For three years, I had been waiting for this weekend - July 24-27, 2003. GenCon had officially made the move to my hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana. However, in the days before the convention kicked off, I started to worry about what people would think or what could go wrong. Would it rain all weekend, like it frequently does in the summer? Would the downtown area not be able to handle the influx of 30,000 convention attendees (even though I knew that the hotel and restaurant facilities were far more numerous than those in Milwaukee)? Would the major downtown highway construction cause chaos with people trying to get to the convention? Would Indianapolis residents think that they had been invaded by an army of geeks and wierdos? This last one I'm still not sure of, but I need not have worried about the rest.
Indianapolis handles the half million visitors who attend the Indy 500 every year, and just two weeks before GenCon, over 200,000 attendees of the Black Expo convention were hosted just fine. From everything that I have heard, GenCon Indy was a great success. Some of the reviews that I have read talk about at first being skeptical about the move, but then being completely sold over by the city and the facilities. The biggest problem that I am aware of was that of registration, especially for those who had not preregistered. Apparently, there were some problems with the computer systems and maybe the organizers weren't prepared for the number of people who attended. They have promised to rectify this for next year.
At first, I felt that the attendance was not as big as in Milwaukee, but from everything I have heard it was actually a record attendance. I now realize that this is because the convention center is so much larger that the people were more spread out. The dealer area was, I believe, about 50% larger than at last year's convention, and it was packed with dealers. Unfortunately, there were not many board game manufacturers in attendance, but that has been the trend lately. The emphasis is certainly on role playing, card games, Mage Knight-type figures and computer gaming.
As most of you know, I spend the majority of my time at GenCon in the game auction, and that was certainly the case this year. However, I did get in a little gaming, attended a few seminars (like the 3.5 D&D product release), and spent some time at a street party in PanAm Plaza on Thursday night which featured some great musical entertainment. But bottom line, I spent at least 90% of my time at the convention in the auction room.
The convention started on Thursday, but I headed downtown on Tuesday to assist with the auction room setup. We were in the Westin hotel which is just across the street from the convention center. It would have been nice to have been in the convention center, but compared to being 2 blocks away, as in Milwaukee lately, it wasn't bad at all.
The GenCon Auction staff
Tuesday gave me a chance to catch up on things with Ken Fonarow and all of the auction volunteers who I hadn't seen since last GenCon (since they weren't at Origins this year). We mainly got the room organized that day. A new location required some thought on how to set up to take advantage of our large, wide room. It had to be decided where to set up the stage, check-in area, games storage shelves and the auction store.
The GenCon Auction Store
On Wednesday, we started the game check-in process. I wasn't sure if we would experience a decrease in the amount of items entered into the auction or not. A pre-convention on-line check- in process was definitely a great benefit. It made the process easier on both the sellers and the auction staff. From what I have heard, it sounds like there were slightly less items this year than in 2002, but it was pretty close.
The check-in process is probably my favorite part of the auction. Just to see the diversity of gaming products that are brought in is amazing. Then when you have a chance to see those rare, hard-to-find, items, it is really special. Throughout the day, we sorted the items into categories as they were checked in and inspected them where necessary. Several of the senior members of the staff picked the unique items to be set aside for the collectors' auction. My opinion was asked from time to time, but the experience of other staff members is extraordinary.
The auction finally started Thursday morning. It was great to sit through the auction for the next 4 days, especially after the auction debacle at Origins this year. Ken Fonarow and his staff did a great job as always, even considering the completely new location. Throughout this article, I have included a few photos of the auction and some of the games that were sold. However, to see a really extensive selection of photos, including those of many of the people involved, go to the Weekend Warrior web site. Here is the link to it: Weekend Warrior GenCon Photos
That's me watching in the left photo and sitting doing check-in in the right photo. I think that the photographer didn't want to break the camera by showing my face.
As always, I try to give you a feel for some of the sale prices in the auction. There were two collectors auctions - Friday and Saturday night. I think that Friday's only went into 1:00am this year, as opposed to 3:00am last year. Most of the items listed below are from the collectors' auction, but I have added a few others of interest.
Milton Bradley Games
Conquest of the Empire - $78, 84 & 102
Broadsides & Boarding Parties - $185 & 155
Dark Tower - $180, 140 & 52
Shogun - $25, 26
Heroquest - $40, 42, 40
Battlecry - $26
Dogfight - $30
Avalon Hill Games
Titan (punched) - $85
Trireme - $45
Civilization - $50
Advanced Civilization - $42
Advanced Civilization and Western Expansion - $60
Dune - $40
Verdict - $30
1914 - $17
Gettysburg '58 - $16
Jutland - $40
Caesar at Alesia - $42
Book of Witchcraft - $135
Tac Game #3 (Poultron Press) - $80
John Carter - $40
War in Europe (flat trays) - $150
Star Force Trilogy (box) - $70
Campaign for North Africa (Zocchi box) $90
Next War (Zocchi box) - $34
Bloody April (Zocchi box) - $50
War of the Ring - $60
S&T with Flight of the Goeben & Chicago-Chicago - $56
S&T #19 with Blitzkrieg Module System - $50
Warhammer Quest (GDW) - $56
Boot Hill (TSR) - $27
Kings & Things (GDW) - $37
Talisman - $58
Talisman and expansions - $102, $130
Adeptus Titanicus - $36
Space Hulk - $50
Blood Royale - $50
Malaya & Burma (Hobby Japan, punched) - $42
Eagle & the Sun (Fresno) - $85
Borderlands with expansion (Eon) - $42
Metamorphisis Alpha - $60
Kingmaker (Ariel) - $50
Supremacy with 5 expansions - $160
Diplomacy (Waddington, Canadian version) - $40
Conquest - $45
Panzer Division (Piker Game Co.) - $35
King Oil - $60
Circus Maximus (Heritage, 1979) - $39
Knights of Camelot (TSR) - $40
Robo Rally - $36, $40
Broadsides & Boarding Parties (Citadel) - $50
War of the Wizards (TSR) - $30
William the Conqueror (TSR) - $50
DAK (The Gamers) - $130
Source of the Nile (Discovery) - $36
Snits Revenge (TSR) - $42
Divine Right (TSR) - $84, $50
Curse of the Mummy's Tomb - $40
Dragon Lords (FGU) - $48
Acquire (3M, wood pieces) - $62
Ares 1-10 with unpunched games - $78
Creme de la Creme
The last items put up for auction in the collectors' auction are referred to as the Creme de la Creme. Following are those items from Friday night:
Runequest (Chaosium, 1st edition) - $100
D&D module I10 House on Griffin Hill (play test) - $72
White Dwarf #1 - $36
White Bear/Red Moon (Chaosium) - $74
Knights of the Dinner Table #1 - $65
City State of the World Emperor (shrinkwrap) - $100
Titan (Avalon Hill, shrinkwrap) - $175
Divine Right (TSR, shrinkwrap) - $115
RPGA Artists of TSR Portfolio - $170
DM Book of Marvelous Magic manuscript - $72
Lost Caverns module, tournament copy - $650
Titan (Gorgonstar with Borderlands expansion) - $625
Well, that should give you an idea of the sale prices at this year's auction. In general, I felt that prices were down a little this year. One of the reasons for this was that two of the largest buyers at past GenCon auctions were not in attendance this year. The one exception to this was for certain Avalon Hill titles which in the past might have sold for less than $10 each were now selling for considerably more. This is a trend that I have noticed in on-line auctions lately.
As always, I had a great time at GenCon. I am sure that the auction will be even bigger and better next year.
GenCon was held on August 2-5 in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I believe that this is over 15 GenCons in a row that I have attended, and, like always, I had a great time. I spent most of my time in the auction (both bidding and working), but also got in plenty of time in the dealer area, had fun at events such as the Thursday evening street party and even managed to do a little gaming. This year didn't have the excitement of last year, where all the buzz was the release of 3rd Edition Dungeon & Dragons. However, it was a great time with four days of gaming and fun.
As always, I spent by far the majority of my time at the game auction. Like at Origins, I spent some time working to help the auction staff. I arrived a day early so that I could enter about 100 of my items into the auction and then spent the rest of the day helping with check in. I really enjoyed this since it gave me a chance to see all of the auction items up close
The auction staff is so experienced and knowledgeable and very helpful to the customers. I witnessed several people who wanted to enter their items in a lot, but the staff advised them to break it up, especially if they had a particularly rare item in the lot. An example was an unpunched Blitzkrieg Module System that was bundled with some common punched Avalon Hill games.
After the first day, I spent my time alternating between sitting in the audience and bidding (usually when wargames were being auctioned) and doing various odd jobs to help the staff (working security at the auction store, checking in late entries into the auction, running to a store to get batteries to check out whether or not a Dark Tower worked, etc.).
On Friday night, the collectible portion of the auction was held. This year I had a chance to see the process of selecting the items to be put aside for this part of the auction. In the photo above, you can see Frank Mentzer, the main auctioneer, and Bill Wilkerson, one of the other auctioneers, trying to decide which items to select. Many people's opinions were asked (even mine occasionally) in picking the most unique and rare items. Following is a listing of many of the collectible items and their selling prices.
John Carter of Mars, Barsoomian Battle Manual by TSR - $25
Snit's Revenge (Boxed, Unpunched) by TSR - $50
Tractics (mint) by Guidon Games - $36
Dunkirk (punched) by Guidon Games - $66
Warlocks & Warriors by TSR $25
Cosmic Encounter w/Expansions by Eon - $135
White Dwarf #1 - $60
White Dwarf #2 - $32
Avalon Hill Verdict II - $38
Dispatcher - $36
Tobruk, Limited Edition, Unpunched - $54
Avalon Hill Generals 2-4, 3-6 & 4-1 - $120
Source of the Nile w/Tributary Expansion by Discovery Games - $40
War of Wizards (Unpunched) by M.A.R. Barker - $50
Battle of Helms Deep (Unpunched) - $66
Siege of Minas Tirith (Unpunched) by Jorgensen - $54
Siege (Unpunched) by Jorgensen - $30
Battle of the 5 Armies Rulebook - $34
Dungeon & Dragons White Box Edition in Shrinkwrap - $275
Dungeon & Dragons White Box (Hobbit Edition) - $120
World of Greyhawk (folio version, 1st edition) by TSR - $40
Divine Right (Unpunched) by TSR - $120
Dragon #2 (VG) - $120
Dragon #3 (Ex) - $96
R3 Module, Egg of the Phoenix (RPGA Module) - $120
Lankhmar (Shrinkwrap) by TSR - $50
Nato Division Commander (Unpunched) by SPI - $70
Mech War II (Unpunched) by SPI - $50
Pacific Fleet (Unpunched) by Hobby Japan - $88
Bitter End (Unpunched) by Hobby Japan - $110
Talisman with Expansions - $210
Strategy & Tactics #4 - $42
Creme de la Creme
Following the selling of the items above, the auctioneers began the sale of the elite items. After giving everyone a chance to examine these items, the bidding began on these 14 (if I got them all) items.
Confrontation (punched) by Game Science - $75
Warriors of Mars, Barsoomian Miniature Rules by TSR - $199
Siege of Jerusalem (unpunched) by Historical Perspectives - $48
Metamorphisis Alpha (NM) by TSR - $76
Bundle of Star Trek Battle Game by Lou Zocchi, War of the Worlds II by Rand and Lensman by Spartan Internation - $105
Red Dragon by Thunderbolt Miniatures (signed by gaming and industry personalities including Gary Gygax, Larry Elmore, Lou Zocchi, Rick Loomis, Keith Parkinson, Dave Arneson, etc.) - $110
Test Series Game #3 (unpunched) by Poultron Press - $75
Dragon #1 (Ex) - $315
Mage Knight Complete Alpha Set - $360
Divine Right (shrinkwrap) by TSR - $210
Blitzkrieg Module System (unpunched) by SPI - $65
Tom Wham Auctioning
Snit's Revenge Tournament Pack 4 (personal copy of Tom Wham with some extra artwork) - $460
Outer Limits (Ex) by Milton Bradley - $145 (I wanted this one but Frank Mentzer wanted it more than I did!)
Lost Tamoachan (competition module, 1st printing, #281 of 300, NM) by TSR - $830!!
Well, that's the list. If anyone has any questions about any of the above items, I'll try to remember some more details. Hopefully, the above information is of interest to you (if not, I'm wasting a lot of time!).
Final Thoughts on GenCon
Like in prior years, board gaming was not very prevalent at GenCon. In the dealer area, there were a few manufacturers like Avalon Hill/Hasbro, GMT, Avalanche, Rio Grande and Eurogames/Descartes. Also there were some game retailers, in particular Crazy Egor. However, the amount of boardgames for sale and being played seemed less this year. This is not too surprising since the convention is really meant to emphasis the RPG and card game products. After all, Wizards of the Coast is running the thing! I think that it is definitely still worth attending though. I can't remember ever wondering what I was going to do next. Where else can you spend time gaming, seeing & buying out of print games in an auction, talking to leaders/founders of the hobby, partying with 30,000 gamers and getting autographs by Xena stars Callisto & Aphrodite. I'll definitely be there in Milwaukee next year (which will be the last GenCon in Wisconsin) and in subsequent years in my town of Indianapolis. I can't wait for that.
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