GenCon 2015, My Experience

15 August, 2015

AEG booth in progressAs is usual, AEG contacted me about working their demo team for GenCon and equally as usual, I accepted.  So my friend H, who also works GenCon for AEG, and I headed up when the time was right.  So, as we were required to help with setup starting on Tuesday, we left Monday, and drove to Cave City, spent the night and then into Indianapolis on Tuesday morning, arriving safely at the Crowne Plaza (conveniently located almost directly across from the dealers hall).  Dropped our stuff off in the room and then met up with the rest of the team and the mad setup began!  It was kind of fun but tiring, assembling displays, tables and shifting boxes and products for about seven hours.  Fun Fact, the convention center does not turn the air conditioning on in the dealers hall until Thursday.  Then, dinner at the Ram where they had War Machine-themed menus, cider on tap and delightful fish and chips.  I have tired to eat at the Ram for the last two years and I will make it back some time as I really enjoyed the experience.

I built this, it did not survive the first day.

My L5R Display

Wednesday morning started with more setup, after grabbing coffee at the Bee Coffee Roasters (which is becoming another GenCon tradition) worked until about two when I was let go.  So, I actually had a chance to do some tourist stuff: visiting the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, originally for those from Indiana who served in the American Civil War it was later expanded to include other wars as well, though it has a Civil War Museum in the base and amazing views from the top (I admit I rode the elevator rather than climb the stairs).  Then to the Indiana War Memorial, originally build to honor those who fought in the Great War but later expanded to include all who have served in the US military from

Base of the S&S Monument

Base of the S&S Monument

Indiana, including an impressive (if poorly organized) military museum with weapons from all periods, a lovely trench diorama you can walk through, a 106mm recoilless rifle stuffed off in a hallway, even an AH-1 Cobra, quite fascinating.  Worth the time if you are interested in American history and military.  Then dinner with a group of my Legend of the Five Rings RPG friends, most of whom I met online and GenCon is the only time I see them in person.  This is the second year we have done the meet up so some familiar and some new faces.  Then, back to my room for a full night’s sleep before the madness starts.

Thursday was the start of the Con proper, though there are so many “pre-GenCon” events on Wens that it felt like the start of it all, and it began with breakfast at Steak & Shake where I caught up with N who used to run the Scrawls from the Sprawls Shadowrun APA back in the day which I contributed to.  N was at GenCon playing Pathfinder Society events and we got to talk games old and new before we both had to run off to events.  9am saw my first Legend of the Five Rings game, back again in the Hyatt Regency with the Heroes of Rokugan folks who were friendly and helpful as always, just three players (two of whom I had met at the L5R dinner the night before).  The game went well, the players had fun with their characters and the adventure.  We ended a bit early, which worked well for everyone, and I headed over to the dealer’s hall for a little bit before my next session.  Not much time but grabbed some dice from Chessex and was slightly overwhelmed by the size and number of people there.  Then back for more L5R, the advanced game, with my two friends back from the morning and three new players.  The mystery went well and they tracked down the murderer and forged a solution that would, hopefully, avoid further conflict (as long as the gossip mongering Doji keeps their mouth shut!).  Afterwards, I just took the chance to wonder about the con, looking in on games and even playing a few.  Tried a pre-production copy of Floating Market from Eagle/Gryphon Games which was an interesting worker placement/dice manipulation game.  Looked at other things too but it is all rather hazy at this point . . . Then back to my room for shower and sleep.

Friday not up quite as early as no breakfast meeting to go to.  Game Mastering on this day started off with the advanced scenario, this was the roughest game of the convention, the group of five players just did not seem to click with the adventure or my style, the game worked out alright with an acceptable resolution but it never reached the level of play I like to see.  While I have some ideas how to improve the structure of the advanced games for next year, not sure what would have helped here.  It was not a bad session but it was not a great one and you should have great games at GenCon.  So, my apologies to the players, we will do better next year.  In the brief break between games, I managed to find my friend, the talent artist, Drew Baker, who was in a booth with other artists and not in the art show this year.  Get your TroveHowever, the intro game ran very well and included  A.L. from the Reality Refracted blog among its players (he has a little to say about it here).  Then more wandering, I was feeling a little tired so I had intended to get to bed early after catching up with a friend and giving him a present (a book about Japanese Warrior-Monks) an then learning how to play Malafaux (from a delightful Brit now living in Australia) but . . . I found three guys, including the designer Patrick Leder, showing off his prototype of his asymmetrical board game Trove: The Crystal Caverns which was amazingly fun.  So, stayed up until 1am playing (and winning!) at Trove.  I will certainly be backing the game when it comes to Kickstarter.  Staggered back to the hotel, getting back just before H, we talked for a bit and then . . . sleep.

Saturday another intro game this morning with all seven potential slots filled!  Much fun with a nicely engaged table, the experience players were good about helping the new ones (which was true of Friday’s game too).   Unfortunately, AEG had sold out of the core L5R RPG rules by this point of the convention . . . In the break between games, I caught up with one of my friends who was demoing Through the Breach, the RPG set in the same world as Malafaux and uses similar mechanics, we talked for a bit before I had to head back for my next game.  The last advanced game ran in the same room as the Heroes of Rokugan big, campaign ending event, so it was a bit noisy and three of the five players were new to the game but we soldiered on and the players seemed happy at the end.  The HoR kindly, but unnecessarily to my mind, apologized and gave the players some of the custom dice they had made which was extremely generous of them.  So, thanks again HoR people, you are a class act!  I then rushed off to help with the Legend of the Five Rings 20th Anniversary party which was held in the ArtGarden, a nifty part of the nearby mall, with drinks, music, celebration and swag for all attendees.  I was busy helping thing run properly, so I was not that attentive to the actual event but people seemed to have fun.  Walking back, I ran across a few people I knew and we chatted a bit before I finally made it back to my room and sleep.

Sunday, the final day, starting with that last introductory game with five players and a totally quiet room (as HoR had concluded the night before), the game went well and we ended a little early so that we could all have a bit more time in the dealers room.  I turned in the last of my tickets to GenCon RPG central, fulfilling my GM duties.  So, lots of drifting around the dealers hall but I did not find much to buy (beyond a print from Drew) and then back to the AEG booth to help with break down which lasted until just after 8pm . . . very tiring.  But then had a nice dinner at PF Chang’s and back for packing and sleep.  Another GenCon done!

Thanks again to all the people who played in my L5R games!  It was great fun to be your GM and I hope to see you again sometime.  Thanks to the people who demoed games for me, I appreciate it.  And thanks to all the hard working GenCon staff and volunteers who make sure the con runs smoothly for us.

Update: See some of my photo from GenCon.

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