Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Two Sheep, Some Goblins, and a Whole Mess of Whovians

Gen Con 2013 is now in the books.

As we've done the past two years, we made a trek up to Indianapolis for Sunday's Family Fun Day.  For $30, a family of four can get into Gen Con and wander around, the entire area.  If you wanted to play any of the events on Sunday, you have to pay for the tokens, but I've found that you get to run enough demos and talk to the vendors in the dealer hall without needing to join in a scheduled game.*

Two Pirates, a Klingon, a Belly Dancer, and a Wookie
start a band....

Before we even got into the convention center, Mayfair Games was hosting Free Coffee just across the street along with their sheep mascots, Bob and Angus.**  Alas, we just missed the last of the coffee, but since we'd bought our badges online we breezed through Will Call to pick up our badges.  Good thing too, as the line for purchasing badges was incredibly long even early in the day.

We roamed the con with my brother-in-law, who has been coming for years and typically shows up on Wednesday --yes, before the con starts-- just so he can hang out with his friends.  We stopped by the Paizo booth, and the kids got to meet Sean K. Reynolds while he was out and about.  There were goblins everywhere in the Paizo booth, and even goblin masks to wear.  I think if we'd had more time the kids would have probably rummaged through all of the Pathfinder material a bit longer, but Paizo was truly busy the entire day.  Having Ed Greenwood and other authors nearby signing copies of their work certainly didn't hurt either.

Ruling over the D&D Ballroom was Lolth, the Demon Queen of Spiders (and Drow).
And no, a +5 Roll of Newpaper won't help you much with her.

Other places, such as Mayfair Games and Fantasy Flight Games, were running a lot of demos in their spaces.  My wife and I tried a Eurogame, called Planet Steam, which a very heavy economic game.  Heavy doesn't begin to describe it, really; if you like games that have LOTS of functioning options, and then throw in a few things like an auction or two each turn, then maybe you'll like it.  All I can say is that I don't have an MBA, so this sort of game didn't appeal to me.

While I got a chance to slip out and look around***, the rest of the crew tried out some family oriented games such as Spot It! Party Edition by Blue Orange Games and "Run for Your Life, Candyman!" by Smirk and Dagger Games.  Neither would be confused with a deep boardgame, but they were fun and engaging.  I could easily see the Spot It! games being "modified" for use as a drinking game, which would really cause trouble if you get a few beers in you.

The kids just about went bananas over the Who North America booth, complete with TARDIS and a Dalek.  I was actually quite surprised when they decided not to splurge on the Doctor Who - Adventures in Time and Space RPG by Cubicle Seven, but I was informed that since they could get it at one of our local game stores, that wasn't a high priority for them.  But getting a soundtrack was a bit more important.

What, you were expecting River Song?

While I perused the RPG areas****, I discovered that the gaming community has changed.  Even in the past three years, the number of women and families attending Gen Con have gone up.  Yes, I realize that with a name like Family Fun Day you'd expect to see families there, but the sheer number of families keeps on an upward trend.  Just like how the old myth that only teenage boys swilling Monster and Red Bull play MMOs has been pretty much busted, the belief that only nerdy guys who live in their parents' basement play RPGs (and boardgames) has been shattered by the attendees at Gen Con.  

This is a good thing.

There are a lot of fun games out there that people can get together with friends and spend an evening playing, but the stigma of who and what are gamers can turn some people away.  Just like how we MMO bloggers by our mere presence fight the stereotypes that you see splashed all over the media, pencil-and-paper gamers can fight their own stereotypes by welcoming the next generation into the fold.

Besides, these games are a lot of fun, and it's a shame to keep them to yourself.

*That said, the Sagamore Ballroom was filled with people playing Paizo's Pathfinder RPG, and the D&D Hall had a lot of gamers trying out D&D Next as well.  We didn't make it up to the Games on Demand area, but I was told that the place was packed all weekend long with gamers trying out all sorts of different RPGs.

**Never played Settlers of Catan?  Go hence and track down a copy.  You can find them all over, and even in discount stores in the U.S. (such as Target).

***And meet up with an author friend of mine who was in for the Writer's Symposium.  After having talked with him over the past several years, it was good to finally meet up with him in person, if only for about 15 minutes before he had to leave for home.

****Some of the RPG vendors I checked out and talked to included Troll Lord Games (Castles and Crusades), Catalyst (Shadowrun), the Indie Press Revolution booth (including FATE Core and Dresden Files from Evil Hat Games and Dungeon World from Sage Kobold Productions), and Green Ronin (both the Dragon Age and the Champions RPGs). Wizards of the Coast didn't have a vendor area, but had their own section near the main exhibit hall where they were running massive playtest games of D&D Next.  The so-called "grumpy game owner" of years past has begun to give way to a more business savvy and customer friendly version.  Really, you pretty much have to be friendly if you want to stay in business for any length of time. About the only exception to that rule was Steve Jobs, and he could get away with being obnoxious because he was Steve Jobs.


  1. That sounds like it was a lot fun, worth it for the TARDIS alone!

    To my knowledge nothing good ever comes to the Wash. DC area, they're probably avoiding all the politicians. Can't say I blame them.

    1. True, but it does give you an excuse to visit the Midwest! I'll also be honest in that the Indianapolis Children's Museum is also worth a visit, as while it is technically a "children's museum" it encompasses most other things that would be covered by more adult science and natural history museums. Indianapolis has come a long way from the "Indiana-no-place" derisive moniker that other Midwestern cities (including my own) used to foist on it.

      One thing about Gen Con is that if you're not fond of big crowds, then Gen Con is probably not for you. It's about as big as E3, but it is a bit smaller than the Calgary Expo or DragonCon. (And dwarfed by the two PAX cons and the New York and SD Comic Cons, but that goes without saying.)

      BlizzCon, by comparison, is much smaller.

      I know of some author friends who go to regular SFF and romance oriented events around the greater DC area. It's not the same as a Gen Con, but it does scratch that Science Fiction and Fantasy itch.