Gen Con So Cal has come
and gone, and it was an exciting time. I was there
from early early Wednesday morning to Monday
evening, and I think I have enough stories from this
event along to keep you in articles for the rest of
the year and more. But doing several weeks of Gen
Con reports is bound to get boring, so instead I
decided to give you a list of the 45 things I
learned at Gen Con So Cal, complete with
1.. California observes daylight savings time
We left from Arizona at midnight my time, going into
the morning of Wednesday. I had a 9am meeting for
set up, and figured this way I would get several
benefits of having the kids asleep during the drive,
and miss all the California traffic. I would like to
say I succeeded in both of these things, but traffic
was so good I arrived much earlier than I expected,
getting in at 530am. No, wait, it turns out
California has daylight savings time, and therefore
I really showed up at 430am. With nothing to do for
several hours, we ate a nice slow meal at Denny's,
then headed to the hotel.
2.. Get a hotel confirmation
Well, we tried to head to the hotel. The hotel said
we were not there, and we had no confirmation number
to prove otherwise. The gentleman was very helpful,
but simply pointed out that we had no reservation.
We tried first to call the show manager Toby, but
you know, it was like 5am, he wasn't awake. In a
panic we called Dorcus, a Wizards employee and
convention goddess, who, while slightly cranky,
informed us that we had the wrong hotel information
and we needed to "walk across the street to the
Doh! We quickly called Dan Gray, our partner for
this event, and had him send out an e-mail
explaining to everyone the change of hotel. Somehow
we had last years hotel info, not this years. Weird.
3.. The hotel reservations will still be wrong even
with a confirmation number.
Of course, even when we checked in, our reservation
was wrong,. Several hotels were missing names on
them, and both our room and my wife's mother in
law's room had us checking out one day earlier than
we were supposed to.
When we finally did talk to Toby, he hammered this
out quickly at least.
4.. Order Power Drops for your stage
We're going to skip right over the fact that my
stage wasn't ready when I arrived, because that
happens at every convention I have ever been to, so
it's definitely not something I learned at Gen Con
So Cal. What I could not believe, however, is that
power drops were not ordered for the stage, so I had
no power to run the portable and printers needed for
the events. I'm not sure I really LEARNED that here,
per se, as I already knew I would need power. What I
learned was to no assume that it would be in the
5.. Order signage for your stage
This was another big skip here. There were no signs,
no easels, no tripods, no chalkboards, nothing.
There was no place for us to post pairings or
standings or announcements. Same as number four
though, I knew we needed them, I just assumed they
would be there, oops.
6.. Don't let anyone touch your staff's badges
This was one of the funnier issues all weekend. When
we showed up for the event, the staff badges had not
yet been made. Toby said he would pick them up when
they showed up, so I was good, all under control. A
few hours into set up, Mike Gills, a Wizards
employee, came by and told me that the badges came
in and that Toby asked him to drop them off at the
hotel, so people could pick them up as they checked
into their rooms. Not good.
First, there's the problem that at least two car
loads of people I knew would come to the event site
BEFORE they went to their rooms, because they had
things to drop off on site for me. Second, I had
people that weren't staying at the hotel at all, who
now had no way to get their badge.
A quick trip to the hotel to ask for the badges back
and things went from bad to worse. First, they
refused to give me the badges because I was not the
guy who gave them the badges, and they were afraid I
was trying to steal them. Fair enough, but it meant
I had to drag poor Mike Gills out of initial
inventory to come request them back. Then they still
didn't want to give them back to me so much as to
have me write down a list of people who's badges I
needed back because they had already sorted them
into the hotel rooms, and had a small pile left of
I quickly wrote down the names I could think of off
of the top of my head and gave it to them. They came
back saying they had none of the badges for the
names I gave them. This was scary for me, as
theoretically it meant that not only were the badges
gone, but since they "sorted them by hotel room" it
meant some of the hotel room reservations were still
Short story long, it turns out that there were two
sets of badges, one for the Wizards employees and
one for my employees. The Wizards badges went to the
hotel, and mine were not ready, so it turns out that
all was ok, badge-wise and hotel-wise.
7.. Never believe that the schedule you got was the
schedule you will be held to.
I'm not sure I should really call this one a lesson
learned either, as it seems to happen every time for
every convention. This time we knew it was likely,
however, and grabbed a Gen Con program right off the
bat to figure out which events had changed and try
to fix our staff schedule to match theirs.
8.. Pokemon is a Non Tradable Card Game
It was while looking through the Program guide that
we noticed this. For some reason, Pokemon was not
listed as a Trading card game like all the the
others, but a Non Trading card game, like "Brawl or
Lunch Money." When I asked Karl, who was running the
Pokemon events about it, he just shrugged and said
he had no idea why the put it like that.
9.. There is always something last minute you will
get handed to do
This is another one that I think is not a lesson
learned for Gen Con So Cal, but a lesson reinforced.
When we showed up at the event, we were asked to
also run what is called a Convention league. In this
league we have to log every match anyone plays for
any of the Wizards games and give out daily and end
of convention prizes. It basically became my job for
most of the weekend, since I was in the judge table
doing certification and had some spare time when I
wasn't fighting fires.
A side note about conventions - while they may seem
incredibly chaotic when you read my reports, its not
as bad as it sounds if you have the right attitude.
Basically, working a convention is like being a
firefighter, and there are dozens of little fires
everywhere. If you can keep your cool, no one fire
is particularly hard to put out. Its all a matter of
moving quickly and stopping any of them from raging
out of control.
10.. The product order is always wrong
Its happened to me before, but I think this time I
really learned it. We ended up with drastically less
G.I. Joe product than we needed to run a tournament,
and more Unhinged than was ordered. No biggie.
11.. You need a special tag to give product back
This one was entertaining. Our product came out on a
palette. We took what we needed for the first day,
then wanted to return the rest back to storage.
The forklift operator came out, then yelled at us
that we didn't have a storage tag on our product, so
he couldn't take it back. Now, in retrospect, this
makes perfect sense as otherwise how would the guy
know where to put the product, but why in the world
I couldn't just put a big piece of paper that said
WoTC on it was beyond me.
12.. The red status light means replace toner
During the first set of table number printings, my
printer suddenly stopped printing, and the red
status light started blinking. Unfortunately, I had
no idea what a red blinking light meant, and we
started trying everything, checking for printer
jams, sensor problems, roller problems, and whatever
else we could think of. It was finally my wife who
figured out it meant replace toner cartridge, but
not for hours after we had started.
13.. If you need two sets of table numbers, and only
have one, the first group of tables goes 1,3,5,7,9,
and the second group goes 2,4,6,8, 10.
During the time we were crying over the printer, I
had to keep moving. But I needed to number up two
sets of tables, and only had one set of numbers!
Then a revelation hit, and I realized that I could
just set up the first group as even numbers and the
second group as odd numbers. I feel so smart
14.. Kids Play must mean something to somebody
One of the new things I had to do was provide staff
for Kids Play, which is supposed to be a place where
parents can leave kids while they go play games. My
staff was supposed to be WoTC sponsored and would
help babysit/teach kids some of the Wizards games
targeted towards younger audiences. When we got
there, however, we quickly found out that not only
did no one know where the Kids Play area was, but
also no one knew exactly what my staff was supposed
to be doing there, and what product they were
supposed to have. Fortunately everyone was very
relaxed about it on the WoTC side, and on my side
the Kids Play staff was very nice about being
available to do whatever we wanted them to do.
15.. Give out an "appropriate prizes".
Working for several different companies, and several
different games for those companies, it's always
hard to understand what kind of prize pool they want
to give out for different levels of events, so I
always ask for a list of how the prize pool should
be distributed for different events. The sheets I
got for all the events this time stated that I
should "Hand out appropriate prizes." Fortunately
Scott Larabee was around to translate this into
something real for each event.
16.. Board Game Rental policies exist somewhere,
Another new thing we were doing this year was Board
Game Rentals. We were supposed to have some way to
lend people board games for a one ticket
($1.50) fee, but it was a new thing, and we had no
policies for it, nor did any arrive. Not a big deal
tho, we made our own as we went along and things
seemed to go fine.
17.. The "secure" lock cage has wheels, and can just
be pushed away.
During this event, we would be holding product over
night, so we requested a lock cage to store product
in, and sure enough they provides us with one.
This monstrous green thing was brought out to us,
which taught me three new things. The first is that
it was on wheels. I'm not sure who had this idea,
but we need to talk to them about it. So, with it
next to the stage, if I put all of my product into
the lock cage, someone would just push it away
stealing all of my product easier. Fortunately this
was easily solved by bringing the lock cage on the
stage with a forklift so people could not wheel it
18.. The "secure" lock cage can be opened from the
top as well as the doors.
The second thing we learned about the lock cage was
its slight insecurity issue. If you locked the front
doors of the lock cage, the top of it could still
just be lifted up to access the cage, making the
front locking area pretty much useless. This was
solved with a big chain they used to look through
the ceiling part into the front doors.
No, really, that's really what they did.
19.. The "secure" lock cage does not come with a
The final thing I learned about the lock cage was
that it did not actually have a lock. We had to go
get a combination lock for it. Overall my review of
the "secure" lock case was "not so secure."
20.. The older back up printer is not so good when
your portable does not have a parallel port.
When my printer started causing problems, I had at
first thought it would be no problem. After all, I
brought my old printer just in case. But as I went
to plug in my printer to the new portable, I quickly
noticed something - my new portable does not have a
parallel port. Oops.
Tune in next week when we finish off the 45 things I
learned at Gen Con!