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Gen Con 2014 Recap

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BGQ StaffGen Con 2014 has come to a close and it definitely lived up to its nickname of “The Best 4 Days of Gaming.” We had an incredible time of meeting new people, demoing games and pretty much just being in our element for 4 awesome days.

As usual, before we close the book on Gen Con 2014, we want to take one final look back at the convention. We’ve pulled out some of our highlight and lowlights from the con.  This year, we’ve expanded our recap coverage and I’ve enlisted the input of the rest of the BGQ staff. You can read all of our thoughts on games, the exhibit hall and more below.

This year we’ve broken up the recap into three parts: games, the exhibit hall and the convention at large. We’ve also added our purchases and plays for anyone who is curious. With that said, on with the recap:

Games:

Favorite Unreleased Game:

 

Star Wars Imperial Assault
Star Wars Imperial Assault

Tony: Star Wars: Imperial Assault – For me, it was a toss up between this and X-Com. Both looked amazing and and will be in my collection as soon as I can get my hands on them. Star Wars: Imperial Assault was announced at the show and looks like a blast. Fantasy Flight Games essentially took Star Wars and threw it in a blender with Descent. I love that dungeon crawling game and the idea of putting it in the Star Wars universe is an all-around win in my book. The minis look fantastic and the game play engaging. Hurry up FFG!

Alex: Temporum Donald X. Vaccarino has made a name for himself by designing engaging games with straightforward mechanics and plenty of replay value. It looks like he will have another hit in Temporum. This game has you changing timelines to open up different game actions, moving through time eras, playing cards, stringing together actions and combos, and scoring points faster than your opponents. We played two games and Temporum will be an instant addition to our collection when it is released.

Stephanie: The Pathfinder ACG iPad app.  After my 15-minute demo of the PFCG last year, I was hooked. Whenever I could, I got this game out on the table.  As I was strolling through the hall last week, I saw that Paizo was turning the PFCG into an iPad app.  Without hesitation, I told them that I would pay any amount for that app.  I’m excited at the prospect of playing through Rise of the Runelords with different characters and not being dependent on Alex’s availability so I can play.

Dungeons and Dragons Attack Wing
Dungeons and Dragons Attack Wing

Tyler: Dungeons & Dragons: Attack WingWhen I first heard about D&D: Attack Wing I was skeptical. I wasn’t sure it would be anything beyond Star Trek: Attack Wing with dragons. After watching a quick demo, the game has more to it then I thought it would. The addition of ground units and allowing the dragons to be in the air or on the ground should make it a welcomed addition to the growing miniature board game market. Also, make sure you check out the the dragon miniatures. Amazing! They look even better in person. It looks like Wizkids has improved their painting from Star Trek: Attack Wing.

Walt: Roll for the Galaxy – Since I was only at the con for one day (I’ll never make that mistake again!), I didn’t get to demo as many games as I wanted to. However, when I went to the Rio Grande Games room, there was a wait to try Temporum, so I got a chance to play two games of Roll for the Galaxy instead (in prototype form, but with much of the art finished). I’m glad I did! I’ve never played Race for the Galaxy, but I know how it plays, and this new game uses a lot of elements that will be familiar to fans of the parent game. I’m definitely going to get this one when it releases (Sept.-Oct.).

Star Wars Armada
Star Wars Armada

Brian W: Star Wars: ArmadaI really like X-Wing but actually controlling and battling with Capital Ships would be right in my gamer sweet spot. Controlling a fleet of ships? Yes, please. I loved the old 40K Imperial Gothic game and this is similar with battle fleets of large ships, but within the Star Wars universe. To be honest, this looks like it was done much better. The Fantasy Flight display of the ships and fighter squads were very detailed and of the high quality of the X-Wing minis. FF is estimating release in early 2015. I’ve already pre-ordered this one.

Brian B: The Witcher Adventure Game – The game was surprisingly fun (even though my character was “delayed” most of the demo). I liked the questing mechanic, LOVED the art and, being a fan of The Witcher video games, I appreciated the theming of the game.

Favorite Game I Bought

Imperial Settlers from Portal Games
Imperial Settlers from Portal Games

Tony: Imperial Settlers – Another hard choice, but I had to go with Imperial Settlers. As any regular reader probably knows, I love me some civilization building games. Imperial Settlers has players using cards in different ways to build up their civs. Portal Games took the 51st State rules and revised them into a fantastic new game. Things I love: each card can be used in a number of different ways, the four races all approach the game somewhat differently, and conflict is resolved in a way where the attacker comes out ahead, but the defender is not put in a bad spot. I can’t wait to get this one to the table again! (close second: Dead of Winter, but I actually got this a week before the con)

Alex: Epic Resort – This new release from Floodgate Games mixes elements of deck-building, resource management, and worker placement with a fun theme of a fantasy-themed resort under attack from monsters and evildoers to create a game that hits my sweet spot. Deceptively simple game play reveals a game with deeper strategy that promises to entertain play after play. I played plenty of games at Gen Con, but this one comes out ahead in my book.

Stephanie: Pathfinder ACG – Skulls & Shackles – See above.  The original Rise of the Runeloads was my favorite from last year and this second adventure path will follow suit.  I’m sure Kyra, cleric of Saranrae, will continue to smite the unholy on the high seas as effectively as she did on land.

Tyler: Sultaniya We wandered into the dealer hall on Saturday not sure what we were going to play. We ended up at a random booth and found an empty table with Sultaniya on display. I have never heard of the game but we sat down to give it a try. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the game. The game has you building a palace for the sultan. You place building tokens to create these buildings while attempting to score points by having certain features in your building project. It has a Carcassonne feel to it and I enjoyed it enough I decided to buy it.

Walt: Imperial Settlers – Gotta agree with everything Tony said about this one. (Five Tribes is a close second.)

Dead of Winter from Plaid Hat Games
Dead of Winter from Plaid Hat Games

Brian W: Iron & Ale My liver might not agree, but this dwarven drinking game was a blast. You can play with up to seven players: I think; that night is still a bit fuzzy. The action really takes place in the Meade Hall where two dwarven lords are pitted against each other in contests that include physical (such as arm and thumb wrestling and even birthday arm punches), social (such as best insult, war cry, or belches), and drink challenges (`nuff said). My favorite aspect was the betting on the two dwarven lords involved in the contests. If you’ve run out of drinking games to play with friends, then this is a must-have.

Brian B: Dead of Winter/Imperial Settlers (tie) – Do I want to have fun building a colony that grows and grows and grows where I can get attacked and not really care? Imperial Settlers. Do I want to have fun watching The Colony, it’s members, food and medical supplies shrink and shrink and shrink, knowing every attack has a 1 in 12 chance of killing me? Dead of Winter. Both are outstanding games I see myself playing for a long time (i.e: will not be Math trade bait at Gen Con 2015).

Favorite Game I Wish I Could Have Bought:

Tony: 5 Tribes – I didn’t get a chance to demo this one, but I have heard from many different people how amazing it is. It sounds like Days of Wonder hit a home run with their first “gamer game.” Now I am regretting not picking up a copy when they had them for sale (only 50 a day). Fortunately my fellow reviewer Walt bought a copy and we’ll be playing this one ASAP.

Caverna
Caverna is expensive, but it’s also quite the heavy box!

Alex: Caverna – You cannot appreciate the majesty of this game until you see it being played, with all the chits and bits and boards all organized and arrayed; it truly is an epic game. I have heard from many that this game is better than Agricola, which is one of my all-time favorites, and after seeing it on display, I knew that I had to buy it. However, after blowing my budget on a stack of other games, I could not justify this purchase, but my birthday is in a few weeks…

Stephanie: Five Tribes –  In the dealer hall, this game looked very intimidating. Once we sat down at night with friends, the strategy was much more apparent.  This is definitely a gamer’s game and not the novice-friendly games that Days of Wonder usually produces.  It was challenging, yet fun; especially when the assassins came out to play.

Tyler: Five Tribes I actually purchased this game at the convention, but it was for Walt who couldn’t purchase it on his one day there. He allowed us to play it at the hotel and I was sad I didn’t buy a copy for myself. It is a very thinky game that requires a lot of strategy to win. For Days of Wonders first “gamer game,” they hit it out of the park.

5 Tribes by Days of Wonder
5 Tribes by Days of Wonder

Walt: Of all the games that were actually there and available to purchase, I think I got everything on my want list.

Brian W: Abyss Just could not swing an additional $60 purchase but played the demo and really enjoyed the game. It seemed to have a 7 Wonders feel with many options during your turn, but it’s not overwhelming. You were in control of your choices, but limited to one action per turn. I think this is an excellent planning and strategy game. There was no drafting like 7 Wonders but the ally recruiting and sea beast battle aspect is unique and added interesting random twists to the game which made you adjust your present and future decisions.

Brian B – Argent: the Consortium The game did not make it to Gen Con 2014 due to last minute changes to the workers in the game. This game still intrigues me and I am guessing that I will pre-order it in the next couple of weeks.

Favorite Game Expansion:

Space Cadets Dice Duel: Die Fighter Expansion
Space Cadets Dice Duel: Die Fighter Expansion

Tony: Space Cadets: Dice Duels Die Fighter – I’m a huge fan of Space Cadet: Dice Duel (review here) so the Die Fighter expansion was on my short list to obtain. Designer Geoff Engelstein was nice enough to give me a copy and we wasted no time taking it for a spin. A review will be coming soon, but at the risk of spoiling it, it’s awesome! You can now play with as few as two players or as many as 10! Let me tell you, a 10 player game of Dice Duels was epic!

Alex: Mascarade Expansion – Mascarade has become one of my group’s favorite games to play in the past year, as it has simple mechanics and seats a large number of players. While the expansion was not on sale yet, I was able to check out a prototype copy of the expansion and came away excited to play with The Princess and the Puppet-Master.

Stephanie: For the first time, we didn’t demo or pick up any expansions. I got nothing here.

Tyler: Space Cadets: Dice Duels Die Fighter One of my favorite games to play with six or more players, I was excited to see what this new expansion would bring to the table. It adds two ships to the board and adds a lot more crazyness. Good stuff all around.

Walt: Florenza: The Card Game Expansion – This game isn’t getting the attention it should. It’s a great “cards with multiple uses” game, and this expansion (not available yet) only adds to the variety of actions available on each turn.

Firefly Blue Sun Expansion
Firefly Blue Sun Expansion

Brian W: Firefly: Blue Sun Expansion – I did not purchase this, but I had it in my hand and put it down. I did not bring my Firefly game and so I thought I’d wait. MASSIVE REGRET. I saw this game in action in our hotel lobby and so I watched like a hungry dog. Blue Sun not only expands the existing board but adds to the Reaver fleet with two more ships. You also gain another “job-boss,” Mr. Universe, to get additional assignments from; there’s additional equipment and planets and yes, those are tears. Pre-ordering now…

Brian B: None – I did not buy, demo, try, inspect or otherwise interact with a single expansion during my 4 day Gen Con romp. Yay me!

Game That Surprised Me:

Tony: ConceptMy buddy Jeff picked this one up after demoing it in the Asmodee Booth. When he described what the game was (charades with a game board), I thought it sounded, dumb to be honest. But as I was sorting my Legendary: Alien Encounters cards (more on that below), they fired up a game of it. After watching them play for a few rounds, I slowly started getting sucked in. By the time I was done sorting, I had jumped into the game and was taking turns. As our other friends finished their game of Epic Resort, they slowly joined in. Before we knew it, we had been playing Concept for over two hours! Now it’s on my wishlist to buy.

Concept by Asmodee Games
Concept by Asmodee Games

Alex: Zombie 15’ – I am normally not a fan of the zombie-co-op genre, and when one is usually brought to the table, I will find another game to play. Zombie 15’ brought a breath of fresh air to what I consider a stale genre through its quick game play. The audio soundtrack provides real-time game changes and a 15-minute time limit. While I would not go out and purchase this game for my own collection, I would definitely stick around the next time someone brought it to the table.

Stephanie: Concept When my friends described this game to me, I thought it was a prototype and they were just referring to it as a “concept” rather than a prototype. It wasn’t until I saw the box that I realized that was the actual game name. Ohhhhh. Then it seemed ridiculous: how can you play a mash-up of charades and Pictionary? But once we started playing, I was hooked. Forget about scoring; this game is just plain fun. We laughed out loud throughout and had to force ourselves to stop playing so we could try out other games.

Tyler: Camel Up I figured I would like this game since it won the Spiel Des Jahres this year. I was actually surprised at how much I liked it. I thought I was going to be playing a racing game, but that is just a small part of it. The game is a betting game that is approachable for all people. Plus, the game looks great and stacking camels is always good.

Walt: Pressure Cooker – This game wasn’t even on my radar, but after I watched a few plays of it, it’s definitely got that hectic race appeal. Gamers who enjoy Galaxy Trucker might like this as well, since the first phase of the game has a similar feel (although you are grabbing food items to fill recipes instead of grabbing spaceship parts).

Camel Up by Z-Man Games
Camel Up by Z-Man Games

Brian W: Camel Up – I’m with Tyler. I sat down at the demo it on Thursday, asking the rest of our group if there was anything else better to demo. My expectations weren’t high. Fast forward. We bought it and played three times over two days. Every play was better than the next. The long and short of it is you are making long term and short term bets on a camel race. The turns are broken into legs so every turn you can bet, watch the lead change, or watch a possible run-away.

Brian B: Sheriff of Nottingham – This game defines the word fun. I have not laughed this hard playing a game…ever. The bluffing, bribing, and deception is very entertaining. The bag mechanic, although superfluous, adds an extra “umph” to the inspection phase. You must play this game once so you can at least experience the game.

Game That Let Me Down or Disappointed Me

Legendary Alien Encounters
Legendary Alien Encounters

Tony: Legendary: Alien Encounters – I really enjoy the Marvel Legendary Deck Building Game (review here). I get it to the table often and have all the expansions. So being a big fan of the Aliens franchise, I had high hopes for Legendary: Alien Encounters. My let down actually has nothing to do with the game play (which is great), but the production quality from Upper Deck. First, the rule book lacked photos of the new cards and it took us about half an hour to figure out how to sort the cards (the rule book was somewhat vague; pro-tip: there are now names on the bottom of the cards). The second problem was my set was missing four cards! After an hour of sorting and searching, I ended up going back to the Upper Deck booth and got them to switch out my game for a new one. I’ve heard reports of this happening to others and even someone missing a rule book! I expected more out of Upper Deck.

Alex: Splendor – This game has received plenty of attention, including a nomination for the Spiel des Jahres, so I was interested in giving it a play. Sadly, it left me wanting. It could have been because it was late and I was tired, but this game was underwhelming for me. I definitely need to give it another few tries to see if it grabs me, because this is a game that should be relevant to my interests.

Stephanie: Forge War – Alex and I bought event tickets to demo this Kickstarter with the game designer. I was pumped. The theme initially grabbed me: mine elements, forge them into weapons, then send adventurers off to slay monsters with said weapons. I think my exact words were, “I’m going to forge the sh*t out of a long sword.” But then the demo began. The designer literally put me to sleep. He had no energy or enthusiasm. If he can’t get excited about his own game, why should I? I couldn’t care less about the game and am very disappointed that we backed it.

Tyler: None – Didn’t have one that I can think of…

Camel Up by Z-Man Games
Camel Up by Z-Man Games

Brian W: Camel Up – Love the game but one of the components is a cardboard pyramid that stores and rolls the dice. The game comes with three clear bands to control a slide which releases the dice. Two of the bands broke during the initial game set-up. It was deflating to break one and then especially a second band. I don’t like when a publisher skimps on their components (or parts of their components) and if we were at home near a hardware or craft store, it would probably not be an issue. Expectations are higher during the Best Four Days of Gaming.

Brian B: Battle at Kemble’s Cascade – I loved the game…for the first 20 minutes. In fact, I enthusiastically tweeted about how much I wanted the game. Then I walked away from the demo (my brother and a friend were actually the ones playing, not me), came back. They were still demoing. Then I walked around for 20 minutes and came back. They were still playing. And barely anything had changed. It seemed fiddly. It seemed slow. It seemed cumbersome. My brother and my friend both felt it was OK. And I was ready to spend $50 on it…

Exhibit Hall:

Best thing of the Hall:

Ignacy Demos The Witcher
Designer Ignacy Demos The Witcher

Tony: Meeting Designers and Publishers – For me, much of Gen Con was spent running around taking pictures, tweeting, and having conversations. Meeting new people was probably my favorite part of Gen Con. I spent a good amount of time talking with designers, publishers, and other reviewers. I’m grateful to have one giant location where we can meet and chat with people I normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to talk to.

Alex: Meeting DesignersNothing at Gen Con is as fun for me as learning a game from the designer, as their passion and enthusiasm really shines through in their presentation. They are like proud parents, and it really makes learning their games that much more enjoyable. It is even more exciting when they remember you from previous years, like Ben Harkins from Floodgate Games did for Stephanie and myself.

Stephanie: Demos Everywhere – For me, Gen Con is all about the dealer hall. I love the 10-15 minute demos where designers pitch their game to you. Go ahead, make me fall in love. Kinda like speed-dating. But the best part is that if I’m not feeling it, I can just walk away and have my heart swept up by another game.

Tyler: Variety of stuff in the dealer hall – Being my first Gen Con I didn’t know what to expect. The thing I loved about the hall is that there is so many different things. There are games, dice, clothing, and art for people to look at an experience. There is something for everyone who loves the gaming hobby at this convention.

Cash N Guns Demo
Cash N Guns Demo

Walt: All of the above(first-time GenConner here)

Brian W: Families – I actually loved seeing families walking and playing together. Gives me hope that might kids might want to be gamers and so my wife might not give me so much grief for leaving them 4 days a year. Slightly scary that some gamers are breeding though.

Brian B: Demoing with my brother and my friends – This is the one time per year my brother and I can play games together for 4 days. We just wander the hall and look for different games to try out together. It was especially fun this year as we were with several new and old friends.

Worst Thing of the Hall:

Tony: Lines everywhere – Waiting in lines is a staple of the dealer hall, but it seemed a bit worse this year. Everywhere there were lines to buy games, demo games or even just to enter the hall. Fantasy Flight Games did a good job of managing their line by allowing people to claim tickets to reserve a copy of a game for later purchase, but you still had 2 lines for their booth (one to enter, one to pay). If you are looking to buy a hot game in the dealer hall, be prepared to wait.

Waiting for the exhibit hall open
Waiting for the exhibit hall open

Alex: Trying to Win the Demo Game – This is one of my biggest pet peeves. When I sit for a demo, I want to get a quick overview of the game and get in a few rounds of play to get a feel for the mechanics to see if it is a game I am interested in purchasing. I am not interested in resolving complicated peripheral rules interactions, making the optimal play or playing for any longer than 15 minutes. When I sit at a demo and this happens due to other players or the person running the demo, it sets my teeth on edge. Demos are for experiencing, not for winning.

Stephanie: Weak demos.  The flip side of trying to demo everything is when the demo quality is poor.  I do not understand when booth workers do not have a plan for demos.  Fantasy Flight and Asmodee are wonderful models.  In 10-15 minutes, they run gamers through a pre-determined demo in order for you to get a feel for the game.  Demos are not about deep strategy or beating the game.  It’s to determine whether or not you want to buy it.  So this is my notice for next year:  get your act together!

Tyler: Bathrooms – I admit, I’m not the cleanest person. However, I made a few necessary stops to the restrooms in the main hall. It was awful. I mean, I have lived in a college dorm room and it put that to shame. I decided to make sure I didn’t need to use the ones in the convention center the rest of my time there. (Steph jumping in here:  not the case with the women’s bathrooms.  Helps that the male to female ratio is about 10:1; we have less traffic in ours.  All the ladies’ bathrooms were clean and pristine.)

Walt: Will Call – Ugg, the 1 hour Will-Call line. That’s on my “never again” list.

Brian W: Lack of Swag – Love me the free. There needed to be more freebies and/or give-aways. You needed to be the guy who knew a guy to get something. Well I’m not that guy. It’s frickin’ the Best Four Days of Gaming and you pay to play. Didn’t even get the Gen Con swag bag when we got badges at Will-Call on Thursday because they were temporarily out.There used to be more swag back in the day; things are a little bit too capitalist and cheap now.

Brian B: Saturday Crowds – After the BGG math trade in 2015, I will be leaving the exhibit hall and probably returning to my hotel.

Biggest Surprise:

Tony: Bigger Hall The exhibit hall, which is pretty big in its own right, grew substantially larger this year. It expanded out into the former gaming area that was adjacent to it. This area housed the “entrepreneurs ally”, a place for first time exhibitors, and also some returning companies. I was pretty excited to see the new addition and hope the hall continues to grow.

Storm Trooper Cosplay
Storm Trooper Cosplay

Alex: Cosplay in the Exhibit Hall Maybe I just lucked out, but the amount of aisle stoppage because of people stopping to take photos of cosplayers seemed less than last year. I am pretty sure that the Gen Con administration had set aside time and space for a “cosplay photo parade” of some sort, and it seemed to less traffic jams in the aisles because of photography. I hope this trend continues.

Stephanie: Didn’t feel as crowed.  Don’t get me wrong, there were hordes of gamers at Gen Con; but the dealer hall never felt claustrophobic.  Somehow the organizers laid out the booths in such a way that we weren’t packed in like sardines.

Tyler: Friendliness of Other Gamers – I never thought that gamers were mean or not welcoming. Gen Con just reinforced that for me. I never had a moment talking to publishers, designers, or people at the convention that wasn’t an enjoyable experience.

Walt: Ditto on the friendly atmosphere. Us gamers be friendly!

Brian W: Wizards of the Coast – This was my first time at Indy Gen Con. I had been going to Milwaukee for 10+ years and I still cannot fathom why the Wizards booth was not in the main hall. You separate yourself and you separate your fans. That booth was THE booth of Gen Cons past. Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition seemed to take a back seat to Magic: the Blathering when I did visit them. All I can say is, Pathfinder, take over b*tches.

Brian B: Lack of free promos – In years past, I would end up with a free promo at almost any booth I visited. This year it seemed to be that promos were made available either through purchasing or through participating in events.

Biggest Disappointment:

I wish I would have spent more time demoing instead of waiting to demo
I wish I would have spent more time demoing instead of waiting to demo

Tony: Not Being Able to Get in on a Demo – While demos are probably one of the best things of the exhibit hall, getting to actually try one can be a pain sometimes. I’d say Fantasy Flight Games is probably the king of efficient demos. They have pre-set game states and run you through a round or two. Not a long time, but enough for you to get a feel for the game. I also know that Upper Deck will let you sign up for a demo and text you when it’s your turn, which is a fantastic idea. I wish more companies took these approaches. Unfortunately, many other companies just have you playing the full game, which can be fun, but not for the 20 other people waiting to try.

Alex: Booth Workers & Demos (or lack thereof) – Normally, if I see an empty game setup at a booth, I will walk up, catch the eye of a staff member and express interest in trying out that game. This year, too many times I was told that there was no one available to run a demo because the person who knew the rules to that game was unavailable. I am supportive of the fact that the floor staff needs time to eat, rest their voices and their feet, but it is completely ridiculous to not have redundancy in staff members proficient for each game. I missed out on trying games that were on my must-see list (Tragedy Looper), and left disappointed and unlikely to purchase those games in the future.

Tony finally gets in on a demo
Tony finally gets in on a demo

Stephanie: Lack of mini paraphernalia.  Yes, minis are available at many booths (cough, where’s Reaper, cough), but for someone who wants supplies like basing materials, there were no options.  Step it up.

Tyler: Demo issues – See above.

Walt: This is my own fault, but I didn’t get to play/demo nearly as many games as I wanted to. The one day just flew by.

Brian W: Publisher Ending Demos for the Day  I was at the Ares Booth and the demo table was open for The Battle of Five Armies and instead, I got a walk through because they weren’t doing demos anymore on Saturday. I believe it was 3 PM. The guy doing the walk through was a volunteer and did a nice job but I want to drive the car before I buy it. Sale blown Ares games.

Brian B: Leaving on Sunday – As great as Thursday is, Sunday is just…depressing. I hate the last day of Gen Con if only because I know it will be 363 days (less in 2015, due to the early July 30th start) until I can return.

Favorite Publisher:

Ignacy runs us through Imperial Settlers
Ignacy runs us through Imperial Settlers

Tony: Portal GamesI’m cheating a bit with this one, but too bad. Portal Games had their first booth at Gen Con this year and it proved to be quite popular. But what really made them my favorite Publisher of the convention was how awesome they are. Ignacy and his wife were flying through Chicago on their way to Gen Con. When I heard, I casually mentioned they should stop by for some gaming. Ever the adventurous pair, they agreed and came out to teach us Imperial Settlers a full week before the convention! I was blown away by both how friendly the people at Portal are and how much fun we had gaming. It’s that kind of spirit and willingness to interact with their fans that made them my top favorite publisher at Gen Con.

Alex: Fantasy Flight Games – While I am still not the biggest fan of how they handle their sales booth, with the waiting in line to shop and waiting to pay, I think Fantasy Flight consistently provides the best experience when it comes to demoing games. They have established game set-ups that minimize rules explanations, with short victory conditions to give you the experience of playing the game in a short amount of time. When I ran through the Warhammer 40K Conquest demo, they even had preprinted “demo rules,” which is just brilliant. The staff who run the demos are extremely proficient in their games, and deliver a quick elevator pitch and rules explanation to get you right into the game. FFG is continually improving to get the most people the chance to meaningfully sample their games, and it makes people who are on the fence want to purchase their games.

Stephanie: FFG.  Although we only buy one or two games a year from FFG at Gen Con, they remain my favorite publisher due to their superior operational and organizational expertise.  Yes, the FFG lines are long, but just go on Saturday – the line was minimal.  And as previously covered, FFG’s demos are superior.  They are set up to get as many gamers through demos as possible in order to maximize sales.  I have no problems with this and I wish more publishers would operate like they do.

Tyler: Asmodee I was debating between Asmodee and FFG. In the end I’m giving it to Asmodee. Their demo area was large and if someone didn’t know a rule they would find someone who did. They also had new games that are on my short list to purchase.

Fantasy Flight Booth
Fantasy Flight Booth

Walt: I’m gonna have to say that my favorite publishers are the ones where the game designers were right there, pitching in and really excited to be there promoting their games, easily accessible to talk to, etc. This would include (in my experience), Bezier Games, Portal Games, and IDW Games.

Brian W: HABA – I have little ones who I cannot generally find too many games for and HABA, as I found, specializes in the kid’s games. Their games not only looked aesthetically pleasing kid-wise, but I found them to be a ton of fun when demoed. I seriously could not wait to get home and try them out with my kids. I bought one of their games and pre-ordered another.

Brian B: AEG – They simply had the most games I played and enjoyed. Say Bye to the Villains. Valley of the Kings. Lost Legacy. Sail to India. Although they did not have a big hit, like Dead of Winter or King of Tokyo, their consistently fun games really made them stand out for me. Plus AEG Game Night was the best event I have ever participated at any Gen Con. Period.

Changes I’d Like to See for Next Year:

Tony: Run demos better – See my rant above for how hard it was to get in on a demo sometimes, but I’d say many companies could also use some help in teaching their games. I spent a good amount of time in the “entrepreneurs ally” and had a few publishers that really had no idea how to teach their game. I would ask about it, I’d get a few highlights and that was it. You have a board setup, there is no one else here, run me through a turn! Put some cards in my hands, engage us with your game. Sadly, we’d more often than not, walk away with only a minor increase in our understanding of the game. If you want to sell your game, you need to be excited about it, let me get my hands dirty and show me how fun it is, not tell me!

Waiting to enter the exhibit hall
This crowd was just the tip of the iceberg…

Alex: Better Line Organization Prior to Opening the Dealer Hall – When those doors open, it is a flood of humanity that can sweep away the unsuspecting and the unwilling. I would like to see some sort of marshalling lines for the big booths that amass large lines (FFG, WizKids, Privateer Press) at different entrances than the general admission. This could lighten some of the crowds outside the dealer hall that become practically impassable after 9:30.

Stephanie: Move the Artists’ Alley.  There is definitely a place for the Artists’ Alley, but it’s not in the dealer hall.  That is prime real estate that can be used for more retail or demos.  Plus, there are many pieces of art that are not “family friendly.” I don’t have a problem with this, but if the Artists’ Alley is somewhere else, there is no chance that families wandering through will see what they might consider inappropriate images.

Tyler: Organize the Vendor’s Better – Most of the main hall was fine. However, I would walk down some aisles and, stuck between a merchandiser and an artist, there was a small publisher. I feel that mixing them up was just confusing. I think taking Steph’s idea of moving the artist to another area and moving similar booths around could help things.

Brian W: I’m 100% with Steph, give or make the Artist’s have their own hall. This would give more room for other vendors and publishers and possibly reduce foot traffic because the Artist’s Alley was dead compared to the rest of the exhibit hall.

Brian B: More Publishers using Gen Con Preorders for Pick Up – It felt GREAT knowing I did not have to run to Portal or to Arcane Wonders to pick up Imperial Settlers or Sheriff of Nottingham. I would LOVE for this trend to increase in 2015.

Other Gen Con Thoughts:

Biggest Surprise:

Tony: Gen Con Mobile Site – Last year I lamented the loss of the Gen Con iOS app. I found it to be quite useful. This year, Gen Con introduced their mobile site which turned out to be fantastic! The site had an alphabetical list of the companies in the dealer hall, and you could even click on the names to get their location on the hall map. I used this list many times to find specific companies in the convention center. Also included were many different maps and the ability to search for events. Kudos to Gen Con on a great site!

Ultimage Scheme
I didn’t really have a good photo for here, so here is a picture of a prototype we tested. Ultimate Scheme (very fun).

Alex: Gen Con Swag Bag – The swag that Gen Con gives out at registration has decreased in amount over the past few years, which is both completely understandable and a bit of a disappointment. This year, we were shocked to see reusable totes with shoulder straps being handed out, and whomever gave that the green light should get a promotion. That bag saw plenty of duty this weekend and will continue to for the foreseeable future. I hope Gen Con keeps creative swag ideas coming in upcoming years.

Stephanie: Gen Con mobile site.  For years, I have lamented about the lack of a mobile app.  I want a dealer hall map in my hands, not in a heavy brochure.  I want links to publishers’ web sites.  I want the schedule at my fingertips.  Brochures are so 20th century.  Glad that Gen Con finally got with it.

Tyler: Size of Gen Con Being my first Gen Con I was amazed at the size of it. There was so much to do that I can’t wait to try out some new things next year.

Brian W: Size Does Matter – (that’s what she said). As an old veteran of the Milwaukee Con days, there is no contest, the Indy Con is colossal and king.

Biggest Disappointment:

Tony: Scotty’s Ale House – Every year we make an annual pilgrimage to Scotty’s while we are at Gen Con. We get some good beer, great burgers and a free die. This year was a bit of a disaster. We had a decent sized group (11 of us), but we made sure to get there early (4:30). However, Scotty’s must have been short staffed because had a really hard time getting service. We had our waitress switched on us for some reason, and then switched back when the new one ignored us for a long period of time. The food was good as usual, but Scotty’s just seem horribly prepared for everyone that day, which is odd because this is an annual event for them. We even had issues paying at the end! Not Impressed.

Scotty's Ale House in Indianapolis
You failed us this year Scottys!

Alex: Miniature Hobby Events – Stephanie and I have become somewhat decent at painting miniatures for the RPG campaigns we play in, but timing did not allow us to attend any of the seminars. Next year, we are hoping to make sure to attend one or two of these workshops so that we can learn from the experts and take our painting to the next level.

Stephanie: No “OMG” game from demos.  Alex and I have made the pilgrimage to Gen Con seven times.  Every year, I’ve demoed a game and within one round, I’ve had that “OMG! I MUST HAVE THIS GAME” moment (Rampage, PFCG, Sentinels, Marvel Legendary, etc.).  But I did not have that experience at all this year.  Perhaps next year will be epic.

Tyler: Space Hulk No Show GM – See below…

Brian W: Event DM No Show! Why sign-up and go through all that trouble to run an event and then no show? Damn you, DM of SpaceHulk of Hall C, Yellow Table 221 at 9:00 A.M. on Saturday, damn you to hell!

Brian B: None, other than what I mentioned above.

Favorite Event:

Descent Coop Adventure
I had a great time in the Descent Coop adventure and even got some swag at the end!

Tony: Descent Cooperative Adventure – I didn’t do too many events this year, but this one stood out as my favorite. I had a great table of gamers and the game was a lot of fun. Descent is a dungeon crawl game and Fantasy Flight has introduced a few cooperative scenarios. I didn’t know anyone else at the table, but everyone was friendly, played great as a team and it was overall a fantastic experience. We also got the farthest of anyone in the convention at that point Go us!

Alex: Orc Stomp 5K – As someone who participates in triathlons, road races and CrossFit, I jumped at the chance when one of my traveling companions mentioned that he was interested in running a 5K for Gen Con attendees. The race course along the river was pretty, the organization was as good as other races I have run in, and the finisher’s medal was a nice bonus to a well-run event, but the people running made this my favorite. There were runners in costume and nerd gear (lots of Oatmeal Blerch shirts on display), runners who were clearly experienced racers and runners who were working hard to finish their first 5K. It was a great time and I’ll definitely repeat next year.

Stephanie: None.  I went to two events and they were both lackluster and disappointing.  It’s hard to compete with a 2013 Dredd event where Tony launched himself across the table at the block tower in order to sacrifice himself for Alex’s character.  Or a 2012 Gamma World event where we conspired against the other fifteen players by secretly ganging up on them and eliminating them so it would only be our gaming group. There’s always 2015.

Tyler: Artemis Spaceship Simulator – Six of us had the opportunity to go through a spaceship simulator while at the con. I wasn’t sure how it would go and it had some meh moments, but overall was a good time. The rigs they had setup there were pretty well done.

Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator
Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator was a lot of fun!

Brian W: Artemis Spaceship Simulator – Have you guessed I hung out with Tyler? I was not super crazy about the role-playing aspect we experienced especially during some of the action but overall fun and I would try it again.

Brian B: AEG Game NightAwesome. Awesome. Awesome. And not just for the swag, which was great, but the demos, the people we met (Nicole and her husband, Brian), and the demoers themselves. My personal highlight was Tom Cleaver, designer of Valley of the Kings, teaching us his game. He was extremely friendly, patient and an excellent teacher.

 

That about wraps up our 2014 Gen Con recap. If you made it this far, congrats! This is our longest article ever. Be sure to check out our photo gallery for more pictures from the convention. If you didn’t make it to Gen Con this year, I hope you can work it into your schedule next year. It’s something that I always look forward to all year long!

8 COMMENTS

  1. We had a similar experience with the entrepreneurs area. Some people didn’t have any idea how to demo their game.

    This was my first GenCon as well, and I struggled with getting in on demos. It’s hard to gauge when people are going to finish a demo. Will I be standing here for 5 minutes or 30 minutes? Tough decisions.

    Great coverage! I appreciated all your thoughts.

    • That’s a hard question right now. I’m playing Abyss and 5 Tribes tonight, so I don’t think I can answer that question until I get a game of those under my belt. Maybe I’ll try and make a top 10 list in the next week or so (among the 100 other articles I’m already behind on writing) 🙂

  2. Great article! Not to challenge Stephanie’s comment about Forge War, your experience is your experience, but I also had a demo with Issac. He seemed tired (by Saturday weren’t we all), but he was talkative and receptive to all kinds of questions (game related and not). I came away really excited and looking forward to the final production copy.

    • Hi Josh! I don’t doubt that Issac had other better demos. We played with him early Friday afternoon and I was LITERALLY falling asleep. Fighting to keep my eyes open. We did back the Kickstarter, so the game is coming and I will give it another shot.

  3. Brian B

    Thanks for the kind words about me and Valley of the Kings. Perhaps I’ll see you at the next Gen Con.

    Tom Cleaver

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