Episode 85: Gen Con 2009, Part 2

85: Gen Con 2009, Part 2

Release Date: Aug. 31, 2009

Running Time: 131 min.

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This is how we roll. We conclude our con coverage with 9 interviews, including two amazing dice men: Col. Louis Zocchi and Kevin Cook, owner of the world's largest dice collection.

Interviews: Steve Jackson Games, Filsinger Games, CHITAG, GameScience Dice, Kevin Cook, HL Games, Smirk & Dagger, P9 Gaming, Duncan Toys

Complete Show Notes continue after the break.


Steve Jackson Games  Link

Filsinger Games  Link

CHITAG - Chicago Toy & Game Fair Link

GameScience Dice Link

Kevin Cook   Link

HL Games  Link

Smirk & Dagger Games  Link

P9 Gaming - CCG Table Tops Link

Duncan Toys - WarStone Link

2009 Spiel NFL Pick 'Em Pool Link

Try your luck at pigskin prognostication this season. Pool password is spielon.


I'm sure there are some goofs in there somewhere. Let us know if (when?) you find one!


I love the idea that when Dave was interviewing Kevin Cook that somehow the universe altered slightly. I wasn't rolling any dice that weekend (real OR virtual), so I can't say if any abnormalities were observed :)

He didn't seem very interested in the large game collection that resulted from collecting the dice within the boxes. I wonder if he has tried selling/trading games away missing the dice? It wouldn't be that hard to make due with standard dice on many games containing custom dice.

I felt like all the dice in the convention hall rolled a little closer to this cosmic conjuction of dice maniacs. I have no concrete evidence, but if you listen closely...

Interesting question about the unwanted/extra games. I'll ask Kevin and see what he says.


I do not believe that I even have any games with normal pipped d6's ... As to selling the games missing the dice that were specifically designed for the games ... I had not considered doing this ... as I would not think that they would be very playable without the dice ... and if the dice were available without the games ... I would have purchased them this way ... to conserve space :) 

I am sure you could sell them - probably your success would vary with the availability of the game.

There are plenty of ways to generate random results that would match the dice - the command and colors games have dice designed for the games, for example, but a normal pipped dice would work fine with a cross reference chart.

If a game was out of print, non dice collectors would still bite!

This is quite true ... I have a friend of mine ... who loves board games ... so I like to hang on to them ... so that we can occasionally play ...

Also ... I dont sell things ... as it makes tax time a hassel

     Nice to hear that The Spiel dice are officially in the world's largest dice collection, even if they are buried under 27,000 or so other dice.  Dave, it's good to see you are not the only dice-aholic around. Spiel on! "The Provost" 

Steve Jackson Games was, along with the slyly mind-expanding satire of the early days of the Church of the Subgenius, one of the few benefits to being a kid in Dallas, Texas. (I'm dating myself there, but hey, I'm a cheap date.) How bizarre that the past creators of at least one full-fledged classic (Illuminati! which still seems one of the oddest choices of source material in games), a number of once beloved cult titles (Car Wars, OGRE) and the original open template RPG (GURPS) now find themselves having to prove that they’re not just the Munchkin guys as many of their original classics edge into relative obscurity. It’s got to be a strange double-edged sword- it’s one of the most lucrative and popular game lines; it’s rumored to be the tentpole that keeps its publisher alive yet the rep you interviewed sounded slightly defensive about it. I’ve spent a few years shaking my head in disbelief at SJG’ s output, including the oft-mentioned price to component discrepancy.  Despite the undeniable cash flood from the card games, It’d be nice to see them get their balance back so I hope you’re right about Revolution.

Too bad the vendor of older games has packed up shop since, as you might guess, that would be the big draw for me. I share for example Dave’s quest for the 3M sports games and am a bit miffed that I nail down a copy of the excellent Win, Place and Show in the same month that sees the release of Long Shot, which can’t help my chances of getting any other horse game to a table.

Ah, the Gnomes of Zurich, I remember them well. I enjoy many of the old school Steve Jackson games, including Illuminati. My favorite memory is a game in which my friend Cathy and I orchestrated a last second team victory by Shangri-La over a very confident opponent and pal, Curtis. Heh. Awful Green Things From Outer Space is another classic. That game could do *very* well with an update, I think. You could even add co-op elements to it easily to make it play with more than 2 players.

It is curious that SJG thinks of itself as the Munchkin game company now, but I supposed this might be a cautionary tale for other game companies as Steerpike suggests below. I do begrudge them having a hit game but it it obviously a challenge not to lose a company's identity if the company and the game become synonymous. The other example of a company that has pulled back from this dilemma is Days of Wonder. Battle Lore is a great game, but DoW started to become The Battle Lore company and not a game publisher with varied interests. I was glad to see them sell it off to a good home and return to their roots.

Having played Revolution, I think we are seeing SJG moving in that direction, too. It is really enjoyable and I think it has a chance to sell well to a broad audience of gamers and even some non-gamers because the mechanics are clever but simple to learn.

Regarding the 3M titles, Dave is constantly on  the lookout for those, so you may have some competition. Heh. Not to worry on your recent purchase. Long Shot may well merit a place on your shelf in addition to Win Place and Show. Stay tuned to Episode 86...

From Zurich with Mssrs. Shea and Wilson to Zgwortz with the crew of the Znutar! Although Awful Green Things is definitely a classic, it actually started life at TSR as a free (!)  pullout supplement in the original Dragon Magazine and they handled its first boxed release. SJG merely picked it up later and reprinted it. To their credit, it kept the classic alive; to their shame it was a lot to charge for components that weren't much better than the magazine original. I gave a copy to and played it with my nephew last Christmas. The gameplay itself still holds up very well and I couldn't imagine it without the Tom Wham art. All it would need is some better mounted components at a reasonable price a la Red November, a game which owes a great deal to AGTFOS. You might look at Snits! the other Wham/TSR reprint from SJG in which they tried to expand Snits' Revenge beyond a two-player game. How successful they were is open to debate but it's a bit like your idea here.

As far as companies that have escaped the one-note image the most impressive example I can think of is Z-Man who in their early days were just the guys who made those silly B-movie card games and have now made a real push to become almost "the other Rio Grande".

And unfortunately the hard part is not convincing me that Long Shot deserves a place on my shelf (indeed, that's far too easy; how much cash do you guys want out of me, anyway?) but convincing others dazzled by the new and shiny that the classic deserves a chance on their table.

I'm not sure that Kevin Cook sounded nutty enough for me. Admitedly the bit about buying loads of games just to get the dice, and throwing the rest of the goober away sounded pretty left field - but he came across as a mainline geek in the interview.

I'm convinced that if Dave had the time and the money he would totally out weird that guy.

It was interesting to hear the Geocache connection, though, as I am a keen Geocacher when I can drag myself away from Dominion Intrigue. And my calling card is... yes, a die. So any Cache discovered by yours truly is blessed with a Steerpike Die for the next to find. To date I've been using standard shop bought dice but I wonder if I should investigate Chessex further.

Which leads me to a thought. With all those Custom Dice out there (an ever growing number) is Kevin's collection ever going to near completion ?

I really appreciated the GenCon coverage. I've noted a certain subdued coverage, of the event, on a couple of other podcasts and your closing section around the lack of a free games area seems to tie in with an unspoken undercurrent in what I've been hearing. It's a great shame but it sounds like the event is more a Sales Convention than anything else.

The UK Games Expo was a similar dissapointment to me. Too many people trying to sell stuff and just not enough opportunity to play with the purchases. Don't get me wrong - everyone has to make a living and I'm happy to support my hobby but I don't want to go to a convention to have my pockets emptied without the joy of much open gaming with a wide variety of like minded citizens. Cons that lose the balance are likely to lose support over the long term.

As an old Illuminati fan I have to second the comments of GregoryIS. How bizarre that SJGs are thought of as 'the Munchkin guys' when they had so many great early tiles.

Perhaps the caution of the gentleman from "Smirk and Dagger" was well warranted.

Welcome back, Mr. Pike! It's been far too long since your last ramble!

Allow me to respond in kind.

You may have a point about Dave, but Kevin would give him a good run for the money in the eccentric collector Olympics! A rep from a miniatures company came up to Kevin as we were finishing the interview to show him a fig that was going to be included in a new game. It was Kevin sculpted as a bad ass sci-fi soldier with a d20 on his helmet and a pistol with a d6 as the barrel. Of course, the gun was his six shooter....  Dave's comment was, "You know you've made it as a collector when people start making minis of you!" I can see a unit of bald dice-mace wielding warriors in his future.

Custom dice for geocaching is an excellent idea! What a cool treasure that would be to find. I think Chessex ships internationally. Tell 'em we sent you. :)

GenCon is certainly *very* focused on commercial aspects of gaming. They never seem to miss an opportunity to create additional "revenue streams" (can you tell even typing this phrase makes me shudder?). I don't begrudge them making a tidy profit at all *if* they are able to provide an environment that seems more about encouraging people to play than it does walking through a carnival getting fleeced for every ride I get on or tent I walk into. In this respect, I wouldn't say the con is as focused on sales as it is squeezing as much money out of attendees in new and exciting ways. And this, to me, is not a good direction for any con to head toward.

I'll stand by the suggestion I made on the show. I think the GenCon folks could figure out the costs involved in having open game areas, perhaps with ofshoot areas for vendors who want to have special demo tables for their games. Based on attendance and headcounts in past years, they can figure out how  to divide this cost among people interested in board games. Sell a board gamer's badge to the convention that has this cost included and whamo! problem solved. If you're willing to pay, then your ticket to the con is your ticket to open games any time any where, no questions asked. Your time at the con isn't spent trying to figure out who to pay and where to buy tickets. It's spent playing. If the special badge price is too steep, you can get a regular non-boardgame badge and take your chances in the exhibition hall with demos or with pick-up games in hotels, etc. With GenCon it's mainly an issue of the size of the overall event. Clearly, the focus is not on board games and boardgaming, but I think this model could easily work for other types of game events as well.


You can see the thing in person at THIS LINK scroll down about 60%

The fun thing is ... this is the inital casting ... it was SUPPOSED to have a d20 on it ... but they could not find a source for them ... UNTIL ... the Micrometal Dice were released from Chessex

I was informed by Matt from ArmourCast (the Mini-Me people) that he spoke to Donald Reentz of Chessex and he supplied them with enough d20's to do the initial run !



Thanks for the links to the pics, Kevin.

Your metal stand-in looks as great as I remember. Did you have any input on the design or was this a surprise to you?

This makes me ponder what my own mini-me would look like. Fantasy? SF? Pulp adventurer? So many good choices...

Actually I did have some input

I posed for the original photo ... and I chose the style (SteamPunk)

HERE is the artists original concept art from which the sculptor



Yes, apologies for the lack of rambles. Life has been busy though gaming has continued.

I curse Websense Internet blocking at my current employer. How can I spend a satisfactory lunchtime if I cannot dip my toes into Spiel Central ?


>> I'm not sure that Kevin Cook sounded nutty enough for me.
>> Admitedly the bit about buying loads of games just to get the dice, and throwing the rest of
>> the goober away sounded pretty left field - but he came across as a mainline geek in the
>> interview.

Actually I keep the game ... but I just store it separate

>> I'm convinced that if Dave had the time and the money he would totally out weird that guy.

I kinda doubt that ... talk to the people who actually know me :) 

>> To date I've been using standard shop bought dice but I wonder if I should investigate
>> Chessex further.

I do encourage you to do a Chessex custom ... if you have enough made ... the price can come down really low ... but in general ... they are about $1 a die ... If you do decide to ... be sure to send me a couple for the collection :) 

>> Which leads me to a thought. With all those Custom Dice out there (an ever growing
>> number) is Kevin's collection ever going to near completion ?

I cant imagine it would

>> <SNIP>It's a great shame but it sounds like the event is more a Sales Convention than
>> anything else.

Purchasing and schmoozing is the reason I go ... I have yet to play in a free or ticketed event but it is sad to hear that

Interesting take on UK Games Expo.

Listen to Neil from Meeples and Miniatures talk to Henry Hyde from Battlegames magazine and you get the impression that cons in the UK are largely trade shows where you can go and get the latest stuff. Your takeaway seems to be along those lines, but apparantly that isn't what you expected. Was it billed as more open gaming than what you found?

Most of the cons that I have been to in the UK have been more about open Gaming than anything else - Baycon, Manorcon, Oxcon.

When the UK Expo came along it promised to be the biggest and best in the UK but it turned out to be one big trade show and hence the disappointment. Perhaps I miss read the press release. I remember being incensed because the 'larger than life' Shadows over Camelot was cancelled, to make room for more trade booths, and my Tigris and Euphrates competition was rescheduled to a time I couldn't make due to lack of space and/or organisation.

Really not the norm for other UK conventions.

Funnily enough, the last time I saw Neil was at Manorcon in Leicester when we almost managed to get a game of Fire and Axe together. How come he didn't interview me ?

I would really love to see the Candyman Plushie...I couldn't find any info on the Smirk & Dagger site. Are there any photos??


I also searched high and low for pictures on the Smirk & Dagger site and could not find any.

By the time we did the interview, they were sold out, so I couldn't take any pics.

In the interview, Curt Covert (grand poobah of Smirk & Dagger) talked about the talented fan/seamstress who makes them. Perhaps she has a site with pics. I'll ask him and see if he can point us in the right direction.

I'll get mine out and take pics in the morning.  I was able to procure 4 of them for my game group.  I decided I wanted more later, but they were gone by then.

Four of them? You're working on an entire squad of gingerbread plushies. Nice.

Thanks in advance for the pics!

Forgot I had some previous engagements on Friday... the pics (sorry for shady quality, cameraphone + dark room = less than perfect pics.


I hope everyone gets the idea of how awesome these are.  For the record I got Yellow, Red, Green, and Sparkly Purple.Gingerbread plush baggies


One out of the bag


Yellow out of the bag


One after taking some damage








By the way, the tagline on the package is "we put the 'cute' in 'carnage."  Very cool.



Carnage *is* cute. Who knew? :)

I especially like the detatchable limbs. And the innocent but yet menacing smile...