A little Gen Con is better than no Gen Con: Gen Con 2023 Review

We made another Gen Con this year, with Tim making his 16th straight pilgrimage (since 2007). I’ve also gone since 2007, and Deri and Mark since 2006, but we’ve each missed at least one.

I remember back when you could, you know, walk down the aisles and see the booths without throngs of people crowding the way, but those days are long gone. Some lament that, but I think Gen Con is better than ever, the king of all board gaming conventions, at least in the United States. There’s something for everyone; check that, there’s tons for everyone, and the joy is finding your own Gen Con each year you’re there, because it’s always changing.

Not only has Gen Con changed but so have we, marrying and having children and all of that.  And with that, family responsibilities prevent me from indulging in the full 5-day game fest of years’ past, and I’ve had to scale it down just the 3-day weekend.  Only this year, due to my daughter’s camp scheduling a recital that Friday afternoon, and other obligations that Sunday, I had only a 36-hour, in-and-out of Indianapolis.  Still I only rested my typical 8-9 hours total over the 2 nights, and packed in as much games content as I could.

The Crew

For me personally, this year’s Gen Con crew was one of the most interesting parts. Our group has grown to over 20, even with some of the vets like Arik and Chris P not making it this year. Most of the new crowd were Tim’s friends. Dystopia Matt (pictured above in the picture on the right, talking to his friend Andrew) also joined our group for the second straight year, bringing friends along with him. While I met everyone at least once, I have to admit I wouldn’t recognize all of 20 members of our crew if we had bumped into each other in the Dealer Hall or if they joined my Terraforming Mars tournament, but we always had plenty of people to play games with.

The story of this year’s crew started back in 2003, before any of us had gone to Gen Con. That December, Ian, a Chicago man, received a Star Wars board game from his beloved Aunt and Uncle as a Christmas gift.  He was meeting with his buddies from undergrad to play board games, as they often did around the holidays. They had other games they were going to play, but they gave this one, Star Wars Epic Duels, a shot. And then they played it again. And again.  Soon, it was all they played.  And, they met more frequently, just so they could play it.

In another area of Chicago, 2 students at Columbia College started playing the Star Wars Epic Duels game and by playing together, both got really into it. One of them, Tim, later got his new roommate, Deri, a scientist from Wales, into the game. He also introduced Deri to his friend Lydia. The other friend, Lisa, currently lives in Kansas City, where Deri also lives now.
One of Ian’s friends, John, found an online group for Epic Duels and started getting fan made content to the table like Qui-Gon and Tarkin and bounty hunters, putting the game on steroids. He started to create his own stuff. Meanwhile, Deri also found the same group, and started working with John. Before long, Tim, Deri and John were all friends, and became friends with each others’ friends. Tim and John both attended Deri’s wedding to Lydia, Deri attended Tim’s (John was out of town) and Tim attended John’s (Deri was out of town). Years after that, the 3 of them formed a rock band with the 2 other guys that Ian and John played Epic Duels with.
As mentioned, Tim, Deri and John (me) went to Gen Con this year but for the first time this year, so did Lisa. Even though we had never met, she volunteered to help out a friend of Tim’s (me) with the Terraforming Mars tournament. You might guess what happened next, but we will get to that later.

What Was New This Year

The crowd has returned.  I remarked that 2022 wasn’t quite at peak Gen Con 2019, pre-COVID level, but this year at least felt as crowded or more crowded than any year I’ve been there.  Throngs of crowds in every booth.  Bigger, more fantastical booths.  Longer lines.

The Dealer Hall

Some of those lines lasted hours, specifically the ones for Disney Lorcana. Lisa waited 3 hours the first day, and was near the cutoff when they said “No more today”.  She went back the next day for another 4-5 hours before coming away with her prize. I’ve been going to Gen Con a long time but I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything like this, with multi-hour lines on multiple days.  From my perspective, albeit based on very little time at Gen Con, mainly only Saturday, Lorcana was the story of Gen Con this year. Lisa and I got a game in, and we’ll get to that later.

Among other things in the dealer hall, I demo’d Unmatched Tales to Amaze.

Of course I’m backing this game, and nobody will believe this but a Kickstarter fulfillment has been delayed 😉  But it was great to get a tutorial.  They’ve introduced “bosses” that have a set AI and allows for cooperative play, and bravo because it’s quite a breakthrough that opens up a lot of possibilities.

Tim and I also hung out near the booth of Distilled, my current favorite game, with a full review coming soon. And, for the second time in 3 years, I photo bombed.

Behind the woman in yellow are 2 extremely handsome gentlemen. I’m the one with the Hellfire Club shirt, Tim has the hat.


Terraforming Mars

Another fine tournament, and we have a new champion in Kaelan Engholdt.  Stronghold Games continues to support our growing tournament with great prizes.

These days Kris Morris, the champion in the tournament’s first year, and his wife Taylar run things more than I do, and this year especially I could only help out on Saturday.  We sell out all 128 seats in the first hour, then a good portion of entrants don’t even bother showing up and we have empty seats.  We have to find a remedy for that.

Best of all, designer Jacob Fryxelius made the trip across the pond to his very first Gen Con.  I met him but didn’t grab a picture 🙁  He was there showing people Terraforming Mars the Dice Game, which I didn’t get a chance to play, but heard nothing but good things about from a variety of people.

Once I get the games kicked off, I have downtime, with which I generally like to play other games. With Lisa helping me out on Saturday, I figured I’d introduce her to an old favorite game of mine.

“I used to play Epic Duels with Tim,” she says.

“Oh really?” I reply.  “Well guess what I have?  And I’m glad you’ve played, because this way I don’t have to teach you.  Let’s go.”

Gen Con is where you bring out your wares.  I had my full assortment of decks and figures, up to the minute with decks from the Mandalorian’s most recent season.  I didn’t realize she really used to play the game quite a bit and even had her own copy for a while.

You can almost imagine the first time you found Geektopia or the Epic Duels Wiki, only this was a live version of it.

“What are all these decks?  Where did they come from?”

Her Bo-Katan and The Armorer beat my Fennec Shand and Cad Bane.

“Is this Han and Leia… together?”

Han and Leia and Dagobah Luke & Yoda with Force Spirit Obi-Wan totally trounced my Officer & 4 Stormies and their partner, whomever it was.  It wasn’t close.  Luke & Yoda are so, so tough.

The Games

I’ll post again with a more detailed review of a few of the games we played, but here is just a look at some of the games there:

The Miniatures and Set-Ups

I didn’t take many photos this year.  I didn’t even get to the RCA dome.

The Costumes

This is just a small sampling of what was out this year.

I’ve had some past years where I really took a lot of costume pics and everyone liked them, so I’ll aim for that next year.

More to come on the games!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *