It has been a very busy couple of months, with a job change and a trio of consecutive conventions consuming my time. I hope to catch up here over the next few weeks. I’ll be working in reverse order, with this week covering the just completed Star Wars Celebration Chicago, next week discussing Gamer Nation Con 6, and finally Planet Comicon 2019. So, on with Celebration…
This was the first Celebration in Chicago, bringing with it a few challenges and a few advantages. It had a lot of space, so some venues were bigger than previous versions (seemingly). At times it was to its detriment in terms of walking a lot to reach certain destinations. The first floor was annoyingly divided, forcing people to go up to higher floors to and go down from there. There were fewer hotels close to the convention center than previous cons, which meant a lot of people had to travel from downtown or other outlying hotels (including me), so daily travel was less convenient, and evening events felt less viable and centralized. Also….snow was never a problem in Orlando or Anaheim.
They introduced a new lottery system for the major panels, which cut down on the overnight lines. Unfortunately, it excluded those with Exhibitor badges from participating, much to our surprise. As it was, I didn’t end up attending many panels this go around due to my schedule running the RPG in Fantasy Flight Games’ game room.
I ran one slot each day, with most days having two slots with 2 to 4 game masters available. The room was probably about 3 times the size of the Celebration Orlando 2017 version. It also had later hours than the main exhibit hall, which seemed to work pretty well. The room was often busy. Most of my players were brand new to the game, which is always nice to see.
Celebration added a 5th day, which was odd because they added Monday and treated Thursday as a light day with almost no panels. The extra day also meant extra hotel and related costs. I might not have minded quite as much if they had kept the con within a single work week instead of disrupting two weeks.
The always popular 501st party was combined with all of the other major costuming organizations (Rebel Legion, Mandalorian Mercs, Droid Builders Club, Saber Guild, Dark Empire, and Galactic Academy). It was a casino Canto Bight theme, and held at Chicago’s famed Museum of Science and Industry. It was within the museum itself, taking up two floors and allowing guests access to the exhibits. It was exponentially bigger than previous parties, which also made it much harder to randomly run across people in the crowd. It was an interesting venue, though miles away from the convention hall itself. Getting a ride back along with the rest of the crowd proved challenging, though we lucked out that someone bailed on their Lyft and ended up with a much shorter wait time than it originally appeared it would take.
The FFG booth ran demos and sold product this time around, and the RPG books proved very popular. This was in part because it was the first time Allies and Adversaries and Rise of the Separatists were available. By the end of the show, they were selling the display copies of the Beginner Boxes out of the glass case. FFG also had an exclusive Celebration Darth Vader figure that was very popular, and they also had one of the show exclusive pins that came along with a specific purchase amount. The new Outer Rim board game had demos in the booth and a limited number of copies at one of the game store booths.
I only attended three panels. One was using the Star Wars RPG in middle schools. Another was concept artist Doug Chiang doing a demo of his techniques. It was pretty much the same as two years ago, though he did show off using new tools, like a tablet, to achieve similar results. The third was the Secrets of the Cantina panel, hosted by Tom Spina and usually Pablo Hidalgo, but he was absent this year for unknown reasons. Tom showed some of their more recent discoveries, and called out an old WEG piece of art in the process. They reveled some information on the actresses playing the later named Tonnika twins. WEG published a line drawing where the artist basically duplicated the piece and reversed it, ending up with them being the same height, which they most certainly are not. WEG used the proper photo in later products.
The exhibit/dealer hall was…actually it was pretty much the same as previous years, which is something of an issue because it needs more uniqueness. Every year, there are the same sort of collectible dealers, tatoo artists, overly expensive items, fan areas, artist areas, book publishers/dealers, the One Big Video Game of the Year, dioramas, decorated cars, and kid areas. It’s not that these are bad (mostly), but that they don’t change very much each year. The Star Wars Show stage was bigger and easier to see, but it was pretty much a stage with some things on it, whereas last time it felt more integrated into the Tatooine-like set it was part of.
All in all, it was a good time. The trailers/sneak peeks for Episode IX, The Mandalorian, and The Clone Wars went over well for the most part. The costumes were very good as usual. Some unique ones were Force Ghost Luke, Kenner Walrus Man, a George Lucas impersonator of sorts, and a small Bantha. Next up is Anaheim….surprisingly next year.