Every year is different, every year is awesome: GenCon 2018 review

The 1670 crew had another great GenCon in 2018, with 7 of us winning tournaments, running tournaments, demoing games, meeting some of the best known game designers, and generally having a ton of fun in the best 4 days of gaming.

If you consider yourself a serious gamer and haven’t been to GenCon, let me ask you, why not?  This is literally my favorite thing each and every year. It is that much fun. The Wednesday that we arrive is the happiest day of the year, unless I’m actually having a baby (as we did this year).  The Sunday that we leave is the saddest, but is still a better day than most of the other 360.

The amazing thing about GenCon is that each one is so individual.  Every GenCon is different for every person, and each year is different than the last.  It changes as you change, but every one is awesome.

My GenCon was very different from my GenCon of 5 years ago, which was in turn very different from my GenCon 5 years before that.  I imagine it will be entirely different 5 years from now as well, but this particular one was where things start to change for me, I believe, and next year will be even more different.

The Terraforming Mars Championship

After going to GenCon for over 10 years, it’s about time I contribute.  This year, I ran the GenCon 2018 Terraforming Mars Championship, running one of my very favorite games.  Being the guy who ran the Terraforming Mars tournament made my GenCon experience very different from past years.  I had a little bit better access, for example, I got my badge without having to wait in line. I got to see Stephen Buonocore from Stronghold Games a few times, and he’s a big shot now that Stronghold is merging with Independent Cards and Games.  He also sponsored a $300 Stronghold Games shopping spree for the winner of our tournament!

The tournament kicked off well, Thursday at 1pm.  There were some rough patches, but the group finished all their games in about 2 hours and produced 4 semi-finalists.

The second group got started Friday morning at 9am, included several of my friends, and produced 4 more semi-finalists.

The third group followed at 1pm Friday and several friends returned to take another shot.  Both were successful in making the semis! It also resulted in the most terraformed-Mars I’ve ever seen in the game, and was an amazing feat for 4 players:

By the end of the day, and I believe it was the Friday 9am event, we did have one winner who couldn’t make the semi-finals on Saturday.  Within the same qualifying time slot, we had someone finish in second place by a single point, so it opened up a chance for that player to qualify for the semi-finals. I had gotten second place text messages just in case, and it worked out.

My entire Saturday consisted of running this tourney.  We started at 9am with our final qualifier:

Next, we were down to 16 semi-finalists and let them battle for the right to compete for the championship.

Finally, we got down to 4 finalists in Kris, Guillermo, Jason and Stephen.  Stephen had been with me since 9am that morning.

Ultimately, Kris Morris was our winner!  He had the benefit of outstanding organization, provided by the Broken Token.

If I’m not too busy promoting my own game next year — though I probably will be — I plan to run this tournament again, though I won’t do it without some help.  I spent about 18 hours in the tournament, plus the time coming and preparing and cleaning up and going. It also prevented me from participating as a player, but there are some good players so I was definitely a long shot anyways.  

It could have been dull for me, but my crew and I were able to find some gaming space near the tournament tables.  At other times, I introduced Terraforming Mars to new players. Other times still, I had my lunch. So, I kept busy.  The tournament dominated my entire Saturday, and generally forced me to get to bed at a reasonable hour (e.g. 2am) on Friday and Saturday night.  But did I really miss much happening after 2am? Getting my badge comp’ed, having a little better access, and most of all, having a role at my beloved GenCon were all worth it.

The Epic Duels

Good thing I brought it with me, because it was in demand!  Tim (timmerb) introduced 2 new players from New Zealand to my favorite game, and we have 2 new fans!  Grievous and Kylo Ren beat up on Obiwan & Anakin and Lando & Han. Lando had a rough game, so did Anakin.  Grievous died but not before doing a lot of damage, and Kylo was able to clean up.

The Hardware

Outside of Timmerb’s dominance of Star Wars Miniatures, I’d say we were a bit lacking this year, in large part because Terraforming Mars occupied much of our time.

Semi-finalists, Terraforming Mars:  Docmogs and Televator.  Both won games in their qualifiers to advance.

Champion, Star Wars Miniatures Championship:  Timmerb

1st or 2nd place, Star Wars Miniatures — 5 other events:  Timmerb

The Convention Hall

These photos may be from the gaming hall as well as the convention hall, but it’s all one big thing.

In this one we played Kingdom Death: Monster with the creator, and got skewered by the Black Knight in the middle.

The Black Knight slew all of us in Kingdom Death: Monster

Games, games and more games:

WWE with Orcs and Trolls. Fun!

As with most of the above photos, I don’t know what this is but it looks great.

The Food

I’m on a tight budget these days, but it’s amazing how far you can go with granola, bread, peanut butter, jelly, beef jerky, apples and dried apricots.  

Well, you can go about 4 days of breakfast and 3 days of lunch. “Dried food, good idea at a Con!” said the woman in the Cryptozoic booth. I shared a dried apricot with her.  They keep you regular — also a good idea for a Con. I didn’t spend the money on food trucks this year, saving up for caffeine and alcohol.

I will thank Bee Coffee for starting a cold brew tent outside the coffee shop and the Granite City Brewery for generally great service serving us our growlers of great beer.  I particularly enjoyed the Ukelele IPA this year, when I’ve always preferred the Northern in past years (the Northern didn’t taste as good this year).  As usual, they run out of the good brews by the end of the weekend so plan accordingly.

As for Bee, they’ve been around for 5 years, which is just under the time I’ve spent drinking, enjoying, and demanding legitimate cold brew coffee in the summer.  They do a great job with theirs, and started an outdoor, cold-brew-only tent this year, making the lines so short!  Perfect when you don’t want a latte or food (I have my own granola after all) and just need your caffeine.  Also to their credit — and this is no small thing — they had ample supply of cold brew and were never out of it when I was there.  They struggled to meet the demand of GenCon in past years, but they’ve figured it out.

The Games

So much to discuss, I’ll cover it another post.

The People

I don’t get super into the costumes and such, but there were some standouts for me.

Good use of Magic cards!

Over the course of the 5 days, I met:

Igancy Trzewiczek, designer of and others, and one of two hosts on the great Board Games Insider podcast.  I picked up Detective, the one game I had to come away with, after hearing about it on the podcast and seeing Rob Daviau give it high marks.  We discussed the World Cup, and our disappointment in the final. The other host of the podcast is Stephen Buonocore of Stronghold Games, who sponsored my tournament.  You see how everyone is connected?

Jamey Stegmeier of Stonemair games, designer of Scythe and others.  He was nice enough to let us game within his event, but we were nice enough to leave and make space for his games.  People are nice to each other at GenCon.

Adam Poots, who took us through a Kingdom Death demo.

Gil Hova, designer of Wordsy and others, and one of two hosts on the great Ludology podcast.  I met him at the Toy Fair and he’s an all around good dude and Twitter buddy.  We discussed the Friday night puppet show, which featured the talents of Stacey Gordon and others.  It had its moments but could have been better run and better organized.

Ella, “the laminating queen”.  I really just know her on Twitter but she appears to be kind of well-known in this industry and has her own YouTube channel.

Our group consisted of Timmerb, Docmogs, Televator, xcrudo, his brother Jon, Chris P, and myself.  My guy Chuck was there with Ludofact USA, blown away by his first GenCon.  Dystopia Dave didn’t make it and is jealous that I met Poots.  Dave really needs to make it GenCon next year and if you’re a gamer, so do you.

My Game

Cage Match was on display in the Ludofact USA booth, we even collected some emails!  However, the main thing is that I made a set of major changes to the game.  I made it one click-down simpler, if that makes any sense.  In doing so, I cut the game from 15-30 minutes, to 3-5 minutes, and the learning curve accordingly. The key is maintaining an authentic MMA feel, but I believe I’ve done that.  I’ll blog more about this soon.


No hardware this time around.  No opportunities!  I didn’t even get to compete in Terraforming Mars, let alone having time to compete in Puerto Rico.  I’ll be there again next year, but probably promoting Cage Match full time, or maybe even Watering Hole in addition to.  If not, I’ll be running Terraforming Mars again.  Either way, I’ll definitely be there.

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