Friday, August 22, 2014
Gencon 2014 Review!
So now that's it's almost been a week and you probably have read 50 billion other Gencon reviews, here's mine!
I drove down to Indy from the greater Chicagoland area on Wednesday and it was only a 3 hour drive. It felt longer because it's such a boring drive, there's nothing except a decent sized wind farm on the way there. I had my brother with me in the car and he kept me sane thankfully. This was also his first time going to Gencon so he was full of nothing but excitement the entire time. My wife was unable to make it due to lack of vacation time at work, and that sucked because things didn't feel the same without her there.
Thursday I hit the vendor hall with my brother and we walked up and down every single aisle in the span of about 3 hours. The vendor hall actually grew this year, they added about 4 more aisles. If they make tabletop games or anything associated with them, they were there. Apparently they also made the aisles wider, but it was still asses to elbows almost the entire time. The attendance record was crushed on the very first day and I totally believe it, the sea of humanity was endless. I got to witness a mad Black Friday eque run on the Wizkids booth. People were pushing, elbowing, yelling, screaming and trying to do anything they could to get a better spot to get their Gencon exclusive Zombie Galactus. There were like 6 employees standing around screaming at people trying to keep things organized. It was pretty damn chaotic but luckily no one got hurt.
There was quite a bit to see and I could write a novel on everything that I did see. Privateer Press was busy the entire time. I picked up some pins and got the new Circle Warlock which looks freaking amazing. Bad news is you can only take Wolds with him and I own none :(. Wyrd on the other hand had a huge ghost town looking booth, by huge I mean it was as big as Privateer's. I think they regret using the ghost town theme because with the exception of opening time on Thursday and raffle time on Sunday, it was a ghost town. All the henchmen could be seen sitting at the same table together because no on was getting demos. Kind of shows how things went for Malifaux ever since their edition change and art style chance (which I actually hate more). I can honestly say Wyrd was the only booth I saw that had very little foot traffic. Every other booth had steady foot traffic the entire time.
Fantasy Flight Games probably had the largest booth (again). The things that got me excited over there was Armada, which is the Star Wars fleet battle game that should be out at the end of the year. The models were beautiful and the game looked very fun. They also showed off the 3rd faction for X-Wing, Scum and Villainy! You get to play as either criminals or bounty hunters and some of the ships look very cool. They also had a beta for The Witcher Adventure Board Game and the designer from Poland came out to do demos. He was a super cool guy and he loved tormenting and killing the players, why? Because (in his words) Adventure, that's why!
One booth had what I call the hit of the show, Golem Arcana. I say that because they totally sold out by Saturday. It's a war game with prepainted Golem figs that are about the size of a Warjack or Dreadnought. The game is played on a board that has squares on it. The gimmick to the game is that there's a pen that scans the base of the mini, the board and the cards that correspond with the minis. The pen syncs up to a tablet or iPhone through bluetooth and the app handles everything else, or you can choose to roll attack dice instead of having the app do it. It seemed like an awesome idea in theory but then I had a demo. The game plays very very quick because the app does everything for you, but that's the thing I don't like about it, I felt detached from the game. I didn't know if I was playing a tabletop game or a video game. The mechanics felt overly simple and I don't know if it's because of the rules or just because that app does everything for you. I can see how they can say that you have more time to think about tactics, but the game didn't feel very deep to me.
Obsidian's partnership with Paizo yielded an iPad game of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game which looked very sweet. That should be coming out in the fall. I also saw Hex, which is an online card game by Cryptozioc. It seems to be more like Magic The Gathering then Hearthstone. There were also video games for Shadowrun and a few other games that I can't think of off the top of my head, but this year's Gencon by far had the largest video game presence I have ever seen.
D&D was gangbusters as well at Gencon. They had their booth separate from the vendor hall and it was constantly packed. My panels that I signed up for were super fun. Storytelling with Greenword, Evans, Salvatore and Zubb was a ton of fun. It was great to finally met Salvatore and I was cool about it, all I did was shake his hand and say thank you for all you've done. Rolling a 5th Ed Character with Mike Mearls looking over my shoulder was awesome. My brother was in on that as well so he got to roll up his first character with the lead designer helping him through it. Kobold Press' panel on Tyranny of Dragons was an excellent panel as well. I've been a big fan of Wolfgang's work and he's such a cool and funny dude. Hearing how Kobold got recruited to write the adventure path and how they did it was very informative and shows that WoTC is being smart about things now by having other studios do some of the work for them. I also got to hear about some of the stuff that didn't make the final cut into the book, and some of those I'm using in my own campaign once I get it started.
Spin a Yarn with Greenwood and Evans was not quite what I expected. I thought it was a 2 hour panel on how to become a better story teller. What it actually was was a group brainstorming session that consisted of everyone in the crowd throwing ideas at Greenwood and Evans. They take all those ideas and take what they can from it and they collaborate on a story that will be published (not sure if in print or online) and it will be Forgotten Realms lore. Pretty cool huh? Needless to say I had a blast in this panel. My pyro side even came out because Greenwood asked for a certain spell and I immediately shouted out DELAYED FIREBALL!
I surprisingly didn't spend too much money on goods at the con, maybe $300 total (which is very low for me, ask my wife lol). As I mentioned I got some pins and a new Warlock from PP. I picked up World of Tanks Rush (deck building game) which also gave me a free premium tank in the game! Also picked up Ascension: Realms Unravelled. I always loved the artwork for this game so I finally gave it a try and it was super fun. I bought a couple of books, notably the Kobold Press Guide to World Building. Bought some dice and other nick nacks as well. I know Joe from the Screaming Heretics picked up the source book for Numenera and I hope he actually runs that game because I would love to try it out!
So overall it was a great Gencon. I would have had a ton more fun with my wife was with me, but what can ya do? It seems that video games are starting to have a larger presence at Gencon and I'm ok with that. D&D is awesome and it seems like WoTC feels like they're underdogs now because they're very very grass roots now. Pathfinder is easily the big 10 ton gorilla in the room, but competition only makes things better for us! There were so many other games I could have mentioned but this article is long as it is.
9/10, will go again!