Ok, so I let myself ramble, but honestly it’s half the fun. If I didn’t, the blog likely wouldn’t be called “Tales of an Old School Gamer”, but perhaps “Efficient Reports of…” you get the idea.

So as I was saying, I have set patterns at GenCon. Being a game collector, it should come as no surprise to the gentle reader that I spend most of my time in the Auction Room or Exhibition Hall.

One of my first duties is to go an obtain a bidder card and start perusing the Auction Store. This really is a pit of capitalism. Everything goes to the highest bidder and what people aren’t there to bid for gets snatched up by the vultures circling in the store. I should know. I’m one of the vultures.

I feel l can get a good idea of where the industry’s going by what’s being sold. It certainly paints an interesting historical picture after all these years. Ten years ago, most of what was sold was AD&D 1st edition as well as D&D, a massive quantity of good wargames and a great cross-section of RPG’s that ran that age of 1980’s through early 90’s. Now, most of those are rare or at least uncommon. A wider selection of games has taken over the Auction both in RPG’s and wargames and of course trading cards and minis have their place. Those are not as readily my focus, though.

This year saw a ton of 3rd edition D&D and new 4th ed books. 2nd Edition AD&D was quite abundant as well. The older versions were there, but not many of them. I’m not sure if this signals that people are holding on to these older editions more readily, if they’re just not being sold at this Auction much anymore or if they are indeed becoming more rare. It’s tough to say.

What I thought was unusual this year was how the current managers of the Auction, Troll & Toad, bid for so much of what was offered, especially in the RPG end. Now, it could be that their guys just have a lot of spare cash and were able to bid high and often, but it seemed a bit too often in most cases and it also seemed to artifically drive the price up on many items. Well, like I said it’s pure capitalism in there, so whoever has the cash walks away with the goods. I’m just not entirely sure what I saw was for the best in the long run. Of course, I could be mistaken.

Then there’s of course the Exhibition Hall. My how I do love that room. Every dealer imaginable who still has enough money and new products to show usually has a booth and I like catching the latest and greatest release from the companies I still follow. You can also tell, with the abundance of 2nd Edition game systems, which 1st edition books are all of a sudden going to be available very cheaply at the three or four used distributors in the Hall or at Auction. I managed to clear a whole shelf of 1st Ed Conan from Mongoose for a song and a smile for that very reason, and many of those books originally retailed from $25 to $40. Always watch for the bargains.

Oh, and that brings me to a piece of advice for the prospective collector. If you’re going to by a book that’s “newer”, possibly not the “newest” at the Con, then sometimes it’s worth waiting till late Saturday or Sunday. You never know when that book might show up at Auction. A perfect example would be the Serenity RPG “Out in the Black” supplement. Retailing for $25 at Atlas’ booth, a new copy sold for $10 in Auction because noone who might want it was bidding at the time. Guess who bought it at full price? Yes, experience doesn’t prevent bad luck. Important safety tip, thanks Egon.

Another activity outside my pure collection duties that I used to relish in was attending the Naval War College folks’ lectures as part of the NSDMG group (National Security Decision Making Game). Their lectures on 20th Century military history along with modern projection lectures and current event discussion are a must for military history junkies. Want to know what the Soviets planned in the Cold War? These guys have pieced it together from our new allies in old Eastern Europe. Want to know what the Chinese might do in the next decade? These guys again. 

The NSDMG itself is a blast and I highly recommend the 4 or 8 hours anyone can commit to playing through a session. These guys always make it a good time. However, with the loss of Dan McDonagh (not sure if he’s just too ill to travel or no longer with us), the game’s not quite the same. The man had what might be called an infectious personality and his energy level was sorely missed at last years event. It’s still a fascinating game and lecture series, but something’s been taken out of it for me. 

On occasion, I’ve managed to spend a little time in the movie showings or in the anime room, but they always seem to show the best stuff right when some items I’ve wanted to watch are auctioned. Ain’t that just the way?

Well, I see again I’ve managed to ramble on…at great length. Still, I hope that I provided at least a little insight in my tales of collector’s nightmares and raucous “lectures”…yes those rowdy lectures…for your enjoyment. Till next time.