Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Prepping for GenCon

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine referred to me as being a, "walking, talking, living, breathing Wikipedia of games." And several people nearby nodded in agreement.

I have a reputation locally as being That Guy when it comes to games.  And it's not a bad reputation to have - when there is a rules dispute, I am occasionally called in as arbiter.

I know for a fact that I'm not the world's Foremost Expert on All Things Game. There are numerous folk whose knowledge far surpasses mine, both in terms of active rules content and game history - and you can find their blogs all over the internet (thank you, by the way, for reading my random scribbles when you could be reading something else).

So why do I get to go to GenCon instead of some of these other guys?

Let me rewind to last year.  Briefly.  Last year, I posted an entry saying, in essence, "please be kind to your demo folk at conventions."  I know it was read, because it receive more hits than nearly anything else I've had to say here.

This year, I want to talk about how I prepare for GenCon.

I'd throw in some training montage video, here, but ... it'd be wildly inaccurate.

Generally, I receive shipments of games from Asmodee at several points over the year. They're nearly always games I had a hand in. When they're not, they're games that I will be demoing at the next convention.

The very first thing I do is record them as 'Owned' on BoardGameGeek.  Yes. Really.

Then I'll pick one game from that shipment, crack it open, punch the bits that need punching, do any necessary assembly, and I'll read the rules.  I shoot for three games per week of learning like this.  That following Wednesday, I'll bring them to Game Night, and try to teach (and play) a full game of each.

The Game Night crowd is well used to me bringing new games and using them as a training test bed, so they know that I'll probably miss a rule or two the first time out.  Sometimes, if a game is particularly difficult, they'll try to help me figure a way to make it easier to teach.

But we'll play.  And I'll take mental notes on what I said and what confusion it caused, and I'll try to think of a different way to say the same thing to avoid that issue. After we play, I'll talk to Stephanie on the way home. "Rule (X) seemed to trip people up. I need to highlight that one when we are at GenCon."

And I keep reading the rules.  In fact, when we hit the point roughly one month before GenCon, I grab as many rules PDFs as I can find and throw them onto my Kindle. I read rules on my breaks at work. I read rules at night. I read rules when Stephanie is driving us somewhere.

It's like cramming for Finals, only it lasts for a full month.

And I'll keep talking to Stephanie. "Oh! We missed a rule.  Did you know ... ?"

I focus on games I expect to be especially hot that year.  Libertalia and Seasons are the games I expect to spend the most time demoing this year - and neither one is available, yet.  But I have the rules PDFs.

I even study games that were big a few years ago, just in case. Occasionally, I'll study out-of-print games (I had a handful of Mall of Horror rules questions come my way last year, for example).

I don't usually study expansions in depth. Since so few people in the booth have regularly played the base game (regardless of which base game we're talking about), it's a lot easier to demo the base game and then tell them, "and the expansion adds ... "  Obviously, with the popularity of 7 Wonders, this may not apply to the expansions.

This year, we were sent a list of focus games - games I need to be prepared to demo.  It contains no surprises (with the possible exception of Eclipse, which is ill-suited to demos due to length).

In fact, with a brief refresher, I think I'm prepared to demo every game on the list. And the refresher, by the way, will be for the games that are releasing at the show - City of Horror, Seasons, and 7 Wonders: Cities.

This year, we'll be flying out on Wednesday rather than on Tuesday. Apparently Christophe decided to spare us the setup - which is a mixed blessing. Generally, we are given more games during setup to learn, and sometimes we'll get to play them that evening.  The last few years, I've been able to play a quick game with David Miller of Purple Pawn, and I don't know if that'll be a Wednesday option this year or not. Which is a shame, because it's been a highlight every year.

I am occasionally asked how I can handle the rude and otherwise difficult customers we run into at GenCon every year. It's easy. See, I deal with a couple of very difficult people at work. Every day. And, when things get rough at GenCon, the usual thought is, "At least it's not X." or "... and then I never saw them again."  You'd be amazed at the abuse you can handle when you realize that. And - in all honesty - the crowds at GenCon tend to be pretty good-natured. You get occasional jerks (like the guy who screamed at Stephanie because Mission: Red Planet wasn't in the booth due to shipping delays), but most people are there to have a good time.

I also expect more people this year will seek Asmodee out as an early source - partly due to the awesome games, and partly due to the awesome guests.

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