How I Spent My Summer (cash) at GenCon 2002

I went to GenCon with a list, and came back with about half of my desires fulfilled. The stuff I bought is excellent, but its tainted by the disappointment of three important no-shows at the con.

The best games I picked up at GenCon were Alderac Entertainment Group’s Spycraft and Wizards of the Coast’s Call of Cthulhu d20 (which, like the Avalon Hill and many of the new D&D books, WotC simply did not have in stock – I ended up buying it from Chaosium). I’ve only glanced over these books, but they seem well worth the purchase price.

The best new game I played, but didn’t have to buy since another guy in my group picked it up, was Steve Jackson Games’ Munchkin and its expansion, Munchkin 2: Unnatural Axe. We were up until 5 a.m. Sunday morning playing this game, which is filled with hilarious back-stabbing, power-gaming fun. Hell, we blew off role-playing games to play this thing, so that should give you some indication of how good it is.

I didn’t pick any up, but WizKids was selling DC Heroes HeroClix and Mechwarrior Clix games at GenCon. The Mechwarrior (a la Battletech for old school folks) miniatures look pretty good and everyone I spoke with who played the demos loved it. I’m not sure if the all-things-clix euphoria will last with Mechwarrior, but I’m looking forward to play-testing it. I also saw a Clix-version of Crimson Skies being demoed at GenCon, although no starters or boosters were being sold. I did pick up a few Marvel HeroClix boosters, and drooled over the new outdoor and indoor scenery for the game.

I bought Factual Mapper after seeing it demoed at the con. While its city and overland mapping capabilities seem rather weak, the dungeon/interior tools look damn good. I also managed to snag some Vortex dice and a miniatures case from Chessex’s booth.

In the “cool games I love but never play category”, I bought the Chaos Knight expansion for Amber Diceless Role-Playing, as well as two Amberzines (limited run fanzines that support the game and the Amber universe) The folks at Phage Press say that their new web site will be up in a few weeks, but I’ll believe it when I see it. I also picked up Games Unplugged (Internet Archive), a gaming magazine produced by Fast Forward Entertainment that I’ll review in more detail in the not-to-distant future.

My two biggest list disappointments were no-shows Pulp Cthuhlu, which Chaosium has pushed back to Fall 2002 and Re-Animator, Pagan Publishing’s long-discussed, oft-promoted sequel to The Hills Rise Wild. Other annoying holes in my list include Avalon Hill’s Acquire! which Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast simply didn’t sell at the con (continuing their lackluster support for the re-launched Avalon Hill line) and theStronghold Builder’s Guide, which WotC also choose not to stock.

The company who’d sold the “Wandering Monster” onesies in previous years didn’t have a booth, and unfortunately no other designers had stepped into fill the game. In fact, kid clothes and products seemed extremely underrepresented in the exhibit hall, in spite of the large number of baby strollers in attendance.

It seems amazing to me know, but this was the first year that I didn’t spend anything on D&D books while at GenCon, not even d20 fantasy stuff by other companies. Part of this was because I’d already picked up the Epic Level Handbook in July, but a larger part was that the fantasy offerings at the con just weren’t nearly as compelling as the horror or modern d20 stuff.

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