by Alice C
| published Tuesday, September 21, 2021
In no particular order:
Team Awesome rented an AirBnB one mile from the convention and walked in every day which was a gift! It was definitely hot in Indy, so it was a bit of a sweaty gift, but in previous years we lodged farther away and took Ubers in and out every day, so this was healthy for body, soul, and wallet. Also, Indy has some extremely cool murals—next year if you go, take some time away from the convention itself and wander about.
I happened upon Candice Harris and W. Eric Martin from Board Game Geek in their stylish, matching jerseys and took a moment to say, “I appreciate all the work you do. Thank you for the website and the community.” I didn’t want to intrude on their con experience, but I thought it was important for them to hear that their work is valuable with no caveats.
There were a couple of viral photos that went out on social media showing a vast, seemingly-unsafe crowd waiting to enter the exhibition hall. While I don’t doubt the accuracy of the photography in that moment, having been there the whole four days myself, the anger online about Covid exposure was overblown. Now, of course, I’m not a virologist, so obviously this is only my observation, but having been to the con for a number of years, this year every single space—hallways, expo and demo halls, library, even the streets—were oddly empty. The exhibition hall had multiple empty stall spaces—can you even imagine? And they had put up tons of pipe-and-drape up to block off a huge chunk of the hall. Wandering the aisles there and the hallways of the convention center was a bit surreal because we were delighted to be there, to see people and play games, and yet there were so few actually there, relatively speaking. Additionally and anecdotally, we observed 100% masking. Of course we need to be safe and smart—get vaccinated everyone!—but the online worry for safety seems unwarranted. At least I hope so!
Our happy place was the Games Library, this year in the Sagamore ballroom rather than the Lucas Oil Stadium. Friends, it was glorious. It’s a collection of over 4,700 games available to borrow and play just like a library and run by Lending Library Logistics. It’s owned and run by gamers and they are my new favorite people! There are brand new games (like Maglev Metro and Dinosaur World) as well as older ones (like the absolute romp of a game The Downfall of Pompeii from 2004). Friend Taylor and I spent the majority of our GenCon in that ballroom, playing things we’d never played and just opening boxes to read the rules and put our human fingers on the components to see if we even wanted to play them. Two thumbs way up.
All this library time and the handful of games I actually bought reaffirmed my love of concise games, or at least games that aren’t overbuilt. The first three games we bought were A Gentle Rain, Shifting Stones and Royal Visit, all of which we ended up playing well over a dozen times while there. Taylor picked up a couple of surprisingly complex games in mint tins including the delightful Mint Works, small but mighty. When I popped open Architects of the West Kingdom and Kemet, I realized that, no, I really don’t want to play them or most things like them. It’s an odd space since I still very much adore a Tzolk’in or a Dreamscape with my whole being and think fondly of the Shadowlord of my youth. And I do still want to dive into the Above and Below franchise at some point as well as Stuffed Fables—those games have a bit of sprawl, but it seems to be at the service of storytelling? If you have thoughts about this entire point that I’m (not) making, leave a comment below!
On friends and socializing: Early on in the library I crossed paths with two gentlemen carrying Great Western Trail and, because I’m an extrovert, I said, “Oh, Great Western Trail, that’s on my list to play!” to which they immediately said, “Ooh, do you want to play with us?” It reminded me so delightfully of playground interactions—“do you want to be my friend?” I called over to Taylor, “Do you want to play this game about cows?” to which she responded, “Do I?” And now we’re friends with Richard and Mark! The whole weekend was filled with such lovely conversations, many one-off, but all seemingly filled with good-will and pleasure to be together with 35,000 of our closest friends, playing games with our actual hands.
Alice Connor has been playing board games since she could walk, and wondering about why they're so compelling since the day after that. She wrote a book called _How to Human: An Incomplete Manual for Living in a Messed-Up World_. Alice is also a certified enneagram teacher and a stellar pie-maker. She lives for challenging conversations and has a high tolerance for awkwardness. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, two kids, a dog, and no cats.