The Cartographer’s Travels: Looking back at GenCon

06_AboveCloudsThis is a bit of a personal look at this year’s travel to Indianapolis and my experience on the ProFantasy booth at GenCon. Read on if you enjoy this sort of thing.

I enjoy traveling very much, but a transatlantic flight is still a tiring thing. It takes me about 2 hours to get to Frankfurt airport from where I live, so it always means an early morning start for me. There are no direct flights to Indianapolis from Europe, so the first leg of the journey usually takes me to New York, Detroit or Chicago. Then there’s immigration, another security check and the domestic flight to Indy. All of this easily eats up 20 hours or more. As I can’t sleep on the plane, you can imagine the general state I’m in when I arrive in Indy on Tuesday evening. I have to to say though, that recent changes in the way the US handles the immigration/security checks has reduced waiting times immensely. Where I used to stand 30 minutes to 2 hours in line, I can now just walk up to an immigration terminal and get through the whole thing in 10 minutes. Great!

09_BoothArrivalWednesday is set aside for booth setup. I meet up with Doug and Tommy, who’ve driven over from Columbus the day before, and we usually start building the booth around 10am – if the booth material has arrived yet, as it had this year. Having done this for a few years, we are a practiced team and get it done pretty quickly. As we are sharing the booth with Pelgrane Press and they have a lot more to do with all the heavy books to shift, we usually manage to help them out a bit. Often there’s a problem to sort out: Electricity hasn’t been laid, tables are missing, we need more chairs, etc. which means a trip to convention services or asking around at other exhibitors. This year was fairly easy on that, but Mayfair Games were very helpful in storing some palettes we didn’t have space for. Doug is the champion in getting help – he just has a way with people.

20_ArmadaWednesday evening there’s usually a little time available where I can get in a game or two. Tommy usually brings along some good games, and this year we managed to try a session of Star Wars: Armada which neither of us has had a chance to play before. My Imperial fleet managed to decimate his rebel scum – taking on Star Destroyers in close combat is not such a promising tactic after all. Yay!

Gaming takes my mind away from the jet lag exhaustion at this point, helping to get into the 6-hours-delayed day and night rhythm. If I’d retire to the hotel room, I’d just fall asleep and later be awake most of the night. Still I start waking up at 4am and then sleep only in small bursts until it’s get time get up. By the time I’m acclimatized, it usually time to fly back home to Germany.

25_DemoRunningThursday is the big day – the actual convention starts. It’s early hours for us, since the first customers can enter the exhibitor’s hall at 9am (VIGs – very important customers – spend extra on their tickets for this privilege). Since there is usually some last minute setup to do, things to check, and the computer to boot up, I’m in the hall at 8am, the earliest time you can enter as exhibitor.

The real rush begins when the hall opens to the general public and it’s always fun to see the crowd hurrying towards the booth with limited product or special offers. Fortunately they’ve now managed to convince everyone that running though the aisles is NOT a good idea – even if it had to be through threats of removing ticket privileges. More customers start arriving at our booth around that time, and I get into my routine of explaining (“What are you selling here?”) and/or demoing CC3+ (“Can you show me how it works?”) or the add-ons (“How do I create a starship deckplan”)?

22_RedCarpetWe had the the just released Perspectives 3 installed, but unfortunately no discs or boxes yet. That always makes it a bit hard to generate interest, but I was able to demo the isometric map-making to quite a few people and they liked what they saw! It’s great to see familiar faces and get wonderful feedback from old-time customers, but the largest part of the booth work is getting new people interested in CC3+ – and that is very rewarding. We’ve added at least 60 new people to the fold of CC3+ users over the course of the show, and I am sure several of those will show up on the forum with their work or come back to the booth next year to chat about their experience.

Thursday afternoon and Friday tend to be quieter which gives us the chance to take turns to wander the halls and look around. There’s never enough time to play an actual demo game at one of the many tables, but at least you get to check out new releases, special offers and old friends at other booths.

34_EnnieThursday night is usually reserved for the ProFantasy dinner where we enjoy a good meal together with some freelance cartographers. Unfortunately Alyssa Faden couldn’t make it to GenCon this year, but Mike Schley was there. I can’t say much about it yet, but I’m happy to hint, that there’ll be some cool stuff coming up from further Schley/Profantasy cooperation.

Friday is gala night where the ENnie awards are given out in a big ceremony. ProFantasy wasn’t involved, but Pelgrane Piess always is and won an amazing number of ENnies this year. Congratulations to our booth compatriots!

43_BatmanSaturday is always the busiest day of the show and we do the bulk of our sales. Fortunately it doesn’t get rowdy, but some customers do seem to go to extremes. Thanks, Batman!

Saturday evening I reserved for gaming with friends and we got a nice playtest session in for an upcoming Tolkien-themed deduction game from Ares Games, where the Nazgûl are hunting for the hobbits on their way from Bag End to Rivendell. I got to play Frodo, but the pesky ringwraiths managed to thwart me and recovered the One Ring on the road east of Bree. So much for Middle-earth!

35_DismantlingThings start to slowly wind down on Sunday, with the exhibitor’s hall closing at 4pm. Dismantling the booth and storing everything for shipping went well this year (it can be a pain) and we waved Tommy and Doug goodbye as they headed home. For us long-distance-flyers the trip home is on Monday, giving us time to gather for the big Pelgrane dinner and some drinks in the hotel bar later. Another GenCon well done!

Somehow the trips back to Germany always prove troublesome for me. This year I ran smack into the big Delta Airlines mess up. I missed the connecting flight from Detroit to Frankfurt and had to spent the night and most of the next day in Detroit. At least on the way back it’s not so stressful, as I wisely never place any important appointments on the two days after my return from Indianapolis.

39_IndyAirport
Again it was a wonderful 4-days of gaming (well, mostly work actually, but still) and I’m looking forward to being back in Indianapolis next year!


5 Responses to “The Cartographer’s Travels: Looking back at GenCon”

  1. Great read Ralf! I can sympathize, I have made that flight many times! I am glad that you had a great time and added more people to the fold. Awesome products!!!!

  2. Great write-up of the trial you have to go through just to get ready for the convention. I’m glad it went well, 60 new CC clients sounds pretty good to me.
    CC is an amazingly good product but, I guess, difficult to explain and demonstrate where time is at a premium! I hope you didn’t forget to mention the Annual – it really is a indispensable add-on to an already great application.

  3. In 8 weeks you will have a shorter journey and probably more stress 😉
    It IS a good write up

  4. Yay, SPIEL in Essen! 😉

  5. Thanks! Enjoyed reading about your GenCon experience this year! It seemed to be a pretty successful trip – minus the Delta glitch 🙂 Hmmm….I sure am glad I subscribe to the Annuals….sounds like a new Schley style might be in store for us soon!?!