Sunday, August 9, 2015

Gencon 2015 Overview

A few days after Gencon is over, and it is almost hard to comprehend.  The show keeps getting bigger and bigger (and while it is good to have it growing, the rapid growth the past few years may not be a good thing).

I spent the vast majority of my time teaching and running Kings of War.  I had close to the same schedule that I did at Origins, but there the similarities end.

Disappointment with Gencon started off back in January, with the horrible housing lottery.  I feel frustrated that those who are working the show get absolutely no priority over anyone else (except of course those with huge pockets to purchase VIG packages).  Neither do people who have been going to the convention for years.  So for the first time in many years, I didn't get an attached hotel - with my lottery time being 90 minutes (and all the attached hotels filling up in 30).   So I opted for the cheapest hotel in the block, which was 12 miles away.  If I had to drive each day, it didn't matter if it was 5 or 12 miles.

Now our hotel was extremely easy to get to and pretty nice (well, the free breakfast was sub-par) and the room was absolutely huge.  Of course parking was a pain, especially Friday night with two other events going on downtown.  It cost me the same to park each day as it would have to just leave my car in the parking garage as I've done in previous years.

It is also frustrating to have to purchase a badge (to get a shot at housing) that doesn't get reimbursed for nine months (Origins does not require a badge to get a hotel, and completely comps the badge - so I never have to purchase one to begin with).

Enough of that though.  We got started a little late because I initially forgot my speaker system (thanks to my son for mentioning it before we got to far from home) - which absolutely saved my voice, so when we get to the convention center, we had about a 30 minute line at will-call to pick up our badges.  A few years ago my oldest son had his mailed to him, and it didn't arrive so he had to get another.  Now you pay extra for that and you get a tracking number - maybe I'll try that again in the future.

Exchanging out badges for the GM badges went surprisingly smooth (I hope the reimbursement goes as smoothly).  Then back to the car to get everything so we can be ready for my first session at 9 am.  I have a cart that all the terrain fits on, then a box with demo materials and 12 bins of models that fit on the box - so between the three of us it isn't that difficult to push our stuff to the hall.  Where we were turned away.  For the first time that I've ever run events, they would not let me into the hall to set up on Wednesday.  Our GM badges weren't enough - we needed a wristband.  So with the boys watching our huge stack of boxes & bins, I head back to GM HQ for wristbands.

And they would not give them to us.  Because we did not have a 'dedicated' area (i.e. we did not purchase gaming space at $5.00/square foot) then we had to share our space - and somebody else might be using our tables in the ONE HOUR before my first event started at 9:00.

So back to get the stuff, to take back to the car.  Of course the game of Adult Tetris I had played earlier to load up doesn't quite work with the suitcases and other stuff still there - but we get it packed up.  So we head off to the hotel, taking a few things in but leaving all the gaming stuff in the car.

I then drove back downtown to meet up with the other Mantic folks at Bupa di Beppo's.  Had some great conversations with the folks, even if this isn't my favorite restaurant, and everyone else got there early.  I feel this is a great crew, and I always enjoy talking with Ronnie and Joe and hearing their perspective on the industry and the latest events.

Ronnie Renton and my cool new banner
Thursday morning we had to get up extra early to set up.  Wednesday was hot, Thursday felt even hotter.  We got off a bit later than I originally planned - but still got in about 7:30 - found a decent parking space that required minimal elevators, and managed to get everything set up in a little less than an hour.  I'm covered in sweat, but things are working.

The sessions go great.  People are enthusiastic, and except for one on Saturday I don't have to turn anyone away.  Plus on Thursday morning I send my son over to pick up a pre-release copy of the new 2nd edition of Kings of War as soon as the booth opens (they only were able to bring 60 copies, and sold out Friday morning).
Kings of War 2nd edition Gamers Edition pre-release (only 60 were available)
What I do start to notice is there are a lot more people checking out the tables and talking about the game.  Whether it is the new banner that makes my area fairly visible, Age of Sigmar or just the pure growth of the game, I find myself spending a lot more time just talking and promoting between sessions.

Now I enjoy this.  I'm able to turn on the full outgoing sales mode, and since I am comfortable with the product and miniatures I find it easy to talk to people.  If you know me at all away from conventions I am a very introverted person and it takes a lot of energy to be outgoing - one reason these conventions are so exhausting.

At Origins I had near the same schedule - 2 hour demo then 2 hour break.  Rinse and Repeat.  I had plenty of time to walk around and didn't really feel pressured about anything.  It was the same schedule I did the year before as well.  However this year and this convention were different.  Over the four days I managed to walk through the demo hall once (in three separate portions), and that was only stopping to talk to a couple of vendors total.  But it kept me from spending money - which is overall a good thing.  Still, it was frustrating that, for the first time, it felt like all I did was work.  One afternoon I was not able to get out of the gaming hall at all between 1 pm and midnight.  I think I lived off of brats from the concessions stand all weekend.

The mega-battle went well - I was surprised at how challenging the players found the scenario - but then I expected them to be able to roll a 4+ much more often than they were able to.  The tournament also went well.

Of course they closed the miniature HQ before my last event was over on Sunday, so I had to go to GM HQ to turn in my tickets, and those tickets have yet to be reconciled - though all the others have.  I had a total of 126 players (out of 156 seats) - with the 24 seat tournament only having 8 people being more than half of my empty slots, and dropping my fill rate a full 10%.

I think next year it is time for some changes.  My assistants need to get more active (and have even volunteered to be), so I need to let them.  Look at having others run the actual sessions to give me a bit more downtime as well as earning their badges.

The speaker system worked very well, and completely worth it.  I do wonder if I could get a double one with a speaker in front and back so when I turn to a table the people behind me can hear better.

The floor padding worked well, once we got it in a good place at the end of the tables.  Trying to put it between them was a complete failure, as was not initially taping it down (and where I expected the Gorilla tape to rip it up, it held wonderfully and came off without a problem).

Next year we will have the tournament during the day and now that Mantic has said they will sponsor the open night over at the Colt's bar as a regular event, I know not to schedule anything Saturday evening so I can attend / help there.

It is great of Mantic to give me two more shirts - so over the four days I don't have to re-wear any now.  It will be interesting to see how big a collection of these I eventually get.

It was fun, but exhausting.  This was the first time working one of these in three years that I felt like I didn't have enough time for anything I wanted to do.  But I've already started planning for next year.

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