Gencon 2021: the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly
Posted by fethbone

Surprised nobody has started this yet...interested to hear what others think.

The Good:

  • All things considered, I thought mask compliance was very good and low-drama. My prediction of hands-throwing over a difference of opinion did not come true to my knowledge. I did hear like 5th hand gossip of someone being asked to leave a game due to non-compliance but that was it.
  • Most of the new restaurants in the area that I tried were good. Enjoyed GoodWood, had "drinks night" at Inferno Room (not new, but new to me) and enjoyed Artisan Pastry Bar for bruch.
  • Enjoyed meeting new vendors. Chatted a bit with the felted hat/clothing booth owner and she was telling me how she was ecstatic to finally be "in" as she had been on the waiting list for 5 years.
  • Found some new games, of course.

The Bad:

  • This was the first year I did not schedule myself to the teeth, and as opposed to making me more "free" to drop in on games, I felt less motivated and spent more time just putzing around and relaxing in the hotel. Not that relaxing is a bad thing, but I did a lot less Gencon-specific stuff this year.
  • I know some people probably really appreciated the low census but overall it felt a little low-energy and less friendly this year. I know gamers, myself included, are categorically not the most outgoing but I usually end up meeting and chatting happily with a decent about of strangers over the Con. This year I felt like groups and individuals kept more to themselves. 
  • Did try one new restaurant that was a bust. 

The Ugly:

  • Gencon attendees making snide comments about the football game attendees on Sunday in the block party. Obviously I am not omniscient but I heard several bratty comments from GenCon attendees about "the Jocks", yet I did not hear a single person in football attire make a condescending comment about GenCon, mostly just expressions of mild bewilderment at most. I wore my football shirt on Sunday and was getting the stank eye from people as well. We make such a big deal about being accepting "of all", yet here we are making snap judgments about people based on their attire and appearance. We are better than this, guys.

The Wishful:

  • Where was the Bud Tent Wed-Sat???? I think it was sponsored by the radio station spinning music, but that would have been amazing!

    • (Yes, some of us do prefer light beer -most beer- over Sun King. See previous comment about making snap judgements about people. )

Posted by kevinrg

The Good : 

1.   Low crowds were nice, I could move around easily and find a corner to tuck into if I needed to do something (grab something out of my pack, make a call, text, tie my shoes...)
2.   Mask brawls just didn't happen.  In the end, I think the groups that were either massively pro masks or anti masks just sat this out and what you were left with was a large group of 'Eh.. whatever, your rules, I get the point' people.
3.   I always enjoy going to the Escape Rooms over on Meridian.  Was nice this year because I could just go with the person I went to the con with as opposed to a large group.
4.   Big Game Night with AEG.  1st time doing that.  Not sure how fast that sells out in a normal cons, but that was the best event of my weekend.

The Bad : 

1.   Did notice a number of vocal 'fights/disagreements' over seemingly stupid things.    I walked past some werewolf game where 2 groups were going at it and a guy had to be pulled away, another game where a player was inserted into a bad starting position and was eliminated quickly by 6 other players that got heated and a few other spats.  Can't say I've ever really seen that much prior to this year.  
2.   Shipment issues (which are plaguing the industry) forced a number of vendors to not have stock in some games they wanted to bring.
3.   Felt bad for the food trucks placed on Capitol Street.  This year, for whatever reason, seemed like those were at 25% crowds compared to Georgia street.   I stuck with trucks on Capitol Street.

The Ugly :

Nothing really ugly stands out.

Posted by lore seeker

My list:

The Good

  • Just being at an in-person convention again!
  • Running my Kindred of the East two-part adventure, where the stars all aligned and (barring the adventure itself needing a few rewrites) everything turned out perfectly. All of the same players showed up for both sessions, they all got into the spirit of the game, and they all had a fun time.
  • The Battletech Grinder. I'd never done this before, but with the Battletech Pods absent this year, the Grinder became my go-to time-killing event. I rarely get to play Battletech even though I read it all the time, so getting to play it so much was a treat.
  • The cosplayers! I always enjoy seeing what they're showing off, but it was even better this year because it felt like they didn't let the mask requirement get in the way of them showing off their work and having fun.
  • The Exhibit Hall. It was disappointing that the pickings were so slim for used books, between the lack of a consignment store and Half Price Books dropping out, but that and the lack of "usual suspect" booths forced me to go exploring where I normally wouldn't, and I found some very cool-looking games that I bought as a result (Star Trek Adventures, Relic, Part-Time Gods, and Embers of the Forgotten Kingdom).
  • Discovering there's an in-development board game based on Shadowgate (an NES game that I loved playing when I was a kid).

The Bad

  • The circumstances behind the cancellation my third Shadow of the Demon Lord game. All five tickets were bought by a single group of people, but they sent one person to give me the tickets and inform me that they had to cancel because an unspecified "issue" had come up with an animal they had brought to the convention. I completely understood and wished them the best; I just hope the animal is okay :(

The Ugly

  • One of the players at the last Battletech Grinder game I played. He got really salty both times his mech was destroyed in the two-hour game (I mean "spiking his marker on the table and tossing his mech record sheet across the table" salty).

Can't wait for 2022!

Posted by kevinrg lore seeker

father bloodlust wrote:
The Ugly

  • One of the players at the last Battletech Grinder game I played. He got really salty both times his mech was destroyed in the two-hour game (I mean "spiking his marker on the table and tossing his mech record sheet across the table" salty).

Can't wait for 2022!

Must be a Battletech thing.   The 6v1 player thing I mentioned in my above comments was a Battletech game that got heated.

Posted by lore seeker

Or it could have been the same guy.

Posted by grognard262

In the "embarrassingly bad" category, we found the escape room events at the ICC to be underwhelming.  We did Nevermore and Escape the Wizard's Curse and they both seemed like something a couple of college students threw together over a weekend.  We also had the room attendant hovering over us the whole time telling us "don't touch that", "there's nothing there", etc.  They were nothing compared to the nearby permanent escape rooms or the Dragon's Lair escape room from 2019, but just as expensive.

Posted by cmegus

The good:

As said, just being there in person was awesome above everything else. Never realized how much I would miss my Nirvana.

Did meet a really cool couple who were very friendly and ended up playing in many of the board game events that I was in.

Still was able to get my walking mileage in for the month :)

The bad:

Somehow I missed having more people around and the pick up games were few and far between this year. It really did seem like people showed up with their group and basically stayed with their group the whole time. I mean at 8 pm on a Saturday night in Hall A they were literally only two orange cones up for games with a single person who were pretty much ready to pack it in. Next year I’m bringing a very large hat that will say “ let me know if you need one more“ lol

Not having access to LOS.

The ugly:

I’ll settle this one in the VIG sections and forums…


Posted by jpederso

The Good:

  • Played 3 terrific 4 hour RPGS - Nascrag Desert of Destiny,  DCC Raven Ruins, and a Call of Cthulhu Hardy Boys mystery.  All had fun, cooperative, and dynamic groups and great GMs.  The Nascrag 5e RPG was outstanding.  We had a great time deciphering the puzzles and just being silly - with the gnome thief breaking into a New York accent and the warrior Consuela occasionally sounding like Inigo Montoya.  Thanks GM Pat.
  • The conversations you have with total strangers by just asking them what they've enjoyed so far (a conversation about Terraforming  Mars on the 10 minute shuttle ride).  
  • The lack of crowds/social distancing between tables made it easier to hear the GMs.  
  • Tried my hand at the Collective Art project.  
  • The Sunday service.  What a celebration.

The hope it's better next year (I won't call it bad):

  • The tower of Gaxx format didn't really work with the 1 hour time limit.  We made it through 2 rooms and a hallway.  Hope they go back to the old format (play till you die) next year
  • Lack of things to do to fill time between events - no seminars, auctions, games on demand (RPGs).  Looking forward to getting back to those next year

Posted by random_axcess

The Good:

  • With low attendance numbers getting around the hall and getting food on Georgia street was very easy (though this is pretty selfish).
  • Attending the convention in person!
  • Everything being on a slower pace was a nice way to ease back in.

The Bad:

  • The emptiness really shown a spot light on all the vendors that were missing
  • A lack of drop in/pick up games overall, which is by design unfortunately.
  • Rolling suit cases/Combat strollers. Even with the reduced attendance there where still a number of insufferable people dragging these around the dealer room without any care of who they ran over.
  • I will second the disappointment of the escape rooms. I really do not think they had experience running or setting these up.

Posted by xanathon

The Good:
Not constantly bumping into people in the exhibitors hall.
Most people were very laid back and cordial just happy to be at Gen Con
Events ran smoothly overall.

The Bad:
Exhibitors hall just seemed lacking due to the usual suspects not being there
The weather was warmer than originally forecasted
Downtown Indy showed the affect of COVID

The Ugly:
A lot of women wearing skirts with unshaven legs.  I wasn't trolling as I am happily in a relationship.  I just didn't expect to see that many women with leg hair similar to my own.

Posted by ascantla

The Good:

  • The free Citadel paint and take. The wife and I stopped by each day before the hall opened. I'm a novice painter at best, but loved seeing her get into painting that she doesn't usually do. Ended up buying some paints at a good price from them.
  • Getting to play games at GenCon again. We didn't have a lot scheduled, but had fun. 
  • The room to move around was a double edged sword as there were less booths as well as people, but being able to stop and look and get from place to place was nice this year. 

The Bad:

  • We drive an hour back and forth each day and OMG what was with the way people were driving, seen too many near misses.
  • We had a game that was 4 tickets and the person running the event went out of their way to get 2 more people without tickets. Not a big deal, but then the game was Soooo slow with 6. took the 2 full hours and I think we got maybe 6 or 8 turns each. we were falling asleep. 
  • Played a couple events for games that we wanted to buy only to find out they weren't out yet. And did a couple of demo's that we were going to buy, only to find out they weren't for sell yet. 

Posted by tdb

The Good:

  • Just being there!  After a year away it was just nice to see the banners, smell the food on Georgia Street, and hear the terrible sax player.
  • Mask compliance was quite good overall.  The biggest offenders seemed to be the ICC food service workers.
  • Getting around was easier due to the smaller crowds.
  • The mask-free area in Hall K was a great idea.  We made use of it every day except Sunday (see the bad, below).
  • All of the games we played in were excellent.  The Hardy Boys mystery (Hi Callie!) was short a person but worked out fine.  The Old West CoC game was epic, and the Never Going Home adventure was amazing.
  • For once, getting food from the food trucks was fairly quick.  And Hall K provide a place to eat that had actual chairs.
  • Had some nice conversations with randomly-encountered, newly-met gamers. 
  • The weather was decent.
  • I really enjoyed the small vendors that were able to come because the big boys stayed away.  I am blessed with several great local game stores, so it's easy to get games from the big companies.  But I saw a lot of things that you'll never find at your FLGS, which was great.

The Bad:

  • I did see a few people in the dealer hall with face shields but no masks.  How did they get into the hall? 
  • I really missed some of the groups I usually game with, and folks that I see every year.  Here's hoping for next year.
  • I saw a person pushing a baby buggy with a doll in it.  They were basically using the buggy as a shopping cart.  That struck me as even more obnoxious than the rolling luggage and the two-foot cube backpacks.
  • Speaking of ginormous backpacks, if I were the king of Gen Con I would institute a rule that if your pack doesn't pass airline carry-on rules it needs a badge of its own.
  • The food stand in Hall K was closed Saturday. 
  • Food shortages at the ICC food courts.  Saturday evening at the chicken place reminded me of Monty Python's cheese shop skit.  Chicken nuggets?  Sorry, out.  Spicy chicken sandwich?  Just sold the last one.  Cajun chicken?  Didn't come in.  And so forth.
  • None of the food places in ICC were serving tenderloins!
  • Finding events in the board game hall was tricky, especially with the smaller groups.  Bigger signs for the groups would help a lot.
  • Hall K was completely closed Sunday.  
  • There were a lot of empty booths in the dealer hall.  And a lot fewer booths overall.  And even at half capacity, badges apparently didn't sell out.  I'm really hoping the con made enough money to stay afloat.

The ugly:

  • Nothing, really.

Posted by mark_theurer

The Great

  • Getting to see my friends from around the country again!

 The Good

  • The lower attendance was great. 
  • Closing overnight for cleaning was great, please do this from now on.
  • We basically got into all the games we wanted.  A couple got cancelled but we found replacements or played at the hotel.
  • Great food (St Elmo’s and Bosphorus is a must if you are a carnivore!)
  • Not too much in the vendor hall to tempt me to spend money on.
  • In general, people acted like adults.  We all chose to be there so that means complying with the rules whether we like them or not.

 The Bad

  • losing half of our room reservations and having to re-book the night before getting on a plane.  We paid more but ended up at the Crowne Plaza (which was amazing being right across the street from the ICC, but it was quite stress inducing the night before).
  • Masks, but it’s the world we live in right now.
  • GM at our Star Trek Ascendancy game (specifically described for new players with no experience) split his time between our table and a Terraforming Mars game.  Not good form at all.  We ended our game generally unhappy.
  • People still cannot figure out how to keep from stopping in the vendor hall aisles or wearing backpacks the size of small children and being oblivious of their movements.
  • Not too much in the vendor hall to tempt me to spend money on.
  • Mask “policing” was hit and miss and some in charge of that were a bit overzealous, especially in the hotels

 The Ugly

  • Nothing that I’d call ugly.

Posted by aldctjoc

The Great:

  • Just being there. I thought I was going to miss this year but managed to free up for a day! YAY!
  • It was still very much Gen Con in that it still had the vibe, the atmosphere, and the anticipation of doing stuff (albeit reduced due to the smaller crowds). Just being in that atmosphere was enough to make a personally bad year much better. Literal therapy for me. Literal

The Good:

  • Vendors as always were just joyed to the max to be speaking with us. 

    • Side note: Oh man, I can afford some of the exotic gemstone dice now, and they're freaking beautiful
    • Side note #2: I need to spend more time in the artists' section next year. I always strolled through, but there's so much there to appreciate. And maybe even buy. It's too good to just walk by. 

  • There was no letdown in the cosplay game that I saw. It didn't seem as though anyone was letting the pandemic or the reduced crowd hold back their game. Wonderful.

The Bad:

  • My own fault since I freed up so late, but: I didn't get to sign up for events this year. Not a big problem since I just joined in demos and other ad-hoc things, but it still felt like a lesser experience.
  • Not a "bad", but: In the future I'm hoping there will be more advertising or even outright involvement outside of downtown. I grew up in Indiana and went to an old favorite pizza place in another city. Even those folks knew about Gen Con and were both curious and enthusiastic about it. Gen Con has an exceptionally positive image in central Indiana. I think that can be leveraged to get more involvement, investment, participation, etc. That means more money for the businesses and more happiness all around. 
  • Referencing Fethbone's note about the football fans: I'll never scold any fellow Gen Con goer. But as positive testimony, I know many NFL fans (am a Colts fan myself) who are also gamers. Heck, an old college buddy turned his guy-cave into a total gaming and minis area, and his was a family who named their dogs after Colts players and had season tickets. I'm just saying we can all get along, and we're not all that different from each other. That's all. 
  • Minor gripe: Why do none of the vending machines have Coke Zero in them??!!  I need me my Coke Zilcho!! When I don't get it, I turn.... strange... 0_0

Nothin' in the "Ugly" department. Well, unless you count my need for a shower at the end of the day... (*blush*)

Posted by golliiath

The Good:

  • Being back at the convention after a 3 year hiatus due to medical issues.  It's so nice being back!
  • The decreased attendance was a plus this year
  • Mask compliance was outstanding.  Only saw a couple people walking around without masks on in the convention center.
  • I enjoyed the slower pace.  It wasn't as frantic as it's been in the past.
  • Hall K eating area was a wonderful idea and I hope it continues into the future.
  • Being able to demo games...always a good thing.

The Bad:

  • No True Dungeon and no access to LOS.
  • The empty vendor spaces were worrisome.  I hope the trend doesn't continue.
  • The bottlenecking in the exhibit hall.  I think the trash containers could be contained to the end of the aisles.
  • No sell-out of badges.  Here's hoping it was a 1 year anomaly.
  • Getting my walking in for the next 2 months.  LOL

The Ugly:

  • Nothing ugly to report.

Posted by jpederso tdb

tdb wrote:
All of the games we played in were excellent.  The Hardy Boys mystery (Hi Callie!) 

Hi Frank.  Say "hi" to Iola and I hope Joe shows up soon. 

Posted by matthias9

(I'm going with Great, Good and Bad because I'd rather be 2/3 positive than 2/3 negative.)

Contagion Escape Room (run by Escape Room Indianapolis down the street, not the people running the ones others have complained about).
Great DM or two with Baldman Games
Many cool costumes
Awesome after hours gaming with friends, especially Pandemic Legacy Season 0

New vendors
Exhibit hall seemed to be almost as large; maybe just missing one row?
Good food at Crab 99 Bar and at Thai Paradise

Closing convention center at midnight, which hampers "Are You A Werewolf" and other things
Missing board games sales; none by Cool Stuff; was hoping for The Crew Mission Deep Sea
Lost food establishments:  Ram, Scotty's, Claddagh, Jimmy John's
Companies that chose to skip:  Paizo, True Dungeon, etc.

Posted by kevinrg

Might have a late 'bad/ugly' to add.   My credit card has multiple charges from the hotel, none of which align to the bill that they gave me and 1 occurred at like 3 in the morning for an even amount (which is odd in itself) so, have to track that stuff down and figure out why.

Posted by wells

The Good:
Bought a few items, mostly for in-person D&D. Also ordered a backpack.
Enjoyed myself! Glad I went, needed the break from work and have had no vacation for a while.

The Bad:
Was supposed to be in an RPG game, but even though they saw us in their system, they hadn't placed us at a table with a DM. We wound up not playing.
Played in a D&D game, about half way through I was thinking that this was probably the worst written module I had ever seen. The players were all good! I got home and bought the module just to read it. The module was fine, our DM had been ad libbing large portions, torturing mostly 1st level adventurers with ridiculous situations that were definitely NOT in the module.

The Ugly:
Nothing, really. I missed the auction and some of the food places.

The good far outweighed the bad, we weren't really upset at the "bad", just moved on and chalked it up to a learning experience.

Posted by rfsullivan

The Good:

Being back.

Played a number of games I hadn't before, including some I'd never heard of. Sat down for Gaslands with an impressive array of mocked up film cars including an amazing War Rig, tried out Numenaria and The Night Cage, and others.

The Mixed:

The DM for my first game of the con was a no-show. But it played out in my favor, because the organizers shifted me to the above noted Numenaria game, where the DM did a great job with a mixed group of experienced players and the uninitiated.

I learned about The Night Cage, but did so too late to get in on a special edition that was being sold at the con, and then due to my own hesitation missed out on some neat pewter play pieces that sold out before I was willing to commit.

Had one good run at the Battletech Grinder, but one that was significantly less good. Not "have a hissy fit and throw your stuff" level, but not great.

Got told "we're out of X" quite a bit at food trucks and restaurants, but still had good eating all weekend (minus one incident).

The Ugly:

A bad food truck experience led to me having to abandon a game on Saturday night, and then spend the rest of the evening/part of Sunday morning seeing to certain biological impulses.

Spent about a half hour blindly wandering around the JW looking for a non-existent pool. They apparently got rid of their pool in a remodel 2ish years ago, but still have signs up in the elevators saying there's a pool on the second floor.

A few GPS failures during the trip in and the trip home, and a few unpleasant close calls on the road.

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