Shoemaker: Please tell me your name and how many Gen Cons you've been to.
Duncan: My name is Scott Duncan, and I've only been to 2. I was at Gen Con 1, the first one, and I was at Gen Con 5 when they moved from Lake Geneva to the University for a short while. And then this 50th one is the first one I've been to since then.
Shoemaker: Ok great. So you were apart of something called the International Federation of Wargaming. What was your role there and what exactly was that?
Duncan: Well, so there was this fella named Bill Speer. Before there was an IFW. The Avalon Hill game company had The General, their magazine. And they had an opponents wanted column, and Bill lived in Paoli, Pennsylvania and I lived in Bromall, Pennsylvania and they were close and Bill put an ad in. He was a high school student at the time, I was in college, and so Bill and I met and he had a club called the United States Continental Army Command. We were all officers in this gaming club. Back then, gaming clubs were all kind of military oriented because all of the games were wargames. And, I forget exactly what year it was, but a year or so later we ran into another guy advertising who sounded promising and his name was Gary Gygax. And so Gary joined, and was real enthusiastic about a lot of stuff, and so Bill and Gary and I were kind of the head officers. After a while, I forget, it might have been Gary who suggested it, because he was older than I was, and what happened was he thought we should maybe sound a little bit more professional, I think. So the idea for the International Federation of Wargaming was born and we changed the name of that club to the IFW. We talked about having conventions and having places where people could get together and play games. And so Bill did a lot of work to get the venue for the 1967 thing in Malvern. He got speakers, dinner speakers, that sort of thing. He did most of the work to put that together quite frankly. I don't remember doing a lot of work, I remember him doing a lot of the work. And so that's how the convention started in Malvern. Now Gary couldn't come, and so he held what some people call Gen Con 0 at his house. Much to his wife's merry shagrin probably, because I think there were like 20 people that crashed at their house, and it wasn't a very big house, and he already had 4 or 5 kids by then so there were like 7 people in this house in, I think, 3 bedrooms. So there were people all over the floor in his living room as I recall him telling me. But that's how the convention started, why it started and what Gary was doing at the same time we were having a convention in the East Coast.
Shoemaker: Ok great, so Gary was definitely involved in those early days. I know that the convention ran into a few issues, can you just talk about what those were?
Duncan: The main issue was that back then we were too trusting when people said they were coming. And "oh yeah, I'll stay for the dinner" and stuff like that, and so we had a dinner. I wouldn't call it a formal dinner, but it was sity down, serve dinner in a restaurant or someplace and we were expecting, I don't know, maybe 60 people or something like that. Only about 20 people or 25 people showed up. It was a small number, less than half the people that promised they would come, didn't come, and we hadn't asked for money advance. But the restaurant was going to charge us for all these meals they made. It killed the IFW treasury, and I think, I have to confirm this with Bill, but I think Bill's dad had to cough up some money, which he wasn't happy about. That was the real issue. Other than that it was a real successful day. Now we had the Avalon Hill International Kriegspiel Society was going on back then and they did a lot of miniature wargaming to imitate in miniature some of the games that were done as boardgames. We had a representative from there, a guy named Henry Bodenstadt came. And a guy named Roger Cormey(?) came and he had this amazing 3 foot by 3 foot, almost like oil skin board that was basically all blue with some X's on it, but he had dozens and dozens of ship counters and measurement devices and he was able to game called Trafalgar, and that was perhaps the most impressive game in existence back then. I think it was a success. People enjoyed it. It was just that the dinner was a mess and it ruined the treasury and it kind of discouraged Bill, so I took over the IFW at that point.
Shoemaker: Ok great, so what did you guys feel, or how did you think about it when Gary talked to the IFW about holding a convention in 68 that became Gen Con?
Duncan: A lot of good, active members, relatively speaking in the Chicago to Milwaukee area and so it just seemed like it made sense. It would be easier for more people to get to the midwest, even though it was the north midwest, than it would have been for people getting across the country. We didn't have a lot of members in California to start with, but we figured the midwest would be easier for people to get to. Since there were quite a few people in the Milwaukee and Chicago area any how we figured OK, if it's just those we would still get 60-70 people to this thing. So that's what drove the thing out there and Gary wasn't working at the time, well he was working as a shoemaker I think at that point in time, and so I had managed to convince a bunch of IFW people to cough up another 5 bucks to kind of keep the club going. I sent Gary money, $35, and Gary came up with 15 and it cost $50 to rent the Horticultural Hall. That's where the money came from to make the first Gen Con happen. Partly from IFW and then Gary coughed up about 15 bucks for it. That's how that actually took place, but Gary ran the whole thing. I had nothing to do with organizing it. I just OKed the money that helped make it happen from that point. And then I went, of course. Gary did the whole thing.
Shoemaker: I know you weren't able to make many Gen Cons. You said you've only been to 2 so far, 3 this year with 50. Do you think Gen Con was ultimately a success for the IFW?
Duncan: Well, I mean, up to Gen Con 5 or 6 it was still all about wargaming. Because, Dungeons & Dragons didn't come out officially until around 74, and 75 it started getting a lot of steam. So that was about Gen Con 6, in that area, Gen Con 7. And so the IFW was basically board gaming/wargaming club. When Dungeons & Dragons came out that began to take over Gen Con. Now I don't really know how much wargaming is done at Gen Con anymore. I do know Gen Con is a massive vendor event and there are tons of vendors there with board games and stuff. But over the years I believe Gen Cons become more and more associated with Dungeons & Dragons and maybe Magic the Gathering and maybe some fantasy cosplay stuff. I don't know how much wargame emphasis there is at Gen Con anymore. I am interested in seeing that when I go this year.
Shoemaker: Do you have a favorite Gen Con, why?
Duncan: The first, because it was my first ftf meeting with the IFW folks in that area and led to other visits with Gary, including before D&D was published when he sat me down in his porch/den (with his son Ernie) and gave me a piece of graph paper to try a new game he was coming up with. No characters, just me going through his dungeon -- at least until his wife called a halt 'cause it was getting late and Ernie had school the next day :-).
Shoemaker: Do you have a favorite event, why?
Duncan: Board games by Avalon Hill were always my favorite during those early years.
Shoemaker: Is there anything you miss about Gen Con that isn't done in the more recent shows?
Duncan: It has become a "show" and is only tangentially about the gaming (except D&D and maybe MtG) these days or so it seems.
Shoemaker: What kinds of games did/do you tend to play and/or run?
Duncan: At this 50th, Bill and I will be speaking and I will just experience the event and meet some other boardgaming folks like people from the DiceTower and several publisher folks I know. At the early ones, I played Diplomacy and Avalon Hill wargames. At GenCon 5, Richard Hamblen showed us Magic Realm, the first substantial fantasy-based boardgame that I remember.
Shoemaker: What have been some (other) major transitions of Gen Con you have noticed?
Duncan: Like I said, it has become a lot about vendors and the game publishing business and no longer about wargaming.