GenCon 2012 is in the books and we the gamers begin the slow stumble back to our normal lives. GenCon was great as always. Due to my late registration I was at no risk of being over scheduled. That gave me more time to search the exhibit hall for all things news and notable. Catalyst and Iron Wind Metals put on a great show and I’m already looking forward to next year.
Catalyst Game Labs
The best and most important news item I gathered from GenCon was the fact that Interstellar Operations was going to get a lot of playtest time before it’s release. Straight from Randall Bills himself, he promised everything would be released in some form before the book went to print in order to receive feedback from the fans. And he emphasized the word everything. That includes the new edition of the Inner Sphere in Flames that I am most excited about. Getting a chance to kick the tires is going to be awesome. Hopefully we will all take full advantage of the opportunity.
Catalyst isn’t just about BattleTech and Shadowrun and hasn’t been for some time now. Catalyst had multiple games to show off for the first time in print. The biggest news was Leviathans, but other games were also available under the Catalyst brand including Hex-a-gon, Balance of Power, and Merchants.
In addition, multiple new games were available for demonstration to show what was in the pipeline for later release including Linear and The Duke. Those who took up a Duke demo were treated with a cut and play version to take home. I liked the Linear demo, which plays fast and seems like it’s a great game for 5-6 players.
Iron Wind Metals
Iron Wind Metals is always a delight to see at a convention. There is just so much available from them that it is hard to not find something to like. They were packed with convention LEs, battle armor, terrain, Fighting Piranha Graphics decals and more.
With all of the new releases there were a few items that were brand new and unannounced. We all knew about the XMarx massive resin ‘Mech hanger but few knew about the smaller and much more economical ‘Mech repair bay for sale at GenCon. I plan on posting detailed pictures of this sub $25 terrain piece when I get a chance to build and paint it up.
Battle Armor in every form were available at the booth. From the new 28mm Hauberk and the Nighthawk to the old Clan Elemental they had you covered. Like the original scale? Take a gander at their sorted bins of their entire battle armor and infantry selection (and also microfighters for the aero buffs). All of which were ala carte so you can buy only the minis you want and not a pack of 30 you may not be able to use. Nothing is better than being able to shell out just a few bucks to get a horde of unique infantry to spice up your armies.
The convention racks were stocked full of the usual fare but also included many archived units that you would have to pay high fees to get otherwise. If you have a hard to find item in mind, you have a good chance of seeing it at a convention IWM attends.
The best part is the opportunity to talk with the owners and their minions. These people love what they do. They will talk your ear off about what games they would like to see run at the convention and what new miniatures they would love to see sculpted. They have a fan mentality to their business and are as excited to see new releases as any BattleTech player I know.
State of the Games
I was not impressed with everything at the convention this year. There is always room for improvement and Catalyst slipped in a few key areas. GenCon is the premier convention in North America and it should show in the presentation and quality of the games being played. Here are a few ways Catalyst could raise the bar.
The games that I played from Catalyst could have been better organized. I tried out the Flight School and the Grinder and both had rough edges. The Flight School in particular. There were eight players involved who were chomping at the bit to start rolling dice. The explanation of the rules was rough. The Demo Agent running the event didn’t have a mastery of the rules in use and spent lots of time checking things in Total Warfare and second guessing himself. Gameplay was slow and the game was unfulfilling. We started the game late trying to setup but were promptly kicked out when our two hour slot was up to make room for the next event. All told we played three turns in two hours. I don’t feel that I got my moneys worth for my $6 of tickets.
The Grinder was loosely monitored by a Demo Agent which led to myself and a few other players guiding the action and keeping the game moving. I don’t mind helping younger players play the game. I would have done so anyways. I just feel that the Demo Agent could have guided the action better and helped to make the experience great for everyone.
The game terrain used in many games left much to be desired. GenCon is the epicenter of gaming. It is the pantheon of gaming excess and epic games. Why then must we be forced to play on bland mapsheets or lackluster hex terrain with sparely arranged heroscape hexes? Catalyst had their moments for sure. The game with the lance plus of Omegas was a sight to see. But can’t we do better with the terrain?
To contrast, the guys at Wild Child Gaming held a few games over the convention that were gorgeous to look at. Just by looks alone, I would much rather play in WCG’s games than Catalyst. They had dropships and buildings and gorgeous 3D terrain that wasn’t prepainted heroscape. Catalyst has been taking the easy route to put on games and it shows.
(on the left a Catalyst grinder, to the right Wild Child Gaming event)
Mapsheets are needed for games like the BattleTech Open. But when it comes to a Grinder or Flight School or the canon events, they can do so much better. GenCon should be the time to bring out the best; not slap together the mundane. I can play on heroscape terrain at home. I want the wow factor to come back to GenCon BattleTech. It’s worth the extra effort.
For some reason, Catalyst decided that the standard price for a two hour gaming block was too low for BattleTech and ratcheted up the price to $6 per two hours. The GenCon catalog clearly states that the normal price is $2 per two hours of games. That is the way it’s been in the past and that is what other games from companies such as Alderac, Fantasy Flight Games, Wild Child Gaming and others were charging. I asked around but nobody was able to provide a clear answer to explain the change. I think it is imperative to get people playing the Grinders and Boot Camps. Charging over the mandatory minimum after fans have already shelled out for an expensive badge, hotel and travel is insult to injury. It shouldn’t be this way and Catalyst should bring prices back to normal for future cons.
Who Wasn’t There
One surprising thing I noticed this year wasn’t something I found but rather who I didn’t find. Notable no shows include Crocodile Games, Armorcast, and Reaper. All of these companies provide great products and are well known in the industry. I’m sad to see them not attend. I always enjoyed visiting their booths in the past. Shame to see them not in attendance.
The Convention in Pictures
I take a bunch of pictures of the convention and not all of them make it into the first few reports on the blog. Here are the rest of the best in pictures!
Posted under Convention