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Gen Con 2013: Part Five – Sunday, Aug. 18

(Oh, hey – Here’s a picture I forgot to post from Saturday the 17th:

– those structures? They’re all made of gaming cards. Yeah.)

Eight a.m. Sunday arrived all too quickly, since I’d just gone to bed five hours earlier. No, I did not drag myself down to the treadmill. I got up, showered, had breakfast, and hauled all my stuff – packed into one suitcase and one messenger bag – down to the hotel lobby. They let me check my suitcase with the concierge, since I wasn’t going to be leaving until mid-afternoon, but check-out time was 11 a.m., at which time I would be re-immersed in True Dungeon.

Dave and I met up around 9:30 and went into Hall B early so we could claim our characters and maybe help equip other players as they arrived.

This time through, we chose the combat-oriented storyline – again, there are more details in our GeekDad post on the True Dungeon experience. Different from Friday night’s puzzle-focused run – not just for that, but also because we were with eight people we’d never met – but the two hours flew by again. (Although if I do True Dungeon again, from here on out, I think I’ll stick with the puzzle quests.)

That was my last game of Gen Con 2013.

It was just past noon when we got out – yes, already afternoon on the last day of the convention, where everything starts to feel washed out by a sense of closing time and a bit of sadness, even though it’s hardly mid-day. Dave and I met up with Jonathan, who was heading back to the airport, and the three of us parted ways.

Texting Kato and Wendy, I found out they were close by, so I met up with them, and we made arrangements for gathering in a couple hours for the drive home.  I think they were going to head out to the food trucks for some lunch, but I had just eaten another of my trusty peanut butter sandwiches, so I decided to go to the exhibit hall and pick up some T-shirts for Jenn and Kelsey and me. (For Jenn, a design with the TARDIS and the Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey quote. For Kels, John Kovalic’s CthulWho. And for me, one of these:

I spent awhile then just strolling the corridors and the exhibit hall, taking in one more time all the things that I love about these conventions.

Don’t blink, indeed. Where had the previous four days gone? How could it be over already?

Here’s my excerpt of the collective post Jonathan and Dave and I wrote for GeekDad afterward:

My short answer to “How was Gen Con?” can be condensed to four words: Physically exhausting, mentally invigorating.

I’ve been to four Star Wars Celebrations and the inaugural PAX East, so I’m familiar with the grin-inducing atmosphere and energy of large geek conventions, and the thrill of being in a crowd of people who share your excitement.

What I was unprepared for, though, was the different feel of Gen Con. I think I realized it somewhere around Saturday morning, when, despite the late nights, early mornings, and the amount of walking, standing, and hauling around a messenger bag, I was really energized.

I think it came down to this: Generally, the big conventions I’ve attended have offered tons of cool things to see and hear — panels or Q&A sessions featuring producers and model-builders and actors; presentations on toy prototypes or special effects; interviews and sneak peeks and art exhibits. And these things have been amazing and fun and mind-blowing, and I love them.

But while you can find similar offerings at Gen Con, the overall vibe of the place was one not of seeing and hearing, but of doing. People packing the exhibit hall not just to look and shop and get autographs, but to learn new games or play updated versions of old favorites, and share their discoveries with both friends and total strangers. Rows and rows and rows of occupied tables in the open gaming hall. The corridors still lined with dozens of people long after dark, sitting on the floors and just gaming together.

I played 15 games during Gen Con, 12 of which were completely new to me. They included everything from stacking/coordination games to memory-based challenges to deck-builders and role-playing games. And there’s not a doubt in my mind that this near-constant shifting of games and fellow players and strategies and goals played a big part in not just keeping me going, but eager to do more.

Wendy and Kato picked me up outside my hotel around 3 p.m. The drive home was uneventful, and I was glad for the chance to unwind and talk about the weekend with them. (And as we recalled Friday night’s True Dungeon run, Wendy totally solved the final puzzle which had doomed our party.)

So: A long weekend packed with unforgettable, enriching experiences shared with friends old and new?

No bigger win than that.

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August 30, 2013 Posted by | Current Affairs, Games, geek, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

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

   

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