Gen Con 2011–The Rant

Gen Con 2011 is now one week past and it is time for my last thoughts. Forgive me as I wander through my disjointed thoughts of Gen Con 2011 because in addition to some great games, I picked up a “Con Crud” infection.  What fun. Let me start with my initial thoughts about the shows’ logistics. After last year’s disaster in the will-call line (90 minutes!), I made certain to order my tickets via FedEx this year. It cost me an extra $10.00 and gave me the reassurance of a tracking number.  It worked great. That said, I read that the lines were again ugly this year for on-site badge purchases and will-call.  I feel for first-timers who think picking up tickets is like getting concert tickets, quick and painless. It is not, think more death march than pick-up. Fair warning.

Hotel choices opened up a bit this year with a new J.W. Marriott, but I did not see any pressing reason to move from the old Marriott. I am sticking with the old, but reliable choice next year.

Convention attendance was up, a statement supported by a glowing Gen Con press release and my observation. Some game areas overflowed with gamers and even the hallways struck fear into the claustrophobic.  Nice to see the growth.

Apple conquered the tabletop gaming world with the iPad. Note I did not use the present continuous tense implying an ongoing process. The battle is over and Steve Jobs won. I sat down at RPG tables with seven players and seven iPads. They were everywhere!    One company in the exhibitor area produces 4E modules for the iPad and I expect other companies to follow with their own implementations.  Even I am tinkering with an idea for a website to support tabletop gaming from Internet connected devices. Anyone want to invest? 😉


Game companies like to announce their new products to the public at Gen Con and this year was no exception. Most of these announcements popped up at GTS back in March, but a couple deserve special comment. The resurrection of a Wizards of the Coast pre-painted miniature line and new miniature game caught me a bit off-guard. After months of “we are out of the pre-painted miniature set business,”  WOTC jumps back into the market. Whether this is careful planning or a response to the Wizkids/Paizo set coming out later this year is unclear.

Honestly, I think WOTC did a 180 when they noticed people still played the “dead” miniature game and the RPG players clamored for new miniatures. I am not a fan of 4E for too many reasons to discuss here, but I always thought the D&D miniatures line was an excellent product with a lot of utility for the price. That said, I also look forward to the Paizo/Wizkids effort.  Competition in a market brings a smile to my face…and my wallet.  Give me your best shot guys and may the best product line win my money.

Fantasy Flight ran demos all weekend of their new “Star War” miniature game. Players guide miniature star fighters around a maps using small dial devices to issue secret moves and templates to move the planes.  I am a Star Wars geek and love “Wings of War”.  Of course it is not called “Wings of War” game mechanics but the resemblance is uncanny. Fine with me, game companies lift mechanics from each other all the time and if I can get in an x-wing to blast some tie fighters, I am all for it. Hope the price is reasonable.

The 2011 Ennie Awards did contain some useful insights.  This is a rare admission from me because I despise the Ennies as utterly pointless.  Actually, I dislike all  populist award exercises like American idol and the Academy awards as well. I find them shallow, more marketing budget penis-comparisons and populist mediocrity than valuable analysis.  That said, as an indicator of the trends in  the greater game community they have some value. A prominent loser this year struck me; Wizards of the Coast. Of course, they placed in several categories but only achieved victory in the “Best RPG Related Product” category. Paizo clearly led the field this year and even some smaller products like Evil Hat’s Dresden Files RPG beat WOTC  in the  “Best Rules” category. Is the glow off the D&D brand?  Time will tell, but I am certain that WOTC made some strategic errors over the past few years that are coming back to haunt them. The young wolves are baying for the old alphas’ blood…

Speaking of old mistakes, WOTC also announced sales plans for previous D&D editions as PDF files. Nothing really firm yet, but it is nice to see WOTC finally getting a clue that selling legitimate copies of old games with some piracy impacting sales is a better plan than abandoning the market to pirates entirely. Just a suggestion for WOTC; make the PDFs relatively cheap. I would put the price cap at $5.00 max.  Charging $9.99 (or some other ridiculous price) for a second-edition builder book is a recipe for failure.


My rant is at an end. Now that my life is back in order, expect more regular posting.


See you at Gen Con 2012!


Trask, The Last Tyromancer





Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.