Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Getting Your Stuff Home From The Convention

Most years, I post a pic of our GenCon Loot. I didn't this year, because it was all Asmodee games which I've been talking about (and a few that I need to talk about) with one RPG exception and a couple of T-Shirts. And one piece of #PonyWar ammunition.

But my friends at home will sometimes ask me how I got all that stuff back home "in one suitcase." Because when we leave home, we only have one bag and a couple of carry-ons.

So let me de-mystify this for you.

I have a couple of advantages when it comes to getting things home. I travel as a couple and my GenCon employer provides me with a uniform.

When packing, I grab the bare minimum necessary to survive without smelling. I don't pack soap or shampoo (the hotel provides those). I don't pack razors (I can buy disposables in Indy and then leave them there). Having a Kindle means I don't have to pack books to keep me entertained on the trip (even though I make sure to have one or two).

Clothing-wise, I grab half as many shirts as I should plus one or two, just to be safe. Because I'm wearing an Asmodee shirt all day, it's not like I'm sweating into my shirts and I can get away with wearing them for two evenings. I actually make sure I have extra pairs of socks to reduce the number of blisters that I get (which is still excessive, but much better than it could be).

Stephanie does more-or-less the same with her packing.

We then take all of those clothes and put them into our big dufflebag.  We then take another dufflebag, fold it up, and stick it inside the first dufflebag.

We also don't completely fill our carry-on bags. And, in fact, we're allowed one carry-one and one personal item by most airports. On the way out, Steph and I don't usually have one personal item. We just have our carry-on.

This means that - out of a possible four small bags and two larger ones, we ship out with two small and one large. But we return home with two large and three or four small (as needed).

Do our games get banged up in the boxes?  Sometimes. But if a game is in regular play, the box will get banged up anyhow. I'd much rather the box were banged up than its contents. And books are tough. Crazy-tough. Realistically, we've only had one box banged up to the point of needing tape - and that was Abyss. This year.

But that's how we get home with a ton more stuff than we left with.  We occasionally hit the weight limit with the big bag on the way home, but the airline's overweight fees are usually less than what it'd cost to ship the same stuff via UPS or FedEx.

Speaking of: UPS has a presence at the convention. Some of the hotels downtown have "business centers" which often ALSO include a presence for UPS or FedEx or even the USPS.  Get a quote at the convention center. Then get a quote from your hotel. Sometimes a bit of extra walking can save you some money. Especially if you can get a written quote from them - UPS and FedEx are competitors, and sometimes they'll work to beat each others' quotes.  Your employer may have a UPS or FedEx account you can use for shipping, too. Check with them and see if you can get permission to use it, because (depending on who your employer is), you may have access to a premium rate for shipping that is less than you'd be quoted as a member of the general public.

But that's how we manage to get all that stuff home while shipping out with "just one suitcase."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I'm glad to be home.

Really, really crazy-glad to be home.

And I'm back at work already.

But I wanted to take a minute to show you all what the best team in the history of GenCon looks like.

Thanks to Christophe A. for sharing the pic on FB.

These are the folks I've spent the last four days with.  And, as usual, one or two folks are missing from the photo. But this mob ran demos, tournaments, and sales this year.

As usual, thanks to Asmodee for the opportunity.

I'll see you guys next year.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


It's all over, now, but for the flight home.

I really don't like endings.  Our Dresden Files RPG game ended a few weeks ago, and I kept trying to write about it - but I couldn't find words that did it justice. Because I really loved that game - even though we'd hit the point that we'd intended to hit, I wanted to go on.

And now GenCon has ended for the year.  We had the best crew ever in the history of ever. With tons of new people whose names I still don't know (but I'm sure I'll get some names when the photo appears on Facebook and people start the tagging process).

I saw friends from home (Bruce and Barbara and Andrew and Katie). I saw friends from Indianapolis (Nate and Todd and Chris). We saw some regulars (Eric and Sabrina and the Kids and a few others).  I chatted with game designers and artists and illustrators (Bruno Faidutti, Bruno Cathala, Antoine Bauza and several others).

And then there are the team members who are there every year. Christophe, Stefan, Carol, Jules, Choukri, Giancarlo, and Aidan just to list the full time Asmodee people. And I know I'm forgetting people, too, which makes me feel bad later ...

GenCon for me is the biggest social event of the year. It's like weddings and Christmas and the good parts of my birthday all rolled up into one four-day package of awesome.

Every year, I go home not wanting to go home.

There were some real highlights this year:

Remember a few years ago when Asmodee turned me into a contest? It was because they were apparently having trouble getting photos of me smiling while demoing games.  Barbara inadvertantly made me laugh really hard this weekend with one simple question: "Why don't you smile this much at home?"

Watching Bruno Cathala playing Win, Lose, or Banana at the post-convention team dinner was an absolute joy. He's one of those people who loves to have fun and will let the fun show through every fiber of his being. It made a funny game even more entertaining.

Giancarlo is one of my favorite people to just hang out with. Stephanie likes hanging with him too, because he makes her feel tall. Or, at least, closer to average. He and I love exchanging insults as a sign of respect. Any time spent with Giancarlo is generally a good time.

We were setting up when I heard my name being called by someone with a British accent.  It was Aidan.  "I just want to thank you for turning me on to Brandon Sanderson," he told me, before raving about the books he'd been reading.  I really love it when my recommendations are on-target for someone.

There was the shocking realization that "the kids" are - some of them - now old enough to vote. They've been coming to our booth for demos for the last seven years.  Since we were demoing Senji.

I love it when I can learn someone's kryptonite, too.  Apparently Elizabeth's kryptonite is Peanut M&M's.  Now we can add that to the list. Washington Wine for Christophe, Seattle-area chocolates for Gil, and now Peanut M&M's for Elizabeth.

Seeing Nate and his wife and daughter was a real joy on Sunday, too. The little one is a crazy-hardcore Whovian, and has been dressed like one of the Doctor's companions every time she's been to GenCon. And that's not all Nate's influence, either.

I had someone bow out of a Cyclades: Titans demo because he had an event to get to, "And I'm not going to win with this setup."  I stepped in and won on the next turn. Apparently I know Cyclades a bit too well. I need to be careful to only use this power for good.

I was able to teach Concept to a ton of folks. The best thing about teaching that game is watching for the light bulb. Because you can see when it clicks for people, based on how they fumble for the markers.

Ben, who worked on tournaments with me last year, is now the North American Champion for Netrunner. 

At one point, I had started a Cyclades demo. There were people stacked three and four deep waiting for an Abyss demo, and I talked them into a Splendor demo while they waited. "You won't lose your spot in line for Abyss," I reassured them.  They ended up buying Splendor and Abyss.

I realized after the dinner this evening just how much some of the team appreciates me. And Steph. Just based on how they reacted as we said our good-byes.

Christophe: Thank you for inviting me on this ride so many years ago. We started small, but the sky's not limit, and you have taught me every single year that there is more and better yet to come.

I may not have a post up this Wednesday, but I now have a ton of new games to play and write about, so I doubt I'll take more than one week off. I'll see you when I'm back.  And thank you for continuing to read.

All Good Things ...

The show is done. All that's left, now, is the annual team dinner. But first, I desperately need a shower and a change of clothes.

Normally, I post a photo of our haul, but it's basically all Asmodee all the time this year. If I demoed it, it's coming home with me.

I especially look forward to Abyss and Hyperborea with the home crowd.

Day Three

Day Three had a couple of hiccups, but - again - ran pretty smoothly overall.

I did botch a Hyperborea demo, but Louis saved me on that one.

I don't have a ton to say about it right now - we're about to head out for Day Four. And then teardown. And then the team dinner.

And then we all hug and prepare for next year. Which will be awesome.

It's also worth noting: I didn't mention all of the people I look forward seeing to or have enjoyed dealing with this year in my earlier post about people.

For example, I expect David Miller of Purple Pawn will be by shortly before closing (if he's done with his interview), because he's been by at the end of the show every year for the last ... five? Six?

It's great to see a friendly face at the end of the show.

I'll post more after dinner tonight, assuming I am conscious and can move. Both of which are in doubt.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

After Hours Gaming

We're playing Abyss tonight in the tournament hall.
It's Aidan and Justin and Stephanie and myself. And I'm going to lose.

GenCon: The People

I think a large part of why I love GenCon so much is because of all the people I get to meet. Or see again. Or meet in person for the first time.

For example, one of the people I often work with is Arnaud. He's an employee of Matagot.  He's a very pleasant person to deal with, and I look forward to working on Matagot's games because it means I get to work with Hicham and Arnaud and (previously) Doria.

I finally had the opportunity to meet Arnaud in person yesterday.  Our conversation was short, because I was setting up and then running demos - but he made a point of checking in with me today, which I appreciated.

Since I was running Cyclades: Titans most of the day, I was actually running one of their games, too. And one I really like. Cyclades has been a favorite of mine for many years.

There is a gentleman who I demoed a few games with last year, and spent late evenings gaming with in the tournament area. I can't for the life of me remember his name, but I am known for being terrible with names.  He stopped by today and I got him into a couple of games, as well.

There is a group of four kids we know, too.  Well, we call them kids, but they're ... um ... seventeen through nineteen, now.  We first met them when the oldest was twelve and we were demoing Senji. At the time, they were obnoxious brats, but they weren't squeezing anyone else out, so we demoed the games for them. And they had enough fun that they came back the next year. And the next. And the next ... and they've grown into some pretty cool people.

And then there's the demo team.  By now, I know and recognize and can remember the names for most of the demo crew who've done this a few times. Justin and Giancarlo and Louis and Kim and Joel and Marie-Eve and Ben and ...

Alexandre was a part of the demo team ... seven or eight years ago. I'm so glad he's back this year. He's one of my favorite people to spend time around.

But I feel bad because I don't remember all of their names. And I only know a few of the names for the newer crew. I'm trying, but I'm still along ways off. Elizabeth and Dave and ... um ... Raphael and Josh.  Or is Josh a returning member of the crew? There were times today when I couldn't remember my own name, much less anyone else's.

And then there are the designers. I recognize most of them by now. And I can even name which games are theirs more often than not.  Antoine Bauza was in the booth today. Bruno Cathala is in the booth a lot, too. They're not the only designers in the booth, either, most of the time. And - without fail - the designers are some of the nicest people around.

Bruno Cathala seems to magically appear two steps behind me and to the right every time I'm demoing one of his games.  It's unnerving. I'll hit a small question and will half-turn to grab the rulebook, and there he is. He's smiling and friendly and very very funny. And, after the last few years, he recognizes me. I don't know if he knows my name or not, but he definitely recognizes me.