GenCon is the Mecca of gaming in the United States. The four-day event held in Indianapolis ran from July 30-August 2 in the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. There are all kinds of games, including board, card, role-playing, among others, and new games for the year are being debuted. It is a dream for a fan of gaming to be able to attend this event. It had a turnstile attendance of over 197,000 and 61,423 unique visitors to the convention center in Indianapolis.
I started collecting and playing board games (outside of Monopoly and Clue) about eight years ago. Since then, like everything I enjoy, I have obsessed over the hobby to a probably unhealthy level. Once you start getting involved in the world of board gaming, you learn about Gen Con. AND, if you live in Kentucky, you know it’s only just a few hours away. However, in all the planning and preparing in your mind, you can never truly be ready for your first Gen Con. I WAS NOT READY.
THURSDAY – 3:30 AM
“3:30 in the morning, in a house across town”… I was singing this the entire night before, because I got off work at 12:30 AM Thursday morning, knowing I was getting up at 3:30 to attend my first Gen Con. Why did I get up so early? I live in Cincinnati, which is only a two-hour drive, but the first 100 media members to pick up their press pass at 7:30 AM would get into the convention hall one hour earlier than the general admission folk. I was on a mission.
I was in the car by 4:00 AM, and determined to not fall asleep on my way to Indy. I had a one man dance party in the car to some of the most ridiculous songs you could imagine. Thank goodness it was dark, because my car looked somewhat like this:
At 6:00 on the dot, I roll into the Indiana Convention Center, looking quickly for the press room, trying to make sure I am one of the first 100 people there. I come around the corner and there is a line of about 15 people. I MADE IT. However, the next hour and a half are pretty boring, just a line of media members sitting, some trying to sleep, others meeting up with people they know. Most notably of people in line were some folks from “The Dice Tower” network, a podcast and video-cast network for board gaming. The guys from Blue Peg, Pink Peg were there, along with Chaz Marler of Pair of Dice Paradise. Chaz spent his time taking shots for a YouTube video with Marty Connell of “Rolling Dice and Taking Names” (Yes, I know you have no idea who these people are, but I was geeking out a little bit).
Promptly at 7:30, we get our press passes, our 9:00 AM early admission tickets, a coupon book and a bag to help carry your inevitable purchases. I left the room and didn’t really pay attention to the ticket to see which door I was going to be allowed to go in. So I just went to the first door I saw. However, after looking around, I saw some of the press pass line people going in another direction. I left my door and followed them around the corner, where I saw a line of about 200+ people waiting at the early entry door. Apparently all of the trade show people and families, along with the media members and V.I.G’s (Very Important Gamers) also got early access. The line by the time 9:00 AM rolled around was upwards of 1,000 people.
The doors opened, and once you got past the ticket takers, it was a mad dash to whatever booth you wanted to go to. The major rush went to the Asmodee booth (myself included) for the new game, Mysterium. (You can check out some linked games in our Gen Con Preview). I started to get in the Asmodee line, but it wrapped around the entire booth, so I went to Gale Force 9, the makers of the WWE Superstar Showdown game, because, of course I would. I also went to get my pre-order of Codenames. I picked up a few more games, before getting back in the Asmodee line, because I truly wanted the Ca$h-n-Guns expansion. The line was still wrapped around the booth, but this time I was greeted by an Asmodee representative. “Are you here for Mysterium?” he asked. I said, “maybe,” to which he replied, “well, we’re sold out, we’ll have 100 more tomorrow.” I had heard that this would be an issue after conventions of the past. The early entry people tend to buy up all of the good games, before general admission gets a shot at it. Sometimes these are the only times you can get these games, so people pay good money to show up and be disappointed.
So far, everything had been really peaceful. There were a thousand or so of us in the convention hall, but nothing can prepare you for when the general admission gets let in at 10. Since I’ve gotten back, I’ve equated it to this:
It’s mass hysteria. People are running from every which direction trying to get to the booth that has the game they want. Most people came straight to Asmodee for Mysterium. I had to be the bearer of bad news for most people, saying “Sorry, they’re sold out, come back tomorrow for a chance to buy one of the 100 copies they have.” It is almost impossible to explain to you how overwhelming this feeling is once there are 20,000 people all in one convention hall. I was kind of taken aback at this point, not really sure how to handle the situation. I remained in line for another 15 minutes (45 total) to get my expansion and a map for Formula D, a racing game. At this point, I felt it was time to stop spending money and start playing/demoing some of these games.
I went to the Stronghold Games booth to play the new Survive!: Space Attack. This game is a redesign of a 30 year old game called Survive!: Escape from Atlantis. The point of the game is that this space station is breaking apart, and you want to get your pieces from the middle of the board to one of the four corners. Each pawn you have has a number underneath, worth that many points. However, once you place it on the board, you can never look at its value again, so you need to remember where your high value pieces are. They’ve added in some new bits to the game, which make it a little more gamey, and much more cutthroat. I was greeted at the booth by the designer of the game, Geoff Engelstein, who sat down with me and two other gamers and actually taught us how to play the game. This was incredible, there are few other events where you can get a one-on-one (more or less) with the designer of a big game and them teach you how to play it. You will never get a better rules explanation than you would get from the person who made the game.
I also ventured over to check out two different games. Pretzel Games has a dexterity game called Flick ’em Up (which I got in the mail yesterday!). This is a wild west themed game, where you flick disks to both move and shoot your opponents in one of 10 different scenarios, or you can make up your own game with it. Pretzel Games had an oversized version of the game, including a shootout area, where you set up two characters, one on each end of the lane, and you flick a disk at the other trying to knock down your opponent. I went first and made my first shot from the length of the table. The components are amazing, and I can’t wait to check out the real game.
I also got to try out the expansion to CaSh ‘n Guns from Asmodee. I’ve done a review on the base game and the expansion really adds to the enjoyment of the game. There is a safe with mystery cards underneath that only the boss can get to, as well as “counterfeit” money, which may and or may not be real, depending on whoever is the boss at the end of the game and what they decide to do with it. It also comes with four new guns, including two that you can duel-wield, faking out your opponents on which is real and which is fake. I highly recommend this expansion to Ca$h n’ Guns.
At the end of my first pass through of the convention hall, I made my way to the AdMagic booth, which is a publisher of a random assortment of games. However, one that caught my eye was called Letter Tycoon, which had a Mensa approved sticker on it. It is a word game, in which you spell words with cards from your hand. The bigger the word, the more money you get. Then you can buy certain letters you used, so that any time anyone else uses that letter, you earn $1 for each use. The demoer who showed me the game, Max, did such a good job in his demo, I filmed it a second time to put up here:
I might be missing something that happened in the morning, but after my runthrough of the hall, I took my purchases to my car, and made my way out to the Food Truck Rodeo, where there were 40 food trucks lining the street.
After a long nap and a shower, I made my way to the Hyatt to take part in the IELLO media event. Who am I to pass up an open bar and appetizers? Once the fine folks of IELLO send me the pictures from the media event, I’ll do a proper post on it. However, they did announce a few games that looked awesome. Big Book of Madness was a Co-Op game where you play as students of this crazy school, and it has the largest library ever. However, there is this book that should never be opened (think pandora’s box). You of course open it, and now need to get all of the evil monsters back in. They also showed their fifth game in the Tales and Games series, which will be Little Red Riding Hood. This will be a path deduction game. Also, and most notably, they announced that they will be releasing a digital edition of King of Tokyo, which will have all redone art for the game. Oh, let me not forget they announced a game called Kitty Party, which was previously called “Taiwan Snackbar 2”. Yep.
For the rest of the evening, I went back to the hotel and unboxed the games I got from the day, taking a look at the components. Games are certainly much more well made these days than they were in the past. For each game I got at Gen Con, including Flick ‘Em Up (which I got in the mail), I will be doing a review as I get them played. However, mid-unboxing, I actually fell asleep, which was a sign to get some rest and prepare for Day 2.
FRIDAY – 10:30 AM
After sleeping much longer than I should have, I got out of bed and made my way over to the Convention hall. Upon entering the hall, I ran into a huge group of people playing a LEGO, motorized version of Robo Rally. The diversity of people, as you can see, includes children and older folk. It was pretty impressive to see.
I made my way over to the Gale Force Nine booth to talk to the CEO, John Kovaleski about WWE Superstar Showdown.
Superstar Showdown features six WWE “Superstars” pitted against one another in WWE matchups. Most of the names make sense, but Big E sticks out as someone who doesn’t fit in with the other five. Kovaleski’s response to this was, “WWE told us who to use.” Makes sense, they have a pretty good stranglehold on their brand. I also asked if there would be any expansions coming out in the future, and he hoped to have an expansion out by the holiday season. Word online has said that there is a Diva’s expansion coming, while Kovaleski told me he wanted to lead the game with Legends, including “Roddy Piper and Rick Savage”. I kind of let that one go, I’m sure he’s talked to a lot of people over these two days, but it did burn me up a little. I want my wrestling game makers to know everything about the WWE product, but again, I let it slide.
Kovaleski then took me to these custom bar top tables with the game board on them (above). He taught me the game in about two minutes, and found a stranger for me to face. I lost the first two games, but finally won the third after throwing my opponent out of the ring and letting him burn cards until he couldn’t do anything. This game is going to be a big hit, and with the expansions, including a referee one where you can position him so he can’t watch you cheat, I look forward to see what Gale Force Nine puts out.
I spent the remainder of my Friday, trying out new games including a small family game called Bad Beets. A game where you have eight beets in front of you, and you have to get rid of them by doing one of five options based on the card in your hand. However, you can claim you have a different card. If you say you’re going to feed the dog (give up three beets), and someone thinks you don’t have that card, they can call you out. If they’re right, you gain a beet, if they’re wrong, they get a beet. It was an OK game, but not one I would probably bring out to the table.
I had to pack it up Friday afternoon, mostly because I was exhausted. I walked around this huge convention center for the past two days, and my legs couldn’t take it anymore. When I go back next year, I’m going to work my way into some Tournaments and events so that I make sure to sit down a little more often. That being said, I am excited with how Gen Con 2015 went, and to finish this off, here is video of a few of the sights of the Gen Con 2015 dealer’s hall.
Did you go to Gen Con? What did you think? Let me know @rbramblet or @funkhouserksr