Doc ‘Con’ Cowie’s GENCON Scrapbook 2019

Running with the Gamers

It’s August, it’s the GROGNARD Files, it’s time for an update from GenCon!

Those of you who have read my previous update know the score :enormous, expensive, extraordinary.

So, let’s cover the Big Four, and, heck, let’s rate them out of ten to give this update some sort of tension and excitement!


“Ho hum, time to pack…. Not sure whether to laugh, or cry, or cackle triumphantly…. Probably cry to start with #FirstWorldGenConProblems

Let’s begin with everything you will have already seen on the interwebs – the cavernous Trade Hall, the New Releases, the Gen Con Limited Editions, the queues, the crowds, the credit card bills… 

Those of you who know me will already have guessed I enjoy this – we had a record haul this year with over 200lbs of games and paraphernalia.

There’s a reason I bring my sons, and though I obviously love the bonding, it’s mostly the luggage allowance.

Top priority this year was unsurprisingly the Chaosium stand, where I ended up bringing back six of the twenty sets of preview Runequest books available for sale (sorry, rest of the world). 

The Trade Hall is almost Vancian, everything you can imagine and a lot more. Twisting and packed pathways through a bazaar lined with entreating booth merchants, bardic music, extraordinary and impossible sights – even the mysterious and forbidden…er… “delights” of the Cosplay Deviants gazebo! 

Have a look at the picture if you want to see what else I managed to find. Ultimately half of this pile was stuff for other people, so this is another reason I’m so keen to tempt you lot along – maybe someone else can share the fetch quests next year? 


Favourite Purchase – May the Lord above forgive me (because my bank manager won’t) I got a Beadle and Grimm Sinister Silver Edition for Ghosts of Saltmarsh… 

Favourite Paraphernalia – the Oddfish Games Adventure Scents. Sadly looking at the site online doesn’t really capture a good sniff at “Fetid Swamp”or the other extraordinary perfumes…


18oz Cowboy ribeye with horseradish and gorgonzola butter. Come on, come next year, you know you want to….

Well, people seemed a lot more interested in pictures of food than anything else I tried to communicate about my trip, so I thought I’d better put it in. There is a lot of good food in Indianapolis – I’m not pretending it’s necessarily the hautest of cuisine, but they really do comfort food incredibly well and in the quantities you’d expect. There is everything you’d hope for – and the huge numbers of food trucks have a ridiculous amount of variety with (usually) short queues. 


Favourite Meal – the legendary horseradish shrimp cocktail, epic steak and gigantic bread pudding at Harry and Izzy’s.

Entirely Coincidental Weight Gain – this year 6kg. Perhaps I need to walk around the Trade Hall a bit more


The Pathfinder Room. The PSi World Room was twice as big (obvs)

Perhaps the one area where Gen Con doesn’t excel. Companies are always short of people running their games, and are happy to stump up con passes to those who run large numbers of sessions. Unfortunately this sometimes affects quality control, and the boys and I always have at least one really tepid game that reminds us how important a good GM is, and how lucky we are usually. 

The Fight In The Skies Society play Dawn Patrol all GenCon every year – Mike Carr is the only guy to have been to every GenCon…

This isn’t the norm, though; and on the flip side you have games you just can’t get anywhere else – epic Pathfinder games with fifty tables working together, demos of the new hotness, escape rooms, huge wargames; and, of course, you can find yourself playing with the designer of your favourite game if you get lucky….

But seriously, if you just want high quality and reliable quality games, DMs and fellow players, stick with Expo, or even better – Grogmeet :- ) 


Favourite Game

The outstanding “Flaming Star” by the “You Too Can Cthulhu” team – complete with sixties airplane LARP, video screens and *MILD SPOILER* the near thermonuclear destruction of America


This is really the most important thing for me, and obviously the most personal.  It’s certainly why I go every year, and every year it gets better, as you meet up not only with your friends from previous years but also find new ones. The Trade Hall is a great place to meet and chat with game designers both great and small, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars with reliably good beer to continue the conversations. 

9/10 (would have been 10 – but, dear reader, you couldn’t make it)

As always, Gen Con is amazing, but don’t get too much FOMO. Conventions are 80% the people who attend them, and I’m sure everyone gets as much joy from their regular gaming group, or the local conventions they attend. 

On the other hand – if you ever want to give it a try, give me a shout, and I’d be delighted to go over the inside scoop…

Doc Cowie

Author: Dirk

Host of The GROGNARD RPG Files podcast. Talking bobbins about Runequest, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, T&T, AD&D and others from back in the day and today.

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