Chad Goes Conning: Gencon 2019 Review!

chachachad 1

Hey kids!

Welcome to my Gencon 2019 experience!

The view from the top…floor.

This has been a busy summer, filled with all kinds of conventions for yours truly. It started when the Ghosts of the Stratosphere had our own table and guested on a panel at 3 Rivers Con. Not only did we have a ton of fun, but we raised cash for charity. I had never been on a panel; and I can’t stress how much fun I had running our own table with the spinny wheel and all the ridiculousness. Then, attended the Wizard World Comicon as press, and we got to headline Friday night with a panel of our own. We made some great contacts and had the opportunity to perform in front of a studio audience. Now I was at Gencon, one of the biggest gaming conventions of the year, this time, not with my Stratosphere cronies as press or featured guests, but as a hired hand, helping a buddy hold down his booth.

My buddy Kip, the other hired hand booth builder and keeper overer watches the booth as I horse around taking pictures!

Each type of convention role has its own challenges and rewards, but I will be the first to admit the hired hand one is the most gruelling, but also the most financially rewarding. I actually take money home from this one :-). 3 Rivers split any cash between podcast expenses and charitable donations, and Wizard cost quite a bit after factoring in trade paperback and dollar bin issue expenditures.

Gencon is traditionally a safer bet for me, primarily because I don’t consider myself to be much of a gamer. Plus, the challenge of setting up and tearing down the booth in the specific time frame is always an adventure.

This is not my first Gencon working with the fine folks from

I can still remember my first show a few years back. One of the first rules of working a booth is that you actually have to be at the booth–for customers and whatnot. So, aside from the occasional bathroom break or lunch run, I’m traditionally tied to the booth the majority of the time. That’s not a bad thing at all, as working booths is pretty fun. You get to interact with tons of folks, see all the cosplayers passing by, and play a game I call “Got that t-shirt. Want that t-shirt. Nope, not my t-shirt.” Generally, it’s not a bad way to spend a few days. But the view doesn’t change all that much.

It’s better than the cosplayers, who get locked inside this mime-like prison outside the exhibition hall!

Occasionally, I can trade sides of the booth for a different view, but then that one can only change back to the view from the other side of the booth, you get the point. When the show runs four days (five if you count set up days/ 8 bajillion if you count travel/setup/teardown/travel/questioningmylifechoices, etc). My first show, I practically begged my pal to cover for me so I could wander the show floor for an hour or two. Finally, on the last day of the show, the crowds had slowed and the opportunity opened up. I was so excited! Then, I left the booth, turned the corner to go down the middle aisle and immediately ran headfirst into a fart cloud. Ugh! Then, another fart cloud three feet later. There were too many other people clogging the aisles to escape! Then, fart cloud after fart cloud after fart cloud… It’s like people were legitimately trying to pass gas in front of every booth. Within a few minutes, I went back dejectedly to our booth, tears in my eyes and farty air everywhere—afraid to ever leave again.

But Gencon is a big deal. For folks in the gaming industry and their fans, this is their San Diego Comicon–except this show actually is about gaming where SDCC increasingly has less and less to do with comics. Companies debut new games, advertise products, and sometimes drop a significant percentage of their promotional capital in one long weekend in Indianapolis every year. A certain population of gamers will spend the majority of their gaming budgets in that long weekend, too.

And as much as I consider myself not a hardcore gamer, I’ve started to appreciate the fun and spectacle of Gencon and even get roped in to an extent. Each year, I try to use more and more time to get a full Gencon experience, and it’s definitely grown on me. I started with exploring the hall more after exhibitor hours, and seeing things like the balloon statues or the card towers outside the convention halls. Then, I started actually playing some of the games. Exploding Kittens, Smash Up and Wizkids Pirates line are all personal favorites at this point. Two of those games still put out new expansions or sister games, and the other has so many sub-lines, so each year I find something new to add to the collections.

So many different Pirates! Available at!

This year was no different, as I was able to pick up Smash Up! International Incident and Throw Throw Burrito from the makers of Exploding Kittens. I even added a few packs of Pirates, too, thanks to the fine folks at Hill’s Wholesale Gaming!

I do a lot of free advertising for the kittens folk, and they didn’t even pay for my trip!

This year, I stumbled into some of the gaming display rooms. My buddy and I basically got a private tour of Funko’s new Funkoverse game, which looks awesome!

Here I am, hanging with giant Funko Robin.

I can’t wait to play a game that involves both Batman and Blanche from the Golden Girls at the same time! Then,I stumbled into a crafting room and made some paper art, and I even walked past Billy Mitchell from King of Kong fame while perusing the arcade. I’m not a fan of that guy. Fun movie, though.

Speaking of movies, there’s now a blockbuster game, which comes in a VHS-sized case. I can’t tell if the display made me happy or just miss Blockbuster.

One thing that’s awesome about Gencon is the experience itself. Buying a game from the folks at Exploding Kittens is much different than just hitting the Buy button on Amazon. You approach a giant Cat-box and make your selections and there’s quite the spectacle.

I respect the ridiculousness of this cat box.

You can even tack on some random things for $1. In years past, I’ve gotten Exploding Kitten taco sauce, sunglasses, and a mug (thanks to bribing their kitten box–cats care not for your people-based moral business practices).

This year, I tried twice. The first time, I did not bribe the box, and I ended up getting my new game that I paid for, a unspooled role of toilet paper, a plunger, a feather duster, and a pool noodle. My hope of getting cheap souvenirs for friends may have been jettisoned for hilarious ridiculousness. I’m not saving the unspooled tp for Andy or Stew, but it was funny at the time.

The second time, I tried bribing the giant cat machine.

It handed me back my bribe! 😮

Then, they made me wait. The purr-occessing time took double, maybe even triple a normal transaction. There were a lot of little pinwheels involved.

This pic is from the first time. I was too nervous to take a pic the second time after they spit out my bribe!

After the hearty wait, the box produced a watermelon and two lemons, each with “exploading kittens” written on them. I can’t spell souvenirs; the catbox slips on exploding. It’s a giant cat box; no one is going to judge. I laughed and figured I got what I deserved (maybe moreso once you factor in the going rates for fruit!). They actually took the time to grab a Sharpie and scribble exploding kittens on that fruit to fulfil my wish anyway. I thanked the machine, and as I turned to head back to the booth, I got pelted in the back of the head with three tiny boxes.

I regret not getting a picture by a regular box for scale before I gave these away!

How cool is that? They actually sent out three copies of Exploding Kittens: TFC Edition, a.k.a. The Tiny Freakin’ Cards Edition. My family and my in-laws are huge Exploding Kittens fans. (Stay tuned for next week, as the in-laws actually helped me try Throw Throw Burrito for my upcoming review!) Many a game night has been filled with rowdy exploding get togethers. Of course, that means, I’m constantly replacing the cards in my meowing kickstarter box with new cards because the fam is constantly bending and destroying them. Small price to pay. Now, that price will be even smaller with the teeny tiny cards! The Exploding Kittens booth won the day at Gencon that day.

Ha! Fooled you! One of the souvenirs was for my wife, who is asleep right now, not noticing me borrowing her game.

Other highlights include heading past the Spinmaster booth to discover there’s a new Sinister Six game, which I had to pick up.

First they teased me with this, then had the game delivered halfway through Friday.

I didn’t realize that thanks to Gencon, I got an additional character (Hobgoblin) and basically the blueprint to make whatever characters I want (cough, Sinister Foes version of the Sinister Six–even though there were only five of them–coming up, cough). Were I not working, I could have met the game designer, too.

I don’t think this guy is the designer, but he is sitting in his spot!

Of course, had I played the game, I could have asked him my one burning rule-based question that I’m currently working on. Oh well, that’s for another time or another Gencon!

Meanwhile, at the AEG booth, I snagged an expansion for Smash Up, and I ended up getting a VIP Pass, which amounted to free pins. Pins are cool.

The real highlight for me were the dinners–not an official part of Gencon proper, but part of the deal for working the booth. There are some reeeeaaaallly nice dinners. Places that wouldn’t let me kind though the doors, were it not in the middle of the giant gaming convention invading Indianapolis. At that point, I’m par for the course. The other highlight was laughing as my buddy restocked the booth and got slammed by one of the aforementioned fart clouds. I held back my laughter as I saw the tears in his eyes form as he knew he was trapped on the floor. It’s funny when it happens to someone else. At least until the smell reaches your own nose. Then, you get tears of your own. Gotta watch out and hold your breath for whatever excitement awaits at Gencon! If we hold our collective breath long enough to make it up and down the aisles, we might just turn into gamers after all!

So that’s my boothside review of Gencon. Exploding Kittens booth: good. Pirate ships made from credit card material you can order from cool. New game stuff: alright alright alright. Fart clouds: no, thank you. Fancy steak dinners: yes, please. Overall Gencon experience: fun, even with the hard work parts and the farts again. I’m happy for cons like this so everybody can feel like they have a place, even if they are a bunch a stinkers sometimes. Heck, I even found some cool comic related games, too. So overall it’s a win for all involved!

Until the next con, I’ll be resting up and hoping I don’t smell like a convention after all of these events this summer!


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