Gen Con 2013 Con Report, Or, The Massive Post That Ate Tuesday Night

GenCon this year came quickly, struck with force, and left me with the confluenza and many other more desirable goodies. I signed up for a variety of events, lucked my way into a few notable gems, and played many a game, some better advised than others.  Here’s my con experience in a day-by-day nutshell.

The Masses

The Masses

Thursday we arrived in the early afternoon and abandoned our car a half hour’s trudge away from the convention center with a “let it burn” attitude befitting parking in Downtown, Anywhere, USA. We walked headlong into a portion of our adventuring party heading to lunch at Ye Olde Food Court. One poor adventurer had already been stricken with Confluenza, the higher born half-brother to Con Crud. He and his trusted ally departed on a side quest to the apothecary while Joe, Brad, and I ventured into the Dealer Hall.  Several hours later we emerged for dinner at Scotty’s Brewhouse and the most satisfying beer in recent memory, the Thr3e Wise Men’s Brown Ale. After that, it was back to the JW Marriott for a game of Warmachine High Command. Luckily, I had recently played Dominion, the deck building card game of the principle on which all themed card games are apparently now based. Like Dominion, the player starts with basic resources, uses them to purchase more useful resources and other cards worth victory points. High Command added a deployment mechanic to a battle ground where players face off with faction-themed warjacks and casters to win the battle ground card worth more victory points than any of the resource cards. At the end of the game, the player with the most victory points wins. In this case, Brad emerged victorious by a mile, then myself much more closely followed by the others.

Friday morning our adventuring party entered into a Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) Module, a role playing system based in fantasy feudal Japan driven by the interactions between different clans of samurai. This setting had always sounded a little weird to me but it turned out to be a great time and an interesting setting. Our player characters included two bodyguards (Crane and Phoenix), a shugenja (Phoenix), a bushi (Lion), and a courtier (yours truly, of the Crane). Basically, we were sent as representatives of our clan to attend this world’s version of the Triwizard Tournament to be attended by the Emperor and his family. Before the tournament could begin, the pregnant Empress, an oracle of the Kami, was murdered with a stolen ethereal blade of power transporting us and our young charges to the dreamworld. Our task was to gather our scattered charges and keys to each section of the world by completing the same challenges the students would have performed in the tournament. The neat thing about L5R is how little it depends on hack and slash to move the plot forward. To complete one task, I composed an actual haiku to gain a bonus on my roll. What seemed pretty weird before ended up being awfully fun. Our GM did a great job being enthusiastic and informative and the module was designed for a beginner like me.

My Haiku

My Haiku

Following RP, I attended a panel on The Representation of Gender in Gaming Art.  I was impressed that the panel was lead by three head art directors from gaming companies ranging from mega (Jennifer Clarke Wilkes of Wizards of the Coast) to competitive offshoot (Richard Thomas of White Wolf) and finally to  Jon Hodgson of Cubicle 7 Entertainment, art director of the Doctor Who Card Game. The main consensus of the panel and audience exchange seemed to be that representation of classically beautiful women in tiny amounts of clothing wasn’t necessarily wrong, it just couldn’t compose 99.99% of gaming art as it historically has. In other words, efforts should be made to incorporate more equal ratios of men and women of all body types, races, and sexual identities.  Nothing truly groundbreaking but it was so nice to hear three professionals in charge of art direction really identify with the feelings of the audience on these trigger topics. Of course their enthusiastic participation in such a panel pretty much precluded that but it was still nice to hear that change is coming to the industry.

I quickly transitioned to a seminar on making your own simple fermented beverages from grocery store material. Basically, making wine from frozen fruits involves making a smoothie with sugar and fruit, pitching yeast and letting it ferment for a month or more. Then siphoning it into growlers and aging it for some time. I’m thinking of hitting Sam’s Club for blackberries asap! I loved brewing beer and this can potentially be even easier.

Our adventuring party was completed when Grace and Kenny joined us from afar and I got to see some of their first experiences with Gen Con and the dealer hall. Grace and I scoped out jewelry and the Artist Alley for the rest of the afternoon. I rejoined the men for dinner at California Pizza Kitchen, an establishment overwhelmed by GenCon crowds but made up for (some) ill equipped staff with delicious pizza.

Our party split for night time gaming: Mike and Jason played Warmachine, Joe and Brad split games of High Command, and Grace, Kenny, Chris, and I played Wiz War, a favorite of mine but woe to the participants of a gaming session in which I know the most about the game. I’m pretty sure Kenny won a game and we had to cut short the second game to race to move the Bussey-mobile before it was impounded by the lords of traffic cones.

Saturday, I had tickets first thing for a crafting class to make an encapsulated mica necklace. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it turns out it was exactly as it sounded. Basically, you peel apart mica into two equal planes, layer paper images onto a cut and create adhesive bound to the inside of one piece of mica and top it off with the other piece of mica. I made mine double sided and Doctor Who themed. I also modified it into a beaded hanging for Staci’s car mirror or wherever she would like to hang it!

Doctor Who Encapsulated Mica Fob

Doctor Who Encapsulated Mica Fob

Doctor Who Encapsulated Mica Fob

Other Side

I had noticed earlier in the morning that Patrick Rothfuss, author of the Kingkiller Chronicles, would be reading alongside David Gross from Paizo Pathfinder Publishing at noon. Having some extra time, I decided to take a chance and wait in line to hear one of my favorite authors speak despite having no ticket. I apparently was the first non-ticketed person in line because for unknown reasons, a ticketed individual gave up his ticket and asked the coordinator to send it up to the first non-ticketed person in line, and I received it. As a result, I sat front and center while Rothfuss read from his submission to the recently released fantasy anthology Unfettered and Gross read from Prince of Wolves, a Pathfinder novel. I ended up picking up both works later at the Dealer hall. Unfettered is currently a limited print run published to help pay off medical bills incurred by a friend of the anthology authors who suffered from cancer uninsured. Prince of Wolves just plain sounded fun and reminded me of my freshman year of highschool when I first read Dragonlance novels. David Gross was also pretty nice to meet and he signed my copy when I purchased it from the Paizo booth.

Rothfuss and Gross

Rothfuss and Gross

I stumbled on one of my favorite events in the Vendor Hall later that afternoon. Apparently, it is a tradition at Rio Grande Games to hold a blind auction in which booth visitors are asked to hold up some denomination of money and they are handed a game at that greatly reduced price. I watched expansions for Dominion be auctioned for a third of their cover values. Unfortunately, I was a little to hesitant to give up money for an unknown game and didn’t participate but it was fascinating to watch. (Spoiler alert, I later picked up Dominion at Amazon prices).

I finally attended the craft class to which I was most looking forward: Microscope Slide Pendants! The leader of the class had devised an alternative to soldering together glass around the images of choice by using copper tape. The craft is downright easy and the effect is stunning with the right images. I made two, one for me, and one for D3Z. I’m interested to see how durable the product is but if it works out, the possibilities are endless!

Microscope Slide Pendants Side A

Microscope Slide Pendants Side A

Microscope Slide Pendants Side B

Microscope Slide Pendants Side B

That evening, our party congregated for late night gaming, sans Kenny who had won dinner with the Munchkin Czar for entering a Munchkin tournament. The game of the evening was a Game of Thrones themed game that turned out to be part Diplomacy, part Risk, and all a bad idea late at night on the last evening of the Con after everyone is already tired, sick, or sick and tired. However, a party full of stubborn heads prevailed and Joe emerged victorious as leader of the Baratheons. It was a hard fought Game of Thrones and I can later appreciate the steep learning curve the game provided along with all the subtleties of strategies inherent in each house. At the time however, I was just kind of glad it ended.

Over all, I had a lot of favorites about the Con. My favorite cosplay was a group of Steampunk Ghostbusters now featured in this article on IO9. I love that they even have the secretary, a character that has always stood out to me since watching the movies growing up. A close second was a lady escorting a child in a motorized, life-size, movie quality Dalek costume as tall as I was. The Dalek costume/mobile was so impressive I have no recollection of the lady’s costume. It simply blew me away.

I also loved this year’s balloon art constructed to be destroyed for charity. This year it was a 25 foot wingspan Cthulhu made of green balloons. I kid you not, this thing was epic. Sadly, some ne’er do wells vandalized it Friday night/early morning but it was soon resurrected to its former glory by the talented (and positively irate) creator.


For the Kids!

All in all, the Con was an absolute blast and I can’t wait to go again next year. I highly encourage anyone who hasn’t been to give it a try like we did last year and go up for a single day. Contrary to this lengthy post, Gen Con is definitely an event that can only be experienced. Finally, I would like to send a special shout out to Adam and D3Z who were kind enough to check on my wayward Kitty while I was out of town. Thanks guys, this 8×10 is for you all and Grizzly Anna! I promise to deliver when I’m not contagious 😀

Emily Returns by Cricket Press


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. stacigilliam
    Aug 25, 2013 @ 10:22:21

    Between the family reunion AND discovering I had a job, I hadn’t been able to check the Easel like I normally do. Great article about Gen-Con (I really want to go some time!) and a early “Thank you” for the DW mirror hang.


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