For those of you who go to conventions, you know you’ve got your Comic Cons and your all sorts of other conventions to pick from, but Gen Con is one I knew I had to go to. I’m a huge board, card, and miniature gaming aficionado, so this seemed like a no-brainer when it came up. Little did I know how horrible I am at planning. Right off the bat, I’m going to say I come from a family of nervous travelers, and let me tell you, flying alone for the first time in eight years is…not that bad, really. But that doesn’t mean that my trip was devoid of drama.

A brief history of Gen Con: It was founded by the late Gary Gygax, better known as the co-creator of DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS. The first convention was held in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (hence the name Gen Con). Afterward, it moved to Milwaukee where it stayed for a while, before becoming a permanent fixture in Indianapolis, Indiana.

But before we get to the Hoosier State, we have to start at the beginning…

Planning Your Trip to Gen Con

First things first, you’re going to want to pick a hotel, right? Don’t be like me and not book a hotel until just a month beforehand. (I was incredibly lucky to get a very nice hotel.) Next step is to plan your flight. At first, I decided it would be worth my time to drive down to Indianapolis from New Jersey. For about a week this sounded like an excellent plan: pack up, leave work, drive 10 (!!) hours to my hotel. However, as the date approached, I realized this was, in fact, an awful idea. I last-minute booked a round-trip flight from Newark to Indianapolis. Once again, still incredibly lucky.

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It’s not our fault if you spend all of your money here. Courtesy of Games Workshop.

But an important part of booking a flight and a hotel is having your dates right. See, I thought the convention started on the August 1, and I only planned on staying a day or two. Once again, I managed to mess this up because the convention started August 2, and I had a whole day to kill all by myself. That part, we’ll get to later.

Up in the Air

A friendly word of advice: do not mess around with Newark airport. They do not mess around with you. As someone who has gotten existing in New York down to a science, I was expecting to be okay with the airport (if you can handle the 6 train at rush hour, you can handle an airport, am I right?). Wow, was I wrong. Everyone is in even more of a hurry there and even the workers have no time for your shenanigans. If you’ve never traveled before, make sure you talk to someone who has because the world will not wait for us. Oh, and get there early!

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What a nice airport. I wonder where all the cabs triple-parked in front of the terminal are… Image Courtesy of The Flyer Group.

I got lost in the terminal at least twice, waited in the wrong line once, and had to ask three different employees where to check my bags. At the time, all I could think of was, “Is Gen Con worth all of this?”

I finally checked my bag, got my bearings, and made my way into the terminal. The terminal should’ve been easy enough to navigate (it’s just numbers and letters, right?), yet I managed to get lost again. I did make it to my gate in time and had some time to relax and eat. Say what you will about the atmosphere of Newark airport, at least the food was A+.

Comic Con-parison: Big Apple Con!

Touching Down in the Railroad City

The flight was smooth, very little turbulence, and even though the in-flight wi-fi was down, I managed to get some reading in. Remember, if you’re going to Gen-Con for a tournament, you want to make sure you’re all covered by the rules. Yes, I spent the entire flight brushing up on the rules for STAR WARS X-WING 2.o.

For some reason, there wasn’t an ounce of nervousness, despite this being not only my first time flying alone, but my first time flying in nearly a decade and a half. Managing to sleep through most of the flight was a blessing and I woke up pretty close to landing. While Newark airport has tons of people milling about at nearly any hour, Indianapolis was practically a ghost town. There were my fellow passengers and me, plus a sparse crew of airport employees.

“YOUR BEST GAME EVER!” — Make Your Own RPG!

After making my way out of the terminal I caught an Uber and set off to the hotel. One of the few parts I did actually plan well was my stay at this hotel. I appreciated it’s rustic aesthetic and the fact that it was an old,  re-purposed train station! Just in case you’re a light sleeper, beware, as it still functions as a station and you can feel a train rumble through from time to time at night. The true Indianapolis experience, minus the insanity if you’re a light sleeper. I can sleep through a war, though, so no problems here.

The Journey to Get Gen Con Tickets

Gen Con wasn’t until tomorrow, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t see the city and pick up my tickets. First stop was lunch, and as I wasn’t entirely familiar with the area, I picked a sports bar. You’re probably wondering why I picked a sports bar over a local mom-and-pop place. To be honest, I was hungry, and it was incredibly hot. The place was packed, as was just about everywhere since Gen Con was in town. But it had plenty of friendly waitresses (probably sick of all the out-of-towners) and, most importantly, that sweet, sweet air conditioning.

Since the line at the convention center was really long, I headed to the Circle Centre mall. This is where my trip went from good to great.

I found a Cinnabon.

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Circle Centre Mall, where all your Cinnabon dreams come true!

Here in Jersey the nearest Cinnabon is nearly 30 miles away from me, and I will tell you I miss those damn things. So, of course, I decided to grab a bite. Once again, it was a great idea and it did not disappoint, so thank you, Indianapolis Cinnabon.

One of my favorite features of this mall (besides the Cinnabon!) was the arcade. A nerd haven if there ever was one. Most malls these days don’t have arcades so finding one was another little thing that made this trip special. I love me some TIME CRISIS, so I played for a bit and soaked up more delicious AC.

Next up was GameStop. I have a small collection of Funko Pop! figures and one I’ve always wanted was Sombra from OVERWATCH. Turns out they had her right there and you bet I scooped her right up. Now, she’s in most of my travel pictures.

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The Travel Companion I didn’t know I needed.

So Close, Yet So Far From Gen Con

After my trip to the mall, it was getting darker and later. I headed back over to the Indiana Convention Center. This seemed like the next logical step. Noticing a huge line snaking through the building I finally asked someone and they let me know that this was still the “will-call ticket line.” Now, like a lot of conventions, Gen Con has a huge number of events, and each event is ticketed. Luckily, I planned the one event that most interested me and purchased my ticket months out, as well as a few generic tickets for other events.

After about five minutes of walking, I finally found the end of the line and my long watch began. I waited in the line and managed to talk to a few other people about their experiences at the Con. The one guy in front of me had been going to Gen Con for years, and all of that history at the beginning of this article? That’s all from him. So thanks, Gen Con guy whose name I don’t remember.

I finally got my tickets and a sweet lanyard for my event badge. Being on a roll with things actually going right, I decided to head over to pick up my press badge. However, I had to wait until the next day starting at 7 AM (too early for my liking) to get it.  Tired and with social anxiety setting in, I decided to head back to the hotel. But the night wasn’t quite over yet.

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I was just as surprised as anyone else they let me in here.

My First Announcement Event

On my way out of the convention center, I came across a press briefing for one of my favorite gaming companies, Fantasy Flight Games. Not having a ticket, I thought my luck ended here. However, the door-guy let me in, even though I didn’t have a ticket, which was rather nice of him, and I quickly went in, just in case he changed his mind. I chose my seat, not too close to the front, but not too far back. As you can see from the photo above, I had a pretty damn great view… minus that guy’s head.

Inside the hall, you could tell that nearly everyone was only there for their Star Wars products. The crowd reacted to other announcements with some cheers, while all of their Star Wars gaming announcements were met with far more enthusiasm. They announced a fair bit of news which had everyone quite excited. For STAR WARS: LEGION they announced a bundle of new expansions including Wookies for the Rebels, Chewbacca and some officer packs for each faction, along with astromech droids. STAR WARS X-WING received some updates in the form of new faction announcements, like that the First Order and the Resistance will be getting their own conversion kits.

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They announced the Wookies! Image Courtesy of FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES

One of their funniest announcements (I thought so, anyway) was for STAR WARS: ARMADA. They announced a 24-inch-long Executor Super-Star Destroyer Expansion. For a game that’s already flagging in player count, introducing a $200 expansion was not the way to go, but hey that’s just me.

The biggest announcement for us Star Wars fans is that both X-WING and LEGION will be getting STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS content. Included will be new factions: The Republic and The Confederacy of Independent Systems.

Fly Again With STAR WARS: X-WING SECOND EDITION!

Wrapping Up

After the briefing, I hung around the convention center for a bit, taking in the lay of the land. I knew the next day would be insane. There were already thousands of people milling about the convention at night, how many would be there when it opened?

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Is this a hint for my next article after the GEN CON series?

Returning to my hotel for the night, I reflected on my first day there. For what I thought was going to be a disastrous trip, the first day started off very well. From getting to know the people, to finding a Cinnabon and even getting into a press briefing by chance, it was a quite the successful day. I even got to see a guy in a giant inflatable Pikachu costume wandering around at 10 pm. Where else do you see that? So thank you, Indianapolis, for a great first day, and stay tuned for my next article about the convention itself, along with the coverage of my first STAR WARS X-WING 2.0 preview tournament.

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