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Geektasm

August 15th, 2009

Yesterday marked the high water mark of my geek year: my annual road trip to Gen Con Indianapolis. This gamer gathering has come a long way since I attended my first one at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside back in 1978. These days it’s one-quarter trade show, one-quarter bazaar, one-quarter costume show and one-quarter your mother’s basement.

While costumes aren’t as much of a focus there as they are at such geek gathering as the San Diego Comic Con, there were certainly enough on display. Though in some cases I wasn’t entirely sure they were costumes; a lot of folks came as “Woman Wearing Plaid Skirt Over Leggings with Skanky Top and Tattoos Covering the Rest.” I think that’s an anime character. To be sure, there were also a bunch of recognizable anime characters, as well as a smattering of superheroes, video game personalities, generic fantasy get-ups (think cloaks and/or pointy ears) and, for some reason, a guy wearing a business suit and ski mask.

I only took one costume photo, of a woman dressed as DC Comics’ mistress of magic, Zatanna. I’ll let you guess why.

Stenhsif raeppa!

I also saw far too many corsets. One example of extreme corsetting had her breasts pushed out so far that they resembled fleshy platters. Seriously, I think she had a spread of cheese and crackers up there. It looked neither comfortable nor in any way sexy.

The costumes were not my reason for being there, though. Neither were the game sessions. I can play games at home. No, I go to Gen Con for the shopping!

My first stop was the Fantasy Flight Games booth, with the express purpose of purchasing a pre-release copy of the “Pegasus” expansion for the Battlestar Galactica boardgame. They must’ve been able to see it in my eyes, as they handed me a copy without my even asking. I also snagged their Bag of Cthulhus, because, hey, bag of Cthulhus!

Really, Fantasy Flight seems to be the centerpiece of the Gen Con dealers’ room these days. Their space was huge, packed high with stacks of colorful, expensive boardgames, and buzzing with demonstration tables. Meanwhile, Wizards of the Coast, makers of Dungeons & Dragons, might as well have put up a sign saying “We don’t really care anymore.” While they weren’t stuck in a corner as they were last year, they had only a few, sparsely-attended demo tables. Furthermore, even though there are several new D&D products coming to stores any moment now, they only brought a small supply that sold out right away. It’s strange to think that D&D used to be the wheel around which all of Gen Con revolved.

In the background you can see monsters from the new Empire of the Apes and Ubercorp factions.With my one “gotta” purchase out of the way, I started making the rounds. Privateer Press didn’t have any new Monsterpocalypse promotional figures this year, but I bought the strategy guide and map pack for the latest expansion of their giant monsters wargame. They did have a nifty diorama of MonPoc figures, including some of the new factions that will debut this fall. I’m especially looking forward to the Tritons (subs and sea monsters) and the Empire of the Apes (gorillas with jet packs!).

I always buy at least one game without a prior demonstration, and this year it was The Isle of Doctor Necreaux from Alderac. I’m not really a fan of “cooperative” games (ones in which the players team up to defeat the game’s mechanics), but I am a fan of pulp sci-fi.

Alderac also had a really slick-looking Raiders of the Lost Ark pastiche called The Adventurers, with a group of pulp heroes invading a trap-infested labyrinth. I didn’t watch the demo long enough to get a sense of the gameplay, but it’s definitely on my radar when it hits retail.

Another game that piqued my interest, if not my wallet, was Shootin’ Ladders: Frag Fest, which is a videogame-inspired battle royale played out on a Chutes and Ladders board. The same company, Smirk and Dagger, previously released a similarly-ultraviolent version of Candy Land called Run For Your Life, Candyman! It was the end of the day and I was down to just the last of my food money, so I left it for another day.

The only other complete game I purchased was Vapor’s Gambit, a “hoverboard racing” challenge. I gather that it’s not very good, as Troll & Toad was clearing out a huge stack of them for a buck apiece. But, as my wife has pointed out, I would take a piece of shit* if they were giving it away for free. For a buck, it was worth it for the pieces.

Mostly I go to Gen Con for the individual miniatures, random bargains and odd gamer paraphenalia. I didn’t buy as many dice as usual, but I did get a “carved,” Cthulhu-themed 20-sided die, as well as a giant, inflatable 20-sider. Then there was the plush baby Adipose from Doctor Who. (The Adipose are aliens composed entirely of fat collected from unsuspecting human donors, but they sure are cute!)

I ran into several gamers I know, including my good friend (and former Urbana-ite) Chris Dinkins. We met over a bin of D&D miniatures, and he helped me dig through the heap to find several _______ figures (name withheld because my gamer group will have to fight them one day soon). Chris and I had a nice, long chat.

All in all, it was a good trip. People didn’t seem too cranky, and I found the aisles easy enough to navigate once I ditched the ridiculously-large Fantasy Flight Games sack. (Still, people, leave your babies at home!) I only got into one potential scuffle, with an overzealous convention volunteer who kept insisting that I go all the way around the auction area to the official exit when I was standing five feet from my checked backpack. It was the only game I actually played yesterday, but I am pleased to say that I won that round.

*Correction: Vic tells me that what she actually says is that I would take a hot turd if it was free.

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