Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Gen Con Indy 2012 -- Part II

At last!  Gen Con is about to start.
The next morning Janet and I charged out of the room, down to the mezzanine level, and across the gallery arching across Maryland Street to the convention center. Past the registration lines, a very busy hallway led to the main area before the dealers' room. There still was some time before the grand opening, and the crowd was growing fast. Janet headed upstairs to her seminar. I made a bee line for the gaming area with a pervading sense of awe at the sheer size of the place. 

The morning trolls were there to greet us.
A few snaps later, I returned to the main hall. Cutting through the crowd, I made my way to the escalator and stopped upstairs for a better view. The place was packed, from wall to wall to wall. Since the time had come for the Gates of Wonder to be flung open, I made the mistake of stepping onto the downward-escalator. I soon found myself hopelessly sandwiched between the packed crowd below and the folks still coming down the escalator. It looked pretty grim when people ahead of us fell while the living clump of compressed bodies spilled forth. Visions of trampled gamers and a certain writer crossed my mind. Fortunately, we were able to inch along and condense the rest of the crowd even more. And the doors opened.

Earlier Thursday morning
Brandishing my camera, like a warrior his mighty battleaxe, I was swept inside with the gleeful torrent of chaos. A gigantic parallel world of glittering booths, huge banners, and garish trappings revealed itself. Under a black ceiling studded with brilliant stars, the latest game releases, heaps of steampunk costumes, helmets, hats, feathers, see-through garb, fake swords, books, mounds of dice, miniature hordes of all sorts, jewelry, t-shirts, leather goods, towers of boxed sets, seas of collectible cards, giant props, and fake castles welcomed all to this place of blissful perdition. One could spend much of the convention just playing every game demonstration available there. It was endless and horridly wonderful all at once.

Guess what I picked up at this booth!
In the packed alleyways, throngs of experienced gamers hurried along on a quest to be the first to lay their hands on a prized something. Staffers at the booths were hard at work, unveiling the myriad secrets of their games, their mechanics, their components, their toy value, their brands, and their genres to mom, pop, and the kids. Dice clattered fiercely in the demo areas. Eyes grew wide with anticipation. Mine too.

Neither giggling nor jiggly.
Costumed participants inched along, from cheeky knights bearing swords twice their own sizes to giggling jiggly warrior princesses in all-too-revealing, audaciously over-hanging, attire. It was all par for the course. It wouldn't be Gen Con without them.

Promising myself to return soon, I fought against the human current and found my way back to the gaming area. I checked my event ticket. Exhibitors' Hall C, Blue Area, table number whatever. . . I had no idea where that was. Perhaps the three blokes sitting at the HQ-thingie over there would know. “Yes, Sir. Check the map posted right here,” one said, pointing at the big panel next to the table. Well, that made a whole lot of sense. Soon afterward, I handed my ticket to the guy at the correct spot, lost somewhere amid an immense expanse of hundreds of tables.

I returned my attention to my event. A blue cloth represented the sea. Rocky islands of painted foam surmounted with tufts of plastic palm trees stood for treasure islands. Over there, a fortification. It was the Dutch port. Closer to me, at the edge of the table, lay the English docks with a mess of miniature ships. Near the other end of the table was an unmistakable pirates' lair with a wooden palisade flying the skull and crossbones. 

The pirates' hideout
It didn't matter that it was plastic and paint. My imagination easily abstracted all that and transported me to that time and place. I was there and eager to set sail, sea spray in my face and the wind in my hair. In short, we could search islands for treasures and score points, or duke it out in teams for more points. We were all at war, the Brits, the Dutch, and of course the pirates. The latter enjoyed the biggest crews, expecting to board and capture any of us. The Dutch had larger ships with more guns. The Brits relied upon crack gunners and a handful of royal marines. For the latter, that meant: "Do remain clear of the enemy and keep shooting, for God's sake."

HMS Royal Garter, on the left
The player next to me and I got to play Royal Navy ships. He named his sloop the. . . ah, HMS Peter Pan. Alright. Sure. Mine's the HMS Royal Garter. I leaned over to him and suggested we wait until the neighboring Dutch make their move. I grinned when all three set sail toward the intervening archipelago and the pirates' hideout. “I say, my Dear Captain-of-the-Peter-Pan, let the Dutch engage the pirates first, shall we? We can swoop behind them at a more opportune time and sink the whole lot. The winds are favorable, so let us steer clear of that big Dutch fortress, too.”

The first Dutchman faces a pirate
With mounting jubilation, I watched the Dutch engage the pirates amid the maze of islands. It would be their death knell. The winds started to shift on us, but I maneuvered to exchange long-range fire with one of the Dutch. Heh. I had “long” cannons. He had “light” ones but more of them. He fired first, that swine. Missed. I responded at once. I knew I hit something, but one of my weapons misfired horribly and exploded, killing the hapless gunnery crew. Drat! It must have been an Irish cannon! There shall be an inquiry! I ordered more crew topside to take the place of those splattered across the deck.

Meanwhile, nearby. . .
All sails unfurled, I made my next move and ended up exchanging broadsides with a second Dutchman. Again, I hit something, but with the distance could not see what. On the other hand, that devil managed to knock out two more of my guns, leaving only one on my starboard side. Worse, the wind had shifted entirely and I would not be able to continue on the present route without tacking furiously. It was pointless. I could not fight with just one cannon, even when firing twice as fast as the pirates or the Dutch. Fortunately, my sloop could turn on a dime and bring to bear a full row of untouched guns, gleaming under the Caribbean sun and eager to thunder.

At the next table, Russians advance.
This time, my prey had found itself in the sort of predicament I'd foreseen early on. My guns bore a direct line of sight through the Dutchman's stern, while two small pirate ships opened fire amidships and across its bow. I released a broadside, all guns hitting the target and raking its deck. It wasn't long before the surviving Dutchman's crew lowered a skiff in a hurry and made for a nearby island with treasure they'd picked up along the way.

The dragon roared at the invaders.
The third Dutchman came about to help his surviving mate, the one with whom I'd exchanged fire earlier. The poor fellow was stuck between two islands, locked in combat with a pirate. He'd managed to wreck the pirate, but not before the latter rammed his ship, allowing its crew to board. With a bloody melee raging aboard the Dutchman, I heaved to and aimed my four guns upon them all. The HMS Peter Pan, whom contrary winds had forced to break formation with me, cleverly maneuvered past the opposite side of the islands, establishing a deadly crossfire on the sinking pirate ship, the hapless Dutchman, and his approaching team mate.

Oblivious to the dragon, mechs slugged it out.
Evil snigger. This would be remembered as a glorious victory for the Royal Navy!

What do you mean we're out of time!? Nooo! You can't be serious!”

Three hours had gone in an instant. Unwilling to leave the table quite yet, I snapped a few more shots with the camera, packed up, and sailed off into the sunset. Naturally, along the way, I visited many other tables, wishing I had time to play each and every game. Much of the afternoon went by that way.

Whatever these guys were.
By chance Janet had also returned to our room. She informed me that  Paul Genesse had invited us for dinner at the Palomino. Onward, then. Another evening with very fine company and good food during which we made new friends and I discovered Paul had been a fan of Mystara since way back! I had no idea. How cool. Meanwhile, Janet managed to twist an ankle, so getting back to the hotel became a bit of a challenge. She limped along, hanging on to my arm as I struggled to keep the umbrella straight in the wind. The weather had chosen that evening to unleash a thunderstorm. The rain was welcome in a way, given the ongoing drought in the region—altogether not unpleasant, just uncomfortable.

I'll let you go through random pictures from the dealers' room and the gamer's hall before moving on to the following day.

Battletech simulators always are a treat!
The CCG hall & its Guardian Angel
The Guardian Angel
The video games room
Never a dull moment, even while waiting in line.
Whoa, Dave! Whoa!  Whatever were you doing during that seminar?
Peter Adkison announcing the Grand Opening
Mike Carr is the VIP guest with the most Gen Con visits: 40!
Demo table for Fortune & Glory (Dealers' Area)
Demo table for Wizkids' Hero Clix (Dealer's Area)
An electronic tablet used as a game platform was pretty cool.  The touchscreen allows figures to be moved and fight each other.

Click HERE to continue.


  1. These are great, Bruce! I love the pictures since those of us who didnt make it at least get an impression of what GenCon was like this year. I did an interview with Mike Carr once, but I bet he has more stories from the early days of gaming.

    1. Mike always has stories about past AND current days of gaming. As he clearly demonstrates: once a gamer, always a gamer. Forty Gen Cons later, he's there to prove it.

  2. Sounds like soooo much fun. One of these days I'll make it over there.

    I am itching to find out what you picked up at the Campaign Cartographer booth though!

    1. Gen Con is indeed a lot of fun, and for some other, a lot of work. For me, it's a bit of both, and I don't mind that. The gaming part is great, but I tend to reach a point of saturation where I prefer socializing with good friends.

      Campaign Cartographer -- I acquired CC3 and its City Designer add-on. Though I've already installed it, a look at the software indicated that I'd need some time to figure it out.

    2. I had been looking at these products for a long while (probably over 5 years) and finally broke down and bought them. I picked up CC3, City Designer, and Dungeon Designer. They make some beautiful maps... but the learning curve is one of the highest I've ever seen. I highly recommend the online demos and pdf tutorial files - after going through those tutorials I felt like I had some small handle on the apps ;)

      Anyway, can't wait to see what you come up with using those tools!

    3. I'm not coming up with anything at all. The learning curve of this thing is nuts. I had to give up after failing to accomplish the most basic thing: tracing two roads, as described in the skimpy little manual. The process of tracing these two roads was so utterly screwed up that I concluded either the app isn't working right or it's not worth the aggravation (or the waste of my time.) I'm not happy about this.

  3. Thanks for posting this, Bruce! I had a blast when I went to GenCon (when we almost crossed paths a few times), and would love to go again.

    1. Cool! Feel like planning for something there next year? ^^

  4. You know, I might just be able to do that. I'll start saving my pennies now and see where I get. :-)

    Doing something Mystaran with other people in the community would be awesome.

    1. Yay!

      For hotels -- one recommendation -- book early. They get sold out months in advance. Same thing as regards D&D events. OD&D, 1st Edition, and 2nd Edition events are uncommon and nearly instantly sold out when the event listing is released on Gen Con's web site. You can always cancel later and get most of your money back (event cancellations no later than June 30th for a refund, I think.) Do pre-register online with Gen Con so they can mail you your badge (and event tickets?) It'll save you from having to go through long lines the day before the con or (gasp!) during the con. Car-pool if you're driving -- note that 3-4 days of parking fees in Indy doesn't come cheap either. Else, everything else is more or less within walking distance of the convention center.

    2. If I get some certainty that enough players will indeed show up (early enough before the con) I can submit a Mystara event to Gen Con's admins. We'll just have to stay in touch so everybody can pounce on these event slots instantly when they are released. I've never submitted an event to Gen Con (let along Gen Con Indy.) All my previous game events had been incorporated directly to the gaming schedule via TSR. So that'll be a bit of an adventure for me as well.

  5. Dear Bruce, How about at next years GENCON you and WOTC run an Event where all the Iconics of MYSTARA (Claransa the Seer, Fergus the Justifier - basically the prerolled PCs and NPCs found in all the D&D Adventures and Gazetteers) all fight it out in the Cavern of the Nucleus of the Spheres against Synn the Immortal Night Dragon and her Undead minions on the Day of Dread where there is No Magic, no wizards, nothing more powerful than a Silver dagger, and no cleric support. The Outcome will either be the absorption of 5000 Rad and the Kaboom resulting in total subsidence of all the subterranean realms in Mystara and the destruction of Darokin, Western Alfhiem, Broken Lands, Southern Glantri, and Shadow Elf Realms (Along with the Dwarven Capital in Rockhome, their ruling caste, all but two dwarven forges and an entire clan of isolationists all because they decided to live under a hollowed out mountain).

    Synn the nasty can pretty much wait till they die from radiation poisoning and absorb all 5000 Rad in the last few hours of the day.

    Even if the good guys win they all die leaving a power vacuum in Mystara so it becomes a kickstart rather than a cataclysm.

    1. Quite a Pyrrhic victory at hand! Keep your tongue firmly in your cheek before proceeding. :-)


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