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Tales from a GenCon First Timer

Posted on August 27, 2012 by Flames

As a first time Gen Con attendee that finally made my way to Indianapolis after years of attempting to make it to the “Best Four Days in Gaming,” I was both unprepared and blown away by this year’s event. With some understanding of the convention’s significance to the gaming community I knew I was going to be in for at least some surprises!

Overall the weekend was an absolutely amazing rollercoaster of nonstop gaming and chatting with industry folk, trying out games all over the release schedule from wargames that first hit shelves years ago to roleplaying games newly-minted just for Gen Con to card games that wouldn’t be released until September or later. It was extremely thrilling to experience such an exciting event first hand and meet so many wonderful people, as well as a great way to kick off the next season of new releases and see what we had to look forward to over the next couple of months.

Game Demos & New Releases

    Though it would be near impossible to speak to each and every game we picked up, looked at, or played over the course of the weekend, the stand out item for our group by far was Apocalypse World, a quick and dirty indie offering published in 2010 that we discovered in Games on Demand. Though reaching a concise ending in the two hour time slot left something to be desired, the game was a dark, gritty storytelling game with a flexible setting and that grew as we worked our way around the table each turn. With players being pitted against one another rather than working together as a team, it kept things interesting and made for a unique mood that kept all of us on our toes.

    Also worth checking out was Monsterhearts from Buried Without Ceremony, though I highly regret not jumping in on a session (since it was also offered at Games on Demand) it uses core mechanics of Apocalypse World to explore the lives of teenagers in a supernatural universe, resulting in a story that feels like an episode of True Blood or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. From just a few sessions at Games on Demand it was easy to see that it was one of the most popular games offered all weekend.

    In addition to the games that we actually got to play, I was personally very excited to learn more about Monte Cook’s new solo venture, Numenera, which is currently making the rounds at Kickstarter. It’s extremely interesting to see a fantasy setting so far in the future, and it should be interesting to see the final product once it hits store shelves. We also got a peek at the new boxed set for Legend of the Five Rings, which was looking pretty tempting despite the $80 price tag.

    Fantasy Flight Games also brought it with the first series of their Star Wars X-Wing miniatures, as well as beta copies of a new tabletop Star Wars offering titled Edge of the Empire. Though the tabletop game immediately caught my eye due to it’s similarities to the 3rd Edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, only time will tell how it actually feels at the table.

    Other highlights included the new Evil Baby Orphanage card game from Wyrd Miniatures, which is nearly exactly what it sounds like – a game where you go back in time and kidnap evil babies before they turn evil, taking them to an orphanage where they can grow up to be less evil and hopefully leave a happier mark on the world. We also thoroughly enjoyed playing demos of the Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game and Dragon Age from Green Ronin Publishing, as well as my first ever try at the Warmachine Miniatures Game, which was immediately jotted down to check out once we returned home.

    As we had a hard time actually playing demos of all of the new and exciting things available, hopefully we will be able to check them out as they continue rolling out to the local game stores in the area.

    The “Big News”

      With Gen Con unofficially kicking off the “gaming new year” each summer, it came as no surprise that the larger publishers were armed with huge announcements to shape the industry market over the next few months. Some of the most exciting news bites that caught my attention:

      White Wolf’s move to Onyx Path as a licensed property seems like a good fit for the brand; while I was initially surprised by the announcement, it feels like a smart choice on the tail of the re-releases of the “classic” World of Darkness lines and seems like an exciting way to bring more attention to the World of Darkness setting in general, as well as the other new and previously established lines that they’ve taken under their wing. (See for more information)

      Wizards of the Coast’s decision to release digital editions of their back catalog also seems like an extremely smart move – though I’ve fallen off the Wizards bandwagon in past years, it does give me a renewed interest in checking out the older releases, if only to grab some of the old 3.5 books that I borrowed from friends years ago for “nostalgia.”

      The ENnie Awards decision to accept digital submissions and submissions without an entry fee was an extremely exciting announcement as well – despite other obvious flaws in the ENnie awards system, I am personally extremely thrilled to see that small and independent games publishers – both companies and individuals – will have a much easier shot at having their products seen and could ultimately be a huge game changer for those who aren’t publishing under a “big name” company.

      On an ENnie Awards footnote – it was also excellent to see such a huge love for Lovecraft this year, with a large variety of submissions representing some aspect of the Cthulu Mythos. I am personally hoping that this trend keeps up through the next year, as it should be interesting to see where it takes us next.

      In Review

        Having had such a blast this year, we rolled out of Indianapolis already planning to attend next year. The Gen Con staff did an absolutely amazing job of planning things, most of the lines we had to wait in – even Will Call – moved extremely quickly, and it was quite an eye opening experience in regard to exploring the variety of things that the gaming industry and community has to offer. The only regret I had was not spending more time playing games – despite the many games that we did play and demo, there was almost too much to be seen over the course of only four days. Until next year, I suppose I’ll be keeping a close eye on our FLGS for the games and supplements announced in Indianapolis to arrive to finally get my hands on them.

        -Manda Collis 2012

        Manda Collis is a freelancer of many hats, most often writing about games and geekery over at Charisma Bonus. She currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin.

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        3 Responses to “Tales from a GenCon First Timer”

        1. Man, sounds like a great time! Glad to hear it. Wish I could have gone this year. Maybe next year (as the mantra goes)…

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