Major Spoilers has dispatched one of its intrepid writers to the very bowels of gaming culture. Yes, it’s Gen Con, and it’s here.
Hey folks. So, for this weekend, I’m your man on the ground at Gen Con, the four day gaming extravaganza that invades Indianapolis every year in August. Last year, Gen Con pulled in somewhere around 40,000 attendees and this year looks like it might outstrip that number.
This is only my second Gen Con, and I am hardly a seasoned convention goer. This means that I am still easily bedazzled by the sheer size and spectacle of what is essentially a small city’s worth of gamers in all their various forms. It’s a dizzying array of pun-worthy pop culture t-shirts, cosplay, geekspeak and dice in all the colors of the rainbow. Every type of game you can imagine is available – from the crunchiest, most complicated war simulation to all-ages family board games, from computer games to LARPs to scavenger hunts, it’s all here. And hundreds of people are playing.
THE HEART OF IT ALL
A person could easily spend the entire four days in the exhibit hall, where gaming companies large and small hawk their wares, demonstrate games, introduce new products and entice lucky gamers with offers of free dice. Anything you can envision related to gaming is on sale, and the only limit is your pocket book (and carrying capacity). Some of the higher profile gaming companies, such as Fantasy Flight, Catalyst, and Paizo Publishing even have lines just to get into their merchant areas. One of the best parts of the exhibit hall is demoing games, as one of the company reps guides you through the rules and gameplay. I’ll be featuring more of those in the coming days.
Today, I spent most of my time wandering the exhibit halls in a state of quivering awe, but I did have some random encounters of note. I ran into Jim Zub, the writer of Image Comics’ Skullkickers, an extremely funny fantasy/action comic book (and a recipient of a four and half star review from yours truly, a few months back). We had a pleasant chat, he signed a book of mine, and I have a photo for evidence.
I also playtested a bit of D&D Next, in which our band of intrepid adventurers sought to protect Candlekeep as it was assaulted by a warhost of greenskins, all under the baleful eye of a giant Lloth statue. The two hour session ended with a surprise encounter between our party and a blue dragon, which is pretty stiff for a party of six 2nd-level characters. I playtested D&D Next last year too. I don’t recall much difference in the rules between session. I do like the opportunity to see where Wizards of the Coast is going with Dungeons & Dragons, under the guidance of a WOTC-supplied DM (our guy, Greg, was great). It’s also fun, if possibly intimidating, to play a few rounds of D&D with some strangers across the table. I had a few buddies with me, but our party was rounded out by some of the nicest folks you could hope to game with (in my limited experience, folks at Gen Con, as a rule, tend to be very friendly).
But I’m still not sold on D&D Next. The system streamlines things immensely. Almost all of the tactical movement is gone, while skill checks are almost entirely replaced by straight attribute rolls. So it does feel more like older editions of D&D, and that’s part of the problem. It doesn’t feel like the future. But it is a work in progress, I got a set of new dice for playing, and I still had plenty of fun.
In the next few days, I’ll have some more interesting tales to spin about the bevy of experiences available at Gen Con. Just know that it’s all too much for one gamer to enjoy. So if you’re not here this year, come out next year and check it out for yourself. And if there’s anything you want me to check out while I’m here, twitter me @TheChimples and I’ll see what I can do for you.
Hot Battletech gameplay
A glimpse at the new Robotech tactical war game
Other things that have “tech”