Getting Hands On at Gen Con 2021
By: L. Sahara McGirt (DarthSagaSwag)
With 35,000 attendees at Gen Con, I was told by some locals that this was small for a Gen Con event. Gen Con on a good year must be massive. The same locals mentioned that this year's Gen Con was very much looking to have the same attendance that Gen Con had in its beginning years over a decade ago.
With masking restrictions in place, but no vaccine requirement, I was a little hesitant on Gen Con. However, I'm noticing gamers and geeks can be trusted to keep their masks on at events like these. Unfortunately, there were not enough hand sanitizing stations around the con for me to be fully comfortable with the event. Honestly, those would even be nice to have around on a good year, especially if attendance on a good year is as high as it is.
Stacking Up at the Gen Con Booth
While our booth at Gen Con wasn't very big, we still managed to get some attention from some passersby. Some Active Duty Military members, Veterans, and family members stopped to learn about our mission. We also met a few Content Creators who were happy to leave their info to get in touch about helping Stack Up out.
A few Stack Up folks of our own also showed up with a previous PAX South Air Assault (Seen in the TikTok below.) coming to join us, as well as one of our Stack Leaders & Blog Writers, TapRackBang. We had a great time hanging out with them, and if you are ever in the area for a convention we will be at, be sure to drop by and hang out. We'll gladly have you along for our adventures.
Outreach is our primary goal at events like Gen Con, but we also took in donations and exchanged them for some Stack Up gear. All of our Rexes sold out by the end of the weekend. Hopefully, they all get to good homes.
CEO Stephen Machuga couldn't be at the event due to illness, but Skatch and Dave held down the fort pretty well, with Dave taking most interviews and talking to media. Operations Assistant Sam and Influencer Relations Team Manager Perkydaisy did a majority of the booth shifts. Leaving me to run around the event taking interviews, talking to board game developers about their games, and getting to do the really fun part of the event: playing games and experiencing Gen Con.
And, experience Gen Con, I did.
So Many Board Games!
I am primarily a video gamer, but if I had ever had the opportunity to be a board gamer, I would probably be at weekly meetings with a tabletop gaming group. It's not that I love video games more than board games, I love games of all kinds, but I never really had anyone to play with. Sure, I grew up with two siblings, then two more siblings when I got older, but none of them were as interested in games as I have been or were too young to get into them while I was simultaneously in the Navy and very far away.
Gen Con was the perfect opportunity to get into board games and play with people who love them.
First things first, to get in on gaming at Gen Con, you have some options. You can either go to a booth, ask about the game, then, if there is a free spot available at a board, the game masters at the exhibitor's booth will play games with you or let you join in on the next round with other players while they give you directions on how to play. This works really well to get people into the game because some board games can get confusing, fast with all of the different gameplay rules.
You can also sign up for events through the Gen Con website. With a wide range of fun event options available, if you are there to experience Gen Con, you can never truly be bored. I picked my way through the list of card tournaments, escape rooms, Indianapolis tours, D&D games, panels, and board game plays to pick out a few things I thought I might like, signed up, and got to experiencing Gen Con.
It did not disappoint. While I lost every game I played, I enjoyed losing all of them. With such gems as Ivion, I was impressed at what people can come up with to do in the world of board gaming. Even though I lost at dueling my partner, I liked how the Ivion board game was set up and the kinds of strategy one might have to employ to win. Or brute force that the game can be played with.
Other games I played while out there included Fangs: Werewolves vs. Vampires vs. Humans, a battle royale game of Dungeons & Dragons, Snap Ships, and The Rocketeer board game from Funko Games. Fangs is a great game for parties of 5 to 8 people and seems complex when reading the rules, but it is easy to play once you've got the rhythm of the game down. As most board games seem. Snap Ships was cool and is perfect for those kids who love things like spaceships and getting to battle them out. If you have a kid who enjoys playing pretend with their spaceship toys, this might just be the game for them, and they can build cool model ships to play with. The Rocketeer was the same in that aspect, but as I got talking to the game master, a Navy Veteran who does this every year at Gen Con, he pointed out that most games have similar rules; they just have different words for the parts and actions in the game.
As for battle royale D&D, I have never played a full game of Dungeons & Dragons. The one time I tried to play, I made a character, got about 10 minutes into the game, then my dad picked me up. After that, I never really had the opportunity to play. While this wasn't a typical game for D&D, it was enough to tell me two things: D&D sure has a lot of math involved, and the unique ways the game can be played might just be something I could get into. Maybe I'll join a D&D group locally. If only I can find the time.
While overall, I had fun, I noticed a few things about why I have never really gotten into board games. Most of these games took anywhere from 1 to 2 hours to play. I don't get a lot of free time between work and my family. Most nights, I have 4 hours to play video games, and if I get into board gaming, that will cut into my video game time. Fangs was the shortest game I played, taking only 30 minutes per round, but I need 5-8 people to play with. This means I will have to find a group of people to play with that large or bribe my siblings into playing games with me.
There is also the problem of expense. While some games were $20, most medium to larger board games cost $50 or more. Sure, video games are expensive, but that's why I have Xbox Game Pass. At these prices, board gaming could get very expensive very fast on top of my video game expenses. Not to mention all the costs of models and add ons which are comparable to video game DLCs. Then there is the transportation and storage of board games. The game of D&D I played was probably the most accessible, with a simple game mat, little character token, dice provided by the game masters, and simple rules to guide the game.
RPGs might just be where I get into gaming, especially with some of the options available to play these games online through mediums such as discord, DnD Beyond, or Gameboard, which allows you to digitally interact with someone else playing the game you're playing.
Merch and Beyond
Gen Con was full of merch. Whether you're into plushies, D&D, or other tabletop gaming accessories, Gen Con had it all. Dice vendors could be found in nearly every aisle. I picked up a set of miniature dice myself. I also spoke to the folks at Rollacrit, who were the official merchandise vendors at Gen Con. I will have more about them and their Heroes of Barcadia game soon.
Gen Con will burn a hole in your wallet, but if you have the money to spend, it's well worth going through what exhibitors have available.
Happy Con Happy People
Overall, I had a great time at Gen Con. It seems that most of our staff did too. (Except for Steve, who had to stay home. :P Gotta pull his leg a little.) I had a fun time getting into everything and experiencing all that tabletop gaming has to offer. If/when Stack Up does come back in the future, I'm sure Gen Con will still be a blast, if not bigger and better. Overwhelmingly so, as this con, despite being smaller, was still really good and proved that in-person cons are not dead even with the pandemic going on.