Brian Schlichting
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I've been playing games since my early teen years. Finally, this year my friend Jay and I are going to GenCon.

I've noticed many mentions of Essen on this site, but GenCon seldom is mentioned.

So, here are my questions:

1) Why is Essen bigger/better/badder than GenCon?

2) Any advice for my first game convention at 33 years old?
 
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GenCon Advice
I've never been to Essen, but it's hard to imagine any Con being bigger than GenCon. 20,000+ people is a whole lot of folks.

Advice? Sure. Be prepared for the Day-Three-Odor-Of-Cheesy-Foot-Smell-Doom.

Back in the 80's I owned a miniature company and we did the GenCon, Origins, OrcCon run every year. Apparently lots of gamers on a budget sleep in their cars and even in the halls and lounge areas of the Con. This makes for some interesting smells after a couple of hot summer days.

Be prepared for your beloved boardgames to be a very, very minor presence at GenCon. It's really all about CCG's, Clix and RPG's. Yes there will be many boardgames and miniature games. No, they won't be drawing the same crowds as MTG or the Clix games.

Take a small digital camera and take lots of pictures of the LARP gamers, the dress-up gamers and the just plain odd looking gamers. That is fun. And it opens a dialog with these folks. They really are entertaining and overall pretty nice folks.

Another piece of advice - If any RPG-Geek starts to tell you about their character I suggest running for your life. There are few experiences more horrible than listening to a role-player recount his role-playing.... except perhaps listening to anyone discuss ASL or SFB.
 
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Steve Zamborsky
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1) Though I may be wrong (and if I am, someone please correct me), Essen focuses more on boardgames and the like (since Germany is much bigger on boardgaming than here in the states). Conventions like GenCon and Origins have a variety of different types of gaming, but a good portion of it is either RPGs and CCGs/clix. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of boardgaming, too. But that's not the focus of an American con; at Essen, that's the focus.

2) First and foremost: don't overschedule. I remember the very first big con I went to (Origins, 9 years ago) I cancelled half of the events I signed up for. I wanted to do so much, and it got to be overwhelming. If there's something specific that you see in the schedule that you want to do, make sure you sign up for it...but leave yourself ample time to check out things you didn't think about. Also leave yourself some time for the dealer area; it's huge and can take quite a while to get through. Try something new or something you wouldn't normally do (I had a lot of fun a few years back trying out this "game" called Morton's List...a "real-life activity game", as it were...and that's something I wouldn't have normally done). Like a demo of a game that catches your eye or something like that. Hmmm...oh yeah. Even though it'll be the middle of August, make sure you take something warm to wear. A lot of the time, cons over-compensate with the air conditioning and it ends up freezing in certain parts of the con. Getting there early and scoping out places to eat always helps in planning ahead, too.

Those are just a couple suggestions; hope they help. Most important: have a blast! I know you will.
 
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Brett Barton
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My first time too!
And I'm one year younger (32). I have no idea what to expect. But I am looking forward to it.
 
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Kevin O'Brien
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Essen is HUGE!
As others have pointed out, Essen is entirely devoted to boardgames, whereas GenCon has boardgames as one small part of it. With regards to attendance, Essen has over 150,000. As you experience GenCon, try to imagine it being over *seven* times larger!

For more information on Essen, check out http://brettboard.dk/essen.htm

My main advice for GenCon: Explore, try new things, and have fun!
 
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Dan Taylor
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A good website for advice on Gencon things is:
http://php.iupui.edu/~wrporter/
(Ignore his LARGE formatting, there's actually some really good advice in there.) Note the suggestions on "shoes and backpack" - you'll be walking miles a day and not realize it.
My suggestions:
- Don't overplan - there will be a whole dealer's hall to hit, demos to play as well as the general events that catch your eye.
- Plan on eating a good balanced meal at least once a day. Man can live on hot dogs alone, but it gets old.
- Note the gaming auction, especially the "auction store." Lots of games for relatively cheap (as long as you don't want something collectable/rare.)
- On the subject of "events," pick up some generic event tickets as soon as you can. These let you get into events even though you haven't signed up for them, assuming there is space. If you don't use them all, you can give them back in for a full refund.
- If you haven't pre-registered, for the love of whatever get in line Wednesday night. Things can be a bit hectic Thursday morning.
- Note the "open gaming" area. (I think its in the Hyatt this year.) This is a general area where people can just come to play, and if you wander around you should be able to find people willing to play just about anything.

I'm attending this year as well, perhaps we could arrange a meeting time early on and I could give you a quick tour/explanation if you needed it...
 
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BGG.CON VFM Sales OVER now, thanks!
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My first time there, too (although I've been to GenCon SoCal before - last year). 35 years old.

Check out:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist.php3?action=view&listi...
and
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist.php3?action=view&listi...

 
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Eric Jome
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Gencon

I have been going to Gencon for over 15 years continuously and I am 33.

Take the advice you have received before this with a grain of salt. When Gencon was held in Milwaukee, it was run by someone else and, lets be honest, not all it was cracked up to be. You will still meet socially challenged people who have missed a recent bath, but that is the rare exception, not the rule. There is a very healthy, very popular board game environment now... it is not just about CCGs and clicks.

You want to look for Game Base 7, a group that takes a big interest in running all sorts of board games. Also, I cannot recommend anything more highly than buying a Puffing Billy badge and geeking out on train games. This is probably the game addicts best bet for Gencon; totally continuous games of different types, all themed on trains... and duck out once in a while to see the dealer's room or play a quick Puerto Rico or Tigris and Euphrates.

Don't forget, Gencon (or any convention) represents a great opportunity to try new games and games you cannot normally play at home. Look for things like Diplomacy, Die Macher, or other long running, 5 to 7 player games. This is your chance to get some of those in... especially if you have trouble playing your favorite on home on a weeknight.

I hope to see you there... its a very good time.
 
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Ray
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Age 40 and this is my Silver Aniversary for GenCon (I started going in high school)

1) GenCon is more targeted (just as Roleplaying is more targeted) than Essen. But that doesn't mean families and people with other interested won't find what they are interested in. Size is good.
2) What you do depends on what you like. Seminars, auctions, art shows, exhibit hall, game events, open gaming, etc. The exhibit hall will take lots of time to really cover. Even more time if you stop and talk to new booths to find out about their games (a good time to go is an hour or so before close on Thursday or Friday). I used to enter many tournaments, but in recent years all I do is play demos (RioGrande has a good area each year) and open gaming (some with total strangers, some with friends I bump into, and some with prearranged interest groups over email).

Hope you have fun!
- Ray
 
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Kevin Eagles
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Horse trade!
My one piece of advice...is to hit the vendor hall a few hours before it closes on Sunday, and try to haggle for items you've been on the fence about. I've done this loads of times...especially with heavy/big items and have gotten 75% off on some stuff. You have to be into "horse trading" and also a willingness to stalk your favorite companies booth and swoop down and make the kill before the tired and beleaguered vendors now what happened . I remember one con where I grabbed a bunch of stuff from Crazy Igor (God bless that man!!!) for insane prices because they were having a hard time loading it on there cart...saved them a trip back and myself a pretty penny.

Even at 30ish I think I can safely say that GenCon (for us poor yanks) can be a religious experience and a hoot to boot.
 
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