As I write this it’s been a week since Gen Con Indy 2010 opened on Thursday, August 5. I’ve been back for a few days and have had time to process all that happened to me at the show, so here goes, my review of the best four days in gaming, 2010 edition.

The City

I don’t cease to be amazed at the reception 30,000 + gamers get in this midwestern city every year. And every year I see it grow. Banners welcoming Gen Con line the streets, and about 90% of the local businesses roll out some sort of welcome for the con, be it a simple window cling to full-on embracing of the magnificent nerdery with themed menus and drinks or Gen Con-specific specials. It shouldn’t be a surprise, really, when you consider that the estimated Gen Con economic windfall for Indianapolis this year was $27 million. Still, the welcome feels honest, which is rather nice.

The Con

I heard last year was a subdued one due to the bad economy, but boy, was that not the case in 2010! The entire downtown area was busy from Wednesday till Monday when I flew back, and the convention center itself was rarely, if ever, a calm place. There was palpable excitement in the hallways and hotels and on the street. And when those Exhibit Hall doors opened on Thursday, what everyone saw was a flurry of activity that contributed to record-breaking sales for pretty much every vendor I spoke to. The Gen Con LLC team continue to improve their craft of running this massive pop-up city and keep making the experience a great one for us attendees. A special thanks goes out to the Press Room team, because we of the gaming media can be a tetchy and annoying bunch and you always found a way to help us out (my only suggestion: please enforce that the Press Room is a quiet-zone; I was recording an audio interview there at one point and we had to shush down others that were there ourselves). Also thanks to Rio Grande Games for the free Wi-Fi in the convention center (I found it annoying that the coverage excluded the Exhibit Hall, though I understand it).

The Booth

This year I volunteered to be a booth ninja with Rogue Games, makers of one of my favorite games, Colonial Gothic. I wanted an education in what it was to be on the other side of the booth, and boy, did I get it. Working a booth is fun and rewarding, but also hard and tiring. I barely got to see the hall on Thursday and Friday, except for what I could quickly check out on the way to the restroom or to grab something to eat. Yet meeting so many gamers, being able to share my enthusiasm for the games we had for sale, getting gamers to try out new games, that was fantastic. Being stationary at the booth also afforded me the chance to see a lot of people, which then gave me a chance to sell them on the games. It just worked out that a lot of the people I know are in gaming media, so Rogue Games ended up getting some nice coverage during and after the show. I will neither confirm nor deny it was a plan. 😉

Working with Richard Iorio, Greg Videll and Jae Walker was a great experience and one of the con highlights for me. It may lead to future gaming coolness, but that was a nice side-effect. The chance to develop a friendship forged in the trenches of Gen Con – that rocked.

The Games

Because I was helping out at the booth for a good part of my time there (and it was so busy that we needed the extra help – seriously, great sales this year!), I didn’t have as much of a chance to play stuff, though I did get in a few plays here and there.

On Wednesday night Richard ran a game of Colonial Gothic for a group of 7. It was lots of fun; I mean, we were rolling horribly, and ended up using gunboat (or is that flintlock) diplomacy quite a lot, but it was indeed fun. There is now one less witch threatening upstate New York, I can tell you that. Though I was supposed to run a game of Colonial Gothic myself on Thursday, some stuff came up and I did not get a chance, for which I apologize to my players. I owe you one for the next time. Then on Friday afternoon, I ran a game of ICONS for four players that was hilarious. I’ll do a review of the book in which I’ll talk more about the game later on. In addition to this, I got to play a couple rounds of Dominion, Forbidden Island and Get Bit! A bit of roleplaying and a bit of boardgaming – neat.

The Friends

So this is going to be a bit long, but the simple fact is that Gen Con is all about the friends you get to meet and reunite with during this faerie market.

Enrique, David and Itamar – You three are now true friends of the kind I have tattooed on my heart. This was a hard weekend for me emotionally for various reasons, and you were always there to be supportive, to call me on my bullshit if needed, and to help me figure out Important Things (TM). The fact of the matter is, without your acts of friendship, I would not have made it through the weekend, and there’s no way to repay that. I look forward to a long friendship with each of you, regardless of the distances in between. Except for you, Enrique; dude, we live in the same city – we need to hang out more, driving distances be damned.

Richard, Greg and Jae – You made working a booth a really fun experience, even with all the work it involved. It was great getting to know you better. You are now friends.

Clyde and Tim – Thanks a million for the playtest of my game and the good conversation that came afterward. I appreciate that you gave of your selves and your time simply to help me out.

Thomas, Eloy, Tim (again) and Sean – Thanks for trusting a couple hours of your Gen Con experience to me as GM for ICONS. It’s been a loooong time since I last ran a game and I was nervous, but wow, we had fun.

At the risk of forgetting someone: Matthew Kaiser (so awesome finally getting to meet you), Dan Repperger, Chad Wattler, Chris Hussey, GrungyDan, Johnny G, Adam Pinilla, Luke Mayer, Zack Houghton, Michael Wolf (from Germany, no less!), Dan Houser (dude, the art, thanks), Rob Schwalb, Gareth-Michael Skarka, Ryan Macklin, Paul Tevis, Will Hindmarch, Jeff Tidball, Brennen Taylor, Rob Bohl, Mark Reed (you made it!), Chris Perrin (hands down, the happiest moment in the con was suddenly seeing you there – what a surprise!), Mark Kinney, Carol, BG Josh & Meg, Trapcast Jenn, John Harper, Daniel Solis, Nathan Paoletta, Chris & Jessica Beauchamp (GeekyClean is awesome!), Wolfgang Baur, Eddy Webb & Ethan Skemp & Rich Thomas (I don’t care what others said, I loved the White Wolf booth – now, make me a PDF of it), Justin Achili (I want your music collection), Nicole Lindroos (thanks for the hug), Chris Pramas (I didn’t tell you about my character), Hal Mangold, Steve Kenson (hope you enjoyed being the villain), Tom Tullis (you have a beer!), Tom Cadorette (thanks for the beer), Donna Prior (thanks for the die), Jeff & Carol Himmelman, Mario Dongu & Dan Jones (we need to hit the Claddagh next time), David Moore, Ed Healy, Will Huggins, Cam Banks, David Hill (nice dress) & Filamena Young, Jennifer Brozek, Adam Jury (I saw you wear pants!), James Brown (thanks for selling me your copy), Vincent Baker, the guys from Tabletop Hooligans (thanks for the beer), Chris Sims (next time we play for sure), Robert Posada (man, 9 years later – we need to shorten the time in between meetings), Henry Lopez, Eric Wiener, Emily Care Boss, Tim White, Chris aka Zeike and the rest of the TOFtBCH team, Quinn Murphy, Sean Holland, and everyone else I met at the show, even if for a minute, even if only once, please know that it is those moments that truly make Gen Con for me, and you are all a part of it.

The Loot

A small but nice bounty returned home with me (see last picture in the slideshow below). I got 10 Days in the Americas from Out of the Box as a review copy (that will go up on The Gamer Traveler), got three custom d6 dice (Gen Con 2010, Scotty’s Brewhouse, Sages of RPG), and then there’s the RPGs: Mecha (special hardcover Gen Con edition, signed by Chris Perrin); Annalise: Final Edition (signed by Nathan Paoletta); Colonial Gothic – Flames of Freedom: Boston Besieged campaign; Shadow, Sword & Spell: Basic; Death’s Door; and had the chance to get my copy of Colonial Gothic signed by Richard Iorio, and ICONS signed by Steve Kenson, Gareth-Michael Skarka and artist Dan Houser.

Gen Con 2010 is in the bag, and it was great and memorable.

The Future

That’s a whole ‘nother post.

The Photos

On Flickr or in the slideshow below.

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