Yes, yes, peoples, GenCon 2012 officially ended over a week ago and I’m just writing about it now. In all honesty, I’m still somewhat recovering. 45 years running and still going strong, GenCon remains the standout gaming convention in the United States bar none. Initial reports have attendance at over 41,000 attendees. Wow!
I won’t bore you with the history and background about the ‘con – just dive into the highlights from my perspective.
For me (and I suspect for many others as well), GenCon isn’t only about the games. The people, environment and the energy at this convention is amazing. Everywhere you look you will find the gaming culture permeating the convention hall and outlying hotels, restaurants and bars. It is – frankly – awesome. Being around so many gamers brings about a sense of familiarity which I cannot imagine anywhere else. It is like being at a yearly reunion with forty thousand of your friends and acquaintances who come with no pre-conceived opinions or biases based on your gender, race or gaming preference.
Everyone just kind of gets along. At all hours of the day (and night). For 4 days straight.
Anyway, more to the point. For this post I wanted to go over my biggest surprises - both good and bad. I will write more in a later entry (I don’t want this to get too long). So here goes.
Surprise #1 – Kickstarter is EVERYWHERE! It was amazing how many vendors had projects already on Kickstarter, or were showing/selling games which had been funded through Kickstarter. As a retailer, I am conflicted with the fulfillment methods used by various participants, but I am absolutely convinced we are seeing more games produced by smaller independents which would not exist without this “crowdsourcing” facility. More games (usually) are a good thing for our industry.
Surprise #2 – Wooden Wars. I happened upon a game being played in the
family/kids section of the vendor hall called Wooden Wars. Within 60 seconds I was hooked as I watched 6 kids (I would say ages 5-12) moving wooden soldiers (about 5″ high) around a battlefield which was sprawling on the floor. Each child was in charge of a variety of units including infantry, calvary and artillery. These particular soldiers were painted up as Napoleonic era units in bright colorful uniforms. After movement, the moderator (who turned out to be the creator of the game) would allow the kids some combat – which basically involved lobbing a ‘super ball’ from the firing unit to their target. Any unit toppled over was eliminated.
I watched with a grin on my face as this kids had an absolute blast for 30 minutes or so until the battle was over. I walked over to the designer of the game and introduced myself – expressing my desire to have this game for sale at Fair Game as soon as possible. Which leads me to…
Surprise #2A – the creator of Wooden Wars, Thomas Voss, has a Kickstarter up in order to collect enough money so he can start manufacturing the pieces in a cost-effective way using a laser cutting machine. I vowed to back his project (and promptly followed through when I returned home)
even though he hadn’t really considered the small retailer in his business model. Thomas and I have been in email contact, and I guarantee at some point we will be carrying these soldiers in some capacity at Fair Game. That being said, I encourage you to get in early on this project if you are considering giving these wonderful soldiers as gifts this holiday season. If you do contribute, make sure you mention that Fair Game sent you!
edit: Thomas pointed out that the lack of retailer contributor levels certainly does not imply he has not considered the retailer. Once the initial launch of Wooden Wars has succeeded and he manages to get his laser machines working without hurting himself or innocent bystanders, retailer support will soon follow. First things first!
Surprise #3: Zombicide (warning, more Kickstarter content below)
Another Kickstarter success story, this game (brought to us by CoolMiniOrNot) was over-funded by some ridiculous amount. One of my friends was part of the initial funding run and brought his recently received copy to GenCon for all of us to play.
What a disappointment.
The bits and pieces of the game are fantastic – and there are plenty of them. However, after playing the first three scenarios, it seems clear that the game design process took second stage to the production quality of the components.
The scenarios seem wildly unbalanced and too easy for the players. The automobiles are very over powered, and the tracking of sound from each player seems overly fiddly and unnecessary.
In an nutshell Zombicide appears incomplete and inadequately play-tested.
Given the fantastic pieces within the box, I really wanted to enjoy this game – as I believe did everyone else – but we just couldn’t muscle through any more scenarios when there were so many other good games to play. In fact, after that last scenario was played, the owner of the game stated that he would likely sell it when he returned home.
It sold on eBay quite quickly.
Well, that’s it for now. I promise to write some more GenCon coverage in later posts once I get my notes *ahem* organized.