a break for coffee. Mmm, coffee.
While I haven’t written about this just yet on the blog: I am now a part of the Boardgame Corner team with Mark and Randy! They made an official announcement during the Dice Tower show Friday night, and I couldn’t be more excited! (More on this in future posts.)
Mark and Randy were scheduled to be at the Dice Tower booth from 1-2 on Saturday and asked me to join them. We headed that way and I met a few of the other members of the Dice Tower network: Jason Lavine, Chaz Marler, Robert Seering, Ryan Metzler, Sam Healey, and Tom Vassel. I didn’t have much time to talk to everyone, but it was great to meet them. I also got a few minutes to thank Chaz for his recent segments in the Meeples for Sheepish Peoples series. While I personally feel at home in large groups of people, I realize this is not true of everyone. I can’t express how much I appreciated his honesty and transparency in telling his story of attending these conventions and not letting social anxiety get in the way of the opportunity to enjoy an event for something he loves. Huge props, Chaz. I can’t say that enough.
After we left the booth, Christie and I headed for the food trucks. Technically there is food available in the Convention Center, but food trucks are really the way to go. I mean, a breaded tenderloin + onion rings… how can one go wrong?!
More wandering of the Exhibit Hall.
I came across a copy of Anno 1503. I’d heard of this game before, but didn’t know much about it. It was 80% off, so I picked it up. I figured even if the game sucks, it would make a nice piece of wall art. A board game with my name in it… I just couldn’t pass it by.
Even more wandering of the Exhibit Hall. (You’re beginning to sense a theme, aren’t you?)
Just before GenCon, Mark, Randy, and I were play testing a game called Dragon Flame for an upcoming review. While playing, Randy mentioned how much it reminded him of the game Stockpile, because of the mechanic where you place some cards face up and others face down into various groups, and then take turns selecting/bidding on which group you want. I had watched a few videos about this game and knew it was something that piqued my interest.
Randy pointed me towards the Navoo Games booth, and I was on my way to meet Brett, the co-owner of Navoo/co-creator of Stockpile. He walked us through the game play and we went through a round with him. I was happy to pick up a copy of the game, knowing it’s not available pretty much anywhere, at least for the time being.
More Exhibit Hall wandering. (I told you, booths for days and days.)
We met the designer of New York 1901 and he explained his new skyscraper-building game, which looked really cool. Unfortunately they were sold out, but this is definitely one I’d like to play and possibly add to my collection. I think it will easily appeal to people who enjoy Ticket to Ride.
After that we finally played Bad Beets. I had never heard of this game prior to Saturday morning, but once I arrived at GenCon, I was told that I would like this game and that I should be sure check it out. There was a huge Bad Beets sign over the exhibit booth with tons of stand-up tables where you could learn to play the game. We did a quick demo, and they were right – I loved it! Dan King describes this game as if Love Letter and Coup had a baby, and if you’re familiar with either of those two games, he’s spot on.
Knowing that Jacob loves the game Love Letter and the fact that it was only $10, I picked up a copy. Christie and I headed out to the hallway and instantly played a few more rounds of the game.
A much needed break for dinner.
After dinner, we went to the mail hall. Tables upon tables were set up with games and you could even rent games from the game library to play. We wandered for a bit and chatted and then settled down to play a game of The Red Dragon Inn. This is an older game where you’re giving drinks to your friends, trying to remain sober yourself, and not lose all of your money in gambling. It was pretty fun and definitely entertaining if you like the “take that!” factor in gaming.
End of the night
After that we took an Uber back to the hotel and broke out one of the new games Mark had picked up during the day, The Grizzled.
Oh man. This game.
First off, I love the artwork. It reminds me of the artist Quentin Balke, who illustrated Roald Dahl’s books (some of my all time favorite books).
The game is set in the first World War and the players are battling together in the trenches. It’s a co-op game and the game is BRUTAL. It’s a simple card game, but it’s so challenging and fun. Of all of the games I played at GenCon (granted, not that many compared to all of games there to be played), this is hands down my favorite. It is being released in September, and I would highly recommend it if you like co-op games or card games (two things I most definitely love).
Until next time…
Nearly 2000 words later, I hope this paints the picture of a crazy busy yet super fun day at GenCon 2015. While the circumstances that lead me to GenCon weren’t the greatest, I’m so thankful that I got to go and experience all that GenCon has to offer. And by all, I mean probably only about 1% because I spent the majority of the day in the Exhibit Hall and didn’t even attend any panels or events.
Hopefully next year I will be able to experience all four days, but until then, here is a video put together by Visit Indy recapping the event.
(Oh, did I forget to mention there was a ton of CosPlay? And a thing called Cardhalla and True Dungeon? Yea, like I said, probably only about 1%.)