Gen Con 2018: I went, saw, and played! (and then brought a ton home)

Werewolf characterI went to Gen Con 2018! 

Gen Con is not normally on my calendar of events but for the last few years there’s been so much buzz from my clients and friends about how it’s been growing, so I figured I HAD to go to Gen Con 2018 and take a look.


A Little Background

Gen Con is the largest and longest-running game convention in North America.

  The first Gen Con was in 1967 at Gary Gygax’s house in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin – isn’t that such a gamer thing to do?  The first official year was 1968 when they held it in a horticulture hall in Lake Geneva, WI and after that it hopped around to a few universities and convention centers in Wisconsin before moving to Indianapolis in 2003.  Now, 50 years after it began, it is so large that it TAKES OVER Indianapolis.  The main expo hall is in the Convention Center, there’s programming and a giant gaming library in Lucas Stadium, the neighboring hotels play host to tons of events, and this year they added a block party with 65+ food trucks, beer gardens, and a concert – it’s HUGE.

“2018 convention is the most attended ever, propelled by a record number of 4-Day badge sales, a 16% year-over-year increase in Saturday badge holders, and astounding 60% jump in year-over-year growth for both Sunday badge holders and children attending with wristbands.†– Gen Con Press Release

Gen Con Cosplay

The Gen Con Experience

There were over 520 game companies, 600 new games, and 17,000 (no.. that’s not a typo) ticketed events (I went to 2).

  There is so much to do and see, and there’s no way you’re going to tackle it all in 4 days.  I spent 2 solid days there and saw SO MUCH, played a bunch of new games, and came home with 20 games.  Whew!  (I posted a ton of pics to Instagram if you want to see some of what I saw. Also check out the hashtag #GenCon.)

The exhibit hall portion of Gen Con only goes from 10am – 6pm (4pm on Sunday) but gaming goes around the clock.  There are events in the nearby hotels and at Lucas Stadium after hours, and you can find people gaming all over Indy (bars, restaurants, hotel common areas, hallways, etc.) at pretty much all hours of the day.  Even when you were leaving town I hear they had gaming areas at the airport!

Blue orange booth signageGen Con is geared more toward teen and adult gamers and isn’t quite a family show.  Even though companies who do lots of children’s games, like Play Monster, Mattel, Spin Master, are there, they do not bring or showcase their children’s games.  There is a “family pavilion†but it has companies with family-friendly games, not pre-school friendly games. While I was able to purchase some children’s games, they weren’t always readily available to play (notable exception being HABA which is like a children’s gaming paradise).  Still, they do have fun ticketed events for younger kids if you need to bring them along.

Overall, if you love playing and trying games – especially new ones — this is the place to be (as long as you like large crowds of people… because there are TONS.)  I’ll be posting about some of the games I picked up while I was there over the next few weeks and you a take a look at my Instagram account if you want to more of the games I looked at while I was here.


L to R: Kaosmos from Gigamic, Mesozooic from Z-Man, Tower of Madness from Smirk & Dagger

If You Want To Go to Gen Con 2019

Plan ahead! Gen Con 2019 is August 1-4 in Indianapolis.  You can buy 4-day badges or single day badges and kids 10 and under are free with an adult – or at least that’s how it was this year, but double check when tickets go on sale in January.

Carroll Spinney (Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch puppeteer) and Debbie Spinney

Carroll Spinney (Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch puppeteer) and Debbie Spinney speaking at one of the FREE ticketed events

Once you purchase your badge you can register for ticketed events.  There are a TON of them and many are FREE or very low cost ($2-$6), but some, like an escape room experience $18, decorating a safety sword $18, or crochet a Harry Potter scarf $24, are more expensive.  Not all events require specific tickets, and you can also buy generic tickets and then use them to enter gaming events.  You do not need to buy event tickets to enjoy Gen Con, but they’re definitely worth a look.

Crowds of people

A Couple Tips 

Get your badge early so you can get into the hotel lottery.  

The fact that they have to have a lottery for hotels is nuts, but what do you expect when there are so many people descending on a town.

Get your event tickets early or plan time to stand in the Will Call line.  The will call line is NUTS.  I managed to get in it when it was pretty short but still spent 20+ minutes in it.  If you need to pick up tickets for Thursday AM you may want to go on Wednesday night.  The Will Call line will be super long and that will take you ~90 minutes, but it’s better than Thursday AM where it might still take 90 minutes and you’ll miss an event.

Comfortable shoes and summery clothing. The convention hall can get hot with so many people.  Also the easiest way to grab lunch outside of the convention food vendors is to hit up a food truck outside, and it was pretty hot this year.

Bring packable shopping bags in a backpack.  You’ll say you’re only going to come home with a few games but a few more always sneak in.  Not every vendor will give you a bag so you’ll want to have some with you just in case.  But don’t forget you have to get them home in your luggage if you fly!  I hear lots of folks who pack an extra duffle in their luggage and pack their clothes in that bag on the way home.

forbidden skyIf you are sure you want to buy a game go to that booth EARLY.  Gamewright was selling only 100 copies of Forbidden Sky each morning, but many other booths will sell until they are gone and there are titles that will sell out early on Thursday.  (Another reason not to spend Thursday AM in the Will Call line.)

Contemplate leaving the younger kids at home. This is up to you, but there wasn’t much for the under 6/7 crowd to do beyond some of the kids events.  Not many children’s games were available to play on the show floor – example, Pegasus Spiele had a bunch to purchase but they couldn’t demo them.  They had to explain them by showing the back of the box.  Bringing a stroller is great for when your kid falls asleep or if you want to keep them contained, BUT it’s difficult to maneuver through the crowds.  Older kids ages 8-10 who are gamers would probably find the show far more enjoyable than the younger crowd. Overall, there’s a reason that only those 10+ are required to have a badge.