Gen Con 2006

It's the best four days in gaming and arguably the best four days of my year!Gen Con Overview

I hope you have an hour to spare.  This post is way too long…………

This year's Con started with a bang: my best friend told me she was running out of room for her cousin and his buddies who needed a place to stay.  I have three spare bedrooms and plenty of couch space, so I offered to take in six strangers (!) for four days.  Lots of people thought I was insane.  I noted that most of those people were from the non-gamer population who don't understand the sense of community.  The gamer template, propagated by ignorance through many publications, is all they picture: doughy antisocials who are creepy.  Just from talking to Bryce on the phone, I could tell we were going to have a ton of fun.

I spent all week preparing the house for them: buying snacks, washing sheets, preparing guest rooms, going back to buy more fruit and fruit juice because I found out the were vegetarians in the group, vacuuming, de-cat hairing the whole house, moving Mini into the closet/bathroom….by the time Wednesday arrived, I was exhausted but happy.  I told Amy I was excited for Gen Con- meeting six people staying in my hause, plus tens more at the Con.  She said, "that sounds like hell." To each his own!

I arrived Wednesday night at the Con to work will-call.  Bryce and Mars coordinated taking me home from there as the caravan converged on my house.  I was shoved into the back seat of some guy's (later named Ben) Jeep next to his 8-month old daughter.  By shoved I mean I was holding someone's heavy suitcase on my lap and my feet were scrunched on a box.  Sound awful?  Maybe, but to me, it felt like fun.  Like the fun of a hapless adventure beginning.  Introductions were shouted and we were off!

I was so excited to meet the people staying at my house.  They were all very, very sweet to the pet menagerie- that had been my only concern.  The whole mayhem of Wednesday night kept me awake until well after one AM, even though I was working my real job the next day.  In a normal job, I would be unable to think about anything but Gen Con all day.  However, the seminar I attended was truly captivating.  I had a chance to speak to the woman after whom I seek to model my own career.  She is so engaging and straightforward and intelligent.  It made me love my job even more!  But I digress…

Thursday after work, I rushed to the Con for a quick cruise of the floor, timing the walk for Friday and looking for an inexpensive corset.  I found exactly the right one at exactly the right price- one-third the cost at other vendors!!  Check out for more.  Not to mention that the guy who sells them is really sweet- not all gross and lecherous like he could be.  He laced me into my new purchase and my poor brother said "this is gross.  I don't need to see this.  But it's like a car accident and I can't turn away."  He cracked up everyone in the booth.  We went to dinner across the street and met up with a few other friends.  That night, we watched Serenity.  As the house guest trickled into the home theater, they were blown away.  I was really happy to see that all our blood, sweat, and tears were rewarded with happy guests.  I only wished that Carlton were there too.  After the movie, we played a game of Lifeboat that one of the houseguests, Jeff Siadek, had developed. 

Friday, after the exhausting week, was a late morning.  I was later to the Con than I wanted to be.  I had two in my carpool, so when my sister called to ask where the heck I was, I blamed them. I had timed the walk of the vendor's hall and scoped some "non-gamer" games to show her.  Our time was limited by how long her young son would tolerate being in a backpack.  My brother met us in the hall and the three of us walked together.  No, it was more like my brother and I both saying Oo! Come over here! Hey Wen- check these prices!  Hey- let's playtest this game!  Finally, my brother had to go to a gaming session and my sister said, "aw, don't go, this is fun!" He and I gave each other a look of knowing and yelled "HOORAY!" right there.  Success!  A Gen Con convert!  With a very red face, she followed us around some more.  She and I (briefly) playtested Kill Doctor Lucky, a Clue-like game with more intrigue because the body is alive!  Too macabre for young kids, it looked like fun for adults.  After that, her son started acting up and she had to be on her way.  On the way out, I ran into King Arthur.  We talked for a few minutes, then he said, "hey, do you have a blog?"  BUSTED!  But it was really cool to know that someone somewhere was reading all of this drivel!

ChainmailFriday night, I changed into my LARP outfit- black dress and red wrap.  We cruised the floor quickly and a vendor literally chased after me and asked me to try on his chain shirt for women.  It was really cool but at the tune of $200, I could not justify the purchase.  I returned the shirt and we proceeded to our Firefly-universe LARP.  It was the one that was such fun at Origins.  However, this time, it started at eight but there were still people with no character sheets at eleven PM.  I felt sorry for the crew because I knew they'd had some logistics issues; however, pre-gen sheets would have remedied the majority of the issues.  The plotline really rolled after midnight.  At two thirty, though I didn't feel tired, I drove home.  The LARP was still in full speed!  Our ship did very very well again.  I was a little irritated that the mega-ship generated by some members of the staff was in full play with only one player present.  I would only join this LARP again if they fixed the character sheet issues and had more than one person who knew the plotline.  Still amped when I returned home, I stayed up talking to a houseguest who was also too amped to sleep.

Saturday, exhausted and happy, I made my way downtown for more of the fun.  I walked the floor again, watched as the delicious boys of Edhellen Armoury put on more displays of brute force.  For a fee, any crazy person who feels like being hit by foam-covered weapons can fight people trained in fighting.  Why do people pay for this? I don’t know.  Adrenaline, I guess.  I do love to watch, though.  The best are when two fighters from the Armoury actually do the fighting themselves.  The action is a lot faster and the blade strokes are more elegant.  King Arthur usually swings a battle axe, but I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing him pummel his opponents this year.  Similarly, Blue Eyes (Lancelot? No, leather armor is not the right era I think) didn’t fight much…I guess he broke his pretty nose falling down one night.  This year’s Gamer Olympics featured not just medieval fighters, but Romans in full armor also.  It was really cool to see the strategy when four Romans would fight four gamers: the Romans knew how to switch targets for faster, backstabbing “kills.” I would like to see one of their full-scale battles sometime.

Am I still on Saturday?  Geez. Maybe I should separate this into two posts.

We attended the costume contest.  It was a little disappointing compared to last year, with winged girl and Red Death both being jaw-dropping amazing.  I didn’t stay for the winners, opting instead to head to dinner.  We rounded up the houseguests and headed to a downtown eatery, Houlihan’s.  It was one of the most fun meals I have had in a while.  It wasn’t really about the food (read my review for that, though), it was a table of six very diverse people.  Deipnosophy, here I come!!!  Before all of the guests arrived, a very sweet 50something woman approached our table.  Oz was in costume, I was wearing a corset, and my brother was carrying games.  She politely asked why so many people were costumed downtown.  She had never even heard of Gen Con!  We smothered her with information, told about our non-gamer sister who loved the convention, mentioned the Monopoly and Bridge tournaments, and in general deserve a kickback from the Con for our positive press.  She was so sweet and accepting.  After all of the negative press by folks in Indianapolis, it was nice to talk to someone positive.  After everyone arrived, we talked LARPs, gaming, game mechanics, food, beer, traffic, everything.  I was bathed in the excitement of new people, new topics, and good cheer.

We proceeded back to N-Con (my house) to play Battlestations.  It was eleven PM when a small crew of us decided to hit one of the Con afterparties at local goth club Radio Radio.  The band, Cruciform Injection, was really fun.  I like all kinds of music so I was happy with the performance, but if you don’t like goth or punk, you’re out of luck.  After about two songs of reacquainting myself with goth, I was a dancing fool.  Emphasis on the fool part!!!!  The drinks were pretty strong so I switched to water very quickly.  I didn’t need the alcohol- dancing and singing were my drugs of choice.  I was soaked with perspiration after several hours.As Radio Radio wound to a close, we piled friends old and new into my car and crashed the private club White Wolf vampire party for a while.  We were sorry we hadn’t arrived earlier; drinks were free!  I ran into some other folks I’d met at previous Cons and continued to dance like mad.  We shut down that party too, after which there were a few games of dodge ball.  What? Huh? Yes, I was confused too.  Apparently the goth sport of choice is dodge ball.  I also wished I’d brought my camera.  There’s something disconcerting about pale people dressed in black hurling kickballs at each other.  One of my houseguests begged to stay and play the second game.  We stuck around and he was the first person out!!  Sorry, kid.  We arrived home after four.  AM.  I haven’t been out that late since college.  But oddly, I was energetic.  I was in my element: meeting new friends, dancing, singing.  I miss going out.

Sunday the mood at the Con was very muted.  It wasn’t just me; other gamer’s blogs revealed exhaustion too!  All 30,000 of us were exhausted from lack of sleep and from the aforementioned amped-adrenaline-rushy-ness.  I did a quick walk of the vendor hall to buy a game for my sister and to say goodbye to my new friends.  Oz and I attended a mini-painting seminar.  The teacher was amazing.  He had a voice that reminded me of the guy who used to be on PBS painting “little happy clouds.” The minis had white basecoat like the pros use.  He helped me through the color selection and techniques for washes and blending.  This mini is honestly the best-painted one I’ve ever produced.  I’m excited to apply the technique to my other figures!!As we were painting, someone from Gen Con staff came to our table and announced, “ladies and gentlemen, I’m sad to report that it is four o’clock and Gen Con 2006 is officially over.  You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”  It was depressing.  We walked out of the room, said goodbye to each other, and I was alone at Gen Con.  I soaked in the sad feeling from other gamers, knowing none of us wanted it to end (but geez we sure needed the sleep).

I drove home listening to a sad song by James Blunt and remembering the fantastic times I’d had during the weekend.  I walked in the house and saw the empty rooms and empty couches and started humming another sad song from Les Misérables.  I guess I was basking in, and enjoying the extent of, my emotions: letting them happen and experiencing it instead of denying it.  I laid on the couch in the lower-level family room and sang sad songs while I rested.  I missed Gen Con and I missed N Con.  The house was so full of energy and life.  I spent the rest of the day blasting sad songs and washing sheets, towels, and cleaning in general.

Thus ends my epic post.  Gen Con is an amazing experience and I would recommend it to anyone who likes, well, anything.  I miss all 30,000 of you!

Houlihan’s Restaurant Indianapolis

We ate at Houlihan’s for two days of the Con.  On the first night, we had meant to go to Hard Times Café and were confused by the similar, next-door awnings.  I was glad for the confusion.  Houlihan’s has an innovative menu and more upscale fare.  However, despite an extensive menu with all kinds of choices, I had a hard time finding a dish I wanted.  I’m limiting carbs, especially white carbs like potatoes and white rice, but almost all dishes were breaded or mixed with rice. 

I settled on a grilled tilapia and vegetables.  The entrée was very good and the service by Yvonne was understated but present.My fellow dinner guests liked the place so much that we went back for a second night.  This time, I had a chance to sample some beer on tap.  They had a limited selection, but the seasonal wheat put my homebrew to shame.  The Guinness was good but not fresh (wow I miss Ireland).  I didn’t sample the mixed drinks, but the menu looked promising.  I was sitting next to a vegan and wanted to be respectful and order a non-meat dish.  Recall that I could only find one item that wasn’t full-o-carbs on the whole menu…I was stuck ordering a grilled asparagus appetizer that was *sigh* breaded and fried.  So much for the health-kick diet. 

My vegan guest could not find anything else he could eat either, though he was not limited by the white carb thing I’m following.  So we both ended up with plates of asparagus.  The asparagus was delicious.  Maybe part of the reason it was so good was that it was the first fried food I’ve had in months!  The ends were a little tough, but the horseradish cream was a delightfully unexpected twist.The service was really bad.  Our server (Shannon?) was thrown into being triple-seated.  Drink orders were missed, the vegan’s dinner came with cheese on top, dinner salads were forgotten.  Shannon was extremely apologetic and offered free dessert to the whole table.  I would have expected such a gesture, but was still pleased that she did so.  Throughout the ordeal, she remained pleasant and did not display her stress to us.  She then took it out on herself and reduced our tab by 20 percent!  I could tell that this was not her normal level of service. 

She was so accommodating that I would certainly go back there and request her as a server. My only real complaint is that for such a seemingly full menu, and I’m not a picky eater either, I was hard pressed to find a choice that was right for me.

Atmosphere: [rate 3]
Beer Selection: [rate 3]
Wine Selection: not rated
Food: [rate 3]
Service: [rate 3]


battlestations.JPGI missed the 10-minute noob intro for Battlestations because I was talking on the phone.  That was quite unfortunate: the game is quite complex.  There is one board to show space location and a board each for each ship, built from square modules.  It is a blend of space tactics, board games, and role playing.  I really liked the game pieces and layouts: the artwork was clear and well done, plus the pieces make roleplaying easier when we aren't having to draw every dungeon/room/alley.  Having read zero of the modules, I spent most of the game feeling frustrated.  As I was playing the game with its developers (Jeff and Jason Siadek), two other seasoned Battlestations veterans, and a lifelong gamer, it was difficult for me to overcome my “first-timer” jitters. 

I had everyone telling me what to do and most of my independent decisions were pretty bad.  The veterans and game developers were immersed in advanced play and I kept having to stop them for instructions.  I wish I had played in an all-noob demo first.  For example, the ship designs were relatively complex and I had no idea what were the best actions.  From what I saw of the game, this is the type of adventure that can be built to be more challenging as the GM allows.  I would love to play again after reading the modules and grasping better the space concept.  I have never played a space RPG so it’s all new to me, unless watching endless episodes of “Star Trek: the Next Generation” counts for anything.

Other online reviews also report this is a complex game, but often the complex ones are the most challenging and (duh) most rewarding.