Next year should be my fifth consecutive Gencon. In 2016, my brother decided we should run some fantasy miniatures games and did all the necessary signup work, and the same in 2017. However, next year I'd like to get back to my roots and run some historical miniatures games. I've been hosting games at east coast historical miniatures conventions for about 25 years at this point, so the mechanics of staging a game are pretty familiar. After a couple of years at Gencon, the mechanics of putting on a game here are also familiar.
What I don't have a good feel for is this:
How likely is anyone to sign up for a home rules historical miniatures game, and how has attendance been for what has been run? Advance ticket sales for historical events this year seemed a bit skewed by some late submissions; numbers were also down, but with volunteer work one doesn't know whether that's a fluke or a trend, nor what the reasons are. It would be a bit dismal to cart all the stuff there and then not have players.
I'm thinking Dark Ages or medieval skirmish gaming, depending on my luck in the hotel lottery, with a baseline game of six players for four hours.
I'll have to double-check attendance numbers (so you'll want to check back in October/November), but in general I would say that if you're going to do "home-brew" than you need an absolutely irresistible hook/scenario/premise to lure players in. Generally, the way to do that is with a recognizable, popular IP.
So if your priority is to get players, I would pick an established games and then add an awesome scenario.
If you specifically want to do homebrew, I would strongly recommend just naming your system and putting up a web page with lots of details so players can learn more. Then start very small and modest for your schedule: build up some players over time. If you're game is in testing and you want feedback, note that so folks know what they're getting into.
But basically, time is precious at Gen Con, so the more you can do to make people trust your game is gonna be awesome, the better off you are. Putting a bet on "home-brew" is going to cut at least some players out, so you want to lean as hard as you can on the thematic elements.
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I will throw my 2 cents in as well - I am the EO for 19 & One and we run a lot of historical miniatures at Gencon (and other cons ). The following is based on our experiences(and are generalizations)
An interesting title is Key - a good number of players sign up based on a title -not so much the description ,with the limited characters available for descriptions it is better to draw an interesting pictures as opposed to overdoing specific details . Gencon players don't care that the scenario is about the 23rd Florian Grey dismounted antitank lancers -They care it sounds interesting .
If you do Home brew -I would suggest not doing a period that has multi popular rules . WWII land is a good example - You will be up against established rules sets.Players sign up specifically for Bolt Action and Flames of War
WWII sea is a good area to do a home brew - If you do French and Indian war people don't care what the rules are .
You will get a wide range of players (much more so than a HMGS convention ) and playing ability -a noticeable number will have never played a table top game before - as I tell my GM's gencon games cannot be the same as Club games -very few players want it to last longer than the time limit and they want a conclusion .
If you are interested you are welcome to do your first foray into Gencon GMing under our(19 & One ) umbrella . We have a large area at Gencon and offer a number of perks to GM's ( group access to GM badges , snacks and beverages all con , storage space, and more )
Drop me a line at kevin19andone@gmail if interested -or even if just to answer more questions
Derek: Yes, my brother and I have been discussing the value of Gencon time, so the play testing question for the next couple of months will be whether I can squeeze a rules explanation and a game into a two hour block and still reach a conclusion. Anything over four would be right out, as they say...Any home rules I would use do have names and are available online, so that's not an issue.
As far as IP goes, I guess I could tie in to the Vikings series on the one hand, but I don't think anyone has done a hot Hundred Years War movie lately. My personal favorite HYW IP is a Conan Doyle novel called The White Company, but I don't think that's terribly recognizable. :-P The basic idea behind doing a historical sword and shield skirmish game is that it is pretty familiar territory for a D&D/Pathfinder/other FRPG player, although less so for a random attendee with, say, a Eurogame background.
Kevin: I'll contact you offline additionally. I could do F&IW, if I had a hotel in block. :D I've got 400+ 40mm figures, which are nice and easy to see at conventions, but the weight of all that lead and the need for endless quantities of trees makes it less portable than some periods. While we usually do run with various home rules, Muskets and Tomahawks isn't bad and has had some level of popularity in the HMGS world.