Con Review: Gen Con Indy 2014

GenCon2014by Rob Balder


Gen Con Indy 2014
August 14–17, 2014
Indianapolis, Indiana

The best gaming convention in North America had another booming year.

Gen Con manages to offer the spectacular mega-con experience of a DragonCon or San Diego Comic Con (top-name guests, amazing cosplay everywhere you look, endless exhibitor space with everything a geek could want to buy or ogle, and the feeling of taking over the downtown area of a major metropolis) without losing their soul.

If it weren’t for Internationale Spieltage (Spiel) every October in Essen, Germany, Gen Con Indy would be the biggest tabletop games convention in the world, and this year’s crowd was the largest ever (56,614 attendees, topping last year’s attendance of 49,530). Among attendees and exhibitors alike, the whole vibe was upbeat and fun. Beautiful weather all weekend and excellent management by Gen Con’s experienced staff helped make it something special in 2014.

If you’re heading to Gen Con next year, book early and plan to go with friends. You’ll be spending hours with them in tournaments, or trying out the new games you’ve grabbed from independent developers on the exhibit floor. In the middle of 57,000 people, Gen Con will always be about sitting down in a group of 4 or 5 and having fun with your imagination and your friends.


Con Review: Gen Con Indy 2011

gen-con-logoby Rob Balder


Gen Con Indy 2011
August 4–7, 2011
Indianapolis, Indianapolis

Gen Con was booming this year. No shortage of attendees here, and all the game companies were going big. This is (and might always be) the event for tabletop gaming in North America.

The organizers did almost everything very well, despite the entire area around the convention center being under massive street construction. The City of Indianapolis screwed us all, but that was certainly not Gen Con’s fault.

One thing I really have to compliment them on was the way they handled artists and authors. The cheapest tables in the Exhibitor Hall were not shoved off into the corner (although the musicians’ tables were). They were right in the center. Way to treat the indie pros right.

But the one thing that I have to dock them major points for is the lack of a freebie table. This has to be the most fan-unfriendly decision they could make, considering that they use other events to promote Gen Con. Other major events like SDCC and Dragon*Con recognize this as a fan need and as the event’s responsibility to the community of people who actually travel to events. They actually tried to confiscate our flyers. Bad move, Gen Con. Just put out some damn folding tables. (Nth Degree has actually run into this in the past. I once spent an odd afternoon on the phone with Gen Con staff unsuccessfully trying to explain that I wanted to send them FREE magazines to give away if they just had a place to put them. –ed.)

Impression: This is the big one, don’t miss it. Wonderfully huge and exhausting.

Con Review: Gen Con 2009

gen-con-logoby Marian McBrine


Gen Con 2009
August 13–16, 2009
Indianapolis, Indiana

I attended Gen Con, from August 13th to 16th, 2009, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Gen Con is the largest gaming convention in the country, with over 27,000 unique attendees, and over 7,000 events. In the interests of full disclosure: I do a great deal of volunteer work for Gen Con, running both their Spousal Activity (SPA) program, as well as their Costume workshop program, and their forums.

Although Gen Con is primarily a gaming convention, they have a very strong writing program, with over 70 hours of writing workshops and seminars this year by authors including Mike Stackpole, Jean Rabe, Elizabeth Vaughan, Richard Lee Byers, and Author Guest of Honor Patrick Rothfuss. Other notable author guests in attendance included Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

Highlights from the convention this year included the returning True Dungeon, and the new TerrorWerks event. True Dungeon is a way to play Dungeons and Dragons in a life-size, walk-through environment. A large hotel ballroom is transformed into a “dungeon” complete with realistic props. Each room contains a puzzle to solve, or combat with an enemy, resolved using a unique shuffleboard system. Terrorwerks is an immersive experience in which your team of space marines investigates an alien invasion using air soft guns and other weapons.

Additional highlights included a strong anime schedule, with voice acting guest Vic Mignogna; actual Battletech “pods” used for networked Battletech games (the sort of pods that used to be in entertainment venues such as Dave and Buster’s); my own SPA program with over 90 nongaming events such as jewelry making, crochet, knitting, pilates, and sewing classes; a Victorian LARP held in an actual Victorian museum; and, of course, thousands of gaming events, including Role Playing Games such as 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, card games such as the World of Warcraft Trading Cards, and every board game imaginable. Particularly notable was the wide range of board games from the Rogue Judges group, who also run very popular Car Wars games on a large-scale playing table, complete with roads and actual “matchbox”-sized cars.

In sum, a strong schedule of games, combined with a variety of programming this year, made Gen Con an entertaining convention for the causal or hardcore gamer, with plenty to do for even the nongamer.