Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Gamehole Con III

After re-reading yesterday’s post, I think I might have come across as kind of whiney, which I was.  But worse than that, I might have given the impression that GHC3 was a “bad” con, which it most certainly wasn’t.  Any negative experiences I had were purely the result of my own personal choices.  In no way does that reflect on the quality of the con as an event.  So, here’s a review of Gamehole Con itself.

The Venue
This was the first year that the con was not being held at the Sheraton.  The hotel did a wonderful job over the last two years, but Gamehole is just getting too big for it.  So this year it was at the Alliant Energy Center (ironically, just across the street from the Sheraton).  With the extra space, and a more crowd-friendly layout, stepping into Gamehole Con III felt more like stepping into a convention than the last two.  Now, that could be seen as good or bad, depending on your point of view, but personally, I liked it.  There was lots of room to move, and the atmosphere was more what you would expect from a convention.  The hotel had guests that were not associated with the Con, so you would occasionally get odd looks and such (especially during the first year).  None of that at the Alliant.

Gaming was situated in four rooms, an atrium for open gaming, and an upper floor (which was mostly board, card, and minis games).  The rooms were divided mainly into D&D 5E, Pathfinder, Special Events, and General (as far as I could tell).  There was also a lot of leeway there, so there was never a shortage of tables for gaming, even at the peak on Saturday.  All of the rooms felt comfortably climate-controlled to me, and I never got hot or cold, regardless of what time I was gaming.  Large tables seemed to fit the required capacities, and even the chairs were pretty comfortable.

The vendor room was much larger than at the Sheraton, with a wide variety of game-related stuff available, including a few excellent artists.  As always, I could have spent an entire paycheck without blinking (though that still would not have netted me the prize I most covet every year, the replica of Conan’s Father’s Sword, from the 1982 movie).  As it was I didn’t actually buy anything this year.  Mainly because I’m poor.

Oh, and the Gamehole Con paid for parking for everyone (which basically saved each person $21).  That was huge!

The Schedule
This year was a first for me, as I was unable to pre-register for games early, and ended up actually signing up for games late.  At this point, I have to say that the web-based registration was much more user-friendly than in the past (in large part thanks to a very talented webmaster, who also happens to be a good friend of mine).  This allowed me to easily find games that were available at specific times, and quickly take care of registration in one, fell swoop.  Granted, next year I will try to register earlier, but that’s on me, not the Con.

There was a good selection of games, and you could easily fill your schedule based on your individual availability.  Generally speaking, there were games of every type starting every two hours, from 8 am to Midnight on Friday and Saturday, and to 6 pm on Sunday.  Sessions lasted from 2 to 6 hours each.  And there were several panels of interest, most for free.  These make great time-fillers between games.

One concern that came up was that some games got cancelled for various reasons.  However, for every game that got cancelled there was one nearby that had an opening.  So, I don’t think many people, if any at all, were wanting for a game at any given time.  A friend had his Sunday game cancelled.  He probably could have gotten into something else easily enough.  But he decided to go to a movie instead.

If there was a downside to the Con at all, it was probably the food.  In the past they had kiosks outside, as well as the hotel restaurants.  This year they forewent the kiosks in favor of a sub sandwich chain and a pizza chain having “booths” inside, along with the regular refreshment bar that’s part of the whole venue.  I had heard the food wasn’t all that good.  And the pricing, although just about what you would expect inside a convention, was still a little high.  Hopefully they can find a better solution there.  But honestly, despite the fact that the food was the most common complaint from what I overheard, it didn’t seem to slow anyone down, as they did a brisk business anyways.  Personally, we had to go cheap, so I stuffed my backpack with snack food from home, and we only ate out twice (dinner on Friday and Saturday).  And at this location, it’s not a far drive to find something good to eat.

Gamehole Con continued its record of being an awesome convention.  I never heard one complaint about the Con itself, and even the special guests are eager to come back again.  One little thing I thought was cool was that they track how many GHCs you go to, and note that on your badge as a level.  It was pretty cool to look down and see “Level 3” on my badge.  Looking forward to being Level 4 next year!

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