My Annual Gen Con 2019 After-Action Report

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Don’t tell me, there’s a ‘Mech behind me isn’t there?

For me, this year’s Gen Con was BattleTechlicious! I saw a lot of stuff, played a lot of games, and reconnected with the fan base.  I made new friends, connected with others, and fought glorious battles and secured hard-fought, yet honorable, victories.

Man, I need a beer…

So, this will seem a bit rambling…I’m coming down after the insanity that always is Gen Con.  But for those of you that could not attend, I assure you some interesting tid bits you might have missed.  First, let’s dive into non-BattleTech stuff.

I came to Gen Con with the intent on securing three products which I will review in other posts.  I got two of them.  First was Green Ronin’s Modern Age.  Don’t ask why, let’s just say I love Green Ronin’s production values and game quality.  Second was Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist Board Game.  Why?  Because nothing say Christmas and the holidays with family like Die Hard.  I am embarrassed that no one had produced this game decades ago.

The third one I wanted was the Gale Force Nine Aliens cooperative mini’s game.  That wasn’t at the con.  I pressed someone at the booth, “What the hell dude?  This is months overdue…”  What I got, informally and unconfirmed of course, was that they would be issuing a press statement on the game in September and that the issue has something to do with licensing.  I have this feeling in the pit of my stomach that we aren’t going to get that game, which leaves me bummed.  I really wanted to play Hudson…

There IS an Alien RPG coming out soon.  https://alien-rpg.com/  This was a bit of a surprise.  From the web site, it looks awesome.  Free League publishing is putting it out.  Oddly enough, I can’t wait.

There was a new Marvel miniatures game previewed at the con as well from Atomic Mass – Marvel Crisis Protocol.  The minis looked awesome and they were two deep for the demos.  At $99 – I’m hesitating order a copy…but not for long.

Fantasy Flight Games released the Star Wars Legion big-ass boxed set for the Clone Wars.  It looked great.  I saw some other Star Wars miniatures stuff, including my first viewing of the campaign system for Star Wars Armada…at least that’s what I think I saw.  Far too many people crammed in to get free demos.

CMON – who are awesome, released a House Baratheon Starter Set.  I was going to pick it up because it was big and had a lot of minis – but I’m still painting minis from the original Kickstarter. Since I am retiring from my day job in October, I anticipate breakding down and ordering this in November.

Paizo released the much anticipated and nerd-bantered Pathfinder new edition.  People were complaining about it while loading up copies in their arms to purchase.  Gamers will complain, then hand you their credit cards.

Funko released a game system.  You had to get a ticket (free) to go through a demo to buy it.  My grandson and I played the Batman version and enjoyed it.  The system is simple making it perfect for kids.  They have a Harry Potter, a second Batman one, and, brace yourself, The Golden Girls.  Yes, you can pit Blanch up against the Joker!  I struggle with the mental image of that last one, but the games are interchangeable.  With four Funko figures, you can’t buy the figures alone for the price of the game – so for my grandson, it was a win-win.

Tons of other game products were out that I either missed last year or were released.  Let me just say that the industry is alive and kicking.

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6mm minis – fighting Antietam.  Very cool!

In terms of games I played, my grandson and I played his first game of D&D.  I enjoyed a chance to play the game rather than DM.  He had fun.  Though he enjoyed learning and playing Pokemon a lot more.

As it turns out, my grandson loves playing the BattleTech pods – which made my day.  We also did our annual Paint and Take.  My wife painted a pink Space Marine, an image I cannot purge from my memory.  It was fun, and that was all that really mattered.

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My buddy Kevin “Dude” in his pod.

BattleTech garnered a lot of attention with the Kickstarter.  I will tackle the elephant in the room. “Where were your novels and the ilClan sourcebook?” This was covered in the “What’s up with Catalyst?” event.  The books have been done for a while. They are going under a pretty in-depth review with the powers that be.  We are setting the stage for a lot of fun stuff to come, as such, scrutiny will only make the products better (I hope.)  If it comes down to rushing a product out vs. getting it right, I’ll error on quality every time.  So stop asking me about release dates.

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From the diorama this year, the Wolves Assault on Titan.  Note the graffiti of “Wolverines!”

I was invited to sit in with some of the backers Thursday to talk shop with Randall and Loren.  It was a stroll down memory lane for all of us.  I think what most people forget is that we are all fans of BattleTech too. We have been with it a long time and to us it is a precious thing that we care about.  I joke a lot about being a mercenary writer, but in reality, I love the game, characters, and the universe I play in.

Jason Schmetzer, Mike Stackpole, and I had a good chuckle at the booth talking about BattleTech, which I enjoyed.  We never get a chance as authors to simply sit and talk BattleTech.

I spent some time with the infamous Krull Brothers at the Wolfnet gaming session Thursday evening.  I loved talking the game and universe with them.  I also got to pop in on the Battle of Thorin and saw Archer’s Avengers in action.  For an author, seeing your stuff being played is a real reward.  I tried to get to the Snord’s Irregular’s game, but could not find it.  Dang it!

This year some fans gave me some nice gifts.  It is never expected but always appreciated.   One fan delivered a bottle of bourbon for my upcoming October retirement from the corporate world.  I received a special rock from the Tait factory in Limerick where they made Confederate Uniforms.  Someone whose name I didn’t get, got me a nice BattleTech shirt too.

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A fan modeled Pentrator – specifically Archer Christifori!

The week was capped off with Master’s and Minions.  Craig Gulledge, Mechwarrior extraordinaire and a fellow Scotsman was my partner.  I piloted a Savage Wolf and a Marauder, and he piloted a pair of Penetrators – which opened up an endless series of jokes about double penetration.  It was fun playing with ‘Mechs I actually designed in his case.

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They went that way…
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I swear, my Wraith is in this fight!
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This is the Capellan stance for “I surrender.”
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“You’re not going to put this in a novel are you?”

We waged a battle based on bad jokes, intimidation, and a dollop of sheer arrogance. We had a lot of fun, and were one of the last groups to wrap up at 1:00am.  My Savage Wolf was lost, but I took tons off of the opposition before I went down.  Victory?  Aff!  Fun?  Absolutely!

The fans that went up against us enjoyed themselves, at least I hope so.  I did not go down from Death from Above this year, so that alone made it a good run for me.

So there you have it…another successful Gen Con.  Seyla!

Gen Con Survival Tips – Updated for 2019

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Yes, those are Superman and Batman BattleMechs

Yes, it is that time of the year again – time for my unsolicited updated list of Gen Con tips survival.  These are to be treated as tongue and cheek – intended with a hint of a sense of humor.  If you’re offended, well, suck it up…this was intended to be useful and hopefully funny.

So, here’s my annual tips – updated where appropriate.

#1:  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.

#2  Getting into the city.  Indianapolis is easy to navigate. It is hairiest to drive into the city on Thursday and Friday because of the locals who work there. The good news is that rush hour in Indianapolis is not horrible. The locals think it is, but it isn’t (I live outside of Washington DC.)

#3  Parking.  Okay, this is tricky.  Thursday and Friday, you have to compete with the locals for parking spaces.  Many lots fill up by 10:30am.  In other words, be prepared to walk some distance on those days.  I have a secret place or two for parking – which I won’t reveal.  The key is, get there early before the garages fill up.

#4:  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.  Bring pencils, pack your lucky dice (you know the ones!) graph paper, phone charger, a small tape measure (for miniatures games), aspirin, you know – typical geek gamer 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.  Pack what you need but remember, you’re not setting out to climb Mt. Everest (or Mt. Doom, your choice.)

#5:  Be prepared for the rush to the main hall when it opens.  Yes, when the balloon goes up and they open the doors to the sales floor, it is a geek equivalent to the running of the bulls in Spain (albeit a little safer).  Don’t fight the masses, ride it in.  Also – DON’T RUN.  The convention folks really hate people that run.  To answer your question now:  Yes, it’s that crowded every year.  You can’t get in without a badge, have it out and visible.  The Stormtrooper Door Guards will stop you dead in your tracks, meaning you are subject to being trampled by the crowd surge.  Also, 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.

#6:  Get generic tickets. Events are sold out, but people don’t show.  When they don’t, you can use generic tickets to get into anything.  They are wonderful little gems to have tucked away.  Don’t worry about having leftovers, you can go to the BattleTech pods and spend ‘em.

#7:  Cosplay is part of the experience and is encouraged.  If you are going to do it, 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.

#8:  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.

#9:  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.  Foot powder, toothpaste, and clean clothing (a fresh set for every day) shouldn’t require mentioning – yet here I am doing it.  Why?  Because people don’t do it!

#10:  While you have no adult supervision and can do what you want, be respectful of others.  In other words, bringing your leftover Taco Bell burrito from dinner to that 8am gaming session and eating it during the set-up is just wrong.  You do know that their meat isn’t real meat, right?

#11:  For your meals eat outside of the convention center.  First, convention food sucks and is expensive.  My memory is that a single, room-temperature, piece of convention cardboard pizza runs around $425.  I don’t blame the folks in Indianapolis for this, it sucked when the convention was in Milwaukee too.  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.

Go only five blocks away and there are a LOT of eating places.  Pita Pit is great.  Gamers hate leaving the convention site, even for an hour for food, so if you are willing to walk, downtown has a LOT of eating options and the further you walk, the smaller the crowds.  I recommend taking the stroll.  Ten minutes of walking gives you a few minutes of peace and quiet.

The Food Trucks are your best friends.   I only discovered where these vendors parked four 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…

#12:  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.  A lot of locals come down town to look at the cosplay folks – don’t add to their stereotype images of us.  Not cool dude.

#13:  While I totally appreciate Cosplayers, sometimes the costumes are confusing as all hell.  Don’t be insulted if people ask you, “who are you trying to be?” Obviously show the cosplayers some respect.  While you may think their costumes suck, they put some work into them.

#14:  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.  Stop ruining game play for everyone just to demonstrate your incredible powers of memorization…please.   We refer to these individuals as Rules Douches, or the more French- La Rules Douchebag.

#15:  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?  The convention won’t come to you – you need to move.

#16:  Do some prep work if you are planning on buying some specific products.  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.  The short version of this:  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.  Check the web sites and Twitter feeds of your favorite companies to see if that new product will be available and when.

#17:  Wear comfortable shoes.  Preferably shoes that do not have a predetermined aroma.

#18:  Go back to your hotel at night and get some sleep.  The convention is not designed as an endurance test.  You’ll need the energy.  All night gaming is great, if you’re young, but even then you need some sleep.

#19:  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.

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

#21:  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.  As a writer in the industry, I welcome comments from fans…but there is a limit to critique that I will endure, and I am not alone.  As a corollary – there is a limit to the number of things you want autographed.

#22:  Go early to the con.  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.  They are a tradition I am addicted to.

#23:  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!

#24:  Don’t wear costumes that are designed to deliberately upset people.  Skip the political stuff.  Someone is going to be upset and that isn’t the intention of going to a convention and having fun.

#25:  Wear something other than a black tee shirt.  At Gen Con, 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.  Corollary:  Reading the hilarious tee shirts is one of the more phone things about the Con.

#26:  Don’t abuse your demo time in any booth.  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.

#27:  Remember the Gen Con food groups.  Caffeine, Chocolate, Salty Snacks, Caffeine, Pointless Carbs.  Beef Jerky, while not a formal food group, is also permissible but please be discreet when eating it – no one looks cool tearing into a piece of jerky.  Yes, Caffeine is listed twice because it is that important.

#28:  If you want to do free events plan on a wait or get there early.  A good example of this is the Paint and Take event Reaper puts on.  It’s cool to get a free mini you paint there, but everyone wants to do it and there’s usually a line.

#29:  If you want the Convention giveaways – go to those booths first thing when the doors open.  A lot of these vendors run out in the first 20 minutes.  They often have more of the freebies, but limit the number they give out each day.

#30:  Con-Crud – prepare for it.  Con Crud is not a new module release of Pandemic – it’s the social plague that hits thousands when they return from Gen Con on the following Monday.  Use hand sanitizer (you have to bring your own on this).  Load up on vitamins and other legal medications aimed at reducing colds, flu, or whatever it is that morphs into Con-Crud.

#31:  Patronize the places the support Gen Con.  If they support Gen Con, support them.

#32:  If you have a young one with you, go the Lucas Oil Stadium.  I took my grandson last year and there was a ton of stuff for us to do together.

#33:  Don’t overschedule.  This one came from my compadre Scott.  Leave yourself some time to soak it all in.  Otherwise you miss a lot of the convention just bouncing from one event to another.

#34:  Meet the celebrities.  I’m not just talking about the “name” celebrities.  This is a chance for you to track down that favorite author or artist and shake their hand.  I make a point at every Gen Con to network and meet people (and re-meet people I met years before).  Mingle and be social.

#35:  “Language” I’m noticing more and more kids at the Con which is great.  I bring my grandson.  If you feel the need to curse, make sure only the adults are around.

#36:  Take advantage of the crowds to do things you want to do.  Look, at 10am, everyone is lined up to get into the main hall.  That’s the perfect time to do things that otherwise have long lines.  For me, that is when I hit Paint and Take.  Understand the masses, don’t always be part of the masses.

#37:  If you are in a wheelchair, it is not a weapon to clear the crowds.  I got hit by someone in a wheelchair last year just standing still.  He just plowed into my ankle because he wanted to get through.  I’m understanding, but not that understanding.

#38:  You will get a book of freebie coupons.  If you plan on redeeming them, you need to do it first thing in the main hall.  Some of that stuff disappears in a matter of minutes.

#39:  Some booths have a line.  Paizo, Fantasy Flight Games, CMON, Catalyst…they all have lines.  Lines just to get into the booth to look around.  Lines for the demos.  Don’t get discouraged, it is almost always worth the wait.  If these guys are high on your list, go straight there when the doors open.

#40:  Play some things you never have before.

There you have it guys – GAME ON!

#GenCon

Gen Con 2018 After-Action Report

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I am writing this in that post-con haze, so if it seems jumbled, it probably is.  This was a Gen Con to remember.  It was the first time that I brought along a true sidekick, my nine year old grandson Trenton.  I’ll talk about Gen Con for kids a little bit at the end of this blog, so read on.  Also, as a proviso, I am a freelance writer in the industry, pretty much writing only for Catalyst Game Labs right now on BattleTech.  So there is going to be a lot of BattleTech in this post.  No apologies…

This year there were more exhibitors than ever.  The exhibit hall is becoming massive which is fantastic.  Some notables were not there.  Reaper Miniatures once again did not show.  I love their product and they contribute to paint-and-take, but no booth.  Wizards of the Coast may have been there, but I never found them.

My first stop was Catalyst Game Labs.  One word: Wow.  An awesome (pun intended) seven foot tall BattleMech loomed over a demo game with massive twelve inch tall miniatures on a map you had to walk on to play!  My novella (combined with Phil Lee’s outstanding work) sold out half-way through the first day.  Awesome sauce!  I saw a lot of fathers and grandfathers scoring copies of the Beginner’s Box Set for their kids.  The boxed sets sold out day one.  Saturday they released Catalyst energy drinks – Coolant Flush and Dragon Piss.  I thought it was a whacked idea – until I saw people purchasing them by the case. Then I saw my son buying some.  Sometimes I am just totally wrong. It’s rare, but it happens.

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This is not the right cover for this book.
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I actually heard a fan demanding the STL files so he could print his own ‘Mechs out like these.  I have to admit, these look awesome.

I played some demo games – which is one of the reasons I go to Gen Con.  I purchased the Game of Thrones minis game from CMON but hadn’t played it yet.  So I got into a demo of it.  Great game.  A lot of the mechanics relies on the NPC figures and their powers as well as the character cards.  Here’s a tip, don’t ride your cavalry into the Mountain and his men.  Wow, I devastated a full-on House Stark cavalry charge…panicking them into a rout.  I enjoyed it, but have come to the realization that you have to understand and really think through your cards for a round in order to be victorious.

 

A Lannister Always Pays His Debts

Steamforged Games really has a strong following.  I watched a round of Guild Ball and was very tempted to pick it up – but I am behind on my miniatures painting as it is.

Modiphius Entertainment had the new Star Trek RPG supplements, one of which I picked up (The Beta Quadrant).  Yes, there will be a separate review of this and all the neat stuff I bought.  They had a coupon deal where if you spent 30 dollars, you got a miniature.  Mine was Khan.  Could this mean we are finally going to get a Star Trek II set of miniatures, the ones with the cool red and white uniforms?  Fingers are crossed on the part of this fan.

Fantasy Flight Games released the conversion kit for X-Wing and the thing few out the doors.  I was skeptical when they announced a new set of rules for X-Wing.  I spoke with some fans during a demo though and they assured me that FFG handled this perfectly with the conversion kit.  Lots of praise from the die-hards on this one.  As it was, I picked up the Rebel Commandos and Han Solo for Star Wars Legion.  The legion demo tables were outstanding.

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Hoth.  Love the crashed snow speeder.
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I love Star Wars Legion (I will be doing some posts on the game soon) but if they put out Ewok miniatures, I will go ballistic on FFG… Just sayin’…

I played the new Warhammer Kill Team. I went in pretty open-minded.  To be honest, I REALLY liked it.  The miniatures and terrain quality were top-notch and the play level is perfect, squads against squads, man-against-man (as opposed to full-on unit actions).  They sold out on Friday because they have a winner.

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My guys all just stood and fired, wiping out all but two of the enemy in the first round with the loss of only one of my troops.

Paizo sold out of Starfinder Armory too.  I saw a copy of it and was impressed enough to add it to my wish list on Amazon.  One of the guys at Paizo complimented me on my blog which was a pleasant surprise.  Hey, Paizo, I would review more of your stuff if you sent it to me.

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I got to watch the Gaslands Tournament.  I love the heavily armed semi-war-rig.  

I got to watch a demo of Battlestar Galactica from Ares games.  Love the concept – love the mini’s.  I can almost feel the drain on my wallet that is going to come from this.  I’m a big fan of Ares Games.

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One thing that really stood out was Miniteman Miniatures over at Lucas Oil Stadium.  They scan your head to render a 3D image that you can get put on a miniature ranging from 28mm to 60mm.  My son, grandson, and I all did this and when they get their site up, we’re ordering minis of ourselves.  I was told it would run about a $1 per mm.  Totally worth it.

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Great concept
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My son getting his head rendered.  It took around 3 minutes tops.

I always take shots of the terrain when I am wandering around.  Some of it is outstanding.  I always think the guys that do good terrain get overlooked at events like this by the fans of the miniatures themselves.  I loved this Privateer Press fortress assault game board, as an example.

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I played in the ‘Mech Pods, as always. I even got in a round with my son and grandson, which was a blast.  You want to hook a kid on gaming, start them with the experience of gaming.

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I saw one game coming I must have.  Aliens.  This is right from the movie.  You play the Marines fighting off wave after wave of aliens.  Cooperative play, death is assured.  I am SO onboard with this game concept. Gale Force Nine released a Firefly tactical game at the convention that looked great (I watched a demo of this one.)  But this is Aliens.  Ripley and Hudson and Hicks.  All before they mucked up the Aliens universe.  Oh yes, this will be mine!

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“That’s it man, game over…”

I heckled the Catalyst Games Lab forum from the front row.  We got a commitment from my editor, John Helfers, that yes, my novel, Forever Faithful is coming, “soon.” BattleTech is back. One person told me, “Brent (Evans) promised us fiction, a boxed set, and movement on the timeline last year.  He totally delivered!”  Next year is the 35th Anniversary, so plan on a LOT of stuff.  My running joke was I was going to get a red hat that said, “Make Wolf’s Dragoons Great Again,” but I didn’t want the political backlash. Snicker…

Funny side story.  Outside of the lecture before it started I was talking to some fans.  My name badge was flipped.  One guy railed about Betrayal of Ideals (which I wrote). “The politics were good but the action scenes were horrible.  The author really doesn’t know much about BattleTech or how military actions go.”  Another fan, who knew who I was, pointed out that I was the author of that book.  Debate ended.

I capped off the con with Masters and Minions.  Ray Arrastia got stuck with me against four players.  This year I had my ‘Mechs painted as Batman and Superman (a Gallowglas and Atlas (old school) accordingly.)  I would love to tell you that we devastated the enemy, but lying is not good.  On round one, my Gallowglas was downed and Ray’s Warhammer took two shots to the head from a light ‘Mech that turned his pilot in a scorched pile of goo.

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“Do you bleed?”  Yes, Yes I do.

I have come to hate the partial cover rules.  I had a gauss rifle and large laser hits on the enemy that ended up tearing up a level one hillside.  Robbed…robbed I say!

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Batman go boom.

I avenged Ray’s headshot death by unleashing the same rage and fury on that tiny little Firefly that killed ray.  I got him with headshots as well.  Seyla!

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The image at 10:45pm.  Looking awefully damned lonely out in the middle there.

I had a hard stop at 10:45pm, and when I left, Ray’s ‘Mech had toilet paper for armor and my Atlas was going to get hammered from two sides.  I am sure Ray gave the good fight…but in the end, the odds were not in our favor, nor was our skills against these guys!  Well fought!

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A well earned victory by these guys!

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Taking a Kid to Gen Con

I was unsure how my nine year old grandson would respond to Gen Con or how it would affect my own experience.  Trenton was great and the crowds were very cautious of kids.  Gen Con is VERY kid friendly.  We signed him up for his first RPG at the Kid Zone at Lucas Oil Stadium and he is now hooked!  Watching BattleTech demos, he went and purchased his first ‘Mech, “just like the one on Pop-Pop’s book.”

Trenton picked up Teen Titans from Cryptozoic and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure from Steve Jackson Games.  He really wanted to meet Steve Jackson just to say he liked his games.  I introduced him to Mike Stackpole, and scored some great brownie points there.  “He’s famous Pop-Pop.” “I know, he’s a New York Times Bestselling author.  So I am and your mother.”  “Yeah, but he writes Star Wars.”  I swear, I can’t win.

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I picked up this RPG for my grandson.

Lucas Oil Stadium’s kid zone was perfect for younger gamers.  I took Trenton over to build a TARDIS too – and he enjoyed it.  He loved doing the paint-and-take too, as did I. He loved looking at the demos of Star Wars Legion.  It took some pre-planning to make sure he was prepared for the con, but he came away a true gamer and fan.

And that’s a wrap.  Another successful Gen Con under our belts.  Now we can begin planning next years anniversary celebration!

#gencon

#BattleTech

My List of Gen Con Survival Tips – Updated for 2018

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Thursday morning, 9:50am, just so you get the idea about the whole crowd thing. 

Yes, it is that time of the year again – time for my unsolicited updated list of Gen Con tips survival.  These are to be treated as tongue and cheek – intended with a hint of a sense of humor.  If you’re offended, well, suck it up…this was intended to be useful and hopefully funny.

This year I am bringing my grandson Trenton and my wife.  For my wife, it will be a shock.  She attended Gen Con back in the day in Milwaukee.  I would try and prepare her for the sheer mass of people, but where would the fun be in that?

So, here’s my annual tips – updated where appropriate.

#1:  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.

#2  Getting into the city.  Indianapolis is easy to navigate, but this year, I-65 (one of the main roads in) will be under construction.  Allow yourself some extra time.  It is hairiest to drive into the city on Thursday and Friday because of the locals who work there. The good news is that rush hour in Indianapolis is not horrible. The locals think it is, but it isn’t (I live outside of Washington DC.)

#3  Parking.  Okay, this is tricky.  Thursday and Friday, you have to compete with the locals for parking spaces.  Many lots fill up by 10:30am.  In other words, be prepared to walk some distance on those days.  I have a secret place or two for parking – which I won’t reveal.  The key is, get there early before the garages fill up.

#4:  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.  Bring pencils, pack your lucky dice (you know the ones!) graph paper, phone charger, a small tape measure (for miniatures games), aspirin, you know – typical geek gamer 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.  Pack what you need but remember, you’re not setting out to climb Mt. Everest (or Mt. Doom, your choice.)

#5:  Be prepared for the rush to the main hall when it opens.  Yes, when the balloon goes up and they open the doors to the sales floor, it is a geek equivalent to the running of the bulls in Spain (albeit a little safer).  Don’t fight the masses, ride it in.  Also – DON’T RUN.  The convention folks really hate people that run.  To answer your question now:  Yes, it’s that crowded every year.  You can’t get in without a badge, have it out and visible.  The Stormtrooper Door Guards will stop you dead in your tracks, meaning you are subject to being trampled by the crowd surge.  Also, 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.

#6:  Cosplay is part of the experience and is encouraged.  If you are going to do it, 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.

#7:  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.  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.  Okay, that last point – I may be wrong.

#8:  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.  Foot powder, toothpaste, and clean clothing (a fresh set for every day) shouldn’t require mentioning – yet here I am doing it.  Why?  Because people don’t do it!

#9:  While you have no adult supervision and can do what you want, be respectful of others.  In other words, bringing your leftover Taco Bell burrito from dinner to that 8am gaming session and eating it during the set-up is just wrong.  You do know that their meat isn’t real meat, right?

#10:  For your meals eat outside of the convention center.  First, convention food sucks and is expensive.  My memory is that a single, room-temperature, piece of convention cardboard pizza runs around $425.  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.

Go only five blocks away and there are a lot of eating places.  Gamers hate leaving the convention site, even for an hour for food, so if you are willing to walk, downtown has a LOT of eating options and the further you walk, the smaller the crowds.  I recommend taking the stroll.  Ten minutes of walking gives you a few minutes of peace and quiet.

The Food Trucks are your best friends.   I only discovered where these vendors parked five 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…

#11:  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.  A lot of locals come down town to look at the cosplay folks – don’t add to their stereotype images of us.  Not cool dude.

#12:  While I totally appreciate Cosplayers, sometimes the costumes are confusing as all hell.  Don’t be insulted if people ask you, “who are you trying to be?”  Corollary:  Taking any other costume and tossing on a Deadpool mask is not as innovative as you like to think it is.  (We call these folks “Douce-pools”)  An unspoken rule at Gen Con is that you will see a lot of costumes based on whatever hit movie just released.  Always anticipate a lot of Joker’s and Harley Quinn’s.

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#13:  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.  Stop ruining game play for everyone just to demonstrate your incredible powers of memorization…please.   We refer to these individuals as Rules Douches, or the more French- La Rules Douchebag.

#14:  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?  The convention won’t come to you – you need to move.

#15:  Do some prep work if you are planning on buying some specific products.  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.  The short version of this:  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.  Check the web sites and Twitter feeds of your favorite companies to see if that new product will be available and when.

#16:  Wear comfortable shoes.  Preferably shoes that do not have a predetermined aroma (see Tip Six.)

#17:  Go back to your hotel at night and get some sleep.  The convention is not designed as an endurance test.  You’ll need the energy.  All night gaming is great, if you’re young, but even then you need some sleep.

#18:  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.

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

#20:  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.  As a writer in the industry, I welcome comments from fans…but there is a limit to critique that I will endure, and I am not alone.  As a corollary – there is a limit to the number of things you want autographed.

#21:  Go early to the con.  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.  They are a tradition I am addicted to.

#22:  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!

#23:  Don’t wear costumes that are designed to deliberately upset people.

#24:  Wear something other than a black tee shirt.  At Gen Con, 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.  Corollary:  Reading the hilarious tee shirts is one of the more phone things about the Con.

#25:  Don’t abuse your demo time in any booth.  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.

#26:  Remember the Gen Con food groups.  Caffeine, Chocolate, Salty Snacks, Caffeine, Pointless Carbs.  Beef Jerky, while not a formal food group, is also permissible but please be discreet when eating it – no one looks cool tearing into a piece of jerky.  Yes, Caffeine is listed twice because it is that important.

#27:  If you want to do free events plan on a wait or get there early.  A good example of this is the Paint and Take event Reaper puts on.  It’s cool to get a free mini you paint there, but everyone wants to do it and there’s usually a line.  See #30 below.

#28:  If you want the Convention giveaways – go to those booths first thing when the doors open.  A lot of these vendors run out in the first 20 minutes.

#29:  Con-Crud – prepare for it.  Con Crud is not a new module release of Pandemic – it’s the social plague that hits thousands when they return from Gen Con on the following Monday.  Use hand sanitizer (you have to bring your own on this).  Load up on vitamins and other legal medications aimed at reducing colds, flu, or whatever it is that morphs into Con-Crud.

#30:  Meet the celebrities.  I’m not just talking about the “name” celebrities.  This is a chance for you to track down that favorite author or artist and shake their hand.  I make a point at every Gen Con to network and meet people (and re-meet people I met years before).  Mingle and be social.

#31:  “Language” I’m noticing more and more kids at the Con which is great.  If you feel the need to curse, make sure only the adults are around.

#32:  Take advantage of the crowds to do things you want to do.  Look, at 10am, everyone is lined up to get into the main hall.  That’s the perfect time to do things that otherwise have long lines.  For me, that is when I hit Paint and Take.  Understand the masses, don’t always be part of the masses.

#33:  If you are in a wheelchair, it is not a weapon to clear the crowds.  I got hit by someone in a wheelchair last year just standing still.  He just plowed into my ankle because he wanted to get through.  I’m understanding, but not that understanding.

#34:  You will get a book of freebie coupons.  If you plan on redeeming them, you need to do it first thing in the main hall.  Some of that stuff disappears in a matter of minutes.

#35:  Play some things you never have before.

There you have it guys – GAME ON!

#GenCon

Review of Star Trek Adventures RPG

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Put on your red shirt and prepare to beam down

I have to admit, I was excited that Modiphius Entertainment was putting out a new Star Trek RPG.  This stems from a few places.  First, I have been a Trek fan since the original series (yes, I’m that old.)  Second, one of my first writing projects in the gaming business was for FASA’s Star Trek RPG back in the 1980’s (yes, I’m that old part II.)  I wrote support books, rules, and scenario packs back in the day. I’ve even gotten to write game walk-thru books for several of the computer games for Star Trek. Third, we’ve been in a weird glut of Star Trek RPG’s.  There have been some good attempts in the past to rekindle this franchise into a game – but they all more or less fizzled.

So I pre-ordered the game and slotted some time to play at Gen Con. I lightly read the rules before Gen Con and I’m glad I played the game to clear up some of the ambiguity in the book.  That brings me to one point, some of the rules and examples are not entirely clear.  I struggled a bit with some of the core concepts until I played.

The rules can be a little confusing.  So if I made any mistakes, those are on me (and the gamemaster that led us on our adventure).  Once I got into the game there were some bits of brilliance here along with some, “what the hell?” moments reading/playing this as well.

Something brilliant – the use of momentum and threats poold.  This is a pool of points that you build by over-succeeding on tasks.  They are a group pool you can leverage to roll extra dice to try and succeed, or to up the ante (so to speak) on a certain situation.

The counter to that is the threat pool which his owned by the gamemaster.  This is the ying to the momentum pool’s yang.  The gamemaster can leverage this pool to his advantage, allowing him to toss in complications such as NPC’s recovering faster from damage.  The two pools interact with each other but are critical to the play of the game.  It does open up some questions from time to time as to whether a character should leverage the pool or not – but this forces good teaming with the players.

The game system itself is very simple.  But there are some strange things embedded in here.  For example:  The damage your phaser does is not just the weapons listing, but factors in your Security Discipline.  So if you are a red shirt using a phaser, you might do more damage than someone who has a low Security Discipline. This makes sense on a “to hit” roll, but not on damage.  Weird eh?

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Starfleet needs a new crew because these guys are dying

There were other things that seemed a little lopsided in play.  I had an Advisor Talent with my character, which meant I could lean over your shoulder and help your character perform a task. The thing was, there’s no real limit to it.  So I helped a pilot navigate an asteroid field, helped coach a fellow officer in disarming a bomb, and even acted as an Advisor when someone was shooting.  It allowed players to re-roll a die for a task but this simple Talent feels like it needs some boundaries.  There were only so many times I could say, “Atta Boy!” while being an Advisor.

The game isn’t about killing but incapacitating.  I am changing that with my players.  Red shirts die – look it up.  It’s an easy hop to turn the damage into hit points.

The rules have a lot of fluff text (easily 1/3 of the book).  It safely presumes you know the Star Trek universe.  While the system is set up to play in all but the new films eras, there’s not a lot of guidance about what is different from a gameplay perspective.  The fluff text is great stuff, wonderful little nuggets for Trekkers, but these nuggets take you all over the place.  There’s no comprehensive timeline to help players only familiar with one era to jump in.

The rules for starship combat work but are pretty abstract. Your skills apply to combat situations, so it does work.  I still long for the old FASA system and may revert to that for my players.  The needs of the many outweigh the needs of Modiphius Entertainment – or the one.

Some rules seem missing – or at least I haven’t been able to track them down.  When they talk about Reputation for characters, they have a table listing the number of Responsibilities that a character has.  They never really explain this and the table seems contrary to Star Trek, “I have the lives of 430 crewmen I’m responsible for!” According to the table Captain Kirk, you’re only responsible for 17-20…17 to 20 what, I have no idea.

Go to the index you say?  Yeah, good luck with that.  The index is one of the biggest weaknesses in this rulesbook.  It is only four pages-ish long and far from complete.  I hope Modiphius releases a comprehensive one online soon. As it is, this index is worthless and frustrating.

The book is graphically laid out with good artwork and a LCARs Star Trek interface.  That’s nice.  With a black background the white lettering can be a little hard to read at times.

One minor nit – there’s no ship blueprints here.  I don’t need a Constitution Class ship – I’d setting for a Danube Runabout.  Yes, you can score these things online with no problem, but it seems lacking. As a sidebar, the Danube Class ships are shown as a graphic image, but no game stats for them appear in the book – another minor nit.

Star Trek Adventures is destined to be hard to run.  Players that know Star Trek can go down a lot of rabbit holes and whip out a lot of technical stuff that can imbalance play (I know, I’m one of those people!)  It’s a big universe so things can get out of hand quickly.  This is one of the few games where your inside knowledge of hundreds of hours of TV and films can force your gamemaster to pull out his/her few remaining hairs.  This means you have to craft your adventures very carefully.

So is it worth $58 dollars US for the book.  I think so.  I heard a lot of people griping online that the game is too pricy.  It is no more than any other high end RPG.  There’s 384 pages of stuff here, so there is a bulk value.  I love the star maps in the end pages, which is very useful and kind of fun to read. You will pay this much for almost any game system out there these days and this is on-par with the Star Wars RPG, though I found that system more technical than Star Trek – which favors true role playing.

The manufacturer is releasing miniatures for the game – but seems to be skipping the Star Trek II Wrath of Khan figures, which easily had the best uniforms we saw in Star Trek.

I have already prepped two adventures for my player group to go through.  So I like the system enough to continue to play it.  I hope they (Modiphius Entertainment) are planning some good sourcebooks to refine the rules for the eras.

Red Shirt 2

Out of five stars, I would give this 3.9.  I love the momentum/threat pool system and there’s a lot of simplicity here that makes it relatively easy to learn.  I am hopeful they will supplement this system to fix some of the rough edges.

Gen Con 2017 After-Action Report

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“No running,” was the warning we got Thursday morning.  Not a problem.  It was physically impossible.

It’s time to summarize my Gen Con 2017 experience.  It was the 50th Gen Con and for some reason I expected something special.  Oh, there was some stuff different.  They have a museum of gaming, which is cool.  There was a concert this year.  Honestly though, it seemed like a typical Gen Con, only bigger.  There was a lot of walking this year because things have spread out across the city.

There was a lot of Gen Con 50 merchandise, that was for sure.  I doubt any of it will be collectible – I mean there were well over 60k attendees.

My buddy Kevin picked up the Bob Ross – The Art of Chill game.  Yes, that guy from PBS that painted trees is the subject of a game…a game about painting.  It sounds crazy, but it totally worked.

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What was amazing is that everyone knew who Bob Ross was.

StarFinder was the big “must buy” RPG of the convention.  It’s Pathfinder in space.  Paizo was good at forming a line for purchase, but lousy at processing them.  Two guys that came with me were in line for almost 1.5 hours.  I got in line (and got an autograph – which was nice) and then a guy from Paizo came buy saying if we were paying cash, he could take care of us.  Granted, it could have been some dude with a Paizo shirt, but it got me out of line before the other guys by 45 minutes.  Mental note – next year find out what Paizo is wearing (and Fantasy Flight Games) and run the same scam.  I could have paid for the next three conventions collecting cash that way.   I’ll review the game in an upcoming post.  My initial thoughts were that it looked awesome.

FFG’s big hit was the Legend of the Five Rings game.  Wizkids made an appearance but only brought a few products.  No Star Trek Attack Wing.  What the hell Wizkids?  I came with money – and you managed to just make me get more frustrated deep down inside.

I was geeked about Modiphius’s Star Trek RPG release.  I purchased the book a few weeks ago and I wanted the miniatures and dice.  Dice were on hand – but nothing else. That left me a little frustrated as well.   It was my hope to review them here – well that’s not happening – not yet.  I will review the game system later.  Suffice it to say I like parts of it, dislike other aspects.

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Pickle-Rick is here because he’s Pickle-Rick

Steamforged Games had a big presence.  I had never really taken a look at them before.  I watched a demo of Guild Ball and was actually impressed with the quality of the minutes and the fun of the game play.  I am already regretting not picking it up.  Argh!

Catalyst Game Labs released the other big hit – Dragonfire.  This is a cooperative card game based on their Shadowrun Crossfire system.  Pure D&D carnage with cards.  I have a copy and will be reviewing this later.  I have to admit, it looked great.  They also had some aircraft aluminum dice (I scored some Smoke Jaguars) for BattleTech and they had previews of the new ‘Mechs for the BattleTech boardgame release.

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A balloon dragon.  I was expecting something more I guess.

I got to see the minis from Cool Minis or Not for the Game of Thrones miniatures game.  I did the Kickstarter for it but it was very cool to play the demo.  Those miniatures are awesome and the game play is pretty smooth.  As Jamie Lannister I took out Rob Stark – ending the young wolf’s life.

There was a new game Wild West Exodus that had an impressive line of miniatures.  It looks like cowboys, Confederates, steampunk, aliens and other weirdness.  They had a lot of minis, but no rules or starter sets.

In terms of playing – we did the BattleTech pods (as always).  These never get old.  They had 14 this year and they had been upgraded!  The graphics were crisper.  Nothing says fun like an Alpha Strike to the rear of your enemy.  Seyla!

We signed up for the Gorn game of the Star Trek RPG.  That went okay…we ran out of time to complete it.  What sucked was that we had geared up for the Gorn and got the Romulans instead.  What the hell?  At the end of the game I finally asked, “Where were the Gorn?”  We got an excuse that the Gen Con folks had pressured them to do a tourney so they went with some material they already had.  There were some funny moments despite this being a clear bait and switch.  We beamed down and sent the ship away.  Twenty-five minutes into the game we called them to come back, only to be told they were 12 hours away!  The best was playing the Galaxy Quest theme music during game play.  Well worth the download to my phone before the session.

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The costumes were over-the-top cool this year

We played the D&D tournament as well, at least I think we did.  There was no combat and only one spell used.  We ended up in some dinosaur race and could only use quarterstaffs and no combat spells.  It was two hours of dino racing rather than D&D.  I came away confused as all hell as to what we had just done.  I wanted to swing a sword, go into a dungeon…you know, play D&D.  This was lame.

As one of the BattleTech insiders, I got invited to a super secret BattleTech strategy session.  We used to do these things at Gen Cons. It was great to be back at it.  I cannot share the details of the meeting (for free at least.  I am a complete mercenary otherwise.) I have included these photos simply to whet your appetites as to what is coming and how cool it is going to be…

After this I capped off Gen Con playing in the Master’s and Minion’s tournament.  Colin Duffy got stuck with me as a player on his side (pity his soul).  Colin paints a lot of the minis and did a great job.  True story – I told them I wanted Clan Wolverine paint schemes.  Somewhere along the way they told him “Wolverine.”  Well, in past years I had Captain America, Deadpool, and Iron Man painted ‘Mechs, so he painted my Wolverines as Wolverine from the comic books.  It was funny and oddly they fit my collection perfectly.

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My ‘Mechs and dice.  Wolverines!  No, wait, Wolverine!

My favorite paints (other than mine) were the Suicide Squad (shown at the bottom)

The battle left Colin saddled with a crappy player who refused to follow plans and went after every shiny object that caught his attention (that’s me of course).  I lost, two killer head shots.  Honorably defeated it was a lot of fun…as always.

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This is not going to end well.

So there you have it – another Gen Con under my belt.  I have a ton of booty to go through and material for game reviews for the next six months.

My 2017 Gen Con Survival Tips

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Game on! 

Yes, it is that time of the year again – time for my unsolicited updated list of GenCon tips survival.  These are to be treated as tongue and cheek – intended with a hint of a sense of humor.  If you’re offended, well, suck it up…this was intended to be useful and hopefully funny.

#1:  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.

#2:  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.  Bring pencils, pack your lucky dice (you know the ones!) graph paper, phone charger, a small tape measure (for miniatures games), aspirin, you know – typical geek gamer 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.  Pack what you need but remember, you’re not setting out to climb Mt. Everest (or Mt .Doom, your choice.)

#3:  Be prepared for the rush to the main hall when it opens.  Yes, when the balloon goes up and they open the doors to the sales floor, it is a geek equivalent to the running of the bulls in Spain (albeit a little safer).  Don’t fight the masses, ride it in.  To answer your question now:  Yes, it’s that crowded every year.  You can’t get in without a badge, have it out and visible.  The Stormtrooper Door Guards will stop you dead in your tracks, meaning you are subject to being trampled by the crowd surge.  Also, 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.

#4:  Cosplay is part of the experience and is encouraged.  If you are going to do it, 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.

#5:  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.  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.  Okay, that last point – I may be wrong.

#6:  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.  Foot powder, toothpaste, and clean clothing (a fresh set for every day) shouldn’t require mentioning – yet here I am doing it.  Why?  Because people don’t do it!

#7:  While you have no adult supervision and can do what you want, be respectful of others.  In other words, bringing your leftover Taco Bell burrito from dinner to that 8am gaming session and eating it during the set-up is just wrong.  You do know that their meat isn’t real meat, right?

#8:  For your meals eat outside of the convention center.  First, convention food sucks and is expensive.  My memory is that a single, room-temperature, piece of convention cardboard pizza runs around $425.  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.

Go only five blocks away and there are a lot of eating places.  Gamers hate leaving the convention site, even for an hour for food, so if you are willing to walk, downtown has a LOT of eating options and the further you walk, the smaller the crowds.  I recommend taking the stroll.  Ten minutes of walking gives you a few minutes of peace and quiet.

The Food Trucks are your best friends.   I only discovered where these vendors parked four 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…

#9:  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.  A lot of locals come down town to look at the cosplay folks – don’t add to their stereotype images of us.  Not cool dude.

#10:  While I totally appreciate Cosplayers, sometimes the costumes are confusing as all hell.  Don’t be insulted if people ask you, “who are you trying to be?”  Corollary:  Taking any other costume and tossing on a Deadpool mask is not as innovative as you like to think it is.  (We call these folks “Douce-pools”)

#11:  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.  Stop ruining game play for everyone just to demonstrate your incredible powers of memorization…please.   We refer to these individuals as Rules Douches, or the more French- La Rules Douchebag.

#12:  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?  The convention won’t come to you – you need to move.

#13:  Do some prep work if you are planning on buying some specific products.  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.  The short version of this:  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.  Check the web sites and Twitter feeds of your favorite companies to see if that new product will be available and when.

#14:  Wear comfortable shoes.  Preferably shoes that do not have a predetermined aroma (see Tip Six.)

#15:  Go back to your hotel at night and get some sleep.  The convention is not designed as an endurance test.  You’ll need the energy.  All night gaming is great, if you’re young, but even then you need some sleep.

#16:  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.

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

#18:  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.  As a writer in the industry, I welcome comments from fans…but there is a limit to critique that I will endure, and I am not alone.  As a corollary – there is a limit to the number of things you want autographed.

#19:  Go early to the con.  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.  They are a tradition I am addicted to.

#20:  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!

#21:  Don’t wear costumes that are designed to deliberately upset people, unless those people are politicians.  You can abuse them all you want – they deserve it.

#22:  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.  Corollary:  Reading the hilarious tee shirts is one of the more phone things about the Con.

#23:  Don’t abuse your demo time in any booth.  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.

#24:  Remember the GenCon food groups.  Caffeine, Chocolate, Salty Snacks, Caffeine, Pointless Carbs.  Beef Jerky, while not a formal food group, is also permissible but please be discreet when eating it – no one looks cool tearing into a piece of jerky.  Yes, Caffeine is listed twice because it is that important.

#25:  If you want to do free events plan on a wait or get there early.  A good example of this is the Paint and Take event Reaper puts on.  It’s cool to get a free mini you paint there, but everyone wants to do it and there’s usually a line.  See #30 below.

#26:  If you want the Convention giveaways – go to those booths first thing when the doors open.  A lot of these vendors run out in the first 20 minutes.

#27:  Con-Crud – prepare for it.  Con Crud is not a new module release of Pandemic – it’s the social plague that hits thousands when they return from GenCon on the following Monday.  Use hand sanitizer (you have to bring your own on this).  Load up on vitamins and other legal medications aimed at reducing colds, flu, or whatever it is that morphs into Con-Crud.

#28:  Meet the celebrities.  I’m not just talking about the “name” celebrities.  This is a chance for you to track down that favorite author or artist and shake their hand.  I make a point at every GenCon to network and meet people (and re-meet people I met years before).  Mingle and be social.

#29:  “Language” I’m noticing more and more kids at the Con which is great.  If you feel the need to curse, make sure only the adults are around.

#30:  Take advantage of the crowds to do things you want to do.  Look, at 10am, everyone is lined up to get into the main hall.  That’s the perfect time to do things that otherwise have long lines.  Understand the masses, don’t always be part of the masses.

#31:  If you are in a wheelchair, it is not a weapon to clear the crowds.  I got hit by someone in a wheelchair last year just standing still.  He just plowed into my ankle because he wanted to get through.  I’m understanding, but not that understanding.

#32:  You will get a book of freebie coupons.  If you plan on redeeming them, you need to do it first thing in the main hall.  Some of that stuff disappears in a matter of minutes.

#33:  Play some things you never have before.

There you have it guys – GAME ON!

#GenCon