GenCon 2001 Photo Gallery
GenCon 2001 Photo Gallery

Photos by Sven, who actually IS a trained photographer

The Floor

The Products

The Sex

The Violence

The Shocking Truth

Tuesday, August 07, 2001

11:45 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Okay, I'm back. Getting *to* GenCon was a minor nightmare that took 28 hours, but getting back went quite smoothly. Plenty of thunderstorms in both directions. And since my trip to GenCon was on non-OgreCave business (I'm working for Wizard's Attic and Skotos Tech on a project to expand RPGnet. Check out the press release if you have a minute), I didn't have enough time to track down a web connection while I was there.

Anyway, for those of you who couldn't make it to GenCon this year, or those who already want to start reliving this past weekend, let us begin...

GenCon 2001: A Space Odyssey
The dealers' hall was packed this year. Traditionally, Thursdays have good sales but lower attendance, sales slow a bit on Fridays, and Saturdays see the families arriving. Sundays have good sales and attendance, both from panicked last minute purchasing and gamers who previously ignored the exhibit hall. This year, Thursday was more crowded than veteran attendees had seen in a long time, and impulse buying reigned. Wizard's Attic sold out of their more than 100 stuffed Cthulhu dolls, and in one day, Guardians of Order surpassed their sales for all of Origins. Sales and attendance stayed high for the con's duration.

This was the year of D20/Open Game Licence fallout. My Homebrewed RPG Shields got quite a workout as anyone with a campaign and access to Kinkos showed up with their D20 products. Some of those new D20 companies may be in trouble already, though, as Ryan Dancey posted a warning today to everyone on the OGL mailing list:

...even a cursorial review of the products in the exhibit hall demonstrated a shocking lack of ability to comply with the Open Gaming License or the d20 System Trademark License. As a result, Wizards is going to take some official actions in the next few weeks to attempt to rectify the situation before it gets further out of hand.
In my talking with exhibitors at the con, I heard of companies having to glue in pages with the legal stuff they failed to include while printing. One D20 publisher mentioned how surprised he was that other products were mentioning the Dungeon Master's Guide, as even mentioning DMs by name was forbidden by WotC. Perhaps the ignorant and incompetant will be trimmed away from the D20 industry, unclogging the current log-jam of products. Time will tell.

Some computer game companies were at GenCon as well, getting in on the action. In fact, the block party this year was sponsored by Microsoft, not WotC. Bioware ran many demos of the next big thing in D&D on PCs, Neverwinter Nights, which was the only computer game that really caught my attention. The game was gorgeous, well designed, and very smooth -- at least while it was on their souped-up machines.

Two different PA announcers assaulted those walking the exhibit hall, including a woman who was truly pathetic at publicly addressing anyone. Her habitual name mix-ups, long pauses, and general crappiness earned her the title "silly bint" from a respected game designer visiting from the UK, and less polite names from nearly everyone else.

Let's get into the game specific news:

WizKid's Battletech Plans Revealed
As I warned you a few days back, WizKids has plans for Battletech which lead down the same road of their mega-hit, Mage Knight. Yep, Battletech is becoming a Collectible Miniatures Game, or CMG, an abbreviation I heard thrown around in conversation for the first time at the con. Plans are to have starter sets available for $24.95 in a few months. Each starter will have a mech, some vehicles and some infantry. Some of the larger mech figures will be piloted by mech warrior figures, which sounds like they'll actually put one figure inside or atop another. More info has been posted online following the GenCon announcement.

Decipher's New Star Trek RPG Won't Disappoint
Fans of Last Unicorn's Star Trek game will be pleased to hear that they need not worry. The demo of Decipher's new Star Trek RPG, their first venture into the RPG market, shows the development team is on the right track. Players can now play as nearly any race, on any ship, in any occupation, rather than just being limited to the Federation. The extra D6 that could roll forever is gone, replaced by rolls of 2D6 that gain extra rolls on a 12, continuing until you stop rolling sixes. Skills are grouped with their parent skills on the character sheets, speeding up gameplay a bit. Also, individual skills just to use tricorders and phasers are replaced by more generalized skills and highly detailed equipment listings. Health and the process of suffering injuries remains nearly unchanged, with the health status category of Stunned getting a name change (being Stunned is now a special effect caused by phasers and such). And of course, since much of the Decipher RPG team used to be Last Unicorn Games, conversion rules to the Icon System will be included. After stunning four Cardassians and finding a way to beam up through the ionic dust, I continued wandering the exhibit hall.

11:56 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Sovereign Stone D20
Over at booth #347, Sovereign Press had the entire line of last year's Sovereign Stone RPG, now converted to the D20 System. There always seemed to be activity there, partly because Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman were at the booth, signing everything from Dragonlance to their Sovereign Stone novel. Don Perrin was also hanging out, and he showed me the three new Sovereign Stone miniatures, sculpted by famed artist Julie Guthrie, that were now available from Don's other company, Perrin Miniatures. A handout on the Codex Mysteriumwas available for perusal, so I read about the massive spell listing (over 200), prestige classes, magic items, and some guilds/special oranizations. The Codex should be available in October, followed in November by an adventure called Escape into Darkness.

Restless Dead and Nazis at the Pagan Booth
Across the way from Sovereign Press, Pagan Publishing was showing off the cover to an expansion for The Hills Rise Wild! called The Reanimated. Yes, undead are involved (how'd you guess?), brought to life by a mad scientist. This new set will bring nine graveyard boards to the game, which the lab assistant must scavenge for bodies to animate -- including those of fallen enemies. According to one of Pagan's staff, "The zombies tend to either get wiped out or overwhelm everything," which is as it should be with a zombie outbreak.

Godlike, expected to be at GenCon, will be heading to press in a week or two. The superhero RPG is set during World War II, and will include complete D20 conversion rules. With Dennis Detwiller and Greg Stolze (of Delta Green and Unknown Armies,respectively) involved, this is one of the few superhero games I plan to check out. Other than Godlike not making it to the show, Pagan seemed to be doing very well this year. If only the guys at Wizard's Attic had known about Pagan's secret stash of plaid and patterned Cthulhu dolls, more cultists could've adopted an evil friend. My two year old calls ours "Tulu." Hey, the kid's gotta learn to respect her elder gods.

Wednesday, August 08, 2001

10:54 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
GOO's Tekumel Tested
One of my roommates ran a scheduled playtest game of the new Tekumel RPG being developed by Guardians of Order. The new game uses the Tri-Stat system, used throughout most of the GOO product line. Though I didn't have a chance to join in, my roommate said the players thought the combat was fast, while as GM, he thought it was slow. Nothing conclusive there, I guess. I've already resolved to check it out for myself when it comes out in a couple months.

11:02 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Going Native
One of the more entertaining single-space booths was the tribal tent of Outside the Asylum Productions, who were at GenCon promoting their boardgame, Nomad. In the game, which is packaged in a strange tent-like box, are several cloth gameboards and a number of game pieces. Each player uses a small circular cloth for his tribe board, and places it near the larger central map cloth. This central map is a beautiful full-color cloth map the tribes roam around on, going where the resources take them. The game concept, the game components, and the game packaging all intrigued me, and I might have bought one if it weren't for the game price -- $49.95. [As I reported at Origins - hah! -misuba]

Grab Their Sack. They Like It
Tyranny Games' Sack Armies was doing quite well at GenCon, as the booth ran out of one type of starter partway through the con (the ones with green sacks). Demos were also going strong, catching interested gamers and increasing the number of SA Generals out there. Much to my surprise, a copy of my recent review was displayed at the booth as well, and I saw folks flipping through it on a few occasions. Though Precedence's booth also had a Sack Armies display, their main attention seemed focused on their RiftsCCG, and on selling what they had left of Babylon 5. Though Precedence lost the B5 licence, there are rumors that Warner Brothers might let them have the licence back in a few months after unsuccessfully shopping around. Either way, as a fan of B5, I'm grabbing what I can now.

Oh, and I met a D20 publisher that traded some of his stock for a copy of D&D 3's Manual of the Planes. I didn't see the book for myself, so I can't tell you anything about it, but at least one copy is floating around out there already. It will be interesting to see Jeff Grubb returning to his old haunts.

Thursday, August 09, 2001
4:50 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Cards Springing Up Like Weeds
New card games were everywhere at GenCon this year. Let me see what I can remember...

  • The Ebay card game from Journeyman Press looked promising, though uncomplicated.
  • WotC's Harry Potter CCG had major displays inside the castle, and seemed well designed from a cursory glance at the game. However, $3.29 for an 11-card booster was a bit steep.
  • Decipher's upcoming Lord of the Rings CCG was shown to a select few. I wasn't one of them, so I had to settle for the movie trailers and booth babes. Wheee.
  • Third World Games had a large booth to display and demo Firestorm, a sci-fi CCG with four different factions to play. A few packages sold at GenCon had damaged cards in them, and Third World has already instituted a replacement program to keep their customers happy.
  • Jolly Roger Games was selling Dia de los Muertos, a trick-taking game with a lot of skeleton artwork.
  • Our buddies at Looney Labs were giving away promo Fluxx cards that added a new goal to the game: time travel (in reference to Chrononauts,of course).
  • The Dragonball Z CCG had a Humm-Vee with their logos all over it, which was amusing to watch as it drove out of the hall at convention's end (I'm reminded of a quote from The Tick:"Hey cool -- they've got a blimp!"). A couple of the cartoon's voice actors were in attendance.
  • A game called Geeks: The Convention had a huge booth with piles and piles of their single game, about... uh... geeks at a convention.
  • R3 Games was showing off their CTG (Collectable Token Game :-) Obsidian Lords,which has a cool name but is rather light on artwork.

6:35 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Friends and Foes Takes Flight Soon
I checked with Fantasy Flight at GenCon about their expansion to the Lord of the Rings boardgame (formerly a WotC game). There was a single, unopened copy of the expansion, Friends and Foes,at a booth dedicated to nothing but the boardgame. From looking at the back, the game will have added feature cards and a single, double-sided board (Bree and Isengard are the two locations on the board). Also, enemy cards will be introduced, which I couldn't determine much about. In fact, according to the guys at the booth, there's a chance the expansion will be out a bit early, arriving in stores late September rather than October. The next expansion is targeted for a Fall 2002 release, with the ominous title of Sauron.

GenCon 2001 Photo Gallery

Photos by Sven, who actually IS a trained photographer

The Floor

The Products

The Sex

The Violence

The Shocking Truth

I spent Friday night at GenCon teaching the guys from Realm of Imagination to play LotR. Todd's efforts as Frodo made this cooperative game more cutthroat and competitive than I thought possible. And they still came close to destroying the One Ring. "Frodo, get away from the tiki statue. Dammit, Frodo, stop trying to get Pippin killed!"

Warhamster Rally On The Way
Jim Dietz of Jolly Roger Games found himself telling a lot of GenCon goers that Orcs at the Gates, last year's Origins Award winning Sci-Fi or Fantasy Boardgame, was out of print. "But don't worry," he said, "We'll be putting out Warhamster Rally soon, and in my opinion, it's twice the game Orcs was." Big talk, but if it's based on the work of John Kovalic (and it is), I'll be checking it out for sure.

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