The Gaming Gateway: Gencon 2012

Justin goes to Gencon!

 Drizzt Do'Urden & Guenhwyvar at D&D booth

Drizzt Do’Urden & Guenhwyvar at D&D booth

Games have been incorporating elements of traditional epic fantasy since at least the 1950’s, but it wasn’t until Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson introduced the world to Dungeons & Dragons that fantasy gaming really hit the mainstream. D&D merged fantasy storytelling with game mechanics and forever intertwined the two types of entertainment. Now there’s an entire industry built around fantasy-based gaming.

Gygax started another tradition in 1968: Gencon, the largest gaming convention in North America. Gencon is focused almost entirely on the role-playing games that Gygax made so popular. It’s held annually in Indianapolis, Indiana and draws over 30,000 visitors and hundreds of vendors each year.

I’ve been going to Gencon for almost 10 years, and it’s always a good time — a Mecca for nerds. Gencon has grown from a small collection of like-minded gamers to an industry juggernaght. Every game from coast to coast is expected to be represented, and this year was no different.

Big Blue at the Privateer Press booth.

Big Blue at the Privateer Press booth.

My comrades and I arrived at the Indianapolis Convention Center at 9:00am. We had an hour to kill before the main hall opened and the running of the nerds commenced. Thousands of gamers rushed towards their favorite booths to get in line for those convention-exclusive goodies. I, too, had a booth in mind, and I joined the masses in a brisk walk/run to the Privateer Press booth. PP makes a miniatures game called Warmachine that I like to play, and this year they had some minis I wished to acquire. The line wasn’t too bad and I was back to roaming the hall within the hour, albeit with a lighter wallet.

We wandered around the vendor hall for a few hours. I stopped and said hello to Emily Fieganshuch who I interviewed last year when she was promoting her book The Explorer’s Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures. After a perusal of her fabulous art and a quick photo, I stopped bothering her and went on to visit other notable fantasy artists such as Tom Lockwood and Jason Engle. I also spotted Pat Rothfuss and Wil Wheaton who both looked busy being awesome. The line for Brandon Sanderson‘s book signing was enormous. He’d have another sequel out before I’d make it to the front, so I moved on.

Emily Fiegenschuh

Emily Fiegenschuh

Next: The Gaming Hall, one of the largest parts of the convention. The Gaming hall is where most of the actual gaming takes place, though there are other games spread into smaller rooms throughout the convention center. My comrades and I quickly found a table in the miniatures section and set about engaging in mortal combat in the world of Warmachine. After being soundly defeated, I left my my opponent to his conquests while I explored the rest of the hall.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsGaming clubs and companies will often bring their own displays, and some have to be seen to be believed. Take for example the burnt out Washington D.C. map pictured on the left. I am not sure what the game was, but the board was amazing.

We spent the remainder of our time that day playing games and watching demonstrations. On Saturday we wrapped up Gencon 2012 by taking a couple of painting and terrain modeling classes. This was the first year I spent more than one day at the convention, and I still left wishing I could stay longer.

Gaming Hall

One half of the gaming hall… the dude on the right has some seriously spiffy pants.

I hope you all enjoyed the first of our Gaming Gateway columns. It’s my hope to make this a regular feature. I want to use the column to promote quality fantasy-based games to gamers and non-gamers alike. I was introduced to fantasy gaming late in life and developed a passion for it that I hope to share with the FanLit community. In honor of our very first  Gaming Gateway, we will be giving away your choice of a book from the Stacks. Please leave a comment below for a chance to win. Tell us what fantasy-themed games you like to play or might be interested in. If there is anything you’d like to see covered in The Gaming Gateway let me know that, too.

update: Justin has temporarily retired due to pressures at work. We hope he’ll be back soon so he can continue with this column. For now, it will be irregular only.


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JUSTIN BLAZIER (on FanLit's staff September 2009 – September 2012) Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on Tolkien. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. Justin lives in a small home near the river with his wife, their baby daughter, and Norman, a mildly smelly dog. He doesn't have much time for reviewing anymore, but he still shows up here occasionally to let us know how he feels about stuff.

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5 comments

  1. Thanks for the tour Justin! By the way, it may not have been that long a lone at the Sanderson table; I believe he comes out with a new book every 45 minutes or so . . .

  2. Great photos, Justin!

    (Readers, click on them to see the large version)

  3. April V. /

    I played D&D exactly once, way back in high school. Now, don’t get me wrong, I had a blast and still remember my character. The problem is that I was and still continue to be terribly shy and these days my closest friend is someone I’ve never met in real life and who lives in another state. I suppose that when I’m old(er) and wrinkly(er) I’ll get over myself and go out and meet people who love the same types of things that I do and perhaps get some gaming going.

    The closest I came was a regular ‘game night’ that was mostly trivia games and the occasional Scrabble tournament a couple of years ago with a couple that are no longer together.

    I do love the enthusiasm I see everywhere for the games and I’ve thought of playing online but I’ve an iffy (read cheap) internet connection and a book a day reading habit so I tend to not be online as often as I could.

    I’ll keep an eye on thise new column, just to see what I might be missing ;-)

  4. Chris /

    Thanks Justin! I’m looking forward to your column. It’s been a while since I’ve played an RPG, and it will be great to hear about your favorites. I’ve been playing the fantasy-based game Arkham Horror lately. I’m not sure if it’s in the scope of your column, but it would be great to hear your insights on other non-RPG table top games that incorporate fantasy worlds. I find it’s easier to get non-gamers to agree to play something that comes out of a box.

  5. April V, if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks. Please contact me (Tim) with your choice and a US address.

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