GenCon descended on Indianapolis again this year for the 44th year of the event. This year was marked with more attendees, a large increase in presales, and a new convention center with tons more space and seemingly much better people flow. All in all, 2011 was a good year for GenCon and I was happy to attend.
I’ve attended GenCon every year it’s been in Indianapolis. I’ve seen the growth and expansion of this convention in it’s time in Indianapolis, and I think this was a good year for growth. I was told by one of the GenCon staff members that presales were up 25% from last year. A typical year shows a 7% or 8%, but even with the economy down, there were still a great growth. Beyond that there were new areas for play and booths in much better places to access. The only group that seemed to have a loss in numbers was the RPGA hall, but even they had a lot of full tables through out each of the four days.
This year I didn’t get a chance to do much roleplaying, but I did get to experience a few others styles of games I like. I looked into a few board games, especially Mansions of Madness from Fantasy flight. From the demo I played, where I was the bad guys, it looks like a lot of fun, but a little complicated. I got a chance to speak with the D20 pro group, who were showing off their new gaming table that they have collaborated with Geek Chic on. The table was fantastic, and the built in interactive display was quite impressive. There were a few bugs that were being worked out but the basics of the programming were clearly solid and very intriguing.
I took the time to look into a few miniature war games as well, including Pulp City, a super hero game, and the new miniature games from Wizkids, which seemed to include a MageKnight board game, and a Star Trek space battles game. I was also dragged into playing a WOW tournament, and while I didn’t play well, the event gave out good prizes randomly every round, and I had fun with a lot of nice people.
One of the best booths I saw this year was Lego. While I never would have thought that I would see Lego at a GenCon booth, they were there, and had quite a large space. They were demoing their new game Heroica, in all four of its forms. The game is built for younger children, but still offers some fun for adults and I had a blast playing it.
I think one of the best parts of the weekends was the acceptance of the gaming crowd by the downtown restaurants. There were events for Privateer Press at The Ram, movies and special dice at Scotty’s Brew Pub and signs everywhere welcoming us. Downtown Indianapolis has always been welcoming, but it seems like this year they went above and beyond.
I spoke to a few industry professionals, who led me through their products. Wizards of the Coast was very accommodating, getting me into a press only D&D game with James Wyatt, and an interview with Shelly Mazzenoble, who led me through the coming products. I met R.A. Salvatore, who created and still writes the Drizzt books at a meet and greet and even got to talk with him about the Packers chance this year. I spoke with one of the creators of Army builder about their RPG packages. I even got to speak with the designer of Oh Gnome You Don’t about her upcoming project.
There were many other things I experienced this year, but they won’t make this review. Overall I was again impressed by the event and its organization. Other than a few snags with the new convention halls, but every thing seemed run as smoothly as it could. If you are a gamer, or you are interested in gaming and you live within driving distance of Indianapolis, you should be here next year. It’s a great event, and a lot of fun. There is literally an event at all hours of the day and the price for admission is tiny compared with all you can experience at the convention.