Do I have to decide now which games to play? I was planning on spending most of my time at GenCon wandering around and jumping in on games that look fun, learning to play, and maybe buying them.
But I see that I have to buy tickets for games? So if I want to try Duosaur Island I have to decide now and buy a ticket?
Not necessarily. Many companies will have demos of the new hotness at theirs booths... some companies will have open play rooms... These don’t require tickets. There are open play ares where you can jump into games... no tickets needed, but your at their mercey of who brought what and do they have space. And there is a games library that requires tickets but you can pretty much get in whenever with generic tickets. You can check games out to play there or look for games with open seating.
sounds like what you want to do is browse the hall and play in demos... most demos will not be full games but just a taste to get you interested.
* No you don’t have to decide now. In fact, unless you have a “must play game” or “must go to event” or something that WILL fill up quick, like True Dungeon, I would suggest not worrying about it.
You DO need to have a ticket to most events. Some are free, some cost about $2 per ticket for an hour or 2 of playtime. Think of it as buying a drink at a bar or club where you still had to pay a cover charge.
Check the site here for more details on how generic tickets work...
The answer is "maybe." I have bought fewer and fewer event tickets every year (other than for the 50th anniversary with all its special one-off events) and always have an amazing time. If you want to play a specific game that is being run as a ticketed event, then yes, your best bet is to try to get a ticket to one of those events. But even if you did not get a ticket because the event sold out, you can still buy generic tickets and show up to the event anyway and odds are good that someone will no-show and/or the gamemaster will decide (s)he can take another player or two anyway.
Plus, this will be my 18th Gen-Con, and as someone who has spent the last ten+ of those primarily wandering around rather than worrying much about specific event tickets, I can confirm that is a great way to roll.
New board games are often on display in the vendor hall. You can wander up, learn to play, and buy it there. But for a popular game that takes a while to play, someone else will probably already be using it. You might have a long wait for a turn.
An event ticket guarantees you a spot to play the game at a specific time.
Events for older board games are often hosted by some random person not associated with the company that sold the game. You are welcome to bring your copy of Settlers of Catan and run it as an event.
Likewise, most RPG events are campaigns written by the GM.
Ticketed events also include crafts, seminars, and experiences like True Dungeon.
There are a limited number of tickets to each event, so if there's a game you definitely want to play, you should buy a ticket.
You don't necessarily have to decide right now, but the longer you wait, the more likely the event is to be sold out.
You can also buy "generic" tickets and use them to jump in on a game that isn't sold out, or had a no-show, or can accommodate an extra player.
Let me be the voice in the opposite direction here. I decide EVERYTHING that I want to do and plan on it and get tickets for it. I have spent too much time in past Gen Cons wandering around and not being able to get into an event that I want or waiting in lines (I absolutely HATE waiting in lines) to hope that I get into an event.
I like to know from Wednesday to Sunday what I am doing and when I finish early or in my planned down time, I stroll the dealer room looking for things to buy or games to play. I will admit, however, that I am very set in my ways so I am not the guy who wants to learn a new game or get in a demo game. I know what I like and I play what I know.
So my advice would be to get as many tickets for events that you absolutely must have as you may not play them otherwise...