Sunday, August 13, 2023

Gen Con 2023 After Action Report

 My wife and I did all the necessary Gen Con planning (badges, hotel reservations, flight arrangements, and event sign-ups) at the appropirate intermediate milestones this year, so we were able to pack up calmly on Monday, July 31st, to be ready to head to the airport on Tuesday morning, 1 August 2023.  Since we were flying, I had to keep the miniatures down to what I could easily carry on.

My brother and I were signed up to run three sessions of Burrows & Badgers, so I didn’t need more than two dozen miniatures and a single 3x3 foot terrain set-up. That all went into two Really Useful Boxes, a 9-liter and a 4-liter, which I banded together with a transverse strap and a “Strap-a-handle”. This configuration fits in the overhead compartment without difficulty. We had an uneventful flight, and checked into our hotel with enough time to spare to meet my brother for dinner.  Since only a few of the con-goers are arriving on Tuesday, we figured that we could have anything that we liked, and ended up at The Social Cantina, not far from the convention center.  It’s new since last year, and I wonder how the rest of their weekend went. 

We enjoy being at Gen Con on Wednesday for the unofficial Day 0. This year my younger son, William, made it in on Wednesday morning, so we started the day with a brunch at the Cafe Patachou, anticipating that Wednesday was probably the last day where we could find seats at that hour. After that, we headed off to our first ticketed event.  It has been our custom for the past several trips to sign up for some board game, usually something still in pre-production.  This year we tried Eureka Science Academy, a card game themed around recruiting historical scientists and developing and defending scientific theories.  It has some potential, and I enjoyed the idea of trying to defend the phlogiston theory, so I will keep an eye out for the final version. We finished the day with a visit to the Block Party.  While we were able to get the special Gen Con pizza from the folks at Hot Box Pizza, the line to try the Sun King special Gen Con beer was longer than I could stand in.  One of William’s grad school gaming friends attending this year arrived while we were eating.  We left them to explore the convention on their own, as my brother and I needed a good night’s sleep before our early start on Thursday.

As noted above, we were running three sessions of Burrows & Badgers, for six players each.  The first of these was scheduled for Thursday at 0900.  This year our games were out in Lucas Oil Stadium.  As can be seen from the shot below of our setting up, there was still extra space on Thursday morning.  We have

not GMed out there previously, and we have agreed that it’s not a bad place to run games.  (For the historical miniatures gamer, I might note here that we were setting up just beyond a large group of tables where an event organizing group called Able Company was running a large Flames of War event.) With the dome ceiling, sound does not bounce around as badly as it does in the event halls, so my voice was not as damaged as it has been some years.  With a game at 0900, we know that we are not trying to get into

the Exhibition Hall for the 1000 opening, and all of the players have presumably made that decision as well.  We were pleased to find that all six of our preregistered players showed up.  The session went well, and we had an hour to reset things for the afternoon session. In between, I ran down to the Exhibition Hall to get a copy of Free League’s Dragonbane, an English translation of the latest edition of the earliest roleplaying game in Swedish, Drakkar och Demoner, itself originally derived from Chaosium’s Basic Role-playing and Magic World as presented in Worlds of Wonder in 1982.  The crowd was very heavy, and that was as much as I could do in the limited time available.  Like the morning session, the 

afternoon session was also full, with all six players appearing.  Another fun set of games was played.  We set these events up, by the way, as three parallel one-on-one tables, all playing the same scenario, “Seize the paychest”, though on different terrain and with different war bands.  We do this so that we are flexible.  If an even number of players shows up, we pair them off and both of us advise and adjudicate.  If we have an odd number, one of us can jump in and play, so we are ready for anything from just one up to the six players planned.  My wife found us just as we were finishing and packing things up, so we headed back to the hotel.  We met up with our favorite dance instructors, Whitney and Reesa from The Revel Alliance.  We had some supper with them, and then I headed off to my evening game, a Pendragon (6th edition) adventure that William was also playing.  We managed to save some part of England from being ravaged by a dragon by putting it to sleep with a well-fed magical panther, so I guess we’ll call that a success.

On Friday morning, I met by brother for breakfast at the Lincoln Square Pancake House.  It is far enough from the Convention Center that it wasn’t too crowded.  After breakfast we took a quick look at the Auction’s consignment shop.  This year, it seemed to be mostly recent Euro-style board games, so the only thing I came away with was a copy of a vintage GDW Series 120 game, 1940, which turned out later to be short the rules.  (I expect I can find them online somewhere, but haven’t had time to search yet.). Then it was time for my main foray into the Exhibition Hall.  As with Thursday, it was quite crowded and two hours was as much as I could stand.  I ended up with some pins, some Games and Gears paintbrushes, some Dryad Tea, some Campaign Coins to use as fate tokens in Burrows & Badgers, a few little games from Indie Press Revolution, and a few more coins from the Shire Post Mint. 

Friday afternoon was scheduled for dancing.  Irene and I were signed up for four sessions of dance run by the Revel Alliance.  We have been doing their events since they started in 2017, and they are always fun.

After four hours of dance, I was a bit worn, and didn’t make it to the fantasy miniatures game I had scheduled. (My apologies to the event organizer … )

My brother and I ran our third Burrows & Badgers session on Saturday morning.  We had five of the six

registered players, so we were 17 for 18 for the weekend.  I believe this was our best show-up rate ever for Gen Con.  After that game I had no choice but to carry my miniatures boxes to my next events, the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff live podcast, and another dance session.  At that point things caught up with me, and I carried my boxes back to the hotel room, stretched out on the couch, and fell asleep.  I woke up just in time to make it to the pre-scheduled family dinner.  Our previous customary location for Gen Con family dinners had closed during the pandemic years, so we made reservations after the event sign up weekend for the Weber Grill, conveniently across the street from our hotel. We try to schedule one dinner, usually Friday or Saturday depending on how the gaming schedules work out, to allow us to catch up on what everyone has been doing for the con.  After dinner, William and I took a walk to the other end of the convention world, the JW Marriott, to see how the open gaming looked this year. One ballroom is

dedicated to open gaming, and it takes a wide-angle lens to capture it.  I was too tired to actually play anything, but there was a wide variety of board games as well as a few pick-up roleplaying games on offer.  Perhaps next year I will actually schedule some time to try this out.

By Sunday morning, I was dragging a bit, but I still managed to get up before my alarm went off so that I could go play my final scheduled game.  My son William has been playing a great deal of Crusader Kings 3, from Paradox, and decided that he was interested in playing Kingmaker.  I had played quite a bit of Kingmaker, in the original British edition and the Avalon Hill version, back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, so it wasn’t hard to convince me to join as well.  The only issue was that signing up for an 0800 Sunday game made sense back in May, but was a little daunting in August on the fifth day of the convention. We both made it, though, and it was a good game, pleasantly more dynamic than I remembered it being. 

There is a new edition about to be released, and I have a copy on order.  In the meantime, we can play the Avalon Hill version. There was time for one more dance session after that, and a final quick peek (with no purchases) at the Exhibition Hall.  We all had lunch together after that, and then headed to the airport, where the traditional departure game tables were set up:

The official Gen Con press release says that over 70,000 unique individuals attended, a new record.  The crowds in the high traffic areas bear this out, and they sold out their limit of 4-Day and Saturday passes.

So that was Gen Con; this was my tenth consecutive year including the two virtual pandemic years.  With the crowds and the general uptick in Covid, I was not surprised to hear quite a few con crud/Covid 

stories.  I’ve had some serious con crud this week, but have tested negative for Covid. Next year I may need to reconsider my masking decision and mask more consistently.  But who knows what the viral environment will look like by then … 

I’ll throw in one random background fun shot.  Among the other Gen Con traditions, a large balloon sculpture is built, starting on Wednesday.  This year the balloon sculpting team built a life-sized model of the Apollo Lunar Excursion Module, which was amazing.

Hope to see you in Indianapolis next year!