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2008 GENCON Report

Like every year I am summing up after my trip to GENCON. Most of these reports from my old blog are less then stirring yet this year was a little more interesting.

First I’ll start with my disappointments which are twofold. The first is I found out that the release date on my game Poltergeist Paparazzi is being push back so it’s not going to be ready for Essen this year. Secondly a meeting to show a card game to a publisher was cancelled, rescheduled and then cancelled again. Right now I am taking that all in stride. I have found that having a thick skin is an important attribute for a designer. If I was crushed every time something didn’t go as planned I be flatter then a Mu Shu Pancake.

Now for all the good things.

I worked the Mayfair booth as usual teaching hundreds of people games. Along with me and our usual demo team members the designer of Horus, Jean Vanaise was there to teach his game. It turns out that he is a fabulously friendly and funny fellow. It was great to be able to hang out with him. Phil Chase the designer of Theophrastus was teaching his game as well but having known Phil for years he is more like family then a guest. One other thing that was nice is that several BGDF members that I had never met drop by to say hi or even play a game.

Since the Settlers of Catan world championships were held at GENCON this year many special things were happening. There was a banquette for all the finalists with good food and drink as well as the special guest Yohan from Catan. He gave a brief but laughter inducing speech and was around for the rest of the weekend to trade and tell people of his adventures.

The final notable from the weekend was that BluePanther LLC has started to publish Cannon* and had their first available copies there. I have not heard about how many people purchased copies. I’m eager for the report.

* For those of you that don’t know I had been self publishing Cannon for several years and recently decided to License it out so I could focus on game design and development. Even a tiny game company like PyroMyth Games takes a large amount of time to run.

That’s all until 2009.

Comments

And sadly he was annoyed by

And sadly he was annoyed by me, which is by far the worst part of his GenCON experience this year!

Good Con

Dralius - Sounds like you had a pretty good Con overall.

Here's my GenCon report to our local game group:

The "hot" game at the Con was a collectible miniatures game from Privateer Press: Monsterpocalypse. Players field Godzilla-like monsters and fight each other for control of some hapless urban area. Minis
include monsters and buildings. Pros: Cool concept, looks cool. Cons: Limited edition buildings? At least one gamer friend played it late Friday night and thought the gameplay might be repetitive. It will be available in October for general release. People were lining up around the booth every day to get the pre-release starters/boosters. Note: don't buy the boosters on eBay! The boxes are poorly sealed and you can stick your finger in there to see what the main figure is.

Wizards of the Coast seems unable/uninterested in supporting Heroscape, which they inherited from parent Hasbro. The tournaments were well attended, but only the basic set was available in their booth and no
demos were offered. I didn't see anyone with the actual promo mini. Supposedly, it was available via playing in a tournament, but it was previously offered in the booth as well.

Other miniatures games that looked poised to do well: Alkemy, a new game similar to Confrontation. The price point is too high, but it's a good, well produced and designed game. Also, the old warhorse, Battletech,
which seems to be undergoing a mild resurgence. Clix games are dead - LOTS of discount MageKnight and Mechwarrior product at the discount retailers.

Magic: The Gathering tourneys were still hot. Most other CCGs, not so much. Mayfair's demo area was packed for the whole show, so I think that their new titles looked good. (Ed: Or maybe it was all of Zzzzz friends!) Still, Mayfair offers a big discount if you attend their demos...

Board games were doing quite well. LOTS of Euro type games or games designed to appeal to players of Euro-games. Someone is going to be doing a new version of Formula De with expanded rules for driver/car differences. I think there were at least 4 or 5 zombie board games this year. I didn't play any, but suspect that the zombie market is now glutted.

RPGs didn't seem to generate any heat at the show, but I wasn't paying too much attention. The formerly monolithic d20 market is now fragmented into true20 (Green Ronin), Pathfinder (Paizo Publishing) and AD&D 4th Ed. (Wizards of the Coast). I suspect that next year we'll see the first post-d20 break out game.

Non-collectible card games were mildly popular. No breakout titles this year. I bought the much delayed expansion for "Infernal Contraption" from Privateer Press. I was the only one in line not buying
Monsterpocalypse. IC is a pretty good, but not great card game.

Lots of electronic gaming. Personally, I've bowed out of even pretending to know what is going on in this community, so I wasn't paying a lot of attention. By accident, I learned that Cryptic Studios, who designed the
City of Heroes game, is doing Champions Online, another superhero online game.

I talked with a number of sellers. They didn't see too much of a slack-off in spending and the crowds were pretty good. That's good for GenCon, but I'm not sure if that lesson holds true once people return
home. I hope people continue to spend on games! "Trade Day" on Wednesday was predictable: the brick and mortar retailers complained about being squeezed by just about everyone, Mike Gray and other luminaries opined that you cannot sell to Hasbro directly as a game designer and Peter Atkinson, owner of GenCon, gave a seminar on How to Get Venture Capital. The first question to Peter was, "Can you get VC for a purely table top game?" Answer: No. (So why the heck was he giving a seminar on it at GenCon??? Sigh.)

Outside the show: more homeless this year. Big uptick from previous panhandling. Most restaurants seem to have realized that they should staff up for GenCon...except for Jillian's, which once again, seemed
flummoxed by the crowds. The Indy Symphony did their Suite of Video Game Theme Music again this year. I did not attend, but love the idea. Nice press coverage. Big article in Nuvo, the alternative paper and a front
page piece in the main Indy newspaper. I didn't see any TV while I was there. (For TV, assume that they showed some footage of a guy/gal in a Stormtrooper costume and mentioned Dungeons and Dragons).

Verdict? Lots of fun. I purposely limited my game playing this year to a few titles, but there were some great events I missed out on due to work or other issues (like having to eat occasionally!). Next year I think
I'll be presenting a couple seminars of my own on board/card game production. No one really talks about the technical details in their seminars, so I think I've got a niche. Not sure if it will result in
much new business, but if Mike Grey from Hasbro can sit in on a panel or two, I can take the time to do stuff, too!

My experience was entirely

My experience was entirely fun.... there was some price gouging going on here and there, but that's normal. I spent most of my time learning new games... pitched and played one of my games and am optimistic about it getting picked up at some point.

Most of the time I was in the games library or the Rio Grande room.... Jay Tummelson was very generous once again and supplied food and drink for the majority of the con and had several great volunteers teaching what had to be over 25 of his games. Between that, the exhibition hall, and the library, I must have played/tried over 20 games. Got to see on old friend on Sunday in town from Texas and convinced him to buy Bohnanza and Agricola. We played both on Sunday and I am looking forward to buying Agricola (already own Bohnanza).

It would be nice to see Rio Grande and the 500 halls increase in size because both got packed from time to time.... it's nice to see the board game areas busy!

Will definitely look more at Mayfair next con since people were there from BGDF.

They did *extend* the 500

They did *extend* the 500 hall. There was an overflow area in room 116 (which was "right next" to the board game rooms). But even that was packed on Saturday, which might give the need for even more room. I also noticed some other people over in the rooms near the event reg booths (the rooms labeled as the ufs rooms), but some board games seemed to be going on in there also.

Zzzzz - didn't know about the

Zzzzz - didn't know about the overflow room.... maybe they should have made that clearer (posting signs?)... I took library games into the 500 ballroom because there wasn't enough room in the Reception Hall. BTW, ORIGINS CABS library is much bigger and run much better IMO. The library is bigger at CABS as well.

I'm hoping that the renovations at the Indy convention center will give the board games area more room in the future.

Echo the positive sentiments

I, as well, had a great time at this year's Con. While work and travel time permitted only a single day of attendance, I found myself constantly having to make hard choices about where to spend my time. There were a lot of great demos going on (Mayfair ate about an hour and a half of my time over the course of several visits), and I always love the chance the exhibit hall provides to hunt down out of print and hard to find games for (fairly) reasonable prices. I was actually somewhat encouraged to see a lot of smaller publishers and independent games there, with WotC somewhat secluded and the board game companies attracting most of the attention. Plans are already forming for next year, when I'm hoping to be able to take time off from work and attend some of the presentations and informational portions of the convention, and hopefully have a few games of my own to show around...

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