GenCon SoCal is over.
Long live GenCon SoCal!
For those of you who had some lame excuse for not attending. . . LOOOOOO-SERS. I had a blast. Barring my death or a family emergency, I'm going again next year.
By no means was it the "best con evar", but it was pretty damn good for a first attempt in a new venue. No registration snafus that I heard of, everything was relatively well organized, and there was lots to do and see, for games, gaming, and other entertainment.
Here's a quick overview of my time at the con:
As a volunteer, I helped set stuff up, and guarded off limits areas. Mostly light duty.
As a volunteer, I helped manage and direct traffic at the boardgames station. I took a short break to run my Feng Shui event, which went well. I even had some familiar faces from the San Francisco area participating in my game. That was a pleasant surprise!
I wandered the exhibit hall for a few minutes, making some small purchases. After that, I drifted off to play Nocturnals, with T.S.Luikart as the GM. As the book hadn't been released yet, and the contents were under NDAs, we played our characters sheetless, but not systemless. I gave T.S. a hard time, but it was in jest, and much fun was had by all. You haven't seen real pulp action until you've seen a hopping vampire with superspeed rapidly counting a mass of pennies strewn before it. . . using an abacus. During the climactic battle, I was lucky enough to lay the killing blow on the big bad.
Played Skull and Bones, with T.S.Luikart as the GM, again. No, I'm not a groupie -- it was just one of the three games I wanted to play -- but he's a great guy and GM, even though we analyzed the hell out of his very simplistic hunt-and-kill-the-bad-guy adventure. He was modestly gleeful throughout at being able to look up all the relevant facts for the adventure in the book he wrote. If nothing else, his giddiness was quite entertaining. Of course, the adventure was colorful enough to provide more meaty entertainment. Again, I was lucky enough to lay the killing blow on the big bad. Who'd've thunk it?
I spent my non-gaming Saturday time in the exhibit hall letting money flow from my wallet. (See below for my swag list.) In the evening, I watched the costume contest, wherein best in show was taken by "The Bill" from Schoolhouse Rock's "How a Bill Becomes a Law". The audience's second choice was a chaos warrior. The judges actually voted for first place and runner-up in a number of categories -- science fiction, fantasy, judge's choice, and others. The grand 1st place prize, though, was decided by an audience cheer.
Following the contest, the very irreverent Warp 11 took the stage. They play a heavy metal/rock music style with a few ballads thrown in. Their song themes range from sex and alcohol to sex and rock 'n roll to sex and Star Trek. The hot-hot-hot down-to-earth redhead in tight, candy-lipstick red halter bikini and fishnet stockings flaunted her wares on stage to the jovial bassist's vocals and the lead guitarists thrums. There were a few problems with sound -- the drummer was too loud, the lead guitarist was totally unintelligible when he took over lead vocals and almost all the lyrics were sung much too rapidly, making them garbled. I wanted to like the band much more than I actually did, and it was completely due to the fact that I couldn't understand 90% of what they were singing. When I did understand the lyrics, I was in stitches from laughing.
Late in the evening, I joined the When Darkness Comes event I preregistered for. Though the ruleset itself was unintelligible to me, I had faithfully collected every component of the set from my FLGS as the products were released. I'm thankful to report that I wasn't disappointed after being walked through the rules of the game. Essentially, each player controls a troubleshooter skulking about town under cover of night to discover and eliminate monsters without alarming or getting in trouble with legitimate authority figures. Though the rules are a touch clunky at times, the game was well-done, with excitement, uncertainty, character progression, and a sense of accomplishment as well as a delicate balance between helping and impeding your fellow players. Wonder of wonders, I won the game, making me feel as if I'd struck gold in every game I'd played at the con.
I helped out at the Atlas booth, demoing Dungeoneer and helping to pack up the booth at the end of the day. I did a last run through the exhibit hall and forgot to pick up my copy of Skull and Bones. D'oh! Oh well. I was going to wait until Nocturnals was released anyhow, and pick them both up at once.
I skipped the Shatner Q&A sessions (which were rumored to be poorly attended), as well as the seminars and workshops. I only picked up Shatner's signature because it was free (he really kept the line moving, too). I ignored the remainder of the celebrities selling signatures, and gave the artshow a quick once-over, respecting the skill of the artists within even though nothing really called to me.
Most Pointless Booth in Show
www.benchwarmer.com. Y'know, attractive women are nice to look at. I guess that's the point. But it took me a couple tries to understand that these were middling celebrities promoting their pictures on cards along with their signatures. If I didn't give a hoot about Captain Kirk, I sure wasn't going to care about a nobody in a bikini. I mean, you can't even play a game with the cards. Mary Riley, the hot booth babe of the moment, must have thought I was a total geek/idiot, but I was there to play games, not ogle women -- especially if they weren't in sci-fi or fantasy outfits. Priorities, man!
Valar Project's Book of Erotic Fantasy. Not my cup of tea, but it had enough appeal that they'd sold out of all their copies sometime over the weekend, well before the show had ended.
Most Evil Product in Show
Upper deck entertainment wins the most evil product of the year. Having debuted at Gen Con Indy, this is perhaps the most evil product of the decade. BreaKey is $1.75 for 5 plastic keys. The keys have four primary components:
1) Collectible. Each key has a sticker on it, which can be used to fuel the "collect them all" mentality.
2) Consumable game: Each player chooses one of their five keys. You link the keys together, and turn them in opposite directions. One of the keys will actually break, leaving it's inner section connected to the victor's key. The victor collects the loser's key. End of game? Not!
3) Gambling/lottery: When you win a key, you can scratch off the number hidden behind that lottery style silvery paint, go to a website, and type the number in to win prizes.
4) Construction toy: The pieces of the broken keys (you don't really want to break them on purpose) can be used like tinkertoys to build things.
Why is it the most evil product ever? Because at $2.00, it taps straight into the impulse buy and allowance framework of 4- to 10-year-old kids. You don't have to be able to read, except for numbers. You get to surf on the web. You have the chance to win stuff. The toy breaks almost immediately, forcing an addictive purchasing cycle, and manufacturing costs are nil. It's PLASTIC, people. With the production quantities we're talking about, I can't imagine they cost more than a fraction of a cent each.
Keep your kids far, far away from this one. You've been warned.
Imagine All the People
In addition to Michelle Nephew from Atlas Games and the extraordinarily skilled Thomas Denmark, I met tons of friendly and prominent industry folks, including:
I left around 6:30 pm, and got home around 12:30 pm. It was a VERY satisfying five days. I pumped value out of every dollar I spent.
- - Zev Shlasinger from Z-Man Games
- - Stan! from The Game Mechanics
- - T.S. Luikart and Nicole Lindroos from Green Ronin
- - Harry Kruger, who demos Dark Age
- - Chris McKillip of SP Ent., who was demoing a new game called Gambit
- - Jason Long of Dead Ant Games
- - Adam Scott Glancy of Pagan Publishing's Delta Green and Countdown
- - the very talented Ann Koi who designs horrific and gothic book covers behind the business card of Catalyst Studios
- - Lee Maille from Game Base 7
- And last, but certainly not least,
- the GenCon staff, including Wes, James, Jonni, Patti, Faith, and Peter Adkison. That's just the names I can remember. There were many more personable exchanges at the con, and I even made some Bay Area gaming contacts.
And for those of you keeping score, here's the breakdown.
Making Sense of the Dollars
Here's what the con cost me:
Deals were to be had. Here's what I walked away from the con with (besides the memories). . .
$7.50 preregistering for three events
$95 exhibit hall (product purchases)
$50 food (approximate)
$60 gas (approximate)
$50.00 volunteer reimbursement (pending)
Two GenCon volunteer t-shirts, one of which was signed by William Shatner. Hey, the sigs were free, and so were the t-shirts. I figured mixing them up a bit couldn't hurt.
Cults Across America
Blood of the Valiant
Seal of the Wheel
Kill Dr. Lucky Mug (Base Value: 2; Worth 6 points in the Café)
HP Lovecraft Historical Society CDs:
A Shoggoth on the Roof
A Very Scary Solstice
Rio Grande Games:
Mu and More
Steve Jackson Games:
Frag Core Set and Frag Expansion 1: Deathmatch
Kung Fu Samurai on Giant Robot Island
I got over $350 of product for my $95 cash outlay at the exhibit hall over four days. Sure, I was a demo monkey for Atlas Games, but even if you choose not to count Atlas product, I still made off quite well.
GenCon SoCal 2004, here I come!