GenCon, held each summer in Indianapolis, Indiana, touts itself as “The Best Four Days in Gaming.” The focus isn’t on video games, but on board games, card games, role-playing games, and miniature wargames. It’s the unplugged game convention and it is a massive affair. You cannot possibly see and do it all, but having just come back from my fifth GenCon, these are five things that should definitely be on your list.
1) Wander the Vendor Hall
It’s pretty much mobbed from open to close, but you must spend at least some time wandering the aisles. There are big names like Fantasy Flight Games alongside small independent companies that are the ones you should really check out. The big guys will be in your local games store, but the small guys might not, so this is your chance to demo great games you’ve never heard of and take them home on the spot.
2) Watch the Cosplay Parade
The cosplay parade at GenCon happens on Saturday afternoon and it’s not to be missed. Any cosplayer can participate in this march through the convention center to an area outside the vendor hall where they all gather. It’s a great chance to take pictures without clogging up the aisles of the vendor hall.
3) Eat at Scotty’s Brewhouse
You have to take a break from gaming sometime and that means squeezing in a few hours of sleep and grabbing something to eat to keep you going through your next game demo. There are food options aplenty, but my can’t miss meal is at Scotty’s Brewhouse. They rename the foods to things like Goblin Fried Pickles and Ectoplasmic Dip, play geeky movies all day, and have the 501st on hand in the evenings for photos. Also, you get a limited edition die that’s a different color each day of the convention. One can never have too many dice. Good food. Good beer. Free dice. Enough said.
You know that tower you built on your kitchen table with a handful of playing cards? Imagine that, but with hundreds of cards from all different kinds of games stacked into towers that start on the floor and rise up above your head. This charity event is open to anyone with some very creative types building clocktowers and even dragons. Saturday night at 10:30, it all comes to an end. Everyone throws coins at Cardhalla to knock it down with frantic bidding taking place to see who gets to toss the first coin. Cardhalla comes crashing down and local charities benefit from all the donations.
5) Play All The Games!
This is The Best Four Days in Gaming, so play some games. There is open gaming everywhere, even in the hotel ballrooms, and if you don’t have friends at the con, then you’ll easily make some. People want to play with all the games they just bought and will be looking for players ready to join up. Don’t be afraid to jump in and try a new game with a whole new group of gamers.
Just remember, food, sleep, and a daily shower are important parts of the convention experience too. You can’t see it all, so don’t stress. Instead, enjoy what you do see and make the most of every minute. It’ll all be over before you know it!