Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My GenCon Jaunt (And How I Survive It - Part 1)

GenCon had to be the best time I’ve ever had in my life (in gaming terms anyways).  Even though I had the best time of my life, it had to be one of the most stressful planning occasions I have ever had to do in my life.  If it wasn’t for Derek, this trip may not have turned out to be the best trip of my gaming history.

How intimidating it was, when I first announced that I was taking the plunge to go to GenCon.  I did not know my head for my ass and was extremely nervous to do some of the bookings that I had to do for this trip.  Even having started an account at GenCon, there was so much information on the web site that I did not know what to do with it.  The only advantage I had in planning the trip was that I had a person of experience guiding me in the step by step process of being able to attend GenCon.

I was so excited when I finally booked my badge for this event, and right after, Derek booked our hotel room at the gorgeous Omni Severn hotel.  This was the easy part.
 The next part was choosing the events we had to schedule for these four days.  If any of you have perused the website you will understand what I mean about selection problems.  There are so many seminars, so many games, and so many events that you could attend, and choose from that the sheer possibilities were extremely overwhelming.

I will now take the time to give those who wish to go to GenCon 2013, 10 tips I thought were extremely helpful to me in my best four days of gaming.

1. Book Everything Early

GenCon is a series of deadlines.  They are deadlines that you should follow.  You may think, oh well, I’ll do it later, it doesn’t work this way.  When you book your badge during your first GenCon deadline, the organizers then give you a promo code in order for you to book your hotel rooms.  This code gives you special rates at certain select hotels.  This is not the hard part.  The hard part is getting a hotel in the downtown core when you wait too long.  Hotels book extremely quickly and sometimes, if you wait too long, you’ll be staying a long ways away from downtown.

Two months later it is now time to book your events.  A few weeks usually before the deadline, the GenCon will post all the events that are available at the time on the web site for all to view.  I would highly recommend that you take the time to go through and write down all the events that you wish to attend.  Once that is done, write yourself up a schedule.  GenCon starts Thursday morning’s at about 8:00 AM and ends with the last seminars on Sundays around 2:00 PM.  Once you’ve designed your scheduled, place all the events [even the ones that overlap] into the designated time slots on their schedule and eliminate the ones that you really do not want to attend. Once you have your selections made book them the minute registration opens.

2. Overbooking

This is something I did this year.  Derek warned me that I may not be able to make some of the events that I have booked for.  I kind of brushed him off and said that I have the endurance and the speed to make all the seminars on time.  What I failed to realize with my stubbornness is that he did not mean that I could not physically make the seminars, it was that some of the events tend to go longer than anticipated in the first place.  To give you an example: My first event of GenCon was LFR: Rising Darkness.  Having a grand ole time, and playing as tactically as I normally do and suddenly look at my watch to suddenly realize that this event ends in 30 minutes and I don’t even think we got ¾ of the way through the adventure at this point.  The event went 30-45 mins over and I ended up missing one of my seminars.  GenCon is unpredictable, so make sure to give yourself some time to get from event to event without having to kill yourself to do so.

One thing to note, if you think you will not be making a paid event (such as boardgame, or RPG event), you can actually get your tickets refunded if you bring them to the ticket counter approx. 2 hours before the event.  They will either apply the credit to your account, or you can trade them in for generic tickets which you can use for something else you may want to do at some point.

3. Make Time For the Vendor Hall

If there is one thing that I did regret about having booked so many events is that I never got to properly walk through the vendor hall.  The place was immense and so many companies were represented in the hall.  I was so overbooked with events with no large scheduled block of time that my time in the vendor hall was very limited.

From what I understand of some of the people I knew who went through the vendor hall, is that there were many deals to be had. Whether it be 2-for-1 packages, 40 to 50% off certain merchandise, or just plain items that you never normally see in the market, vendors were looking to sell their merchandise. No vendor ever wants to go home with all that merchandise they do bring the conventions, so making a deal is part of the convention atmosphere.

My recommendation is to give yourself at least 3 to 4 hours to go through the vendor hall, to go through all the booths and familiarize yourself with what is around, to make a list and to compare the prices of some of the things that you may want to buy.

In order to maximize your visit to the vendor hall, make sure that before you go to GenCon you make yourself a list of what you want to buy, the prices you would be willing to pay for an item (you can check for rare items on eBay or any other auction site for that matter), and make sure you have the storage capacity to bring all those ends back to your hotel room.

4. Budget, Budget, Budget

One thing I'm extremely thankful for is having budgeted a good amount of money for GenCon. GenCon is expensive! I cannot believe how much money it takes to attend a convention such as this one. If I do not watch myself I could have spent thousands of dollars. Fortunately for me I'm extremely good at budgeting money, but some people aren't. Make sure that when you go to GenCon that you do have enough money; make sure that you save throughout the year $100 a month is probably enough; make sure you save and bring more than you think you will spend.

Another way to control your budgeting is by traveling in groups. I ended up only going with one person this year to GenCon. Between Derek and I, we both paid approximately $600 per person for gas and hotel costs alone. You could see where I'm going with this; when you look at the cost of everything, $300 for fuel, $900 for the hotel room, $1200 shared between 2 people is $600 a person, shared between 3 people is $400 a person and shared between 4 people the cost goes down to $300 per person. You can see that when you travel in groups of 2,3,4 or more the cost of the hotel room and travel expenses are significantly reduced.

Stay tuned for Part 2.