Gen Con Indy Attendance Tips Part 1: Before the Show!

My Gen Con Tip Archive: Part 1: Before the Show! | Part 2: At the Show | Part 3: Looking for Work

It’s just over three weeks to Gen Con Indy 2009, and a few months ago, a first-time attendee asked me for advice attending the show. I rattled off a ton of off-the-cuff advice for her, and now I’ve distilled it down into a short series of posts. Here’s Part 1: Before the Show!

  • If you’re looking to buy stuff that is brand-new at the show, figure out how the company is selling it well in advance. Some of them sell X copies each morning, some try and sell them all the first day, some ration them other ways.
  • Don’t bring your laptop. If you do, leave it in your room each day. You’re not going to use it, there isn’t a ton of free wifi around, and you’re not going to use it.
  • Don’t bring many gaming books. If you’re going to play X game, bring the X core book, but that’s it. I knew someone who brought is ENTIRE Shadowrun collection to Gen Con one year, and he carried it around in a giant rucksack. That was stupid.
  • But do bring your phone charger. There’s an AT&T store in the mall. You’ll probably want your digital camera and charger, too.
  • The Embassy Suites has a free breakfast if you’re staying there. They have a free happy hour, too.
  • There is a CVS about three blocks from the convention center. It is your best bet for inexpensive bottled drinks, snackfood, cigarettes, Red Bull, and condoms. The hours are awkward, though:

    Tues-Fri: 6:30am – 6:30pm
    Sat: 8am – 6:30pm
    Sun: 9am – 5pm

    Edit: Daniel Perez has a great point — the earlier you do your shopping at the CVS, the less likely they are to run out of stuff. Buy everything you know you’ll need on Wednesday if possible.

  • Bring comfy shoes. This seems like a no-brainer, right? If you’re wearing a costume or something like that, keep a pair of your regular shoes in your bag for long-distance walking.
  • Bring twice as many pairs of socks as you’d normally wear. You’re walking a lot and it will be grossly hot and humid.
  • Hand sanitizer. Bring a bottle. Use it. Offer it to your friends whenever you use it. You don’t want to get sick at or after the show. The dreaded “con crud” can be defeated!


  1. Adam,

    Awesome. I’ll be doing a similar segment on the next This Just In From GenCon pre-show episode I’m recording in a week. Mind if I include some of this in that ep?

    – Ryan

    • Ryan: Of course not — go for it!

      Ian: You’re right about that. If I were to restate things: Unless you are going to use your laptop as a necessary part of running a game [or reporting from the convention, or if you have to check your work email daily], don’t bring it.

  2. Let these be added to the Gospel of Gen Con.
    Great tips, all of them.
    I would add that people hit the CVS as soon as they arrive; supplies then to disappear rather fast and then you’re stuck eating tuna & grape jelly melba-toast sandwiches.

  3. @Daniel – Oh I know… it struck me as funny, going with the geek/nerd stereotype. Yep, they do happen.

  4. I dunno about the no laptops thing. As long as there’s cell-phone signal I have internet; and my laptop weighs as much as 2 gaming books (and at least for D&D has the contents of rather more than that.)

    If you’ve got a netbook they can be on the same order of weight as a single gaming book (though most of the ones I’ve seen would make for difficult reading of books).

    I’d lump the two pieces of advice (no laptop, less gaming books) into one – keep your load low – and here are two ways to do so.

    I’ve yet to regret bringing my laptop to I-Con, and that con frankly SPRAWLED every year I went.

  5. “Evaluate each and every item in your pack. Unless you’re going to use it on the con floor or in a game room THAT day, leave it in your hotel room. If you won’t use it at all during the con week(end) leave it at home.”

    There’s no reason for me to bring my L5R cards if there’s no L5R at the con; or to bring my 40K armies with me the days the tournament isn’t running. (the first was a mistake I made only once)

  6. I know my “I am carrying it with me” bag is going to be: Total Warfare and my old Armoury hard case with just one small group of ‘mechs/protomechs, and my hard case with pencils, my Liao Dice, some MW infantry pieces, and some unpainted boxed set pieces. I wish I had a bigger back-pack, so I could put my purchases on any day in it as well…

  7. […] On the second pre-show episode of This Just In From GenCon 2009, I joined Ryan Macklin to talk about convention survival. We went into the 1-2-3 rule (minimum of 1 shower, 2 meals, 3 hours of sleep per day) and some tips that we’ve picked up from their years traveling the convention circuit and from what other folks have said online — notably Adam Jury from Catalyst Games. […]

  8. There is a supermarket on New York and Alabama. If you get in early enough on Wednesday, consider making a trip there. It had small packs of Puffs tissues with aloe, something I’ve never seen elsewhere. A bit of fresh fruit, some soda if you’re feeling ambitious, that sort of thing.

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