The Game Train

GenCon has come and gone, and I’m surprised to see how quickly it passes even when I’m not there.  As we continued to pack up our belongings this weekend Jenn and I chatted a little about GenCon, and I voiced a crazy idea that’s been lurking in the back of my head for a few years now.  For context, it’s important to know that Jenn hates flying, and I mean, she really hates flying.  We basically have to pull a B. A. Baracus to get her out to GenCon each year.  The drugs Jenn takes actually leave her sedated not unconscious, so she’s able to make it through security and off the plane to check in to the hotel, but the Wednesday evening lead-up to the convention is kind of oddly colored by the fact that Jenn behaves mildly drunk and sometimes has conversations she does not recall the next day.

So, perhaps now with the title to my post above you’ve put together my plan: take the train.  Just now while thinking of what to write for this post I looked up trains between Boston and Indy, and it’s actually not that bad.  You can get a ticket to Chicago for about $100, which is actually much cheaper than flying.  Oddly the final leg is a bit tricky with Amtrak often showing an 8 hour lay-over in Chicago to wait for a train up to Indy, which is pretty silly given that Google Maps shows it as just a 3 hour car ride.  Perhaps it would make most sense to then just rent a car in Chicago and drive the final stint.  But I digress…

Obviously the major downside to the train is how long it takes: about 36 hours just from Boston to Chicago.  That’s quite a difference from the 3 hour plane ride.  But here’s the best part: you make the journey part of the convention.  Even when taking the plane I’m always amused to watch the airport gate slowly collect obvious members of the tribe.  I’d say at least 50% of the people on that flight from Boston to Indy are going to GenCon.  So why not leverage that and game on the train?

The best part of train travel is how unrestricted the space is.  Planes are packed tight, trying to eek out every extra ounce of weight savings and cram in every extra customer possible.  Also, they’re super loud — listening to music or watching a movie is almost impossible without noise cancelling headphones.  Not so on the train, the train is spacious and relatively quiet.  Every car has at least a few seats on either end that face each other, and the dining car has table space if required.

I figure, if I could get at least four other friends on board (or aboard?) with this idea, that would be plenty to have an awesome day of game playing on the train to and from the convention.  Of course the more the merrier, and if we’re lucky perhaps we could even draw in some extra chance travelers that are also on their way to GenCon.  Naturally we would have to come up with some train themed games to play.  Deadlands is the first thing that springs to my mind, as I’m pretty sure I’ve read or played a couple scenarios that heavily feature a train.  Max says he wants to do a murder-mystery LARP and not inform the rest of the train riders that it’s not actually real.  Clever to be sure, but also I would think an easy way to very rapidly get yourself tossed off the train just a couple hours into the ride.

I know it’s all a silly pipe dream, but I think it’s kind of a neat idea.  Maybe some day I’ll have enough vacation time saved up and have enough gaming friends crazy enough to make it a reality.  Or as long as I’m fantasizing, maybe some day this country will figure out that the rail system has been neglected for far too long and make the train a more enticing alternative.

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7 Comments

  1. Love the idea. At GenCon I met an Australian who had kickstarted the re-release of the Call of Cthulhu boxed campaign, Horror on the Orient Express. He had to fly into Indy on Sunday for his reward – three, 14 hour days of gaming to play through the whole **** thing (M – W).

    Now that sounds like something design for playing on a train!

  2. I did look into that possibility last year for getting from the east coast to Indy. The fatal flaw was that Chi-Indy does not run every day and on the convenient days for GC travel, you would have to take a bus connection, which after a long enough train ride would be loathsome. Sleeping on the train is also something I do not relish unless a real sleeper car is involved. Looks like the USA is still stuck with Ike’s decision to develop superhighways instead of rail.

  3. @Roger: Totally agree that the Chicago to Indy connection schedule seems really unfortunate. I think car rental is totally the way to go for that, and if the group is large enough maybe renting or hiring a van would be economical. As for sleeping on the train, well, I agree it’s not great, though I’ve done the sleeper car thing and it’s actually not much better. To which I think the answer is: who needs sleep?! Catch a few naps on the train when possible, otherwise play games. If you start out on an early Monday morning train you’d get in by Tuesday night and could spend Wednesday afternoon/evening catching up on rest before the convention opens up on Thursday.

  4. I played a pathfinder game this year with a couple from the UK that always fly into Chicago and then drive down. So, at least that part is not without precedent. They, like me, apparently had too many problems with connecting flights.

    Even if train-con doesn’t materialize, I’m considering driving down from ORD next year. I think it wouldn’t take any longer, and would be easier to manage delays. Though I don’t like the idea of having to rent a car (read: pay for parking), or getting stuck in traffic.

  5. Can I just say how totally spoiled I got by European mass transit? In Northern Ireland you can go anywhere in the country, hop on and off buses all day, for the equivalent of about $10. Civilized, convenient, and quiet. And anywhere in the country is one nap away by my measurement.

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