My GenCon experience this year was much more a comedy of errors than last year, when I lost every game in a Summoner Wars tournament. Here are some open notes to myself, with the stories behind them, to help others avoid troubles and have a better time.
1. Don't have an auction of games immediately before a convention.
I have hundreds of games at home, and I had an auction on BoardGameGeek.com to unload some of them, with an option to pick games up at GenCon. I had the GenCon portion end during GenCon. In fact I packed up all 200+ games to take along in case someone wanted to bid during the convention. Don't try this. The amount of time it took for me to process the sales meant that instead of leaving for the 10-hour drive to Indy on Thursday morning, I left Friday afternoon, and stopped at a motel about 80 miles from the Indiana border. I did not make it to the convention until 3pm Saturday, and missed half of the convention.
2. Do take a cart if you need it.
I needed it, having about 35 games to deliver. My wife had purchased this wheeled black shopping cart, about 1.5' x 1.5' x 3' tall, with a study waterproof lining, which was wonderful for taking the games around in -- and to balance the bag with the rest of the games on top. Some of the vendors passed out huge swag bags, but this wheeled cart was a life-saver. On Sunday one vendor asked me where I had gotten it -- they wanted one like it.
3. Do check out the dealer's room.
After contacting the purchasers I could, I had an hour or so to scout out the Exhibitors' Hall until it closed. I went quickly, seeing what was there, and making snap decisions about purchases -- not my usual style. There was lots of cool stuff, but I tried to get only things I knew I'd really want to keep, and not sell off again in a couple of years. For the most part, I succeeded. I think.
4. Do enjoy the time you have.
After that, I took the cart back several blocks to my car. I was very tired, but the part of me that wanted to take advantage of GenCon won out over the part that wanted to go sleep. I wandered the hallways, taking iPad pictures of people in interesting costumes -- they will nearly always pause for photos, after all the work they've done to make the costumes -- and wandered around in the boardgame hall, seeing what was popular. Finally some friendly strangers invited me to join in a pickup game with something newly published, and I had a couple of fun hours of play.
5. Do check out the local eateries.
For dinner I went out to the block full of food trucks along Georgia street just outside the convention center. There are lots of interesting ethnic choices; I settled on a 3-taco combo: one of each, regular, medium and hot. At the end of the day, on the way back to the car I stopped at the downtown Steak & Shake (open all night), and had a nice burger and a tropical fruit shake, which really hit the spot.
6. Don't assume you'll be able to find a motel room without a reservation.
I was able to do that Friday night on the road, but not Saturday night in Indianapolis. In addition to the 16,000 GenCon attendees there was also a huge motorcycle rally. I could not find anything, even in Anderson IN, a half hour away. I finally gave up around 2:00 am and slept in my car.
7. Do connect with old friends.
It was wonderful to see my old high school friend Carl demoing his exciting new game. Then it was great to swing by the PHG booth, and say Hi to Alex, Bistro, Colby, Cory, James, Jay, and others -- all wearing plaid hats!. It was an impressive setup: about 8 or 10 long tables, all full and busy. Later I even crossed paths with people I hadn't seen in years and never expected to see again. Fun to reminisce about old times. And practical: one of Carl's helpers had to leave Sunday morning, so I was able to sleep in his bed Sunday night. In addition to catching up on our families, we shared game recommendations, including Summoner Wars and the PHG podcasts on my part.
8. Do talk to and help people.
One of my buyers called me while I was trying to find parking around the convention center; I mentioned the fact, and he, being a local, gave me helpful pointers to where I could go. That night, while failing to find housing, I helped someone out and he gave me advice about where to try to find motels. His help was useful even though ultimately fruitless. At the end of the expo I helped Carl & co. pack away their stuff -- only fair, given the free bed. Then I was called away by my final buyer who had to leave right away, so I ran to the hotel room and got his stuff. After that I went to help the PHG guys, but they had just wrapped up, and Colby complimented my great timing. The good thing about that was that they had sold almost everything they'd brought, so the packing up was fairly light.
9. Do try new games.
In addition to the pickup game Sat. night, I was in on a demo for Carl's game Sunday morning -- lots of fun, and a definite future purchase. After finishing my sweep of the Exhibitors' Hall I went to play my first game of BioShock Infinite, and later listened to descriptions of other games. It's an advantage to be with the publishers' folks so you can ask questions from the most knowledgeable folks. There are several new things on my acquisition list.
10. Do get enough sleep.
This is tied in to the long drive, and the late arrival, and to #6 of course. As I was getting the BioShock demo, by the time the demoer had finished his first sample turn and it was my turn, I truthfully told him I had gotten only about half of what he'd said, so I ceded my seat to one of the observers. Not long afterward, while listening to a spiel about another game, I opened my eyes to see that the explainer was patiently waiting for me to wake up from my nano-nap. (I told him he looked like Nicholas Cage, and he said he hears that occasionally.) During the drive home on Monday, I stopped every hour or two at a rest stop to sleep as long as I needed. (A couple of the large swag bags made a nice ground cover so I could stretch out on the grass.) By dinner time I was recovered enough to drive the rest of the way home straight, with my unsold games, my purchases, several pleasant memories, and a few resolutions for next year.
What happy, funny or frustrating memories do you have of a recent convention?