Sunday, August 7, 2011

Gencon 2011 Day 3

I started day 3 of gencon exploring the upper and outer ring of the convention center. I found the miniature painting contest display and took a lot of pictures. Most are of poor quality since they are behind glass. I then visited the art exhibit which is in the center of the main hall.

After trying unsuccessfully to get in a Catan Histories: Settlers of America Trails to Rails, I lucked out and got into Mansions of Madness. It wasn't what I expected. It wasn't a bad game, but the problem with Mansion of Madness is the same one I have with the D&D board games: it just feels like an RPG on rails. I would just rather be playing the RPG.

Later that evening I played the new Shogun. The one that replaces dice rolling with the crazy tower you drop units into. It's a great improvement of the the original.

Capped the night off with quick games of Space Hulk card game and Bang!. The later is a convention favorite we play every year.

Day 4 is sort of a throw away day at gencon. I'll visit the hall and buy a few minor things a catch my flight.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Gencon 2011 Day 2

Spent most of my day touring the gaming hall, which contains most of the board, card, war, and miniature games. I saw a ton of outstanding terrain maps for miniature and war games.

The rest of the time I spent first playing a demo of Chaos of the Old World and then playing it for reals in the gaming hall. It's a great game and will definitely buy it at some point.

Later with my friends we played a the new space hulk card game. Pretty good at capturing the feel of the original space hulk, but I miss the miniatures. I capped the night off with some Arkham Horror. For once we saved the world and beat the game with just one turn before Cthulhu himself appeared.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Follow my Google+ stream for real-time.

Much easier for me to post my pics and info via Google+.  So if you want to follow my in real time, do it there.  I'll post a summary with photos later in the evening.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Gencon 2011 day 1

I had a issues posting to blogger. It was much easier posting to G+. After a 2 hour wait for my badge, I spend most of the day walking around the exhibition hall and some of the gaming hall.

I collected a few of the photos in a picasa web album.

Why preregister for gencon?

For the last decade, I've either been a GM or vendor.  So getting my badge has been rather painless.  As a standard attendee, I have to get it via will call.  My god this line is the length of the convention hall!  Why preregister? It would be faster to buy a new badge.  Gencon logistics are as incompetent was ever.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Off to GenCon 2011

I had hope to write more blogs about the Indy years before leaving for GenCon 2011, but the convention came quicker than my writing. I'm off to catch my flight. I may continue blogging about past GenCons after the convention or start up again as GenCon 2012 approaches.

I'll post the major events here, but you can also follow me on Google+ or Twitter.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Gencon’s Past: The Milwaukee Years Part 3: Playing Events

Although this is not totally true for me anymore, the main focus of GenCon during the Milwaukee years was playing in events. Sure the exhibition all was great, but my pilgrimage to mecca was to game! The games I most played included: D&D, Call of Cthulhu, BattleTech, and Rifts. In the D&D category, most often it was Ravenloft or Dark Sun. As years when on, I played less D&D and wargames, and more Cthulhu and indie games each year. When I first started going to GenCon, admittedly I was less critical of the events I participated in. I was just happy to be gaming. But as I played more and more events, I was becoming increasing clear that there was dramatic difference between a good and bad events, as well as good GMs and bad GMs. Considering that events were at least a 4 hour commitment, getting into a bad event was a total buzz kill. In rare cases, I would sometimes leave the event early. I first did this very immaturely, saying I was going to the bathroom and just bailing. I’m a little ashamed of that, but what can I say, I was a punk I guess. Eventually I was just honest to the GM, and said it wasn’t working for me.

Over the years I got better at picking my events. D&D always had a high probability of sucking. D&D suffered from a number issues. Being the entry level RPG, the GMs weren’t always very experienced. Same can be said for the players, who could be very young and immature. D&D also seemed to attract rules lawyers. Nothing saps the enjoyment of a good game then listening to players argue about game mechanics and various house rules.

Call of Cthulhu was the exact opposite. The GMs were often experienced and well prepared. The players were mature and eager to have a good time. All my most enjoyable events were Call of Cthulhu games.

Early on I also tried out various miniature games, mostly battletech and star fleet battles. A few events I enjoyed, but more often then not the battles were very slow paced and my opponent took the game far to serious.

A few events stood out from my Milwaukee Years.

Trolls R Us (D&D)
I’m sorry to pick on the GM who ran this event, but this is one is infamous in my gaming group. On one had it was impressive in that the GM created homemade terrain for miniature battles, but sadly, he ran the entire event like one giant combat, even when there were no monsters to fight! Each player had to go in turn order and meticulously move their miniature around the miniature map. Want to search a room? You need to wait until you can move your character to said room at 30 feet (6 inches) per turn. No where did this get more ridicules then when we were done with an area, the GM made us take turns moving our miniatures OFF THE MAP! For some reason, we endured the entire event, but it was the one that broke the camels back. After Trolls R Us, we were never afraid to quit an event we felt was just too bad to suffer.

Escape From Dunwich
A homemade variant of Arkham Horror. Actually an expansion since the game included the original board plus the homemade Dunwich board. Very fun and clever. I saved the world and killed all the other players in the process. Win all around.

Plato Wars
Event consisted of us making Plato monsters, When completed, the game master assigned stats and abilities for each of our creations. Then? Battled of course. Things when poorly for my Plato creature.

Awesome large scale war game where we all played a monster from Godzilla. I was Mechagodzilla! It was fun and faced pasted for a war game. The GM created a very cool playing area complete with destructible buildings. So fun, but I sadly didn’t win. Poor Mechagodzilla.

Star Wars Battle for Hoth
One year I played in a huge (25+ people) star ware miniature battle, reenacting the battle of Hoth. The game was slow but still enjoyable. The players had a lot of fun with it. Famed Star Wars author Timothy Zahn dropped by for awhile. I was a snowspeeder and was shot down by an AT AT. I was going for historical accuracy.

Alexander Incident (Star Trek RPG)
I’m not 100% sure this was the name of the event, but it was a Star Trek RPG game that the game master ran repeatedly for several years. He knew the adventure inside and out and ran it flawlessly. It was a near prefect Star Trek experience. The GM acted like the computer and the players, each taking typical roles on a star fleet ship, worked like a crew. The mystery was hard but solvable. It was very satisfying to save the day in the end.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gencon’s Past: The Milwaukee Years Part 2: The Safehouse

As stated in earlier posts, the thing I most miss about GenCon in Milwaukee was Mecca Arena, but a close 2nd is the Safehouse. Odd thing was, we didn’t discover the safe house until about years 4 or 5 of attending GenCon, which I suppose makes sense. It is a secret spy bar after all.

Ethan, another of my best friends, started going to GenCon year 3 and hasn’t missed it since. Since Jay missed last year, that makes him second behind me in continuous GenCons. He discovered the Safehouse by chance during an unrelated trip to Milwaukee, which was fortunate, since it setup the ideal way to experience the Safehouse.

He told us we had to go to this bar, but didn’t give us a lot of info. We followed him into an alley on the riverfront, which aroused our suspicious, and then entered an nondescript door that only said “International Exports Ltd.” Where the fuck was he taking us!

Inside was one person, she called herself “Control.” She asked for the Password. Huh? We need a fucking password? Ethan whispered something in her ear, flipped her a $20, and exited through a conceal door which promptly shut. Ok....

Spoilers Warning!!!!
If you intend to visit the Safehouse, don’t read anymore. Just go there.

Needles to say, the rest of didn’t know the password. Control said she would let us enter, only after we did some tasks for her. She lined us at the wall and proceeded to make us do stupid tasks. Sing, Dance, etc... Now I don’t know what quality I give off, but people tend to like to punish me for some reason. Maybe I’m just too much of a smart ass, I dunno, but after letting everyone else proceed, she made me put on a grass skirt and dance some more. Seriously... a grass skirt. Finally, I made Control happy and she let me exit via the concealed door. To my surprised, when I entered the bar, there were tv monitors everywhere, and the entire bar had watched me dance in a tutu. Patrons at the bar had score cards, and gave me their marks as I entered. Damn spies and their games!

Inside the bar was a host of gadgets, props, and memorabilia from spy movies. It was a impressive collection. The food was good on top of that and they sold special spy drinks in collectible glasses you got to keep. One drink I recall was called Mission Impossible. I didn’t try it, but a friend of mine did, and he found it impossible to do much else correctly the rest of the evening.

Just as we were ready to leave, Ethan showed us one more surprise. He brought us into a phone booth, closed the door, and revealed a secret exit that lead to a tunnel which emptied into another back alley.

Best bar ever. Nothing in Indy has even come close.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gencon’s Past: The Milwaukee Years Part 1: Hotels

My first decade of GenCon took place in Milwaukee of course. Sad to say, many of the events of those years run together and I find it impossible to separate them chronologically. So I grouped them in a few key topics. My first is on hotels, which is probably not a good choice for the first one since it really doesn't have to do the convention itself, but here it is anyways...

The Milwaukee Years Part 1: Hotels
I don’t know all the reasons GenCon moved from Milwaukee to Indianapolis, but on top of the list was hotels. In Milwaukee, the hotel situation was a mess and with the exception of a handful of hotels, many were not in walking distance of the convention buildings.

Worse was the way GenCon handled hotels. Keep in mind, during these years, the Internet was just getting started. So there was no online registering or hotel reserving for GenCon. Everything was done by mail. You’d send in your money and rank a list of hotels in order of preference. A few months later you’d get the info back and see where the chips fell. In most cases, the results were disappointing. Often, we would be stuck in a hotel that either required driving or shuttling to the convention, which was a real drag. It seems that most of the hotels within walking distance went to exhibitioners and other VIPs. Makes sense I suppose, but still sucked.

Unfortunately when we had to drive on Thursday and Friday, the commute also included the horrendous smell of the breweries. It was Milwaukee after all. This was extra hard after we reach drinking age and needless to say, would have a few cocktails the night before.

Two housing experiences came to mind while I was recalling Milwaukee GenCons.

Marquette University Dorms
One year, apparently when attendance was peaking, we drew the shortest of housing straws, and placed in the dorms of Marquette University. This would have sucked for a number of reasons in any given year. The dorms had no bathrooms, had single beds, and we were on the 20th floor, but more importantly, it had no air conditioning. That year it was a scorching summer. I happened to bring a small fan that year, but there was 5 of us spread out in 2 rooms. So we’d play a game each night for the prize of the fan. If you didn’t win, you would literally be soaked with sweat by the morning. Also, did I mention that the dorms cost more than the average hotel room for some reason? Yeah, that was pretty sweet.

The Ambassador
The Ambassador Hotel is actually an historic landmark. It was a place out of time. When you entered, it was if you traveled to the 1920s (or 50s I suppose). It had a nice Cthulhu vibe and the rooms were pretty nice. But the thing was, it was in a horrible part of town. We didn’t mind much because it was an endless source of late night entertainment. While we where enjoying our boardgames, we could see drug dealers and the occasional prostitute work the street below. On the final night, we got to witness a serious street fight, which I can only assume was a rival of the dealers. Not that I actually asked them mind you. Ah the Ambassador ….

Monday, June 27, 2011

Megalist of New Boardgame Releases at Gen Con Indy 2011

It's become a traditional of mine in the more recent GenCons (last 5 years or so) to purchase at least 1 new boardgame at the convention. Despite my love for RPGs, I spend a bulk of my game time at GenCon playing boardgames.

I normally spend the first day or two searching and conferring with my friends before picking the winner on Friday or Saturday. The candidate needs to be at least playable with 5 people as that is often the number of my GenCon party.

Boardgame Geek, one of my favorite sites, has put together a nice megalist of new releases for GenCon.

Megalist of New Releases at Gen Con Indy 2011

What should I pick?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

GenCon's Past: My First Gencon (1992)

I first went to GenCon in 1992, which apparently was a banner year because they broke some sort of attendance record according to it’s Wikipeida entry.

I had just finished high school and it was the summer before going off to collage. I went with one of my best friends, Jay. This would be his 20th consecutive gencon as well, but he missed last year to attend a wedding in London. Big mistake Jay!

As any long time GenCon veteran should know, in 1992 the convention was in Milwaukee and not Indianapolis (a topic for another blog). It was held at the Milwaukee Exposition & Convention Center & Arena, or also know as MECCA, which is an awesome acronym. It never got old telling people I would be going on a pilgrimage to Mecca in the summer.

One the most predominate, and sad, memories of my first year, was the massive amount of homeless people I encountered. It was very staggering. I’m unaware of the economic conditions of Milwaukee in 1992, but nearly every bench or public resting area had someone sleeping on it. It was just unnerving, and thus I avoided venturing around the downtown area and stuck to the convention buildings. I missed out on some cool places that I would not discover until later GenCons (can you say Safe House!)

The logistics of those first few GenCons would be very different than future conventions. Not only would more friends join me, but how we treated the convention changed. First, our hotel was not actually in downtown Milwaukee. It was in metro suburb about 15-20 minutes away. This was not uncommon and lack of good hotel space as a major reason the convention moved to Indy some years later. Also a major difference in future years, would be the amount of events that we would attempt to play (or run). In those early years we would literally plan an event for every slot of the convention, which wold start at 8am and end around 10pm or midnight. So, we would wake up about 7am, take a quick shower, drive downtown (not easy on the Thur/Fri days), park the car, game for 12 hours straight, and then drive back to the hotel for a few hours of sleep. Then do it again the next day. That was hardcore gaming. The idea of doing that today just makes me cringe. I’m too old for that shit as they say.

It’s very difficult to remember many of the events I played in. We played several sessions of D&D as 2nd edition had only been released 3 years prior. I would consistently be disappointed in D&D events convention after convention. The combination of rules lawyers, very young players, and often inexperienced GMs would plague these events. After a few years, I would completely cease signing up for D&D events.

I can say the complete opposite of Call of Cthulhu. We played several of these events, and they nearly all a blast. Call of Cthulhu is probably the game best suit for conventions. The very nature of the game play works well for one shots, and the game masters are often the most enthusiastic, experienced, and well prepared.

One event I do remember was a Call of Cthulhu game in which we all played characters from Scooby Doo. I believe I was Daphne and Jay was Fred. It was a riot. I recall the character playing Velma climbing down a well (by herself) in which we heard strange noises coming from. Needless to say, we didn’t see Velma again. I mean, climbing down creepy wells by yourself in Call of Cthulhu? That’s Cthulhu investigating 101.

The Convention Center
The biggest thing I miss about Milwaukee is Mecca. The convention was held for the most part in two buildings: a main convention hall and adjoining arena. It’s the latter I miss the most. The convention center was your basic convention building and would later be ripped down and replaced with a new and much nicer building. The arena, or as it was called then Mecca arena, is stilling standing today, but is now called U.S. Cellular Arena.

Some of my fondest gaming memories of Gencon took place in that awesome building. First, the building felt like a dungeon or stronghold, probably due to all the grey concrete (in contrasted to the painted walls of the convention center). The floor of the arena was section into rows of curtained off gaming areas. It was far more private and intimate compared to the open tables of Gencon now. It was also easier to hear the game master. But if you were lucky, your event was held below the arena in the catacombs! Ok, not real catacombs, but it sure felt like catacombs. Down below the arena there were also curtain off gaming areas, but they were in smaller sections and the noise level was even lower. It felt like I was gaming in a creepy basement, bust instead of 5 friends, I had 100s of friends. I don’t know if it was deliberate or not, but most of the horror events seemed to take place in the catacombs, and it only amplified the experience. God I miss that arena. Since Gencon has moved to Indy, I can’t say any event has matched some of the ones I played in the bowels of Mecca Arena.

The other reason I loved Mecca Arena was because the GenCon auction took place there. Today the auction is a shadow of itself, but before the days of ebay and craigslist, it was the greatest (and most fun) way to buy and sell used games. For years I would bring my old games to sell and use the proceeds to buy new ones. I would spend hours there watching all the rare and unusual games changes hands.

Long live Mecca, I mean... U.S. Cellular Arena.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Neverwinter is the Focus This Year at GenCon

I tend to avoid D&D events at GenCon and Wizards presence at the convention has been very weak recently compared to past years I've attended. But it seems they are doing someone with Neverwinter this year and I'll be sure to check it out.

Neverwinter is the Focus This Year at GenCon (source:

Gen Con Indy 2011 Exhibit Hall Map

The Exhibit Hall will be in a different spot this year. Below is a link to the map and video walk through.


Video Walkthrough

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Major Regret: I Never Took Pictures

While I prepare some upcoming blog posts about gencon's past, I'm very sadden by the fact that I rarely (if ever) took pictures. Until I owned a smart phone, I never wanted to be bothered to carry a camera. Even with my fancy android phone, I still don't take enough pictures for some reason. So as I try to recall some of my earliest gencons, I really have no visual reference other than my own memories. A depressing fact indeed.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

GenCon 2011, Follow My 20th Year Blog

GenCon 2011 is less than 2 months away. For the last 4 years, I’ve running events at the great convention. Before that, I ran a booth for RPGObjects during the d20 salad days. And this year? Well, I’m taking the year off, sort of...

You see, long before there was a RPGObjects, I was going to Gencon. In fact, Gencon 2011 will be my 20th consecutive gencon! That’s right, for two decades I’ve been attending GenCon.

So for my 20th GenCon, I’m going to try to experience as much of the convention as possible and document it all via a blogger site. I’m going to try to make it as real time as possible.

While I’ll probably re-post stuff here, I want to utilize a professional blogging suite (and all that has to offer). So you can find my Gencon 2011 blog at the following URL:

Until GenCon, I’ll be posting some blogs about the upcoming event as well as some looks back at past GenCons.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I'm going to GenCon

Don't mind the dust.  Still setting this blog up.  But yeah, I'm going to Gencon this year.  20th time the charm.