Trio of Cons! Looking Back on Gen Con, DTC, and Origins 2018

FINAL UPDATE: 9/11/18 – Finally! This post is finished. I’m sorry it took so long! I had some difficulties with my web host and then life just got in the way (several times!). Thanks for your patience; I hope you enjoy the article.

Hey hey. Summer convention season wrapped up for me last week when I returned home from Gen Con and I have a lot to tell you about! I have not yet written about my experiences this year at Gen Con, Dice Tower Con, or Origins Game Fair, so I’m going to serve up the trio all together like a fancy, overpriced dessert – but this is free and it won’t make you feel guilty for overindulging.

Origins

This beautiful summer kicked off in Columbus, Ohio, a couple of months ago at Origins Game Fair 2018. I worked with Formal Ferret Games to run their booth in the exhibit hall. I have often said how much I believe in Gil Hova, the owner of Formal Ferret and the designer behind titles like The Networks and Bad Medicine. He is a brilliant mind and an interesting person and I love working with him to promote his company and his games.

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Gil and I, play-testing his prototype of High Rise

Walking into Origins 2018 I was fairly confident that Origins was my favorite convention (more on that later in this article) and I was excited to be working for and with an awesome company at an awesome con. I was also excited because my most-favorite person in the entire industry was going to be at this con and I might, just maybe, get a chance to him. Spoiler alert: I did!!

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Me and one of my heroes, Rodney Smith, of Watch It Played

Rodney Smith, of Watch It Played, is one of my heroes. I am a professional game demonstrator – this is actually my job (pretty cool, right?) – and Rodney is an incredible inspiration and example for me. If you are not familiar with his work check it out here. If you like games you’ll like his content. I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous to meet him. What if he wasn’t as awesome IRL? It would be disappointing. He was. It wasn’t. He was every bit as kind, gentle, and decent as I believed. Meeting him was truly a treat and I am so blessed! I also got to meet several other neat people, pictured below is Eric Summerer (Dice Tower), Zev Shlasinger (the ZMan (formerly) of ZMan Games), the artist and the sculpter of Here Kitty Kitty, and Kris Gould (Echidna Shuffle creator).

I also got to go to an exclusive, invite-only industry party/meet-and-greet hosted by Panda Game Manufacturing (the company behind bringing so many titles to your table). This was interesting and I enjoyed myself. Can’t let too many secrets slip, but I will share this: Panda did a neat thing, they had an open bar, but in order to get your drinks you would give the bartender one of these custom dice (we were given a handful when we walked in). Before we left I asked one of our hosts if I could keep one of the dice and they said, “No! I’ll get you a whole set!” Neat!

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For the first time ever, I experienced “Con Crud” (an illness resulting from having people from a wide variety of places at a single gathering such as a convention, allowing disease to spread easily among them due to lack of immunity). I have been to dozens of conventions and have never once caught the crud. Its pretty awful. It lasted about 2.5 days – not too long, thankfully – and left me feeling weak, nauseous, and woozy. I hated this, con time is valuable! I didn’t want to waste it being sick. I slept a bit, got some ice cream from the infamous Jenny’s (not as good as everyone claims, in my humble, but ice-cream-loving opinion) and eventually got over it.

So I said earlier that I thought, going into the season, that Origins was my favorite convention…

Dice Tower Con

This year’s DTC was phenomenal and I’ve changed my mind about which is my favorite convention! DTC is smaller, more intimate and laid back…perhaps as both I and conventions grow and change my favorite will change too – this year’s best convention (so far, in my opinion) was DTC. I really enjoyed myself here. There are several personal factors for this, the biggest being that, for the first time ever my husband got to attend with me. I love my husband. I love being around him, spending time with him, discussing things with him, playing games with him, I love him. Often while I am away at conventions I think to myself something along the lines of “This is great; I love this. I could work/attend conventions pretty much forever.” Except that he’s usually not there, which means I don’t wanna do it forever. This time he was and, for me, it was a really nice treat.

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me and my love, with the retired judge’s gavel from Dice Tower (Tom Vasel: “Dice Tower judgement APPROVED” *bangs on game with gavel*)

Another personal factor that made this show particularly nice for me was a general ease and comfortablity I felt – I had been to this convention before, I had worked with this company (Formal Ferret), demoing this game before (The Networks (which I showed off to Derek Funkhouser in a video that can be watched here (my husband and I show up around 9:45), check it out if you’re interested in a little elevator pitch). I was traveling and rooming with my husband and friends; I was completely confident and comfortable with the entire experience. As much as I love traveling all over the US working for different companies, demoing different games, at different conventions, there is something to be said for the comfort and familiarity of the known. Anyway – it was a blast!

I got to do a lot of neat stuff when I wasn’t working, including:

  • participating in demos (Catan Rise of the Incas was my favorite)

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  • taking in live shows and panels (two of which I really enjoyed – This Game is Broken and Faith in Gaming)
  • attending events like the The Jack Vasel Memorial Fund Silent Auction the DTC church service – the charity auction was an interesting mix of mildly entertaining  and slightly frustrating. It was almost impossible to participate unless you were able to donate a lot of money and there was an unattractive clique-ishness to the event as Dice Tower contributors and their friends told inside jokes and referenced relationships and events that did not include many people in attendance. My husband and I were prepared to donate but it quickly became clear that our sum was a pittance as people jumped bids from $100 to $500 in a single bid. The church service was incredible. It was fairly simple – picture any contemporary Christian church service in America and you’ll have a good idea as to what this one looked like, but the music and preaching (done by the *Reverend* Tom Vasel himself (yes, it was a little weird at first)) were solid and the really special thing about this for me was that I was worshiping with people like myself (gamers). Sometimes church can feel a little isolating and lonely…here in this service we were not only united by our love of God, but also by our love for games. I believe this will be the way things are in Heaven, people in harmony with God and each other, not just peaceable and loving, but like-minded and united. The realization of this in that service was palpable to me.

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  • playing games! Some people from my FLGSs were in attendance and it was fun to meet up and play games with them…we can do this at home, but in the convention setting it was much easier – we’re all there, mostly undistracted and unrestrained by “real life”, there are plenty of games and plenty of play space. And for the people we don’t know, its always a treat to be able to walk up to strangers and establish an immediate and easy connection by saying “Hey, wanna play a game?”
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Playing one of my favorite games, Mystic Vale, with The Board Game Bandit and one of my Crank It Up co-hosts, Jim Price

My husband and I also joined both old and new friends at a local gaming pub called Cloak and Blaster for Trivia Night and I really enjoyed getting to see this place – it was cool. I will be doing a Game Store Quest! article about it soon, stay tuned. We also played an escape room with the Formal Ferret team – we didn’t escape, but it was fun anyway.

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The last thing about DTC that I wanted to share was about the birth and formation of the SOCMOM Promo Club. If you’ve ever gotten to attend Dice Tower Con you may know that they give away tons of promos at the event. I was given hundreds of promo items and cards and as I thought about the best way to use these I started to conceptualize a sort of giveaway where anyone could access these promos, whether they were able to attend DTC or not. I imagined something like the send-aways I used to do when I was a kid, sending self-addressed, stamped envelopes or collecting coupons from food labels and sending away for some toy or prize. And so I created the SOCMOM Promo Club to “give away” all these cool promos. I am happy with the idea of the club and as I manage and execute the send-aways each month I tweak the behind-the-scenes strategies and systems; I believe I am creating a fun and sustainable program that I hope people will enjoy. Please check it out!

Gen Con

I worked for Leder Games (makers of Root and Vast) at this year’s Gen Con and we had a wildly successful show. We released each day a limited number of copies of Root and its expansion, our show release. We sold out early every day and completely by Saturday morning.

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It was really, really cool to be a part of such a successful team. One could hear, on the winds of the convention, “Root” “Root” “Root”. We were hot. We maintained a top-5 spot on BGG’s Hotness List throughout the entire convention. Reviewers adore the game. Convention attendees clamored for it. It felt great.

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In addition to being a successful and sought after company, Leder Games was also a friendly one. I very much enjoyed working with them and especially enjoyed getting to better know Clay Capra, the Event Coordinator for Leder and a long-time industry contact. Clay and I met at my very first convention some years ago and became fast “con friends”. He asked me last year to come and work for Leder at this year’s Gen Con and I was honestly a little bit nervous about it – I knew very little about the company and my only real exposure to it was through my fledgling relationship with Clay. Normally I have more history/experience with a company before I work a convention with them and I didn’t want anything to go less than stellar, especially because I thought that may cost me a friendship with Clay. My concerns were completely unfounded. Working with and for Leder Games was an absolute pleasure and not only did I strengthen my relationship with Clay, but I also met a lot other wonderful people.

Unrelated to working with Leder I also got to meet other some cool people, pictured below.

I was so excited to meet the guys from Shut Up and Sit Down, my favorite podcast. They hosted a live show, which was immensely fun and relaxed. I also got to meet the designer of one of my favorite games (Mystic Vale), John Clair; I bumped into Bruno Cathala – which was surreal…I ran into Andy Looney of Looney Labs. I was also incredibly excited to meet some of the crew behind Dark Adventure Radio Theatre, a wonderful and immersive radio drama series that I absolutely love. Seriously, I love every episode. I also got to met and hang out with Josh Wood, Cat Lady designer, at AEG’s Big Game Night, a sold-out event at which attendees could come play new and classic AEG titles like Smash Up, Mystic Vale, War Chest, and more. A couple of weeks before Gen Con a contact at AEG reached out and asked if I’d be available to demo games at their Big Game Night event. I was happy to help and even got to plug my podcast at the event while running demos of Smash Up. It was fun to see old friends and make new ones while showing off a fun game. I was compensated for my time with a BGN swag bag (an epicly huge bag containing three new AEG games – Magic Treehouse, Train Maker, Greedy Kingdoms) and copies of The Captain is Dead Lockdown and Istanbul The Dice Game (which Clay had taught me earlier in the week). Great!

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AEG Big Game Night 2018

I got to see some cool stuff.

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My summer was filled with fun and games and I hope yours was just as awesome. I’ll leave you with a few more pictures. Thanks for reading my review; I hope you enjoyed it! S

More information and future con dates here: http://originsgamefair.com/, here: http://www.dicetowercon.com/, and here: https://www.gencon.com/

 

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