I’ve delayed talking of GenCon, but it’s fast fading to ancient history, so I felt now’s the time.

I’ve been a regular GenCon attendee for years. I attended going back to the last couple of years in Milwaukee in the late ’90’s and being that I’m from the Indianapolis area, it’s practically a given that I’ll be there any given year.

As a consequence, like a well-worn footpath I’ve clearly tracked in the Convention Center where it is I like to spend the bulk of my time every year. This makes me an odd bird, because I don’t really game at GenCon; not the way many of my blogging colleagues do.

I  used to. I played a surprisingly large number of games in Milwaukee, and at cons dating back through history like DragonCon and Inconjunction. I even managed to get some RPG’s in at a Star Trek convention once or twice. However, through considerable trial and error, I find that I like gaming with my friends more than strangers when it comes to RPG’s. Of course there are many fine people to game with, but I usually seem to get the game where the guys go out of their way to be antisocial or at least wreck the game.

I’m reminded (and I’ll get back on track) of my first ever convention, where I actually ran a Twilight 2000 game. I’d run two campaigns for Twilight to that point and was a big fan of the system and I was looking forward to running my first ever convention game. It really made me feel a bit puffed up, seeing my name on the schedule as a GM at such a big venue. Then I got my group. They were fine enough, and I liked them. They actually were good gamers, but about half the way through the adventure, they tell me they’re going to shoot the guys who are suspected traitors (well, they were) and ask the rest if they want to help them haul off all this loot that was intended for government types.

It effectively ended the game, two hours into a four hour session. I was stunned. The three offending gamers (friends, themselves) told me to take heart. They said it was a testament to how much they had enjoyed themselves that they waited two full hours before going rogue. Usually, they said, they got bored and did it in the first hour. How lucky for me.

This may seem like I’m plucking an isolated incident. I’m not. Most RPG sessions at GenCon, with the exception of perhaps one or two,  have been just as “enjoyable”. For the record, the best RPG session I had was playtesting 2nd Edition Dark Conspiracy with Mike Marchi, Geoff Skellams and Marcus Bone, cheered on by the game’s creator Lester Smith. Those same guys edited the inestimable online fanzine Demonground for many years.

I shouldn’t throw actual gaming at GenCon completely under the bus. There are the wargames…oh, there are wargames. I’m a closet wargamer from way back, from the early ’80’s where some real gems were created. The Assault Series, Third World War and Harpoon dominate that list and I’ve had great success playing those and others at GenCon. Then there are the mech games like Heavy Gear, Jovian Chronicles and its naval combat game Lightning Strike.

I can’t say why exactly, but with those games I’ve always had good memories and pleasant experiences. Perhaps it’s because you don’t have to get terribly intimate with your fellow players. They have pieces and you have pieces and there’s not much subtlety to it. Your goal is to eliminate or disable your opponent in the quickest and most efficient way possible, before your opponent can do likewise. I’m reminded of Rommel’s quote when asked how he would handle Patton’s armies. “I will annihilate and destroy him!…before he does the same to me.”

There’s so much more, but I’ve completely digressed. At the very least you got a couple of good stories out of it. Look for more on this CURRENT GenCon in Pt. II of this and perhaps I can keep on story. 🙂

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