Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Gen Con Round Up Part 3 - First Exposure & the Vendor Hall

This is going to be the last of the Gen Con 50 round up posts I think. There's only two places I want to talk about that I haven't really done so yet. The first is the First Exposure hall, which is - I feel - something of a hidden gem for how fun it is. The second is the vendor hall, which some would argue is the whole point of going to Gen Con.

First Exposure
Every year, tucked away in a room near the Customer Service booths and the massage area is the First Exposure room. The room runs events every 2 hours, the events last for 2 hours, and they're free. That's right. As long as you have the Gen Con pass, you can play in First Exposure for free.

So what are you doing? Simply put you're testing out upcoming board games. All sorts of developers and companies work with First Exposure to be in this room. You play a game for 1-2 hours, and then give feed back to the developer directly on what you liked, what you didn't like, and things you might want to change. The games are all set up so that you know the intended age bracket and target audience, and so you don't end up playing a game you have no interest in. For example, if you don't want to play a competitve PvP game, just don't volunteer for one. It may mean a longer wait to get a game you do like but at least you're not sitting there having a miserable time, right?

I played 2 games at First Exposure this year. The first was After the Empire, a game where you build a castle and protect your lands while vying to be the power in the land after the breakup of a once powerful empire. The game as it was had no PvP but was still competitive in that you were vying against the other players even if you couldn't directly harm or help them. It was a lot of fun, and I really dug the fact the game involved actually building a mini-keep with 3d printed pieces to keep track of how the homestead was doing.

The second game was called Hexes and Henchmen. In it you set up a board that looks like a Settlers of Catan board with hex pieces and different rules on them. In actuality though the point of the game is to get 3 of your people across the board to the opposite side before anyone else can.

If you end up at Gen Con 51, or any Gen Con, and you have 2 hours to spare. Give First Exposure a shot. They're pretty awesome.

The Vendor Hall
The Vendor Hall at Gen Con is bigger than some conventions. I've heard that claim from numerous people over the years. I've even heard it compared to other, big, cons such as Origins. I'm not sure how true that claim is, but seeing the vendor hall I'd believe it. Gen Con's hall is huge, and it is packed. People moving through is like a current in a strong river. You can go with it, or you can be swept aside by it. And basically everything you could think of for gaming is on sale.

You can buy dice there, books - old and new - costumes for LARPing, and everything else. There is an artist alley for pictures, posters, and paintings. There are writers selling books. There's even porn if you know where to look and are of a mind to acquire such.

If there are games you're following, often times they'll have books that won't be out for a month or two available. This is pretty awesome if you can snag some, but also makes it disappointing if a company doesn't have anything for you.

In particular Fantasy Flight Games and Paizo tends to be a large draw and are worth visiting the booth even if you don't follow their games. Wyrd Miniatures also puts on a show and usually has a cool themed set up to go along with Malifaux or another of their products.

On Sunday you can usually find or make deals with folks because they'd rather sell product than ship product back to their warehouses. The deals range in value, and tend to be from smaller vendors than the real big ones, but that is just fine. Most of the smaller vendors are the ones with the truly interesting stuff on the last day. For example, a Sunday sale is what got me into Shadow of Esteren and that game and system is awesome.

This year my random pick ups endeed up being the Taldore Campaign setting from Green Ronin - mostly as I was surprised they still had copies in stock and I like Critical Role. I also grabbed a copy of Blades in the Dark, which looks like a fun game about being a group of rogues in over their heads in a large city.

Perhaps there will be more on them later.

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