Wednesday, August 25, 2010

GenCon 2010

I already put together a Geeklist of what I wound up purchasing and playing at GenCon this year, so this post is more a step-by-step what I did and saw and who I chatted with. It's gonna be a bit long until we reach Thursday, so please bear with me.  Even then, it'll be a bit scattered and probably not up to my usual standards.

We left Seattle mid-day on Tuesday. The flight to Chicago was uneventful and even a little boring (which is the ideal, to be perfectly honest).

We had a few hours of layover in Chicago, and ate at Chilis. For us, this is a rare treat, as Chilis doesn't exist in our area anymore (and it had been one of Stephanie's favorites).

The flight from Chicago to Indianapolis had a great view out our side of the plane:

We arrived safely in Indianapolis shortly after midnight and took a cab to our hotel.

For the last few years, Stephanie and I have paid for a hotel connected to the convention center. It costs a little more, but allows us to set our own schedule (and sleep in in the mornings). This year, our reservation was at the Westin in Indianapolis.

This year, my payday matched up almost exactly with our leaving for the trip, so we made a large payment that morning. It hadn't processed by the time we arrived, so we had some initial trouble checking in. Apparently, it processed at midnight Pacific, so we were only a few hours off.

The gentleman behind the counter suggested that we authorize for one night immediately, and he would adjust the authorization in a few hours when he did the night audit. He would even hold the audit for a bit to give the card more time to accept our payment. This was the first of several times when the Westin staff stepped up for us.

When we got up to the room, it was ... warm. Really warm. But we were too tired to care, and crashed pretty quickly after setting our alarm for "Way Too Early" the next morning.

For us, GenCon actually starts on Wednesday, when the dealer's room is open for setup.

Wednesday morning, we stumbled out of bed and fumbled through our morning routine. We then headed down to Steak 'n Shake for breakfast, as it's generally too busy the rest of the weekend.

While there, our good friend Wade Rockett called. "Eric," he asked us, "How crafty is Stephanie?" It turns out, the Kobold Quarterly team had a wheel of prizes in their booth, and one of the possible prizes didn't exist. In short, they needed an Albino Dire Weasel.

After breakfast, we headed to the convention center, where we obtained our badges. Upon reaching booth 1901, we noticed that no-one was there and there was no "stuff" there, either. So we headed to CVS to pick up the Dire Weasel Fixins.

We then headed back to the room to assemble the Dire Weasel - the finished product can be seen here. At that time, we let the desk staff know that our room's AC unit didn't appear to be working, as it was still well over 80 degrees in there.

We then headed back to the KQ booth, dropped the Weasel off, and headed back to our booth, 1901. Our timing was perfect - we arrived just as they were finishing up with the carpet.

Every year, Asmodee buys a roll of carpet for GenCon, you see.

Then we had lunch with the Asmodee team - this year, in addition to Stephanie and myself, we had Patrick, Chantal, Stefan, Christophe, Alex, Drew, and Jeremy. Patrick was the only member of the team that I didn't already know in person (but I'd interacted with him a bit on BoardGameGeek).

True fact: Canadian Mountain Dew contains no caffeine. This means that there's really no reason to drink it. Upon learning that Dew in the US is highly caffeinated, Alex had to try it. He was buzzing for several hours.

I had a gift for Christophe, and so Stephanie and I then headed back to the room and found the AC working - we recovered Christophe's gift, and headed down to finish setup.

Setup went remarkably smoothly, and the booth looked like this when we were done:

GenCon2010 001.

I had originally planned to meet David Miller of Purple Pawn to play some Savage Worlds. Apparently the Savage Worlds fell through, but we did meet and play a few games - Fantasy and Identik. I think Fantasy was a little too simple for my tastes, but I did like Identik.

Stephanie and I then headed to our usual Asmodee team dinner at Champps. "We missed you last night," Chantal told us, "We would have done better at trivia."

That night, we crashed.

As is our habit, Stephanie and I were at the booth before the rest of the team was. We get there before the room is opened to dealers. I had a chance to chat a bit with Wolfgang Baur and Wade a bit more before the doors opened for us. At this point, I also had a chance to chat with someone (I think it was Henry Lopez, but I'm not sure) from Paradigm Concepts. That discussion sold me on Witch Hunter: The Invisible World, which I picked up that evening.

Thursday morning, the doors opened and folks trickled through. I only played Claustrophobia a few times, but I demoed it a lot. In fact, it became clear early in the day that we'd need more tables for Claustrophobia.

The day was a blur for me. I didn't even leave the booth to take a lunch break - Stephanie went to the concession stand and bought a bratwurst for me. Generally, I subsist on Brats at GenCon - they're bad, but they're better than the hot dogs, and the're relatively cheap.

Thursday evening, I went to Chick-Fil-A for dinner. Don't tell anyone, but CFA is half the reason I enjoy GenCon. We don't have it here in Seattle, and I really love their sandwiches. Nothing here even comes close.

After dinner, Wade came by with his haul. This was his first Gencon, so he also wanted to unwind a bit. We had a good chat, before he headed back to his hotel and Stephanie and I crashed.

Demo-wise, the entire weekend blurs together. I don't remember anything specific from Friday at all. I demoed games and games and games. I think that Friday was the day Stephanie discovered how dangerous the IPR booth is. After last year, I'm not allowed to visit them unaccompanied. After this year, neither is she. Maybe we'll browse online and give money to a proxy next year.

Gil with Repos arrived, bringing with him 7 Wonders. Good game. Great game. Heartily recommend it. Then I went back to Claustrophobia and Cyclades and Ghost Stories.

Saturday Night, we played Werewolves of Miller's Hollow. We usually play 1-2 nights per con.

GenCon2010 024

Katie, who is moderating this game, is a friend from Seattle.

Again: All the demos blur together after a while. So all I remember of Sunday is cleanup and dinner with the team. The cleanup was faster than usual, because Troll and Toad bought most of our unsold inventory.

Dinner was at the Weber Grill, and then we all headed our separate ways.

So, even with nothing hugely memorable, it was still a great GenCon - we got to see old friends again, and (of course) play games and games and games.

I'm already looking forward to next year.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Making Characters: The Other Side of the Equation

So I walked you through the procedure for how this project will work a few weeks ago.

The next week, we posted her first character and questionnaire. I learned a bunch in the process (and tweaked the questionnaire slightly by adding a few questions).

In discussion with Stephanie between the two posts, however, I realized that I had left out one essential part of the project:

When Stephanie is done with a game, I will use her concept and generate a character of my own with the same system. Once I've done my character, I'll post the sheet (and include a link to the original post), and discuss the differences and why I made different choices.

Now, there will be games where this isn't feasible - generally for games with a significant degree of randomness - but by and large, this should provide some interesting contrast, and hopefully it won't bore you to death in the process.

The restrictions I'm placing on myself are as follows:

1) I must use the same method of generation as Stephanie does.
2) I must use the same basic concept as Stephanie does.
3) I must create a character I would allow as GM.
4) I must create a character I'd be willing to play.

Then I'll talk a bit about the game and what I liked and disliked about it.  In some cases, this will be longer than the character differences overview.

Now, I won't do all of this for all of the characters she makes, but I will discuss the games a month or so after her posts go up.

I hope you find this part as interesting as you find Stephanie's part of the project.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Timing Expansions

I think I've mentioned several times that it's a good thing I don't run a publishing company.

This week, I discovered another reason why that is: Timing expansions.

Over the last decade or so, expansions have become a more and more common an expected aspect of gaming, but each one comes with questions unrelated to game balance.

Claustrophobia is an excellent game. I have a hunch CROC has one or more expansions ready to go, but they wanted to make sure sales justified the expense of an expansion before they started work on it. Here in the US, it was a slow starter sales-wise, but those sales have started to pick up. Has it earned an expansion, yet? At what point has it earned that expansion? Is it too late to publish one? Too early?

Keep in mind: I don't have inside information on sales here. All I have is what CROC and others have said on BoardGameGeek and elsewhere.

If you release an expansion too soon, you run the risk of publishing an expansion for an unpopular game. You also run the risk of repulsing late buyers - "Am I going to have to buy expansions to play this, too?" Or of alienating completists who see it as just a money grab.

On the other hand, if you wait too long you run the risk of people moving on to other games. Three Dragon Ante went five years before its standalone expansion made it to market. I have personally seen people pick it up, see the word 'expansion,' and then put it down because they can't find the base game anywhere (it's out of print). Wizards of the Coast cost themselves sales by doing that - I had to find my copy of the base game before I was willing to spend money on the expansion (even though I could see that it was a standalone).

The best counter-example to this is, Nuclear War has been around since 1965. Nuclear Escalation hit nearly twenty years later, and did well enough that Nuclear Proliferation hit a decade after that ...

Dungeon Twister had a lot of expansions in a short time - and it was good at first, but sales apparently trailed off over time. Because putting out more and more expansions means people will start to get pickier about which expansion(s) they pick up and you'll start to see "recommend an expansion" threads on Boardgamegeek (and elsewhere).

You also need to keep in mind the designer's timing - Christophe Boelinger put out Dungeon Twister: Prison, and then moved on to other projects with Ludically (including the upcoming Earth Reborn). Has he abandoned Dungeon Twister? Has he forgotton about us? No. He'll get there.

While I'm briefly on the subject of DT, there is a poll on BoardGameGeek that I'd like you to take (if you haven't already).

It's a tricky juggling act, publishing games. It's a bit like running a store - you need to be passionate about gaming. You need to love games and gamers. But you can't lose sight of the fact that it's a business. You need to make money.

And that, my friends, is where I would fail.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


As you read this post, I am at GenCon (which coincides with my annual meal at Chic-Fil-A). As I write this, we have about a month to go and I don't know who will be in the booth or what games we'll be focusing on.

I can, however, make a few guesses based (in part) on these photos from Origins 2010 and what I've seen rules-wise.

Dixit and Dixit 2 will be be prominently displayed due - in part - to the recent Spiel des Jahres win.

Okko has a fresh expansion. Two of them, in fact. And the Cycle of Earth has hit print since the last GenCon. I suspect this will be the game I spend the most time playing, because I'll be the player who is most familiar with it.

Claustrophobia will be there as well - and CROC will be there.  I really like Claustrophobia, but I don't have as much time to play two-player games as I would like, so this hasn't hit the table as often as I would like.

Jungle Speed, of course, is a continual GenCon favorite, as is Werewolves of Miller's Hollow (which ALSO has a new expansion). And I think I saw the Jungle Speed expansion pictured in one shot (but, having only recently seen the rules, I don't know if it'll be available or not).

Cyclades is, I think, my favorite new game of the past year. I was invited to play a prototype at GenCon last year, and knew it was going to be a winner for me.;l

7 Wonders might unseat Cyclades, however. And there will be a pre-release copy at GenCon for play. Odds are good that I'll be teaching this one - and I'm really looking forward to it.

Dice Town will probably be around - it's light, it's fast, and it's fun.

And there may be a surprise or two as well. I'll update this post as I learn what to expect.

UPDATE: Christophe E-mailed me. Stephanie and I will be focusing on Claustrophobia, Cyclades, Buzz It, Dixit, Jungle Speed, and Identik

If you are attending GenCon, please drop by Booth 1901 to say hi.