Guess who’s back! I am uploading some photos to the website and here is where you can read a bit about our trip to North America’s largest table-top gaming Convention, Gen Con.
First, the numbers. Something like 208,000 gamers descended upon Gen Con this year for its 50th anniversary.
Over 500 exhibitors and 16,000 events awaited us.
We took over the Indianapolis Convention Center, Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse and several of the major Hotels in the area.
The city was replete with a myriad of posters, banners and sandwich boards welcoming “Gen Con 50” and all of its attendees.
Almost every restaurant we visited in the area had Geek Art added to their menus and many of them had changed the name of their food items to geeky new names. Some had created a special Gen Con Menu just for the 5 days we were there or even Gen Con pricing. Indianapolis was prepared for us but were we prepared for Indianapolis?
I believe we were. Extra toilet paper in case the bathrooms run out? Check. Fun-sized hand sanitizer bottles to avoid contracting “Con Flu”? Check. Copious amounts of water bottles and granola bars tucked away in our carrying packs? Check. Hundreds of American dollars in our wallets to avoid the slight bump in conversion rates when using Canadian credit cards in the U.S.? Check. Badges, tickets, maps, coupon book, and wide-ranged walkie talkies to avoid costly cell phone charges so that we can communicate with our entourage? Check. The walkie talkies didn’t end up working very well and we don’t recommend them for future Cons. We kept picking up radio interference and conversation from other people.
As a team of Retailers, we left early to begin the Con experience with a special Trade Day on the 16th. Our Retailer Badges allowed us an entire first day with loads of special seminars and early access to everything except the exhibit hall. They also gained us access to the coveted Retailer’s Lounge on the 2nd floor of the Convention Center which we took full advantage of on multiple occasions. On the 17th we were able to get in to the Exhibit Hall exactly One Hour before the throngs of thousands of chanting gamers would burst through locked doors to join us. That one hour was very special, it was the only hour that Exhibit Hall wouldn’t be bursting at its seams for the rest of the Con.
We visited every publisher and vendor we could during that hour, not wasting time to demo any games or get distracted by long conversations, we were there to grab any hot titles we could before they would all be snapped up and made unavailable. We knew there would be time to chat and play games later. We were able to grab nine games in that hour, and the tenth game we picked up took us more than an hour to acquire because we had to stand in a winding line that barely moved due to a single point-of-sale station.
Other highlights of the trip include: 10 hour trip in my van with great friends. Buying beer from a gas station. Meeting new people including game designers, game publishers, other board game café owners, etc. Several informative seminars. Playing more Board Games than I normally get to play in a week. Spending kidless time with my wonderful wife. It really was a perfect trip for our crew and a dream come true. There are some other conventions out there I am interested in attending but I will definitely be going back to Gen Con.
GenCon GenCon GenCon!
What’s a GenCon? GenCon is short for Geneva Convention, the original name (and location, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin) of what is now the largest tabletop-game convention in North America. It is now in Indiana, Indianapolis every year. It was established in 1968 by Gary Gygax, who would go on to create Dungeons & Dragons. Last year there were over 60,000 attendants. This year is their 50th Anniversary, GenCon50. What have we signed ourselves up for?
But there it is, and here we are, four days ‘til GenCon and we are darn excited. There will be five of us, in my van, driving the 8-9 hour drive, staying together in some hotel, and heading to the Con-to-end-all-Cons each day. We have the privilege of attending the Trade Day on the 16th making this a 5-day convention for us, 4 days for noobs and casuals. Just kidding.
I don’t know quite what to expect. First timer. But we will post pictures and I am sure I will have some stories for the blog after we return. I am excited to check out a few new upcoming games such as Photosynthesis, Down Force, Viral, Crossfire, etc. I am excited to possibly get a bunch of sweet, sweet swag (Stuff We All Get) and game promos. I am hoping to meet some Game Designers and Publishers and ask them some questions. I am planning to attend a handful of interesting seminars. I am stoked about travelling with a group of people that I love and am blessed to get to work with. I am going to bring a prototype game of my own design or two to try out with roomies. And to be perfectly honest, a week with my lovely wife and no children might be the most exciting part of this whole trip. GenCon50 feels like a game of Coup, with ten coins, Contessa and the Assassin in hand. I can’t possibly lose.
I’ve got games on the brain these days. Have you ever wondered about what goes into the making of a Board Game? What the design process is like? What the production and publishing processes are like? I sure do. In fact, I am currently reading an excellent book called “Board Games That Tell Stories” by Ignacy Trzewiczek, a very successful Polish board game designer. This book is a collection of his blog posts during the years that he was working on some of his most successful games, such as Stronghold, 51st State, Pret-a-Porter, the New Era and Robinson Crusoe. The book is a fascinating window into the world of Board Game design.
I’ve been enjoying the book so much that it has inspired me to try my hand at Game Design. Have you ever designed your own Board Game? I sure have. I designed a Board Game with my friend over a decade ago while I was working for a window cleaning company based out of Burlington. We called it “Roam” and it was a tactical strategy game that had elves, humans and dwarves battling out with a bunch of dice rolling. It was sweet. We would discuss the game endlessly while cleaning windows, we worked on it after our work shift ended as well, tweaking the rules, balancing, play testing. We built a large prototype of the game and had a ton of fun just playing our made up game. No one else ever played it. Their loss.
So, I don’t know a TON about the industry honestly, but I am hoping to learn. I interviewed a Board Game designer, Jacob Chodoriwsky, designer of Stratos, last night. He was very kind to meet with me and very informative. I hope to chat more with him in the future. I’ll be looking to absorb information from anyone out there who would be willing to pass some education my way. I’ll be reading some books and working on some game ideas that I have. I might be attending a Board Game Designers night at Snakes & Lattes in Toronto, and may aim to host an event like that at the Monk. And who knows? Perhaps one day Mancala Monk will be able to offer you a Board Game of it’s very own creation. We will need play testers. Something tells me we won’t have a very hard time finding them.
So, I will be hard at work, designing new games from my own mind's imagination and discovering whether I am destined for design greatness or, perhaps, absolute rubbish. And you, reader of my little blog, will be the first to know about it.