Had a blast at Gen Con 2016!
Last week marked a big first for me — my first Gen Con experience!
I’ve wanted to go to Gen Con for a number of years and my wish finally came true!
It’s the biggest gaming event in North America with 4 straight days of gaming goodness.
No matter your gaming interest, there’s something for absolutely everyone – Board games, card games, dice games, dexterity games, children’s games, war games, fantasy games, role playing games, and computer games.
But that’s not all.
There were also plenty of panels, breakout sessions, cosplay (people in costume), game accessories, battle areas, and game tournaments.
Taking up the entire Indianapolis convention center as well as space in the Lucas Oil Stadium and many surrounding hotels, Gen Con was an endless array of gaming fun for more than 60,000 people!
The total numbers for Gen Con came in at just over 60,800 attendees with a 4-day turnstile attendance of more than 200,000!
And after a solid 4 days, I felt very overloaded.
So after a few days to recoup, it’s time to look back and provide my recap of my first Gen Con experience.
The first morning of Gen Con I was lucky enough to get into the Exhibitor Hall an hour early with the early access crowd. With more than 500 exhibitors, the hall was immense.
And even with an hour without thousands of people in the hall, I didn’t get down every aisle or past every booth before the crowds flowed in.
I stationed myself just inside one of the 4 main entrances to get footage of the flood of thousands of people streaming in — all rushing on their way to whatever they considered to be the hot game, miniature, or promo item to snag.
Once the main doors opened, walking speed dropped considerably. With so many cool things to see at every booth, it’s hard not to stop everywhere.
Some of the major game publishers had tons of space – some dedicated to a store area, some to display, and some for gaming tables where they’d conduct demos all day long. And even though they’d work a booth for hours, everyone I spoke with was very friendly and welcoming. It’s hard not to be when everyone there is just looking to have a great time.
One of the things I got a kick out of was seeing “end of line” guys. Publishers who had “hot” games inevitably had a steady line of people waiting to by the latest game release. To keep order, they would station a person with an “end of line” sign so everyone would know where to jump in line. These guys were very useful because some lines snaked down many exhibit aisles.
In addition to the hundreds of game publishers, there were also a lot of exhibitors promoting lots of gaming accessories and other related items such as, dice, coins, meeples, tiles, books, magazines, artwork, miniatures, inserts, tables, toys and costumes. You could tell when you were approaching a costume booth because you could catch a nice leather aroma wafting through the air.
Although I didn’t buy any accessories, I spent many a long look over the myriad of gaming coins available. Since playing with game coins instead of paper money at SaltCon in a game of Power Grid, I’ve been paying particular attention to game coins. They definitely elevate the tactile impressions (and thus the fun) of playing a physical board game.
I was also amazed at the painted miniatures throughout Gen Con.
There were tons of display cases of painted miniatures sprinkled throughout the exhibit hall. Attendees also had the option to painting class. And there was a miniatures painting competition as well. The amount of skill displayed in such detailed painting blew me away. Amazing!
The spectacle of people in costume was also a sight to behold. Saturday afternoon they have a cosplay parade and competition. I can only imagine the amount of time it takes people to make some of the elaborate costumes I saw.
Of course, the main purpose behind my perusal of the exhibitor hall was all the games!
The sheer number of games available at Gen Con was astounding.
Thousands of games greeted attendees anywhere we looked.
Many people going to Gen Con spend a lot of time in preparation to plan which new games they’ll go after. Since publishers will only have a limited number of games at the con, such seekers must prioritize which games they’ll want most.
Then they head straight for those booths first thing to get a copy before they run out. This year the hottest game seemed to be SeaFall. The “sold out” sign was up early Thursday morning.
Others, like USAOpoly with Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle made limited quantities available each day. So at least people that couldn’t make it on Thursday or Friday could still have a chance to get a copy Saturday morning (though they’d still have to get there quickly after the doors opened).
In addition to the demos in the exhibitor hall, there were other conference halls full of game tables. The main gaming hall seemed to go on forever. There was also a complete hall just for the Pathfinder role playing game. And other rooms throughout the convention center and neighboring hotels were also dedicated for playing games.
The great thing about many of those areas was that they were still open after the exhibit hall closed. So players could play all night long if they wanted to.
Another big draw in the main gaming hall were the life-size versions of popular board games — such as Catan and King of Tokyo.
Considering the amount of games available to demo or play, I only ended up playing 15 new games over the 4 days (see my list at the end of the post).
And I didn’t mind at all. Because the reason I was most excited to attend Gen Con was meeting the people!
We’ve been doing family board game reviews since 2009. During that time, I’ve established relationships with many game publishers and other game reviewers. Yet most of those relationships have been limited to digital contact only.
Going to Gen Con gave me the chance to finally meet all these wonderful people in person for the first time!
And I love every minute of it!
The foremost among the game reviewers and podcasters that I’ve watched, listened to, and contributed to over the years are the folks at The Dice Tower.
I recall hearing from Tom Vasel when we posted our first video review in 2009. It was great to hear from the most prolific game reviewer noticing our contribution to the hobby. And since that time, The Dice Tower had grown by leaps and bounds.
Over the years, I’ve also contributed occasionally to The Dice Tower podcast, participated in the annual Dice Tower awards as a judge, and even distribute some of our video reviews through their YouTube channel.
But I’d yet to ever meet Tom or any of The Dice Tower crew in person.
Well, now I have!
And they’re such nice people!
Shout out to Tom, Eric, Sam, Zee, Jason, and Rob.
Even though it was brief, it was great to finally get to meet and chat for a bit.
On Day 2, I went to the the Dice Tower Live Gen Con event. It was a live recording for the Dice Tower podcast with about 1,000 people in the packed conference hall. The show was a ton of fun.
In addition to meeting the Dice Tower crew, I also met a bunch of other wonderful podcasters and game reviewers that I’ve watched and listened to so much over the years.
Among them were:
- John Richard (Game On! Video Reviews)
- Cody Jones (Game On! With Cody and John)
- Dan King (Game Boy Geek)
- Cyrus Kirby (Father Geek)
- Rodney Smith (Watch It Played)
- Kevin Burkhardsmeier (Board Game Theater)
- Jonathan Wolfe (I Slay The Dragon)
- Jamie Keagy and Tony Topper (The Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast)
- Robb (Blue Peg, Pink Peg)
- Marty Connell (Rolling Dice and Taking Names)
- Marco Arnaudo (marcowargamer)
- Will Meadows & Ryan Pilz (Tantrum House)
If you’re looking for more board game discussions and reviews, check out some of the links above – they’re great.
Having worked with so many publishers over the years, I was also looking forward to finally meeting them in person as well.
And again I have to say it was fantastic!
Everyone I met was so nice and great to talk to. And it was great to meet publishers from all over the world (Ireland, Poland, Latvia, Canada, Germany, France, and more).
Because there are hundreds of publishers at Gen Con, the ones I met with are just too numerous to list. All of them have great games for families. Too bad there isn’t enough time to write about them all.
That being said, I did get a chance to interview a number of publishers and will be sharing those video interviews on our YouTube channel over the next couple weeks.
I could probably write about my first trip to Gen Con for a long time. But instead I’ll wrap up the list of the games I most enjoyed playing and others I’m most looking forward to playing.
Enjoyed the most:
- Dragon & Flagon (Stronghold Games)
- Legendary Inventors (Asmodee)
- Royals (Arcane Wonders)
- America (Bezier Games)
Looking forward to playing:
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle (USAopoly)
- Star Wars Destiny (Fantasy Flight Games)
- SeaFall (Plaid Hat Games)
- Running With The Bulls (Calliope Games)
- Potion Explosion (Cool Mini Or Not)
- Kung Fu Panda board game (Modiphius)
Now, take a few minutes to enjoy a short compilation video of the sights and sounds of Gen Con 2016!