Gen Con 50: fun had and lessons learned

Right now, I’m recovering from Gen Con 50, my first Gen Con, and the largest gaming convention I’ve ever attended by a good factor of 100. Their post-event press release claims that there were 60,000 unique attendees, and I believe it. The place was packed. I couldn’t even physically see most of the vendor booths until Saturday.

For those who are unfamiliar, Gen Con is a four-day convention in Indianapolis that celebrates gaming (mostly board and tabletop games). The main attractions are the massive vendor hall, with hundreds of booths, and the gaming events. These are mostly board games and pen-and-paper RPGs, but there was some video gaming too.

For five days, I played games, ate bad food, didn’t sleep well, and spent way too much money, so I think I did Gen Con right. That said, the work/fun ratio was a bit in the wrong direction, and that was mostly my fault.

Fun highlights

  • Played “Pressed!” (Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls) with Jerry Teleha, who gave all his participants a signed copy of his Darkshade Chronicles DC01: A Day in Baru-Kesh. Thanks Jerry!
  • Played “Some Dungeon Delve (Probably) Involving Bears” (Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls) with Bear Peters, one of T&T’s primary authors.
  • Played “Can You Survive Character Creation?” (Traveller5) with Traveller’s original author, Marc Miller. I took away two Traveller dice and various equipment cards (which aren’t yet for sale).
  • Played “Necropolis” (Call of Cthulhu 7th Ed) at Chaosium‘s official event hall.
  • Played Ascension, then bought it. This is a fantasy-themed deck-building card game. Deck-builders are my favorite board game genre, as it happens.
  • Played Fortune and Glory, then bought it. This is an Indiana Jones-themed adventure game.
  • Played Gloomhaven, a combat board game. I disliked this one, at first, but toward the end of the one-hour demo I warmed up to it a bit. I want to try it again sometime, but it’s not released until November.

Lessons learned

  • Get the hotel at the conference venue. This was the biggest negative of my Gen Con experience. My lodging was 15-20 minutes away from the Indiana Convention Center, so I had to commute to the con. This made it hard to take breaks, and made late-night events too difficult to be worth it. People staying a the hotels connected to the ICC effectively lived at the con. For future cons, I’m staying at the venue (if applicable), or I just won’t go.
  • Toll road transponders are my friends. I didn’t have any en route to Gen Con, and ended up paying more money and wasting time at toll plazas that I wouldn’t have had to do if I had a transponder. I’ll elaborate on this more in a future post.
  • Events, events, events. For me, the best time I had at Gen Con was participating in various gaming events. There are literally thousands of these; I did exactly four. The rest of my time was spent in the vendor hall, or wandering around aimlessly. For all future cons, I’ll keep myself much more thickly booked. This is easier to do if my room is at the con venue.

Gen Con was worth it. I’ll do it again someday, but armed with better ideas and better planning.