This year's GenCon was another success. Onsite organization was far above normal expectations. Pick - up of pre - registered badges was amazingly smooth. I arrived onsite by 10AM to pick up my badge and event tickets on Wednesday. I was told that we would be unable to get our badges until noon. As it turned out, Wizards was able to open the pick up area early, and many of us were out of there with our badges before noon. Wizards of the Coast was able to make this happen through the use of temps. It seemed that they hired out the entire slate from a local temp service.
This year's GenCon was another success. Onsite organization was far above normal expectations. Pick - up of pre - registered badges was amazingly smooth. I arrived onsite by 10AM to pick up my badge and event tickets on Wednesday. I was told that we would be unable to get our badges until noon. As it turned out, Wizards was able to open the pick up area early, and many of us were out of there with our badges before noon. Wizards of the Coast was able to make this happen through the use of temps. It seemed that they hired out the entire slate from a local temp service. Also, on the topic of the badges, they were wonderful this year. I know badges are a very minor thing at a convention, but I was impressed. Everyone was given a simple chain, like those used for dog tags in the military, and our badge were hung from the chain. No more ruining clothes by pinning your badge to them, and no more worry about the badge falling out of it's sleeve. A very good innovation.
The Exhibit Hall was the usual and expected chaos of booths selling both old and new games. At the top of many lists was the new 3rd Edition Player's Handbook for Dungeons and Dragons. As of Saturday afternoon, there had been no shortages of the book, and many of the retailers that attend Gen Con also had them stocked. The availability of the Player's Handbook was of concern to many attendees. I was concerned enough to pre - order mine with my event tickets back in May. In the past, many publishers have simply not planned far enough ahead to be able to meet the demand at Gen Con.
Avalon Hill had a booth offering demos of their new games. They have released a new fantasy edition of Stratego, which even offers expansion packs of different armies to play. Avalon Hill also showcased a new variation of Axis and Allies. This newer version concentration solely on the European Theater of the war. The rules are the same as the original, with a new map and focus. On a lighter note, Avalon Hill has also published a "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" boardgame. I didn't get a chance to sit down for a demo of the game, but it looked fun. One of the players always has to play the side of the evil, nasty demons and vampires. I know when I finally buy the game, I fully intend on being evil every chance I get.
The was also the usual bevy of new Collectible Card Games. Also as usual, most were based around a particular trademark. The worst of the lot looked to be US Games PEZ collectible trading card game. I had hoped to be able to have my Snoopy PEZ gnaw the tail off of my opponent's Garfield PEZ. Unfortunately, the cards are only of the cheesy dispensers, and not the cool ones. One card game that did catch my eye was from the Canadian manufacturer Anoch. They have put out a card game that isn't collectible. Hooray! Their card game is based upon the idea that "Secret Masters" are attempting to take over the world through the use of their pawns. The game is played using a standard 78 card Tarot deck. They have put out two complete decks with which to design your decks and take over the world. These two decks represent the ENTIRE line of cards that have been issued. None of their cards have any sort of rarity. When you buy a deck, you are getting the entire card list. There will be more about this game in an upcoming review by me.
Another booth where I whiled away some time was at the Concept Syndicate booth. They publish as well as write games. The difference with their methodology lies in the fact that all of their games are published on CD - ROM in an searchable HTML format. The games which are a part of their "Platinum" Line also feature custom art and music. They also publish games from other writes in what they call their "Silver" line. These games do not feature the custom art or music, but do provide the buyer with two complete RPGs for $20. I will also be reviewing a few of their games in an upcoming column. For those of you who prefer to read your games in a bound form, they also offer paper printings of most of their games for a buck or two over printing cost. This usually comes to $6 in most cases.
Two depressing and continued absences from the convention were Steve Jackson Games and R. Talsorian Games. Neither of these worthy game publishers have made appearances at a Gen Con since WotC took over. They do make sure that their product makes it to the convention with other dealers, but I miss being able to sit in on a demo of Cyberpunk with the worthy Mike Pondsmith. The man runs an awesome game. He was also recently named 8th out of the 20 Best Designers of all time by Games Unplugged Magazine. On a similar absence topic, is the lack of TSR product in the castle. I realize that with the release of 3rd Edition much of TSR's line has been rendered obsolete, but the castle store was given over to WotC card games. There were two or three shelves with some old TSR product, but that was it. Combined with a survey that I filled out last year makes me worried. The survey from Gen Con 1999 asked whether the main thrust of the convention should remain centered around Dungeons and Dragon, or be shifted to Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, et al. Horror! I realize that card games have revitalized the industry to a large extent, but Gen Con is a role playing convention, not a card convention.
I would have to say that I enjoyed the convention quite a bit this year. I was able to get into some Living City and Living Greyhawk games offered by the RPGA, and had tons of fun. I even won one of the Living City rounds I played in. That was a first for me. Playing Living Greyhawk allowed me to get my feet wet with the new rules, and I loved them. The rules are amazingly uncomplicated, and fun to play. I will definitely be back at Gen Con next year, and probably every year until 2003 when it is relocated to Indianapolis. I don't know how often I'll be able to make it after that, but I know I'll try.