Monday, August 8, 2022

Gen Con 2022: It's Good to be Back

Guess who just got back today?
Them wild-eyed boys that had been away
Haven't changed, had much to say
But man, I still think them cats are crazy
--Thin Lizzy, The Boys are Back in Town

(I added a jump break because, well... There's a lot of photos from both my son and myself.)

If there's one truism about a trip to Gen Con, it's that I don't get a lot of sleep the night before.

Not because of excitement, although I was looking forward to going for the first time since 2013 (ish), but because of.... Whatever.

In this case, I'd set things up to get around 6 hours of sleep, which would have been perfectly fine for me, but I woke up after 4 hours, wide awake, and I couldn't do anything about it. And I just knew what it was going to mean in the end: I'd be tired on the drive back home, and I'd be hunting for a rest stop so I could zonk for 1/2 hour.

But still, I did try to rest, so that kind of helped.

All things considering, we got off to a pretty decent start, although we had a rabbit in our front yard right by the driver's side door that simply refused to move when I wanted to get in and leave.

"Come on, buddy," I told the rabbit, "you've gotta move. I have to go now."

After about 10-15 seconds of staring at me, the rabbit finally hopped a couple of times and let me in.


This year it was just my son and I, as my wife took a pass at being around crowds, my youngest had other commitments, and my oldest was going to get her SO back from Interlochen, where they were an instructor this Summer. Given that I was fully vaxxed and that Gen Con had a "mask on" policy the entire convention, I was reasonably confident that things would be fine. Still, I was a bit nervous when we got in line for having our vaccination status verified, 

but I need not have worried. We zipped right on through the (small) line and secured our verification tag.

In what became the theme of our Gen Con trip, we arrived at Will Call for our tickets and said "Well, the line doesn't seem to be too long." About 5-10 minutes later, we got through the line and got our badges. (You need your vaccination status verified before picking up your badge.) We turned around and....

The line stretched almost to the bend in the hall. 

"We got here at just the right time," my son observed.

Gen Con had made some changes in the years since we'd been away. They were already more inclusive than you'd expect out of a gaming convention based in the (conservative) Heartland of the US, but they've since gone the extra mile. 

You could attach these to your badge
to help people know what pronoun
you wished to go by.

The attachments shown above weren't required --I didn't bother, and neither did my son-- but if you wished to you could attach them without much of an issue. I can imagine that there were a few people who raised a stink about it, but given that it was an entirely optional thing I fail to see what the big deal is.

Another change that Gen Con had made while we were away was the designation of Cosplay Photo Area. 

Oh thank goodness.

This was outside one of the entrances to the main hall, so it was easily found. 

The Cosplay Photo Area solved what was a major problem at Gen Con, particularly on Saturday when the Cosplay Parade was in full swing: people taking pictures of cosplayers and clogging up the hallways. Rather than causing a traffic jam, here was a spot for cosplayers who wanted to have their pictures taken --and their efforts acknowledged-- in an open area without the claustrophobia of the main hall or the crowds in the hallways of the convention center. It is still considered polite to ask a cosplayer if it was okay to take a pic, but I found that to not be much of an issue.

We took advantage of the photo area to get some photos in:

I was told by my son
this is a character from
FF 10.

The Rapunzel was
incredibly cute.

I had a good chuckle over
this cosplay.

The steampunk is
strong here.

Apparently from
an anime, but not
sure which.


The overall format of Gen Con hadn't changed much, however. 

There was the main Exhibit Hall, where most of the dealers were located and most of the crowd could be found. If nothing else, you will find a game here that will interest you. If you can't find a game, maybe a t-shirt. Or some geeky leather armor. Or some renaissance/geek clothing. Or a video. Or a book. Or artwork. Or if you just want to people watch, this is the place to go.

When my son and I entered the Hall, the first booth we visited was one we've seen every year we attended Gen Con, Dwarven Forge. When you play RPGs long enough, you will encounter fans of Stefan Pokorny's company. Dwarven Forge attempts to bring backgrounds to life, so that gaming groups can immerse themselves in the worlds that they are playing in. To say that the designs of Dwarven Forge are amazing is an understatement:

Yes, the 'lava' lights up. There was
even smoke rising from it!

If I won the lottery...

I realize that if you're a purist you're not going to be interested in Dwarven Forge's creations, but boy are they beautiful to look at.

There were displays that caught my eye but didn't get a chance to do more than take a passing glance at them. For example, this banner that Mystery fans might be interested in:

I see Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot.
Modiphus was doing brisk business with
their Dune and Spectre (James Bond)
offerings, so I didn't get a chance
to ask about this one.

There were also companies that specialized in other accessories, such as dice:

Someone once said you can't have
too many dice...

Ironically enough, Paizo had an Exibitor Badge for its iconic Goblin:

Kudos to my son for catching this.
I failed my Observation roll.

You couldn't miss the Paizo area:

The poster of Iconic characters is now
so large that they'll have to break it into
two sections soon.

And no Dealer Hall would be complete without representation by Games Workshop:

That's a mighty big gun there.

For parents with kids, and for the kid in everyone, the Family Fun Pavilion has a subsection of the Exhibit Hall. Companies with games targeting the wee set --along with playtest areas so gamers of all ages can try out the games-- are found in this space. One of the most popular games I found was this one:

This banner ad was in the main hallway
outside of the Exhibit Hall. USAopoly
knows their target audience well.

There was a line for playtesting the Sorcerer's Arena game, so we didn't get a chance to try it out, but I did grab a pic of the official layout behind a glass display case:

It really looks interesting.

A large subsection of the Exhibit Hall was entitled "Art Show, Author's Avenue, and Entertainers". Here was where you'd find the artworks, comics/graphic novels, and books for sale, typically with the creators themselves in attendance. I was on the lookout for art for one of my WoW friends, so I spent a lot of time hanging out here. Here's just a couple of selections that I perused:

These are 11"x17".
You could also get them
printed on metal (!).

That print was 11"x17".

I wish I could afford to put art that I found there up around a game room in the house --well, finishing a game room is still in the "pipe dream" stage-- but I'd have to rotate the artwork on a regular basis to accommodate all of the art I'd love to buy. But since I can't afford that, it's kind of a non-starter. But seriously, I just love the creative vibe in that place.

If there was one area that I didn't make eye contact with it was in the authors area. I wouldn't have minded actually perusing the stacks of books there, but a subset of authors remind me of car salesmen in how aggressive they are in pursuing your dollars. I get that they want to make a sale and promote their works, but give it a rest, people.


While the Exhibit Hall commands the lion's share of attention, there's far more to Gen Con than just that place.

There were officially designated areas and rooms for games to be played throughout the entirety of Gen Con, which was what attracted a lot of gamers --particularly those here for multiple days-- to the convention. The size of the areas ranged from huge companies/games such as the Paizo and Magic: the Gathering areas, to the midrange such as Goodman Games (Dungeon Crawl Classics) and Bandai out in Lucas Oil Stadium*, to the small such as Catalyst Game Labs (Shadowrun) and Funko Games. There were also rooms sponsored by organizations, such as Cincinnati Arsenal Gaming and Ottawa Red Shirts, as well as areas for special activities for game designers, such as the First Exposure Playtest Hall.

You could also find musicians in various locales throughout the convention center, such as this group:

I think they were playing some Zelda
at the time.

We missed the huge card sculptures of Cardhalla this year, as the huge playing card sculptures are destroyed on Saturday after the Cosplay Parade. But we did get to see the balloon sculpture of Genevieve:

Yes, those are all balloons.

And for those who are hungry, in addition to the restaurants in the area there were plenty of food trucks right outside the convention center:

I wish I could eat there, but
too risky at this time.


Another attraction for multi-day Gen Con attendees were the Events.

Okay, there were a ton of different activites that fell under the umbrella name of Events. For example, there were Seminars with titles like the following:
  • Best New RPGs for Kids
  • So You Want to Write
  • Horror in Gaming
  • Improvisation Workshop for Players
  • Storybuilding in Books and Games: Gamemastering for the Writer, Writing for the Gamemaster
In addition to Seminars such as those, Events also encompassed games for all sorts of types and genres. If you wanted to run a specific game for a designated time, you could create an Event for it and have people sign up to play it. If you wanted to play in one of these, you could sign up or get "generic" Event tickets so that if there was a no-show you could hop in and take their place. So games such as:
  • Catan 3D (Settlers of Catan)
  • The Fall of Catopia (D&D 5e)
  • A Taste of Madness (Call of Cthulhu, 7th Ed)
  • Eye for an Eye (Pathfinder 1e)
  • 7 Wonders
  • Dixit
  • The Third Wave (AD&D 1e)
were available to sign up for and play. Yes, there's a ton of popular content, such as Pathfinder and D&D 5e and Catan, but there was also more obscure stuff to play as well, such as homebrew game adventures tailored for a convention format. 

There were also events that fit into the Gen Con Film Festival, music, or other geeky activities, such as:
  • Dan the Bard LIVE!
  • Anime Family Feud: Shonen Edition
  • Mikey Mason: Gaming Anthems
  • Animal Crossing Painting
Finally there are Events for people who just want something other than the Geek Overload that is Gen Con:
  • Tai Chi
  • Learn to Knit 1
  • Ceilidh Dance for Everyone
  • Decoding Downtown Walking Tour
  • Crochet Mandala
  • Haunted Indy Walking Tour
The signups had completely moved online, at the Gen Con Events part of the Gen Con website, and clicking on an Event provides details, like so:

Pretty nice summary, here.
Kudos to the GM, Nancy.


Okay, enough overview. How'd things go?

Pretty damned good, to be honest.

My son and I were going to be there only one day, so we pretty much wrote off attending any events. The tables scattered throughout the Exhibit Hall for playtesting games were pretty much all packed, and those that we saw that were free were for the hardcore Eurogames that the two of us simply aren't that interested in. 

I did enjoy checking out the offerings from some of the RPG settings that can get lost underneath the giants that are D&D and Pathfinder. You know, games such as Traveller, Ars Magica, Savage Worlds, Shadowrun, Star Trek Adventures, Runequest, and Call of Cthulhu. There was so much ground to cover that I missed looking at other RPGs I wanted to check out, such as FATE, but there were only so many hours in a day. 

As for boardgames, I kind of glossed over them this time around. I mean, I did check out Catan and some of the other gaming companies, but I didn't want to stop at just about every booth just to check out their offerings. My budget was limited, and I didn't want to spend my entire time at Gen Con visiting every booth that had an interesting game.**

After an hour in the Exhibit Hall, my left shoulder began bothering me. I'd been fighting issues with it the past 8 or 9 months, and it decided to surprise me by bugging me for a few hours on Sunday. It's not like I was putting a lot of weight on my shoulder, as my backpack was empty at the time***, but until about 2 in the afternoon it was a bit of a struggle to get my shoulder comfortable.

Lunch for myself proved to be less of a problem than you'd have thought. I knew the nearby downtown mall had a food court, so we didn't hit a food truck with it's attendant risks of high salt foods and instead ended up at the Taco Bell. It's still not the greatest in terms of salt content, but the crunchy taco easily fit into my carbohydrate restrictions****, so I knew what I was getting into when I got some crunchy tacos and a drink. 

Medically speaking, I was in pretty good shape for this Gen Con. My feet started aching about 1 PM from all the walking on concrete, but it was a good problem to have given that I'd have likely not been able to walk that much at all a year ago. The only thing I had to keep an eye on was my blood glucose, but outside of needing to pop a few M&Ms when my levels began to drop below 70 things stayed under control. 

Still, it was good to be back. The prices of admission for Sunday --known as Family Fun Day-- were considerably cheaper than the other days of Gen Con, and even though my son no longer qualifies for free admission as a kid it was a great bonding experience.

I'm already looking forward to next year.


*I guess that's why the Indianapolis Colts weren't around this weekend.

**And yes, that was just about all of the booths there.

***Big brain strats there: bring an empty backpack so that when you buy things they can go into said backpack. And since it was empty, there's no contraband (such as alcohol) to worry about if a security guard wanted to inspect it.

****It looks like Taco Bell changed their soft taco tortillas based on a quick perusal of their nutrition for this post. They used to be 30g of carbs per soft taco vs. 13 for a crunchy taco, but now it's 18g of carbs for a soft taco. Still, the flour tortilla does have more salt than a corn based crunchy shell, so it's more of an alternate solution if I really need one.


  1. Thanks for taking us along to Gen Con. I always pictured it as a place where you could get in at a table and try out lots of board games new and old. I’m a bit disappointed to hear there are lines to play. Even so, the place looks lively. Atheren

    1. Atheren, those lines were for trying out games at the Exhibit Hall. Those playtest areas had a person there, a volunteer or employee of the company that makes the games, present to actually explain the game and get you going. (And answer questions along the way.) There are absolutely tons of Events you can sign up for, and there are also absolutely tons of spaces in the halls for pick up games. There's even a space where you can just plop yourself down and play a game off of the shelves; it's called the Game Library, and it was found in Lucas Oil Stadium. Here's the info for the Friday version you could sign up for: GEN CON GAMES LIBRARY FRIDAY DAYTIME PASS

      But the lines were actually a good thing, as it meant that people were back to playing games at the convention. I suppose that if you wanted to wait a few, you could get in and try a game out without much fuss, but my son and I wanted to maximize our time spent so we decided to focus on looking at the different booths instead. If my wife were with me, I'd have likely stopped and playtested a few games because that's what she likes doing.

  2. That sounds like a lot of fun, love all the pictures. I got to be there without leaving home. TotA

    1. You know, there is a Gen Con Online option if you want to follow stuff...