Hi all! As you may have heard, last week was Gen Con, the best four (-ish) days in gaming! More particularly, it was the 50th Gen Con, and we were there to celebrate the momentous anniversary. Join me as I recap our Gen Con experience, full of games and more!
It’s time to Rock! (and Paper and Scissors)
We started our Gen Con on Wednesday evening with a fun little Paper, Rock, Scissors tournament. This was one of the few events available on the Gen Con schedule for Wednesday, and we just had to check it out. The event was set up as a double elimination style tournament, and each round everyone would mosey around the room until the moderator said to stop, at which point you challenged the nearest person to a best-of-three rock-paper-scissors showdown. The winners proceeded into a different area while the losers stayed put, and the process repeated. From the second round onward, those who lost moved back to the previous area while winners continued to move forward. This way, people were grouped by their win records, 2-0, 1-1, 0-2, etc. and those who had lost twice were eliminated. As for our performance, Amber was undefeated in the practice round, making it to the final two, but didn’t fare quite as well in the actual competition. Ethan did the same both times, winning the first two matches, but then immediately losing the next two. However, there was no prize involved, just bragging rights, so it ended up being a fun way to kick off our Gen Con.
Shop ‘Til You Drop
Thursday morning at Gen Con began with a mad rush into the vendor hall when it first opened, as has become our tradition over the past couple of years. We arrived early, about 2 hours before the 10 am opening time of the hall, to get a good spot camping outside the doors. Even by the time we got there, the central doors that were just outside Fantasy Flight’s massive booth had a huge crowd, but luckily for us, our destination lie just inside the easternmost doors into the hall, where the crowd was somewhat sparser. We killed the time by going through the Gen Con coupon book looking for deals we wanted to take advantage of, and doublechecking our wishlists. Amber played a quick game of HUE with a couple of guys who were waiting nearby, and we eventually saw a couple of our friends and invited them to hang out with us and chat. Then, about 15 minutes before 10:00, various Gen Con luminaries began the opening ceremonies, speaking of the historic anniversary for the Con and some of the activities planned. Unfortunately from our vantage point we couldn’t see the speakers, but we could definitely feel the anticipation mounting. And finally, after a few quick chants of the Most Important Rule (“DO! NOT! RUN!”), the doors were opened and the (walking!) stampede began. As I said earlier, our first destination was right inside the doors at Paizo’s booth, where we were one of the first hundred or so people to grab the new Starfinder Core Rulebook. We grabbed a copy, and James Sutter, the creative director for Starfinder, was right there next to the massive stack, ready to sign them for people and so excited that so many people wanted the book that he had worked on. It’s pretty fortunate that Paizo was our first destination as well, because as we learned later, the stock of Starfinder books that they had brought to Gen Con — which they said would be enough to last and was more than they’ve ever brought of a new release — sold out in about 6 hours on that first day. After securing our Starfinder purchase, we buzzed through the hall looking for our most high-priority purchases, including Caverna: Cave vs. Cave, the Lost Cities playmat (which we had to buy another copy of Lost Cities to get…), and the Golem edition of Century: Spice Road. With our wallets a few dollars lighter and us a few tote bags richer, we took our leave of the hall around noon, in time for our first Thursday event.
The Flowers are Falling!
One of the greatest things about Gen Con is getting to experience things or play games that you normally can’t. And, while we are proud owners of the dexterity game Flowerfall, I can confidently say that there is no other way we would get to experience Giant Flowerfall outside of a convention. In the standard game of Flowerfall, everyone has a dozen cards featuring flowers in their color that are dropped from a foot or so off of the table in the hopes of having the most of your flowers in an area to score it. In Giant Flowerfall, the cards are about the size of a sheet of paper (8.5″x11″) and are dropped from shoulder or eye level onto the floor. One thing you quickly realize when playing with cards so large and such a large distance is that you really don’t have a lot of control over where they end up, or even which side they end up on! More than once a card was dropped that flipped over midair and found its way to the other side of the playing area. It was mass chaos, but a ton of fun, and we ended up playing it four times over the course of an hour.
Sushi, or More Games?
The next thing on the docket for Amber was the Intermediate Sushi Making class, after graduating the basic class at the last Gen Con with full marks. In the meantime, I had some more gaming to do. First up was the Santorini tournament. This is a game we own and have played a few times, but not enough that either of us is “very good” at it, so there were no delusions that it was going to go anywhere. However, in a strange turn of events, only four of the sixteen people registered for the event actually showed up. Since this was only supposed to be one of a few first rounds, with additional rounds happening on Sunday, the organizer said we’d go forward with it, but everyone would likely advance. But for the time being, we were all going to try our best in a very small single elimination bracket. We decided on random god powers, and I though I lucked out with Medusa, who can turn the opponent’s workers into stone, essentially eliminating them from the game. However, my opponent drew Circe, who can copy the opponent’s power if their workers aren’t adjacent to each other. So the game ended up as a bizarre sort of dance as I did my best to keep my workers together, but eventually they were split up and my opponent was able to use my own power against me to turn them to stone. So I was eliminated pretty quickly after we began, but I wasn’t too disheartened since I could still come back Sunday to redeem myself.
After Santorini, I had a bit of time to kill, so I headed back into the vendor hall to pick up a few promos and other small things. Then, it was time for me to try out The Visitor, ‘an upcoming game based on the Flash game of the same name. Again, most of the people signed up for the event didn’t show, so it ended up being just me with the demoer, who said that her partner was one of the designers. She got through the rules explanation and he came back, so we ended up having a 3 person game. Since it was just a 30-minute timeslot, we didn’t have time for a full game, so began roughly around the middle. In the game, all of the players control different alien creatures who take turns moving around the forest where their meteorite crash-landed and eating various Earth animals to gain their powers and grow in size. There’s also a human wandering around, and the creatures can interact with him or even try to eat him! Everyone has a secret goal they’re working towards, and the primary mechanism of the game is dice drafting, with four different colors of dice that all have a slightly different special ability. It was definitely a fun game and we’ll certainly be looking out for it once it’s released!
It’s Time to Duel!
After meeting back up and hitting up the food trucks, the Meeples were ready for the next scheduled event, the 7 Wonders: Duel tournament! This is a game we’ve played many times at home, and consider ourselves fairly good at, so had high hopes for our performance! The tournament format was a Swiss format, 3 round tourney, with prizes going to the top 4 finishers. The only slight difference from the standard rules was that science and military victories granted the winner 75 points to be used in determining standings. With that bit of knowledge, we were ready to begin, and unfortunately we got paired up for the first round. It actually ended up being an inversion of the game we played at home about a week prior, I bought up nearly all of the resources and Amber unable to catch up, with a final score of 66-46 (the last game we’d played ended with Amber’s victory 64-45). After that we were shuffled up and ready for the next round. I was actually able to pull off a military victory in both of the next two games by using the Mausoleum, the wonder that lets you construct one card that’s been discarded for free. So after those two wins, I was feeling pretty good about my standings, but unfortunately there were two players who’d pulled off three science victories in a row, leaving them with 225 points to my 216. But still, third place wasn’t bad, or at least it wouldn’t have been if the tournament facilitator had been paying attention. Instead, after giving away prizes to the first and second place finishers, he skipped right over my name and gave the third and fourth place prizes (a metal military marker) to the people in fourth and fifth place. Somewhat shocked and confused, I spoke up to ask if there was some mistake, and in fact there was, but by that time the person who had finished fifth had already left the area. Most fortunately, the gentleman that had finished fourth offered me his token, saying he already had one. While I’m very grateful to that guy, I really wish Asmodee could’ve been a bit better organized in running their tournament (and while we’re at it, I wish they’d have had at least one more round because it kind of seemed unfair to have three or four people undefeated with the only differentiation in ranking their scores from their games). But oh well, at least it was a fun experience and I came away with something, even though I very nearly didn’t…
Burlesque, Ooh La La
Finally, after a long first day at the Con, it was time for probably our favorite event of Gen Con: The Glitter Guild’s Nerdlesque Burlesque show! What sets this apart from typical burlesque is that all of the acts contain some form of nerdy cosplay, ranging from video games to comics to anime, all led by the charismatic hostess Ms. Pixy (and co-host Giant Martini). While I feel like I didn’t recognize as many of the costumes as in previous years (the video game based ones especially), it was still an incredibly entertaining show — I know our group still has the song “Gimme Chocolate” by BABYMETAL stuck in our heads after seeing it in burlesque form. In addition, there were a few acts by the Acrobatica Infiniti interspersed for a nice change of pace. To cap off the show, Ms. Pixy did a reprise of her Princess Leia act (involving several different wigs) in memory of Carrie Fisher, which was quite an emotional moment. Altogether it was an amazing performance, and remains as one of our “can’t miss” events of Gen Con.
After the show, our small cadre decided we needed food that wasn’t Steak and Shake (the closest 24-hour eatery to the convention center). Given that it was past 1 am, this was no small feat, so after a brief bit of indecisiveness, we ended up trekking down to Hot Box pizza and ordering food there. By the time we got food though, Amber and I were pretty beat, and since we had events starting at 8 am the following morning, we headed back to our hotel room, scarfed down a few slices of pizza, and passed out.
Pathfinder, Pathfinder, and More Pathfinder
As I said, our next event was at 8 am on Friday, so after a little sleep and grabbing a couple of bagels from our hotel, we headed back to the convention center for the first of several Pathfinder society scenarios we were doing. I won’t go into too much detail about the scenarios themselves, but they were a ton of fun. For the first scenario, we were paired up with a guy we had played with before at QC GameFest, along with a couple of other folks who were great players. The GM for that session was great as well, and had really good characterizations of the NPCs. We made it through the session quickly and relatively effortlessly, gaining full prestige for our efforts. Then, Amber had another Pathfinder session, while I had some other things to do — more details on that later.
Friday night was time for the Pathfinder Society special season opener #9-00. This is an event where all of the tables in the Sagamore ballroom (about 175-200 individual tables) are all participating in the same event. This is usually something where each table of adventurers is working on something, and if they succeed, the GM signals to one of the organizeers, who are keeping a running tally of successes for the various objectives. In this scenario, the initial objectives involved completing tasks for the different factions of the Society, so it was fun to be able to roleplay our characters and pick which factions to help based on our preexisting loyalties. After that, something happened (I can’t quite remember what) and we found ourselves headed towards a ship. The memorable part of the journey was that Amber’s character scored a critical hit on a jellyfish with a trident while riding a hippocampus (or “sea-horse”). That truly was a magical moment… followed by Amber, in turn, having a critical hit scored on her, being dropped below 0 hit points, and no way to revive her (she was the healer of the group). Eventually it all worked out and we all survived through to the end. Also, we learned about halfway through the session that our GM, Natalie (who was amazing), is the publicist/PR rep for the Glass Cannon Podcast, our favorite thing to listen to during our hour-long trips to and from gaming. She even granted Amber a GCP bottlecap after her jellyfish slaying, so it ended up being an epic moment of nerdage!
So what’s the best thing to follow up three straight 5 hour Pathfinder sessions? You may not think that “more Pathfinder” is the answer, but apparently we did when we were planning out our Gen Con schedule! And that’s how at 2 am we found ourselves sitting down to the table for yet another Pathfinder adventure. And partly as a result of the time, and being moved from our initial table/GM to one who was less experienced, and one of the other players at the table being a little too into character (for a character that was meant to get on everyone’s nerves), the session had a bit of a rocky start. As it went on, and everyone was beginning to get a bit over-tired and silly, it actually became tolerable, and we managed to make our way through successfully! With sufficient paths found, we staggered into the hallway of the convention center, found a remarkable uncomfortable couch, and tried to nap for the few short hours before our next session…
Let’s take a quick step back in time for a minute. As I said earlier, during Amber’s second Pathfinder session, I had other business to attend to. And that was none other than my most anticipated event of Gen Con, the Dimension tournament! Dimension is a game that I consider myself to be very good at, and I’ve been looking forward to the Dimension tournament at Gen Con (along with its top prize of a shopping spree at the Kosmos booth) since signing up for events. I’d practiced a bunch in the weeks leading up to the Con and felt adequately prepared. The way they had the tournament set up was that there were three regional champions that would automatically be in the finals (as a side note, I should have been a regional champion too, but never got the invitation to DieCon after winning the state championship at Gaming Hoopla). So, of the 16 people who showed up, 5 of us would be advancing to the finals. We were randomly assigned to games of 4 to play a full 6-round game of Dimension, with the winner receiving 3 points, second place 2, and third place 1. The top scores after three rounds advanced. I was among those top scorers with a perfect 9 points, along with two others who had achieved the same score and two others who had 6 points. We were joined by the three who had automatically advanced and were ready for the semifinals. These would consist of two four-player games with the top two of each table going on to the final game of four. In the first round, I was assigned to a game with two of the regional champs and a girl who also had a perfect score in the preliminary rounds. The game went fairly well through the first few rounds — I knew I wasn’t in the lead but thought I had a pretty solid second place. Then, in the last round of the game, I accidentally made one too many mistakes (one was unavoidable due to conflicting rules). As the scores were tallied up, the final standings were 74, 71, 70 (me), and 65. Disheartened and defeated, I left the gaming area, only taking solace in the fact that even if I had made it to the final round, I probably wouldn’t have won against the guy who had won our semifinal game. And after all, there’s no time like the present to start practicing for next year!
There is one more thing that I did between the morning and evening sessions of Pathfinder — meeting up for the Gen Con No-Ship Math Trade! I previously participated in the no-ship math trade at Gaming Hoopla, but because I was in the middle of a game at the time, I missed out on most of the excitement as Amber proxied for me. This time, however, I got to see all of the action first-hand. As a brief aside, a math trade is a type of trade where everyone puts all of the games they want to trade on offer, and then decides what they’re willing to trade for. Then, an algorithm runs on everyone’s want lists to maximize the number of trades, especially those that don’t just involve two people trading games back and forth. Rather, a typical math trade most often involves loops like: Person A gives a game to Person B, Person B gives a game to Person C, and Person C gives a game to Person A. So, I showed up to the trade with a bag of games, a sign with my BoardGameGeek username, and a list of people whom I was either giving games to or receiving games from. Many others had signs with their usernames as well, and as soon as I stepped into the room I began to recognize names from my list. “Hello,” I said as I approached them, “I either have something for you, or you have something for me.” Then I consulted my list, we made the exchange, and I moved onto the next person I needed to talk to. Everything went incredibly smoothly, and with most everyone showing up early, I had all but two of my trades completed even before the 7 pm scheduled start time of the trade meetup. Unfortunately, one of the two people I was waiting for was quite late and kept me (and quite a few others waiting to either give games to or receive games from him) waiting for about a half hour. One guy lightened up the mood by giving away a bunch of promos and weird print and play games he had brought with him. Nothing he was offering really interested me, but I’m glad that he made others at the trade happy. Finally, the guy everyone was waiting for showed up and I was able to make my way back upstairs for the Pathfinder special, but you know that story already.
When You Wish Upon a Starfinder
Fast forward back to the present day (relatively speaking, of course). Amber and I have just finished a Pathfinder marathon culminating in about an hour of sleep on the world’s least comfortable couch. What would be the best thing to do at 8 am after all of that? No, not Pathfinder this time but Starfinder, Paizo’s newest RPG system set in space in the distant future of the world of Pathfinder! After getting our Core Rulebook for Starfinder on Thursday, we spent what small bits of time we could find between other events building out our Starfinder Society characters. Amber would be rocking a human mechanic not-so-loosely based on (and even named after) Jonah from the newest season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, while my character was an android technomancer, basically the sci-fi version of a wizard or sorcerer. We were scheduled to do adventurers 1-01 and 1-02 for Starfinder Society, so it was basically like starting at the very beginning of the story, inasmuch as there actually is an ongoing story. The first scenario was mainly about learning the different factions in the Society, meeting their leaders, and going on a small mission for each. With our group, we passed with flying colors! The next adventure involved tracking down and apprehending a fugitive, which also went very well. The GM for the second session warned us ahead of time that it was a shorter adventure, about 2 hours, and after staying up for most of the past 30 hours, that sounded just fine to us. And then, after that session concluded around 4 pm, we took an Uber back to our hotel for a much needed nap, skipping the rest of our scheduled events for the day.
Let’s Actually Play Some Games
After our much deserved nap, we headed out to a semi-fancy dinner with our friends, and enjoyed a nice meal of steak and scallops and other such gourmet delights. After the meal, we headed back to one of our hotels for the reason that we all came to Gen Con — to actually play some games! We started off with 3 Secrets, which was one of our vendor hall purchases. This game consists of a deck of 50 cards, each one showing a picture of a person with three things highlighted. The back of the card contains a story about the person, with three secrets corresponding (more or less) to the highlighted parts of the picture. One person reads the back of the card, and everyone else has to ask that person yes or no questions to try to figure out the secrets. Some of the cards are a bit off-the-wall, and none of them give much detail beyond a single paragraph, so the question answerer either has to fill in some detail themselves or deem the questions irrelevant. Regardless, we had a lot of fun with this game, playing it 5 times in total with a few different people taking turns answering questions.
Next we played Custom Heroes, a new game by AEG in their Card Crafting line started by Mystic Vale. This game is a trick taking game where over the course of several rounds, cards are modified to have different values or special powers. It was a decent enough game, but not necessarily one I could see us needing to own. We finished off the night (or more accurately, early morning by that point) with the Climbers, an abstract game recently reprinted by Capstone Games as part of their new Simply Complex line. In this game there is a large structure made up of many colored blocks of varying sizes. On each player’s turn, they must move one block, and may move their climber around and up the structure, with some restrictions — your climber can only move on squares of their own color or the neutral color, and you can’t go up past your climber’s eye level without expending one of your two ladders. Our game lasted quite a while and the structure got quite tall until Amber came out on top, quite literally. Satisfied after a fun evening of gaming, everyone returned to their respective hotels to prepare for the final day of Gen Con.
The Secret of Exit: The Secret of the Premiere
As I said earlier, I had the opportunity to come back for the second round of the Santorini tournament, which started at 10 am on Sunday morning. That didn’t happen. Rather, around 10 am we were enjoying a nice breakfast at the Waffle House after having slept in (or, after having slept a relatively normal amount of time after getting to bed past 3). Then, we made our way back to the con in time for our one-and-only event of the day — Exit: The Secret of the Premiere! This is a convention-exclusive mini version of the popular (and Kennerspiel des Jahres winning) Exit game series, designed to be played in under a half hour. Amber and I are veterans of the Exit series, having tackled the Pharaoh’s Tomb with friends and the Abandoned Cabin on our own, so we felt confident in our abilities. In fact, no sooner did the young lady running the event start us off than we were tearing through the puzzles like nobody’s business. Due to someone (not naming any names) accidentally resetting the stopwatch app on her phone when we finished all the puzzles, we don’t know the exact amount of time it took us, but it was definitely under seven minutes. The goal was to have the best time for the day, which I think we achieved, and the prize, I believe, was a free Exit game, but we’ll just have to wait to see if we receive an e-mail informing us of our victory. Since we finished the game in next to no time at all, we spent the rest of the timeslot playing around with Word Slam, a competitive game that’s sort of like a word-only version of Concept that I’d been interested in. After playing around with it for a bit, it’s still on my radar, but I really need to see how the full game with two competing teams works.
Shop ‘Til You Drop 2: Electric Shopaloo
As Gen Con was rapidly drawing to a close and we really hadn’t explored the vendor hall in its entirety yet, that’s what we decided to fill the rest of our Sunday with. We started at one end and actually tried to work our way down each and every aisle rather than just speeding to the booths where we wanted to purchase something like we did on Thursday. In doing this we got to try out a few different demos, and I learned that if Amber sits down to a demo she’ll almost certainly want to buy the game (not that this was a problem, of course). We also got a chance to see some of our favorite board game designers and media personalities. I definitely didn’t stop and talk to as many people as we have in previous years (and by Sunday a lot of folks were pretty tired and grumpy), but we did make it a point to say hi to Chaz Marler of Pair of Dice Paradise, whose videos are always a delight. We also stopped by the Dice Tower booth and saw a few of the guys there, and Zee Garcia either recognized us from a previous year, or maybe just confused us with someone else when he said, “Nice to see you again.” Either way, it was a nice gesture. We also took an opportunity to stop by Bezier Games and Fowers Games and tell Ted Alspach and Tim Fowers (respectively) how much we enjoy their games. After making a few last minute purchases, we made it to the closing of the hall (and by extension, Gen Con) at 4 pm.
Goodbye, Gen Con 50!
And thus concludes our adventures at Gen Con 50. Time will tell if we’ll be back for Gen Con 51 or if we’ll be doing a whole new set of cons next year, but either way I’m sure the future holds great adventures for us. I hope you enjoyed reading about our Gen Con experience as much as we enjoyed experiencing it! See you soon with more regularly scheduled blog posts and updates!