Gencon 2019 – In Brief

Oh boy do I have a lot to talk about, but I’m going to try and keep my week of experiences brief, which means I’ll only be talking about it for a couple of weeks*, and for this article in particular I’ll be painting in broad strokes.

Getting to Indianapolis was a saga in its own right, a screw up with booking the flight cost me a grand more than it should have done, I missed out on a couple of the opportunities I’d have liked, and learned a few other lessons about how Gencon works differently to other conventions, but I’ll save a lot of that for another article. For now here’s a quick summary of my experiences.

Arrival on Tuesday, jetlagged until Thursday because I apparently suffer more going east to west, I neglected to take my passport with me on my first attempt to get my badge, but not to worry. Wednesday was spent getting to know people in the queue around me, leafing through a program that someone was kind enough to pass to me, and coming to a rather substantial realisation. The hall at Gencon – that is the convention centre – is big, it’s quite noticeably bigger than the NEC, has a lot more smaller meeting rooms available to it, and the wider corridors afford space for displays and performers. However, the convention hall is only part of it!

Not only are a collection of the nearby hotels given over to the event, opening up rooms for RPGs, board games, theatre screenings and panels, but sections of the street are closed off for street food, shops in the local mall have a stock overhaul if not a complete re-dress for nerdier memorabilia, toys, and gaming gear. A substantial chunk of downtown Indianapolis is reshaped for the sake of thousands of gaming geeks to come and spend their hard earned cash. And the pinnacle of all this, the real “you’d never get this back home” moment, the Lucas Oil stadium, the local american football field, was given over to Gencon. Based on the inverted omega symbol white-on-blue, I’m guessing the local team are the Ultramarines.

Thursday night I got in my one and only experience of gameplay, ne’er a dice rolled or token moved all weekend except one evening in which I played Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok. My worshipful priest of Loki did his utmost to sew discord and unrest among the enemies of my team, and while he alone died, he was – in the most dramatic way – deemed worthy of Valhalla, for dying in a blaze of glorious flame, and cackling laughter.

A brief summary of my experiences of the con floor: Four chessex stalls! Also I nearly bought this from one of the Larp gear stalls, of which their were several, which – again – not something we see a lot of at home, although I must say we have a hell of a lot more cosplaying materials and stalls at the average british convention. I had to briefly stand and watch a member of the Elderwood Academy team demonstrate one of their scroll case dice-towers, he was absolutely hypnotising as he mutely showed off all the tiny features to a group of small kids with such wonderful flair, that it actually came as a shock for me to realise that he spoke, his wordless communication was peerless.

It was also rather nice to see some Dwarven Forge material in person, but I’m still having reservations about if, what, and when to purchase. When I do it will be for the business’ sake, creating a setting just a little more immersive than theatre of the mind alone. I spoke with a company producing collapsible and durable card scenery that would be far easier to store and transport, the business card and information for which are somewhere in my stack of contacts, I’ll be sure to credit you guys when I find it.

I also took part in the construction of an annual tradition at Gencon, Cardhalla. Trading cards in their thousands are donated to the effort of building a miniature card city, assembled by attendees, with no limits on shape or size, so long as it all remains standing, they’re not exactly short of building materials. On Saturday, attendees are incited to obliterate the whole thing by pelting it with coins, all of which are then passed on to the convention’s various charity partners. Sadly, I was ill over the Gencon weekend, and the illness took me entirely out of the hall on Saturday so I missed the destruction, but I got a few photos of the cardscape at it’s height.

This heavily abridged summary of my experience barely touches on the events of the week, and while my convention was marred a little by sickness, it was one hell of an experience. Here’s to another one, and expect more commentary and discussion on the subject.

*Here at least, for those of you who know me in real life, I am not sorry, I am going to be talking Gencon for a good year or so.