During GenCon there are nearly countless numbers of gaming companies representing their games and wares, hoping to grab you, their target audience, and make you fall in love in their products. For me, this was the draw of GenCon. Seeing new companies with new and innovative ideas come together in one place where I could get my grimy little (figuratively and not literally as anyone knows) hands on them, was my main goal. How did GenCon, my first trip by the way, stack up? Pretty amazingly actually. I was blown away not only by the mass of people but also everyone’s voracity for new games, regardless of what the games were about. Walking through the exhibit hall I came across games from the big names like Paizo, Fantasy Flight, and Asmodee; but also encountered smaller names of indie game makers and booths that really spoke volumes to the expansion of games and merchandise currently that is trending in the gaming and geek world. What were my favourite things from GenCon? Overall there were a few things that really grabbed my attention, and I have included some of them below in the hope that the readers try out these games, items, or art and enjoy them as much as I did.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, I mean GenCon is all about the games. These games however, were ones that really stood out to me and were instantly added to my growing collection.
- Plaid Hat Games: This is a company that has attended GenCon for several years and is a favorite among boardgame enthusiast. This year I had one game in particular that I knew I had to try …Dead of Winter and so my mission to find Plaid Hat’s booth began. On the first day our group managed to find their area and sought out to get a demo of this highly acclaimed game. Much to our dismay, this is what a large group of GenCon attendees also favohad in mind so we had to pass on a demo. But fear not, one person in our group bought the game and we holed up in an appropriately brisk corner of the convention hall to start playing. I ended up loving this game so much I ended up not only buying my own copy, but also have been playing it pretty much non stop since returning from GenCon. Look for the a full review of the game in the coming weeks; until then, I can tell you that this game has strategy, betrayal, and zombies…basically everything to make a great party game. You can buy the game or find out more about it at plaidhatgames.com.
- Table Forged LLC: A newer game company to GenCon but definitely no less entertaining, Table Forged LLC had probably my favorite hidden gem of a game that we found at GenCon. Their game Iron and Ale is a dwarven styled drinking and card game. Think you can out drink the likes of Gimli or even our own Drunks and Dragon’s Aludra? Well then gather your friends around, grab your drinking horn, and start chugging. In this game you play as a dwarf, trying to earn honor to become the Dwarven King through completing different tasks which measure the strength of a dwarf. Some of these include wrestling matches, besting vicious monsters, and of course, belching contests. This is a wonderful find of a game and something that I think should be in everyone’s game library, especially if you enjoy mixing libations with games and merriment. You can pick up Iron and Ale and find out more about it and the expansion at tableforged.com.
A big draw of conventions for me is the art. When I go to any convention the first place I want to hit up is “artists’ alley”, where you can find countless prints and originals from either your favorite artist or ones that are up and coming in the art world. It is also a great place to stop and talk to the artist and really see the passion some of these folks have for their craft.
- Tom Babbey: Looking at this artist’s work you will instantly be familiar with some of the designs, as his work has most recently been featured in the newest edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Tom’s booth was filled with portraits of dragons and elves, a mix of high fantasy and forms you would see in real life creatures. Seeing these designs in person was truly astonishing. The colors and lines he uses are precise and are so cohesive, his designs look to be something made more from real life instead of his imagination. I stopped by his booth and chatted with him for a bit and not only was he a great guy, but I could really see and feel the passion he has for his craft. Check out some more of his work on his website tombabbey.com and even though there isn’t a shop section, you can contact him if you are interested in learning more about his pieces to add to your collection.
- Chris Seaman: Chris is another artist who has been featured in such things as Magic the Gathering and Pathfinder. Walking into Chris’s booth was like taking a trip into a magical world of whimsy, mixed with a bit of horror. Affixed to the booth wall behind Chris was a beautiful portrait of a frog princess, holding a dog snail, with fairies and dragons caught in her curls. Everything in Chris’s work is intricate and highly detailed. I found myself discovering more and more things the longer I looked at the art. To see some his amazing art and even pick up some for your own, you can go to ChrisSeamanArt.com.
Another group of items that GenCon would not be complete without. These were the fun things that I feel really help to not only bring your gaming experience “to life” but also make gaming a bit more fun (if that is even possible).
- Dark Sword Miniatures: Anyone who plays a tabletop game knows that part of the fun is getting your character miniature. It is the representation of what you have created and (if you are like me and paint models) really helps to bring your character to reality. In typical gaming stores you can find a vast variety of models ranging from dragons to gnomes and everything in between. So what makes Dark Sword Miniatures stand out from the rest? For me it was the quality and selection of models. They have Game of Thrones characters, high fantasy models, and “regular” types of models (think nobility, common folk, etc.), which are all cast in pewter and are standard sizes for tabletop gaming. The quality though blew me away. The edges are crisp, the facial details aren’t muddied or rough. These are models that will really enhance whatever paint you put on them. If you don’t believe me, head over to their website at darkswordminiatures.com and check out the craftsmanship and beautiful paint jobs.
- Kick Ass Gaming Gear from Dog Might Games: From dice chests, card stands, deck boxes, and dice towers, Kick Ass Gaming Gear has pretty much anything to fully outfit your gaming experience. They use brightly colored and natural woods to create these beautiful accessories and kick up your game to the next level. The thing that I loved about this booth was not only the selection and craftsmanship of products they had but also the customization. When we stopped into the booth and talked with Michael Konas, co-founder of Kick Ass Gaming Gear, we were greeted with an enthusiastic man who was truly passionate about his craft. They also have a few boardgames out, one of which is “Livestock Uprising”. This is a great game for anyone who loves resource management and strategy mixed with a little “two feet bad, four feet good” characters. If you are in need of an upgrade from your “Crown Royal” dice bag, you can check out their full product line at dogmight.com.
So there you have it, these were some of my favorite gems that I found during my trip to GenCon. Overall GenCon was amazing experience and one that if you are able, I highly suggest to anyone. It is so much more than games and really gives you a chance to celebrate creativity and innovation in the gaming world.