I've packed up the pile of Michigan friends and made the journey to the great city of indianapolis for the 45th (and my 7th) GenCon!
This year is with my normal group of non-40k friends so if you're not that interested in games other than 40k you might take a pass on these posts (though I will be throwing in stuff about any new release sneak preview games I can) but I strongly recommend staying tuned in and find out more about a game con that had over 36,000 attendees last year and is expected to have even more this year.
For me day one is normal affair; drive in, settle into the house, pick up friends that fly in, get badges and go back home to plan the weekend.
Since nothing exciting happen for the first day I just want to give a quick run down of what I've learned about cons from my experiences with GenCon, Adepticon and Origins.
First though, I want to just share a little excitment when I flipped to the page talking about what the speed painting compition is all about. Heres a shot of the championship table from last year with your's truly, CVinton fourth from the right in the Boston hat. I got pretty rofl stomped but its still exciting to sit with champion painters holding my own. I hope to place better this year, keep an eye out.
First thing to consider is getting your badge. For most cons you can pick it up or have it mailed.
This year at GenCon the Will Call fairy came by and gifted them with some ancient lire knowledge that let them figure out how to get people through a line faster. In years previous I've stood in a line three city blocks long outside of the convention center that even snaked around once you got in the air conditioning. People were in line for so long in the blistering sun that they started handing out water and setting up drinking stations to keep these poor gamers from dying of heat stroke and dehydration.
Now the Will Call line was about twenty minutes and we got there no earlier than usual. They changed up the system a little and instead of shuffling you into groups by last name it was just one line and the teller just went and got your badge. That little change was all it took to save us gamers from more sun exposure than we get all year. That being said, Will Call was much more of an option than having it mailed.
Having your badge mailed saves you what used to be the most horrendous part of the con but also put you at risk for the "Oh it was lost in the mail? Sorry, go f yourself" rule they have. I used to recommend just having it mailed but now, might as well just get it from will call. And with other smaller cons it's not that big of a wait in Will Call so just take the safe bet.
After you get your badge you'll need to fiugre out housing. I was suprised to see that with adepticon, the attached hotel rooms were actually very reasonable. I think this is secondary to the fact that the Lombard is in the middle of virtually no where and is the 'cheap' alternative to hotels in the city of Chicago. However, the hotels near and connected to Gencon are pretty pricey. For this I recommend looking around the city. Luckily unlike adepticon, you won't find yourself hauling around much that won't fit in a backpack. (Unless you like that fine ass warp dust and play Draigowing)
We used to split a hotel room but in recent years we've actually started renting a house for the weekend. Generally, they're not booked up early like hotels which you typically have to book the day they open. Yes, if you go to the La Quinta across the city its about 100$ a night for your room, which if you have 3-4 people is a good deal. Two queen beds and your set. With our group we have 8, so the house and about 900$ for the wed-sunday stay is the way to go. 5 days of having a 5 bedroom 2 and a half bath with a driveway for parking and full amenities is a pretty good deal. We'll go grocery shopping for the weekend and stock the fridge and cook breakfast and dinner which you can't do in a hotel (though you do usually get a continental breakfast typically included with hotels) In the end budgeting in an extra 50$ for room and board for your trip is totally worth geting a house. We have 2500 square feet to live in for the weekend where as with a hotel you might get 300....
Last bit of advice is planning. We will sit down on the first day with our booklets and plan out our weekend together on the first night. In the early years we would plan back to back to back to back events and run around like crazy. Now, we're much more loose because its just less of a headache to let everyone be happy doing what they want versus trying to make it work for everyone. We come to GenCon to see each other and spend a weekend together as long time old friends who now live in different areas of the country. Plan one of two events a day and just let the down time be down time to do what you want. Someone wants to go to the exhibit hall, someone wants to speed paint, some one wants to play board games...go do it. Have fun. You're spending a bunch of money to be here, do what you enjoy and enjoy the time you're spending fully indulging in your hobby and game life. Don't stress about the weekend.
I love going to cons and 35% of the reason I go is to play games and 65% of the reason is to be with my friends. I don't think I'm alone and the only people that don't feel this way are people that go there alone. If you're at GenCon enjoy it and though it'd be great to run into some folks, I doubt I will considering how big the haystack is here at GenCon. For those that aren't here keep checking back for updates. I'm going to try really hard to get all over Fantasy Flight and see what they have to say about new products and new games.