Yesterday we kicked off our annual Gen Con coverage by talking about the new game releases. Today, we are going to dive into our thoughts on the convention at large, before we finish up tomorrow with a look to the future.
The Gen Con Convention
My Favorite Part of Gen Con:
Tony – Chatting with Publishers and Media: I do a lot of emailing for BGQ, but rarely do I get to chat face to face with publishers and other people in the gaming media. It was nice to have some face time with the people I only ever talk with digitally, especially since most publishers are gamers themselves and really great people. And sometimes, you can get interesting tidbits out of them that they would never put into writing. 😉
Andrew – Tournaments: I played in quite a few tournaments in Gen Con this year. Some have great prizes, like $500 from Stronghold Games for winning the Diamonds tournament. The Evolution tournament was also a lot of fun and the winner got a one-of-a-kind, hand-painted start player marker from the game’s artist. The final tournament of the convention was the Hungry Hungry Hippos World Championship where over 100 players competed for a hippo mounted to a plaque. Don’t get me wrong, I love gaming for fun, but enjoy it when there are cool things at stake.
Brian Biewer – Demoing Games: This year I demoed more games than I had in previous years. I only ran into ONE bad demoer. I guess he was explaining the game to an invisible third party to my right since he never looked me in the eye. Not once. But every other experience was great. Arcane Wonder’s demo of Onitama led to an immediate purchase, as did the demo for Stockpile by Nauvoo Games and Mystic Vale by AEG. I was very happy with the quality and succinctness of the demos I participated in this year.
Walt – The Board Game Geek “Hot Games” Room: Ok, I might be biased because I know some people who work for BGG, but I visited this gaming room on Saturday during a stretch of time when all the BGQers were off at events, and I had a blast. Apparently every publisher they contacted was happy to donate their newest games (which will all become part of the permanent BGG Con library) so this was a great way to try games you couldn’t demo in the main hall, and play full games of those that were only being demoed as partial games. I wound up teaching three games I knew how to play, and playing one more that I hadn’t heard of. According to the BGG staff, this first-time experiment was a big success, and they are looking into expanding into a larger space next year.
Heather- Meeting the Faces behind the Games: It was lots of fun to chat with people who designed the games we play. We backed Agility (Two Lanterns Games) on Kickstarter and had an opportunity to chat with Brent Povis and his wife at their booth. They shared about their family and even gave us little treats for being Kickstarter backers! We didn’t chat long, but it was nice to see the passion behind the game we love playing. My other favorite part of Gen Con was the late night gaming. 2am comes really fast when you’re having a great time kicking butt at Mystic Vale, Potion Explosion, and Junk Art!
Stephanie (and Jeff): Don’t laugh, but playing Pokemon Go in Indy was mind-blowing. As a happy suburban dweller, my mind was blown with the number of Pokestops and Pokemon density. And thanks to the 60,000+ attendees, the stops were constantly lured. For the first time ever, I went out and explored Indy as a way to catch more `mons. Jeff and I toured downtown and Alex and I walked the canal twice. I leveled from 20 to 22 just from all of the new catches and evolutions. Plus, I got to play the game with my BGQ buds.
Brian Winters (and Jeff) – Hanging with my BGQ peeps: Whether it was gaming back at the hotel, walking the exhibit hall together, or laughing myself sore during events, I just flat-out love my extended family of gamers. I really only get to see some once a year like Steph, Alex, Jeff, and Andrew, so it’s great to try to spend as much time as you can, but sad when we have to say good-bye.
Sarah Biewer – The Expanded Exhibitor Hall: It was less crowded compared to prior years (except for Saturday). It was nice to be able to walk around and not feel so crowded, except for the cosplayers stopping at intersections for pictures.
Tyler – The Attendees: I love going to Gen Con to hang with people I know and try out all the new hotness in the gaming hobby. What I noticed at my second Gen Con was how welcoming and excited people were at events, demos, and random person from Anchorage Alaska that I struck up a 10 minute conversation with wandering the exhibit hall. Gen Con is such a great place for people to come, gather, and enjoy whatever element of the hobby they enjoy.
Alex – The Dream Life: In a perfect world, I would not have to worry about things like a job, a mortgage, and car payments, and I could spend my days hanging out with friends and playing games non-stop. Gen Con gives me that life for 4 days, and it’s why I keep coming back year after year. Being around games and gamers, talking about games, playing games – there’s something special about it. As always, spending my days trying out new games then spending hours in the hotel playing games with my friends is the best part of Gen Con.
My Biggest Surprise at Gen Con:
Tony (and Brian, Jeff, Alex) – The Bigger Dealer Hall – I was pleasantly surprised to see that Gen Con had expanded the dealer hall this year. I have been saying for years that they need to do it, and they finally pushed the room into the Magic tournament hall. From what I hear though, it’s still not enough as many publishers could not pre-book their booth for 2017. The Dealer hall is THE attraction of Gen Con and they need to make as much space as requested even if that means relocating the artists.
Andrew (and Jeff) – No Must-Have Game this Year. Cry Havoc was maybe the closest, but if you knew you wanted it, there was a preorder option to guarantee you could get it. There were plenty of other really great new releases, but nothing that stood head and shoulders above the rest that you really had to run and get.
Brian Biewer – The number of older games I picked up/wanted to pick up: I usually like to pick up the new hotness while at Gen Con, but this year I spent more money on games that were released before Gen Con than I did on new releases. Valeria Card Kingdoms. Hostage Negotiator. Stockpile. Sushi Go Party. Simurgh.
Heather (and Stephanie, Brian, Alex) – The hall wasn’t stupid cramped: In past years I’ve felt like I was mashed up against people constantly, but this year was much better. The expanded hall really helped to have a more pleasant shopping experience and I didn’t feel like I needed to submerge myself in hand sanitizer every five minutes. Woot!
Sarah Biewer – How much there was to do outside of the Exhibitor Hall: I ran a 5k, I learned how to paint minis, participated in my first gaming event, and watched some TV shows at Lucas Oil Stadium. I enjoyed branching out from just the Exhibitor Hall this year.
My Gen Con Disappointment:
Andrew (and Tony) – Lack of Availability: My biggest disappointment was how many games were there and not available. Gen Con has certainly been adding a lot of smaller publishers, which is great, but many of them are coming with prototypes and promise of a future Kickstarter. Not only that, many of the bigger companies announced a bunch of new games that weren’t available to try or buy at the convention (I’m looking at you, CMoN).
Brian Biewer – Saturday Crowds: Thursday and Friday were crowded, but Saturday was insane. I do not remember it being that crowded in prior years. I have always disliked Saturday, especially when compared to Thursday or Friday, but this year it was pretty bad.
Jeff Petersen – Two Fold:
1) Not finding the right random role-playing game. I have made it a tradition of picking a random RPG out of the GenCon catalog and forcing the rest of the gang to play. Last year was a blast, but I missed the mark with my choice for this year’s game. It was too much (dice) roll playing and not enough role-playing. Sorry, gang! I will do better next year.
2) Timing of GenCon. I really wanted to bring the Family of Gamers, but school out west started the Wednesday before Gen Con. It doesn’t look like the family will make it to GenCon until 2020.
Heather – How dirty the hotel was. Seriously gross.
Stephanie – There was no must-have game for me at all: Usually, I go into Gen Con really excited for one game or another. Not so this year and there weren’t any demoed games that grabbed me either. After nine years, it’s expected to happen.
Brian Winters – Retail before Kickstarter Copies: – I was disappointed that some CMoN games I backed on Kickstarter were for sale at GenCon. I kickstarted both The Others and Masmorra and have yet to receive my copies. But both games were available for sale at Gen Con. The point of being a backer on kickstarter is to help fund the publisher and usually get advance copy before retail. So, I’m not happy with CMoN because they gave backers no advanced warning or copies. They did the same thing last year with Blood Rage but at least then I knew my copies were weeks away. I “should” receive The Others this month (should have back in the spring to be honest) but Masmorra was not due out until November 2016. So, I’m glad for those who picked up a copy and just sad for those other fools like me who continue to back CMoN and not reap the rewards for doing it.
Tyler – My own scheduling: My first time at Gen Con, I didn’t attend many events which left a lot of down time. This year I went the complete opposite and attended way too many events that didn’t leave me a lot of time to wander the hall and play demos. I need to find somewhere in the middle for next year so I can get the most of these great days of gaming.
Alex – Event Planning and Games: I was fortunate that my BGQ family had my back and got me tickets for some events, as I did not really have any plans or input. Next year, I’d like to participate in some more events, while keeping my schedule balanced as Tyler mentioned. I somewhat agree with Andrew and Tony regarding the availability of games and Kickstarter, but I was glad to see that many companies at least had some playable demos and prototypes.
Favorite Gen Con Event:
Tony – Memoir 44: Operation Overlord: I have been wanting to try this game for YEARS but have never been able too. When I saw it on the docket this year, I quickly bought every ticket for our group. We had an absolute blast with the 4v4 version of this game. And much like in real history, I deftly lead the German team to victory.
Andrew – Technoscape Escape Room: An Escape Room Company from Champaign-Urbana, Adventures in Time and Space, set up a couple escape rooms in the convention center. I’ve done a few escape rooms and really enjoy them, although I was skeptical how cool it would be with a temporary setup. I was fortunately proven completely wrong and it was a fantastic puzzle with lots of cool things happening. Even better, we escaped with about a minute left. I was also worried about playing with 5 random folks, but they were all great to play with. If I’m ever in the Champaign area I plan to check out their place.
Brian Biewer – Step by Step Miniature Painting: This was an amazing event that my wife and I attended. Our instructor was GREAT. He was patient, answered every question enthusiastically, provided a hand out so we could take notes and save it for when we got home to try to paint on our own. I would HIGHLY recommend this event to anyone who has wanted to paint minis but has been afraid to try.
Brian Winters (and Jeff) – World Wide Coconuts Championship Qualifier: I got into the final qualifiers Saturday night and even with a few happy hour drinks in me to calm my nerves, I couldn’t get to the next round. I do wish the organizers would have told us up front that that they weren’t going to use all the rules in the base game. They were a little lax but I had a blast nonetheless. I think going to make this a yearly event if it’s offered.
Sarah Biewer – Step by Step Miniature Painting: Before this event, I never would have thought I could paint a miniature that looked remotely decent. After I was done, my mini was carded at Scotty’s Brewhouse because it was so realistic and lifelike. The instructor provided detailed step-by-step instructions, had a mini painted that displayed how my mini should look at each step of the process, and provided a twelve page handout so I didn’t have to take notes and concentrate on my painting perfection at the same time.
Alex – Memoir ‘44 Operation Overlord: I had never played before, but I can see why this is a game that has such staying power through the years. I loved the organization of how orders were given from our general to the field commanders, and it was run smoothly by the fellow facilitating the game. The only disappointing thing was how quickly the game was over – I wanted to keep playing!
That’s all for part two, stop by tomorrow as we finish up our Gen Con 2016 recap as we discuss publisher innovations, and ideas to improve the convention for next year!