I have been to Gen Con since it was hosted in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Over more than the last decade, it’s become an annual pilgrimage to Indianapolis for the best four days in gaming. Over that time I have learned a few tips that I wish I knew the first time I went. Here are my top 5 tips to having a blast at Gen Con!
5. Don’t Buy Everything
This is definitely one that can be very overwhelming very fast. There is so many gaming products available for purchase at Gen Con that it’s hard to fathom. It’s so easy to spend an entire budget on day 1 of the convention, leaving you with nothing left in the tank when you find that really cool piece of art or other random things later that you really want.
Particularly, if you can hold onto some budget Sunday (and particularly Sunday afternoon) is a great day to snag some amazing deals. None of the vendors want to ship all of that product back to their warehouse so they will cut some prices and swing some pretty great deals. These likely won’t be the hotness games and products of that year’s Gen Con, but they will likely be games you wanted to add to your collection.
One other thing to note is that while you can pick up those hotness games at Gen Con, it is likely that most of them will be out and available for retail in 2-3 months. Not only that, but you will be able to pick them up at your friendly local game store or favorite online retailer. You might even be snagging them with a discounted price depending on where you shop!
4. Schedule Some Events
Don’t expect to just wonder Gen Con and be able to keep yourself occupied for four days. The convention is massive and while there are pick-up games and other events that you may find yourself being able to walk up to, after two or three days of wandering the Exhibition Hall (Vendor Area) you may find yourself bored with the event.
That said, it is also easy to overschedule yourself. I recommend you schedule yourself for 2-3 events that take up approximately 6 hours of your day. These should be spread out so that you can get meals, hit the restroom, wander the Exhibition Hall, and relax.
While the event registration lottery can be a bit frustrating, ensure your wishlist is ready for processing. You hopefully will get some of the games you really want, but don’t be afraid to check back later and sign up for some things that still have tickets left. We signed up for a game of Kingdomino and had a blast playing. This light game is something we owned already, but it was just fun and relaxing. Your convention doesn’t just have to be a mission to do all new stuff!
You are going to walk around Gen Con probably more then any other convention. The sheer size of the Indiana Convention Center, the walk from parking or a hotel, multiple passes through the Exhibition Hall, and all of the other sites are going to rack up the steps. For many of us, we don’t think about all of those steps and our footwear. The success of a good convention is your ability to move about pain-free!
So make sure you have at least one good pair of walking shoes that you have worn for at least a week before going to the convention. This will save your back and your feet untold amounts of misery.
2. Hydration and Water
Take a water bottle and make sure it’s full at the start of the day. There are places to refill your water inside the convention, but if you have to purchase water and beverages constantly you may find yourself not drinking enough. It’s better to start with a refillable bottle and grab a refill or two each day when you have a few moments of downtime.
I find that the better I stay hydrated the easier it is to stay focused on the games I am playing, the sites I am seeing, and enjoy the convention itself best. Staying sharp so that you can discover those special moments means you take care of yourself too.
1. Don’t Take Everything From Home
You don’t need to take tons of games, rulebooks, dice, or whatever else to Gen Con. 98% of the time if I brought a game from home it doesn’t even get played! Gen Con is the one convention that I routinely go to that I bring back a third more stuff then when I went. That means new games, new supplements, new art, and whatever else tripped my fancy that year.
I hear on a number of podcasts how someone took a game that someone else they were meeting up with really wanted to play and then they didn’t get a chance to play it. Really trim down what you are bringing to the things you absolutely need. Going to play some Dungeons and Dragons Adventure League, take your character, dice, and a pencil. Maybe the Player’s Handbook too, but do you need to take Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden with too. The answer is no!
What will invevitably happen is that you will pick up some new game, supplement, or product at Gen Con. Those games and supplements are going to be what you are excited to dive into and check out. Not the games you all ready own. Give your new stuff you pick up the chance to shine at the biggest convention of the year!
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