September 3, 2014 by crew
Community member redben gave Backstagers a run down of his trip to Gen Con 2014 and here it is now for all to read! Enjoy!
Another 4.15am wake-up, though this time I had The Weekender to keep me company whilst I waited for the sun to rise. I had an 8am start with Ticket to Ride, which I’d never played before and thoroughly enjoyed. I had a ticket to play Heroes of Normandie during the day, but as I’d gotten to do little more than buy the things I wanted from my Thursday trade hall visit and could play HoN back in Blighty, I returned the ticket to free up time to explore it properly.
The actual size of the hall is probably no bigger than the one Salute had this year, but it’s rammed with many more stalls. Saturday also seems to be the day that gets the most visitors. It didn’t make much difference in the gaming halls as they were ticketed events so people had no reason to be there if they didn’t have a game. It did make the trade hall busier, but it made walking between the gaming hall and trade hall especially busy. The crowds were packed so tightly that at times you were barely moving.
One of my goals for this visit to the trade hall was to get some demos in. Companies such as Mayfair, Z-Man Games, Plaid Hat, FFG, Privateer Press, Wyrd, and Cryptozoic had good-sized dedicated demo areas. Wizards didn’t maintain a presence there at all and instead booked out a lot of space in the gaming area for Magic and D&D and held those demos there, whilst Paizo had a stall and the ballroom booked out. The majority of game companies in the trade hall at least had a demo set up in their stalls so there was no end of things to try out.
I hopped straight onto a demo of Arcadia Quest at the CMoN stand. I can best describe it as a PVP Descent meets Super Dungeon Explore and I enjoyed it a lot. I also grabbed a demo of Dark Age whilst I was there. If anyone is wondering how CMoN can get so much bad press yet still churn out successful KS after successful KS then their stall is a good indication as to why. It was jammed packed with beautiful, well-presented products. Most of their games were available to demo, and the ones which weren’t ready yet, such as Wrath of Kings and The Others had display cases for the minis.
The internet had been abuzz the previous day with FFG’s announcement of a new Star Wars skirmish game. There were two tables set up for Imperial Assault so I took in a demo in which I played Fenn Signis. This wasn’t a skirmish game, rather it was a boardgame, specifically a re-skin of Descent. I know there are two modes, campaign and skirmish, and I played one of the scenarios from the campaign, but unless skirmish mode is a radically different game that uses different minis then anyone expecting to see a proper Star Wars minis game is going to be disappointed. The minis were one-piece/pre-assembled soft plastics with integral bases, just like the Descent minis. I also queued for a few minutes to demo Winter Tales at FFG, but decided not to bother once I’d seen a few turns. It has great artwork, but if anyone knows how this is a game then answers on a postcard…
Hell Dorado and Smash Up rounded out my demos. For the former I was just taken through melee and movement and never really got a handle on it what it was supposed to be. Smash Up is card game from AEG, it’s a fast-paced bit of fluff but it didn’t grab me. I discovered a stall selling Mage Wars for about half the UK RRP so picked it up. I also found myself drawn to the Shadows of Esteren stand but managed to resist.
We spent the evening in the marvellous company of ghostbear, wildchevy, deltagamegirl22, and stvitusdancern at Loughmillers bar. After which there was time to head back to hotel room for a shower and change of clothes for a midnight session of Zombicide. This had seemed like a great idea a few months ago but not so much now. As it turned out we had blast. It was the only event that all three of us attended together and there were twelve players in total. We were on timed turns to keep things moving fast and we succeeded in rescuing Chuck from the prison to complete the scenario. I spent most of the game on top of a sniper tower murderising zombies. Then it was back to the hotel to try and grab a few hours of sleep ahead of the final day.
The Final Day
The final day was given over entirely to a Relic Knights tournament. For those who don’t know, Relic Knights is an anime-themed skirmish game from Soda Pop Miniatures. At the time we booked the tickets we fully expected to have received our KS pledges but as anyone following the campaign will know, we’ve still no idea when we’ll be getting them. All three of us were supposed to be playing but once it became apparent we weren’t going to have our minis in time, one dropped out to do something else instead. Soda Pop offered to lend us a cadre for the tourney so armed with just a single proxied game the week before, we stumbled into the tournament with little idea as to what we were doing. We were then drawn against each other in the first round. It became a game of constant rules queries and by fluke rather than strategy, I was 5-1 ahead in VPs when time was called. That got me onto the top table and as someone dropped out after the first round, it got the other a bye.
Having had the experience of the first game behind me, the second game went a lot smoother. I rushed out into an early lead only to find that the combo of objectives available to score VPs from were very difficult for my faction to achieve, and I slowly got overhauled for an 8-6 defeat. I then self-selected myself for the bye in the final round as there were still some things I wanted to check out in the trade hall and if I played then I’d miss them. I did thoroughly enjoy the game and am looking forward to finally getting it on the table. It plays very differently from other skirmish games and it has tons of character.
We closed the weekend with a trip to Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian meatery that buried us under an avalanche of high quality cuts. It wasn’t cheap, but it was well worth it. We finally got back to The Ram for lunch on the Monday where one of us picked up an Everblight Ale t-shirt, then it was the long flight home.
To accurately score my GenCon experience out of ten would require appropriating an amp from Spinal Tap. There simply isn’t anything like it in the UK, and I suspect nowhere else either. From the Wednesday evening to the Sunday evening, the convention completely takes over downtown Indianapolis, which in turn is geared up specifically to it. The only time you’re not at the con is when you’re asleep. There is a vast amount of things to do, which means you can make it whatever you want. My preference was to try out new things, but if you wanted to spend four days without ever leaving the bubble of an established game like Magic, Pathfinder, or Warmachine, then you could do that too. You could play competitively or friendly, with new people or with old friends. If going back meant I couldn’t attend any other cons or gaming events, then it wouldn’t be a hard decision. Warzan, do whatever it takes to get over your fear of flying by next summer, you won’t regret it.
I’ll close with some comments on mini-gaming at GenCon. There are sufficient companies and events there that you can dedicate your entire convention experience to it, but by comparison to its market share, it is definitely under-represented. This is largely because the industry’s dominant player refuses to engage with it beyond having a stall in the trade hall. It has always been GW’s way to live in its own bubble and barely acknowledge that the outside world exists, and it has been very successful for them, but it left me wondering whether the future for GW might not best be served by engaging with the broader gaming community. I don’t see that happening under the current ownership, but if it ever did get bought out by a company like Hasbro, it may well do.
One final thing, there was a lot of cosplaying going on, especially on the Saturday. I know the topic of cosplay girls on stalls is a bit of a controversial one, so I’ve played it safe and not written about them…
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