Gen Con 2016 is gone and over, just as quickly as it approached Indianapolis over this past Thursday-Sunday weekend. Just as it happens every year, the excitement for the new crop of cardboard filled the Indiana Convention Center. I only got to spend one, eight-hour day in the convention hall, but I tried to see as much as I possibly could. So, here are some news & notes from Gen Con 2016.
Make Friends Early
When you only get one day at Gen Con, and specifically Thursday, you are bound to have a very early start to your day. I left my house in Cincinnati at 3:15 in the morning to get to the press pass line as early as possible. The way media passes work at Gen Con, the first 90 media members to pick up their press badges get a ticket to get one hour early access to the vendor hall, along with all of the “Very Important Gamers” (VIG) and store owners. This single hour is very important to be able to get one-on-one access to designers, companies, and the opportunity to see games before the mass crowd enters the convention hall. Arriving at 5:15, I was the third person in line. With two hours of time to wait, I was able to meet some new people, Chris, Jimmy and Philip from Baltimore, who have a couple of podcasts between the three of them. About 6:00, our friends from Blue Peg, Pink Peg arrived, making the next hour and a half pass pretty quickly. Side note: make sure if you’re driving two hours to a convention, and you need ID… Bring ID… Because I did not. Luckily I got in with a voided Kentucky drivers license from about five years ago. Otherwise, this report wouldn’t have happened.
There was also controversy before the doors even opened. After receiving our early entry tickets, we have to move from one side of the building to the other to wait in another line for about an hour. During that time, while waiting in the usual line, a second line on the other side of the hallway began to form. People at the front of our line began to get visibly upset that these “new line” people were going to get in ahead of them. Yelling and shouting ensued. Apparently people saw a handicapped line, which would feed into the main line, and assumed it was a second line. Oh man, were people mad.
— Richmond Bramblet (@rbramblet) August 4, 2016
So, what did Gen Con decide was the best option to deal with this second line? Did they make them turn around and get in the back of the main line. Nope! Let’s just push the two lines together in to one mega line.
— Richmond Bramblet (@rbramblet) August 4, 2016
It all worked out fine though and everyone was happy in the end, but man, it got tense for a bit.
Make Decisions on What You Think You Can’t Live Without
When the doors open to the convention hall, it is a mad rush to try and buy whatever games you want before the sea of humanity engulfs your favorite company’s table. It’s an interesting thing to be in the middle of. With the one hour early ticket that I got, you have time to bounce between booths to snatch up a couple of the games that you really wanted. Robb from Blue Peg, Pink Peg made his way to the SeaFall booth early, only to be told that they aren’t selling any copies to media until 10AM. I’m not sure if he got his copy, but he was definitely still there at 10 AM with a gold coin in his hand.
In that opening hour, I was able to pick up a couple of games that will be seeing reviews here on Funkhouser including games I mentioned in my Gen Con Preview – Last Friday, America and Cry Havoc. These games will not be out to the public until late August or early September, so we will give you previews of these games as quickly as we possibly can. After the main doors opened at 10:00 AM, these games went quickly. Last Friday and Cry Havoc both sold out before the end of the con, Cry Havoc on the first day. The Networks, a game we reviewed after Origins, also sold out, among many, many other games. The first 30 minutes of Gen Con is all about calculating your wants and where you think you have the best opportunity to get a game that you know you’re going to want, and would be willing to miss out on other purchases if you have to wait in line.
I also had a nice surprise in seeing a college friend who works for Bananagrams made her way to the convention. Bananagrams has a partnered to distribute games from a British company called Big Potato Games. They are specializing in party games that are exclusively being distributed at Target. Games like Obama Llama, Mr. Lister’s Quiz Shootout and Scrawl. We’ve got a couple of these games and will let you know what we think of them once we get them played. Looking forward most to Scrawl, which is an adult party game close to Telestrations, which is essentially “telephone” in drawing form.
A good portion of day one, especially if you only have one day at Gen Con is going to be spent trying to sit down and demo some games that are either just being released on day one -OR- previews of games that haven’t been released yet. I took about an hour of my eight hour day to sit down and play a round of the new Ticket To Ride game “Ticket To Ride – Rails and Sails”. In this new version of TTR, you have access to both trains and ships, where you still need to connect the necessary routes based on the train ticket cards you draw. Two maps come with the game, one is a world map, which connects from either side of the board, and the other is a map of the great lakes region (which according to people who I was playing with who live in that area, isn’t overly to scale). The game was OK, not something that I would encourage people to seek out at the $80 price tag.
The game itself is almost too fiddly for what Ticket to Ride is supposed to be. You separate the train and ship cards into different draw stacks, but can choose to fill the six card array with either card after you draw one. Then when you make discard piles, you have to remember to separate the train and ship cards into their own specific discard piles. The cards themselves are hard enough to figure out the difference between the two cards, and the iconography on the card for that is WAY too small. I found myself during the game just looking at my cards when planning routes going, “OK, I have three yellows, wait, one of those is a train, the other is a ship and a double ship, so I can’t go that way.” It took the speed out of what is a pretty good entry level game, and added time, not into strategy, but trying to figure out what kind of cards you had in your hand. There are some other added rules to the game which I thought brought a nice flavor, but I don’t really have much of a desire to play this one again, and that’s a shame.
Lastly, Take Time To Just Walk Around and See The Ridiculousness that is Gen Con
There are so many things going on inside (and outside) of the convention hall that it’s hard sometimes to put into words. You have Cosplayers, mega sized board games, people playing games in the hall, in side rooms, on random couches. Gen Con is a dream place to be if you are a lover of board games, even if it is stressful and overwhelming at times. But what is cool is that, through the weekend, you’re surrounded by 60,000+ individuals who share the same love for the hobby that you do, and are willing to hang out for four days around the crazy sights of Gen Con. If I had to choose between Gen Con and Origins, I choose Origins, mainly because it’s a convention to PLAY games. Gen Con is amazing for just the fact to SEE games. Sure you get to demo from time to time, but if your plan is to take in every bit of Gen Con, you’re going to see a lot of games and only get to play a few during the day.
But, as a whole, Gen Con earns its reputation as the best attended gaming convention in the world, and I look forward to making an appearance at 2017, the 50th annual Gen Con. But until then, enjoy some pictures from the Gen Con floor, and we’ll have game previews and reviews for you soon from what we picked up at the convention.