Gen Con 2014: Report #1

Written by guest contributor Brian Roe

Although Gen Con officially begins on Thursday it traditionally begins for me on Wednesday night when Sun King Brewing taps their Gen Con special beer. This year it was “The Froth of Khan”, a coffee infused beer. Multiple food trucks kept everyone fed as Indianapolis’s own classic Star Trek themed band Five Year Mission entertained the crowd. It was a great start to a great con. I’m from Indianapolis and still live here. A lot of times I’m not overly proud of my city and some of the stupid things we do. But drinking a beer on a beautiful summer evening with music playing and my friends near me makes me see my city in the best possible light. And it looks like a place I’m proud of.

Beer After the food and brews, groups of gamers take over the convention center food court to play board and card games, while catching up with old friends and trying out new games. It’s at this pre-con gaming session where the overall mood of Gen Con comes through. There was no obnoxious behavior, no drama, no attitude. Instead there were  dozens of people just hanging out and playing games.

Food court gaming

Lords of Waterdeep

So Thursday morning Gen Con officially starts, with a vengeance. I’ve been going to this con for decades and have never seen it so crowded and full of cool stuff. There’s an intense sensory overload as you first walk through the doors and the scale of the place hits. Yet although the crowds can be dense, people can be clueless, and getting around on the con floor can be difficult, there is very little actual rudeness. I’m constantly amazed at how many people bring ridiculous sized carts, bags, luggage, or even baby carriages onto the floor and these are the things that often cause the most trouble for anyone trying to walk around. Even the cosplayer+photographer trysts that pop up don’t disrupt traffic as much as a proud parent wheeling around their brood in a quadruple seated baby carriage.

But some cosplayers are worth stopping for.

All this is a small price to pay for the amazing onslaught of coolness that is available at Gen Con. Walk ten feet in any direction and there will be a table where you can demo a new game. Walk another ten feet and find something totally different. If you can’t find anything interesting at Gen Con it’s simply because you’re not trying.

While Thursday is usually the day that I use to scout out stuff that I’ll then check out more thoroughly on Friday I still ran across a couple of groovy new games.

Strife from V3G is an elegant fantasy battle game for two players. It uses perfect information balance meaning that each player has the same cards and abilities. So much like chess, victory is achieved through knowledge of the game’s intricate combinations and strategic deductive reasoning. Beautiful artwork and cerebral gameplay make this one to watch. Strife Next up is Super Turbo bitCrawl FX: Alpha Xtreme from LM Studios which brings the fun and whimsy of 16bit Japanese RPGs to the tabletop. The graphics are spot on and game pieces reflect the overall design aesthetic of JRPGs. STbCFX:AX is also available in a more compact version known as bitCrawl Pocket. Both of these are currently on Kickstarter so check them out.

bitCrawl I wrapped up the day by checking out the Jack Chick tract inspired movie Dark Dungeons but that’ll get it’s own review. It made a fitting end to an outstanding day and although I’m tired as hell, being a comic book flatter is the most inert of professions, I can’t wait to get back to the con and see what new amazing stuff is there.

Top photo credit: Kathryn Anne Baugh