Gencon UK – Summary/Wrap up

The d20 LARP on the green demonstrated just how silly standard adventurer equipment could be.


I didn’t really get to talk to the Crimson Empire guys that much, but they always have a very impressive stand and a good looking product.

Summing Up
Olympia wasn’t too great, Butlins was a frigging nightmare, then there was a gap and now we were in Reading. I have fond memories of GamesFair in Reading and it was great to be back there once again. Its a great campus, a good area, there’s cheap food, pretty cheap accommodation and plenty of space to play in. I think this is a positive improvement and it seems like Reading will be the home for the con for the next few years – which is good to know. It seemed to me that things were much improved in many regards, particularly in terms of organisation and communication amongst the organisers but there were things that were bad/wrong or that could be done better.

Before I get into my whinges let me say that this was, definitely, a vast improvement and with the basics fixed I think Gencon has the capability to come on leaps and bounds over the next couple of years and to restore itself to its rightful place as king of the gaming cons.

That said…

The trade hall business was OK, but not great, it was slow and considering the amount we paid out for it it didn’t feel like great value for money – even with my ‘whacking great pole in the way’ discount. The trade hall was some distance from the other buildings where ‘stuff’ was going on and, apparently, the bigger retailers had their own space away from us, drawing people away from the tradehall. Other problems from a trader point of view were that the scheduling of the tournaments etc meant that people didn’t actually have time to browse and look around out stalls and that the ticket system ate up cash that people should have been spending on our goods and meant they tended to stick to very specific things – cards and figures for their tourneys mostly – and little else.

Most of the traders were mainly selling cards, boardgames and CCGs. RPGs were mostly in evidence only on the bring and buy and in the form of second hand trade. On the one hand this was disappointing, on the other hand we small press types seemed to reap the rewards by being the only ones selling RPG stuff really and maybe getting a bit more business to compensate for the other problems.

Its the tickets and the high day-ticket price that really killed it I think. We didn’t get a lot of casual browsers due to the high day ticket price and with the charges for games (£3 a ticket, multiple tickets needed to play demo games) on top of that people’s money was eaten into and that must have eaten into the trader’s potential business. Not to mention that that, combined with hidden free gaming tables and no real way to advertise pick up games, really puts people off and works against them – if they’re not doing tournament play.

This is the big failing from both a trader and a player point of view.

I was stuck behind the stand all day but we found it to be like getting blood from a stone to find people to take up Delegate Organised Games and then to find somewhere to do them, though Big Steve (all hail Big Steve, friend of Postmortem and provider of crash space) did manage to get a small group together to demo Esoterrorists for Pelgrane Press.

I know, I know, this sounds like a big whinge when my overall impression was positive but it is definitely fixable, there just need to be a few changes to encourage actual GAMING at the con and to bring in more interest, perhaps, from computer game companies etc. I have a strong feeling things will improve over the next couple of years and I just hope that Gencon is able to overcome its past stigma and restore its name and that it isn’t already over the brink.

I’ll be there so long as it’s in Reading and we’ll see if we can do more about demos next time around.

17 responses to “Gencon UK – Summary/Wrap up

  1. I have to say that if they stick with the same things for next year, gaming areas seperated from everywhere else, all the focus on CCG/Mini/Competitive RPGs and this stupid ticketing system then I may go for one day but certainly not all four as there would be very little to actually attract me to the con.
    I had an awesome time hanging out with you, Donna and the other various peoples however I do feel distinctly like I did not get value for money for my £65 ticket.

    • You got to see more than I did, like the demo areas etc, if you mail me your impressions I’ll pass them on and put my clout behind it as well.

  2. I was impressed the con wasn’t the p*** up in a brewery I’d been led to expect, so they are gradually getting things right.
    I expect everyone who went visited the trade hall and went around to see everything. However, they should take more care to not put RPG companies between massive shelf laiden board game and card companies. It is easy to hide your neighbour’s stall by filling the dividing line with tall bookcases! We got lucky this time, but might not next time.
    I don’t have a problem with charging for games. As long as it is a small fee. If people don’t have to put down something they often don’t turn up to the game as they have nothing to loose. A nightmare if the GM has turned people away thinking he was booked solid. However, Gen-Con US charges $3 so charging £2-3 for UK seems rather steep. The same can apply to the ticket price. Just becasue it is Gen-Con, you can’t charge the same as the US con which is at least 30-50 times bigger. Mind you, I don’t know what their overheads are so it may not be fair for me to comment.
    We had a good time, and it did work out to be financially worth it.
    I think the lack of ‘mega’companies like White Wolf and Wizards taking everyone’s cash really helped.
    Maybe this is also why people seemed to be more interested in alternative and new stuff.
    I think we’ll be back again next year, although Dragonmeet is without doubt still our priority Con.

    • The thing with the ticket prices is that they were £3 per ticket with many events requiring more than one ticket to gain entry. That put me off straight away. Yes there were bundle deals but those were only available for people who were attending all 4 days.
      Add to that the fact that all the ‘event’ games seemed to be either living greyhawk D&D or some kind of ccg/mini tournament and they lost my interest.
      The ‘Open Gaming Area’ was not signed and was almost impossible to find, combine this with the fact that everyone was always rushing to get to the ticketed events and there was very little to no ‘pick up and play’ style gaming of people randomly hooking up to try out a new game they had just purchased. That always used to be a big draw for me at Gencon.
      So yeah, I expect I’ll be there next year, but probably only for a day.

      • £3??!!! Thats twice Gen-Con US.
        I did notice the games on offer were either D&D or Cthulu, but I put that down to those being what people were generally running. If thats the case, there’s not much you can do about it. I didn’t look at the listing in the registration hall as it made my eyes go funny!
        The open gaming area problems sound like just apauling management. I asked about how I could add Victoriana demos to the listing if I needed to and got a ‘meh’ answer. “You can put a note on the notice board and try to find space if you like” which wasn’t much use. How hard would it have been to say ‘Oh, we’ll type your game into the database and post updates. The computer will tell us which areas are free at what time so we cn put you somewhere.’
        All the games for everyone should be in the same sort of area, so everyone can find it. I hadn’t realised there was such a division between ‘event games’ and open gaming. Really pants.

      • I was initially told that I wasn’t allowed to advertise ‘non-sanctioned’ games and if I wanted to play/run something that wasn’t an ‘event’ I just had to wait around and see if anyone was interested in the open gaming areas.
        Obviously with the open gaming areas being, as far as I could tell, semi-mythical anyway it was a bit of a non-starter.
        Clearer signs and better scheduling are the way forwards for these people, especially since the gaming areas all shared floors in the building with actually working researchers and lecturers who I’m sure got royally fed up with lost nerds walking into their offices and asking if this was the open gaming area.
        In the whole 4 days I managed to run one game, a demo of Esoterrorist (which was awesome by the way), I would have loved to get more gaming in but the lack of organisation made it almost impossible to get involved in anything or get anything started unless it was an ‘event’.
        And yes £3 is a stupid price, especially with some events requiring up to 6 tickets to enter, that’s £18, almost the price of a day pass.
        I think that while they’ve done much better organising the areas for the traders and sponsors they balanced this by stiffing the actual con goers somewhat.

    • Wizards of the Coast and WizKids did have trade stands. They were just in a different hall away from the other traders.
      It makes me wonder how many people who were D&D or Pirates/’Clix fans actually bothered coming over to the rest of the trade hall.
      I’d like to see ALL traders in the same area if possible. Or atleast in ajoining halls.

      • I hadn’t even realised they had stands!
        I had to wander to find the Black Industries area, but I thought that was just their own special gaming room.
        The traders should definatly all be in the same hall. I’m sure we didn’t lose much trade from the clicky crowd, but the WFRP fans may have missed us too.

  3. The high pass price and the extra cost for each game coupled with little prospects of free demos/DOGs was the main reason I didn’t go.
    With a venue as big as that, it shouldn’t a problem to have a room or couple of rooms with tables and chairs people can snag for pick-up games and proper DOGs (with a board and everything), something that’s bugged me ever since Horsemen took over.

  4. Did you see anything of the gaming, especially LARP? This is the first year in a decade I’ve not been running stuff at GC because I really didn’t feel the support was there from the organisers, so I’d be interested in the impressions of people who were there.

    • Beyond the guys doing the D20 LARP, which was for kicks rather than anything serious, I don’t think there was any. There were signs leading to an area put aside for LARP but I didn’t see a single person there or and sign up info anywhere in the con. Also there were no LARP events on the official events list either.

      • Apparently the Cam had a game there on Saturday night, but apart from that I heard nothing. I’ve tried talking to GC about what I see as problems with the organisation and they talk a good game, but I’m not seeing action to back up what they say. Shame, really.

      • I wasn’t even aware that the cam was there, beyond a single tacky a4 poster on the door to the traders area that basically said ‘join the cam, we’ve got vampires’ there wasn’t any advertising in the events/reception gaming areas that I saw.
        Mind you, you’d have to pay me to get me to play a live action game in the new wod. 🙂

    • Looks like most of the LARP groups either pulled out or something went wrong for them. AFAIK only the Cam did a LARP at all (apart from the d20 guys) so I didn’t really see much going on there.
      Apparently there were some delegate organised games, but fuck knows where they actually ended up being run.

      • The LARPers pulled out for two reasons:
        1) Astonishingly terrible organisation last year, and nobody taking responsibility.
        2) A GC staffer telling Mystery in Mind that LARP is an inconvenience and GC would rather not have them.
        Really nothing has been done by GC to make me, MiM or Epic Experience consider going back. Lots of words, no action.

      • Overall I think things were better. The groundwork is there for vast improvements in the next couple of years but they just need to win back trust and facilitate the LARPers and DOGs.
        The tickets thing needs a serious rethink too.

      • Apparently there were some delegate organised games, but fuck knows where they actually ended up being run
        The only DOGs I know of that actually happened were “unofficial” ones that happened semi-randomly; as for where they were run — wherever there was space I think, certainly there were RPGs being run at some point in one of the URS minis/board games rooms, and in the SCR bar.
        As for LARPers I saw a couple of Cammies wandering around and they were grumbling about lack of organisation/support, though whether that was on the part of HE or the antediluvians that control the Cam I don’t know.
        Callum

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