I promised to share some of my favorite things from Gen Con 2016. Let’s jump right in!
Concert Against Humanity – I’ve played some Cards Against Humanity, and in fact, even took part in some of their playtesting at Gen Con. On a whim (which in this case technically means ‘in response to a compelling email from Gen Con) I decided to give the Concert Against Humanity a try. Phwadamn. It was amazing. Hours of music and comedy, a fun loot bag, and just a spectacular evening out. Jonathan Coulton, Paul & Storm, Patrick Rothfuss, Molly Lewis, Aparna Nancherla, and more performed. I would rate this as “Must Do” for me during future Gen Con visits.
BGG Hot Games Room – This was an oasis of joy and fun inside a larger oasis of joy, fun, and crowds. The deal here was that, for two hours per tickets, lots of publishers donated games with lots of buzz and you could show up here and play them. BGG did a great job of limited people in the room (so ideally you should reserve your spot through the event system) so you had table and chair space. Games were first come, first served, so you may not get the tippy top one on your list right away, but you could surely find something of interest. It was cool, quiet, and a great way to game in a more low-key environment and try out great new games. Some publishers even had staff or demo crews on hand to help out, but in most cases you were on your own to learn to play the game. Another “Must Do” for me, I’d likely schedule time here every afternoon.
Wyrmwood Gaming – I had seen Wyrmwood Gaming items featured in a number of Kickstarters recently and was very interested in some of their dice boxes. They looked beautiful, but I didn’t want to pull the trigger. They were too pricey for me to buy sight unseen. They had a large booth loaded with their items at the show, and it was wonderful to get hands on their items. They look better and are of higher quality than I could have imagined. Truly breathtaking items that should be seen and handled to be believed.
Codenames: Pictures and Czech Games Edition – Codenames: Pictures is a wonderful continuation of the excellent Codenames game. Our crew was pleasantly surprised by how different the game was with the pictures. The art is outstanding and hilarious and I would probably buy t-shirts with card art on them. Stegaroo! The pictures are interestingly complicated and I spent a lot of time wondering how so many details were crammed in to the simple, crisp drawings. I should also mention the amazing Broken TokenCodenames organizer that lets you neatly fit both Codenames and Pictures in one of the original boxes.
Deadfall/Pairs – I have been a big fan of Cheapass Games for years, and a fan of Pairs since it came out. Deadfall is another great variant on the Pairs game which incorporates a strong Liar’s Dice style of play with betting to the Pairs world. It is a beautiful deck as well, but the true magic is you can play it with your favorite Pairs deck.
There were many more things that drew my eye and were great fun to play, but these were the items that left the biggest impression on me. What did you see or hear about that caught your eye?
This year was my first attending Gen Con in Indianapolis. My expectations were pretty mild. I am not a big fan of crowds, and to be honest, I tend to prefer my smaller groups of close friends for gaming experiences, especially for tabletop RPGs. That being said, I was very excited to go, and expected to have a good time. My hope was to check an item off of the bucket list with a nice “Been there, done that.”
So how was it? It exceeded my expectations in every way, and I would make it an annual pilgrimage if I could. Plans to make that a reality are afoot!
Why was it so rad? Let’s do six sides of awesome!
I went with a great group of friends. A big hats off to Scott, Kayne, Matt, and Bill. Four of us drove out and had an epic road trip. We played some Dear Leader during the drive and had a stop in Ohio for Skyline Chili and Graeter’s ice cream. Is chili the best food for a road trip? Mebbe not, but if the shoe fits…
We had a great hotel, though not one right by the convention center. We were close the airport, and the drive in was ten minutes and pretty much a straight shot with pretty much no traffic. We had a two bedroom suite with a third pullout bed, two bathrooms, and full kitchen. And free hot breakfast! And free internet! It was awesome! Oh, and our fifth person flew in and out, so that really helped with convenience for him.
The food trucks! A whole slew of food trucks every lunch and dinner (they rotated in the afternoon) was an awesome way to get a quick bite to eat that was reasonably priced and typically great quality. There was also a really great coffee shop right next to where the food trucks were as well, Bee Coffee Roasters. There coffee was great (and essential to my functioning) and they were super cool.
Which brings me to another point. Indianapolis really opened their doors to Gen Con. I’d read comments like this, but I really saw it in action. I really felt welcomed and wanted and valued every where I went. Great experiences from one restaurant to the next, to Uber drivers, hotel staff, convention center staff, everyone.
The people were wonderful. Tens of thousands of gamers descended on Gen Con, and pretty much everyone I chatted with was awesome. I tend toward introversion, but I made a conscious effort to talk to people around me nearly all the time I was at Gen Con. It was a great decision because I met a ton of cool people doing rad things at an epic convention. I also spent a fair amount of time in lines, so what else are you going to do? Wednesday night, we stood in the will call line for a while. (I’ll write some more on this in my upcoming “things not to do” post) I ended up chatting the whole time with two fellows, and it was great. In hindsight, I wish I did a better job of writing down names or snapping pics of badges. One was from Tennessee and the other from Iowa and both had been to Gen Con multiple times before. They gave me great tips and we just had fun comparing stories, what gaming do we do, what we were looking forward to, and more. And this type of interaction repeated itself again, and again, and again. All show long, I reflected on a comment from my linemate from Iowa. He mentioned the opening remarks and how the host will say something like “welcome home” and how this reflected the camaraderie of the show. It struck me as quaint but unlikely to my virgin ears, but he was right. It felt like I was with friends the whole time I was there.
It was huge! I was blown away. I go to trade shows pretty regularly for my job, and some big ones. Or so I thought. It was enormous. The whole convention center! And spilling over skyways to four or maybe five hotels connected! And to the stadium next door! I was walking about 9 miles a day while I was there and doing something from 8 AM until 1 or 2 in the morning pretty much every day.
I’ll do a couple more posts on Gen Con. Next I’ll cover a few things I would do differently going to future Gen Con events. After that, I’ll write up the really special stuff I saw or played while I was there.
We had a great time with our play of Troyes. There were a few rule misinterpretations during the game, but we sorted them out without much trouble. For example, in the first turn, when a player was out of dice in their quarter, they didn’t make any further plays. However, we quickly realized our error and corrected it in subsequent turns.
The game was very strong, and was surprisingly well recieved by the group. I say surprisingly because not all of us are Euro-gamers. The great art and the variety of actions quickly pulled us all in.
Upon some reflection, the theme does feel pasted on. However, that really didn’t detract from the look of the game nor the quality of the gameplay.
An exceptional positive is the depth to this game. As all brand new players, we started to see goals and plays. However, not being familiar with the event, activity, and character cards, the play should deepen quite a bit as players become more familiar with the game. Adding that element of deduction to the game as well as speculating on what activities or events may or may not come up offers tremendous potential to an already strong game.
We had a good time with our play through of Earth Reborn the other week, but upon completion, I had a big mess. I had a heap of counters and one cryptically compartmentalized vacuum tray in the box to figure it out.
The solution to these problems is always just a few clicks away at boardgamegeek.com and this was no exception. I found an outstanding guide to packing here:
That thread also had a link to a nice official file showing where the bits go in the tray. This took some geometric wrestling in my head to interpret, but once I “got it” things went back in the box pretty quickly.
All of that is really just preamble to my main point. It took me maybe 30 minutes to sort and place the different counters. It was a Sunday afternoon, my youngest was napping, and it was profoundly enjoyable. I find something quite therapeutic in carefully organizing a good board game and this was no exception.
Last evening, we did a play through of the first scenario of Earth Reborn. I was the “rules master” for this and did an adequate but not exceptional job of leading Adam and Denny through the basic rules and the first scenario.
The game was surprisingly well received, given that this is not the type of game either Denny or Adam would identify as in their wheelhouse. I think we are all quite excited about that though. Just a few games in, and this adventure has already given us exposure and playtime to games we may not have pulled off of the shelf otherwise.
The rule book and scenarios are explicitly laid out to guide you through learning the rules. In the first scenario, you employ the basic rules like turn order and actions. These are filled out with movement and close combat. That’s it. Given the amount of rules, I think this was an excellent decision and through the first scenario, everything was well laid out and accessible to first time players.
The bits were quite nice, though there were a ton of them. Punching and setting up the game took nearly as much time as playing the first scenario. It is also still sprawled over my table awaiting clean up and organization.
We’ll have some videos and a more thorough write up soon.
We just completed our play of A la carte, and it was delicious!
Pat read the rules beforehand and walked Denny and I through. As we remarked when we opened up the game, the components are extremely high quality. In this case, the physical nature of the game really supports that. I don’t think the expense of the components is wasted; rather, it spices up the game nicely.
It took us just under an hour to finish our game, and I think you could reasonably trim that time even further as you get comfortable with it. The rules were very well laid out, and Pat did a good job shepherding us along. This was a very easy game to get on the table, and I imagine it will continue to spend time there.