My Summer of Conventions Part 1: Gen Con
by Bethany Rose
Even if you’ve never been to Gen Con before, you’ll soon know you’re in the right place moments after you enter downtown Indianapolis—even if you arrive before the Con’s official start date of Thursday. Cosplayers don’t need to wait until the exhibit hall opens to display their proud costumed creations. Most attendees proudly wear their badges around their necks their entire stay, even when they aren’t at the Con. This year, the lanyard featured Big Trouble in Little China to correspond with a BTLC game release. You’ll see people running up to each other and requesting photos, others excitedly shouting out names of friends they probably haven’t seen since the last Gen Con, making this feel how a good convention should feel: a family reunion everyone’s actually happy to attend.
Gen Con proudly boasts that they are the “Best Four Days in Gaming,” and from Thursday through Sunday in Indianapolis, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that. The convention offers a variety of events for attendees to check out. Many guests plan their Con stay carefully, making sure they hit all the right events while allowing themselves time to peruse the massive exhibit hall and, of course, take time to pose for or take pictures and enjoy the overall atmosphere.
Whether you want to learn more about a game, how to write or publish work, or even how to make movies, Gen Con offers workshops for that. I stopped by the “Paint and Take” workshop where attendees could pick and paint a miniature while getting some expert advice about the art of miniature painting. A “Writer’s Symposium” included multiple workshops with over 80 best-selling authors, and the addition of a “Writing for Video Games” theme.
Though it is highly common to see Cosplay throughout the convention and the streets of Indianapolis during Gen Con, there were also designated Cosplay areas, making it easier to take lots of photos of all the unique and fun costumes without blocking the walking paths. These areas also allowed the Cosplay participants to have fun and really get into character. There is also a costume contest and parade held and you will be astounded by the creativity of some of the participants.
My favorite part of Gen Con is always the exhibit hall, where new and popular games, books, toys, artwork, and other game and comic related merchandise are available. I love doing game demos and talking to some of the creators and distributors of the games.
I got a chance to talk to Grant Wilson, Art Director and Vice President of Rather Dashing Games, about two of their titles: Pirates, Ninjas, Robots & Zombies, and Graveyards, Ghosts, & Haunted Houses. Grant was excited to demonstrate gameplay for both, and noted that, while the initial explanation might sound deceptively simple, there is a lot of strategy involved. Tiles feature pictures of many of the games’ namesake characters and locations, and much of the gameplay involves matching and blocking. His initial description was right! As I watched him demo the games, I noticed that just when I thought I could figure out the “easy” way to win the game, a smart player could throw in a strategy that would make me have to completely rethink my own. He mentioned that they will have an archaeology-themed game slated for a February, 2017 release.
After talking with Grant, I headed over to the tables for Winning Moves Games and played a round of Brynk. I was joined by four other players, each with the same goal: add one piece to the stack of geometric shapes without knocking over the stack. Did I mention the stack is on top of a moving platform? The game was fun and definitely took some strategy. Fortunately, mine worked, as I was not the person to knock the stack over.
I also got a chance to demo Last Friday by Pendragon Game Studio. Players have different goals for every round (four total), but our demo only included the first round. For that, we each picked a game piece (I took brown as it was closest) and received three character cards. We each got to pick one of our character cards and play as that person for that round. We also got a token based on which player we picked. These tokens represented a variety of camp-related items, like lanterns and sneakers, and had specific uses like illuminating adjacent spaces and allowing players an extra move. The setting of the game board is Camp Apache, a summer camp plagued by a maniac stalker. One player plays as the maniac and has a separate board to keep track of movements. The goal of the first round is for each camper to make it into a cabin. While the goal seems simple enough, multiple challenges face the campers. First, they can only move two spaces each turn, unless they have the sneakers token or hop a ride on the lake’s boat (which still counts as a move, but takes a player across the water right away, something that would normally take a few turns).
Second, all the cabins are locked, so players must make it to a space with a turned over token on it and hope that a cabin key rests under it. If a player finds the key that corresponds with the color of their game piece, they can then attempt to make it to the cabin. Players can also use other keys and open other cabins, meaning that player plus the person with the corresponding game piece can attempt to make it to safety. But don’t forget that the maniac is on the loose, and it is only after every few turns that the maniac reveals where he is at. Finding out this news can immediately make any of the campers have to change their strategy, or, if the player is like me, it might mean they are out of the round, as they discover the maniac found them. Even though I died in the first round, I still had two other character cards, meaning I could have played in the second round as a new character. The game was fun and creepy, and it definitely involved a lot of strategy and communication with other players. Last Friday is set for a September, 2016 release.
Finally, I headed over to the Big Potato Games table to learn more about a few of their newest titles: Obama Llama, Mr. Lister’s Quiz Shootout, Bucket of Doom, and Scrawl. I will be reviewing these four games for Influx in an upcoming article, so stay tuned!
Gen Con is an experience that cannot be summed up in an article or with pictures. It is truly something you have to attend. I guarantee you will leave the convention with an updated gift wish list, new friends, and more stories than you could ever imagine. Gen Con is scheduled to head back to Indianapolis August 17-20th, 2017.