Gen Con 2019: Day 1 Review

For those who visit my site regularly, you’ve been seeing some coverage for an event called Gen Con 2019. You’re probably asking yourself, “What’s Gen Con?” Gen Con 2019 is a convention that hosts events including roleplaying games, board games, card games, Live Action Roleplaying (LARP), seminars, and an Exhibit Hall that contains companies who sell all of these types of games and artists. The convention is well known as The Best Four Days in Gaming. My wife and I have attended Gen Con for many years and took a break when we had our family. This year, we were not only taking the kids to their first Gen Con, but I was also covering the show as press for The Photo Pit.

My kids and I arrived on Wednesday, July 31st at the Indianapolis airport with excitement in our hearts and smiles on our faces. A 30 minute Lyft ride brought us to our hotel, where we really started to feel the buzz and excitement of the convention. Everyone in the lobby was attending the convention and some were already playing games. After dropping off our luggage in our room, it was off to the Will Call line. Those who don’t pre-register for your badges and events in time to get them mailed have to pick them up at the Will Call line. And veteran attendees know that line on Wednesday is long.

While waiting on line, a man carrying a huge bag came over to the kids and asked if they wanted a game from it. He explained he was giving these away to kids attending the convention. The kids ended up with copies of Roll & Seek and Hot Spot. It made me remember one of the things I love about Gen Con is the kindness of strangers. People who all come together with a common love to play together, talk about gaming, and simply have fun.

It was a quick 30 minutes to pick up the kids badges (I had to wait for the Press Room to open on Thursday) and all of our tickets. We zipped over to the Circle Center Mall for a quick dinner before we went to our first official Gen Con event. At 8 PM we headed over to Union Station’s Grand Hall to do Safe Fun Foam Fighting, hosted by Stronghold LARP Foam. They provided foam weapons or people could bring their own in a massive game similar to Capture the Flag. Instead, players attempted to hit a foam disc of the opposing team 3 times to win the round. Players who were knocked out could respawn after 10 seconds. The hosts did a wonderful job ensuring everyone was having fun AND being safe with no head shots and forcing players to take water breaks. My kids had an amazing time and the hosts and players ensured they and the other kids playing with adults were kept safe and had fun. Then, it was off to bed to rest up for the Exhibit Hall opening!

Thursday, August 1st, is one of the most exciting days of Gen Con. It is the official opening of the Exhibit Hall, where all of the game publishers are ready to sell and show off their latest published games. The kids and I made our way into the thousands of other people waiting for the doors to open. At 10 AM sharp, the doors opened and people poured their way into the Exhibit Hall. My children’s faces lit up in amazement and I even teared up walking back into this place I missed so much. The Exhibit Hall had changed a lot since the last time I was at Gen Con in 2011 and it was a sight to see. Paizo, AEG, Fantasy Flight, and Upper Deck all had huge floor spaces, there were signs everywhere for the various game publishers, people were handing out free buttons and bookmarks, and all sorts of swag, and best of all attendees were smiling and rushing off to grab their favorite games.

As part of my normal tradition, we began to walk up and down the aisles to see everything we could in the first day. From RPGs, to cool props, to clothing, to board games, miniatures, and art, this Gen Con Exhibit Hall had so much more than I remembered back 8 years before. It was massive. As we passed by the Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) booth, the kids wanted to stop to do a demo. The game that caught their eye was a board game called War Chest. The game is for 2-4 players and uses beautiful poker style chips as units. The goal is to capture 6 points on the map to win. Each unit had different movements, attacks, and special abilities that require some forward planning to get the right pieces out on the board in time. The kids had an excellent time with Matt Paquette overseeing the game.

We ran over to the Paizo booth for an interview with John Compton, Organzied Play Lead Developer, for an interview going over all the new products of Pathfinder Second Edition and Starfinder. You can read and see the interview HERE.

John Compton of Paizo holding Starfinder Special Edition (left) and Aaron Shanks of Paizo holding Pathfinder Second Edition Special Edition (right). Photo by Talon Kane Photography

Continuing our way through the Exhibit Hall we saw some beautiful dice from Q-Workshop, some phenomenal dungeon terrain from Dwarven Forge, amazing demos running for Star Wars: Legion by Fantasy Flight Games, and watched some demos of the upcoming Marvel: Crisis Protocol from Atomic Mass Games. There was still so much to see, but we needed to run off to our first event for the day.

We headed over to Hall B for “Heroclix: Kill It Keep It” being run by Home Town Comics. Heroclix is a miniatures combat game where players take a team of comic heroes (or fantasy or sci-fi depending which packs you use) and battle against other teams. The miniatures have a turning dial in their base that turns to keep track of their damage before they are knocked out. In this version, a large group of Heroclix were set up in the middle. The goal was to fight through as many of them as you could with your pre-set team with the two hour time frame. Whatever Heroclix you defeated, you got to keep. Needless to say, my kids were thrilled with the idea as a Captain America was sitting almost dead center and both of them wanted him badly. It took us a few minutes to get the hang of the game again before we started cranking through the field (the enemy didn’t fight back). With 10 minutes left, we still hadn’t gotten close to Captain America. We all pushed hard to get through the enemies, but some bad dice rolls, and tough opponents set before him found us falling short. The host of the event called time as we started to gather our spoils together. He came over and said he appreciated we all came as a family together to play his event and for us to keep all the Heroclix on our board. I saw him also tell the other tables the same as well. Once again, the kindness of gamers prevails! The kids thanked him profusely as we gathered up the board and made our way to dinner. We decided on eating at Steak & Shake, which has been a popular location for Gen Con attendees to eat ever since the convention came to Indianapolis.

Our last event of the day was titled “First Taste”, which was a brief demo of Shadowrun Sixth World rules, being run by the Catalyst Labs. This was the newest edition of Shadowrun rules which have made gameplay smoother and quicker. The game still maintains the same d6 dice pool rolls as it did in the past. But, they’ve added some additional details, such as Edge, but overall a nicer set of rules and much faster through combat. In a world where technology rules alongside magic and humans walk the same streets as elves and orcs and the Corporations are the overlords, Shadowrun still provided that wonderful world I always remembered. The kids had a lot of fun, especially when the dice pools got ridiculously high (17d6 anyone?). Our GM was excellent and she did a great job letting the players get the full feel of their pre-gen character while allowing everyone to take a big part of the story.

It was a great way to wrap up Day 1 of Gen Con. I had missed this convention more than I realized. The vendors, the people, the atmosphere, the chance to roleplay with a bunch of strangers and everyone wanting to make it fun. I couldn’t wait to get back at it again for Day 2.

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