Aug 13

Gen Con: A Beginner’s Guide Part Three


Welcome back for the third installment of, A Beginner’s Guide to Gen Con.  In the first part of the series I explained how determining what type of nerd you are will help with formulating the best plan for a successful Gen Con, and then offered examples of various arch-types to which you may belong.  In the second part of the series I explained how the amount of resources you have can affect the choices available to you at Gen Con and helped you determine roughly where you rank in this department.  In the third part of the series, I will offer specific recommendations for each type of nerd at each level of resources.  So, without further ado, let us get to it!

Bruce Banner/Hulk Resources:

Modern Board Game Geek:  Of the various nerd types, this one has an excellent chance to flourish at Gen Con even with limited resources.  While there are literally thousands of board game, or hobby games if you prefer, events in which to participate there are also numerous opportunities to play many great games for free!  All throughout the exhibit hall, you can demo games of all types for no charge and even sometimes be taught by the designer.  However, the exhibit hall is only open from 10am-6pm on the first three days of the con and from 10am-4pm on Sunday as such you will have to find something to do while it is closed.  Being that you are on a Hulk level budget, it is likely that you are only attending one day and that day is probably Saturday, so you will want to find things to do after 6pm.  Hands down, the best advice I can give is go to the Rio Grande Games room!  The wonderful owner of Rio Grande Games rents an entire room, provides numerous copies of their most popular/newest games for free play, helpful volunteers to teach you how to play them, and even food three times a day!  Board gaming Valhalla?  I think so!

By following this course of action, you will be able play board games from 10 in the morning until midnight, be taught those games by volunteers, eat catered food, and do it all for the low low price of free!  A Hulk plan if there ever was one.

CCG Warrior:  Ok, this one is a tough one!  CCGs, by their very nature tend to be resource gobbling machines and it is very difficult to be involved in organized play on a Hulk level budget.  However, as you are a hardcore CCG Warrior, it is safe to assume that you are fairly skilled, and already posses a fairly extensive collection.  If you are absolutely broke, you can always sell cards to one of the numerous dealers in the exhibit hall and use that cash to play in events.  Off the record, and I do not recommend doing this, you can occasionally sell to other players directly and earn some much-needed cash to play in events.  It is against the rules, but I assure you, it does happen and fits in quite well with  the outlaw nature of the Hulk.  Secondly, if you are as good as you think you are, there are a number of cheap booster drafts if magic happens to be your game and you may be able to rare draft and still win the whole thing.  This will lead to more cards that allow you to steam roll into even more events and make for a fun time!

Sorry, but that is about the best I can offer on a micro budget for this particular brand of nerdhood.  Besides, if you scrub out there is always, social play and trading opportunities galore.

Role Playing Hero:  One of the best things about role-playing games is that they take place mostly inside ones imagination and therefore require only a minimal investment to enjoy.  Likewise, at Gen Con, the role-playing events are often among the most cost-effective from a ticket to hours played ratio point of view.  If one has even a small amount of cash it is possible to play in a couple of events and for only ten dollars total and fill an entire day.  However, if one is not married to a particular system, it is possible to play all day for free.  There are events listed that are free to play demos such as:  Anointed:  Mantle of the Gods, New Gods of Mankind, or the Mesa Mundi touch table Dungeon Crawl and if none of these are to your liking, there are often role-playing games being demoed in the exhibit hall as well!

Remember, you are an adventure seeking hero on a budget.  Be adventurous enough to branch out and you will be able to have a great time while spending almost no money!

Warlord of the Minis:  What can I tell you?  As a Warlord of the Minis I am sure you are well aware of the cost to participate in this hobby.  It is virtually impossible to be a miniatures gamer on this small of a budget, but here are some suggestions:  Exhibit Hall demos for as much of the day as possible, Malifaux demo event, and finding an empty table for casual play with a friend if you brought your own army.

I know this is not much to go on, but the good news is that if you are a minis gamer it is highly unlikely that you have Hulk level resources and therefore will not have to sink to this lowly expression of your hobby!

Nerd Culture Diva:  For Hulk level divas there is good news and bad.  The bad news is, if your are into costuming/cosplay as a participant rather than a spectator you probably lack the funds to create a truly awesome costume worthy of the adoration/envy of your fellow geeks.  The good news is, if you are more into seeing the show rather than being the show, there are tons of very low-cost options for witnessing all manner of awesomeness!

As you will most likely only be attending on Saturday, the exhibit hall is a must.  From paid models in costumes, huge nerd themed displays, the AMAZING art gallery, and celebrity guests, the exhibit hall should be diva central for seeing loads of cool and the best part is it is all free!  Saturday is also the classic costume contest, and whether you lack the funds or are not into dressing up yourself, it is free and others will be  wearing both nerd favorites and imaginative originals!  If anime is your thing, the movies are free and there always artists and cosplayers in the hall showing off their latest work.  Lastly, you can close out your Saturday night by truly taking in the wild sights at the Dance of the Dead.  This is free to attend and runs from 9pm until 1am.  It is a huge party that does not require a costume to attend, but will most assuredly be full of intriguing sights and lots of fun!

General Hulk Level Advice:  Parking is brutal.  This leaves two reasonable options:  park far enough away that it is free and walk in, or carpool with as many friends as you can pack in one vehicle to defray the cost.  Neither are great options, but both do keep costs down.

For food, consider bringing a cooler or an insulated lunch box.  I know it is not cool, but the cheap food around Gen Con is not really that cheap.  As you have very little money, and probably only one day, it is worth the time and money saved to bring some food of your own.  Dry rations are perfectly acceptable in this instance!

Lastly, and mentioned in all of the specific areas, exhibit hall, exhibit hall, exhibit hall.  It is the low-budget secret to Gen Con.  Whatever your interests you should be able to find something to cater to it in the exhibit hall and have several fun-filled hours.

Peter Parker/Spiderman Resources:

It is important to note that all recommendations for the Hulk level are still applicable for the Spiderman level of resources.  They are simply good options that happen to be low-cost, but are excellent choices period.

Modern Board Game Geek:  Now that we have entered Spiderman level resources and it is likely that you will be attending most or all of Gen Con you will need to branch out a little from the Exhibit Hall and Rio Grande Games Room.  There are two particularly good options available:  The Mayfair Games Room and The Board Game Library.  The Mayfair Games Room is not free like Rio Grande, but they do have a massive selection of their games available for rental and limited instruction from volunteers.  This is an excellent option because it is cheap, runs all con long, lets you accommodate virtually any number of friends or family, and allows for the collection of Settlers of Catan resources badges.  Collection of a full set allows the purchase of a Mayfair game at a discount in the exhibit hall.   You get to test out games to see if you like them and this works towards purchasing one you like at a discount.  Nice!!

The Board Game Library is a slightly different animal.  While I have no wish to get into any flame wars regarding the old library vs the new library and which one is better (I believe the old one was much better) it is still a good option to consider if you want a guaranteed seat and access to a huge selection of games.  You do have to purchase a block of time for the day or evening that you wish to attend, but it is an excellent way to meet up with friends and play classics that may not have scheduled events.

CCG Warrior:  Stretching your still somewhat limited resources over four days can be tough for the CCG Warrior.  One way is to engage in long events like larger tournaments or daily leagues.  Magic and Kaijudo are running these leagues for sealed or constructed.  The constructed is cheaper and for every match you play in a day you win a card.  I am sure they are nothing spectacular, but you will be rewarded for playing all day long!  Yu-Gi-Oh is running regional tournament qualifiers, so this is an opportunity to play in one event to win your way into the big show.  If you happen to be an old-school samurai and still play Legend of the Five Rings, they will be running story line tournaments all weekend.  All of these events are good ways to soak up lots of time with just a few entry fees.

Role Playing Hero:  For the Role-playing Hero few things change at this level of resources.  There are events for every game under the sun being run all day everyday and for minimal money you can play in several long events.  However, I would recommend trying to schedule them around the hours that the exhibit hall is open as that is free gaming and often bonus swag!  There are tons of events for D&D, Pathfinder, Werewolf the Apocalypse, Call of Cthulhu, and literally every role-playing game that you can imagine.  Given the imaginations of Role Playing Heroes, that is something to be impressed by!

Warlord of the Minis:  At this level of resources you probably are heavily into one or maybe two games and have standing armies to bring with you.  However, this mustering of forces likely does not leave you with a lot of money for events and as such you may still be running your Gen Con logistics on a shoe string budget.  One of the best ways to participate in long events, and thus keep down entry fees.  There are Blood Bowl, War Machine, HeroClix, Warhammer (40k), and all manner of historical battle systems that one can find tournaments in which to participate.  I would recommend playing in the tournaments of your favorite system and demoing in the exhibit hall when there is not a schedule conflict to maximize your fun and minimize expenses to help ensure you have an awesome Gen Con!

Nerd Culture Diva:  At the Spiderman level, the Nerd Culture Divas will likely diverge into two directions.  The costumers have enough money to have at least  one worthy suit and will head to the costume contest to be judged and adored!  The observers will have enough cash to look  for a few cool collectibles to acquire.

Costumers that are not currently involved in a contest should linger in or around the exhibit hall due the vast number of photo-op that present themselves.  Skeletor with a Ghostbuster?  Yep!  Dr. Doom being requested to strangle a fan?  Yep! (You know who you are.)  Darth Vader posing with that even greater master of evil, Pikachu?  Yep!  All of this goodness goes down in the hallway outside the exhibit hall all con, but especially on Saturday. If being seen is your goal this is the place to be!

Observers will want to check out the costumers and get pictures of course, but other goodies are to be had in the exhibit hall.  Spidermen struggle some with money, so you will not be able to purchase every awesome thing that you see(possibly a good thing), but there is a very good chance to find that one amazing nerd culture item that makes your world light up.  Even if you can not buy everything, just seeing it can be almost as good.  I know there are t-shirts and posters I have seen in years past that I still remember with a smile whenever I think about them!  Find that hidden treasure or one elusive collectible you have been chasing for years and make a memory for the ages!

General Spiderman Level Advice:  Bearing in mind that all Hulk advice also remains applicable, there are a few other hints to help with surviving Gen Con on a budget.

Learn to drink water.  I know, Monster Bull Dew gives you wings and all that, but unless you are smuggling them in from home expect to pay two to three dollars per at least.  There are free water dispensers all around the convention center and I highly recommend them.

The food courts at the Hyatt or in Circle Center Mall are viable eating options if you are not brown bagging it.  There is a McDonalds, Subway as well as the other usual suspects for mall food.  It is not the cheapest or the best, but it is available and far better than the crap in the convention center itself.  I would strongly recommend against buying or eating anything in the convention center as the price and quality leaves quite a bit to be desired.

Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible Resources:

So the time has finally come when you have acquired a relatively stable lifestyle and money is far less an object than in the past.  Sure it is still fun to laugh about the good old days when you were a Hulk and the time you slept in the halls of the convention center or maybe even tried to invent a new day called Saturnday, but those days are long gone.

Modern Board Game Geek:  While you should most certainly visit the exhibit hall, Rio Grande Games Room(Might see me there!), and the board game library, I can not strongly enough suggest trying new things at Gen Con.  At this level of resources, you probably have a pretty decent game collection at home that is stocked with well-known classics and the occasional oddball gem.  Don’t be afraid to branch out.  Leave your comfort zone and try games that you may never play again and likely will not purchase.  You can afford the events and never know when you will find a game that is completely off of your beaten path, but makes for a fun experience.  I can play standards and classics all the time at home, but at Gen Con things like Trailer Park Wars, Wits and Wagers, Run for Your Life Candyman!, and Nuns on the Run are a blast to give a try and now and then you find a keeper!

While I do preach branching out, another method that I suggest is to have a board game bucket list.  Go to Gen Con with some specific games in mind that you have always wanted try, and look for them!  Some these may fall into categories that are your normal stomping grounds, but finally running down that game or games you have been longing to play can make for a memorable con.  In years past I have tracked down the following games that were on my bucket list:  Dune, El Grande, Conquest of the Empire, The Princes of Florence, Acquire, and RoboRally and now all but Dune and El Grande reside in my collection!

Mix and match these two philosophies and rest assured, you will have a con that is fun, fulfilling, and one to remember!

CCG Warrior:  Time to decide if all you want to do at Gen Con is play your chosen game or try new things.  If branching out the exhibit hall is the place to go for demos in new games and opportunities to acquire cards and swag free of charge.  However, you are more likely to be at Gen Con on a mission to crush as many opponents as possible in your chosen game.  If this is the case, there are Magic the Gathering tournaments of all sizes and prizes running 24 hours a day at the con.  I would bring constructed decks for all formats and enter as many of these as possible.  There are numerous “Win a Box” tournaments being run that are 8 person, single elimination events.  They are $16 to play and if you are on a roll it would be possible to crush out $16 boxes all con long!

If your are playing a non- Magic CCG, fear not as they are running countless events for almost every CCG ever published!

Important tip:  If you plan to grind all day everyday I strongly suggest playing limited during the day and constructed at night.  Limited requires numerous pre-game decisions to be made, as well as creative solutions to problems with limited resources that a tired brain is not prepared to deal with.  In constructed, if you have built a death machine of a deck in advance, there are times that you can play on cruise control and still roll to an easy win!

Role Playing Hero:  This is the point where the Role Playing Heroes tend to max out.  If you stick to pen and paper,  this level really just means more of a good thing.  Keep doing what you were doing at lower levels and do even more of it.  However, if you are a Role Playing Hero with a little Nerd Culture Diva mixed in there are even greater adventures that one may explore.  LARP and True Dungeon, are role-playing games taken to the next level.

In LARP, or live action role-playing, players become their character.  Costumes, accents, weaponry, make up, and theatrics are all part of the thrill for LARPers.  Whatever genre you happen to be into, there are live action events being run at Gen Con.

True Dungeon, is similar to LARP, but all of the accessories are optional.  What is not optional, is that the system is very similar to Dungeons and Dragons and takes place is very cool constructed settings.  I have never done True Dungeon myself, but I have friends who have and they assure me that it is quite awesome.  It does, however, come with a hefty price tag of  $44 dollars for two hours of adventure.  All I can tell you for sure is that I have been told it is well worth it, and I plan to give it a try next year.  If you can gather a party of like-minded friends with sufficient resources you may just have an adventure that none of you will forget!

Warlord of the Minis:  At this point, much like the CCG Warrior, if you came to dominate in your one or two games and have the armies to do so, carry on soldier.  However, if you play any of the miniature games supported by WhizKids, they are running countless events that are sealed, or sealed/constructed hybrids.  Who can possibly question your superior generalship if you lead a rag-tag force to glory instead of your normal band of merry marauders?  Besides, even if you are somehow defeated (unlikely) you walk away with product!

Nerd Culture Diva:  Most of the remaining options for you Divas depend on how much gamer there is in your blood.  As mentioned above, LARPing seems like a natural path for the costumers to take.  Why just look like your favorite character when you can BE your favorite character!

For the divas who like to game and have a little of the collector bug in your nature, there is the Gen Con game auction.  One never knows what rare treasures might be found on the auction block or what amazing bargains may be had!  With print runs as small as they are on some great games this may be the only way to get your hands on that holy grail item that will make your friends green with envy.  Lets be honest, that is what it is really about isn’t it?

General Mr. Incredible Advice:  With this level of resources you can start to look at meals as more of a pleasure than a strain.  For the young and hip out there, I hear food trucks are all the rage and Gen Con has quite a few that gather for the duration of the Con.  They carry a bit of everything and having their variety close at hand can be a nice feature.  They are not cheap, but fairly tasty and near by..

Indy also has a number of good restaurants and bar and grill joints not to far from Gen Con.  The Ram and Scotty’s Brewhouse are quality joints that get into the spirit with Gen Con events and game themed menus and beverages.  Good food and geek themes equal good times!

Bruce Wayne/Batman Resources:

This is without a doubt the top of the nerd pyramid in terms of resources.  Nothing is off the table and only the finest events and accommodations will do for the Batmen among us.  The truth is that there are very few events that require this kind of money, but a few posibilites are available and if they tickle a Batman’s fancy then he should go for it!

Modern Board Game Geek:  There are not really any events for the board gamer that require this kind of money.  There is one purchase that a Modern Board Game Geek with these kind of resources could make that would be a dream come true.  A company called Geek Chic sells the absolute highest quality of gaming tables that I have ever seen.  Hand crafted from beautiful hard wood and made to order to fit the needs and dreams of whatever your gaming heart desires.  Ranging in price from about $2,500 to $17,000, these tables are absolutely drool worthy.  Truly the gaming tables of Bruce Wayne!

CCG Warrior:  Buy a bunch Black Lotuses in the dealer’s hall and set on them for two years.  I am only halfway joking as it seems like this is about the only sure thing investment out there these days.  As far as events go, this is the 20th anniversary of Magic the Gathering’s release at Gen Con 1993 and a special tournament is being held!  There are 8 qualifiers for the main event, which will be settled with a draft made up of cards from every set in the history of Magic the Gathering.  Winning the main event will earn the player fame, glory, and one booster pack from every set ever produced!  Pretty sweet right?  I am sure plenty of other warriors feel the same way and as you must win one of the feeder tournaments you may have to play in more than one to succeed in qualifying for the big show.  At $30 a pop, this is where the high level of resources may become a necessity.  If it doesn’t work out, you can always make your money back by investing in Black Lotuses.

Role Playing Hero:  While not as extreme as the Geek Chic tables (great for you too!) you have one extra gaming option to give a try.  I mentioned true Dungeon at the Mr. Incredible level and what it costs.  As I understand it, there are varying levels of difficulty for True Dungeon.  Most seem to have a decent chance of making it through and having a full gaming experience.  However, there are events that have the option to be run on nightmare level.  These events explicitly warn players to not join if they are not prepared to die quickly.  Imagine that!  True adventure, for those willing to gamble $44 dollars on their ability to survive in a True Dungeon!  Too much of risk for gamers with lesser resources, but how exciting for someone with Bruce Wayne money.  How satisfying would it be to make it through a nightmare level adventure?  Truly an opportunity to perform deeds of legend!

Warlord of the Minis:  Did I mention the Geek Chic tables?  Awesome furniture on which to wage your endless battles, and sure to make you the envy of Napoleon, Alexander, and Patton.

While there are not really any high dollar entry fee miniatures game events (You spent your cash on armies upfront) there are some non-gaming events that may be up your alley.  There are a great deal of classes regarding the painting, molding, sculpting, and modeling of battlefields and your armies.  These events run about $25 dollars each and one could drop a couple hundreds of bucks in no time, but I imagine the skills that you can obtain from these instructors are priceless.  Remember, crushing your enemies is great, but it is even better to crush your enemies and look good doing it!

Nerd Culture Diva:  About the only need you have for Batman level resources is if you plan to come in through the roof in full utility belt and Batsuit glory!  If you plan to do this, please please please let me know when and where.  While I am not a Nerd Culture Diva per se, there is no way that I am missing that!

If you are not in fact making a Batman entrance there are still a few interesting options available to you.  The annual Zombie walk takes place at 8:00 pm on Friday and will be filled with all manner of wretched shambling undead monsters.  If you want to participate, obviously you can afford to bring a great costume of your own, but you can also pay one of the many fine artists in the exhibit hall to do some first class zombie make-up for you.  I am not sure what the going rate to be transformed into a hideous zombie is, but I have seen some of their work in years past and it is great!  Go all in for the zombie apocalypse at Gen Con and scare the crap out of the norms in downtown Indy with your horrific visage!

To the Nerd Diva who loves the sci-fi shows that fuel our imaginations and the wonderful actors and actress that bring our fantasies to life, I have a treat for you.  Gen Con is welcoming a number of Media Special Guests that will be available for autographs at $30 each.  In attendance will be the following:

Peter Davison is a British actor best known for his role as the Fifth Doctor in the BBC television series “Doctor Who” during the 1980s. He reprised this role for the 2007 Children In Need charity special “Doctor Who: Time Crash” alongside son-in-law David Tennant, the Tenth Doctor.

Janina Gavankar  Already a favorite of the devoted fans of her two earlier series, The L Word and The Gates, Janina’s role in True Blood as shape-shifter Luna is the talk of the Trubies.

Neil’s credits include: a series regular role as ‘Alec,’ the mouth-breather, on FOX’s critically acclaimed dramedy Wonderfalls and his Leo Award nominated performance for his portrayal of ‘Martin,’ the stoic sous-chef in CTV’s dramedy Godiva’s. Selected guest star roles include: The CW’s Smallville and Supernatural, as well as CBS’ The Dead Zone.

Neil Grayston  American audiences best know Neil Grayston for his leading role as ‘Douglas Fargo’ for five seasons on the hit series, Eureka. Eureka is the second highest rated show on the SyFy Channel and was nominated by TV Guide for the “Fan Favorite Award.” Neil’s character, ‘Douglas Fargo’ appeared in a crossover arc on SyFy’s #1 show, Warehouse 13.

Last but not least, it is Chekov himself.  Yes that is right…

Walter Koenig  performed the part of Chekov in the Star Trek tv program and motion pictures and had the recurring role of Bester in the Babylon 5 series. He’s authored three books including his autobiography “Warped Factors”.His television writing credits include among others “Class of 65”, “ “Land of the Lost” and the animated Star Trek.

Dump some loot, get some autographs, and fawn over some geek celebrities!

General Bruce Wayne Advice:  Enjoy some truly fine dining with any of the top-notch near by restaurants.  St. Elmo’s is an Indianapolis landmark and is generally regarded as one of our finest restaurants.  In the same vein and near by are: Dunaway’s, Shula’s, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and the Eagles Nest.  If you like good food and have the money to spare, there is no way you will be disappointed in any of these establishments.

My only other advice is to look in to the VIG (Very Important Gamer) program next year.  It offers all manner of extra perks and special treatment befitting your status as an alpha member of the nerd community!

In Closing:  Whatever your brand of geekery or the level of resources that you have to pursue said obsessions it is once again time for Gen Con at long last!  I sincerely hope that this series has been a helpful guide to you either for this Gen Con, future cons, or at least somewhat entertaining to read.  May all of your board gaming, adventuring, costuming, conquering, and competing be everything you have hoped for over the course of the last year and most of all, welcome to Gen Con Indy!



  1. Great as always, and yes I know who I am.

    • on August 14, 2013 at 7:03 AM

    Do you? There are some who seem to think that you are me…

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