Friday, August 7, 2015

GenCon 2015

The drawback to changing companies, is that I had to start over with Paid Time Off. So while my husband and son headed up to Indianapolis on Saturday for a full week with Grandma, I put in three days at the office before following their tracks.

I got to Indianapolis about 1 pm on Thursday, had lunch with my husband, son, and mother-in-law, and then hubby and I checked in to our hotel. He and our son had gone over to GenCon in the morning, so they had his badge and sons wristband. They also had an update on the time and cost of finding parking.

City Bus

We elected to get an IndyGo day pass for the busline from our hotel to downtown.  The route ran every 30 minutes. One ticket cost $1.75, but an all-day pass for that route was only $4. Parking downtown started at $6, if you could find that, and quickly went up from there.

The major drawback to the bus, was that the last bus on our route left downtown about 8:30 pm. GenCon has events that go until 3 am. I'm not as young as I used to be, but I could still game to about midnight or 1 am, if I had the chance. Maybe next year we'll look for a hotel in walking distance of the Convention Center.

With the Kid

GenCon is free for ages 8 and under, when accompanied by a (ticketed) adult. The only thing they ask is that un-badged children get a wristband from registration, that includes the parent's phone number, in case we got separated. As I said above, Dear Son (DS), age 7, got his wristband on Thursday morning before I arrived.

When we first planned the trip, I thought that our son would spend Thursday and Friday with Grandma, then Saturday & Sunday with us at the conference.

It didn't work out that way. Grandma had appointments both Thursday and Friday mornings, and she was watching my niece on Saturday. Dear Son wanted to play with his cousin on Saturday, so we brought him back to GenCon on Friday.

For us, I think the split days worked out better. He stayed with me throughout Friday, then had a quieter day at Grandma's apartment Saturday, before returning to GenCon with Dear Husband (DH) on Sunday.

On Thursday, DH and I took the bus back to the Convention Center, where we met up with my brother. He was finishing a game with his friends at the Geek Chic room in the mall. I had time enough to go pick up my pass and return before they were finished, and the three of us got dinner.

After my brother went back to Mishawaka, DH and I stopped by the Exhibit Hall to pick up our Cheese Weasel cards (see "Convention Games"), and then caught the bus back to our hotel.

Friday with DS was nothing like I had planned. I purchased 10 generic tickets for events, just in case, and then we were off.

We thought we would watch the KODT video at 10 am, but we got to the Convention Center much closer to 9:00 am. The Exhibit Hall wasn't open yet, I didn't feel like checking my book for other events, so we spent a little bit of time at Card Halla before heading to the Marriott.

After we had gotten to the Marriott, DS decided he didn't want to watch the KODT movie, so he and I went to the Paint-and-Take minifigure area. We waited about 45 minutes to get near the front of the line, when he had to go potty. I probably could have asked the line attendant if we could get our place back when we returned, but I didn't. We found the restroom and went back to the end of the line. Another ~30-45 minutes later, we had two seats and began painting our minifigurines.

DS has played tabletop RPGs with us the past two years. He has his own dice, but he didn't have a mini-fig. We tried to make do with Marvel Avengers HeroClix, but they really were oversized for what we were trying to do. So this was a great chance for him to get a figure of his own.

I always play female characters in RPGs, so I found a nice druid with some barkskin going, and painted her. DS found a warrior with a spear, and painted him. We thought we would go back later and paint another minifig, or perhaps some of my own minifigs that were still plain. But we didn't.

We met DH for lunch, and discussed whether one of us was going to take DS back to Grandma's, or just stay downtown until evening. DS wanted to stay.

On the way back, DH showed me where one of the non-Exhibit Hall scavenger hunt places was located. We played a couple of rounds of ZtoZ, and I got that square of my car punched.

Then I saw a Collectible Card Game (CCG) that I thought DS would like, and he got to play a demo of it. At the end of the demo, he was given a foil-pack of the cards, to his great delight. We stored them in the tin box with his old Pokemon starter decks, and went to the Exhibit Hall.

DH had discovered Castle Panic at GenCon several years ago, and ordered it. On Thursday, DH and DS had stopped by the Fireside Games booth, and DS had loved Bears! So on Friday, we went back so I could try it out. When we arrived, another Bears! demo session was in progress, but Castle Panic was open. So we played a few rounds of Castle Panic until the Bears! table cleared out.

As the photo shows, Bears! is a quick dice-matching game... but it's not as simple as it seems. My first round, I mismatched every pair.

After that, we headed over to the Family Fun pavilion and the Training Grounds. We pulled out a game of Catan Junior. I read through the directions, and we played it together. But then I decided, if we were going to play Mayfair Games, we might as well get ribbons for it (see Convention Games, next). So we went over to where Catan Junior was being demo'ed, and he got in on that game. While he was busy playing, I was able to go to two of the nearby booths for my scavenger hunt, and return.

When his game finished, we found out that the child demonstrating it was Klaus Teuber's grandson. That was cool.

Then he wanted to play regular Catan, so we made our way over to Mayfair's games library. For two generics, we had the game and went over to a table to play. As we were setting up, another boy asked to join us. He already had five clay ribbons, and explained that Catan was all he wanted to play this year. It's more interesting with three than with two, so we agreed. He quickly beat us both, but we had fun so it was cool.

DS wanted to play one of the giant games. I was figuring out the generics to let him, when I saw that it was already after 6:00. I thought we were meeting Grandma at 7 to watch the 7:15 baseball game, so we left for a place where I thought I had 30 minutes to charge my phone.

As soon as my phone booted up, there was a text message from 6:10 saying she was already waiting for us. Since it was now 6:30, I stayed plugged in until I could coordinate where DH & Grandma were, then unplugged to meet them.

So no photos from the baseball game.

Convention Games

One of the things we learned at our first, brief visit to GenCon, is that there are several ways that the Convention itself has been gamified.

Cheese Weasel Scavenger Hunt

One of these ways is an advertising campaign / scavenger hunt called "Cheese Weasel," in which convention goers try to find booths in the Exhibit Hall. Some of the booths ask us to do something in order to get their hole-punch. Years ago, I put on a temporary tattoo for one such booth.

Those who successfully complete their quest, are entered into a drawing for prizes, like tickets to next year's GenCon.

For me, this type of quest helps me to organize and make sense of the huge and intimidating Exhibit Hall. I vary between Introvert and Extravert, depending on how supported I feel. I don't have a medical diagnosis, I don't take psychiatric medications for my anxieties... but I know myself. I practice breathing exercises, meditations, to help myself get through stressful things, and sometimes I see a therapist.

With the Cheese Weasel quest, I don't have to worry too much about what to say. Simple key phrases like: "Cheese Weasel?" or "I'm on a quest!", or just showing the card, is often enough to get the interaction rolling.

Some booths, particularly the item shops, just want you to find the booth in order to get the hole-punch. One booth this year asked for my photo. Many of the gaming companies wanted to pitch their game, or have me try playing, or at least watch a demo in progress.

This quest has, so far, been one of the cornerstones of my GenCon experience. I don't really expect to win, but it helps me to get a feel for the Convention, and I enjoy trying out games that I probably wouldn't have considered otherwise.

GenCon Buttons

This year, part of the Family Fun package was a quest for the kids themselves. At various places around the Convention Center and surrounds, there were 9 stations giving out buttons each day. The priority was to first give them to children, but after 3 pm adults could receive buttons too.

(The enforcement of this was variable. Some volunteers gave to parents who were with the children, other volunteers would give one button to a parent/guardian. On Sunday, some volunteers were giving out buttons to all and sundry, while others said that adults had to wait until after noon, or after three.)

DS started this quest on Thursday, and made more progress on Friday, but we didn't worry about finishing it until Sunday. He was able to get all 9 buttons (mostly because I replaced one he had lost). DH and I have about 4-5 each.

This was simple, and I thought the images were pretty good.

Knight of Catan / Defender of Catan

This is a game that I first learned of through the Knights of the Dinner Table comic / magazine. In the Catan games, there are usually 5 resources, which can be used to build or purchase additional resources.

Mayfair, the company that publishes the Catan games, brings ribbons to GenCon every year. Attendees can earn ribbons by playing Mayfair games, either in the Demo Booth or through their Games Library. This year, the Games Library had a poster listing which games earned which ribbons, and the Demo "Booth" had tablecloths color-coded to the ribbons.

Attendees don't have to play games they don't like. If they get more than one of a certain ribbon, then just like the game, they can trade ribbons with other attendees.

Those who receive all five ribbons, can bring them to the booth for another ribbon dubbing them a Knight of Catan. This gives the attendee a ticket for the drawing at the end of the Convention, and also one certificate for 50% off of one game.

(The Ally button was a bonus. While DS was playing Catan Junior, I kept seeing Gaymer ribbons, and then I started seeing Ally ribbons. I asked someone where they were, and we went over to get one.)

This year, all three of us earned Knight of Catan ribbons. DH went on to gain the additional 5 resources to become a Defender of Catan. That earned him a second ticket to the raffle, but no second gift certificate.
(He had other ribbons, his own Ally ribbon as well as those from booths, but they have fallen off somewhere.)

Stronghold Games

This year, we noticed that a second game booth was also offering ribbons. In fact, they had a very similar deal: play five games, get five ribbons, purchase a game at a discount.

Once I had finished the Cheese Weasel hunt and earned the Knight of Catan, I went on to try this company's games. My ribbons from Stronghold come off the left side of my badge:

Spotting Wil Wheaton

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm a bit of a fan of Wil Wheaton, so I was curious if I'd get to see him on this trip. Of course with 60,000+ attendees, I knew that the odds were not so great.  So, I decided I would just go and do what I would normally do at GenCon. Which was to start off with these quests, have fun with my family, and be myself.

On Saturday, while I was completing the Cheese Weasel quest, I stopped to watch a game at a booth. While I was watching, I started hearing a conversation behind me, something about a show. I don't know what exactly caught my attention. Did I recognize a voice? Did the "show" remind me of Tabletop?

Anyway, I turned around, and he was speaking with one of the people at the booth. Very focused on doing his thing. I double-checked the badge, because my facial recognition is not-so-great, and then just watched. They finished the conversation, he moved on. I turned back to the game. The person running the demo glanced at me and I shrugged, "Sorry, I had a fan moment."

That was that. It was enough.

Wrapping up

About ten minutes after seeing Wil, at a stop on my quest, they asked me to yell "I love squid!" at the top of my lungs. I have pretty good lungs. I used to call my siblings in from a block away. I told her she might want to take a step back. I took a few breaths to steady myself, and then I yelled.

Saturday night was dinner with (nearly) all the in-laws. Grandma, son, niece and her parents, the other brothers-in-law, and ones girlfriend. We went to Pie Five, and it was pretty good, although my Google Walking Directions were less than helpful. Grandma drove us back to the hotel, and DH and I drove back for a late evening.

Sunday, DH had DS. We finished his button quest. Then they finished up their respective Mayfair quests, while I played the Stronghold demos. We made our final purchases, then headed out

That's GenCon for you.