Saturday, August 25, 2018

Gencon 2018 After Action Report (Long)

Gencon 2018 has come and gone, and all that’s left is to complete the paperwork.

As usual, planning for this started back in January, when badges were purchased to allow us a shot at the room lottery.  Unfortunately, we didn’t end up with a downtown hotel room in a connected hotel, so my brother and I decided that it would not be a good year to host any miniatures games.  

My sign-up time draw for events in May wasn’t particularly good either, so I wasn’t able to get in to any of the “rare” games I had wish-listed.  Nevertheless, I had high hopes for a good convention, knowing that I could always fill any downtime by checking out the exhibitors, playing games demos, or doing some roleplaying with Games on Demand.  

Our crew was diminished this year, since 2nd son William was tied up with grad school events and wasn’t going to be able to make the trip.  That left my brother, Irene, elder son Norman, and myself.  Irene and I scheduled a flight in on Tuesday evening, so that we would be able to take in the unofficial Wednesday activities, and Norman joined us on Wednesday evening.

As the event approached, Norman and I looked into volunteering as gamemasters with Games on Demand, but when push came to shove, I didn’t, due to a lot of activity going on in my non-gaming life.  I hope to do better next year, but it was probably a good thing to have this as a “rest” year. (Gencon is never very restful, but I wasn’t running anything, so it was sort of a rest.)

This was our fifth consecutive Gencon. I probably wrote up the story before, of how my brother and I had attended once before, in 1980, and how a group of guys playing a pick-up fantasy miniatures game in the hallway seemed to be having more fun than almost anyone else we ran across.  So I wanted to make sure that I had fantasy miniatures in case we needed a pick-up game of our own.  I have been working on the “Portable Fantasy Game/Campaign” for just such eventualities.  I added a magnetic dungeon floor section to one of the box lids this year, and therefore loaded my overflow box with magnetized dungon walls, so that we could game whatever might come up.

Portable Fantasy Game 2.5 Liter Expansion Box

The Tuesday of the flight finally arrived.  Everything was packed, and the lists were checked twice.  Apparently I actually left enough time to do that properly, because I didn’t  have to buy replacements for anything left behind.  The Portable Fantasy set fit neatly into the overhead container:

My brother picked us up at the airport after an uneventful flight, and we overnighted in Bloomington, hoping for an early start back to Indianapolis the next morning.

The availability of games on Wednesday seemed a bit limited this year, so I guess we’ll be signing up to run something next year.  We were able to find three spaces in a board game demonstration for something called Motora.  This turned out to be a worker placement game themed around tribes on an island with gradually diminishing resources.  Players needed to balance their tribe members between foraging, fighting, and attempting to control idols to fulfill victory conditions.  Including teaching the rules this took about two hours, so it is  on the long side for a Eurogame.  We all thought that it was fun, though, and would expect to back the Kickstarter to produce it when it starts off.

We hit Scotty’s Brewhouse after the game, for lunch and a free die.  It looks like the trendy thing this year is to add macaroni and cheese to sandwiches. (In fact, I went to a different brewpub, in Utah, the week after the convention, and found that they were also adding mac and cheese to sandwiches...) My brother and I concluded that we should really have signed up to run something on Wednesday, since the games available were all sold out, indicating some underserved demand. We played a few of our carried contingency games (Flux, Travel Carcassonne) while waiting for the kickoff party.   I was determined to try the special Gencon brew this year, and the line wasn't too bad, considering.

We eventually picked son Norman up from the airport, and checked into the hotels for the night.

We got off to an early start the next morning, with a couple of 9:00AM events.  As we got to the convention center, people were waiting for events, and gaming tends to break out under these circumstances:

Waiting games...

Norman-son had developed the schedule matrix for the convention, as has become customary the past few years.  As can be seen from the matrix, I started the official first day of the convention off with a demonstration of Mantic's Kings of War fantasy battle game.  I have had a copy of the rules for some time, but haven't played it previously.  

The game zone was well signed.

As a demo session, the organizers set up a series of one-on-one battles.  We were each invited to choose an army.  I picked one which looked loosely like a Hundred Years War medieval army with some knights and archers, plus a fantasy unit of flying knights.  The gimmick to Kings of War is that figures are not removed, and units are of variable sizes, from detachments to regiments.  Hits cause an increasing penalty to morale checks until a unit routs.  We found in play that this doesn't take too long, so it was a pretty quick game.

I chose the army with the archers...
My main issue had to do with army choice; while all the armies were designed to the same point level, my opponent had a demon army led by a fireball-throwing efreet, and the magical attacks were breaking my units pretty quickly.  My archers routed before they could shoot.  It might be worth looking at more closely at some future point, but I would want to read the online commentaries and see what the regulars have to say about the point-buy system.

Irene met up with me after the game, and we took a walk through the exhibit hall.  Irene and are are working on moving to a new house, so we had an agenda to look at gaming tables.  I was impressed by the Prophecy table introduced last year by Wyrmwood, and was interested to see that they had introduced a new model, the Sojourn gaming table.  I ended up putting a deposit on one, so the new house will be equipped for games. 

Irene wanted to try some "escape rooms" during the convention, so she went off to try one while I settled in for the first of my speed painting events for the weekend.  I ended up in three, two using Reaper miniatures and one with Iron Wind.  I was pleased to place first in the first Reaper event I was in, so that got me a seat in the Reaper finals on Sunday and an extra miniature.

Reaper, Iron Wind, Reaper, and Reaper finals, from left to right

45 minutes each for the preliminary figures, 60 minutes for the final

This is the fourth year in a row that I have made it into a speed painting final, so I guess I have some idea of what I'm doing.

Irene and I were signed up for an escape room on Thursday evening, but there was a scheduling difficulty on the part of the escape room business, so we agreed to reschedule it until Saturday afternoon.  

Auction winnings

We ended up at the auction, as in previous years.  I wasn't looking for anything in particular, but over the weekend, I did end up with a couple of replacements for games I once had in my collection.

Consignment store area at the auction
Games and items not sold at auction often end up in the consignment area at a fixed price, and the consignment area was busy as usual.  I ducked in there a couple of times, but didn't get anything except a Games Workshop terrain book for my brother.

On Friday, Irene and I had signed up for a dance event, called "Dance to the Front Lines".  This was run by Counts to Nine Productions, and was one of several historical dance seminars they put on.  As I expected from the description, this was basically in the English Country Dance line.  After years of ballroom training, this was not too difficult, and I found it relaxing to have someone else tell me what to do. (In ballroom, as the leader, it's my job to decide what to improvise next...)  Regrettably I was too busy dancing to take any pictures.

The next two speed painting events (results as shown above) were back-to-back on Friday afternoon. Signing up for back-to-back events at Gencon is really only possible if they are in the same location.  I ended up second in the Reaper round, which would have qualified me for the finals if I hadn't already been qualified.  I won the Iron Wind round, and picked up a couple of blisters of old Ral Partha sculpts as a prize.  

Irene and I were signed up together for an escape room on Friday evening, with a lab theme.  I don't want to spoil these things too much, but it was an interesting first experience.  We had to actually use some of the lab equipment, including a centrifuge and a glove box, which was somewhat unexpected.   This particular escape room was run by a franchise colocated with the Spaghetti Factory, so we stopped in there for some dinner to round out the evening.

I was signed up for a mold making workshop on Saturday morning.  My brother did this last year, so I had some idea of what to expect.  I had not had time in the run-up to the convention to sculpt any small terrain item, so I stopped off in the open crafting area while waiting for the workshop.  The craft area is part of the Spouse Activities track and is sponsored by the Brother sewing machine company. I knew that they would have various bits and pieces to work with.  I built a base using a couple of dominoes with a dragon design (which turned out to be too big) and picked up a floral design bead which I eventually embedded in a clay rock.

Gencon has an official sewing machine?
I am waiting on some appropriate casting plaster, but here's my completed rock formation mold, with the bead representing a carving, and a sigil of some sort engraved on the other side.

Mold making

Our rescheduled escape room event was on Saturday afternoon.  Irene and I were teamed with a family with about four kids, so channeling the kids' enthusiasm into something useful was the main challenge.  We finished that one about twenty minutes early, so we had plenty of time to make it back to the Westin for our second Counts to Nine dance event.  At four in the afternoon, it was more heavily attended than the previous one, and was a lot of fun.  

We also stopped in for a ballroom party with the Dancing and Dragons team in the evening, which rounded out our Gencon dance experience. 

There were still a few one-day badges available at the beginning of the convention, but by Saturday, the last of the Sunday-only badges had sold out. 

Plan ahead...

Irene and my brother and I wandered around after the party and some dinner, and found our way to the open gaming space at the J.W. Marriott.  This was newly added this year.

About half of the open gaming space

When we wandered by on Saturday night, it appeared to be pretty active.  It would have been a little difficult to drop a pick-up miniatures game there, since the tables were only two feet wide, but it looked like a great opportunity to try out your need board game acquisitions or relax with an old favorite or two.

Norman-son and I hit Games on Demand on Sunday morning.  Norman had spent some time on Friday and Saturday night running some games for them, so he had a priority choice ticket.  I ended up with an early seat, and tried out Ross Cowman's new game BFF from Heart of the Deernicorn.  While the topic (middle school friends) isn't my usual cup of tea, I was curious about how the story-telling mechanics were going to work with a series of location-based segments (termed "hangouts" in this context).  I don't know that story games are going to be my regular fare, but it's good to stretch my improv skills now and then.

While we were occupied with Games on Demand, Irene was doing a final check of the exhibitors, and ran into Nelly, host of Nelly's Nerdy Adventures, a video log of her various convention experiences, including Gencon.  My brother originally introduced me to this...

Nerdy Nelly

Norman-son had gotten an alternate seat in the Reaper speed painting final, which was out last scheduled Gencon event.  As expected, enough there were enough no-shows that he got a seat.

Me, head down in the painting

Norman, also head down in the painting

This turned out to be good for him, because he ended up winning the competition:

Norman's finals figure, back view

All of Norman's speed paints; note the ermine pattern on the inside of the wizard's cloak

Between the snowflakes and the ermine pattern, his amazing freehand skills blew away the competition, so he ended the convention on a high note.

After some dinner, my brother dropped us off at the airport.  Most of the outbound traffic on Sunday evening was Gencon attendees.

Open Gaming at the departure gates

The airport was prepped for us; open gaming tables had been set up in the departure areas, so we settled in for some more Travel Carcassonne while we waited for our plane.

One last game, then farewell to Indy for another year...

We finally arrived home around midnight, and I would have liked to have taken the day off afterwards for recovery, but the timing didn't allow for it this year, so it was a long week, ending with the trip to Utah resulting in the painting displayed in the previous post.

Overall, though, it was another great convention.  After five of them, I think we have the system down pretty well, and our planning and activities this year were about right.  Looking forward to next year!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Some Painting

I've been painting with the travel kit this weekend, and have finished the figures for a couple of stands for the Portable Fantasy set in 1/72 scale plastic. They are seen here on base mock-ups.

I have also been attempting to write up my Gencon after action report, but have been experiencing technical difficulties, and it may have to wait.