Friday, September 2, 2022

Gen Con 2022 — Better late than never …


We (myself, my brother, and my wife) made it to Gen Con  again this year, after being on hiatus since 2019.  I did participate in the 2020 virtual convention, and I would have gone last year, except for the pandemic-related rescheduling that moved it to a weekend when I could not travel due to work commitments.

After the usual participation in the planning phases starting in January with the room lottery, it was finally time to pack things up and get on the road on the 2nd of August.  My brother had signed us up to run two miniatures games, a Burrows and Badgers skirmish, and a Chaos Wars mass battle.  I was to provide one of three B&B battlefields, and three of six B&B war bands.  That didn’t take up much space, so I was able to strap it all together in a stack of Really Useful Boxes, a 12-liter, a 4-liter, and a 2.5 liter (the latter my usual GM paraphenalia box).

While we chose to drive this year, that would have fit into the overhead compartment of a passenger aircraft, so I was pleased to be able to keep things compact.

Irene and I got in late on Tuesday, the 3rd of August, after having struggled with accidents and construction along the way.  The map software estimate a 10.5 hour trip, but we nneded about 13 hours, with the disruptions. Our plan had been to check in, get our wristbands from the vaccination check station, and have dinner with my brother, but that did not end up happening. The vaccination check station was already closing when we checked into the hotel.

We ended up with a room at the Conrad downtown, way up in the air.  The Conrad is more or less at the northeast corner of the collection of hotels attached to the convention center by an enclosed skywalk.  Judging from my walking times, it was about three quarters of a mile over to the far end of the convention center, where we would be running miniatures.

As usual, Indianapolis was more or less ready for the influx of nerds.

We got our wristbands bright and early on Wedneday, with no waiting.  On top of that, Will Call (where I had a few paper tickets from late-added events to collect) opened early, so we got through that with no wait either.  There was a wait for purchasing Gen Con merchandise, and attendees were pressed into service as gonfaloniers (there’s a word you don’t need every day …) to allow folks to rally appropriately on the end of the line.

We all had lunch at the District Tap (which did have the Sun King Gen Con beer on tap), and then my brother came back to our room for a quick round of Burrows and Badgers for practice.  

Wednesday events are free, though ticketed.  There seemed to be fewer of them this year. Nevertheless, we were all signed up that evening for our first scheduled event, a demo of a card game called Usurp the King.  It was, uh, interesting.  There were six rounds of card laying followed by a resolution phase ordered by card type.  After that was all over, the table situation was compared to a hierarchical chart of victory conditions.  While there was technically no randomness and only a little bit of hidden information, there was also very little ability to predict whether a play would be useful or not, so I didn’t feel like I had any control over winning or losing. Ultimately, not recommended …

Irene and I had a seminar on ballroom history (with a section on how to use this in your LARP) to start Thursday, after which my brother and I ran the official B&B game.  We got 5 of 6 registered players, which I thought was pretty good.  There have been conventions where the pre-registrant appearance rate was under 50%.  B&B is optimized for two-player play, so we got a six-player game by running three simultaneous two-player games. We used the same scenario on all three tables, a “Capture the Paychest” thing where finding and dragging off a treasure chest was the objecctive, regardless of the terrain. My brother had to fill in to even up the number of players.  I have to say, despite being a somewhat detailed set of rules, all of our public B&B games have gone very well. Kudos to Michael and Jo Lovejoy for the rules and the charming miniatures!

After the game, I ended up having enough time to drop the miniatures off at the hotel room (the Conrad being about a 12 minute walk each way from the ICC) and get back in time for the one speed painting round I had signed up for. These involve painting a pre-primed miniature with a limited palette of 12 colors using two brushes of dubious quality in 45 minutes. The figure we got was a Reaper Miniatures “Persephone”.  I was fortunate enough to be first in my round, and so maintain my streak of qualifying for a final every year I’ve tried this, despite the dubious brushes. I had to decline the actual final this year, though, as I already had another event scheduled.

After the speed painting, I did a quick recon of the Exhibit Hall.  I ended up having dinner from the food trucks (reasonably familiar Mexican street tacos) before heading on to my one scheduled RPG event of the weekend.  This was a Monster of the Week game (a Powered by the Apocalypse implementation) run by the folks from the Crit Show live play podcast.  As with the one I played at Gen Con Online 2020, we quickly built characters, formed a team, and tackled a mystery, improv’ed to the extent that the team wasn’t predictable in advance.  I played a time-traveled magician from Arrthurian times, and the mystery involved finding and destroying the “anchor” keeping a malevolent ghost in a haunted house.  I’d play with them again.

On Friday, Irene and I had two sessions of dance with the ladies of Counts to Nine.  We have danced with them before, and they were thrilled to see Irene (and me) back.  The second of these was an intro to Celtic dance, which is very energetic.  They had been hoping for a couple of years to be in a position to offer an intermediate class and go a little deeper, and we were signed up for that on Saturday. 

I followed up the dancing with some 6mm SYW action, Prussians versus Austrians.  This got off to a slow start due to a decision to have the sides choose their set ups sequentially from scratch.  This is not a decision I would make for my own games unless the number of elements each player was deploying was, say, five or fewer.  The rules, from The Games of War by John Bobek, were ok; my side lost, but it was nice to see some historicals there.

On Saturday morning, my brother and I had five players for the Chaos Wars game; unfortunately we had one player elect not to continue before the end, so I jumped in to take over the abandoned position for the last hour.  The scenario was an elf/human punitive expedition into the territory of the orc/undead/lizardman alliance.  In retrospect, there might have been a few too many monsters on the table for a satisfying game.

After Chaos Wars, Irene and I had enough “leg” left to get through the Intermediate Celtic Dance class, but Michael Flatley doesn’t need to fear for his job on my account.  Irene and I had a quiet (early) dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory after a brief foray into the Exhibit Hall. By Saturday night we were both hitting the wall, but I did hobble over to the JW Marriot to look at open gaming set up in one of the ballrooms.

While “open”, there was some organization to assist you, and various flags and cones were available from a headquarters desk, to assist you in recruiting the appropriate people for your table.

I’m not sure the wide angle lens is providing the proper impression of the scale of the open gaming area, so you might want to tap on that picture and take a closer look.  Most of the tables were playing various board games, both new and classic, but I saw a few roleplaying games going on, and a table of Gaslands miniartures as well.

We finished up with ticketed events on Sunday morning with one more dance, after which I finished shopping.  I didn’t really intend to do a lot of shopping this year, but I came home with a few t-shirts, the annual pin, a few odd little indie rpgs, and a few other bits and bobs.

We took a commemorative picture, had a farewell meal with my brother at the restaurant attached to the Downtown Marriott, and then headed home, with a planned overnight stop in Columbus.

By the way, after it was too late to do anything about it at the convention, I learned that the Pin Bazaar event event this year included a pin memorializing the rather distinctive carpet pattern from the Indianapolis Convention Center, as seen in the picture above.  Happily, I was able to acquire one after the convention.

Overall, it was a good con, and I was glad to be back among my tribe for a while.  It looks like the vaccination requirement, the masking, the handwashing, and perhaps an element of good luck, were sufficient for us to avoid the plague.

Now it’s time to start planning our events for next year …