Hey all, Dani here.
So you might be asking, “hey Dani, wasn’t Gen Con at the beginning of the month? Why do a wrap up now?” Well, I had one of my blog buddies say she would love to read about my time at Gen Con, especially as she wants to start trying to diversify her conventions, but she also wanted more information first.
Plus, when you get a little removed from an event (or a book/movie/etc), it is easier to distance yourself from any super happy or super upset feelings you might have had at the time, and you can write a more factual and balanced review of everything. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.
Gen Con is a gaming convention, and it features hundreds of game developers and companies, as well as business that sell game accessories. Now when I say gaming convention, the easy assumption is that I am talking about video games, but I don’t think I have seen any sort of video or console type game there. No, this is a gaming convention for tabletop gaming, which means board games, card games, dice games, and tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons.
This year was the 51st Gen Con and it was even bigger than the previous year. The photos don’t even come close to showing how large or crowded this convention is, because there are just so many wonderful geeks in the world, and events like this really help you to see how not alone in the world you are. It is currently held in Indianapolis, Indiana, and it is an amazing experience. The convention itself takes up the entire Indiana Convention Center, plus they have also spread out into several of the nearby hotels, and Lucas Oil Stadium (which is the arena where the local NFL team, the Indianapolis Colts, are based). What I love about having part of Gen Con in the football stadium is that they house the gaming library there, and if you have purchased a pass to use the library, then you can go there 24 hours a day through the four day convention and borrow a game to play. Yes, a bunch of lovely geeks swarm through this holy house of jock-dom for four whole days.
We actually went to Indianapolis a day early, on August 1st, so we wouldn’t have to wake up at 5am the next day to make the three hour drive. It ended up being the best decision we could have made. We were able to pick up all of our tickets that day, and also just relax a bit. Okay, so we also went to an Irish pub (O’Reilly’s Irish Pub) for my birthday, which then turned into the Irish pub and then a Scottish pub (MacNiven’s). So I had a Shepard’s Pie, and then we had bread pudding for dessert. At the Scottish pub we had Scotch Eggs. Then we went to a comic book store (Downtown Comics) too, so naturally I picked up a few things.
And that’s just all the fun from the day before the convention. Now let’s get to the actual first day of Gen Con. It was a mad house, and we went straight for the Critical Role booth, because there was some cool merchandise that we were hoping to get, and we waited for a good half-hour or so to actually make it to the booth. But I ended up with dice and shirts and even a map for the current campaign, so I am super pleased.
I’m not going to lie guys…we spent most of our money on day one. There are just so many cool games and accessories and costume pieces. It is a geek wonderland. The first day of the convention was also a cool day because we got to meet Joe Mangianello. Now most people will probably recognize Joe from being in the show True Blood, or possibly from the Magic Mike movies. What you may not know is that he is a massive geek, loves D&D, and actually has a really cool gaming dungeon in his home. We waited for almost an hour to meet him, but it was totally worth the wait…and I got him to sign my Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Player’s Handbook, so that is also pretty awesome. Oh, and the game pictured below is A Song of Ice and Fire, and it is sort of a battlefield strategy game based on Game of Thrones. We watched it being playtested and it seemed pretty interesting. Of course neither my fiance nor our other buddy who went with us has seen the show (or read the books) so it was just a cool looking game to them.
Day two of the convention we spent a lot of time just running around and checking out some of the games. At most of the game developer booths, you can sit down and play the game before you buy it. Okay well if it is a shorter game you can play through the whole game, but longer games they pretty much prefer you to just play a few rounds to get an idea of how the game works. There are a lot of other people around who would also like to try playing the games. The highlight for day two of the convention for us was actually that evening after the convention center closed. We met up with the owners of our hometown game store and they actually bought us dinner at this bar (The Yard House). My fiance and I run a couple D&D campaigns for them and they wanted to thank us for everything we’ve done for the store. Free food is definitely the way to do that. But after that, we had tickets to go see Critical Role live. It was my second time going, but my fiance’s first, and I was so glad I got to share the experience with him. Oh, and there was a surprise guest star for the episode of Critical Role…Khary Payton, an actor some people may recognize from the Walking Dead.
We had an extremely lazy day for day three of the convention. Critical Role Live ended around 1 am, and then we had to walk back to the parking garage where our car was parked (only to discover that the parking garage had closed for the night, so we had to run around to figure out who to contact to get to our car). By the time we made it back to the hotel we were staying at, it was around 2:30 am. Because we were also low on spending money, we just decided to hang out at the hotel, enjoy the pool, watch some TV, and play some of the games we had purchased. The only convention event we had on our schedule for the day was going to Dungeon Master, which is a live interactive show. It ended up being a very entertaining show, but the real reason I got tickets for this particular show was that it was being opened with a concert by The Library Bards, and they are a geek parody band who makes covers of Top 40 hits by making them into geeky songs–for example “Zombie” by the Cranberries becomes a song about Deadpool and Harley Quinn cosplayers called “Black and Red”, and Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” becomes a LOTR/Hobbit song called “Gandalf.”
Finally, we made it to day four, the last day of the convention. We played a couple more games, and made a couple more purchases with the little spending money we had left. I will be completely honest everyone. I hate the last day of a convention. The last day means that I have to go home and return to my regular day-to-day schedule. It means leaving a place where I am surrounded by thousands of people who like a lot of the same stuff I do, and going back to a place where only a small percentage of people actually understand me. Leaving a convention after having such a great time is always difficult. But on our way back to our car before the three hour drive back home, I decided that we needed to get something to eat, and after walking past this pizza shop over a dozen times, we finally stopped into Giordano’s to get some Chicago Style Deep Dish pizzas.
I guess I should talk about this last picture. There are a lot of booths at Gen Con that give out these little ribbons that you can attach to your convention badge. For many attendees at the convention it becomes a scavenger hunt to collect as many as possible. I have seen people with enough ribbons hanging from their badge to make a long scarf or sash. It is impressive. We only went to Gen Con for one day in 2017, so I think we got one or two ribbons. Obviously this year I did much better, but I’m still hoping for a more impressive collection next year.
Next year I also plan to attend a few panels and/or workshops, because we didn’t really do that this year. There is a whole section of the convention that is a Writer’s Showcase, and they have some great industry professionals there to hold classes on worldbuilding or magic or editing, etc. The guests of honor this year were the duo behind S.A. Corey, author of The Expanse series. Previous years have had Patrick Rothfuss in attendance. Margaret Weis was there this year as well. So next year I definitely want to spend a little more time in the bookish side of Gen Con–though I did walk through that entire area on the show floor, and I will show off everything I purchased in my August Wrap-Up post.
Wow, okay, this post got pretty long. I hope you all enjoyed this look into our time at Gen Con. If you want me to talk more specifically on the games that we playtested and/or purchased, let me know. Because we found quite a few really fun games, and I like talking about more than just books. I’m your average geeky girl, with many geek hobbies.
Anyway, that’s all for today, and I will be back soon with more bookish content.
5 thoughts on “Gen Con Wrap Up”
OMG, thank you so much for this post! I love board games and a few card games, but I’m less knowledgeable about tabletop RPG or dice games. I worry that I’ll be out of place at a convention like that. I’m not a cosplayer and I don’t know much about some of the most popular games. I’m more of a casual boardgamer with friends, but like good board games, not common Hasboro ones. There are smaller game conventions some of my friends have gone to and they all sound fun, but I never had a strong sense of how I would fit in there, especially as a woman. I’ve been toying with the idea of going to some open game nights at my local game shop, but again, I’m concerned I would fit in as a more casual gamer.
This post was really informative and it definitely helped me see that there’s much more to it than testing games. This one specifically sounds a bit too big for my first con, but I’m much more interested in attending a smaller one and/ or checking out a game night at the local store. I know it’s a world I could be more involved in if I only had more opportunities to play. I lost my gaming group when I moved to the Midwest. You’ve picqued my interest. I will have to check into the smaller game cons. Thank you again!
Just curious, what are your favorite board games?
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I know in Ohio during the summer, there is a smaller game convention called Origins Game Fair. A lot of my friends have gone to it and they seem to enjoy it.
No matter where I go when it comes to conventions, I can always find people to talk to. And there are so many people of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds at these events. I never feel out of place as a lady gamer. I wouldn’t really consider myself to be that serious or hardcore of a gamer, myself. I’ve gotten into tabletop games quite a bit more over the past five years or so, but I don’t keep up with those in the same way I do books.
I think I started doing some recommendations posts for games, but I don’t remember if I finished them. I had intended to do a post for dice, for cards, and for board. I’ll have to check on that. But either way, I can definitely write up a post talking about some of my favorites because I have been lucky enough to play quite a few great ones these past several years.
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Thank you for this. It very much makes me feel much better about more seriously pursuing this! ❤ ❤ ❤
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You are so welcome. Really, it is such a good time and I have met so many cool people because of my nerdy hobbies. And I like talking about tabletop games almost as much as books.
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