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Gen Con 2013: Part Three – Friday, Aug. 16

Most days, my alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. “Sleeping in” is typically anything past 7 a.m.

So, exhausted as I’d been the night before, I wasn’t surprised to wake up just after seven Friday morning. Knowing that I had fallen behind on my running, and not wanting to lose too many miles, I went down to the hotel’s fitness center and did 3.5 miles on the treadmill. On the way back to the room, I ran into Jonathan as he was heading down for breakfast, showered, and headed down for my own meal.

I seem to think we met up with Dave at the convention center – he was staying closer than we were – and we dove into another day’s gaming.

We passed a good chunk of the morning having fun learning and playing complete games (not just demos) of Dread Curse and A Touch of Evil: Dark Gothic at their company booths.

And oh, hey: Giant Balloon Cthulhu.

Jonathan had an appointment to keep (I think), so Dave offered to teach me Dungeon Command, which he had brought with him. I had actually planned to attend a panel on game writing, but I was really caught up in playing and learning all these new games, so I ate the peanut butter sandwich I’d made – Yes, I did, in fact, bring a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter to keep in the hotel room so we could make sandwiches for during the day. Convention Survival Essential. – skipped the panel, and tried my best to rally an undead army to victory.

At some point, Dave and I also played a quick demo of Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures. Seemed neat and fun, but the demo was awfully short, and nobody got blasted into space dust.

I also thought I’d pop over to Jim Hines‘ mid-afternoon appearance in the authors’ alley so I could say hi and get my copy of Codex Born signed, but I got there about 15 minutes before his shift was due to end, and there was at least a half-hour line – Go Jim! (He also had one more signing scheduled, so I wasn’t stressed about it.)

Dave and I decided to take a break, then grab dinner nearby before our scheduled True Dungeon run at 7 p.m. I walked back to my hotel to pick up the bag of True Dungeon tokens that Jonathan had been given, and I snagged a 15-minute snooze while I was there.

After supper, we met up with Jonathan, Kato & Wendy outside the True Dungeon hall, and for the next couple hours, we fled and fought werewolves and worked our way through a wilderness of puzzling obstacles. I wrote a detailed piece on our True Dungeon experience for GeekDad, but the short version is that we had a lot of fun.

Stopped by the Wizards of the Coast Dungeons & Dragons area for a few minutes afterward to say hello to Lolth –

– then walked solo over to check out the Munchkin Tavern and have a beer. Not long after I arrived, Kato and Wendy decided to come over, too. It was a nice night, and we sat out on the deck for awhile just enjoying the surroundings and the company. Picked up a set of pint glasses, which, naturally, come with in-game rules for use during Munchkin.

Before leaving, we met  John Kovalic, who was sitting at a table inside – bonus points to Wendy for checking Twitter and noticing that he mentioned being at the Tavern. He’s been a Friend of GeekDad for awhile, but this was the first time our paths crossed. Exceptionally nice guy.

We left after 11 p.m., and I headed back to my hotel, since Kato and Dave and I were planning to be in line early Saturday for one of the D&D Next playtest sessions. Jonathan was still in the hall gaming close to midnight.

This was one of the coolest things about Gen Con: The day ended (or didn’t) when you wanted it to. There were still hundreds of people in the convention center hallways and open gaming areas when I was walking past. I don’t know if the center itself stayed open 24 hours, but even if it didn’t, and you wanted to game all night long, there were possibilities everywhere  you looked: Late-night restaurants, hotel lobbies and bars and common areas.

Also making for an interesting downtown scene was that weekend’s motorcycle racing event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Lots of bikers – both of the chrome-and-custom crowd and the racing bike enthusiasts – cruising around and gathering on a few blocks closed off for the occasion. (One of which was right outside our hotel. From six stories up, though, the noise didn’t bother me.) Between the bikers and the game geeks and the costumers, there was some top-notch people-watching to be enjoyed.

Missed parts one and two of my Gen Con 2013 recollections? Here: Part One – Getting There; Part Two – Thursday, August 15.

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Current Affairs, Games, geek, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gen Con 2013: Part One – Getting There

Until this summer, the last time I visited Indianapolis was eight years ago, when Jim Carchidi and I covered Star Wars Celebration III for the Tribune Co. At the time, the Star Wars conventions were being run by Gen Con’s parent organization, and I remember the press room coordinator telling us, “This was a lot of fun – but you really should come back for Gen Con sometime.”

To the 2005 version of me, this didn’t sound incredibly appealing. Four days of Star Wars geekery was awesome – but a long weekend of, what? Games? I hadn’t touched a Dungeons & Dragons character sheet in decades, and for tabletop gaming, why would I drive all the way to Indianapolis?

I’m happy to say my horizons have expanded a bit since then, fueled by fantastic friends who’ve re-introduced me to role-playing games over the past several years, and gotten me into a range of tabletop and card games.

I was supposed to go to Gen Con in 2011, but that trip fell through, and last year, a big, family summer trip pretty much knocked everything else off the board.

Summer 2013: Achievement Unlocked. It’s been a week since I got back from Gen Con, where I spent a lot of excellent time with GeekDads Jonathan Liu and Dave Banks – neither of whom I’d seen since 2010 – and my friends Kato & Wendy, who were making their third trip to Gen Con.

It was four straight days of sheer amazing fun, and I’ve been looking forward to sitting down and writing about it.

So: Wednesday Aug. 14, I worked from home, so that Jenn could get me to the bus station on time.

Yep – the bus station. Several reasons, the details of which aren’t really important, but it basically boils down to the fact that my one-way bus ticket was far cheaper than either a single tank of gas or a couple days’ parking in Indianapolis. And since Kato & Wendy had offered me a spot in their car on the way home, that was really all I needed. The negatives? Just two: More time on the road than the roughly five hours it would take to drive myself, and reaching the Indianapolis bus station at 2:30 a.m. Thursday.

Still, Jonathan was due to reach Indianapolis around 6 a.m., and I knew Dave was going to be hitting downtown early, so I planned on just killing a few hours at Union Station, then making the short walk to the hotel once it was light and Jonathan was on the way.

Did I expect to sleep well on the trip? Of course not. Did I fully expect to kick off my first Gen Con trip with a rousing game of Sleep Deprivation vs. Geek Adrenaline? Of course I did. As Clark Griswold says, It’s All Part of the Experience, Honey.

Three legs on the bus trip, then. First up – Interstate 77 southbound, Canton to Cambridge, on a Barons Bus. Extremely cushy, nice ride, quiet and calm. Just about an hour. Dozed lightly.

On the way to Gen Con!

Bit of a surprise to find that the transfer “station” to the Greyhound line in Cambridge was, in fact, a Marathon station*. Interesting. Four plastic seats available inside, but I opted to stay on the bench out front, since it was a nice evening.

The Greyhound was about a half-hour late, and by the time it arrived, there were maybe 8-10 of us waiting to board. It was a pretty full ride to Columbus. Made small talk with the Amish guy who sat next to me for a bit, then snoozed until we reached the next stop. (For the record: Not as nice a bus as the Barons coach. Little less cushy, little more creaky.)

It was around 11-ish when we hit Columbus. A longer stopover: Everyone had to clear out, even those of us getting back on board to Indy. (Or points farther west: Two of my fellow travelers were headed to Denver and Las Vegas. Yoicks.) On the bright side, when we re-boarded, the bus was maybe half-full, so I had room to stretch across the seat next to me, and I actually got probably 90 minutes of decent sleep over the next 175 miles. Arrived right on time, 2:30 a.m. local time.

I resisted the urge to walk across the street to the White Castle, found a seat away from the busier parts of the station, and settled in for about four hours of sporadic napping, reading, internet-based timekilling, and watching bits and pieces of The Goonies and From Russia with Love on my Kindle.

Got a message from Jonathan shortly after 6 a.m., and headed off to meet him at the hotel. It was light outside, just before sunup, and the early risers were starting to hit the streets wearing their Gen Con admission badges. 

We’re here!

Seeing the badges and this table topper in the hotel lobby were reminders of what I love about going to conventions: They’re signs of the collective enthusiasm that reaches beyond the walls of an auditorium or exhibit hall and permeates everything around for a couple days.

Hadn’t seen Jonathan since my cross-country road trip. He sent Dave a quick message letting him know where we were, and the three of us had a hot breakfast at the hotel before walking down the street to the Indiana Convention Center.

* Post-trip footnote: The Google Street view of this station reveals the station’s makeover from a BP to a marathon, through an interesting quirk of photos taken about year apart. Here’s a super-short video.

August 26, 2013 Posted by | Games, geek, Travel | , , | Leave a comment


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