I’m home. That must mean that GenCon happened. Of course it happened. I have photo evidence coupled with some fuzzy memories. Apparently I looked pretty bad as I was leaving on Sunday. People were concerned for my safety returning home. They kept asking me if I was okay. Well, I am. The return journey was pretty uneventful. I stopped often.
This year’s GenCon was great… and it all began with
And only got better from there. There were…
… old friends.
… new friends.
… awesome prototypes
… new games.
… my games.
… moments of violence.
What really happened at GenCon were the memories. The experiences and stories that we will tell for years to come. I can’t show them to you (except for maybe the choke-slam) but I can share them with words.
GenCon, for me, used to be about the games. I’d spend the entire day in the hall doing demos and standing in line for hours waiting to buy the next thing. Over the past few years, it’s become something else. It’s been about the people.
Last year I met a group of Twitter friends that have become my Internet BFFs. They’ve become more than that… my design partners… my mentors… my therapists… my cheerleaders… and my task-masters. It was already a given that I’d spend time with these friends as we were rooming together. AJ Porfirio handled the logistics while Grant Rodiek, Matt Worden, and I chipped in our fair share. I also wanted to meet new people and spend time with friends I don’t get to talk too as often. I achieved that. Yes, I missed some, and I’m sorry, but I spent this year with people way more than I spent in the hall or playing games. I could spend the next few days trying to put together a list of names, but I’d leave out plenty of people that don’t deserve that fate… I have terrible memory. Instead, I’ll write about a few stand out moments.
Tennessee Whiskey and San Fransiscian…. Treats?
Both AJ and Grant brought friends with them this year. Two apiece. We all played games together every evening and basically owned a table in the Marriott bar. I swear AJ’s friends, Chase and Jason, would be there every moment of the day that I walked through. I’m not even sure they even spent any time in the hall. These dudes love to game and it was apparent. They brought a ton of games and were resolute on playing them all. Grant’s friends had a bit more of an agenda. They each were here for various business reasons, but were more than ready to play some games at the close of business each day.
At some point… I’m honestly not sure if it was Thursday or Friday… Grant pulled out a copy of Space Cadets: Dice Duel. This is a real-time dice game with very few actual decisions… but that is easily made up for by the frantic dice rolling. The idea is, we are crew members on our ship and we need to blow the other ship out. To accomplish this, we have to load our torpedoes, raise our shields, steer the ship, focus our targeting computers, and engage… all while the engineer is diverting energy to various systems. These decisions are relatively simple, but you are at the whim of the dice. Loading a torpedo, for instance, isn’t just rolling a few torpedoes on a die… oh no… you have to build your torpedo one die at a time: nose cone, mid-section, and tail. You also need to chose if you want to load it in the front or rear firing bay. Oh, and you also need to scream at the top of your lungs for the engineer to give you energy to do so because each energy that you have means you get to roll one more torpedo dice… but that also means that someone else isn’t taking an action because energy dice are limited.
We all sat down for an 8 player run of the game (2 teams of 4) and I needed a cigarette afterwards… and I don’t even smoke. It was intense to say the least. Once my team got into a rhythm we just clicked along merrily, but I was still exhausted. This isn’t a game that I would buy… it’s just not a good fit for me or my group, but it was a blast to go at it with 7 friends and I’m glad for the experience.
Building Games With New Friends
On Thursday I got to spend some time with Jason and Rob from the Building the Game Podcast. These guys are top-notch awesome and I’m glad our paths crossed more than once. They asked me to be on their First Time Designer panel on Friday which I graciously accepted. That wasn’t the real treat… they graciously opened up their room both Thursday and Friday for a bit of a GenCon re-cap evening. I got to spend hours in their room with awesome people (see the picture above) and talk about everything that is great about GenCon. On Friday, the event turned into an impromptu design and tuning session where I got to show off my idea box and put it to good use. I’ve heard reports that Twitter friend Annisa Jones and her husband Jarred “Mikey” Jones liked the idea so much that they immediately set about making their own when they got home… so, I guess I’ll have to write a post about that. Jason’s been bugging me to write something for their excellent new idea, a design co-op. I think the idea box would be a good fit.
Being a game designer that has spent countless hours trying to get publishers to look at my games, the service that thegamecrafter.com provides is invaluable. Not only does it give me an opportunity to sell my games that may not be a good fit for publishing, but they provide me with the ability to produce some high-quality prototypes to show publishers… and then there is the community.
I spend a decent amount of time in the Game Crafter chat room, goofing off with my fellow designers. Getting to meet all these people and spend quality time together was really special. Everyone from the three who built the business to all the mere users, we are one big happy community. We joke, we laugh, we get injured by our hosts…… but for real, it was awesome to meet and play games with these people. To share stories and cheer-lead. To just be… friends.
Twitter Comes to Life
GenCon wouldn’t be what it is for me without the awesome design community from Twitter. I ran into so many new people that I can’t even begin to list them all. Some of these people I’ve been friends with for well over a year on Twitter and we finally got to meet in person. I got to congradulate some on the release of their new games… have lunch with others. Chat about the industry and teach some lessons. It seemed that I was pulling out my phone non-stop to check Twitter and make meeting arrangements and that was spectacular. I thank each and every one of you unnamed friends that helped keep me on my toes all day.
Games? Not Too Many…
Before I left, I put together my list. The games I wanted to check out. Honestly, this wasn’t easy. There wasn’t much that interested me this year. Knowing what’s in the pipeline for the next few years from my friends has made me look at this years releases a little differently. My list contained 5 things:
- Phantom Society
- Asgards Chosen
- Trains and Stations
- Little Prince
I totally missed the boat on trying most of those. Little Prince came home with me. I absolutely fell in love with it and it lead to a few cool stories of it’s own… more on that later. Phantom Society fell flat. It looked like a really neat deduction game but turned out to be rather dull. I did check out Trains and Stations briefly and was immediately disappointed that I couldn’t buy it. I love Eric Lang and the game seemed brilliant. The rest… I missed completely. I did briefly watch a demo of Rampage which had drawn a huge crowd because of the flamboyance of the Frenchman teaching… but I couldn’t understand what was going on and went on my way.
I went in expecting to buy this game and after a 2 player demo, it was an instant buy. I’m a huge fan of games that offer only a few decisions on your turn but those decisions are huge. This fit the bill perfectly. And this purchase led to interesting celebrity story #1:
As I was checking out, I noticed Bruno Cathala setting up a demo for Eric Martin. They were going to be filming it for BGG apparently. I asked if I could interrupt so I could thank Bruno for making the awesome game. I introduced myself as a game designer and mentioned that I loved the heavy decision. He told me that it was all Antoine Bauza and that he just helped. I asked him to sign it despite his humbleness and he, of course, said yes.
Me: “But, I don’t have a pen.”
Bruno: “I do… because I am a professional.”
Ouch. I wish I was European.
Thankfully, however, he pointed me in the direction of Antoine so I could track him down and get him to sign it also. That adventure became an all-day thing on Friday with Twitter followers trying to help me… well, it did happen, but not until Saturday. And this leads to interesting celebrity story #2:
I approached Antoine while he was working another booth, for another game, and asked him to sign. While we were doing that, I mentioned that Bruno said it was all his design and I asked a few questions. He was very pleasant to talk to and seemed very happy to answer my questions. I didn’t want to take too much of his time because he was signing the other game like crazy at this point… so I asked if we could continue the conversation afterwards via EMail. I told him that I like to write about designs that inspire and he graciously accepted (look for that interview soon!) When I handed him my business card, I won GenCon (in my opinion.)
“I know you from the Twitter!”
Yep. Antoine Bauza knew little old me from my avatar. I felt a bit special at that moment as he had a little line of people waiting to get their games signed. What a cool dude, and what a cool story I’ll have to share about the development of Little Prince.
This game was also on my radar, though it wasn’t on my list… and I was totally unaware that it was by Antoine Bauza until I bought it. Not sure how that slipped past me. I was interested in it because spending quality time with my daughters is important to me and I like stretching their imaginations. We play a lot of Wizard101 in my house and this game is a natural fit for their introductions to RPGs. I haven’t read much of it, but what I have read is very enjoyable and the world that Antoine created for the game is adorable.
The only other game I brought home this year. I got to hang out with the Sparks Games crew during the Building the Game recordings and immediately fell in love with their passion. After that, every time I would walk down the isle anywhere near them, Jay would yell for me and we’d share exciting stories. These guys are top notch and on to something great with this game. Jay ended up giving me a copy… I’ve yet to play it, but eagerly await the opportunity. I watched several demos and saw no one leaving disappointed.
The rest of the show was spent at various tables in various restaurants and bars playing games or just people-watching. I can’t comment too much on great stories from these sessions, but I can tell you that they were some of the most memorable events of all. Sharing laughs, dreams, excitement, and fruition with fellow gamers is what it’s all about. I thank each and every one of you that I met along the way for making this trip an amazing adventure. As exhausted as I was… I regretted leaving Indianapolis.
I did have some awesome publisher meetings… but that’s a different story, for another time.