A Rookie’s Recap from Gen Con

The Gen Con magic was winding down and we had one last day to delight in. If Saturday had been the busiest day of the weekend, then Sunday was the slowest one. We slept in a little later before checking out of our hotel and stopping for our favorite bagels from Einstein Brothers before arriving at Gen Con just before 10:00 am for a demo of Cartographers Heroes

Taking the traditional board game selfie for Cartographers Heroes

The game is a sequel to Cartographers with new maps, scoring abilities, and ambush cards. We had never played before so we pre-watched a video tutorial of Cartographers from Rodney Smith’s Watch it Played channel a few days before. On the last morning of Gen Con, I think my brain was a little fried because I couldn’t remember how to play. Thankfully, our game master did an excellent job of explaining Cartographers Heroes not only to us, but a group of 8 players who arrived at different times requiring her to start over more than once while we were spread out on both sides of the table in a noisy hall of board gamers. I have huge respect for her patience and to-the-point instructions without leaving out any details. Kudos to teachers. 

Cartographers Heroes Demo

Cartographers Heroes is a map-drawing game with tetris shapes designated for different terrain types in symbol and color. There are four seasons from Spring to Winter where players flip cards to draw their shapes in specific arrangements on their kingdom maps to earn the most reputation stars. Each season presents new challenges to accomplish and a little sabotage from opponents’ monsters and zombies. I capitalized on a few early objectives to score big and placed 2nd out of 8 in the group! The game took a little over an hour but it seemed to fly by while we were fully invested in the outcome of each card competing in an 8-player strategy game. What an amazing opportunity it was for us to experience! 

Derek labeled his map for our friend, Ranjan. 🙂 We like having board game nights with Kylee & Ranjan!

As we wrapped up Cartographers, we did our rounds of Exhibit Hall for a few more demo games. By the end of the weekend, vendors want to sell out so they don’t have to ship their merchandise and like putting huge discounts on their games. The room was less crowded and we had more accessibility to stroll the booths looking for deals. The convention was winding down with the consignment shop closed and tables were packing up here and there for flights home. Our only regret was not buying a to-go can of Sun King’s Gen Con 2022 brew of Dragon’s Delight when we had the chance for Derek to gift to his sister Jenn. The Sun King Brewery wasn’t open in the Block Party food court on Sunday. We had more than our share of board gaming over the past three days so we felt ready to explore a little of Indianapolis with a good meal before driving home. 

Rookie Tips for Gen Con:

  1. Big Game Night was our favorite experience of the weekend. It sells out so it is a must-do for 2023!

2. The Game Library Pass was a great way to try out an unlimited number of games for a full day. We might schedule our passes for Saturday next year to avoid when the crowds are larger in Exhibit Hall. Also, wear layers-some rooms are very cold!

3. Exhibit Hall is very busy the first 3 days but winds down at the end of the week when the games go on sale! We recommend printing the Exhibit Hall map beforehand and circling the vendors’ booth numbers on your map so it’s easier to find the games you want when navigating such a massive space.

4. Ticketed demos of games are a great way to set your schedule but generic tickets can be used for any event of equal value that has openings. Also, we found that we preferred to stroll Exhibit Hall and learn new games for free rather than pre-register for all our games as ticketed demos tied down our schedule. 

5. Pre-watch YouTube demos of games you want to play to enhance the onsite board gaming experience. We felt more confident and competed better when we had already learned how to play a game.

6. We were always looking for water and vending machines were selling at a premium. I recommend pre-buying water and keeping it in the hotel to fill up containers. P.S. Don’t leave your water bottle behind at a game table! (Derek) hehehe

7. Try to sneak a quick bite from the food trucks during non-peak hours. Also, we learned the hard way that the trucks are not open from 4-5 pm as one shift leaves and another sets up for the dinner rush. P.S. No beer for sale on Sunday.

8. Consider bringing your own healthy snacks or venturing out to a local restaurant as an alternative to eating all meals at the food trucks. They were good, but it can get repetitive eating food truck kibbles twice a day when we were craving something more substantial. 

(It was a 2 mile walk round trip and a 45 minute wait time for Bluebeard but it was so worth it at the end of a long day.)

9.Weigh the options of saving up the budget for a closer hotel to the Indy’s downtown area versus traveling back and forth each day from a more affordable location. We might look into a hotel like Homewood Suites or AirBnb that has kitchenettes in the rooms so we could cook our own meals and save money on food. 

(Racing cyclist, Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor (1878-1932), born and raised in Indy, was the world’s first Black sports superstar.)

10.Play games with new people and make new friends! It’s amazing to be attending a board game convention like Gen Con, so appreciate the opportunity and make the most of your time when the board gamers congregate in Indy. You never know who you’ll meet. People come to Gen Con from all over the world! You might even see a board game celebrity or two. 

Games we played from Gen Con 2022:

  1. New York Zoo
  2. SoBek
  3. Paris Eiffel
  4. Juicy Fruits
  5. Cover Your A$$ests
  6. Cover Your Kingdom
  7. Catch the Moon
  8. On Tour
  9. Numbr 9
  10. Dimension
  11. Ticket to Ride: San Francisco
  12. Cascadia
  13. Fauna: A Wild Trivia Game
  14. Squadro
  15. Guild of Merchant Explorers
  16. That Old Wallpaper
  17. Shōbu
  18. Herbaceous 
  19. Karuba
  20. Framework
  21. Downtown Farmers Market
  22. Kites
  23. Holly Jolly
  24. Cartographers Heroes
  25. Isle of Cats
  26. Kingdom Builder

This weekend confirmed that we are board game super fans and that we’re fairly decent at playing them. We still have a long way to go when playing with better competition so we won’t be signing up for any game tournaments in the near future but it was exciting to be able to play with so many new people who had been playing strategic games for years. It is amazing just how much more a board game convention can be with all the events that are happening simultaneously at Gen Con. We saw cosplay contests, lego robotics, a hall built with card sculptures, board games hand-crafted with 3D miniature towns, musicians dressed in medieval costumes playing in a folksy swagger, live auctioneers rattling off board game titles, gamers strumming electric guitars while walking through the middle of a crowd, and people playing board games on the hallway carpet wherever they could find a place. 

As I re-alphabetized our home game library while reflecting on the weekend at Gen Con, I was happy that we were able to experience such a whirlwind of events in just a few days time. I don’t think I would have felt as comfortable had it not been for the mask and vaccination requirements with the pandemic still spitting fits and tantrums in new variants. We were grateful for the opportunity and energized to play our new games.

Sprout, our board game cat, even put her two-cents in by flicking the Isle of Cats pieces off the table as we tried to save wild cats from the doomed island of treasure. The game designer, Frank West, had a good sense of humor by suggesting that we use the box as an alcove for our cat to rest in while we play. The medium-weight, card-drafting, polyomino cat placement game is a rescue mission to capture as many wild cats of unique coat colors by capturing them in baskets and arranging them on our ships to protect them from the evil Lord Vesh who is coming to Squalls End. We just got the Isle of Cats and already we’ve played it three or four times through. Oh, the life of a board gamer.

Thank you, Gen Con. See you next year. 🎲♟️🧩♣♥️

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