Another Gen Con has come and gone (been history for at least a couple of weeks now) and I’m sure there are plenty of gamers feeling the PostGenConBlues… which can manifest in both attendees (because they wish it could last longer) and in non-attendees (because they didn’t get to go). I didn’t do a lot of the events, but I certainly saw all the exhibit hall had to offer…
Best Game I Demo’d: Cryptozoic’s Hot Rod Creeps
For those readers who don’t know, I also moonlight as a gearhead and grease monkey wannabe. So when I walked by Cryptozoic’s booth (they are known for their World of Warcraft card game) and saw their tribute to Kustom Kulture, I made sure I got an opportunity to demo the game with its designer, Matt Hyra.
Cryptozoic’s president, Cory Jones dreamed up the concept and tapped Matt to design a racing board game that highlighted some of their other properties (such as Food Fight and Epic Spell Wars). What we got is a fairly balanced, customizable game with six deck-based teams. Each team focuses on a different aspect of the leading to a different feel. The aspects of the game include upgrades (engine, weapon, wheels, and pit crew), the nitro deck (basically take damage for speed), your tank (draw deck, discard deck, and hand), and the track. The game is a blast to play and you can jump/race through (or land in) the hazards (ring of fire, shark pool, oil slicks, fan frenzy) as well as draft other players (not to mention fighting them). The track is customizable which is great for replay-ability.
The demo was so awesome I immediately went and purchased a copy (and got 4 promos for the demo). In fact, this was my only game purchase (other purchases included the novel below, the Pathfinder comic, and the exclusive Pathfinder Battles black dragon mini).
Publishers Need To Demo
My previous experience has led me to one maxim I live by as a gamer: I will NOT buy your game unless I can demo it. Publishers take heed, there has to be plenty of gamers out there like me. If I can’t easily and fully experience your game before plunking down money, then you will never experience my patronage. DEMO YOUR GODDAMNED GAMES! Also, demo means free.
Story & Soundtrack: Foreshadows
I really, really dig the concept behind Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero. It’s anthology fiction where each story has its own soundtrack. What I’ve read and listened to so far have been pretty good. It’s dark-dystopian sci-fi written by a nearly two dozen authors including roleplaying staples, Ed Greenwood and Ari Marmell.
Things I Was Interested In But Skipped
Mostly because there wasn’t a demo available nearby…
- Privateer Press’ Iron Kingdoms RPG (it sold out quickly, but I would have purchased it after the press hour had there been a demo)
- Pagan Publishing’s Delta Green RPG
- Eden Studio’s Conspiracy X
- Post Human Studio’s Eclipse Phase
Most Insane Fucking Retail Line: Fantasy Flight Games
I managed to get 5th or 6th spot in FFG’s Thursday opening line and it was fucking nuts. I promised a friend I’d pick up their new X-Wing miniatures space combat game and both boosters… which was a hot product and sold out before the end of the show. But the surprise [to me] hot products were Android: Netrunner and Infiltration. There was a huge nearly 5′ tall stack of Netrunner boxes that was laid to waste within minutes of the exhibit hall doors opening. Once I paid, I saw the FFG line probably had about 300 people in it within the first few minutes.
The Purple Golem Ousts the Coastal Wizards
After my initial foray into Gen Con on Thursday morning, I was left wondering what the hell happened to the official Dungeons & Dragons brand at the premiere roleplaying game event. The RPGA and its Living Forgotten Realms (and therefore the current edition of D&D) appeared as a mere afterthought, sharing the same level of support as the tactical minis game, Dungeon Command (or maybe they just decided to finally fully embrace the tactical aspect of 4e and totally ditch the roleplay element), and the D&D Next playtest… which was mediocre at best (not the games themselves, but the support/floor space).
I was appalled that Wizards required event tickets to play the damned playtest! That’s either marketing genius (why, yes, I’ll pay you to help develop your incomplete game) or horrible service to their fans (I’ll let you determine where I fall on that axis).
But for the unofficial D&D brand that is known as Pathfinder, things were looking big. Paizo’s organized play arm, Pathfinder Society, has more than doubled its space from last year and may have actually rivaled the RPGA’s space (formerly in the Sagamore Ballroom) during the height of 3.5 or 4e. However, I was pretty disappointed to find that there were no dungeon delves happening that I quickly jump into.
From my perspective, it definitely seemed as if Pathfinder had beat D&D at its own game, but it could just be Wizards giving 4e players the middle finger and putting all their focus on D&D Next. At least WotC did the GenCon Keynote right, even if it was a lot of talking in circles… but maybe that’s because it was Gen Con’s keynote (I believe Peter wants Mayfair Games to do next year’s).
Gen Con Educational Partnership
One thing I was definitely excited about was Gen Con’s new partnership with my alma mater, IUPUI (though word on the street is that it may soon just be IUI, or Indiana University of Indianapolis). The partnership is being spearheaded by (at least on the school side of the program) by my former prof and good buddy, Mat Powers (who also had section in the Art Gallery).
Things are still pretty nebulous (as I reported earlier) as far as the direction of the program is concerned, but one thing’s for sure: Gen Con wants to grow the presence of the educational sector at the convention. Whether this targets serious gaming (the application of games in teaching) or more on the teaching game design remains to be determined. But there does seem to be a desire to connect educational programs with the industry and I saw the seed of this first hand. Gen Con hosted an exclusive event that brought IUPUI students, faculty, and alumni together for a question & answer with Gen Con’s Peter Adkison and Mayfair Game’s Larry Roznai, probably two of the more interesting (if not eccentric) characters you can meet in the gaming industry.
I’d definitely consider obtaining a Masters (or maybe a Doctorate) if this new partnership guaranteed some collaboration/review with entities in the gaming industry (you reading this Powers?).
Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance
Overall, I came away from this year’s Gen Con feeling less enthusiastic than previous years (been attending since it came to Indianapolis in 2003), but it has less to do with the convention itself and more to do with my lack of planning and fact that I was rear-ended on my way home from the event… which has no doubt colored my memory of the 45th year of the best four days in gaming. So next year, I’ll be sure to adhere to the 7Ps.