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Great tabletop gaming gadgets from Gen Con 2015

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Gen Con isn't just a convention where you get new games, it's where you get new gear. I'm always amazed at the diversity of the vendor floor. It's a real hotbed for niche entrepreneurs to pitch their wares, and I always see something that I want to bring back home. Here's a few of the best bits I found on the floor this year.

The Noteboard


As a card-carrying dungeon master (I printed it out myself) it's nice to be able to run a game anywhere, anytime. That means you've got to be prepared. So, what's every day carry for a DM? Dice, for starters. It's nice to have some of your favorite systems on DropBox as well.

But you also need a map.

Back when I had a regular gaming group, I was a big fan of Gaming Paper, big sheets of 1" gridded wrapping paper without all the pesky snowmen on the back. It was cheap, but man is it ever hard to travel with big rolls of that stuff.

Then, this year, I found The Noteboard.

The Noteboard is a folding whiteboard. For $13.50 after shipping, you get a a 35" by 15" laminated surface and a dry erase marker. The whole kit folds up into a footprint only slightly smaller than an iPhone 6+, and weighs practically nothing. The bag it comes in? Yeah... that's the eraser.

But it gets better. One side of The Noteboard is blank, and the other side has 1" squares and 1" hexes. Then, underneath that are 1 cm squares and hexes! That means you can use it for your campaign map as well, or bust out the pocket edition of Ogre and go to town.

I might just toss one in the diaper bag for when I take the kids out for dinner.

The Technical Brush Set

So, I tried painting miniatures again recently, specifically 15 mm Flames of War minis for this fun little skirmish game I found online called Five Men In Normandy. Everything was going great. I had all the uniform colors right, all the webbing and harness stuff on their infantry kit looked swell. I even managed to get a decent drybrush effect on the guns.

Then I tried to paint their little faces. Good gods, what a disaster. I wish I'd had the Lester Burley Technical Set of brushes from Games and Gears. In fact, I should have bought one because it's not even on their website yet.

What is a "technical set" of brushes? It's brushes for doing all the stupid little things you have to do well in order to not destroy your miniatures while doing the final, little details. Inside the custom leather case are four brushes, each of which have a cap that protects the bristles and/or makes the handle longer when attached to the other end. They're like little Fisher Space Pens, but with bristles.

Inside the $50 set are four unique tools: There's two drybrushes, loosely bundled bits of fiber for gently bringing out the detail in textured surfaces. There's also a lining brush, called a Wakizashi, designed to hold a lot of paint and allow you to do long lines — four or five inches long — in one fell swoop.


And then there's The Katana Freehand Brush. It's not really a brush though, it's a single, fat silicone bristle. Need to drop just a touch of white into the eye? Do it. Want to put a chevron on a tiny helmet? Done. Need to cover up a ding you made while packing up after the last game? Then fix it, Felix.

Listen, I used to be in sales. I like a good pitch, and the guy at the Games and Gears booth had a great one. This is at the top of my list of must-have items the next time I decide to paint up some minis... as soon as they make some more.

Update: The Technical Brush Set is in stock and available here.

Whiskey dice


I like dice, and I can't be the first person to say that the team at Artisan Dice does beautiful work. Their dice are, hands down, some of the most stunning you'll see at any convention.

This year I was surprised to find that they'd brought two sets specifically designed for whiskey fans. And they're gorgeous.

First is a complete set of seven gaming dice made from Jack Daniel's whiskey barrels. The charred inner surface of the barrel is reserved, of course, for the highest side of the d6. I didn't know that reclaimed wood could look so shiny, and while they felt a little light in the hand, they seemed to roll true.

Unfortunately, they'll set you back $167.

Additionally, they've got soapstone d20s — the same material they make whiskey stones out of. Basically, that means you have nice, heavy gaming dice that can also cool your drink. Just don't roll them on a glass table. Or, frankly, any table that you actually like.

The Adventure Case


You know how in old movies they never have cigarettes in a paper box wedged in their pockets? They have these beautiful cigarette cases. They remove each delicious smoke from an elegant metal or wooden box like they're removing an historical document from an archive. The act of merely picking up a smoke was a luxury, not a habit.

Well, what if you could add a little luxury to your role-playing kit? Enter The Adventure Case, from Dog Might Games.

The Adventure Case is a fully customizable, travel-sized vault for all your gaming stuff. It's felted inside, so you can easily roll wherever you are. The lid even folds out to create a DM screen. Those lights inside? Not only are they handy for playing late at night, they add drama to every game.

Hand-carved wood and metal embellishments are optional. Cases start at $120, and go up from there.

For all our coverage from this year's Gen Con, see our StoryStream.

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