Wow! GenCon 2022 has ended. I have returned home with memories I will cherish for a lifetime. This is the first of several articles in which I cover my GenCon experience, a survey of some of the fantastic companies I spoke with, and an overview of the games I managed to play.
I had the privilege of attending the convention as a member of the press, and while this didn’t grant me special access, already engaging companies were more engaging with members of the media. As a result, I connected and chatted with some amazing creators and companies in the tabletop roleplaying gaming space.
Chaosium came in force and had two vendor stalls set up. One at the front of the vendor hall and one at the rear. The front, main stall, was the primary sales area, and the folks from The H.P. Lovecraft Historial Society were there too. The rear stall featured a game demo area. The buzz within the Chaosium community of supporters was the release of the Pendragon 6e Quickstart. These Quisktarts flew off the tables every time I went by the stall.
Free League Publishing had a substantial presence as well. They presented a wide array of games for the public to devour, and they did. By late Saturday afternoon, many products were nearly or fully sold out. Almost all of the MÖRK BORG content was gone by mid-day on Saturday; only a few copies of Feretory remained. Johan Nohr was on hand promoting MÖRK BORG, and customers were lining up for his autograph on their purchases.
Pelgrane Press was all in this year. They not only brought a full complement of books, but they also had a number of their authors working the stall and autographing books. The three newest books appeared to be their hottest sellers – Swords of the Serpentine by Kevin Kulp, Fearful Symmetries by Steve Dempsey, and The Book of the New Jerusalem by Paula Dempsey. I understand that all three books were concurrently released to the public at GenCon and Continuum in the U.K., both held on the same weekend.
The other big player publisher was Renegade Games, whose stall had non-stop foot traffic. There was lots of interest in their board game and roleplaying game product lines. The G.I. Joe roleplaying game and deckbuilding game were fan favorites. World of Darkness fans celebrated the release of Hunter the Reckoning.
Aside from large publishers, there was a great showing from many small independent publishers. Some represented themselves, while others were there in spirit; their books and games were promoted and sold by Indie Game Developer Network (IGDN) and Indie Press Revolution (IPR).
Highlights in the small press arena were many, but these really stood out to me.
- Nerdburger Games – Author Craig Campbell was on hand in the IGDN stall selling and chatting up customers. Of note was the ENnie nominated Good Stong Hands. A fantasy tabletop roleplaying game where you portray fantastic creatures and their newly arrived human allies working to save your home of Reverie from destruction by the faceless, malevolent force known only as the Void. The game draws inspiration from movies like The Neverending Story, Legend, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and Willow.
- Bloat Games – Eric Bloat was on hand promoting the ever-popular Dark Places & Demogorgons and his other Bloat Games titles. Dark Places & Demogorgons has you playing as high school students during the early 1980s. A rash of disappearances and strange happenings have struck your town. The adults seem lost as to what to do, the police are as clueless as ever and aren’t helping, and Reverend Phillips is on another witch-hunt. It’s up to you and your friends to figure out what’s going on and stop it from happening again!
- Mythopoeia – released their successful Kickstarter, Wildsea, to the public. The Wildsea is a fiction-focused roleplaying game for 2-6 players. You play wildsailors exploring rustling waves and curious ruins, sailing the endless treetop expanse in your own unique, player-created ship. Inspired by stories like Sunless Sea, Bastion, and the Bas-Lag Trilogy and powered by a narrative, fiction-first d6 dice pool system that draws inspiration from games like Blades in the Dark and 13th Age.
- Mage Hand Press – Publisher of Dark Matter, a full science fiction conversion for 5th Edition that unlocks a universe of adventure for your table without leaving your favorite fantasy staples behind.
- Possum Creek – Publisher of the ENnie-winning Wanderhome. Wanderhome is a pastoral fantasy roleplaying game about traveling animal-folk, the world they inhabit, and the way the seasons change. It is a game filled with grassy fields, mossy shrines, herds of chubby bumblebees, opossums in sundresses, salamanders with suspenders, starry night skies, and the most beautiful sunsets you can imagine. Wanderhome uses a unique game system inspired by the No Dice, No Masters engine, developed by Avery Alder and Benjamin Rosenbaum for Dream Askew / Dream Apart.
- Flagbearer Games – Nations and Cannons – The year is 1775. The spark of revolution ignited in the thirteen colonies, and the British army is on its way to smother it. While the Redcoats mass in Boston, the 2nd Continental Congress has just formed a provisional government. Without help, the Patriots will surely fall to the British forces. Join the fight for liberty in this Revolutionary campaign setting! Nations and Cannons is a unique Revolutionary war historical setting for 5th Edition. If you’re a history buff, be on the lookout for a print version coming to Kickstarter soon.
- Burning Wheel – Of note was the gorgeous Torchbearer RPG Kickstarter exclusive extra large slipcase set. Based on the award-winning Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game, Torchbearer is a riff on the early model of fantasy roleplaying games. In it, you take on the role of a fortune-seeking adventurer. To earn that fortune, you must delve into forlorn ruins, brave terrible monsters, and retrieve forgotten treasures. However, this game is not about being a hero or fighting for your beliefs; it is about exploration and survival. Miseries and Misfortunes, a historical game set in the 17th century, really grabbed me. Miseries and Misfortunes is a series of supplements for Basic Dungeons & Dragons. It Contains new classes, weapons, spells, and equipment for playing D&D in the first half of the 17th century.
- Magpie Games – publisher or the ENnie winning Root: Tabletop RPG. Their stall stayed busy from opening to close. Selling out of the popular card game – Wizard Kittens.
These companies and specific titles really caught my attention and are only a sampling of what was offered at GenCon 2022.
On the boardgame and miniatures front, there was so much to take in. I was simply overwhelmed by the dazzling array of colors, concepts, themes, and sales pitches. With our focus primarily on tabletop roleplaying games, I gave only game select games a cursory look. Of the many, three specific games stood out to me for their popularity and play experience.
- Wizard Kittens (Magpie Games) – Wizard Kittens is a semi-cooperative set collection card game. Players are wizard kittens who have accidentally released a few curses from the library’s restricted section. They must defeat the curses before the librarian, Professor Whispurr, catches them.
- Return to Dark Tower (Restoration Games) – A “sequel” to the 1981 grail game, Return to Dark Tower is a game for 1-4 players who take the role of heroes. Together, they gather resources, cleanse buildings, defeat monsters, and undertake quests to build up their strength and discern what foe ultimately awaits them.
- Wonder Book (dV Games) – Wonder Book is a cooperative pop-up game for 1-4 players in which each player takes the role of a teenager in a group of adventurous friends. Split into six consecutive scenarios (“chapters”); each has players exploring a new part of the interactive 3D cardboard pop-up book.
That wraps up this article in the emerging series. Look for other articles that will provide more details on my experience at GenCon 2022.
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