Aug 172011

Every year thousands of gamers (geeks) descend on Indianapolis to take part in Gen Con. The best four days in the game industry. Here is gamers don crazy costumes, play games, buy, sell, trade, learn trade secrets, and more importantly just have fun.

If you are a gamer, of any merit, and you have never experienced Gen Con it is something you should plan on. There is something for everyone, even for non gaming significant others. Gamers can play almost any game of choice whether it is in print or out of print. While guests of honor and teachers host seminars and panels for more serious individuals who wish to break in the gaming industry.

This year I focused on the Writers symposium. I managed to sneak in a few questions with Matt Forbeck, Anton Strout (guest’s of honor), and many other authors on the symposium. We managed to meander through the Exhibit hall every time we had a chance. I have had the opportunity to demo or watch a few games (Dust Tactics, Mercs, Relic Knights, KoW).


The Writer’s Symposium

Matt Forbeck

Anton Strout

The Exhibit Hall

Games I Demoed/observed

Dust tactics


Relic Knights



The main focus of me for Gen Con this year was the Writer’s Symposium. The symposium is series of panels, or in some cases lectures on writing. These panels are hosted by the Writer’s Symposium, which is a group of about twenty authors and editors, through Gen Con. Every year they provide inspiring for younger, budding writer’s who wish to become author‘s. At the same time they provide a shelter for would be writers to network their materials.

The panels vary from year to year with some overlap. While it may appear that some panels are better than others this is not entirely true. For example one of my favorite panels this year was World building Religion (not the actual title). It focused on things like how technology might effect the belief systems of the races around. It was one of my favorites because I already knew a lot of this stuff. But, I did not know I knew it. I learned a lot of things about religion and technology in college. What I did not learn was how to apply the effects. That made this hour so worth it to me.

On the flip side, my least favorite panel had to be Make em squirm. This panel was about learning when to kill off a character, or when to stick it to your audience. I did not get as much from this panel for two reasons. One, is because I am not sure I am ready to understand it. Second, it is not an easy topic to discuss. The concept behind make em squirm is to get the reader to anticipate the scene. That is something that you have to learn by doing. It is just something I just have not done enough of to appreciate it as much as some of the other panels that made light bulbs ring like bells.


Matt Forbeck has an awesome testimony of how the freelance industry can work for you (it does for him).  You can follow him on his website


Anton Strout is more than a writer, he has a day job.  He is an editor at Penguin Press.  Even though Anton is quite, um, melancholy he has a lot to offer new  writers (especially about rubbing elbows with editors).  Anton’s Blog

Aside from all the cool writing panels I attended I did get to demo (not destroy) some games.

The first of which was Dust Tactics Beta.  Dust Tactics Beta is the table top miniatures version of the board game.  The miniatures look pretty darn good.  They are balanced.  meaning that they have just enough detail for a really good painter to paint them really well.  They also have just enough detail that an average painter can make them look pretty good with out too much frustration.  Oh, and did I mention they come primed in the factions colors.  That is sadly what I say the highlight of the game is.  Keep in mind it is still in beta testing.   I played the game twice and watched three more games.  Here is my conclusion.  It has a few kinks to work out.  It appears the game is dependent on who goes first.  In the first game I had the opportunity to go first due to superior rolling.  My opponent had a terrible roll, which left him with no activations so he forfeited the right to go first and re rolled.  He did not fair much better.  I destroyed one of his tanks up on the first activation of the game.   He failed miserably at doing anything to me.  On my second activation, I did the same thing (I blew up his other tank).  So, at the end of my second activation he only had infantry left on the board.  He looked at the table and said “I have seen enough”, and then left.  I played another game and I almost had his experience.  The games I watched were not very close.  It seems that the game can have a serious advantage if you end up first with several activations.   I will wait to see the real rules once they come out, but if the first turn issue I see is not fixed it will not be my first choice of games to play.

The Second game I played was MERCS.  It has a rule good rules set.  The learning curve is almost non existent.  The minis are almost too detailed for my standards.  Once you have the hang of it, the game plays fast.  My guess is if both players know the game it will take about 20 to 30 minutes for a game.  The only draw back I have discovered to the game is that it seems to be limited to no more than eight figures.  I like to play with all my toys, so having a cap on the figure count isn’t the thing.  I might be willing to overlook the the cap for a quick game.


I did not get to play Relic Knights, but I did watch 2 games.  I think it is a good game.  It uses cards with symbols that generate “energy” ( I forget the real term) that activates the abilities of the figs.   It is played on a small field, so it plays quick.  The draw back I have is that a standard only uses a handful of figures. The figures are beautiful by the way.  In fact I can easily imagine more people buying the figs to paint.  That is not an attempt to take away from the game, but the mini’s are that inspiring.


Mantic Games Kings of War is the next mass battle table top miniature game.  It is simple, no overbearing charts.  The abilities of characters are figured right into the figs – which in some ways can be limiting.   The game plays fast (2000 pts can be played in an hour).  The rules are 12 pages long.  The minis are not over detailed nor are they overpriced (like some other companies).   Mantic Games could very well be placing themselves in a dominant position in the industry with a great game, and better pricing.   Did I mention they just about sold out at Gen Con 2011, and they had a lot of product.

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