After Action Report: Gen Con Online

Monday, August 3rd, 2020 | Posted by Patrick Kanouse

gencononline

Gen Con is a major — the major — tabletop gaming convention of the year. 60,000 gaming enthusiasts arrive in Indianapolis (where the con has been held since 2003) to participate in thousands of board games, card games, miniature games, role-playing games (including live action), seminars, reveals, auctions, and cosplay. And more. Spread across the Indianapolis Convention Center, multiple hotels, and Lucas Oil Stadium, the scale of Gen Con is unmatched.

However, with COVID-19 disrupting major sports, shuttering millions at home (who are fortunate enough to work from home), and sparking debates about masks, conventions big and small canceled in-person events months ago. San Diego Comic Con. GaryCon. Origins. Who’s Yer Con. TravellerCon. Gen Con. Many have attempted some sort of online alternative, a path Gen Con 2020 followed.

Gen Con undertook the challenging task of offering an extensive virtual convention, featuring many tabletop gaming sessions and the sprawling, chaotic, glorious Dealer Hall of gaming companies, artists, dice creators, and many others hawking and showing off their goods. In past Gen Cons I have run games, participated in seminars, and spent hours roaming the Dealer Hall. From Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon, my weekend would be little else but gaming, shopping, and some sleep along with visiting a food truck to scarf down a meal between. This year would be different.

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Gen Con 2020 Online

Saturday, July 25th, 2020 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

GenCon2020I have been attending Gen Con regularly since 2009, and reporting on the events and new games here on Black Gate. It’s one of the highlights of my year, honestly. But this year, of course, Gen Con has suffered the same fate as so many other major in-person events … a shift to online participation. Gen Con Online will run from Thursday, July 30, through Sunday, August 2, 2020.

Registration for Gen Con Online is free for attendees. There will also be three different Twitch channels that are livestreaming demos, live games, and other broadcasts related to Gen Con, with links available here. There is also supposed to be a Discord server set up, though that is still coming. Not surprisingly, it looks like there will be ample abilities to purchase games through the Gen Con Game Store, and of course to purchase Gen Con merchandise. All of that goes live online when the convention begins on Thursday. Once you’ve signed up for your badge, you can register for individual events on the Event Page, though at this point many of the most popular events are sold out. (It is still worth checking in, though, as some people might not show up for their registered events.)

Favorite annual major events from Gen Con are still taking place, though in modified forms. For example, the annual Costume Contest allowed entries throughout the first half of July. Finalist videos will be placed on the Online Costume Contest website on July 29, allowing for votes from fans (1 vote per person). It isn’t going to be quite the same as the Saturday parade of costumes through the convention center, to be sure, but I’m definitely glad that they’ve found a way for these impressive cosplayers to show their stuff and get recognized for it.

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Pathfinder Second Edition and Virtual PaizoCon

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

PathfinderGodsMagicSince GenCon 2019, there have been a number of great resources and supplements coming from Paizo to support their Pathfinder Second Edition roleplaying game. Last November, I covered the first two setting supplements, the Lost Omens Character Guide and Lost Omens World Guide. Players and Gamemasters alike have a slew of options available already, with even more slated to come by the end of the summer.

For those who don’t have time to plan or create adventures from scratch, they have one full Adventure Path, Age of Ashes, released, with the second, Extinction Curse, releasing its final volume in the next month. Each 6-volume Adventure Path for Pathfinder Second Edition takes players from level 1 through level 20, creating a truly epic campaign. Age of Ashes (Paizo, Amazon) involves the heroes discovering the secrets of an abandoned Hellknight fortress and its connection to an ancient evil force. Extinction Curse (Paizo, Amazon) is a circus-themed adventure, where the heroes must save the show while also investigating a plot to unleash an ancient curse, with a volume entitled Siege of the Dinosaurs. The upcoming Agents of Edgewatch (Paizo) is a fantasy cop adventure, as the heroes take on the role of law enforcement officers in and around the city of Absalom.

In addition, Paizo also releases a steady stream of smaller adventure scenarios to support the extensive Pathfinder Society Organized Play organization. Those adventures, available exclusively on PDF through Paizo.com, run about 4 hours per scenario, and players who play through them gain chronicle sheets that determine the amount of XP gained, as well as Fame & Reputation with various in-game factions, and of course gold and treasure. Characters also gain a variety of boons from these chronicle sheets, providing unique in-game benefits based on the previous adventures that they have completed. The structure of Pathfinder Society means that players can take the same character across a series of adventures at local game stores and conventions, and have the feel of being part of a larger adventure campaign.

Of course, that all assumes that game stores are open and conventions are taking place … but Paizo and gamers have stepped up to make sure there are opportunities to play, even in the midst of the dreaded “new normal.”

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Experience an Epic 4X Game with Heroes of Land, Air & Sea

Saturday, May 16th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Heroes of Land, Air, & Sea (Gamelyn Games, 2018)

I love elegantly designed games, and games with deep replay value. When I fall in love with a board game, it’s usually because it has simple mechanics, backed up with a rich and creative setting.

But mostly, I fall for games with a cool map.

While I was walking the floor at Gen Con 2019, I wandered into a packed booth where they’d set up several sample boards for the new Heroes of Land, Air & Sea game. Competing booths nearby had open areas with loud demo games underway, but the Gamelyn Games crew instead had simply set up a few mid-game boards, then walked away to allow attendees to gawk as long as they wished.

It worked. Readers, I gawked. This is a huge and beautiful 4X game (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate), with a 3D mapboard, gorgeous terrain, dynamic miniatures, and detailed accessories. It’s precisely the kind of colorful and deliciously intriguing play surface that brings gamers from far and wide just to ask, “What the heck is THIS??” Have a look at the set up below and see what you think.

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Claim the Night in Terrors of London from Kolossal Games

Saturday, May 9th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Terrors of London ad-small

Terrors of London (Kolossal Games, 2019)

As of today, May 9, Gen Con 2020 is still on. I find it very hard to believe the nation’s situation will change enough in the next 82 days that 60,000 gamers from around the world will feel perfectly relaxed gathering in halls in Indianapolis, packed together like attendees at a rock concert. I’m fairly certain that the powers that be will face reality in the next few weeks, and postpone or cancel the event this year. And if not, I can’t imagine it will be well attended — not nearly enough for it to break even, anyway.

That’s okay, though. I’m still unpacking from last year’s con, sifting through all the great games I picked up, and sorting through the many hundreds of pics I snapped as I wandered the Exhibit Hall. If Gen Con became a once-a-decade event it would still pay off handsomely for me, as I suspect it’ll take at least ten years to track down all the fascinating games I glimpsed during my arduous three-day walk through the giant Hall.

Today I want to take a look at Terrors of London, a competitive fantasy card game from Kolossal Games with a very cool Victorian horror theme. I only got a glance at it during my marathon trek through the Hall, but it stuck out. The component art was fantastic, and the premise — players are arcane Overlords assembling hordes of monsters and undead to secretly tussle for control of the smoke-shrouded city — appealed to me immediately. The whole thing has an Underworld vibe, and I can definitely see a leather-clad Kate Beckinsale fitting right in.

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Wordsmiths: Interview with Charlie Jane Anders, Recorded Live at Can*Con 2019

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

2019 feels like a long time ago, doesn’t it? One of my other roles is Programming Lead for Can*Con, Ottawa’s annual conference on science fiction, fantasy and horror literature. I’ve had the great fortune to sit down for one-on-one interviews with a few Guests of Honor, most recently a fabulous conversation with Charlie Jane Anders at Can*Con 2019.

Charlie Jane is the author of The City in the Middle of the Night (Tor, 2019), co-host of the Hugo-winning podcast Our Opinions Are Correct, and has contributed work to a variety of anthologies and collections. We get into her short fiction, her work with io9, her thoughts on genre and community, and more.

This was a blast, and I hope you enjoy it, too!


An Ottawa teacher by day, Brandon has been published in On SpecPulp Literature, Electric Athenaeum, and elsewhere. His latest publications include his first comic, “True Balance,” available on Comixology and DriveThruComics, and a reprint of his short story “Rainclouds,” in A Dying Planet from Flame Tree Press. You can follow Brandon at brandoncrilly.wordpress.com or on Twitter: @B_Crilly.


When Disney Meets Mad Max: Aftermath: an Adventure Book Game by Plaid Hat Games

Saturday, April 18th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Aftermath Board Game 6-small

Gen Con 2020 is, as of this writing, still scheduled to take place July 30 – August 2, 2020. But now that other major events, such as the massive San Diego Comic Con have been canceled due to the threat of the coronavirus, I expect it won’t be long before Gen Con is canceled as well. I hope it isn’t, but frankly I think the only thing keeping it on the schedule at this point is blind optimism.

I’m enormously grateful I was able to attend Gen Con last year. It was terrific fun, for one thing, and incredibly eye-opening. I’ve been immersed in gaming culture since I started playing Avalon Hill games in high school, and I spend a lot of time keeping up with new releases and hanging out at the local Games Plus auction. But I had no idea –really,  no freakin’ idea — of the true scale of this industry until I wandered the massive Exhibit Hall at Gen Con. Too large to take in in a single day, the Exhibit Hall (and all its various annexes, sub-rooms, and spillovers halls) is something that every game fan should experience once in their lives. It is jaw-dropping in both scale and diversity.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re standing in a packed stadium with tens of thousands of t-shirt-wearing gamers, and thousands of booths stretching in all directions. But once the wonder of it all starts to wear off, there are always games that stand out. One of those for me was Aftermath, by Plaid Hat Games. Copies were not available at the convention, but a quick internet search assured me it would be in production by October. I waited impatiently, and ordered one as soon as I could.

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Captured at Capricon: Stories Of The Restoration by K.M. Herkes

Friday, April 10th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Controlled Descent Herkes-small Turning the Work Herkes-small Flight Plan Herkes-small

Covers by Niina Cord, Rachel Bostwick, and Nicole Grandinetti

It’s always a pleasure to discover an exciting series by an author from your home town, and that’s exactly what happened to me at Capricon 40 back in February. Capricon is a long-running and very friendly con here in Chicago, with imaginative programming and a great Dealers Room, and one of the highlights for me this year was the Bad Grammar Theater booth.

Bad Grammar is a local reading series, and their booth in the Dealer’s Room this year was manned by Chicago authors Brendan Detzner, R.J. Howell, Megan Mackie, and K.M. Herkes. I spent a lot of time chatting with that friendly bunch, and ended up taking quite a few of their books home with me. One of the most intriguing was Controlled Descent, the opening novel in K.M. Herkes’s Stories Of The Restoration series. When I asked her to describe it, what she said was both so punchy and original that I asked her to write it down for me, and she did.

I write broken heroes who achieve victory through cooperation. — K.M. Herkes

I can’t be the only one who finds that particular brand of heroism strongly appealing.

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Goth Chick News: A Rare Opportunity to Attend the HAA

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Capture

As you likely know the Halloween Association and Attractions show (HAA for you cool kids) is the grand kickoff of each year’s scare season. Usually held in March it is the only industry trade show of its kind in the world, gathering the entire haunt industry together to view and purchase new products from over four hundred exhibitors. It’s a place to see the hottest trends and get a peek at the latest in special effects, from small visuals perfect for a home haunt, all the way up to $15K ‘life size’ dragon animatronics. Normally this is an ‘industry only’ show requiring a tax ID number and other credentials to score a ticket. However, Black Gate photog Chris Z and I have been lucky enough to be invited to cover the HAA for the past 17 years and we look forward to it each and every time; along with the ability to give you a look behind the curtain of a $9B industry. Impressive when you consider that money comes from six weeks annually.

Unfortunately, the current zombie apocalypse caused the HAA, like everything else, to be cancelled for 2020. Postponing is not an option as the haunt industry gets after it early, to be ready for September / October. Holding the show over the summer would not allow enough time for orders to be placed and received before the start of the haunt season.

However, out of sadness comes opportunity.

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Goth Chick News: C2E2 and a Goth Chick Wannabe… The Sequel

Saturday, March 7th, 2020 | Posted by Chris Zemko

Goth Chick C2E2 2020

A couple weeks ago I was startled by a knock on my window. As curiosity got the best of me, I discovered a raven pecking at the glass with a note tied around its leg. My first thought was, “Winter is Coming.” My second thought was, “Evil Hogwarts?” Turns out the second was a lot closer, it was from Goth Chick. I unwrapped the little scroll and read the following….

The Summons

Apparently to maintain her standing in the Goth community, she’s required to attend a “Get Back to Goth” retreat every time a darker shade of black is discovered. Who Knew? If it’s anything like her “Book Club” it’s just a lot of drinking, incense burning, soul devouring and complaining about pastels. But that’s a story for another article.

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