Phew! It is amazing to me that it was only a week ago that I was leaving to go down to Indianapolis to run my very first retail booth at Gen Con. It feels like I have been there a month.
Interestingly, however, in that month, I got very little gaming done. This year, the convention was very much a “working con,” and by the time we got done with the booth and all set up for the next day, then went back to the room and crashed for a while because we were so tired from moving boxes, there was very little time to play games before it was time to go to sleep and do it all over again. Running a booth takes a lot out of you.
Still, it’s a tradition at this point, so I’ll still talk about my experiences in award form. I basically averaged about one game each day, so I’ll probably just order it that way.
Best Resource Management Game Masquerading as a First Person Shooter: After setting up the booth on Tuesday, the original plan was to drive an hour back home and come back the next day because I had only booked the hotel from Wednesday to Sunday. Paul Grogan of Gaming Rules, however, offered to let me and my right-hand-man Brian sleep in his hotel room for the night to avoid that annoyance. He also let us try out the new CGE title Adrenaline, which I believe is coming out at Essen. The game involves you taking actions to run around a board, pick up weapons and ammo and then shoot the other players to earn points. While it may seem like a first-person shooter at first, though, the game is all about resource management. And if you spend too many resources avoiding getting shot, then you’re not getting points, and you end up losing. It was a lot of fun, and it’s refreshing to see a game with that theme that doesn’t involve any dice rolling.
Best Podcast to Hangout with: A couple weeks before Gen Con, I got into some sort of joke-fight with Robb from Blue Peg, Pink Peg, and we are now each other’s nemesis. Which I guess means that when we play games together, we have to trash-talk about how we’re better than the other person. Or something. Anyway, it added an extra dynamic whenever I met up with their crew in the evening to play games. Strangely enough, I never actually got to sit down and play a heavy, substantial game with him. Instead we mostly played social deduction games. I think Robb was scared to actually face-off against me. I will note that I still beat him (and everyone else) at Dead Last, though maybe that was kind of a fluke.
Strongest Theme: After I played Dead Last, I miraculously got in a second game that evening – Pursuit of Happiness. This game is right up there with Star Wars Rebellion in its implementation of theme to tell interesting, unique stories. In this case, however, you are telling the story of your life instead of the story of a galactic struggle for supremacy. Unfortunately, it is also up there with Star Wars Rebellion as a game that I would probably only play once. However fun it was to talk about how Brian had gotten into a bad relationship that he wanted out of, but couldn’t do so without raising his stress and dying early, the mechanics of the game were just sort of basic and uninteresting.
Most Similar to Resistance: The next night, after recovering from the worst possible restocking situation we had all week, Brian and I made our way to the Nerd Night event and found ourselves playing Secret Hitler. I guess this is just Cards Against Humanity‘s thing? To take a highly successful game, make a few minor changes, and then ride that success train themselves? Hey whatever works, but I certainly have no reason to respect the design. It was still a fun game, in the same way Resistance is a fun game.
Best Euro: Okay, admittedly I only played two Euro games all week, and we already know my feelings about Pursuit of Happiness. The other Euro, Kraftwagen, really was a solid game, though. Very simple game play of picking how far to advance on this track to grab an action token, but there was a lot of cool stuff going on, and I especially liked the end-of-round aspect of figuring out which buyers were going to buy which cars that the players had built. At first I thought that aspect was going to be a little mundane, but then you start seeing ways to mess with people’s carefully laid plans and take all the money for yourself.
Most Likely to Cause Bodily Harm: The final night of the convention, I headed over to the Secret Cabal meetup, as always, and finally got a chance to play the “burlap sack” game everyone was going nuts for last year – Knock Down Barns, which is basically a bunch of wood that is stored in a burlap sack. Two players take these wood pieces and build towers, then they take turns flicking marshmallow-shaped packing foam at each other’s towers until one is completely knocked off the board. As my opponent was lining up his shot with this marshmallow and I’m sitting on the other side of the board, I feared for my life, shielding my eyes as the white foam whizzed toward me. I, however, emerged unscathed and victorious, and had some good fun in the process. The meetup was an enjoyable experience all around, ending up, as in previous years, at Steak and Shake with many drunken shenanigans.
Most Games Sold: The reason Gen Con was such an exhausting experience has but one name – Scythe. After I figured out that Gloomhaven unfortunately wasn’t going to be ready in time to sell at the convention, Jamey from Stonemaier Games offered to give me some copies of Scythe to sell out of the booth since he only had a demo room and wasn’t allowed to sell games out of it. I jumped at the chance to recoup the losses of having a booth and not much to sell, and, after some back-and-forth, we decided to bring 1000 copies of Scythe to the convention.
This turned out to be the perfect number, as we managed to sell out an hour before the exhibition hall closed on Sunday. It was hard to know what to expect, given the rare intricacies of the situation, but having pretty much the perfect number of games at the end of the week was a good feeling. There were a lot of not-so-good feelings in between, like stacking up 360 games in our tiny 10’x10′ booth every day, pitching the game to hundreds and hundreds of people, and having to deal with the…unmotivated convention hall workers to get the games out of storage at the end of each day, but it was all worth it. An enriching experience, to be sure.
Least Games Sold: One thing I did make a mistake about, however, was how little the traffic caused by Scythe would affect the sales of my older game, Forge War. We sold 1000 copies of Scythe and ended up only selling maybe 40 or 50 copies of Forge War, despite offering significant discounts if people bought the two games together. It was a little sad, but still, I can’t be too sad, when, really, we pulled off a marvelous feat moving 1000 copies of a heavy, big-box title out of a 10’x10′ booth at the very back corner of the convention hall. That might have been the most copies of a single big-box game sold in Gen Con’s history, and we were in the exact worst position to do it. I think that speaks mostly to how highly sought-after the game was, of course, but at the same time, we pulled off some logistical miracles.
At the end of the day (or week…whatever), I had a fantastic time hanging out and talking with so many awesome people, but I am more than happy to wait a year before doing it again. And I just want to give a shout-out to some of those great people that allowed the ridiculousness surrounding my booth to happen. First of all, I am so grateful to Jamey Stegmaier for the opportunity to sell Scythe in the first place. The money I made from the endeavor will go towards printing off more copies of Gloomhaven, which means more people will get to experience my crazy vision. Next, I could not have sold that many games without Brandon Nall from the Brawling Brothers Board Gaming Podcast being there at all times as the natural salesman that he is. My good friend Brian Hunter was also an absolute god-send. In the face of every logistical nightmare that we face, Brian knew exactly what to do and got us through to the other side.
And finally, Robb Rouse. I’m coming for you.