How to Get Me to Your Con

There are more game conventions and events than any one person or company could possibly attend each year. There are some that are must-gos for Green Ronin, like GenCon and GAMA Trade Show. Other than those bedrock shows, the cons I attend vary from year to year. I’ve never gone into how these decisions are made and a recent Facebook thread made it clear to me that people have some misconceptions. Let me clarify a few things.

First, I love to travel. Game industry wages being what they are, I don’t have the money for many actual vacations. Conventions then provide a great way to see more of the world. I can do a one day show in London like Dragonmeet and then have a few days to enjoy the city. My best overseas trip (a week in Finland) was thanks to the amazing Ropecon. So traveling for me? Not a hardship.

So what does it take to get me to your convention? Three things:
1) A plane ticket.
2) A hotel room.
3) A date that works with my schedule. I do have to spend time at home writing and running the company, so I can’t do everything, as much as I’d like to.

The following aren’t required but they are big plusses:
1) An interesting location, particularly if its overseas.
2) One or more locals to show me around. Always better than a guidebook.
3) Good food, particularly local cuisine I can’t get every day in Seattle.

And that’s it really. I don’t have speakers fees. I don’t demand you pick all the cashews out of the nut assortment or that you remove all the red M&Ms from the candy dish. My most outrageous demands would be a chance to play some games and trips to nearby museums or historical sites.

In short, if you’d like me to come to your con, ask me! Nicole will usually come with me if possible, so really you get two Ronins for the price of one.

And Poland, China, Australia, Japan, and the Czech Republic? Call me. 🙂

25 GenCons Later…

It is strange to think that I’ve just come back from my 25th GenCon in a row. There are few things in my life I have done as consistently as attend GenCon. I’m not really certain at which point going was just something I took for granted. The 10 year mark maybe? That year, 1999, I was working at Wizards of the Coast and it seemed I had “made it” in the game industry. If not that year then certainly by 2002, when it was clear that Green Ronin was going to be much more than a short-lived side project.

Here I am playing a minis game at GenCon, 1990.

Here I am playing a minis game at GenCon, 1990.

I’ve written about my first GenCon before, so I won’t repeat all that here. It is funny to think about that first year and how I literally knew no one at the show though. Now I just don’t have enough GenCon to catch up with all the friends that attend each year, but that first time I was on my own. In a way I miss that freedom. I just did whatever I wanted for four days. I didn’t have to worry about running a booth or having meetings or pleasing anybody but myself. I just played a lot of games, spent hours in the auction, and attended seminars. These days there are certain cons I go to just for fun and I try to recapture some of that magic there. Here’s the thing though: there is no con like GenCon. Not for gamers. And that’s as true now as it ever was.

So how was my GenCon. It was…good. It wasn’t a stand out year, but I had a fun time. Green Ronin had two new books for the show: the Icons RPG and Gadget Guides for Mutants & Masterminds. Icons: The Assembled Edition was the clear hit. There was much interest and we sold a bunch. We did not, sad to say, have Dragon Age Set 3 there. The printers just could not do it in time, which was disappointing to me and many people who came by our booth looking for it. We did host a puzzle for the Dragon Age egg hunt, which was cool. This is something I’ve been working on with Mike Selinker’s Loan Shark Games. Basically, Mike and his team make the puzzles and I provide the Dragon Age lore. This is a year long event that’s happening at multiple conventions.

Most of my con was spent working the Green Ronin booth. I like to be there as much as possible, so people can find me easily. I did four seminars, took a bunch of meetings, and did many interviews. I usually try to set aside a couple of hours on Sunday to walk the exhibit hall and see what other companies are up to. This year I had a flurry of last minute interview requests so I only got 15 minutes to walk around right at the end. That was good for my wallet, as I did not have time to pick up much stuff, but I do wish I had had more time. This may be the first GenCon ever I brought home no miniatures. Zero. Zip. Not even one. Inconceivable!

The best part of GenCon these days is seeing friends. I caught up with so many people, but still missed some folks I would like to have had a drink with. For me GenCon is sort of like a class reunion, except it’s people that I want to see (for the most part) and it happens every year. One friend has been working on a new RPG and I got to playtest it one night. That was the one bit of actual gaming I got to do and it was a good time. I can’t tell you who or what game now but I’ll be posting about when he makes it public.

I am really looking forward to next year. Not just because it’s GenCon but because we have some exciting stuff planned for 2015. We have two things getting started now that are super cool, though I can’t talk about either of them at this time. Trust me when I say, you will hear about them. Also trust me when I say that neither one of them is Mass Effect*.

Big kudos to the Green Ronin staff and volunteers for all their hard work at GenCon. Our booth crew was so efficient, in fact, that they had packed up all the books at show’s end before I pulled copies of Icons and Gadget Guides for myself! That’s OK though because we are exhibiting at PAX Prime here in Seattle next week and we’re shipping in the new books for that too. I must say, I’m not quite ready for another big, four day convention, but such is life in the game industry.

25 years of GenCon. Damn. Do I get a silver watch or d20 or something? 🙂


* I’m just throwing that out now as a matter of course, because if I say anything vague people jump right to Mass Effect. Like to do it, can’t, end of story.


My GenCon Schedule

Below you will find the list of the panels I’ll be on at GenCon. Other than these seminars, I’m most likely to be found at the Green Ronin booth (#1517) between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm. I will be ducking out for meetings and such at various points, but I try to spend as much time in the booth as I can.


10-11 am: The State of Superheroes at Green Ronin

Crowne Plaza : Victoria Stn C/D

3-4 pm: Pathfinder and Green Ronin

Crowne Plaza : Pennsylvania Stn A


12-1 pm: Emerald Spire* All-Stars

Convention Center, Room 231

* This is a Pathfinder super dungeon I wrote a chapter of for Paizo Publishing. It’s a two hour seminar but I can only be there for the first hour.

1-2 pm: What’s Up at Green Ronin Publishing?

Crowne Plaza : Conrail Stn

See you in Indy!

January Convention Appearances

January is not usually a big convention month for me, but in 2014 I’ll be a guest at two.

First is ChupacabraCon on January 17-19. This is a new convention in Austin and Green Ronin will be well-represented, with Steve Kenson and Donna Prior also in attendance. I have not been back to Austin since leaving Vigil Games (which subsequently ceased to exist when THQ went bankrupt). It’ll be nice to see friends, eat good BBQ (!), play games, and do seminars.

The following weekend, January 24-26, I’m traveling all the way to Cork, Ireland for WarpCon! I’ve heard John Kovalic and other industry pals wax enthusiastically about Irish conventions for ages and now I’m getting the chance to see for myself. This will also be my first trip to Ireland and I’m excited to visit.

My step-daughter Kate just turned 18 and she was keen to come along, so it’s going to be a family affair. Kate asked friends and family for money to fund the trip for her birthday and Xmas this year and she’s just about paid for her ticket so far. This will be her first trip to Europe and I’m glad Nicole and I can share it with her. She was quick to point out that she’s old enough to go to pubs. Funny thing is, she is not interested in drinking (she got the straight edge). She’s just happy she can come out with us (something she can’t do at bars during GenCon, for example).

If you are local to Austin or Ireland, maybe I’ll see you next month!

My GenCon Schedule

It’s that magical time of year again: GenCon! This is my 25th GenCon in a row and I still get excited every year. If you are looking to talk to me, my public schedule is below.

The easiest place to find me is the Green Ronin booth, #1703. We are right by a front entrance this year, which is great. Mornings are a good bet, but I’ll be around in the afternoon too unless I’ve got meetings or a seminar.


5 pm: A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying and the Chronicle System

Convention Center, Room 242

Based on George R.R. Martin’s Westeros, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying allows you to play out the intrigues of this rich setting. We’ll also discuss the Chronicle System materials, which expand the scope of the rule set.


8:00 pm: ENnie Awards

Union Station Hotel, Grand Hall

Green Ronin is up for several awards and our crew will of course be there for the ceremony!


Noon: Dragon Age Roleplaying and the Future of the AGE System

Crowne Plaza Hotel : Victoria Stn A/B

Bioware’s world of Thedas is the setting for our Dragon Age tabletop roleplaying game. Learn devs Chris Pramas’ and Jack Norris’ plans for the setting and the development of more AGE system games.

2 pm: Emerald Spire All-Stars Seminar

Convention Center: Room 231

Join a panel of the game design superstars behind the Pathfinder Emerald Spire Superdungeon. Panelists will discuss their original dungeon levels, followed by a Q&A and signing. Join a jaw-dropping panel of the game design superstars behind Paizo’s Emerald Spire Superdungeon. Panelists will discuss their original dungeon levels and share dungeon-themed anecdotes from their career in gaming, followed by a Q&A and signing. Panelists: Ed Greenwood, Frank Mentzer, Richard Baker, Wolfgang Baur, Mike Stackpole, Jordan Weisman, Chris Pramas, Lisa Stevens, Erik Mona, F. Wesley Schneider, James Jacobs, Jason Bulmahn, Sean K Reynolds.

See you all in Indianapolis!

GenCon and PAX

The rise of the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle has been pretty spectacular. It’s gone from something small to an event that tops 60,000 people in just a few years. Then they did it again in Boston, pulling in similar numbers after just two years of PAX East. The focus is on video games, but there has always been a tabletop gaming element as well and this has continued to grow. This past year I was on a panel called The Evolution of RPGs with Richard Garfield, John Tynes, and Keith Baker and the turnout was huge. We had over 400 people in the room and they turned people away. A far cry most from RPG related seminars that I’m on.

So clearly, Penny Arcade is doing some things right and both of their shows have become events for geeks of all sorts. This inevitably leads to comparisons, like the Origins vs. GenCon debates that have gone on for 30 years. Until PAX came on the scene, GenCon was the biggest game show in America (though both are still outdone by Spiel in Essen in Germany). GenCon is in some ways the opposite of PAX. It is firmly a tabletop gaming show, but there is a video game presence as well. While there was some fear that the move from its home in Milwaukee to Indianapolis would spoil the show’s special alchemy, that did not end up being the case. GenCon is more successful than ever, bringing in 30,000 gamers and acting as the yearly cornerstone of the tabletop game industry.

I am thus somewhat perplexed when I hear rumblings of doom and gloom for GenCon because of PAX. I see people asserting that GenCon needs to learn from PAX or it will be left by the wayside. Or that Gencon panders to the base while PAX is more inclusive. It’s like because there is a different show that draws more people, somehow GenCon is diminished despite the fact that it is bigger than ever. I have to say, I don’t get it.

To me GenCon and PAX are both great shows that are different. They overlap in some areas, but each has different strengths and different core audiences. I see no reason why both cannot continue to thrive. The biggest factor that may have made them competitors—geography—is not in play. GenCon is in the Midwest and the PAX shows are on the coasts.

For Green Ronin GenCon is indispensable. Our sales there dwarf those of any other convention and it is also one of major marketing efforts of the year. PAX I always have a good time at, but it has been less awesome for business. I’d have to say that we haven’t figured out the best way for GR to take advantage of it yet. We’ve tried a few different ways (last year Sandstorm sold our stuff and hosted demos in their room, for example) but none of them have been satisfactory. We have been reluctant to go for the full on booth because our experience at shows like San Diego Comic Con made us wary. That show has huge attendance but it didn’t translate into sales good enough to justify us continuing to get a booth after a several year stint. I’d like to see if we can do PAX better this year, particularly with our Dragon Age RPG (which should have a natural audience there).

If I have a point here, it’s that we shouldn’t be wringing our hands because we have three big, successful game shows in America; we should be celebrating it.

Originally published on LiveJournal on March 20, 2011.

London, Days 2 and 3

Saturday was Dragonmeet. Since it’s one day show, I made sure to get up early and fortify myself with a classic English breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant. This was such a calorie fest I skipped lunch, but that was fine because it let me spend all day at the con. I had two seminars to do. The first was a general Green Ronin Q+A in the early afternoon. Then at the end of the day I was on a group panel with Ken Hite, Robin Laws, and Jeff Combos. Both of them were well-attended, which was nice to see after NeonCon (which had a great slate of seminars that few attendees went to). The standing room only seminar, however, was put on by Ian Livingstone. I attended this one, as I’d never seen him speak and he was doing a sort of career overview. So he talked about the founding of GW, the early days working with TSR to sell D&D in Europe, the rise of Warhammer, the Fighting Fantasy series, and then on into Eidos, Tomb Raider, and beyond. This was accompanied by a slide show with some great old pictures he had scanned in. The best of these was Ian posing with his GW co-founder Steve Jackson, TSR’s Gary Gygax, fantasy author Fritz Leiber, and Tekumel creator M.A.R. Barker. That’s a GenCon I wish I had gone to. I really enjoyed the presentation and I’m glad I had the chance to see it. My only regret is that I didn’t get a moment to talk to Ian myself. He was swamped with people asking for autographs at the end of his seminar and I had one right after. I wanted to introduce myself and thank him for contributing to Hobby Games and Family Games: The 100 Best. Sadly, our paths did not cross the rest of the day so I missed the opportunity.

The seminars were staggered such that I didn’t have time to play any games at Dragonmeet. I basically spent the rest of the day talking to people. This was a mix of old friends, industry folks I knew by reputation but had never met in person, and con goers who wanted to chat about this or that. It met several people I only knew from online and it was nice to put faces to names. In some cases it was more putting 2 and 2 together. James Raggi was over from Finland to sell his Lamentations of the Flame Princess RPG, for example. I’ve been reading about the game, but did not realize I had met James at Ropecon in 2008. Or rather, I remembered talking to him, but didn’t make the connection between that conversation and Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

After the exhibit hall closed down there was the traditional charity auction. This one seemed a little more subdued than what I remember from 2002. People made some crazy bids that year and I remember the audience goading James Wallis to literally sell the shirt off his back. But hey, we’ve had a recession and a global financial crisis since then, so I can’t blame people for being a little more careful. I had forgotten about this aspect of the show and was feeling like a dumbass for not bringing anything to contribute until Angus auctioned off a bunch of upcoming Cubicle 7 titles. This gave me the idea of offering up $150 of GR PDFs, and that ended up contributing 75 pounds to the auction. The total was over 2000 pounds (more than $3,000 at current exchange rates), so it was still a fine showing for charity.

That night I went to Randa, a Lebanese restaurant Erik Mona recommended. I had falafel, foul mudammas, and lisanat. The latter is cooked lamb tongues in lemon and olive oil and it was the standout dish. Really delicious. I tried to order one of several lamb tartar dishes but the waiter told they no longer served them at this location (which raises the question why are they still on the menu then?). Anyway, good dinner and it made up for skipping lunch.

To the great surprise of no one I’m sure, I ended the night in a pub. Due some faulty directions, I walked up and down Kensington High Street for half an hour in the cold before I found the Prince of Wales pub. Met up with Angus, Alice-Amanda, and other Dragonmeet folks for more cider and conversation.

Sunday it was off to…another pub. This time it was a post-con get together with various industry folks and con organizers. I paid homage to my WFRP roots by having a meat pie. Alice-Amanda taught Jeff and I how to play a pirate card game called Antigua that came out this year. We didn’t get to finish (the food came) but it was pretty interesting and I think I’ll pick it up. After eating I had a chance to catch up with Sasha Bilton, which is always good fun. He’s one of the few game industry people who likes punk as much as I do, so we always have plenty to talk about. Also squeezed in a bit of conversation with Simon Rogers of Pelgrane Press and Ken Hite (who probably saw plenty of me the week I was at his house in October).

I could easily have spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and drinking but it was last chance to hit a museum and I had one in mind. I took the tube over the National Army Museum, which is right by the Royal Hospital. I’ve been to the Imperial War Museum a couple of times but this one was new to me. I had been drawn in by a special exhibit about Britain’s wars in Afghanistan in the 19th century but the whole museum was worthwhile. It starts in the basement with the Battle of Hastings and you work your way up through the different eras of the British armies. There are many uniforms, weapons, and other artifacts all the way to the present day. I was also delighted to discover that this was the final resting place of Captain Siborne’s famous diorama of the Battle of Waterloo. I will be writing more about that later.

For my final dinner of the trip I went to Wodka, a Polish restaurant I turned up while browsing the internet at a coffee shop. It was not on the list I researched before the trip but I thought some Eastern European food sounded good and I made a good choice. This was the best meal of the trip. I had steak tartar, blini with smoked salmon, and blood sausage served on latkes with fried onions and pears. And several kinds of vodka, of course. I think it must be all those years I spent on the Lower East Side of NYC, but I find this kind of food very comforting. It was a great way to end the trip.

Originally published on LiveJournal on December 2, 2010. 

The Pramas Fall Tour

The last two months has been one the most intense periods of travel and activity of my life. This is how it went down.

It started with a weekend trip to Vancouver, BC with Nicole. At this point we knew craziness was about to descend, so we decided to get a weekend to ourselves in and enjoy one of our favorite cities. We returned to Tojo’s, a great Japanese restaurant Nicole first introduced me to in 1995, for the first time in many years. We also took the opportunity to see Machete (awesome), The Girl Who Played with Fire (very good), and The American (meh).

We got back late on a Sunday night. The very next morning I went to the airport to fly back to Canada. This time my destination was Edmonton. I spent a couple of days visiting BioWare’s office and talking about all things Dragon Age. I got to see some of Dragon Age 2, which looks awesome, and had good discussions with the folks there.

The day after I returned from Edmonton, the Green Ronin crew began arriving for our annual summit. This is usually a three day affair at which we make our plans for the following year and discuss the overall state of the company. We extended it one day this year so we could have most of the staff in town for our 10 year anniversary party at Dragon’s Lair in Bellevue. Summit and party both went well, and we had a productive few days and a bit of fun.

Before all the Ronins had even left Seattle, I was on board another plane and heading to Chicago. I was there for a week, primarily to attend Riot Fest. I saw 24 punk bands in 5 days and had a blast. Most awesome for me was finally getting to see Articles of Faith, one of my favorite hardcore bands of all time. I had waited 23 years for the opportunity and they did not disappoint. Since they also played a “secret show,” I got to see them twice. Bonus! Other great moments included the Busted at Oz reunion show (featuring bands like the Subverts, Silver Abuse, and the original lineup of Naked Raygun) and a terrific performance by the Zero Boys.

The punk rock was awesome but that was only part of the Chicago fun. Ken Hite was kind enough to put me up at his house and when I wasn’t at punk shows I was eating my way across Chi-town with Ken and frequent guest Will Hindmarch. Had some great food at Hot Doug’s, Frontera Grill, Xoco, The Publican, Kuma’s Corner, and Dawali Mediterranean Grill. Also got to see a Nazi u-boat, play For the People, and talk a lot of history with Ken. I squeezed a lot into those 7 days.

I got back to Seattle late on October 11. I then had two days to pack because I was moving to Austin! Thankfully, I was not trying to pack up all my shit, just what I thought I’d want to have in Texas in my new apartment. In moves that were very much us, Nicole started by packing up kitchen stuff so I could cook, while I picked what games and miniatures to bring so I could play. By Thursday morning the U-Haul was packed and ready, and we’d even squeezed in a dinner with Rob Schwalb, who was in town visiting his corporate masters. Always great to see Dr. Evil.

We took off on the 14th and we had four days to get to Austin. Nicole had a clever plan to stop in Portland and go to Ikea for the furniture I’d need. Since there’s no sales tax in Oregon, we saved a bunch of dough. The drive was about 2500 miles and Nicole had to do it all since I have no license. She was awesome and did not blanch even at the 15 hour day we had on Saturday. We listened to two audio books on the way (American On Purpose by Craig Ferguson and Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett) and they really helped pass the time. We went east through Oregon into Idaho, then south through Utah, and southeast through Arizona, New Mexico, and finally Texas. We arrived at my new apartment on Sunday night. Phil, Gina, and Andrew helped us with the move in, for which we were very grateful. Then at 9 am the next day I started my new job at Vigil on the 40K MMO.

I’ll talk about Vigil and settling into Austin later. For now suffice to say that I had a couple of weeks to acclimatize to both new city and new job and things are going well. Nicole flew back to Seattle after the first couple of days. It was weird to live alone all of a sudden but I had something to look forward to: NeonCon. This convention in Las Vegas happened to fall just a couple of days before Nicole’s birthday. We decided to meet there to celebrate. This gave us a chance to see a bunch of our friends and enjoy Vegas for a couple of days. It was a brief reunion but we made the most of it. I won’t see Nicole or Miss Kate now until Christmas (boo!).

You’d think that would be quite enough travel for the time being but I have one more trip this year. On Thanksgiving Day I’m flying to London. I’m going to be a guest at Dragonmeet, a one day game convention held on November 27. I last attended Dragonmeet in 2002 and it was a great time. I’m looking forward to going again, seeing many of my UK friends, and squeezing in as much London fun as I can manage. After that the whirlwind really will subside. The return to a day job means accruing vacation days and such, so such travel won’t be as easy. I also won’t be as broke, so it’s a trade-off. I guess I really need a day job that’ll pay me well and allow me to travel a lot, but for now the grim darkness of the far future will have to do.

Originally published on LiveJournal on November 10, 2010. 

Fuck Wil Wheaton, I Want to Game!

It was 1987 and I was a freshman at New York University. I’m not sure why, but I thought at the time that I might not do much gaming at college. As it happened, however, I stumbled across a game group playing in the lounge of my dorm when returning from a punk rock show at CBGB. I talked to a guy named Sandeep and he invited me to the game the following week. That’s how I joined the Society for Strategic Gaming at NYU (funny name, as we did way more roleplaying than strategic gaming, but there you go).

We played on Sunday nights. We’d have dinner and then rally up around 7 for roleplaying. This was AD&D at first, then other games like Runequest, MERP, Twilight 2000, TORG, WEG’s Star Wars, and especially WFRP. We’d usually end the session between midnight and 1 am and then a group of us would inevitably head off to the Washington Square Restaurant (a nearby 24 hour diner) for food, coffee, and conversation. The hardcore would then return to the dorm at 3 am and play a boardgame. We had nights when we’d start a game of Talisman at that time, finish at 8 in the morning, and then go get breakfast in the cafeteria. Ah, college. Sometimes we even found time to go to class.

This was all just starting in September though and I was getting to know the group. John Footen was trying to run up to a dozen people through the original Dragonlance modules and it was no great surprise that it was bogging down. Nonetheless, it was great to get to game and to make some new friends who shared my geeky interests (and indeed many of these folks are my good friends to this day).

One Sunday we were eating dinner and Chris Keefe (who later did art for Green Ronin) informed me that we’d be starting the game hours late that night. When I asked why, he said, “Star Trek: The Next Generation debuts tonight.” I was not impressed. Surely we could watch it later. Chris said no, the plan was to watch it in the lounge with a big group of people. He added, “Come on, Wil Wheaton is in it, and he was great in Stand By Me.”

“Fuck Wil Wheaton,” I said. “I want to game!”

I lost the argument. We watched Encounter at Farpoint and didn’t start gaming until something like 10 pm. While I would later come to like the show, my response at the time was, “I can’t believe we delayed gaming to watch that bullshit.”

Life, of course, is weird, and I could never have predicted that 20 years after I said, “Fuck Wil Wheaton,” we’d become friends. I think it was at a PAX that we first met, courtesy of our mutual friend Andrew Hackard. As I’m sure you all know, Wil is also a gamer and nerd. Turns out we also like many of the same bands and we are both step-dads, so we had a lot in common. Subsequently, Nicole and I would try to meet up with Wil for a meal when he came to Seattle. We’d talk about trying to game together but it was always hard to coordinate with his travel schedule.

A couple of months ago Wil told me he was going to be at GenCon. Knowing he had enjoyed my Dragon Age RPG, I asked him if he’d like me to run a game at the show. His response was something like, “OMG, YES!” And amazingly, despite the craziness of GenCon, the game actually went off. The group was on the big side but we made it work and the game was really fun. Nicole invented a new maneuver, the Axe Tackle, and that’s been a running gag amongst the players since the game, no doubt to the confusion of many a Twitter user.

Now the Penny Arcade Expo is coming up. Wil, of course, will be here to deliver the blessings of the Omnigeek to his people. Many of the other players from the GenCon session will also be at PAX so naturally the idea of playing more Dragon Age came up. To which I can only respond:

“Fuck yeah, Wil Wheaton, let’s game!”

Originally published on LiveJournal on August 23, 2010. 

GenCon Swag

It’s just not a GenCon if I don’t bring home some new games and such. Sadly, I did not have a whole lot of time to walk the exhibit hall this show. I got in maybe two hours of browsing time across four days. I paid cash money for two games (the minis games AE Bounty and War Rocket). The rest I either traded for or was given by friends. It is good to have friends. Here’s the run down:

AE Bounty: This is a scifi skirmish miniatures game from Darkson Designs. Basically, designer Matt Hope took his system from AE World War II and ported it over to scifi. You have your choice of three types of crew: bounty hunters, mercenaries, and pirates. All are quite customizable, so though the game is designed for Darkson’s minis you can easily use other scifi figs you already own. If you liked Necromunda, you should check this out. It’s a little spendy at $25 for a 98 page digest sized book, but it is color throughout and print on demand color is not cheap. The rules are also more complete than 98 pages might suggest.

Battles of Westeros: This is the first new BattleLore board game that FFG has published since acquiring the line from Days of Wonder. I love BattleLore and I love A Song of Ice and Fire, so this should be a win win. I have not had a chance to play it yet, but a read of rules showed that is more complicated than the original BattleLore game. I will give it a spin and see if that’s for good or ill. Components are of course quite nice.

Duel of the Giants: Paul from Z-man hooked me up with this board game before the exhibit hall even opened. It’s another World War II game from the team that did the groovy Duel in the Dark a couple of years back. This has some similarities to Memoir ’44, but concentrates on Eastern Front tank battles in 1943. Nice components that include 11 plastic tanks (Tigers and T-34s, and their turrets even rotate). It’s like Paul somehow divined that I might enjoy a WWII game. What gave it away?

Fantasy Craft RPG: This is the fantasy port of Spycraft from the fine fellows at Crafty Games. Basically, they have taken the core d20 rules, broken them down into component parts, and reassembled them into a highly customizable system for fantasy roleplaying. The results are quite crunchy, as you’d expect, but everything seems sensible and flexible. If you liked the guts of D&D3 but felt Pathfinder didn’t change enough for your tastes, Fantasy Craft may be what you are looking for.

Icons RPG: Green Ronin stalwart Steve Kenson, who designed Mutants & Masterminds and DC Adventures, decided he had to design a completely different supers game. He was nice enough to hook me up with a copy of the print version from Adamant/Cubicle 7. I haven’t had a chance to dig into it yet, but as I understand it’s a supers riff on FATE. I like Steve’s designs and I like FATE, so I look forward to reading it.

Legend of the Five Rings, Fourth Edition RPG: I remember playing first edition back in my WotC days, so I’m curious to see how it looks ten years later. Physically, it is a beautiful book. The page design drips with Japanese flavor and the art is excellent (you go, pinto). I was also glad to see the book devotes some pages to different ways to play the game (something the first edition sorely needed).

Realms of Cthulhu: This is a Savage Worlds RPG sourcebook from Reality Blurs. I believe I have Sean Preston to thank for it, as I discovered a book with my name on it while packing up our booth at the end of the show. Thanks, Sean. Haven’t done more than flip through it, but I’d presume this is meant for a more pulp style Cthulhu game. That seems best suited for the Savage Worlds rules anyway.

Shattered Empires RPG: Veterans of the d20 era may remember the world of Arcanis from Paradigm Concepts. Those rules were never the best fit for the setting, so Paradigm has taken advantage of the post-d20 environment to launch their own rule set customized for Arcanis. Although labeled as a “Quicklauch,” Shattered Empires is a full RPG and over 200 pages at that. It is perhaps better to think of it as Book 1. Again, haven’t really had a chance to dig into it, but it looks interesting. Thanks to Henry for the hook up.

The Ultimate Unofficial Fan Collector’s Guide to D&D: I believe there are three of these books out now and I got volumes 1 (OD&D and Basic D&D) and 3 (AD&D 1st Edition). Each one breaks out the products from the era, providing a cover shot and fairly comprehensive description (page count, levels covered, authors, etc.). They also include some non-TSR stuff (like Wee Warriors, Metro Detroit Gamers, etc) and checklists at the back. Gamers Rule, the publisher, could use a little help in the graphic design department but overall these appear well-researched and quite handy for those interested in all the nooks and crannies of D&D’s history.

War Rocket: This is a new minis game from a fairly new company, Hydra Miniatures. I know nothing about them but was immediately sold on the concept. War Rocket is advertised as “Space Combat in the Atomic Age.” 1950s-style rockets in a fast paced minis game? I’m there. The rules look easy to pick up. There is not a lot of Starfleet Battles type damage tracking. A rocket is either OK, stunned, or destroyed—that’s it. There are four fleets to choose from and what makes it interesting is that each has rockets with a different mode of movement: flying, thruster, pulse, or saucer. This gives each a different flavor and means they fight differently as well. The graphic presentation of each ship’s stats is quite clever and let’s you see in an instant what your ship can do. I didn’t get any of the minis that go with War Rocket, but I may if I can convince a friend to do the same. This really looks like fun.

So what did I miss? Well, this may be the first GenCon I didn’t bring home any miniatures, though to be fair I wasn’t looking for a whole lot either. I had my eye out for a box of Immortal’s plastic Greek hoplites, but I didn’t find them anywhere. I meant to pick up Red Sands, the new Savage Worlds Space: 1889 book, but didn’t get around to trading with Shane. Always liked the setting but the original rules left a lot to be desired. I would have picked up Blitzkrieg, the first early war book for Flames of War, but it wasn’t out yet. I will be patient until its September release, since I have plenty to keep me busy in the meantime.

Originally published on LiveJournal on August 15, 2010.