My Annual GenCon List of Survival Tips


It is that time of the year again, when thoughts turn to GenCon in August and days/nights of gaming fun.  And, as I do every year, here’s my updated list of tips for surviving the con.

Tip Number One:  Plan in advance.  Go online, figure out what you want to do.  DO NOT try and figure all of this out while you are at the counter buying tickets.  This is like that person standing at line at Starbucks for 15 minutes, getting up there and going, “Hmm…I’m not sure what I want…”  Don’t be that guy.  Everybody hates that guy.

Tip Number Two:  Pack as if you are going to be at the convention center for 16 hours straight…because you are.  Slip in some snacks because let’s face it, convention food is expensive and sucks.  (PS.  Beef Jerky is not a good public snack – no one looks good tearing off a piece of stinky meat.)  Bring pencils, pack your lucky dice (you know the ones!) graph paper, a small tape measure (for miniatures games), aspirin, you know – survival gear.  Think over seriously if you need to bring all of your rules books and game manuals.  Chances are the guys running the game are going to have a copy there.  Don’t over pack.  You don’t need to bring your PC with you, I’m almost positive.  Keep it simple, keep it light.  Sidebar:  Remember your Gen Con food groups – Diet Mountain Dew, Chocolate, Salty Snacks, Pointless Carbs.

Tip Number Three:  Be prepared for the rush to the main hall.  Yes, when the balloon goes up and they open the doors to the sales floor, it is a torrent of people rushing to get in.  Don’t fight it, ride it in.  Yes, it’s that crowded every year.  You can’t get in without a badge, have it out.  Nothing sucks more than being in a crowd of 2000 only to find out you have turn around and run back to the hotel room through a sea of angry and exited geeks.

Tip Number Four:  Don’t design a costume that is going to injure passersby.  Think it over.  No one is more of a douche-bag than a guy that has designed a costume that is hard to get around or trips/blinds people when you pass.

Tip Number Five:  If you’re going to be one of those people who stop in the middle of a crowd to take a picture of the booth-babe wearing a chain mail bikini, do it quickly and don’t clog up the corridor.  Trust me, she’s not going to go back to your hotel room with her because you’re taking her photo and you don’t need a photo to prove to your buddies back at the office that there were indeed females at the convention.

Tip Number Six:  Bathe and use deodorant.  This shouldn’t have to be a tip, it should be common sense.  Based on my own experience moving through the crowd, I had to include it.  Look, you paid for a hotel room right?  Go back at some point and at least use the shower.

Tip Number Seven:  Taco Bell Burritos are not breakfast.  Frankly, I’m not sure that they even have meat in them.  You are what you eat – and in this case, that makes you “questionable.”  The smell of burritos in the morning is not the smell of victory, it’s the smell of desperation and despair.

Tip Number Eight:  Eat outside of the convention center.  First, convention food sucks.  I don’t blame the folks in Indianapolis for this, it sucked when the convention was in Milwaukee too.  It is something of a tradition to stand in line at the nearby Steak N Shake for 20 minutes at least once during the con for me, but that’s just me.  I also like the brisk walk to the attached mall.  They have a food court, variety, better prices, and it’s a hoot watching the locals interact with the convention attendees.

The Food Trucks are your best friends.   I only discovered where these vendors parked two years ago and found their offers to be a much better alternative to eating on-site at the con.  Let’s face it, everything is better than the food in the convention center.  While we’re on it…

Tip Number Nine:  Don’t frighten the locals.  Look, Indianapolis really seems to like having Gen Con in town – well, at least they like our money.  Don’t try and frighten that family on the sidewalk with your Orc costume waving a sword and cursing in Orkish.  Not cool dude. We’d like to be invited back next year.

Tip Number Ten:  If people have to guess at what your costume is, it sucks.  Take it off.  Go play D&D.

Tip Number Eleven:  There is always someone that knows the rules better than you.  He’s arrogant, overweight, and wearing a black tee-shirt (then again, who isn’t?)  Nothing kills a game faster than two guys trying to prove who is smarter about the rules regarding the splatter effect of a Mark IV plasma rifle in zero-G.  We get it, you read and memorized the rule book.

Tip Number Twelve:  Don’t just sit around.  Go and check out the miniatures games, or some of the big events like the Live Dungeon.  You didn’t shell out all of that money to sit and read a catalog you picked up did you?

Tip Number Thirteen:  Do some prep work.  Some companies are bringing limited quantities of games to the con for each day, or a certain day.  If you aren’t in line at the right time, you’re hosed.  Check the web sites and Twitter feeds of your favorite companies to see if that new product will be available and when.

Tip Number Fourteen:  Wear comfortable shoes.  Preferably shoes that do not have an aroma (see Tip Six.)

Tip Number Fifteen:  Go back to your hotel at night and get some sleep.  You’ll need the energy.  All night gaming is great, if you’re young, but even then you need some sleep.

Tip Number Sixteen:  Attend the auction.  You’ll be able to tell your wife/mother/cat/significant other than that shelves and containers of games you have ARE of value.  You’ll be surprised at what games people collect and what they will pay for one.  It’s also kind of fun to see last year’s hot products being sold for a pittance of what people paid for them a year ago.

Tip Number Seventeen:  Play the demo games.  Look, games cost money – a LOT of money.  I sit in on demos, watch tournaments, etc. to figure out where I’m going to spend my cash.  I recommend you do the same.

Tip Number Eighteen:  Don’t insult your favorite writer or game designer intentionally.  These guys work hard to produce your fun.  Don’t be “that guy” that shows up to tell someone how horrible a product they wrote in 1992 was, or how they made a mistake in an out-of-print 1989 book.  We get it, you can read.  If you’ve traveled all of this way to show off your knowledge, you’re a decade or two off.  If you meet writers, authors, artists, designers – be cool and respectful.

Tip Number Nineteen:  Go early.  Get out of bed and get to the convention early.  There’s a lot going on and the lines are significantly shorter.  I hit the MechWarrior pods usually at 8-9am when the convention hall is empty-ish.

Tip Number Twenty:  WIN.  Savor your victories.  Cherish the lament of your foes as they are crushed under the weight of your killer die rolls and strategy!  Don’t rub it in, but enjoy it.  Serious dude, don’t rub it in when you win.

You didn’t travel all of this way to lose did you?  Hell no!  In other words, have fun!

Tip Number Twenty-One:  Make up your mind on what you are going to purchase and do it.  If you wait too long that newly released product can/will sell out.

Tip Number Twenty-Two:  Don’t wear costumes that are creepy.  A 49 year old 300 lb. unshaven dude wearing a Sailor Moon costume is not creative – it’s an invitation to a Dateline Catch-a-Predator episode.

Tip Number Twenty-Three:  Try some things you’ve never played before.  Think of this as a chance to test-drive new games and systems.

Tip Number Twenty-Four:  Be mindful wandering around Indy during the Convention. Last year there was some big biker rally/event a few blocks from the Convention Center. I’m not sure that geeks and bikers are a good mix, though it did provide some wonderful photo ops.  The locals know about GenCon and love it.  Visitors, from any group, can sometime be taken aback when we arrive in town.

Tip Number Twenty-Five:  To add to tip number Twenty-Two – 300 lb Pricess Leia in the gold bikini. Good idea or bad idea? If you think about this more than two seconds – it’s a bad idea.

Tip Number Twenty-Six:  Wear something other than a black tee shirt.  At GenCon, black tee shirts are like camouflaged ghillie suit for snipers .  Everyone is wearing a black tee shirt.  Someone someday will earn a PhD studying why gamers are drawn to black tee shirts.  In the meantime, I recommend wearing something else (something clean), in a color other than black.

Tip Number Twenty-Six:  Don’t abuse your demo rights.  Okay, in the main showroom, the vendors often offer short demos on their products.  These are a major part of the experience.  Don’t abuse the privilege.  I saw one guy camped out a table last year for four hours.  There were a lot of people wanting to sit in, but this guy had decided to turn a demo into a full-fledged campaign.

Tip Number Twenty-Seven:  Don’t be a Rules-Douche.  There’s always somebody who memorizes every rule and looks for every potential loophole in the rule.  When the tournament is running, they are the ones that constantly force the people running the event to stop play, flip through the book, and making rulings — which the Rules-Douche then debates and questions.  We’ve all experienced these people.  Not content with ruining games in their hometowns, they come to GenCon to suck the life and the fun out of tournaments.

And while you may think you know the rules inside and out, there is always someone there that is better than you.  It’s not a contest, just reality.

There you have it guys – GAME ON!

7 thoughts on “My Annual GenCon List of Survival Tips

  1. Pingback: GEN CON INDY – Aug 14-18 2014 | Miniatures In Color

  2. Anna

    Tip Number Twenty-Eight: Dictating what people wear is a douche move. So what if I’m 300 lbs. and want to wear a Princess Leia outfit? Mind your own business.

  3. Trisha

    I enjoyed your rules overall, but I think number 10 just doesn’t make any sense.

    If you want to wear something only one person recognizes, why not? Also, it would be awesome to wear a character of your own design? Costuming is all about having fun and expressing yourself. If you’re the only one who knows what it is, it’s still cool as long as it looks nice.

    The rule I would generally add is: “Be Nice.” No one enjoys being around a jerk, and being nice will get you so many new opportunities in the future because people will remember you as someone they want to be around.

    1. Trisha, while I agree with you completely, I think he was talking about people putting together really lame costumes that are INTENDED to be recognized, but they don’t actually bother with any real display, they do it almost just so they can claim they did. I think his point was, if you’re going to wear a costume, make it worth wearing (even if there’s only one person who recognizes it, OR it’s a custom one you created yourself)!

      Just my thoughts.

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