Emerald City Comicon Day 2

On Saturday, we got up early in the morning because our friend Anna was going to meet us at our place before we left for the con.  Anna only got tickets for Saturday, but this was her first con, and she didn’t really know what to expect.  Comic conventions are awesome and crazy wonderful, but they can also be chaotic, crowded, and overwhelming, so I have to give props to anyone willing to brave it for the first time!

Once we got there, we quickly picked up Anna’s badge, and then went up to the main hall by escalator again skipping the packed line to get into the showroom.  This time there was also a line to get on the elevator, though not nearly as bad.  What WAS bad were the convention center representatives, who I guess hadn’t really talked to the people running the con or something?  They didn’t seem to know how the line was supposed to be organized, or didn’t know how to handle the crowd, but they were just randomly screaming at people to go here, then go there, then you can’t be hear, contradicting each thing they wanted us to do with the next, and being very unpleasant about it at the same time.  So naturally, the crowd completely ignored them, which just made them more angry.  But then they started letting people into the top floor, and the line moved away from the convention center reps anyway.

For day two, we started by going to the “Wil Wheaton Vs. Paul and Storm” panel, which I guess is actually a show that they tour.  Paul and Storm are a musical/comedy duo I was not very familiar with, but Ellen was.  I was just figuring on going to see Wil Wheaton’s panel on Sunday, but Ellen really wanted to see this one too, and it was very much the right choice.  Their show was quirky and histerical.  I’ve always known Wil Wheaton was good public speaker, but he does stand up (I guess the show could be considered stand up?) very well, and played off Paul and Storm nicely.  Plus, I got to see the greatest 36 seconds on the internet (just google “kitty sail” and laugh…. and be sure to watch WITH music).

After that the three of us tooled around the show room a little bit, got a quick bite, and made our way down to the gaming area for a panel on Wil Wheaton’s web show, Tabletop.  Wil wasn’t their, just the producer of the show, but he was very informative and gave us a lot of background and behind the scenes info on the show.  He also gave us lots of suggestions on running our own game nights, and talked about what kinds of game were good for different situations, and what kinds worked well for episodes of the show (as well as what kinds didn’t).  While he couldn’t out right say it, he STRONGLY suggested the first season will be coming out on DVD in the not too distant future.  Then of course he took the opportunity to plug International Tabletop Day.  He told us all about what the day was supposed to accomplish, how to participate, suggested using the #tabletopday hashtag on twitter as much as possible, and the like.  Being a fan of the show, it was pretty cool!

After eating a real meal, we headed back to the show floor to check out the artists and booths.  One of the things that’s awesome about Comicon is just seeing all the artists there, signing autographs, talking to people about there work, and often drawing sketches for people (usually for a price, but what do you expect?).  We’d looked around the show floor before but this was really the first extended amount of time we’d spent there.  Then, I bumped into my old DM, Seth!  This is the second ECCC I’ve run into him, and it was great to catch up.  I have been too busy to play in his campaign for a while now, so this was fun!  At one point when we were on the show floor I found the booth for Working Class Villains.  They are a group of independent artists that produce action figure inspired works of art.  They had an incredible 3D representation of the dungeon of Castle Grayskull on display that you can actually look up online (they have it for sale on their website).

Our last panel of the day was Gillian Anderson.  I used to be a big X-File fan back in high school, and Ellen has recently become a fan herself, so we were kindof excited.  Well…. she’s certainly aged well.  She’s not really red headed anymore, but as beautiful (if not more so) than she was during the show.  But that’s really all I can say in favor of the panel.  She was a pretty terrible public speaker.  Nervous, flighty, talking a lot without really saying anything.  I guess she did have some bizarre questions to deal with (one young lady told her that Skully was her role model, and was Ms. Anderson familiar with Skully and Mulder slash fiction?…. yuck)  Her best moment was the last question where the guy just rambled on for 10 minutes until she pantomimed handing him a joint.

After this, I we went down to the bottom floor of the gaming area to try a few games.  We started with a few games of Tsuro, which is one that was featured on Tabletop.  It’s very light weight, and quick (you can play a game in 10-15 minutes) and will definitely be featured at our Tabletop Day game night.  We followed this up with a strange little game called Dungeon World.  At this point we were trying games brought by the Seattle Story Games group.  Story games are RPG’s that are more narrative based then character based, and often are played without a Game Master.  Dungeon World seems as though it tries to split the difference between more mainstream RPG’s (sharing a large amount of DNA with D&D specifically) and the more indie type story games.  While it does have a GM, it has a number of mechanics meant to help drive story, and give a greater amount of narrative control to the players.  I am not sure what I think of it.  Conceptually I like the idea, but one play through, though enjoyable, was not enough for me to decide how successfully it hit its goals.  After that, we played a lovely little game called Zombie Cinema.  This one was a full fledged story game, proudly showing it’s indie roots.  It’s a GMless RPG where the players ultimately build a Zombie movie from the ground up.  Intriguingly, and unlike just about every other Zombie themed game I have ever heard of, the point is not to get your player to survive, but to build the best zombie movie possible.  As such, getting killed in the game can actually be viewed as a GOOD thing!  I still need to play it a few more times to get a real feel for it, but I think I just might be in love with this game.  And it comes in an old fashioned video cassette box, how awesome is that??  (I’ve already ordered a copy, and will post a full review ASAP!!!)

Well, that about wraps it up for day 2!  I can’t believe how much we did over the weekend.  Up next, Day 3!

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Emerald City Comicon Day 1

We went to Emerald City Comicon last night (a birthday present from Ellen!), and it was bigger and better then ever!  The line up of celebrity guests was just mind blowing.  There was no way for us to see everyone we wanted too (bigger shows mean more programing, and it’s to the point that you aren’t able to go to everything you’d like) but I was more then happy with what we did see!

Our first day was Friday, and we got there bright and early to pick up our badges.  Unfortunately so did everyone else!  I don’t know what the stats are this year, but last year 50,000 people had tickets (to give some idea of how large the event is).  We got our badges quickly enough, but the line of people waiting to get in was HUUUGE!  Fortunately, our first event was on the top floor, which is somewhat separate from the main floor, and didn’t have the giant line.  When 10:00 rolled around, they opened up, and we got great seats.  Some people might say the seats don’t matter THAT much, because they have two giant screens in the auditorium to see what’s going on on stage, but it really does.  Seeing someone on screen is not the same as seeing them right close up in real life!

So, we had good seats for our first panel, which was Felicia Day.  If you don’t know who she is, you can look her up on Wiki easy enough, but for a quick rundown; she is an actress known for a number of works, including Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog, The Guild webseries, and Eureka.  She also writes and produces The Guild, and in the past year started a You-Tube channel called Geek & Sundry which airs geek centered programming such as The Guild, Tabletop, Dark Horse motion comics, Learning Town, and several others.  Felicia always comes across in almost everything she does as real cute and adorable, so I was shocked and amazed to discover that in real life she’s actually… cute and adorable!  She talked a lot about what goes into producing both a web series, and running a youtube channel (hint: a LOT of work) as well as talking about some of her experiences both in the acting world, and in the geek community (if you don’t know, she’s very involved in the geek community, being know as an avid video gamer).  After that, she took questions from the audience and just shot the shit with us for a while.  She also took the opportunity to promote upcoming International Tabletop Day, which celebrates on of the webseries on her channel.

We stayed in our seats for the next panel, Mr. Billy Dee Williams!  The man is starting to show his years, but he’s still slick as ever.  I feel bad for him, as it seemed like almost every other question he got was Star Wars related (I got the chance to ask a question myself, and asked him about playing Harvey Dent in Batman).  Regrettably he had no information for the audience about weather or not he’d be returning to the new Star Wars movies to play Lando again (he said that the script was still being written, and he didn’t know yet what they were doing with it), but he did say the character was very important and he didn’t want anyone else to ever play it.  He also told us that IF it was offered, he would certainly take the part!  At this point his manager spoke to the audience telling us if we wanted to see him in star wars again, to write Disney, Lucasfilm, and J.J. Abrams and ask for him.  He did also get to talk a little about the rest of career, working with people he admired, and even talked about some of his painting work (did YOU know he was a painter?)

After that we tooled around the show floor for a bit, checking out the booths, the merchandise, and the costumes.  Some people come in really crazy costumes.  Some people come in really….  funky costumes, but it’s all in good fun.  We stopped at one booth where I talked to Tom Cook, who worked in Filmation on several classic cartoon shows, including Bravestarr, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,  Star Trek The animated Series, and The Ghostbusters (often known as the OTHER Ghostbusters, as it had nothing to do with the movie, but rather was based on a TV show from back in the 60’s or 70’s so in some ways pre dates what we think of as “The Real” Ghostbusters).

After that Ellen wanted to see a panel on being geek and feminine.  It was entertaining certainly having 4 panelists who are all very interesting personalities (though the only one I was actually familiar with was Bonnie Burton who runs in a number of the same circles as Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day) but I think Ellen was rather disappointed in it.  It ended up being more about sexism in geek community and touched on more general elitism in the community (both of which ARE very real problems these days) when Ellen had thought it would be more about resources for geek girls to both explore their femininity and their geekness.  In Ellen’s word’s it ended up being more of a giant group hug.  I would agree, though I do think Ms. Burton at least made some very insightful comments.

That was our last panel for the day.  After that we played some retro games in their retro arcade (well, rather we played the Star Wars pinball machine…. awesome!) and then looked around the gaming area.  They expanded the gaming area this year, adding an extra level, and it was really quite impressive.  The focus was more on table top games, like boardgames, RPG’s, and card games, then video games.  They regrettably didn’t have the paint your own mini table this year which was a blast last year, but you can’t have everything.  We went out for dinner, and saw Chris Tulach (the organized play manager for Wizards of the Coast who we used to see at Uncles Games all the time) at another table.  That was kindof funny because we ran into him last year at the con too, but we didn’t go up and say hi not wanting to interrupt.  We went back into the gaming area to try out some story games (a type of RPG which plays without a GM and is generally more centered on the idea of producing a good story as a group) bt they were closing down, so we decided to call it a night.

And that was just the first day!  I’ll have a write up on day two tomorrow, and maybe some pictures (and MAYBE a video!)

Game Review: Lord of the Rings the Boardgame

Lord of the Rings The Boardgame

Okay, thought I’d try a new kind of review, a boardgame review.  And my first victim, Lord of the Rings: The Boardgame!

This game has actually been out for a while, long enough in fact to jump ships from one publisher to another, to even go out of print at one point, and then come back into print!  Now, the great Fantasy Flight Games publishes their second edition of the game.

First things first, the basics.  This game is for 2-5 players, and should take about an hour to play.  I’d say it’s for low to moderate level gamers.  Ellen and I had no real trouble with the rules, though there were a few vague points.  It’s certainly not as complicated as something like Descent, and the rulebook is actually fairly well written, especially for an FFG game, rulebooks being their Achilles Heel!

The big thing about this game, is competition functions very different then most games.  Where other games pit the players against each other, in LOTR the Boardgame, all the players actually play with each other against the board.  This means either EVERYONE wins, or EVERYONE loses!  Apparently Lord of the Rings was one of the first boardgames to work in this way, though others have been made since, and it’s very fitting given the source.  The basic gist of the game has every player controlling a hobbit in an attempt to destroy the one ring of power.  Essentially, recreating the plot of the novel.  Along the way you can be helped by characters such as Aragorn and Galadriel, or hindered by various events and villains, such as the Shelob.  Gandalf can be called upon in a tight pinch should things get difficult.  And make no mistake, this game is HARD!  This is very in keeping with the source material however, as the quest in the trilogy is depicted as going up against extreme odds.  The game replicates that feel nicely!  We have played more then 10 times now, but have only beat it twice.  Team strategy is very important and the players must work together.  The game includes an interesting rule forbidding players from showing their cards, but allowing free discussion about them.  This may seem like a small thing, but it forces everyone to talk, and prevents a single person from trying to run the show.  I think this game would make for a great team building exercise!  Strategy becomes very important, and the game is all about having to make hard decisions.  Some times, it may actually be to the groups benefit to allow one player to die!  (as long as it’s not the ring bearer, which will automatically result in defeat!).  The strategy has a fairly high learning curve, but you do get better.  Each time we play, we seem to get closer to destroying the ring.  I imagine if Ellen and I get good enough, we’ll up the difficulty (the game includes rules for doing so).

Component wise, this is a Fantasy Flight Games production.  Even being one of their less expensive the titles, everything is high quality and top notch.  The art is particularly lovely, as they hired John How to do the illustrations (he was one of the art designers on the films if you’re unfamiliar with the name)

The game does have a few draw backs.  As noted, you lose much more often then you win, and luck can seem to play too high a role (though the role luck plays diminishes as you learn better strategy).  It can seem a bit samey each time you play, as it will always have the same plot, and a game where you aren’t actually competing against your fellow players won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

Overall, I give it an 8 out of 10.

It’s one of the better games I’ve played, and it takes a theme I enjoy and does it well.  If you ever see it, I highly recommend it, and for less then 30 bucks on Amazon, it is more then worth it!