No Brand 2011

Friday | Friday/Saturday | Saturday/Sunday

There was a lot of skepticism when No Brand Con announced its return to the Plaza. The space at each hotel was about the same size and the Plaza has an odd layout with a lot of medium-sized rooms and not a lot of big ones. It does have more hotel rooms, however, and nicer ones that aren't covered in bees.

It also gives No Brand space to institute an ambassador alley similar to what everybody else in the state is doing now. Which is something of a double-edged sword as it means not only do we have a room party, but now we also have to worry about a table. It's my third year on staff, but the first time I'd be spending much of No Brand committed to shilling for Geek.Kon. It's also only the third time running both a table and room party, and the tables at both Milwaukee and Acen in 2010 were spur of the moment things.

Suffice it to say No Brand was going to be a bit different this year.

Workplace Culture

Counting stuff like OddCon that don't get recaps (although it probably deserves one seeing as I spent much of this year's hanging out with John Kovalic and company) this is convention #39 for me. No Brand's previous trip to the Plaza was number 6. I spent much of that recap demonstrating how it was in fact a real convention. And yet for some reason I thought I knew what to expect when pulling in. Oh, I knew how to get there and where registration and the lobby were, but the moment I walked in I saw a row of arcade machines pinching a crowded hallway. Neither the arcade machines nor the crowds were there in 2005.

In fact, the place got a whole new paint job and while it looked fantastic, it wasn't something I was ready for. Like any return to a place of nostalgia, you realize that the static mental pictures you remember don't quite paint a full picture when the entire landscape is in front of you. The odd positioning of the hotel rooms and skywalks are disoriented and a room that I don't remember from 2005 seemed to have crashed in like a meteorite, altering the landscape and swallowing the vendor room.

It got better in a hurry. The first thing that inevitably happens every No Brand is me running into Tyler, Jasmine and Theresa in the hotel lobby. That, getting a badge with no line, and checking into the hotel room were the same old business. What we did after that was not.

For the room party, I requested a poolside room, forgetting just how far the pool area extends across the center of the hotel. Our room met the qualifications, but was on the far north side across from the hot tub, well away from all the action. We executed plan B and switched rooms with Mike, who had a room much closer to the vendor room and behind a couple artist alley tables. We liked having those and a couple small rounds in front of us and formulated plans immediately.

Also in Artist Alley- Mimi! This was a fantastic sight as the combination of Tamers on Hulu and seeing a Digimon panel at Detour prompted me to run one with Tyler and Amanda.

While Evan started setting up the table, I ran to Walmart to replenish our candy and soda supply. As you recall from Detour, we had a ton of soda left over from their room party, but naturally none of it was Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper. So we still had to buy more.

The fact that the only good place to put a banner was up high, this was shaping up to be the most conference-like ambassador alley this side of Acen. And there were still three cons still to report.

Given its position in a room that reminded me of a meteor crashing into the hotel, I probably should have taken a picture of the vendor room. There were extra doors, stairs, windows and platforms all over the place and John had his own spot that was literally on a stage near the entrance. I can't imagine what kind of brainstorming had to go into developing the layout for it, and it threw several of the vendors off, but damned if it didn't have character. It was fun just going in there. I picked up season two of Kodocha and a Star Munchkin booster to supplement the expansions I bought at OddCon last week.

Oh, and a Geekbot. I don't know if Day Glow did it on their own or if we signed off on the project, but I had to buy one either way.

It got an endorsement from Duct Tape Boy as well.

When I returned to the table, Daisho was setting up their banner as well. Part of this process involved me throwing up scissors from our cosplay repair kit to the second floor... and them throwing it back down again. Shockingly, nobody got hurt... except the scissors.

The cosplay repair kit was used for its intended purpose as well.

The hat looks good on Red too.

Although a financial scare almost kept Richard from attending this year, he did make it and made sure the No Brand Bowl happened this year. Despite the fact that we didn't have a parking garage. And despite the fact that it was cold, windy and starting to sleet.

The deerskin gloves I bought specifically for the first (and last) Daisho Bowl helped, and as ridiculous as it looked, the fleece Geekbot hat was a lifesaver.

With a total of eight people playing, it ended up being the best turnout since the inaugural event in 2007. With an actual grass field, we had room to maneuver too. With the wind picking up and sleet driving into everyone's faces, we couldn't muster much offense, but when Zack caught a surprise long bomb for the game winning touchdown, we declared it the best No Brand Bowl ever.

One last victory pose before we move to page two.