Gen Con 2006, Day 5

The epic tale staggers to an end on August 13, 2006.

I sleep in until 9 AM, which gets me a whole six hours, a record for this Gen Con. The day before, my wife told me I should stay over on Sunday night if I’m too exhausted to drive back home tonight. That didn’t fly for three reasons.

First, I’ve left my lovely and wonderful wife home alone with five young children for five days already. She’s fantastically understanding about me going to conventions—she used to come along with me before the kids were born—but she deserves to have me back to help as soon as I can make it.

Second, Sunday night after Gen Con means dead-dog parties and staying up way too late again. If I’m in town, there’s no way I’ll resist that lure just for a few more hours of sleep.

Third, I miss my wife and kids and want to go home. I love Gen Con, but my life is waiting for me back in Wisconsin.

I check out of the hotel and leave my bags with the bellhop. Then I get moving.

I have a lunch planned with Robin Laws at 11 AM, but I get a call from Mike Selinker who tells me that my noon seminar has somehow been bumped up an hour to 11 AM too. I call Robin to make my excuses as I make my way to the seminar. Since we had dinner and drinks together last night, we’ve already had a chance to catch up some, so we’re set.

The seminar—Game Design 10—includes James Ernest, Gwendolyn Kestrel, Sheri Graner Ray, and Mike Selinker. I’ve never met Sheri before and barely know Gwen, but we all work together like we’ve been friends for years. The crowd asks some great questions too. Honestly, I could sit and listen to James and Mike talk about games all day long, but we only have the room for an hour.

When the seminar is over, I roll over to the exhibit hall and head for the Mayfair Games booth. They’re just finishing up their big ribbons-for-demos program and handing out some big prizes, and the crowd around the booth is six people deep. I’m supposed to meet Pete Fenlon (formerly of ICE and now with Mayfair and Castle Hill Studios) here at 1:30 PM for lunch, and after a few moments he pries himself free from the crowd.

On the way out of the hall, we bump into Mark Simmons of Games Quarterly, who decides to join us. Since we don’t have a lot of time left in the show, we head over to Champions in the Marriott again. It’s great to catch up with these guys, who I’ve known since I began in the industry. Back then, I was the Young Turk, but they always made me feel like I belonged from the start.

After lunch, I charge back into the hall, determined to see the last few aisles. I manage to pull this off with only a few minutes to spare. As I go, I pick up a few things I know I must have.

I try to buy Pieces of Eight from Atlas Games, but John and Michelle Nephew refuse my money. I’ve been looking forward to this since Jeff Tidball, who designed it, first told me about it. In it, each player holds a handful of custom-made coins that represent a pirate ship. You do battle with each other, and the player with the last captain wins. Very cool on many levels.

I also try to pick up No Loyal Knight from the Wicked Dead Brewing Company. This is John Wick‘s first novel, which means I have to read it. Sadly, by the time I reach the booth, John’s gone, and all the novels have been sold too. I vow to buy it via the internet once I get home. (And I have. It’s now on the top of my reading queue.)

While roaming around, I say good-bye to many, many friends. I meet James Chott at the Tenacious Games booth, who tells me I terrified him as a teenaged playtester of WildStorms, but also inspired him to get into gaming. I apologize for both, and he hands me an open beta kit for The Spoils, the company’s new CCG. I haven’t had a chance to play the game yet, but it looks great, and the idea of giving away two million cards and $60,000 in prizes to build up demand for the game’s November release seems wonderful too. I wish them luck.

As I stop by the Mattel booth to say good-bye to Tyler Kenny and Brian Yu. As I leave, Brian hands me copies of Voltage and Desert Bazaar. Both are Euro-style board games with great components and game play suitable for the whole family. The most stunning thing about them, though, is that they feature Brian’s name on the front of their boxes. As far as I can recall, no mass-market games publisher has ever done this before, and I applaud Mattel for finally doing this.

The hall closes at 4 PM, and I’m out of there by 4:15, which is good because security is ready to kick out anyone not wearing an exhibitor badge, guest of honor or not. I head to the Hyatt to get my car and my bags.

I meet Jon Leitheusser (recently of WizKids) in the lobby, as he’s asked me to haul a suitcase back to Wisconsin for him. Jon’s from Wisconsin and often hitches a ride back home with me for a post-Gen Con family visit. This time, he’s got a ride with some old friends he hasn’t seen in forever, but they don’t have enough room for all his luggage. I have plenty of room, so it’s no sweat.

I leave town about 4:30 PM and hit the road. Because I gain an hour from the time-zone change going back, I’m back home before the kids are asleep, and I help my sweet wife tuck them in.

Whew! That’s all for this summer’s conventions. I hope to see you on the road the next time around!