Gen Con Indie

The Indiana Convention Center, as it appears in my mind about this time every year.

As many of you are no doubt rabidly aware, Gen Con Indy 2012 approaches. I am slightly foamier than I usually am since I had to miss all but a few hours of the ‘con last year. That being said, I am a little dumbfounded as to how to spend my time in Indy this year. Sure, there’ll be lots of time spent with old friends and new and many (mis)adventures to be had. But some of that time is going to be spent gaming, and I’ve been struggling with how to fill in the nerdliest 4 days of my year.

I looked deep within myself for answers, and after breaking through several layers of E.L. Fudge strata I found my answer in the form of a simple question.

“What don’t I get to do at home that I can do at Gen Con?”

Board Out Of My Mind

One simple answer to this question is that there are lots of games I’ve never tried at Gen Con, and a lot of them come from really small publishers.

Board games are a good start. There are places selling old board games and different ones selling new board games. Some vendors are showing off board games that haven’t even been released yet. There is usually even a big room filled with old board games and tons of people milling around looking to play with someone. For the competitive, there are even some boardgame tournaments out there. The U.S. qualifier for the Catan World Championships is even being held at Gen Con this year. I hear that gets ugly. People trade blood for sheep.

If I were so inclined, Gen Con is also one of the few times a year I could devote myself fully to a days-long miniatures battle. That doesn’t really float my boat these days, but I know there are a lot of people out there whose boat it is compatible with. You’ll very seldom see such amazing detail and variety in minis terrain. Once again, you’ll see everything from old favorites to really old favorites to new stuff. I’ve seen everything from Warhammer to HeroClix to old BattleTech. One year I saw some people doing what appeared to be a homemade Stargate:SG1 game (with beautiful glass-blown stargates). There was a common thread at each: stern faces wielding tiny measuring sticks, eyebrows working furiously under the strain of lots of math, the joy of the hell of imaginary war in their eyes.

I don’t get much of a chance to play collectible card games anymore, but Gen Con is a great opportunity for me to get my nerd poker on as well. There’s always an enormous room to play Magic: The Gathering. Cryptozoic usually has a large area I can play my favorite, the World of Warcraft TCG. (My decks are kinda old and my drafting skills are old and busted, though, so I’m expecting to get murdered soundly.)

I Have Come To Roleplay And Chew Bubblegum. And I’m All Out of Bubblegum.

The part I’m most looking forward to, though? The roleplaying games. (Big surprise.)

Admittedly, I’ve been gunshy about trying stuff that isn’t D&D for years. I dabbled in a few other game systems back in high school, but nothing ever stuck. Then, this past year, I was pestered by several of our illustrious staff that I should “expand my horizons” a bit. I was pretty sure none of them were offering me marijuana, so I listened to them — a mad pursuit that found me staying at the Hotel Chalkerian for DC Gameday. And boy, did I ever play a lot of roleplaying games that weren’t D&D. Several flavors of Cortex+. Fiasco. Microscope. Some stuff I don’t even fully remember. I saw different ways to handle certain game mechanics. I saw game mechanics that were primarily designed to deal with making stories and not crunching numbers for combat. Though I still primarily play D&D now, these experiences have indelibly changed the way I play and the way I run games.

At Gen Con, I’ll get to try out lots of other cool games like these. I’ve been dying to finally try out Mouse Guard, and I’ve been hearing lots of good stuff about Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. I wanna play some more Marvel (and/or anything else Cortex+, some Leverage maybe?). I’m sure those are just the tip of the iceberg.

Convention Secrets

Let me start by saying I have a fantastic gaming group that I love to pieces. (Sometimes literally, if you count their PC’s.) They are, however, most comfortable with D&D and they tend get restless if I start wanting to try out a gatling gun filled with new gaming systems to try out. I get it. It’s hard to keep a continuous story and learn new rules and all that and most of us just want to relax and get our D&D on. I hold no grudges against this. I’ve been like this with DM’s before.

That’s why gaming conventions are awesome. Let’s say, for instance, that you have the game-wanderlust like me. I can sign up for an event featuring the game I want to try out, and I can play it for an afternoon under a GM that probably knows the system already so I can see how the game is actually run, and I can do so without having to annoy anyone or coax them into making their night to relax complicated by a learning curve. Even more fun: getting a friend to go with you to one of these games. At best, you’ll have lots of fun and stories to share. At worst, at least you won’t be the only one coming back to your gaming group looking like a Crazed Game Hermit who lost their sanity at the Haunted Game Table.

At Gen Con, I have the opportunity to play this stuff with people who do want to play, and still have time to play the stuff my friends and I like to play. And then play some other stuff, followed by some other stuff. I should probably eat at some point, too. We’ll see.

What are you guys playing this year (especially stuff most people have never heard of)? I need good recommendations!

Photo Credit


  1. Nullzone says:

    Sounds like you’re in for a lot of time in the Indie Games On Demand area, my friend 🙂

    With luck I’ll make a few stops in there too. It’s a pretty awesome place to be 🙂

  2. BolieRide says:

    I hope for Leverage too, but did not see any offered!!

  3. I can see if we can get some Leverage going at the convention. That’s one game that’s really easy for me to run on the fly (and I LOVE running it.)

  4. @Dave: SOLD. TIEM 2 GRIFT

  5. I also hope you get a chance to play Do!

  6. I’m of course going to suggest the Ashes of Athas events, as we have some pretty great adventures for this convention (if you don’t mind my pimping my own campaign).

    I’m a big fan of playing new games, though I am saddened that gaming companies don’t have more short intro sessions so you could pick up 2 hours of games like Dresden Files, One Ring, Deadlands, etc.

    I’ll be checking out Shawn Merwin’s drow 4E classic adventure (it looks really cool), running the D&D Next adventure, playing Shadowrun and Eclipse Phase, playing a slot of Arcanis’ living campaign, and doing the usual – a full schedule crammed with more in between!

  7. Bolieride says:

    I am there for leverage!
    I too am shocked by how some companies don’t run a lot of games. I was expecting Goodman Games to have tons of DCC, and there was very little Hackmaster offered as well.
    Privateer Press, in my opinion is doing a good job of promoting their new rpg Iron Kingdoms, there were tons of it offered. At least a couple each day.

  8. marimacc says:

    I’ll mostly be in the SPA open crafting room, ICC 209, because that’s where all the cool kids hang out. 🙂

  9. Andrew Peterson says:

    If you get a chance, try True Dungeon. Even if you can’t register for a ticket, if you are going alone you can get into a group pretty quick by hanging out for 15-20 minutes in the True Dungeon area.

  10. @Dave “The Game” Chalker Dude…let me know if your going to run an on the fly game of this. I very much wanted to play it and didn’t see it offered. I also know of one of the graphic designers of the book that wants to play as well. Let me know PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!!!

  11. I like your approach. GenCon is a time to try new things and to get to play old things that you ordinarily don’t get the chance to play. Whee!

    As for helping you plan to spend your time, I would love to show off my new card game, Chaos & Alchemy, to you at GenCon! It’s a quick-play game, which makes it good for cons (or at least that’s the plan).