Saturday, April 5, 2014 was National Tabletop Games Day, an occasion for people to get together face to face and play board games, card games, role-playing games, miniatures. Savvy game store owners all over America promoted this event by making space available for people to come in and game. I say it proudly. I’m a gamer. I would not miss it. What follows is my record of the day. I hope the rest of you had as much fun as I did.
Here I am at the front door of Imperial Outpost Games at 49th Avenue and Thunderbird in Glendale, Arizona, ready for action.
Darrenn is owner/manager of the Imperial Outpost. Hard to find a friendlier, nicer guy. He has done more to promote the cause of face to face gaming in Phoenix than anyone else I know, and in the process has built the best game store and hangout for gamers in the city.
It’s a room full of gamers having fun.
Yes, it’s true. Gamers are mostly male, but look there’s a woman in the mix enjoying herself, and also an elf.
Shelves full of games . . .
Elf playing Firefly, a science fiction game based on a Joss Whedon television program and movie. Is that Family Guy sitting next to her?
Finally, some people I know. Starting with the purple t-shirt and going clockwise: Jessie Foster, Unknown Gamer Guy, Will, Devon, Heather. (I admit that I am terrible with names. I’ve never met Unknown Gamer Guy, and it’s only thru years of friendship that I know Jessie’s last name.)
A second room full of gamers.
The first game I played–Ticket to Ride, USA. I took second (out of five) in this game.
The second game I played. Sushi Go. I learned more about sushi in one game than I had ever known before. Came in tied for last out of five players.
Bwa ha ha ha ha! I am a terrible photographer. My plan was just to get the t-shirts without heads because I wanted to focus on t-shirt messages, but the camera’s field of view was a little higher than I knew, and so I caught the excellent gamer beards of James St. Andre on the left and Jessie Foster on the right. It’s kind of weird how they both assumed the same stance for having their pix taken. I did not notice it at the time.
My friend, Vic, stops by to say hello to Jessie during our game of Bohnanza. Believe it or not, this is a German game about being a bean farmer. Supply side economics meets Diplomacy and the Wall Street Stock Exchange. The real action is in bean trading.
Munchkin was there. It was kind of hard to get Devon away from computer games on her Kindle.
I don’t know this woman, but she has bright green hair. That comes straight out of Japanese anime.
Jason Youngdale and Vic are playing Qwirkle. Something like a non-numeric form of dominoes. I don’t know the game, but it looks like fun.
I don’t know this game either, but it’s impressive in its complexity and graphics.
Starting with the guy in the red shirt, Rob, James, Nathaniel and the empty seat is mine. The game is Seafarers of Catan, and I won by a single point. This was the last game I played at the Outpost. I had been there for over 7 hours, and was getting very hungry.
I saw this great miniatures setup on the way out. Look at those dice pyramids in the background!
John Wick (black t-shirt), his wife Ro (in purple), Gillian and two guys I don’t know were having supper near the front door as I exited. This was the last shot I got, but it shows gamers still having fun even when I was calling it enough for the day.
The gaming party probably continued until midnight or later. I had a great time. I saw some friends. I got some laughs. I exercised my brain (yeah, gaming makes you think.) I pronounce Tabletop Gaming Day in the Phoenix area a great success.
If you did some face to face gaming on Gaming Day, why not leave a comment? This is the perfect opportunity to boast about your victories or moan about your defeats and mention the games you played. We’re gamers. We’ve all been there, and we know how you feel. As Wil Wheaton says, “PLAY MORE GAMES!”
DarkCon, a Steampunk science fiction convention for Arizona.
The fannish new year of 2012 started off very well for me with DarkCon in Mesa, Arizona. I live in west Phoenix, and it was a long drive back and forth, but still less expensive than getting a hotel room. The Con Committee invited me to the show as a guest and were extremely nice to me. Look at the great gifts they gave me, and the other Guests just for showing up.
This bag was packed with food, drinks, jewelry, the pocket watch you see, a treasure chest, a calendar, a special Dark Ones shot glass, and other goodies. The name tag isn't paper in a holder--it's a golden plaque. Wow! I have never been treated so nicely in my life, and other guests also got great stuff.
DarkCon ran from Thursday afternoon at about 2 p.m. until Sunday night. They had 7 notable professional guests this year. First was Jacqueline Carey, the Author Guest of Honor. She has several fantasy epics to her credit, and I have to tell you all I consider her writing to be a little kinky–I like it.
- Jacqueline Carey graciously took this picture with me on Sunday. The lady in the blue sweater in the background is actress Meg Foster, and we are at the Wrigley Mansion in Biltmore. You can see Camelback Mountain in the background.
There were 2 media guests: Ernie Hudson and Meg Foster, an actor and an actress, and they shared their experiences making such video entertainment as Stargate and Masters of the Universe. These three people were the true stars of the convention.
Gaming guests were John Wick and Ken St. Andre. Tod VanHooser, the master of the Laughing Moon system, was also there. All three of us ran games for fans who wanted to play. We also collaborated on a panel about Game Design on Friday afternoon. The panel was well attended. Many thoughtful questions were asked and answered. John Wick and I wore our hats, and we advised Tod to get himself a signature hat if he wanted to make it big as a FRP game designer.
John Wick and I are trying to look dynamic. We are good friends, and admire each other's work--at least I admire his.
Tod VanHooser in the Superman shirt is running a Laughing Moon adventure for some of his devotees. In addition to the game, there is Laughing Moon fantasy fiction available from him as well.
Artist guests were Madame M, and Mark Greenawalt. Madame M was promoting her new book: CREEPY LITTLE BEDTIME STORIES. Mark Greenawalt did a body painting exhibition that was most entertaining. Alas, I had very little to do with the artists as I spent all my time gaming.
DarkCon is the brainchild of the Dark Ones, a Phoenix fan group with Steampunk and media connections. Jeff Jennings and Nola Yergen are two of the ringleaders in that group–they are the two that I know best, although I really don’t know any of them very well. The Dark Ones are an intensely social group, well known in Arizona for the great parties they throw. Although there were parties every day, I really only attended the opening party on Thursday night and the Sunday Brunch at the Wrigley Mansion. The food, drink, and conversation at both parties were truly excellent–I’d tell you more about it, but I don’t want you thinking I’m some kind of gourmand, and I don’t want you to be jealous. (grin–but I will say I was treated to champagne with orange juice at the Wrigley Mansion–first time I’ve ever had champagne for breakfast. Yum!).
Brunch at the Wrigley Mansion--living the good life! The empty chair in the foreground is mine. The two ladies on the extreme right are Jacqueline Carey and Nola Yergen. The man in the orange shirt is Chris Colbath, a friend of mine who helped make the con a lot of fun.
I really can’t tell you too much about the Con. We held it in the magnificent facilities at the Marriott Hotel at 200 N. Centennial Avenue in Mesa, Arizona. There was a huge space allotted for gaming, and we filled it up with every kind of tabletop game you can imagine. There was computer gaming in a separate room, but I never found it, and frankly, I didn’t miss it at all. In addition to the two games of Tunnels and Trolls that I ran, I also got to play Ticket to Ride (Europe), Settlers of Catan, Thunderstone, Buffy the Vampire Slayer with me as the evil Master, Last Night on Earth (Zombies and Martians and Monsters, oh my!), Apples to Apples, and an ancients naval miniatures game with quinquiremes (for which Jay Nash and I made up a whole set of alternate rules–game designers tinker with everything–especially if we can see a way of doing the same thing that makes more sense.)
Jay Nash taught me how to play this game, and then I made him rewrite all the rules for it. I'm the guy in the hat.
Jay and I spent a good part of Saturday afternoon together, first playing his game, and then just hanging out during a meal at the hotel restaurant. I showed him where the free Con goodies were at the DarkCon suite and the Green Room, but he preferred to buy something, and he bought me lunch too. Thanks, Jay. The reason I mention this is because Jay is one of the chief organizers of Vul Con, a pure gaming convention which will be held Feb. 25-26 at the Phoenix Convention Center, and I will be a gaming Guest of Honor at that convention also. (If you live in the Phoenix area, come say hi, and maybe game with me.)
Let me just rave about my enthusiasm for DarkCon for a moment. Gaming! That is what I like, and Gaming was well represented and attended at this Con. The Arizona Men in Black (who promote Steve Jackson Games) were there, and running excellent games continuously. I got to play The Stars Are Right, and had victory assured on my next turn when Jason Youngdale (who took most of the really good photos in this blog, and who is also setting up a gaming convention here for June called Con-Flagration) beat me to the punch.
Just one of the tables maintained by the Men in Black. This group, under the leadership of Jesse Foster, consistently runs high quality gaming events at Arizona Sci-fi and gaming conventions. Not only do they provide the games, teach people how to play, but they offer free prize support for them all. I love these guys! (in a purely platonic way)
The Arizona Guise Knights were also running games at the convention, and I played with their members more than once. This is an indenpendent Arizona group not associated with a gaming manufacturer in the same way that the Men in Black are. Excellent and friendly gamers however, and a credit to the gaming community.
Tiffany Branum ran the Game Room and did an excellent job of it. Signing up for games was extremely easy. She and her staff smoothed all obstacles. Phoenix area gamers owe Tiffany and her husband Chris a lot for all the work they do in creating great gaming environments.
I gamed with the Guise Knights more than once, but Jason never got my photo with them.
If you look carefully at the pictures, you will see that many of us, including me are dressed oddly for a science-fiction convention where the usual attire is jeans and sf t-shirt. The Dark Ones have an affinity for Steampunk–Nola Yergen is an expert costumer,
A beautiful young lady who I met at the Thursday night party in one of Nola's many amazing costumes.
and her work is often in the Steampunk genre. I put together a modest steampunk outfit–vest, pocket watch, hat with goggles on it, and if you look carefully a demon-head pin that identifies me as a member of a secret magician’s society. There were many better costumes than mine–in fact, most of the true costumes were better than mine–look at the Guise Knights picture again for an example of true elegance. Such fannish conventions often feature costumes, and always have a masquerade in which the best of the costumes are displayed for admiration and prizes. I’m sorry, but I missed the masquerade. I missed the Memorial Barry Bard movie previews and free goodies dispersal also (and I really like to go to those just to keep my t-shirt collection fresh.) I missed a ton of great stuff at DarkCon, and I was still as busy as I could be with the stuff I did.
- Chris and I model the magnificent lanyard badgeholders provided by the Con Commitee for VIPs (him) and Guests (me). I am steampunk. He isn’t.
Much more happened at the Con than I am able to convey in this blog. I spent part of my time hanging out in the Green Room–a hospitality room for volunteers and guests. The food and friendliness in that room kept me going even when I was tired, and especially when I was hungry. I played Texas Hold’em on Friday night with a great bunch of riverboat gamblers. I never won a single hand, but it was fun while I lasted. I took some weapons training from the Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship–those guys really know how to use all kinds of swords, and thanks to their training, I know a bit, too.
I had a lot of fun. I saw and talked to a lot of friends. If you were there, you probably had a great time also. If you weren’t, then you missed a really good time. You can look up the Dark Ones, the Phoenix Society of Historical Swordsmanship, the Men in Black, the Arizona Guise Knights, and just about everyone else that I mentioned on Facebook, so I’m not providing any links. This is going to be a great year for conventions in Phoenix. I recommend that you try to attend some of them. I will be there–you can count on that!
I like to spend time by water. It's so symbolic. (grin)
(a note about the photos and pictures used in this blog: some of them are my own photos, others were taken by the stalwart Jason Youngdale, and a couple were lifted from Nola Yergen’s DarkCon page on Facebook–copyright and ownership of all the photos and pictures belong to the original creators. I recommend searching DarkCon on Facebook.com to find many more pictures of the convention–it was a fantastic place and time for us.)
If you were at DarkCon this year, or wish you had gone, why not add your own comments below?
About 9 or 10 years ago–it’s hard to remember that far back–I decided to scrap my old Tunnels and Trolls web page and start something new–an online club for all T & T fans. It didn’t take much thinking to come up with the name TROLLHALLA–a combination of the word Troll with the word Valhalla. And that is what the place would be–a sort of Valhalla for T & T players–a place to get together with friends, both for fun, and also to promote T & T.
An internet search showed that the name Trollhalla had been used once before at least–for a guest cottage in a tourist resort in Norway. Not much conflict of interest there. So, I used the name and for roughly 9 years Trollhalla was mine.
Then Alf Seegert, who had done a Bridge Troll board game earlier, decided to send his trolls plundering on northern seas, and came up with the name Trollhalla for his new board game. I have Google search words like Trollhalla for me every day, and when I heard about it, I wrote him a pained letter complaining. He and Z-Man were doing a game that swiped the name of my gaming club. It’s not a direct conflict, but it’s certainly a lot closer than the guest house connection. Too late! The game and the boxes for it were already in production. He couldn’t change the name.
Alf and I made a deal. He gave me a copy of the game, and he joined Trollhalla as a member (haven’t seen much of him in 2011 though), and he explained the confusion between the names very nicely in a few places around the web. Ugh! I’m not real happy with the way that worked out–I kinda feel that Trollhalla is my name, but I didn’t trademark it or anything, and ideas should be free, and he certainly uses the word in a different sense than I do.
Anyway, it’s an amusing board game, complicated enough that it takes some real study, or two or more playings to fully understand it–simple enough that you can stagger through a game and have fun even if you do get a few rules mechanics wrong on the first try. The trolls in the game are indistinguishable from 10th century vikings–yo ho, yo ho, a viking’s life for me! Sail from island to island, grab as much loot as you can, try to frustrate the efforts of other players. An hour later you’re done. Somebody won. It was probably close. You had a few laughs along the way.
Trollhalla the board game is fun and funny–at least I enjoyed it when I played it. Seegert is an accomplished game designer, and board gamers should look for his work for some lighthearted entertainment.
Ironically enough, for a game about ocean-going trolls, it doesn’t stand up to water very well. The first time I tried to play it, I accidentally knocked over a glass of water, and pretty much ruined half the paper components of my game. Arrrrgh! I can still play Trollhalla, but it is certainly the worse for wear.
If you have played Trollhalla the board game, or are a member of Trollhalla the gaming society, go ahead an leave some comments here.