Gencon 2013 Afterglow Pt. 1: The Convention

Last weekend I made the trip down to Indianapolis for Gencon 2013. Now that I've fought off my case of 'con-crud,' caught up on sleep and applied the appropriate amount of heat/cold to my aching shoulder, it's time to get back to normal. Before that, however, I thought I'd share a bit of how the weekend went.

While standing in the crowd on Friday morning, waiting for the exhibitor hall to open, I realized a funny thing about a convention as large as Gencon. The world feels very large and very small at the same time. In the anticipation, you look at each other, start small conversation and then it occurs to you that everyone around you has roughly the same set of interests. For gamers, I don't think that happens all that often, so it can be a pretty trippy experience. Then the hall opens, everyone rushes in and the excitement takes hold. All of the sudden, you find yourself hurrying to the booths of your choice to make sure you get all the new releases you were looking for. When you get to your booth and take a look behind you, you see that all those people you were standing with have headed off in different directions. There are so many games to play and booths to visit that the world shrinks right back to size and you realize just how niche most games are.

I've attended Gencon a couple of times in the past, but this was my first chance to make a weekend of it. The first day, I toured the exhibitor hall for what seemed like days. All of the usual suspects were there and it was highly enjoyable just to geek out at the massive collections of dice, Hirst Art molds, and Geekchic tables. I did manage, this year, to decide on exactly which Geekchic table I am interested in. If you've never seen these tables before, they are quite a site to behold. They also have some of the most comfortable solid wood chairs and stools around.

After a bout of very generalized geekery, I zeroed in on the targets I was most interested in. In particular, this year, that meant the Wyrd booth. One of my favorite things about Gencon is that I always walk up to the Wyrd booth and Eric Johns, co-creator of the company, is always there. While I'm not active enough in the community anymore for him to know who I am, I always say hello, congratulate him and am always very cordially greeted back. I've mentioned before how deeply I enjoy focusing my hobby energy on a game company that really enjoys their customers. Later in the weekend I was able to have a chat with Justin Gibbs, who was the co-lead designer on M2E. We had worked together on the Puppet Wars playtest and I was happy to see he remembered me after so long. These kinds of things make it a pleasure for me spend money at the Wyrd booth.

On Saturday, my brother-in-law joined me at the convention intent on getting some actual games in. I have yet to convert him to playing the games I enjoy, but there are some overlaps. As such, we picked up tickets to play a round of Twilight Creations newest Zombies expansion, Zombie Zoo. We played a 5 player game and it went well, thought I am not 100% sure I am a fan of the expansion. Whereas a typical Zombie game usually clocks in at a couple of hours, this game was over in under one hour and with no casualties.

Zombies 12 has several new rules. The first of these is that once your survivor dies, you are out of the respawning. To balance this out, the game has a mechanic in which the voracious horde of zombie animals are held at bay by a security system that shuts down as the game progresses. As with all Zombie games, the fun to be had is is experimenting with combining expansions, adding house rules and making the game your own.

After a considerable amount of zombie killing, followed by a considerable amount of shopping, we decided to make our way out of the con to get some lunch. For me, the outside of Gencon is probably the most fun part of the entire event. For Indianapolis, the con is quite a boon, bringing over 40,000 visitors to downtown Indy and injected something like $47 Million to the city. Indianapolis, particularly the downtown area, has a good habit of really embracing the crowds for these large events, and while the city received a lot of praise for the work they did with the Super Bowl a couple of years back, they have been going all out for Gencon for a number of years.

In our case, we visited The Ram, whose menu, and entire restaurant really, had been taken over by Privateer press. This is both entertaining and somewhat annoying, as it took us several looks over the menu before we found that the Mozzarella sticks we were looking for were called "Optifex Fuel Rods." There is something strangely satisfying, however, about eating lunch in a bar with Empire Strikes Back playing on every TV in the room.

All told, Gencon was an immensely enjoyable experience this year. While I was, at first, a bit concerned that there seemed to be simply too many people there, I don't think it really affected the way I experience the con and sometimes those massive crowds can be fun.....until you inevitably wake up the next morning with a sore throat.

More to Come.



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