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GenCon Report: Day 1

17/08/2012

For those who are interested, here is a not at all brief summary of my first day at GenCon 2012.

The started out on a low when I woke up with massive headache. The heat, humidity, and insufficient amounts of water finally got to me. Ever the genius, I skipped breakfast and popped around the corner to a convenience store to buy some painkillers. I popped the pills, then sat outside the main doors on Georgia Street.

Georgia Street has undergone a major overhaul in the last couple of years to turn it into an outdoor party venue for sporting events and the like. It runs from the Convention Centre through to the Conseco Fieldhouse, and is only a few minutes walk from the Lucas Oil Stadium, site of this year’s Super Bowl. While the space heaters installed at regular intervals aren’t much use in summer, the outdoor seating provides a nice way to get off your feet for a few minutes. It also provides convenient parking for food trucks, but more on them later.

Once the painkillers had kicked in I headed inside. By now the doors had already been opened and the crowd outside them was considerably thinned out. Remembering that most of the booths I wanted to visit would have lines around them for the first couple of hours, I headed to the far end of the Dealer Hall and worked my way back, aisle-by-aisle. I knew that if I didn’t go too quickly, the booths would be emptier by the time I got to them.

The first few booths I passed were the usual mix of third-party retailers selling long out of print games and costume stalls for everything from steampunk to anime. None of this caught my eye, but I did stop at a couple of booths. The first was for the Indie Game Developer Network, which was home to Magpie Games (makers of The Play’s The Thing) and the new card game ARC.

The ARC guys asked if I wanted to try the game and, following my on guide of things to do at GenCon, I said yes. The game is non-collectible and features five different groups of time travellers who are able to slip between different eras and battle each other. I ended up playing The Mercenary, while the demo guy played The Visionary. I was impressed at how easy the rules were to pick up. That, and a good starting hand allowed me to take an early lead. My opponent soon caught up and the game ended with him winning a very narrow victory. Even though I lost I was still very impressed with the game and may have to pop back later in the weekend to pick up some decks.

The second booth that caught my attention was demoing a board game called Banditos. In this game you play American bank robbers hopping the border to Mexico to rob their banks. The game is pretty straight-forward, with an amusing selection of characters for the players to choose from – including some homages to popular culture. While I wasn’t offered a demo (those were being held in a separate hall), they did run through the basics of the game and it seemed like a lot of fun. I may pop back and pick that up, time and luggage space depending.

From there I kept wandering the aisles. A few things stood out, but most was stuff that either didn’t draw my interest, or was too crowded with people for me to get a good look. I checked out Brushfire (an alt-history game featuring various species of rodents and other creatures instead of human nations. I was pleased to see the Shrew Hussars on display – basically, rodents riding kiwis into battle. I don’t know what possessed them to pick the kiwi as the mount, but they looked good.

Sharing booth space with Brushfire were Mantic Games, who had a good selection of Kings of War and Warpath miniatures on sale, as well as preview models for theirĀ  upcoming Enforcer models. Those were mighty-looking indeed. I saw that they had their full range of Dwarf Kings Hold games on sale and made a note to pop back at some point to pick them up.

Not far from Mantic were a company who haven’t been seen at GenCon in many years: Games Workshop. Tell the truth, calling it a GW booth is a bit of a misnomer as the space is mostly taken up by Forge World and Black Library, with only those products available for sale. Part of the reasoning for this might have been that GW’s booth was right next to The Warstore, which had a wide range of GW products on sale. GW were offering painting lessons at their booth, but from what I could tell it was more a quick run down of different painting techniques, not an actual lesson where you get to paint a miniature.

I skimmed most of the rest of the Dealer’s Hall in an effort to get to the Wyrd and Privateer Press booths around the time I had intended. There were a few things I wanted to go back and check out, but not many. Fantasy Flight was still busy getting through their line, so I decided to leave them till later in the weekend when the crowds had died down a bit.

I arrived at the Wyrd booth to find that they’d managed to get through almost all of their queue. They’d had a lot of problems last year with people filling up aisles and blocking off other booths, so this year their area was setup to accommodate the maximum number of rabid fans within the space available, and it seemed to have worked. There was also plenty of stock still on the shelves and I had a quick thumb through the newest book while looking at the new releases and painted figures. All looked great, but I was disappointed to see that there wasn’t a lot of the new book on offer for The Guild. They get a new character in the book who is best described as “Wolverine on a horse, weilding a whip and hand cannon,” but he isn’t available for a month or two, at least.

A little disappointed, I moved on to Privateer Press. It wasn’t until I was much nearer the booth that I spotted the queue. Apparently, the chance to pick up the new Iron Kingdoms RPG, along with two convention exclusive minis was enough to make so many people queue up that it took them 4-5 hours to serve everyone. Sadly, the stock numbers for these items were low, so only the first 350 (or so) people managed to get their hands on the book. In fact, most of the more popular items had sold out by the end of the first day. It’s fair to say that I was crestfallen. I had been looking forward to picking up the RPG, but now I have to wait till it releases in October. Gah.

It didn’t help that the first people I talked to near the booth had managed to pick up the book and were more than happy to explain that they were part of the lucky few, while intimating that, if I’d been waiting outside the Dealer Hall two hours before it opened, like they had, I’d probably have a copy too. There was a hint of snark in their voice that really grated with me, so I made my excuses and moved on. The line was so big that I couldn’t even check out the model cabinets. All in all, a very poor experience, and one exacerbated by their location within the Hall. I was about to find out it was even worse than that.

I headed over to the Studio 2 booth where Exile Games, Crafty Games, and Third Eye Games had set up shop. I went to say hi to the folks at Exile, but they were all busy talking to potential customers and running demos of Deadfellas, so I crossed the aisle to see the boys at the Crafty booth. We chatted for a bit and they told me more of the tale of the Privateer Press Queue of Doom. Apparently, the line was so long it had looped around the booth before heading off down the aisle between Exile and Crafty. The people in the queue had been perfectly pleasant, but the sheer mass of bodies did have the effect of blocking the Crafty booth off from passing traffic. Luckily, PP did cap the queue in the end and it only took a couple of hours before the booth was fully open again. In years past, PP was located closer to one of the walls, so people had been able to queue up along there, keeping disruption to a minimum. It will be interesting to see where they end up next time.

I moved on from the Crafty booth and popped up to see Eloy at Third Eye Games. He had said that the latest API book would be coming out at GenCon, but it had arrived a little late and wouldn’t be on sale till Friday. No biggie, I’ll just pick it up before playing in his Part-Time Gods game.

With my ‘quick’ tour of the Dealer Hall done I headed back outside to Georgia Street to find that the food trucks had arrived. Apparently, a couple of them had turned up last year and discovered that GenCon is home to a lot of hungry people. This year they were back in force, with 20 trucks serving up food in two shifts of 10. I perused the options available and eventually settled on the Cajun truck “Rollin wit da Roux”. My lack of breakfast was starting to catch up with me, so I ordered a serving of gumbo and demolished it in record time. It was my first time trying gumbo and the combination of shrimp, chicken, and sausage was the right level of spicy.

With my hunger satisfied, I headed back to my room to drop off a couple of things before heading back to the Convention Centre for the Crafty Games Declassified seminar. Alex and Pat talked for two hours about the development process for Spycraft 3, as well as a couple of other products that are in the pipeline. In short: Spycraft 3 is about to go into alpha testing, with some changes that should make the game more inclusive so that all players always have something to do. The whole thing was filmed, and should appear on YouTube in the next week or two.

After the seminar, a bunch of us went out to dinner with the Crafty guys. We ended up at Tavern on South, a restaurant just south of Lucas Oil Stadium. By this point the weather, which had been slowly getting worse all day, was in full on storm mode. The combination of wind, rain, and lightning was truly impressive, though we managed to avoid most with clever use of covered walkways and taxis.

Dinner was excellent. I had duck wings (like chicken legs in shape) and a buffalo burger and felt pretty full afterwards. Then it was back to the Crafty hotel room for drinks and a game of Cards Against Humanity – easily the game most likely to offend sensitive people. It’s basically mad-libs for people with sick senses of humour. After an hour or so of play I emerged victorious – though I’m not sure what that says about me.

And that, basically, was it. Tomorrow (Friday) sees me playing in a game of Part-Time Gods, followed with a two-hour demo/game of Privateer Press’ new board game, Level 7. Hopefully it’s a better time than today.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 17/08/2012 21:49

    Great rundown!
    I feel like I might enjoy checking this out one year…

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