Top 10 Lessons Learned and Highlights from Gen Con 2014

19 August 2014 | 78 Comments

Wow. What a whirlwind. I’ve been away from this blog for 2 weeks for a family reunion and then “the best 4 days in gaming,” and it’s good to be back.

Last year after my first Gen Con I wrote an entry called The Top 10 Things You Should Know About Gen Con if You Know Nothing About Gen Con. I still know only a few things about Gen Con–seriously, it’s massive–but I learned some things this year that I think might help my fellow game designers/project creators/publishers/gamers.

line1. Use a Paper Calendar. I was honored to be included on a few panels this year, including Gaming for Good, a panel about people who try to leverage their success to help the less fortunate. My iPhone calendar listed the panel at 11:00 am on Friday, so I showed up at little early at 10:45. Little did I know that I was actually 45 minutes late because I had entered the event in my calendar while in St. Louis and the phone automatically pushed all events forward by 1 hour. Keeping that in mind, I could enter the events in my phone better the next time, but I’d rather have a hard copy handy.

Despite the embarrassing mistake, I ended up attending the 11:00 panel in the same room, which just happened to be a Kickstarter panel with actual Kickstarter employees and backers (backers were on the panel, and creators were in the audience to ask them questions). So it was actually quite serendipitous.

2. Have a Home Base. Last year at Gen Con I wandered around for 4 days, meeting people in random locations and getting lost in the exhibition hall. It was, frankly, exhausting. This year I didn’t want to get a booth because we don’t have any product in stock to sell, so we purchased a few tables in a large demo room rented by TMG. I have to say, it was the perfect fit for our needs. I was able to tell people (backers, other creators, bloggers, reviewers, random people, etc) how to find us, and instead of shouting over the din of the exhibition hall, I was able to relax and chat with these great people. It was also a great space to show people how to play our games, and we came back to the demo room at night to play games as late as we wanted.

Now, would I do the same thing again? If I had no product in stock, definitely. But you can’t sell anything from a demo room. If I had product to sell, I would get as big a booth as we could afford and sell/demo it there. Also, I learned a trick about games that “sell out” at Gen Con. On Thursday, buzz got around fast that King of New York sold out almost immediately. Having a game sell out makes it sound like a big deal, right? But there were only 50 copies of King of New York available each day. So it created this artificial scarcity around the game to build the hype and escalate it each day. I’m not sure my business philosophies are in line with the idea of artificial scarcity, but I’m impressed by the strategy.

Stonemaier13. Fix Your Name Tag and Introduce Yourself with Details. Gen Con name tags, which hang from your neck on a lanyard, are double sided. One side has your name in way too small of a font, and the other has a bunch of small print legalese that no one reads. You’ll find that your name tag gets flipped over at least 50% of the time so people can’t read it. So next year I think I’m going to write my name on a normal stick-on name tag and put it over the legalese. That way both sides of my name tag have my name on it.

On a similar note, always introduce yourself as if the person knows nothing about you, even if they do. In a sea of people whose brains are working overtime to place names to faces, it’s super helpful, even if you just e-mailed with the person that morning. For examples, instead of walking up to someone and saying, “Hi, it’s me!”, say, “Hi, I’m Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games. We e-mailed earlier about prototype creation.” Seriously. Super helpful.

Also, bring business cards. I didn’t do that, and there were many times I wish I had them.

4. If You’re a Publisher, Have a Demo Team: I am eternally grateful that Stonemaier ambassadors Katy, Adam, Gabby, Casey, Steven, and Danyel helped out with demoing our games. I think I only ended up demoing 3 or 4 games out of around the 100 or so that were played over the course of the weekend. The thing is, I simply couldn’t do it. I had a lot of people who came up to me wanting to chat, and the few times I had a demo going, people kept dropping by to chat in the middle of it, diverting my attention. This leads me to think that the publisher shouldn’t demo their games at all. Instead, have a great demo team of volunteers (or paid/compensated helpers) to do it. That way you’ll be able to focus on outreach and connecting with peers/backers/bloggers/etc.

Also, we ended up with quite a few people who wanted to play full games. It was good that we could accommodate that, but I think in the future I’ll encourage half games at most.

Oh, and my ambassadors recommended that I provide them with an info/FAQ sheet next year to help answer questions when I’m not available. I think that’s a good idea.

SM with Casey5. Here’s How to Stay Healthy at a Convention. I did several things to avoid getting sick at the convention amidst all the handshaking and crowds: (1) I had a bottle of antibacterial hand sanitizer available on our demo tables, (2) I popped a vitamin C pill each morning, (3) I drank a ton of water, (4) I packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch each day and ate on schedule all day, and (5) I got at least 6 hours of sleep a night.

Also, if you’re interested in not bursting your bladder, go to the bathroom when you have to go to the bathroom. You’re probably much smarter than me and actually listen to your body, but there were so many times when I should have just excused myself from a conversation to take a much-needed bathroom break.

6. Take Time for Prototypes. One of my favorite things about having the demo room was that it offered a calm environment for designers to pitch their games to us. I think I played around 15 prototype submissions, and it was really neat to see the wide variety of ideas other designers are working on.

Now that I have that experience, I have a few tips for designers wanting to pitch their prototypes. First, have a sell sheet. Now that I’m back home, I need to make some decisions about the submissions, and having the sell sheets on hand to review is super helpful. Second, only pitch one game per publisher. You can have other games with you, but pick your favorite (or the best match for that publisher).

Third–and I’m a little torn on this, but this is my inclination–if you can’t start playing the game within 5 minutes, don’t pitch it. There were a few games where we sat through 20 minutes of explanations before playing at all, and that’s a big influx of rules to learn all at once, especially at a convention where we’re learning rules from other prototypes and published games. It doesn’t mean that you can’t pitch deep, meaty games, but just give the publishers a brief overview and jump into the game. We can read rules later if we really like it.

Highlights

IMG_12737. Talking with Brent and Overall Acceptance. I don’t know any other way to label this highlight, so I’ll say exactly what it is. On Saturday (or Sunday…the days all run together), I was taking a water break at the corner of one of my tables when I noticed a guy hovering nearby. He looked a little shy, perhaps a little awkward, and he was alone–I have a soft spot for people who come to conventions alone because I know (as an introvert) how it feels to be by yourself in a crowded place.

So I introduced myself to Brent and started chatting with him. He was at Gen Con to help out as a Pathfinder DM, something I know very little about.

While the conversation itself was interesting, here’s what has stuck with me since then: My impression of Brent is that he’s probably been pushed around for most of his life. People probably made fun of Brent in high school and maybe even college. But Brent has a really good heart–I could tell this within 10 seconds of meeting him. So I’m really happy and grateful that Gen Con exists so that all of us awkward, geeky, weird people have a few days each year to hang out and not worry at all about what other people think of us. Because at Gen Con, the weirder, the better.

Despite the last three paragraphs, I don’t think I’ve really put into words how that random conversation with Brent resonated with me. I think you just had to meet Brent to know what I’m talking about. So if you ever go to Gen Con, I hope you go out of your way to talk with at least one person who is there by themselves. It takes a lot of courage to do that, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what it opens in you to take a few minutes to let someone share their favorite thing with you. Because I’d bet anything that their favorite thing is a big part of the reason they came to Gen Con even though they couldn’t find anyone else to go with them.

Tuscany8. Seeing Couples and Families Playing Games. Perhaps this is the hopeless romantic in me, but one of my favorite things in the world is seeing a couple share a passion for board games. I love the dynamics, the interaction, the shared geekiness…I just love it. I want that someday too, so perhaps what I want is reflected in what they have.

Also, Sunday at Gen Con is family day. It was really neat seeing moms and dads with their kids at the convention. I love that there’s this whole generation of kids who are growing up with this amazing critical mass of games thanks to their parents.

9. The Kindness of Backers. One of my favorite moments of the convention was when a Viticulture backer named Craig came up to me with a heavy bag in hand and said, “I have something for you.” He then handed me a shrinkwrapped copy of the Kickstarted first edition of Viticulture, the version that has been sold on eBay for as much as $150. Craig won it in a charity auction we had a while ago before realizing that it was too heavy of a game for the person he intended to give it to, so instead of selling it, he held onto it to sell back to me (he offered it to me for $30, which is ridiculous, so I increased it to $50).

The reason this means so much to me is that I haven’t seen a new-in-shrink copy of the original Viticulture for quite some time now. I don’t have a copy–I used my last unopened copy for our big charity auction last fall, so all I have is my beat-up demo copy. This is my first published game, something I truly treasure, and it means so much that I can have just one copy to cherish on my shelf. I feel a little guilty keeping it–after all, games are meant to be played–but for now it just means a lot to me to have it. Thank you, Craig.

photo 210. Cones of Dunshire? There’s a question mark here because there are plenty of other highlights from the weekend, like the Kickstarter panel I was on (John Wrot! did a great job organizing and moderating it–it’s a must-attend for next year if he does it again), the perfect game of Hanabi we played with a freshly signed copy, and all of the amazing people I met. But I can’t finish this list without mentioning the Cones of Dunshire, a made-up game from Parks and Rec that Mayfair Games used for a charity event. The game itself is a jumbled mess (I don’t think anyone really knew the rules), but it involved giant cones for hats and rolling dice to determine how many dice to roll, so it was awesome.

***

If you were at Gen Con, how was the experience for you? Do you have any tips or highlights to add to this list?

78 Comments on “Top 10 Lessons Learned and Highlights from Gen Con 2014

  1. thank you. As someone who is more often alone in crowded places than not, your note about Brent was truly touching. My highlight from my first GenCon this year was when a reviewer that I know from online took a few moments to come introduce himself to me. It was special.

    I loved this post, and I can’t wait to finish mine up to add to the pool!

    1. Thanks Maggie–I appreciate that, and I’m glad you could relate. Having a “home base” really helped me, as it greatly reduced the amount of time I wandered around alone. I found that more and more people made our tables their home base over the course of the weekend (some friends/acquaintances, but also just some random people). That said, I wish I had taken a few minutes to go introduce myself to you as well!

  2. Great write up Jamey, I would have really liked to have gone but living in the UK with a family in the middle of nowhere makes it nearly impossible. I do like reading all the reviews and reports from everyone that was there though and BGG TV is very useful.

  3. Quite a few publishers used the “X copies of games sold per day” approach. According to a few of them with whom I spoke, they wanted to be fair to people who could only attend the convention on certain days. Eagerly-anticipated games like King of New York probably would have sold out the first day otherwise, leaving attendees who could only go on the weekend or missed the dealer room on the first day in the lurch. I think there are good reasons to take that tack other than creating artificial scarcity.

    Of course, the added hype certainly also doesn’t hurt.

    1. Thanks Nicholas. I should clarify that point: I think it’s a great idea for companies to have a set number of copies to sell each day. The number that surprised me was that they only had 50 copies per day (instead of, say, 200). I would bet that it’s because 200 copies of King of New York fit on a pallet, and they had to air ship that pallet.

      1. Stronghold Games had 120 copies of Panamax for the show, and you are correct that was a pallet that he air shipped from Germany. He could have brought a second pallet, but then you’re increasing the risk since it is rather expensive to air ship a pallet.

  4. Thanks for sharing your insights Jamey. As the cost of attending from the UK is prohibitively expensive I rely on reports like yours to provide a window into this vast enviable spectacle. The reverse is possibly true in terms of too expensive, but would you ever consider running demo tables at UKGamesExpo the biggest UK gaming convention? I have such huge respect for the way you run your company and campaigns as well as your general ethos. It would be lovely to see you there!

  5. When it comes to demos, I’ve found Fantasy Flight Games to be one of the best. They have all their games setup as pre-constructed game states, so players can jump right in into the middle of the game. They also only run people through a few rounds. You get an idea of how the game is played and then the next group is in. Quick, efficient and allows lots of people through.

    Upper Deck was also pretty smart, in the past, they let people sign up to demo a game and then will text you when it’s time for you play.

    Both companies help eliminate long waits in a crowded exhibit hall.

    1. David: Yeah, with the sandwich, the key wasn’t so much the food itself, but the fact that I had it on hand to eat at lunchtime. I think it’s very easy to skip meals at Gen Con or push them around to odd hours, and I wanted to avoid that. We also found that Jimmy John’s delivers within the convention building, so I would do that again too.

  6. I tend to be loud and in the front of conversations but even if people that know me now don’t believe it I used to be incredibly shy and a little scared in any situation that was outside the usual family gathering. It was people like you in the form of teachers, fellow classmates and the girl I started dating in Jr. High that I eventually married that brought me out of my shell (much to the chagrin of most of the people that have to deal with me now). As much as I am impressed by the way you handle your business and how well you treat your customers, the fact that you reached out to someone that was alone in a place they really were trying to have a good at raises my opinion of you up to an incredible level. Keep up the great work in all areas, work, this blog and most importantly being a good example for humanity.

  7. Thanks for writing this, Jamey.

    Impressions like yours made me feel that GenCon is something I have to experience and I look forward to attending next year.

    Very kind of you to make a point about reaching out to others. The community really does make the hobby extremely special.

    Are you able to disclose how much did the table at TMG demo room cost you?

    1. Artem: Thanks! I hope you’re able to attend next year.

      Sure, the demo rooms are a standard rate of $6,000 (it’s a big room). I bought about 15% of the room, so my cost was just over $1,000.

  8. Jamey,

    One of my top moments from the convention was you offering to demo your game with me at 6pm despite a full day in which you probably had done nothing but demo games and listen to pitches. I could tell you were extremely exhausted and ready to call it a day but you could also sense how badly I had wanted to play a game with you.

    Fortunately for both of us I insisted you leave to take care of yourself, but everyone I talk to about you and your company just can’t stop going on about how great of a person you are and the passion you bring to gaming. I wish more companies had that feel, there were quite a few “public” figures I interacted with for the first time this weekend and several of them came across as quite fake and left a bad taste in my mouth.

    Thanks again Jamey, I will keep waiting for my deluxe edition of Viticulture and Tuscany to arrive so I can play it someday!

    1. Hi Mathew: I remember that, and it’s neat that it left a mark on you. I really was more than willing to demo the game for you, but it meant a lot to me that you recognized that I needed a break. One of my regrets about the convention was that I didn’t keep demoing during the busy hours of 6:00-9:00 (right after the exhibition hall closes). I’m not sure how to approach that in the future, because I think it’s important to take a good, restful break for dinner. I guess it would be different if we had a booth, because we wouldn’t have a choice but to leave the hall at 6:00.

  9. Regarding the artificial scarcity referenced in #2, I was initially annoyed that games like King of New York and Five Tribes would sell out instantly in the morning. However, I realized that the way they did it ensured that, even if a person only came to the Con on one day, they’d at least have a chance to get the game. And all that buzz of the sell out was indeed enough for me to want to get to the exhibition hall early on Saturday morning in order to get a copy of Five Tribes, braving the teeming throngs scrambling to get the newest HeroClicks figurine.

    1. Marcus: The best way to do that for a company like Stonemaier might be to publicly announce to that they have X# of games for ease of math we’ll say 400 copies and they will have 100 available each day for sell that way people coming only on Saturday or Sunday still get a chance to buy the game but they are being honest about the reason for selling out.

          1. I worked most of the convention so the only ‘hot’ titles I got to pick up were the ones allowed by preorder. It’s difficult when you have other obligations to warrant waiting in lines when there’s so much to do and see.

            I will be first at my shop to buy Five Tribes though. No waiting there!

    2. Marcus: Yeah, I definitely appreciate the idea of spreading out those games over 4 days (in fact, I’m curious why some companies don’t do that). I think it was more the fact that they only had 50 copies on hand per day. Even if that’s the exact amount for 1 airfreighted pallet, why not do 2 or 3 of them? I think most companies would have a hard time justifying that since they don’t know if the games would sell, but I don’t iello was concerned about that.

      1. From what I heard from the Dice Tower Musical, I get the impression that a lot of companies were having problems getting as many games to the convention that they wanted to have available, for whatever reason.

        1. Gizensha: I think part of it is that manufacturers get overloaded with games because of the Gen Con deadline. I think there were a few games that were expected but didn’t make it at all.

      2. I’d imagine one reason not to spread it out might be that getting 200 copies out in circulation on day 1 means more copies being played around the convention, and so more visibility outside of your booth.

  10. I can’t agree more with point #4! Our team of Wombassadors for Cosmic Wombat Games was amazing! They each put in about 4 hours a day but it gave us assurance that our games were being handled well out in the event halls and we could use our time to focus on the booth. Next year, we will probably even increase our team so that we have more people working with us in the booth as well as in the event hall.

    And I would agree about having a home base although I would highly recommend (whether you have product to sell or not) getting a booth in the exhibit hall. We had no product, sold no product, and it’s my opinion that our booth was entirely worth the money spent. Look for a post coming soon from the League of Gamemakers on just that topic. :)

    1. Jeff: Yeah, I’m definitely curious to hear what the League says about that. I think you saw our demo tables and thus could compare the environment to your booth. The demo room had a very different feel than the exhibition hall. I would say that the demo room was more welcoming to people once they were inside, but booths are much more welcoming to people wanting to enter the area.

      Also, I should mention that we didn’t hold any events at all. I’m not against the idea, but it was nice that we weren’t beholden to a predetermined schedule. I can see how many attendees might prefer set events, though.

    2. @Jeff, I too am interested in seeing your blog post. Conventional wisdom is not to get a booth if you only have one product to sell. That might make sense from a pure cost/benefit perspective, but I think a booth could still be worth it from marketing/exposure perspective. I wish I had gotten a booth, and I plan to get one next year.

      I agree that having a home base is essential, but it’s not easy as a tiny publisher to find one:

      – You have to get a booth almost a year in advance. Last fall, I didn’t know if a booth would make sense for me or not.
      – Opportunities like the TMG room are really hard to find. I inquired about a few opportunities as I heard about them, but I was always too late.

      I ended up joining the First Exposure Playtest Hall at the last minute; I also scheduled some last-minute events and ran some ad-hoc demos in the events hall. I moved around a lot and didn’t have a home base. One thing that worked out well was my banner. I brought a 7-foot standalone banner with the Lanterns box art on it. Even though I didn’t have a dedicated space, people looking for me were able to find me and other people were drawn to it. (Beth Sobel’s artwork for Lanterns has been called “insaningly gorgeous,” and it definitely drew people over the the table.)

      I’d love to hear other approaches that people have used to getting a home base, especially ones you could let people know about in advance.

        1. My business partner owns a graphic design studio, so he has access to a site called 4over.com; we used them, but not everyone will have access to that. I talked to AJ of Van Ryder Games about his Tessen banner from last year, and he used buildasign.com.

          1. One small tip on banners: make sure they look good if the bottom half is hidden behind a table. Sometimes I had it visible full-length as an end cap, and other times it was behind a table like this: [https://twitter.com/LanternsGame/status/502918120294875136].

  11. I just wanted to share that this was my first gencon (so I missed everything cool just trying to navigate the place). I expected as much being so overwhelmed and so I’m not upset at all. I left with 20+ new games for my collection. But your story of Brent was really cool, I met a guy there too Alex, he was alone there from Wisconsin. We randomly ended up at the same game event table on Friday mid-day. Got to talking after the event about our favorites and by Saturday we hung out all day and played games all night. Like Brent, I didn’t realize how alone some people might be there and how important meeting me as anew friend was to him. I am a complete extrovert and love just picking random people to connect with. Alex and I swaped full contact info for next year (as he is Wisconsin and I am in Buffalo… Not gonna be any weekend gaming). But we also shared con photos and connected on FB. I feel I made a new friend, someone I wouldn’t have probably noticed in the real world as our days just blow by and we have no idea who people are outside a 2 minute encounter at the grocery store. But someone that shares my passion for gaming connected me with and I can now call a new friend. Cause you can’t have enough friends… Especially when trying to get a boardgame together on a random weeknight :)

    Thanks for sharing the post about Brent. I had planned to find you at the con and share how excited I am to get my Viti-Tusc kickstarter combo. But like I said. I basically wandered in circles while my head spun the other way for most of the con.

    Appreciate the tips for future years (especially since I’m hoping to bring my own first prototype around next year) :)

    1. Joel: That is an awesome, awesome story. Thank you for reaching out to Alex–I’m sure he really appreciates it. It’s so cool that Gen Con (and other conventions) provide a welcoming place for people in this hobby to connect with others who love the games we love.

  12. Hi,
    I’m Charles, the guy who razed his vineyards in a mad dash to ten points, then put all three spies on a mission later that night! =)

    Home base is key. Mine was the first exposure hall, but even that got a little loud (and we probably won’t have a sponsored table next time!)
    I noticed the genius of splitting/renting a room as soon as I entered – and you had some prime real estate!

    Re: demos/full games, Jason and I were taught Innovation at Iello. After a few rounds, the demo guy tried to stop us, but said we could finish the game. That meant a lot, to the point where Innovation would have been the only game I bought all week.

    Obviously you can’t tie up your people with a 2-hr game of Euphoria though.

    Great seeing you again, and thanks for writing.

    C

    1. Charles: It was great hanging out with you at the convention! I was impressed by how pitiful your winning vineyard looked (for those reading, we played a half game of Viticulture, prompting very different strategies than when you’re playing to 20). That’s great to hear about Innovation–it’s good feedback for the future.

  13. I played one round of Cones of Dunshire with the designer after the charity event, which took about 90 minutes with ten players. In many ways, playing it was like playing a party game targeted at serious gamers only. The game is so broken that it works: rolling dice to determine how many dice to roll is genius! :-) I haven’t laughed so hard or enjoyed playing a terrible game so much.

  14. Hahaha, I broke about every part of your rule #5. When I go to a convention, I get very “in-the-zone” and every minute you’re sleeping or eating or going to the bathroom is a minute you’re not doing something AWESOME. 4 hours of sleep a night, 8 hour stretches without food – it was a train wreck of unhealthy living, but luckily I didn’t get sick afterward.

    Ah, and I didn’t realize you actually went to the Cones of Dunshire event! Alas, I should have talked to you more about it. I’m very interested in what you could make out of the rules they went with.

    1. Isaac: Well, I’m glad you survived and didn’t get sick! Different methods work for different people. :)

      Yep, I attended about 45 minutes of the Cones of Dunshire. Not a lot happened during that time, and we couldn’t hear very well. They needed about twice as much space as they had for the 30 or so participants. I really know nothing more about the game than I did before–maybe Randy can tell you more.

      1. Cones of Dunshire was quite an experience. If you haven’t seen this interview with Coleman and Pete from Mayfair, check it out to learn how the game came into existence: [https://www.vulture.com/2013/12/cones-of-dunshire-parks-and-recreation-game-oral-history.html]. Coleman now has a fully-playable game. I don’t know if there are plans to release it, but that would be hilarious if they do. I only played one turn, which took 90 minutes with 10 players, and it was so wonderfully terrible.

        Rolling three d4+1s (with faces 2-5) to see how many d6s you get to roll is pretty awesome. (When the guy in the show rolls 15, that’s the highest possible roll.) You can use the pips on the d6s to make movements in the Move phase or as currency in the Buy phase, or you can use a whole d6 to take specific actions for each of your three characters in the Action phase. (My main character was the Maverick, one of the characters specifically mentioned on the show, and I forget now who my other two minor characters were.)

        I think it is the most complicated game I have ever played. It wouldn’t have been fun if I was playing it for real, but given the context/history it was a blast! I have no idea how long the full game took.

  15. Jamey, your point about having a Demo Team is right on. You’re the face of the company at the convention so it is your job to schmooze with people. Working at the Stronghold booth, Stephen was always chatting with someone, posing for pictures/video. Either with the general public or someone from the industry.

    1. Shayne: Thanks for the insight about Stronghold. I was a little surprised by how little time I had to demo (even during our playtest with you, I think 2 or 3 people came up to me), but it’s a good lesson to keep in mind for the future.

  16. I would like to thank your iPhone since I was able to talk board games with you for a few minutes while we were waiting for our panels to begin/end. One of the many fortuitous happenings that led to a great first GenCon for me. My only real regret was forgetting about the Cones of Dunshire, especially after explaining to my group what it was and why it was funny. Was Adam Scott there?

  17. It was great to meet you in person Jamey! I enjoyed our brief conversation. GenCon was a bit overwhelming for me as I this was my first time in attendance. I met so many people that I’ve only known online until now – that was really the highlight of the con for me. Unfortunately, I still only met about half the people I had hoped to connect with! I also sincerely told about a dozen publishers/designers I work with that I wanted to demo their latest game but wasn’t able to simply due to missing each other or running out of time. If GenCon were two weeks long I still doubt there would be time enough to have met up with everyone!

    Great suggestion on the badge. I traded my freebie lanyard in for a nicer one at the Dice Tower booth after the first day just to it would stay facing forward. There were several times I was chatting or playing a game with someone only to find out halfway into our conversation that I was talking to someone I know (online) when their badge flipped around.

    Thanks so much for sharing this post!

    1. Roger: It was great to chat with you at Gen Con! I’m glad you got to speak with a lot of people with whom you had previously corresponded online–it’s nice to put a face to the name, isn’t it?

      Good call on the upgraded lanyard. I’ll have to look out for them next year.

  18. #2 was also an important lesson-learned for me. After wandering the seemingly endless hallways and the deafening vendor hall for the first three out of five days, I realized I just needed somewhere reasonably quiet to sit down and rest, even if there wasn’t anything going on. I was grateful that the TMG/Stonemaier room provided a calm and inviting space the times I was off-cycle from friends.

    I came in late one night when the doors were closed but saw that people were still inside the room. After a couple long days of meet-and-greet and demoing, it was obvious that having a private space to be regular gamers among friends was important to the remaining parties in the room. I simply needed a place to belong for an hour. At some point, I overhead the question from someone, “Should we lock the doors?”. A perfectly reasonable question, though I didn’t hear the responses. In retrospect, I might have even expected and understood being asked to leave. But I wasn’t. In fact, shortly thereafter, a TMG team member came over, sat down, and we played some prototypes. It was a small span of time, but it made a big difference in my overall first experience of GenCon. So, my thanks to TMG and Stonemaier.

    1. Jason: Thanks for sharing. I’m glad the TMG/Stonemaier room provided you with a place to rest and cycle off for a while. The more I recognized people doing that, the more I invited people to just come chill out for a while. Seeing the relief on people’s faces when they sat down for the first time in hours and relaxed made me happy to be a part of the room.

  19. I’m so bummed I had to miss this convention! But sounds awesome! I think the you hit a home run with your three points on how to pitch a game to a publisher. I think this may be something us readers would to hear more of your opinions on in the near future… just a thought.

  20. Awesome. Great insight and advice as always, Jamey. I haven’t had a chance to listen to many of my usual round of podcasts lately, but I did catch Happy Mitten’s post Gencon wrap-up (Happy Mitten is one of my favorites). I really enjoyed their chat with you. It amazes me how much of a people person you must really be to remember so many personal details about the gobs of people in the community that you interact with daily.

    1. Thanks David! I enjoyed being interviewed by The Spiel, Happy Mitten Games, and Board Game Authority. I think you might be referencing the part of the Happy Mitten conversation where I asked them about relationships (Leandra and Jeff are two of the founders of Happy Mitten, and they’re married) as they had talked about on a previous podcast. Jeff had no recollection of the topic at all, but Leandra knew what I was talking about. :)

      1. Yep, that’s the part of their podcast I was talking about, Jamey. It’s funny because I had just listened to the podcast where Jeff and Lee were talking about their relationship, so it was fresh in my mind. I thought it was humorous that you and I remembered the conversation but Jeff didn’t. ;)

  21. Great post and insights as always, Jamey. It was such a pleasure getting to Panel with you. You brought such knowledge to the table. It was also great to have a sit-down on the last day to lean back and chat for a few. Nothing in the world quite like a hand shake.

    1. Thanks John! You did a fantastic job running the Kickstarter panel, and I was honored to be included. I’m glad you had the chance to stop by to relax and chat on Sunday. I look forward to seeing if you do something with your 17-year project someday. :)

  22. Hi, Jamey: Your point about the badge makes me feel only slightly less badly about introducing you to my kids as (unless I recall incorrectly) “Mr. Stonemaier.” I showed up with my kids on Family Day, my first day at GenCon ever, and asked for “Jamey” — and you said something like “That’s me.” If I made that mistake, you either didn’t hear it, or were too kind to correct me in front of my kids.

    I would have stayed longer but for the hard glances that said “C’mon Dad, let’s go to the Exhibit Hall already.” But it was nice to show my kids, close-up, the beautiful Viticulture and Tuscany that will arrive in a few months. They were also taken by the Treasure Chest pieces (seeing/holding is believing). I also appreciated your explaining Euphoria to me and seeing those custom box inserts from Noah Adelman. Thanks for being so generous with your time!

    1. Scott: Thanks for your comment, and it was great to meet you and your kids on family day. It was one of my favorite memories from that day (I like that your kids are enthusiastic about games!). You did call me “Mr. Stonemaier” a number of times, but I didn’t mind at all. :) Thanks for stopping by!

  23. Well, if anything, it shows how effective your branding is! I have known your last name is Stegmaier, but I guess it was first-time GenCon nerves. Hope to see you next year.

  24. One thing to note about your badge. The legalese on the back also has a watermark that has your badge type displayed over the full face of the reverse side. It says what your badge is with regards to 4 Day, exhibitor, etc. if you cover that you will have to flip it over every time you cross a checkpoint.
    If you do a lot of conventions, I like to use the neck wallet badge holder. It is a nice place to keep jot only your badge, but event tickets etc where they are easy to find and your badge stays forward due to the design.

    1. Keith: That’s a good point about the back of the badge, and I like the tip about the neck wallet badge holder. I’m honestly not sure how Gen Con would respond to my handmade solution, so I’m going to try it with something that can be easily removed if they’re not a fan. :)

  25. This GenCon was my 1st. I loved it. However I looked and couldn’t find your area. I didn’t have my computer and the program guide was no help. Maybe next year you can e-mail the subscribers where your are earlier with some directions. I will be back next year and hope to meet you because my family really loves Euphoria.

    1. Carl: That’s a great idea about the directions–I’m sorry I didn’t provide them this year! Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure where we were until I got there, but I’ll know in the future. :)

  26. “if you can’t start playing the game within 5 minutes, don’t pitch it. ”

    This is an excellent piece of advice. Five minutes is four minutes more than I give most KickStarter pages! You don’t have to look further than KickStarter to know that you can’t just have a good idea, you need to be able to sell it.

    Hope you found out a little about Pathfinder from Brent!

    1. C: That’s a great comparison–something really has to capture my interest right away if I’m going to keep reading or hearing about it. Plus, when I’m learning a game submission on a tight schedule, I don’t want to know every little rule about the game. I can read that stuff later. I just want to get my hands dirty to see if I enjoy the core elements of the game.

  27. Hi Jamey, can you please expand on what is a “sell sheet”? And what do you usually look for in them (length of the sheet, etc). Thank you.

    1. Mickey: A sell sheet is just a piece of paper that has the name of the game, the designer, contact information, a short description of the game, a few bullet points about unique elements/mechanisms, and specs about the game (components, player count, length). As long as those core elements are on the sheet, it serves its purpose as a memory jog to a publisher after seeing lots of submissions over a short period of time.

  28. I’m sad that I’ve never been to Gencon, even though I live in the Midwest. It’s definitely a goal. This primer is helpful, even just as a potential attendee.

    And I can relate with the romanticism of couples playing. A great feeling was finding a girlfriend who got excited to play games on a regular basis. I actively look for great 2-player experiences now, so that we have more and more ways to break the occasional monotony of watching TV and/or having nothing to do.

    1. Mark: I hope you get to experience GenCon someday! It’s really cool. And congrats on finding a girlfriend who loves games–I was just talking to my mom the other week about that. I love my sitcoms, but I’d much rather spend that time connecting with someone special over a game.

  29. The demo room sounds like a great option for a start-up or self-publisher; how was it you found out about the demo room, and were able to buy in for a section of it?

  30. If a convention has a demo room, they’ll advertise it. If you can’t find it in their promotional information, contact the event staff and they’ll let you know the options available. Just make sure you contact them as far as possible in advance.

    The demo room I was a part of (which was different than a much bigger demo room Gen Con had for designers and publishers) was bought by Tasty Minstrel Games. Michael asked me if I wanted a few tables there, and I said yes.

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