Matt Carlson: GenCon 2018 (Cabinet of Curiosities)

I was recently overseas checking out some royal digs.  I found it interesting that people were in the habit of collecting various knickknacks of interest and putting them in a private collection to show off to the “in” crowd.  DaVinci had a whole wall of his writing room dedicated to his collection. In the spirit of the interesting, strange, or downright weird I submit this photo journal of “stuff” I came across at the convention.


Dercoinmeister: Game On! Coins

Early on Saturday, I just happened to stumble across a nice gentleman getting feedback on an upcoming kickstarter for a travel-sized set of coins appropriate for use in your boardgames that have (for whatever reason) decided to use some entirely frustrating unit of currency.  Game On! coins are about the diameter of a quarter, and twice as thick. Their 1” size also makes them usable for minis, or string them end to end to measure something. Made of anodized aluminum, they aren’t as heavy as a quarter but still a better heft than simple plastic (and if you want a travel set, you don’t want it too heavy – the full 240 coin set in the case is about 2 pounds.)  

The coins are labeled in denomination (I think they go up to 5000) and are double-sided with one side with a ridged border (in case you want to keep track of an activation or something.) They come in the five common colors (of games like Magic: the Gathering) as well as gold/silver/”platinum” if you want to use them in an RPG. The bottom of the bag is filled with foam and dividers so you can rearrange how they’re stored and the top part of the case is lined with mesh for storing other stuff (dice/cards/etc.)  The case shown is a little small, the final case will be a bit bigger, with a 7th column and more room for some storage. They’re looking to hold a Kickstarter in a September/October time frame.


Alongside one of the hallways was a giant canvas left out for people to drop in and out and paint.  For a community/crowd-based project using oil based paints I was impressed at the result I saw so far.  The smaller (plastic wrapped) image is what was painted last year during the 50th anniversary.



There are plenty of TCG tournaments around and Saturday morning I found the leftovers of the booster draft from the day before.  All the lands you can eat! The cardboard box is full of cards the gamers didn’t even bother to add to their collection. If you just want cards, these guys were selling cheap – at some point shouldn’t they just sell by the pound?  Not sure if it’s economical to heat your house, but probably quite competitive as wallpaper.

At 8:30 am Saturday morning in the gaming hall, there was only one group of players already playing.  These die hard Axis & Allies players were already hard at work. In another area I saw someone setting up a Memoir ‘44 game of the D-Day invasion.  It was a full 12 player game and Richard Borg was going to be on hand to help run it.


Colombia Games had a booth at the convention (which is news to no one, their famous block games have been a presence since time immemorial) and I saw Wizard Kings getting some play in the games hall.  An early morning Wizard Kings tournament was on hand with quite a few races represented.  (For the uninitiated, block games have wooden blocks to represent units.  One-sided ones can represent hidden units like Stratego, while the four sides can represent the health of a unit, rotating it down when injured.)


Winner of the most impressive booth (although in the gaming hall, not the dealer hall) goes to Blizzard showing off their online TCG, Hearthstone.

If Catan is just too friendly, I saw this flyer for (last year’s apparently) Game of Thrones themed Catan.  I know nothing about it, but I can only dream that it bucks the trend of Catan games and has a strong player elimination element.






Sitting around and playing games all day not good for your health?  Join in on a little Dungeons and Workouts as an entirely new way to get sweaty at the convention.  (OK, I didn’t see this in action, but I inferred it from the flyer and exercise mats.) I really wish I could have seen this in action in a prominent place, right next to the middle area the gaming hall.

On my way out of the gaming hall I paused to play with some tops.  These guys, called iTops, made by Goliath Games, have a spiffy set of LED lights that light up when spinning to display digital numbers as it rotates.  They can be used to play several games such as counting spins for a high score, or challenging players to pick up the top at a specific revolution.  For exampe, if you pick it up on the 314th revolution, you win the Pi award. (Yes, I’m not making that up.)


Winner of the strangest and most useless bit of salesmanship has to go to the Exploding Kittens folks.  Apparently if you’re already floating in cash from huge kickstarters you don’t mind backing up prospective buyers so they can wait in line for a chance to press pretend buttons to get their merchandise.  Yes, you really do press the barely functioning buttons to place your order and then someone behind the black curtain sticks out their arms holding what you wanted to buy. I saw two transactions go through in more than five minutes.  It took one guy three tries to get the buttons to work right so that the people behind finally figured out what he wanted.  Any workplace streamlining consultant would be proud.

The Call of Cthulhu for Beginning Readers, read it to your kids before bedtime.  They’ll either never sleep again or perhaps channel the old ones and you’ll wake up with a lifetime supply are calamari in the kitchen.  If that’s too much, just buy the coloring book.


GenCon has put out the call and something like 60 food trucks have responded.  If you are able to slip out the doors of the convention center, there’s an entire street cordoned off with just about anything you might want to come out of the back of a truck.  (Photo here of just the spillover on to the main street.)


Thirsty?  How about a $3 coke?   I had to cut in a line of 6 or 7 people to step in for this photo, so I guess it’s a good value for someone.







We’ll end this post with a report on how the 1% live at GenCon.  If you have money to burn, you too can be a VIG (very important gamer, I think) at GenCon.  You can even bring a friend/companion along for just bit more.

Perks include a bag check and  free drinks and coffee in your special hangout room.  Special events like a VIG only True Dungeon event and a catered Thursday evening party.

There’s a game lending library with private gaming tables and two lovely folks (not shown) to serve as your personal ticketing staff (for will-call, event tickets, or whatever.)  Each VIG person (not their companion) also gets a VIG Swag with what looks to be a fine GenCon backpack to boot.

Perhaps the most visible benefit for VIGs is that they can get in the Dealer Hall an hour early (at 9am) on Thursday.  A very important hidden benefit is that they get first dibs on housing, perhaps the most important benefit for some.

All this can be yours for a measly $650 for you, and $200 for an additional companion.  And returning VIGs get the discounted price of only $600. Before you yank out your wallet, let it be known there are only 325 VIG spots each year and previous members also have first dibs on returning.  Worry not, there are usually anywhere from 12 to 20 openings each year. Just put your name down on the lottery and hope for the best.

Now that you’ve sampled the weird stuff, go check out today’s post on the various digital offerings I found at the convention.

About Matt J Carlson

Dad, Gamer, Science Teacher, Youth Pastor... oh and I have green hair. To see me "in action" check out Dr. Carlson's Science Theater up on Youtube...
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2 Responses to Matt Carlson: GenCon 2018 (Cabinet of Curiosities)

  1. Robert Cannon says:

    Thank you for the best overview of GenCon on the web!

  2. Brian Bailey says:

    I was a VIG for the first two years it started, then I was unable to go for two years due to my job. Now I can’t be a VIG and it seems I can’t get it back. I’ll never win that lottery. That early housing really helps too. Woe is me…

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