For those who didn’t attended GenCon 2012 in Indianapolis last weekend and are beginning to wonder: yes, the gaming convention had games, for playing as well as for buying. Participation in most gaming sessions and tournaments requires extra ticket purchases above and beyond your admission fee, so your personal budget has to be drastically inflated accordingly. Foreknowledge of the game and its rules is a plus, thus shutting me out of a good number of opportunities. Also, I always worry that my first try will devolve into an hours-long heated debate about everyone’s variant rules they use back home versus what the rulebook actually mandates. And then there would be egos involved, followed by machismo, expressed through the throwing of dice and props at me, and then my whole weekend is in shambles and I have to forfeit the game and fees out of concern for my safety and mood. Rather than risk this ludicrous scenario coming to life, I leave the gameplay to others.
My wife and I did play-test one game in the exhibit hall. Luckily for us, the folks at Smirk and Dagger Games are always accommodating to inexperienced passersby who seek something that’s different instead of alienating. It helps that they never seem to have crowded tables. The last time I attended GenCon, I bought a copy of Run for Your Life, Candyman, a spoof of Candyland that adds a violent gingerbread-man-on-gingerbread-man combat system, after they impressed me with a demo of its then-upcoming sequel, Shoots and Ladders, in which the armed cookie-killers are transplanted into a familiar, interconnected, 100-square setting. This time around we tried Sutakku, in which those frustrating small and large straights from Yahtzee are given slightly relaxed rules, then adapted into a tower-building scenario using a handful of d6’s whose standard pips are replaced with Japanese kanji. The game master handily beat us, but I’m proud that it wasn’t a shutout. $24 seemed steep for a handful of designer dice, a cardboard circle, a rulebook, a scorepad, and a deck of tiny penalty cards that worked much the same as the “Share the Wealth” cards from Life, but it was fun while it lasted.
Beyond that, the following photo parade captures an assortment of sights and statues from our GenCon 2012 thumbs-up experience:
The centerpiece of the exhibit hall was naturally Dungeons & Dragons, one of the reasons GenCon was created in the first place back in 1968. The booth entrance looms large and bids you welcome!
Demos of a D&D online game were presented on three Alienware laptops. I watched the display and thought to myself, “Hey, cool. Alienware.”
Lolth, Demon Queen of Spiders, reigns over the D&D booth in all her purple majesty. I remember her from old modules back in the day.
Drizzt Do’Urden, drow elf gone good, was an R. A. Salvatore character created long after my time. If it had been a statue of Raistlin Majere, the sudden happy nostalgia wave would’ve injured me.
Slightly smaller castles were also on hand as refuge for the weak of heart who were easily intimidated by Lolth.
Small castle fans who also wanted a dose of dragons could opt for Chivalry Games’ Chaostle, a portmanteau of “chaos” and “castle”, not of “cheese” and “Chipotle”.
Big games need bigger dice. Why settle for handheld when you can go basketball-sized?
Dragons of all shapes and sizes were welcome at the Indiana Convention Center. The balloon dragon is the perfect antagonist for your level-zero campaign or a True Dungeon setup at Grandpa’s nursing home.
On the robot end of the mascot spectrum, Cornelius Oliver Goodfellow cordially attended on behalf of The Game Crafter, a company that offers print-on-demand services for independent game designers. POD isn’t just for young novelists anymore!
If C.O.G. was too intense for you, Privateer Press’ own Warmachine was likely to induce any number of traumatic side effects. Just don’t ask if he’s related to James Rhodes and you should be fine.
More than a few pretend-weapons dealers were on hand to sell you foam swords, prop maces, and the like. This ad-prop for Steve Jackson Games’ Munchkin sadly didn’t appear to be for sale.
The presence of artist and Dork Tower creator John Kovalic was well displayed in two separate booths: not only on lots of that Munchkin merchandise, but also on just about every piece of Apples to Apples you’ve ever seen. If you’re not familiar with it, you and a few friends have to try it. Now.
Animal props weren’t limited to exhibitors and dealers. Over in Authors’ Avenue and/or the art show, this dog blows bubbles so you’ll stop in your tracks, marvel at his cuteness, and buy lots of things printed on paper that should be kept far away from the bubbles.
Vying for attention in the exhibit hall: GameChurch.com. My wife and I were concerned it might be anti-Christian parody (because the world is running SO low on those), but were impressed and delighted to find them sincere and loving in their mission. I kinda wish I were still a gamer so I could lend better support.
Gamers with kids whose relatives are all horrible people had an alternative to driving an unwieldy stroller around, or being a neglectful monster like Clara from The Guild. (Related memo to all mass media: can you please stop making tired wisecracks about geeks and nerds never marrying or procreating? The jokes are obsolete and you suck for perpetuating them.)
When it was time for food and not games, several of our fair city’s fine food trucks lined up along Georgia Street to sell the starving masses anything better than convention food. In a Pita struggled to keep up, but eventually cooked us a fine pair of gyros.
Before the exhibit hall opened that morning, our crowd was treated to several silent films from media production house Pulp Gamer, including “The Adventures of Silver and Brass”, a well-done, silly homage to early-20th-century adventure serials.
When we’ve lost complete track of time, this is how we commoners know our day is coming to a close. Elation makes way for sadness.
…and thus we conclude. Other than food and Wil Wheaton’s autograph, I also purchased a copy of Joe Harris and Steve Rolston’s Ghost Projekt, one of many upstanding graphic novels published by the amazing colossal Oni Press. When a well-known comics publisher shows up in my town — especially the ones who gave us Scott Pilgrim and Whiteout — you’d better believe I’ll reward them for their effort.
Funny thing how my Saturday turned out, in sum: I attended one of the largest gaming conventions ever, bought one graphic novel and zero games. I think I did it wrong.