Tag Archives: GenCon

The Long Con

Another GenCon Indy has come and gone. In celebration of surviving the annual pilgrimage, here are some quick tips for outlasting four or more days of pure indoor living.

Strategic Food Outcomes

By stigma and stereotype gamers, comic book fans and geek aficionados are not considered the healthiest demographic. Couple that with a nerd culture that is damn near synonymous with Hot Pockets and Mountain Dew. Now consider that thousands of people enjoying accommodations in the hospitality industry with commercial vendors and restaurants as their only food source.

What you have is a perfect storm of garbage eating. You’re going to have the strong temptation to eat whatever is delicious (because hey, it is a vacation after all!) and whatever is readily available. During this last con I had Starburst for breakfast and at least one day where I ate 1500 calories worth of pasta, pizza, breadsticks and Cherry Coke at a Fazoli’s.

This isn’t a preach about eating better or losing weight. The simple fact is that the best four days of gaming is a marathon, and you need to do whatever you can to stay energized for maximum satisfaction. Half a week of chips and candy will bring anyone to a crawl and dehydrate you. It will also carve a hole in the wallet where sweet games, comics and merchandise could go instead.

Go in with a food strategy, stay hydrated and bring snacks where possible for the best results.

Pack For Bear

Aside from the snacks and water you should already be toting, you’ll need enough space for your phone charger, spare clothes, entertainment, and all the swag you are going to buy/win and any other essentials you find necessary. That means you’ll need a pretty serious bag. And you need something you can carry around for up to 18 hours of standing and walking.

My suggestion is a backpack, which we do see a lot of at conventions. Tote bags, hand bags, fanny packs, plastic cases and pretty much everything else can be spotted at a sizable con, but a backpack is, pound for pound, the best choice you can make if you’re in it for the long haul.

You Need The Me Time

Most of us only get to go to a few conventions a year. When we go, we want to go hard. During our trip we would wake up at five or six in the morning and not get back to the hotel until midnight or later. By Saturday, members of our party were hurting for some rest. Unless you’re a vendor or someone else there to promote a brand, it’s a great idea to plan out some time to decompress.

Not to mention a great way to alleviate the aches of walking all day. Almost anyone, regardless of physical fitness level or convention veteran status is going to be feeling it after a couple days, especially if you’re following our second suggestion.

Pick a morning to sleep in or take an afternoon to play some games with friends. Read a book or listen to some music. And definitely get away get out of the artificial lights and Cheetos stank of the convention center for a while. Most conventions take place in landmark cities that deserve to be explored.

Con With Purpose

During GenCon this year there was a Dance of the Dead masquerade. It was held in the ballroom of Indianapolis’ Union Station area. While 20130819-162610.jpgdancing and mixing it up with other guests, I noticed a body sprawled on the ground next to the dance floor. For a moment I thought someone had literally died, raising the irony level considerably. That was until he refreshed the screen on his Nintendo DS and I realized he was gaming.

If you’re going to make a full trip to a convention, do it with purpose. Figure out what it is you like and find it. It may very well be that our friend lying on the dance floor was taking my advice to get a little me time, but it struck me as an odd location. And it also made me think that was time he could be spending doing something not normally available at home.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Con Alone

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Nothing sounds worse than traveling to a strange city alone for a massive convention.

I look forward to next year knowing that The Con is a marathon and I need to stop sprinting.

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Gen Con II: The Wrath of Con

In which we avoid crying cat girl, meet John’s GenCon crush and defeat the scourge of metropolitan parking.

Day One of Gen Con is always a chaos. You always forget something. Sometimes something really important. And you always struggle with Indianapolis traffic, regardless of day or time.

However, yesterday was delightful as me and TJ, and newcomers Tyler and Miranda, got our bearings at Gen Con 2013.
Per the usual, parking was a 40 minute affair. Not one, but two garages put “full” signs up only minutes after we entered. Still, we did find something for only ten dollars. Having defeated parking, we strode into Gen Con like the kings and queens of promise.

We started the Con in a line. The line, however, was much shorter than last year. I was able to pick my badge and tickets very quickly, and by the time I was done there, the others were finished in their queue.

So, we hit the exhibition hall. So much stuff to buy. And I couldn’t believe the lines. Paizo, the makers of Pathfinder, had a line around the booth, and Fantasy Flight Games and Privateer Press had some of the longest lines I had seen outside of Space Mountain and Disney World. (Hyperbole!)

After wandering about and buying things we didn’t really need, we tried our hand at learning Mage Wars. It’s an awesome combination of a board game and a card game. I really wish I could have spent more than an hour with it.

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I was also haunted by a living meme. We saw a crying girl in cat cosplay and immediately became fixated. Why are you crying, crying cat girl? From where does your suffering come and is it part of your costume? Will you still take photos with my friend or is it weird now?

And then she vanished into the throng of people.

I would also like to take this moment to begrudging compliment Indianapolis. The core of the city is a beautiful, bustling metropolis that does a great job masking the horror that is rural Indiana.

Except for the homeless girls sleeping in the church doors across the street from The Con. That hurt my soul.

 

We also got a photo of TJ with my GenCon crush, Marie-Claude Bourbonnaise. We saw her last year in full anime garb and failed to get a photo with her. NEVER FORGET.

I thought it was gonna be a whole thing where we search and search and keep missing each other and just at the end, when we are both leaving, I see her and walk up. She would look at me and I would look at her…

And I would come up with a really good lie about liking whatever cartoon she was dressed as and then she would take a photo with TJ.

But I spotted her in the first 2 hours and we got it done.

So I guess I need to ratchet up my bucket list.

We also played Magic: The Gathering and I actually won all three of my matches. My winning strategy was to take all the green cards and black cards I booster drafted and add land. And now I’m the champion (one of several) of the 5pm Beginner’s Level 2 No Elimination Tournament. No doubt I’m blowing up on Twitter (@jcal101) right now.

Today’s recommendations:

Skull Kickers by Jim Zub (@jimzub). Though freely available on the Internet in web comic format, a hard copy is worth a look with beautiful art and extras in the Image Comics hardcover version I think it’s worth the investment.

Star Trek: Attack Wing by WizKid Games. I have to qualify this by saying I haven’t actually tried this game yet, but it looks great. For fans of Star Trek that want to do miniature battle without actually having to paint them this is worth a look.

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Gen Con: The Best Laid Plans of Gamers and Geeks

 

shepard

Super Creep Face. I don’t normally look like this, I promise.

 

I’m super-mega excited for Gen Con this year. Not only are John and I both attending again, but we’ll be bringing a couple of friends along with us. Twice the people means twice the fun, right? Probably.

I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to approach the Con this year. It’s my third year, and I feel like I’m only scratching the surface of what Gen Con has to offer. There’s so much to do! Even if I went the entirety of the four days without sleeping, there’s no way I’d get to do a tenth of what’s available.

So, here’s the plan.

1.) Meet people — I’m a naturally shy person. I don’t generally like to “put myself out there” when it comes to meeting people, but I think it’s time to put on a friendly convention persona. I bought some business cards and stickers to hand out, and I volunteered to run a game for the good folks at Kobold Press. I really envy people that have friends they meet up with at Gen Con every year. So, I guess my goal is to make friends and influence people.

hypnotoad

HIRE ME TO EDIT YOUR STUFF.

2.) Do more — I’m signed up for some panels, some games, and I’m going to the big masquerade ball. I might even don a costume. I’m trying out my first True Dungeon run, and I’ll pretend to be on the crew of a star ship with Artemis. I’m also hoping to come away with some signed swag. My favorite game developers are going to be there! Maybe they need an editor. ūüôā

3.) Eat food — I had the best steak of my life last year, so I’m (of course) going to hit that place again. Indianapolis offers a lot of great restaurants. I don’t plan on over-indulging, but I’m definitely going to enjoy my meals.

4.) Play games — Whether for a specific event or just demoing stuff on the floor, I had a blast playing games (I mean, it’s “The Best Four Days in Gaming after all), and I’m going to play a whole bunch of them! What’s a gaming convention without trying new stuff?

5.) Keep up — Last year, I kind of burned out by the last day. I don’t want that to happen this year. I’m going to take some healthy snacks to help keep energy up; I want to do this right. It’s not often that I get to be a dude without kids for a few days, and as much as I love my children, I’m going to savor being without them for a few days.

In the end, I just want me and my pals to have a good time. Gen Con is only two weeks away. John and I will keep you up-to-date on our adventures. I hope to see you there!

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Missed Adventures: GenCon Day 4

So concludes our 4 days of GenCon coverage. Day 1  Day 2  Day 3

Coming up on the last day of GenCon, TJ and I decided to sleep in. We skipped our first scheduled event, Zombie Dice, and arrived a little too late for Munchkin. While I’ve never heard about Munchkin before, Zombie Dice is something TJ tells me is kind of a big deal. Wil Wheaton covered it on one of his shows for Geek & Sundry, so I’ll let the video speak my peace.

While the game does look pretty cool, I’ve come to terms with sleeping in until 8:30am on a Sunday.

Yeah, that’s Robert Baratheon about to murder Rhaegar Targaryen at the battle of the Trident.

We did, however, find some time to play the the Song of Ice And Fire Roleplaying Game, and I have to say that Green Ronin really has its shit together. While Artemis was the single most fun I’ve had at GenCon… ever, both DC Adventures and SoIaF are produced by Green Ronin Publishing. Hands down DC Adventures is my favorite genre/system, and this game was just as much fun.

We started the demo by selecting characters. I chose to be the bastard son of a minor noble beholden to a lord that was, himself, beholden to the Tullys. Seeing my decision, TJ chose to be the young heir of the house. Upon selecting our characters, we decided to christen ourselves members of House Johnston. Our banner was a great ape, arms outstretched, falling from the sky. Our family oath: “Ours is the banana.”

Our first assignment, my half-brother and I were sent to Lord Wisend to appear on behalf of our lord father and discuss some issue.¬†As it turns out, Lord Wisend was seeking our father to explain why a large cart of grain and gold hadn’t arrived at his hold. Upon seeing our father’s decision to send us in his stead, Lord Wisend decided to… entertain my brother as a guest while I went back to our father to explain the situation.

Engaging the intrigue system, we argued with the lord until his Maester got nervous and sided with us. At that point we asked for a handful of men so that we could seek out the cart and get to the bottom of the situation. From there we had at it with some bandits in the name of the great ape of our house.

Truly this was a fun game. Combat was pretty standard, but the intrigue system is far more than rolling a bluff check or doing an opposed insight contest. It was very engaging, and I suspect our DM was dumbing it down for us. Actually, I haven’t played a single game based on George R. R. Martin’s book series that I haven’t enjoyed. I proceeded to buy all the books. Our DM for the encounter, who happened to work on the game, Joe Carriker, was kind enough to sign my books.

We also played a little Castle Panic and Bears! Both games were pretty fun, although I preferred Castle Panic. They had the kind of artwork and game mechanic that would be pretty friendly to children learning to game, and both enjoyed a cooperative element that I really like in multiplayer challenges.

After that we wandered The Con and made our way back to the car. The convention ran until 7pm or later, but we decided we had enough. Most of the events were winding down and that feeling you get the day after Christmas was settling in.

Observing The Madness

I had a pretty great time at the convention. There were some ups and downs, but overall it was another great year. Observed a few interesting trends during our weekend.

1. Are You Hot Or Am I A Pedophile?

I’m of an age where the difference between 15, 20, and all the numbers in between is getting harder to¬†distinguish. Luckily, I don’t date 15 or 20 year-olds so it’s not much of a factor in my day-to-day life. However, throw hundreds of cosplayers into a gaming convention and it quickly becomes a Where’s Waldo of appropriate dress.

2. Sweat Pants Cancel Corsets

Pretty much any convention is an excuse for ladies to whip out corsets for their costumes. That makes sense, given the popularity of steam punk and Victorian-age settings. What doesn’t make as much sense is seeing someone wearing a corset with sweat pants and sneakers. Or a corset with shorts and a t-shirt. I could take a couple stabs at why this happens, but I’ll leave it to the readers to decide.

3. Disproportionate Hotness

For whatever reason, normal, plain, or fugly looking guys can and do end up with beautiful women… if they are gamers. We saw dozens of instances where a beautiful girl was hanging on the arm of someone we’re pretty sure hadn’t bathed for the entire weekend. Maybe it’s personality, true love or that gender equality is especially lagging in the gaming community, but, however you slice it, it’s proof anything is possible.

Wrapping Up

What happens at The Con stays at The Con

This was a great weekend, but we have to make it better next year. TJ and I realize that just two of us isn’t cutting it anymore. We need to engage The Con with a sizable force. With that in mind, we will be inviting all of our friends while excommunicating everyone that turns us down. You’ve been warned.

We will also be looking for housing closer to the event. Expensive – yes. Worth it – hell yes.

Finally, we’ll be arriving earlier. Some events begin as early as the Wednesday before and we’re ready to make almost a week of it.

Are these goals realistic? Given the hours I work and the number of children TJ has, probably not, but GenCon is a magical place where dreams come true; if you’re smart enough, brave enough, and lucky enough anything is possible (see:¬†Disproportionate¬†Hotness). While we’re sad to go, we’re already scheming for next year.

 

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We Live For The Con, We Die For The Con: GenCon Day 2

After yesterday’s complications, I woke up ready to engage GenCon like a man takes to water after any day in Phoenix. My job keeps me very, very busy, and it’s hard to get out and play any kind of game. So we got up oh so early to join the masses in all the games.

At least I thought we were early. As it turns out, when you’re in any city leaving less than 2 hours early for anything is asking to be late. We pulled it together and got my pass and like that (BOOM!) we were playing Settlers of Catan. Even though I’ve played the game a bunch–TJ owns the game–so I don’t really need to buy a $2 ticket to play it, I had a lot of fun.

Part of being at THE CON is meeting people and playing games you both enjoy. There’s room for new goodies, but just settling in with some strangers and SCHOOLING THEM in iron age resource management is fantastic.¬†Incidentally, I did win with a friend’s favored strategy – longest road!

We then made the rounds of the vendor area. I have to say that I love the vendors because they always have soooooo much cool crap. Star Trek was really pulling down the cross merchandizing. We saw a featured card game, board game, and a minis game. Actually, Nichelle Nichols and hil Wheaton were there signing autographs. No doubt Nichols was there for Star Trek, but Wheaton has a prominent gaming channel on Geek & Sundry and has become a kind of icon in the geek community.

We came out with some swag. Chief among the goodies for me was a new edition of the Game Of Thrones board game. The game, based on the series of novels by George R.R. Martin, is one of the best tabletop games I’ve played in years. I actually owned the first edition, but various expansions and changes were made to fix balancing issues and better replicate the intrigue and strategy found in the novels.

We also walked out with some World Of Warcraft trading cards, some RPG books, and some miscellaneous swag. Tomorrow, time allowing, we’ll be able to jump into some of our favorite goodies.

We did, however, take a couple hours to try the Battle of Westeros board game. This was an enjoyable, co-op field strategy game. The kit comes with different forces and scenarios based on battles from the history of the setting of George R.R. Martin’s most treasured novels. We fielded our troops (House Lannister) and set out to make the “false king” (Stannis Baratheon) pay. As it turns out, charging my own general directly into battle proved a critical folly, costing my team the game.

Oops.

After that we found word that there was a speed dating event happening at a local bar attached to the convention, so I decided to sign up. I thought it would be a good way to meet some folks to play games and, heaven forbid, maybe engage in some romance. Unfortunately I accidentally purchased a ticket gendered for ladies. Unless I wanted to interview all the guys, which could have actually been interesting in its own right, I was gonna have to sit out.

So instead we made our way to Ruth’s Chris Steak House and had what was, hands down, the best steak I’ve eaten ever. It was amazing. The sweet potato¬†casserole¬†was also amazing.

While setbacks were¬†minimized¬†today, I’m realizing that going to a convention is a lot of work. More often than not my instincts about when and how to deal with mundane issues like parking or purchasing are wrong. Still, I give the day a 7/10 and tomorrow should be stellar.

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