GenCon 2013 Best Of
In just a few hours I'm returning to the airport to board an international flight to Germany. Whereas GenCon was a con I attended for "work" (my non-revenue job of making board games), Gamescom is a con I'm attending for work. Seeing as how I'm about to go "dark" over the Atlantic, I thought I'd share my GenCon experiences quickly while they are fresh.
Before I get to the photos and the more fuzzy experiences, I want to share a realization and lesson. Business is fundamentally about products and relationships. People work with people who create good things AND people they like. Nobody wants to work with a jerk. Last year was my first GenCon and I had some meetings and pitches (all ultimately unsuccessful) with some companies I very much wish to work for. Fast forward a year of continuing to work, blog, and interact with these people. I met with all of them again. I didn't pitch anything to the folks I met last year, but I had coffee, chatted, and in one case played Blockade just to play. His feedback was invaluable and it was awesome showing him that I can create more than just a single game. I had two publishers ask to have a PNP, which felt great.
It struck me that I'm investing in this relationship and it's paying off dividends. No, they won't publish a game that's not right for their brand or that isn't good. But, what I realized is, they want to work with me, they just need me to show them the right thing.
Here's the lesson: Rome was not built in a day. Chances are, your first, next, or third game won't be THE one. But. Continue to work hard, meet the people you very much want to work with, and build that relationship. This business is not a sprint and if you're persistent and good, it'll eventually pay off. It's also key that I need to make more games that have more potential publishers. Next year I'll be trying to bring a Euro, a card game, and things that aren't reliant on 1-2 potential publishers. Lucky for me, I have all 3 games in the works now.
My Favorite Experiences (in no order) must begin with playing Robinson Crusoe with good friend Cole Medeiros, the tech guru from Shut Up & Sit Down (his name escapes me), and Ignacy Trzewiczek, the designer. This game is an amazing cooperative experience. It is dynamic, full of euro-like tough choices, but full of compelling and thematic events. At one point I was hastily building a shelter, which collapsed and hurt my head. We then shuffled this card into the event deck, because our story is dynamically populated. That head wound came back to haunt me. The game was hilarious, disastrous, hard, and entertaining. I loved it. It was even more special with the designer "DM'ing" it for us.
Here is one of my favorite cards.
Another great experience was a joke told by Paul Imboden of Split Second Games. He'll quickly note he heard it from legendary designer James Earnest. I won't tell you the joke, but I will share this picture, drawn by Randy Field of Split Second Games, that illustrates it.
I flew to GenCon with good, real life friend Cole Medeiros. He designed Gubs, published by Gamewright. Cole's been working on a game for 2+ years now that I've tested in several iterations. It hasn't always been my favorite. Cole handed me his new rule set on the plane and I instantly knew it was the game he's been seeking. I said "This is it. Tune it, fix it, but this is it." Cole had his doubts, like we all do, and was worried. Wednesday night, pre-con, we played with 3 random guys who not surprisingly really enjoyed it. And so the rest of the con went. Here is the part that was awesome: By Saturday, Cole, riding high, was like "I'm going to show this to everyone." And he did! Cole approached every huge, massive, awesome publisher with the moxy and swagger of a prize fighter. It was awesome to watch and I plan to catch up to him next year. His game is good and it will be published. Here's the gist, if you're curious:
You're a rogue space captain trying to make it in the universe. There's a dynamically populated board filled with opportunities and danger. You have a clever navigation mechanic that provides variance, but also great choice and some strategy. And you're upgrading your ship.
I played an amazing game of Story War with Cole, AJ, and AJ's buddy Chase, who was a great guy. This was just a hilarious, Apples to Apples style game that's delightful with the right crowd. Here was my favorite card.
Giant games and game furniture were awesome. I don't really enjoy Settlers of Catan, but huge Catan looks so good.
And this Geek Chic table with a huge war game on it. This is my "Prussian High Command" fantasy furniture.
I was much better about impulse buys this year, but I made one about which I'm very excited: Mercs Miniatures. The game is beautiful and has a small, REALLY dedicated staff of passionate, awesome people. That helped my decision. What also helped is that you can buy a set for $60 which comes with 6 pewter figures, all the dice, and cards you need. And this isn't the "tutorial mode." You field 5 of those 6 units in a normal game. Which means at $60, I'm good to go. The default rules are a teeny tiny single, double sided page. By teeny tiny I mean about 5 inches by 6 inches. Finally, instead of moving your guys using a ruler, you use the card, which has slots for where to move your guys. Very clever and reminds me of X-Wing. Cole and I each bought a set. We're going to paint them, build them, and play together. It'll be a thing. Look at their demo image below, but visit their site and check out the amazing art.
I played some fun prototypes, particularly Flick Wars, designed by Andrew Tullsen. If you're curious, he runs Print and Play Games and built Battle for York for me. Great guy. Here's Flick Wars: Take Ascending Empires, remove the empire building portion, add up to 6 players in teams, and add more tactics and abilities to the units. What you have is a game where people stand up and cheer and have a lot of fun.
I also played Emperor's New Clothes with the designer, Jonathan Liu. I won't comment much on the game, but I will say this man never broke character explaining and guiding us through the experience. Masterful execution on his part.
Here's the best part of the show, and I saved it for last. I had a meeting setup on Sunday with a prominent, established, and incredibly well respected publisher for York. He watched my tutorial video and liked what he saw. The meeting wasn't until Sunday, so I spent 4 days inside my head totally double and triple thinking everything. I sat with him finally, laid out the game, explained the rules and my design inspirations. It was less a sales pitch and more "this is my work." Which felt good and was more my style. I'll spare too many details, but I'll say this: He really liked it, he took the game home with him, and he is optimistic. No deal (yet), but even if he passes, I feel I have a relationship now and if York isn't the one, my next one might be. I cannot fully explain my emotions on this, but I'll just say I am drunk with euphoria. The pitch could not have gone better.
Just to answer the inevitable questions, my purchases were:
- The Little Prince (fantastic)
- Space Cadets: Dice Duels (fantastic)
- Mercs Minis (really hopeful and excited to dive in)
- Memoir '44 Winter Wars Expansion (plus I received promo scenarios for the purchase)
- 2 Summoner Wars 2nd Summoners packs, plus I bought the starter set (with 2 other factions) from a friend. This means I can now play a 4 player game and have almost every faction.
- 7 Wonders Civ boards. Great value for $10.
- Yspahan from a friend
- Matt Worden also gave me a beautiful copy of Space Mission
My plays were:
- Blockade (4x)
- Battle for York (4x)
- Tessen (2x)
- Star Captains (2x)
- Space Cadets: Dice Duels (3x)
- Farmageddon: Livestocked and Loaded
- Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island
- Coloretto (2x)
- The Phantom Society
- The Three Little Pigs
- The Little Prince (5x)
- Dead End
- Emperor's New Clothes
- The Lord of the Rings Two Towers Deckbuilding Game
- Flick Wars
- Jungle Dice (2x)
Before I leave, and they should know this, AJ Porfirio, Matt Worden, and Chevee Dodd are amazing, great guys. I don't really want to attend GenCon if they aren't there.