Well, it’s been a week since GenCon ended, so it’s about time I posted my report.
GenCon 2014 was a lot of fun. I wound up not playing as much as I have other years, but that balanced with the fact that I got to run a couple of fun games. As usual, Scott, Jarred, and Terry were great to see and spend time with at the Pagan Publishing/Dagon Industries booth, and this year, Clint joined us ((I drive down to GenCon most years with Clint, and then we see very little of each other during the show, as he has usually been working a different booth and staying with different folks. This year, he worked our both and stayed with us, so bonus!)), which was awesome.
Anyway, here are some highlights of the show.
Games on Demand
The past two years, I’ve been spending my evenings at Games on Demand, playing a bunch of new, interesting games that I might otherwise never get a chance to play. This year, I volunteered to run some ((The rumours that I did it just to get a look at the playtest rules for Feng Shui 2 are scurrilous but not entirely inaccurate.)). Because of my time commitments at the booth, and the fact that GoD wasn’t offering games on Thursday evening ((There was an all-hands meeting so that volunteers like me could find out how things work and what support structures were in place to help us out.)), I wound up GMing for two four-hour shifts, one on Friday night and one on Saturday night. I brought a collection of four games all prepped and ready to run: Feng Shui 2, Firefly RPG, Monster of the Week, and The Dresden Files RPG.
Feng Shui 2
The first game I got to run was Feng Shui 2 on Saturday night. We had a full table, and none of us had actually played ((Or run, in my case.)) the second edition rules before. I’d spent the weekend before leaving for GenCon reading the playtest draft sent to me by the inestimable Cam Banks, but that’s not a lot of time to internalize a new game system ((Even one as fluid and easy as FS2.)). Fortunately, having run a lot of demo games and store games, I was able to identify the important bits for remembering. Also, a confident attitude and enthusiasm covers a multitude of system-knowledge deficiencies.
The big downside was that, because of my inexperience with the rules, I spent a little too long teaching the rules and providing background, and was slow running the first combat. It was half-way through the session when we wrapped that first fight, and that meant we had two left to go, plus all the connective tissue ((Honest to god, that’s what they call the bits of roleplaying and investigation and stuff that moves you from one set-piece fight to the next in the game.)) of the investigation and roleplaying. We took a short break ((Not entirely to give myself time to think about this, but it was a factor.)), and when we reconvened, I offered them a choice: we could jump straight to the climactic fight, and narrate the stuff in between, or we could play through the other stuff to show how the rules handled non-fighting things, and narrate the combats. Either way, I promised, I’d make sure they got a whole, engaging story out of it.
They chose to play through the non-combat stuff to get a taste for how that worked. So, they got to interview people, and to spring traps, find out about the Chi War, and so on. At various points – like during the fights – I’d ask the players to describe something cool that the character was doing to help out. That’s how we settled the climactic battle, and then we narrated an epilogue, where the players decided the characters had been thrown through time back to the 1850 juncture. I claimed the last bit of narration for myself, telling them that they regained consciousness to find a wizened old man standing over them, who greeted them with, “Welcome, Dragons. There is much learning to do.” Fade to black.
We all had a blast with it, and I’m really looking forward to release of the final rules.
The next night, the GoD host asked me to offer only the Firefly RPG for the session, because they were expecting a lot of people, and Firefly can accommodate nine players for the full crew. I said sure, and had a full table ((Well, I started with a full table, but one of the players wasn’t feeling well and left fairly early.)). I used the same adventure I had created for the Christmas charity game, Followin’ Yonder Star. Different players, and the wonderful complications system ofÂ Cortex Plus games, meant that the game went very differently than the previous time I had run it, but the crew was still victorious, and everyone had fun.
Thanks to everyone who came out to play with me at Games on Demand. Thanks also to the hosts and other volunteers who kept things running smoothly. And special thanks to the organizers, who work hard all year to make sure Games on Demand can happen at more and more conventions.
I never attend the ENnies, but I always keep an eye on what happens via twitter and other social media. This year, my friends at Evil Hat Productions were the heroes of the show – they won at least a Silver in every one of the eight categories where they were nominated. All the wins are well-deserved, but I was surprised at the sweep – not because I had any doubts about how good the EH products were, but because they were up against some very impressive and daunting competition in every category.
So, congratulations to Evil Hat! And congratulations to all the winners! And nominees!
Hillfolk got some nice awards this year, too. It started by winning the prestigious Diana Jones Award, and then picked up two of the Indie Games Awards for game of the year and best support. Congratulations to Robin D. Laws andÂ Pelgrane Publishing!
Some day, I will convince my group to let me run a Hillfolk season. Some day.
The Dealers’ Hall
GenCon is getting bigger. Over 56,000 attendees this year. The Dealers’ Hall has expanded, too. This year, it had about 20% more floor area, as they opened up another section. Even with this expansion, it felt very crowded. Part of that was the large number of people ((Really?)), and part of that was the hall layout. I noticed, and several other people also commented, that the usual straight-line main avenues that let you cross the hall easily were broken up by the larger islands of big exhibitors or by other twisty detours. It made moving around in the hall quite difficult, especially when you’re working with limited time. I don’t think I saw more than about a third of the entire hall.
I did manage to find some cool gaming stuff. Here’s what I brought home:
- King of New York – Clint and I got a chance to play this on the way home from the con. It’s got a lot of the same cool stuff that made King of Tokyo such a great game, with some elaborations that change the strategy completely. It’s a ton of fun.
- Shinobi Wat-aah! – I haven’t had a chance to try this game, yet, but it looked interesting while I was standing in line for King of New York, so I grabbed it. Not sure how well the game play will capture the theme of the game, but I do want to give it a try.
- Mythos Expeditions – Dangerous journeys and explorations for Trail of Cthulhu? Hell, yes!
- The Book of Loot and The Shadows of Eldolan – I’m not even running 13th Age, but these looked too neat to pass up.
- Noteboards – In the absence of Beth Lewis ((I missed you, Beth!)), Cat Tobin upsold me on these again. They’re justÂ so useful! She even showed me the prototype of theÂ 13th Age custom version of the Noteboard. It looks awesome.
- The Quiet Year – I hadn’t even heard about this one until the Indie Games Awards. Once I had, I went looking for it, and found a neat little bagged version, with the cards, dice, and markers that you need for the game in a little burlap sack. I’ve just started reading it, and I’m dying to give it a try.
- Carolina Death Crawl – This one, I had heard about, and went looking for it specifically. And I found it. I also later met Jason Morningstar ((Jason Morningstar also gave me candy.)) and told him that I had bought it. He said, “I hope you have fun with it. Well, for certain values of fun.” It looks a little… dark.
- Dungeon Attack – The one evening I got to play games rather than running them, Jarred trotted out a couple of dice games. The first one wasn’t very good, so I’m not going to mention it. But the second one was Dungeon Attack and we had a lot of fun with it. I meant to go get a copy during the con, but with the difficulty of crossing the hall, I didn’t make it there. So I ordered a copy when I got home.
- Northern Lights – This is the codename for the section of Delta Green playtest rules that the Arc Dream folks had at the show. I managed score one of the limited number of copies they had at the show for someone in Cell E.
I got a few moments with some of my GenCon friends: Amanda and Clark Valentine, Ken Hite, Robin Laws, Cam Banks. I also got to meet Rob Donoghue face to face for ((I think.)) the first time. And of course, Greg Stolze, John Marron, and Shane Ivey were over in the Arc Dream half of our booth.
I missed my chance to game with Saladin Ahmed and Jessica Banks at Games on Demand. The timing just didn’t work out. Next year, I think, we’ll need to schedule something more definitely.
So, that was GenCon this year. It was a ton of fun, though exhausting, as usual.
Now that I’m back, I plan to work through my blogging backlog at one post a day until I’m caught up. Because otherwise, I just seem to keep getting farther behind.