Review: GenCon 2013

A visit to North America’s biggest board game convention., August 22, 2013

Indianapolis is a city generally known for auto racing and being the birthplace of America’s first 20th-century outlaw. Every August, though, it hosts almost 50,000 people who care little for either of those things.

They come for the sweet aroma of freshly punched cardboard counters, for the textured heft of rank upon rank of miniature figures, for the piles of weird dice slimed with the cast-off condiments of terrible convention center food, and for the sight of dozens on dozens of costumed geeks, scantily clad and otherwise, who’ve traveled from all over the nation and beyond for an event that’s billed as “The Best Four Days in Gaming,” and which does in fact give tabletop gamers and steampunk airship captains alike a formidably long weekend on which to celebrate their passion and ours: tabletop games.

This is GenCon. Its origins lost to the mists of time, the nearly half-century-old gaming party — for that’s what it is — is probably the largest annual gathering of tabletop gamers outside Germany’s Spiel. I arrived midday on Thursday, just as Day One was getting into full swing. The Indiana Convention Center is a massive place, and, as is the habit among Actual Journalists, I wandered into it unaided by map or signpost, following the flow of musky t-shirts into the first exhibit hall I could find. The simple elegance of what greeted me there felt both surprising and inevitable at once. Because what’s special about GenCon is that it’s about the one thing most important to the cardboard arts: playing games.

(Read the full text at Shut Up & Sit Down.)