Wasteland Weekend 2012 September 27-29

For the first time in its short history, Wasteland Weekend will begin on a Thursday with the post-apocalyptic bash beginning September 27 in the desert outside California City, two hours to the north of Los Angeles. Now in its third year, Wasteland Weekend pays tribute to the Mad Max films with visitors flocking from around the world to celebrate George Miller’s vision of a high octane, mohawked mad, mad world. Tickets sold for $55 initially but are now $100. A more important consideration is having a post-Apocalyptic costume or two prepared or you won’t get into the entirely immersive environment of Wasteland Weekend.

Total Immersion at Wasteland Weekend

Black umbrella protects Wasteland Weekend cofounder Jared from desert heat near California City

Wasteland Weekend Cofounder and Entertainment Director Jared

Asked whether anyone has actually been turned away at Wasteland Weekend’s gates for lack of appropriate dress (or decorum), Jared admitted that it has not happened yet, though I imagine anyone willing to drive out to the middle of nowhere in the California desert probably is trying to legitimately attend. However for members of the media (of which there should be plenty at Wasteland Weekend) or anyone else underdressed the Wasteland Weekend staff will be offering Wasteland Makeovers at their Body Shop to give them, “the works,” in Jared’s words, using Wasteland Weekend’s hair stylists, body painters, and extra costumes to fashion a cohesive believable look. In another effort to provide total immersion, Wasteland Weekend is also restricting video recording activities by the press with special authorization required, in part to avoid attendees having too many cameras in their faces the entire weekend.

This focus on immersion and staying true to Wasteland Weekend itself extends even to the musical acts, who will all be performing in costume. More importantly to WW’s Entertainment Director, any growth in the size and fame of the bands involved should happen organically. Jared and the WW staff are trying to avoid having fans of a band who only show up to see a Rob Zombie or a Nine Inch Nails and are not invested in the post-apocalpytic look and feel of Wasteland Weekend. It’s a feel that Jared even laughingly admits is far from realistic, even if that is the base guideline that Wasteland Weekend is shooting for: what would the Wasteland look like if the Apocalypse happened today? While a Pipboy from the Fallout franchise of video games or Nuka-Cola beverages are accepted and even encouraged, the theme of Wasteland Weekend is not ray guns or a futuristic imagining of the Apocalypse, but instead one based in current reality, even if that “reality” is V8 engines in a world with limited fuel. Fallout power armor is a bit too much for this vision as is Star Wars Stormtrooper armor; however any aspiring Ghoul from the Fallout franchise or just a plain zombie is gently redirected to just be a radiation victim at Wasteland Weekend.

“If I could only take one vacation a year until I die, this is going to be it.”

– Dave Dufour

It’s this sense of immersion that has captured the passion of Dave Dufour who now is in his second year at Wasteland Weekend. Dufour’s Road Rash tribe gets its name from the scars up and down his arms from a motorcycle accident. The red-mohawked Dufour won’t attend Burning Man for the simple reason that at Wasteland Weekend everyone is in costume, including the EMTs. There are no lollygaggers at Wasteland Weekend Dufour is happy to say, even going so far as to tell his wife, “If I could only take one vacation a year until I die, this is going to be it.”

Scion coverted to military Wasteland Paint scheme with chain gun on roof at Wasteland Weekend

David Dufour’s Post-Apocalyptic 2005 Scion at Wasteland Weekend 2012

Variety of Wasteland Activities

One of the differences between last year’s Wasteland Weekend and this year’s is the move from one live band to six, including the industrial noise band Larva flying in from Spain. Besides Duel at Dusk Productions, Entertainment Director Jared is looking forward to seeing the performances of Celsius and Sorex Circus, besides a mystery performance group which will be appearing late Saturday night. Wasteland Weekend is also able to augment its entertainment via the tribes and their offerings, such as the Wasteland Casino where gamblers can play for bottle caps and turn their proceeds in for Wasteland prizes on Saturday night. Alternatively winners can use their ‘caps in an auction, also late Saturday night. One of Jared’s responsibilities is ensuring that there is a “unified theme” to everything unlike say at Burning Man where everyone does their own thing. Another new attraction this year is the Wasteland Weekend Film Festival featuring a series of post-apocalyptic short films under 20 minutes in length.

Circus at the End of the World and Mr. Dark’s Emporium

Hollywood weapon maker and prop master Dave Baker will be returning for his second year at Wasteland Weekend, selling as Mr. Dark at Mr. Dark’s Emporium. He will also be offering the Dagger and Dark’s Circus at the End of the World in cooperation with knife-throwing talent Jack Dagger. When not personally dodging or being hit by Dagger’s edged implements, Baker will also be conducting a staged fight of his own and sharing his charisma. The Circus at the End of the World is a test venture for Baker and Dagger as they would like to be able to run it at steampunk conventions, martial arts conventions like Combat Con, and other gatherings. There will also be poledancing and a post-apocalyptic magician in the circus, as well as a post-apoc pool table. Whipmaster Anthony DeLongis will be cracking with his wife and cosplayer Sara Warner will be fighting in the Gladiatora Apocalypto where the audience will decide who lives or dies. Baker’s favorite Mad Max is Beyond Thunderdome because it pushed the evolution of Mad Max forward so nicely.

Weapon Maker David Baker as Mr. Dark with post-apocalyptic kukris at Wasteland Weekend in black bowler

Hollywood Weapon Maker David Baker as Mr. Dark with a Selection of His Wares

As for Mr. Dark’s Emporium, Baker will be selling weapons and other post-apoc/horror/fetish pieces ranging in price from $125 to $300 for his handcrafted “future primitive” pieces. Topping out the price range are his futuristic kukris, the traditional weapon of the ghurka. Baker, who runs the Hollywood Combat Center, has been very busy since Combat Con, building out all of the retail display pieces for Eli Roth’s Goretorium on the Las Vegas Strip, a year round haunted house offering horror weddings starting at $4K. Baker was out to Wasteland Weekend early preceding even the WW staff, but returned to his workshop to finish some pieces for a British escape artist.

No Lone Wanderers at Wasteland Weekend

For Dufour and Baker, Wasteland Weekend comes down to the community created and the friendships forged in the California desert. Dave Dufour’s fondest memories of last year’s WW are of simply meeting other Wasteland wanderers at the Atomic Cafe, including visitors from Ontario, Canada. Dufour is “so looking forward” to seeing the same people this year. To Dufour, the Facebook group Wastelanders Unite is like a second family. For Dave Baker it’s also about the personal connections as well as being around so many other creative people such as the Red Fork Empire tribe with its artists and builders.

LARP or Not? Pre-Enactment

Wasteland Weekend’s website is very tongue-in-cheek about the topic of whether the event is a LARP, but also clear saying “no, this is not intended to be a LARP gaming event. But I guess if you want to do that sort of thing while you’re out in the wasteland, we’re not going to stop you. But we reserve the right to make fun of you. Up until you wipe out all our hit points with a magic missile.” Jared was quick to correct some of my associated misunderstandings about the Weekend: no, I would not be trading in my dollars for bottle caps for use throughout Wasteland Weekend at places like the Atomic Cafe or with vendors like Dave Baker and no, I wouldn’t be one of the two men entering Raven’s Conspiracy’s version of the Thunderdome. More importantly Jared estimates that only a small minority of attendees will be playing and acting the part of a character or answering to a different name. Instead Wasteland Weekend is more akin to historical re-enactment of the future, or pre-enactment, as Jared terms it. The former D&D player and fan of Steve Jackson Games Car Wars also draws a comparison between Civil War re-enactors gathered around their tents and campfires away from the actual battles; that is what Wasteland Weekend is for the post-Apocalypse.

Playing with Fire with Duel at Dusk Productions

One of the most impressive sights at Combat Con 2012 was the four-legged, 9-foot tall walker that graced the dance floor of the Time Traveller’s Ball. Called the Egress, the walker resembles one of the Land Striders from Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal. The Egress was just one of several spectacles that Duel at Dusk Productions put on at Combat Con. Based in Las Vegas, DADP has been literally burning up the Mojave in their quest to provide the ultimate over the top experiences to their audiences. The troupe has grown in the last two years, moving on to larger and larger projects and from September 27 to 29 in the California desert Duel at Dusk will be staging their most ambitious and intensive performances yet at the post-apocalptic Wasteland Weekend.

JP Dostal in Costume as Buddy from Six String Samurai

Duel at Dusk Productions Founder JP Dostal in His Buddy Costume from Six-String Samurai

Dueling at Dusk: What They Do and Have Done

Duel at Dusk began in Lansing, Michigan in 1999 where founder and director JP Dostal received his Master’s at Michigan State University. Dostal oversaw all of the Michigan Ren Faire’s six to eight week entertainment from 1999 to 2005. In its modern incarnation, Duel at Dusk Productions is the “Premier Company for Stage Combat Choreography & Over the Top Productions” in Las Vegas. While Dostal, who is only 32, works as the Food and Beverage Director for Trump International, most of his creative energy goes into stage combat with Dostal consulting on theatrical productions including recent work on the Las Vegas Shakespeare Company’s production of Hamlet which opens October 6 for a month-long run on the weekends. Dostal bills out such such work under the Duel at Dusk Productions moniker, but DADP is more of a theater company in its organization and operations, though that is changing as Duel at Dusk builds a reputation via unpaid events like Combat Con, Labyrinth of Jareth, and Wasteland Weekend. If nothing else, Dostal sees it as free marketing, while second-in-command Matt Sullins points out that DADP members would have gone to Wasteland Weekend and the Labyrinth of Jareth regardless of payment.

2012 Labyrinth of Jareth

Every year for the last 15 years, fans of Labyrinth gather in Southern California for the Labyrinth of Jareth, a costuming spectacle and masquerade put on by Sypher Art Studio. The members of Duel at Dusk Productions were initially going to the Labyrinth as a mini-vacation, but decided to up the ante with something they had already been planning for some time. They went to the steampunk ball the first evening, but on the second night they brought out the Egress walker. It was literally a big hit, barely squeezing through the entranceways. Manning the Egress was 135-pound Matt Sullins who adds a skill in stilt-walking to Duel at Dusk’s repertoire. Walking on all fours is hard work with Sullins needing ten minutes of rest for every fifteen spent moving around in the Egress. He also needs at least one handler and simply getting into the costume takes 15 minutes on its own. Sullins appearance as the Egress was so striking that Sasha Travis who plays the Queen of the Night addressed him in his costume, saying “Land Strider, it’s been so long since I’ve seen you; you’ve grown.” Dostal describes the costuming on the show’s Saturday night as “just the most elaborate and ridiculous thing” with many Hollywood costume designers creating some of them. While the Labyrinth of Jareth event has a storyline adhered to by its organizers, not every costumed guest has a character and even if one does, the attendee may not stay in character for the whole event. When DADP members went they stayed in character the whole time and possibly as a consequence Duel at Dusk Productions have been invited back for the 2013 Labyrinth of Jareth.

Cowboy hat wearing Wasteland Weekend character holds knife to throat of burlesque dancer Angel

Matt Sullins as Gentleman Johnny with Angel Spezza; Egress Costume is to the Right

The Egress, which is a play on PT Barnum’s mythical Egress, or exit, made its second appearance at the second Combat Con in Las Vegas at the Time Traveller’s Ball. The night before the DADP members put on a fiery show in the Tuscany Suites’ parking lot. When not entertaining at Combat Con, the cast members were attending the cosplay and gaming panels, as well as some of the combat classes and the tournaments. DADP has also made an appearance in an upcoming documentary on the life of Gregory Popovich, the Russian circus performer, whose dog and cat show is currently running at Planet Hollywood on the Las Vegas Strip. Duel at Dusk’s most recent public appearance leading into Wasteland Weekend also served as a public run through for some of their upcoming material when they performed at a charity event to raise money for Paws LV, helping to raise over $12,000.

The Nuclear Bombshells

Bare-chested Kevin Matthews poses with toy guns in booty shorts, a cast member of the burlesque troupe the Nuclear Bombshells

Male Nuclear Bombshell Kevin Matthews

Many of the female members of Duel at Dusk Productions also perform in a subgroup, the Nuclear Bombsells, a post-apocalyptic burlesque group headed by Yevette Shinn. For Shinn, 21 , burlesque is about women and men being tastefully “seductive and sexy”. Shinn finds it empowering, while post-apocalyptic burlesque to Shinn is simply “badass” in that she can wear chains, dismembered (fake) body parts, and “still make it look good.” Shinn collaborated with Matt Sullins two years ago on their idea for Nuclear Bombshells, performing their first stage show in 2010 at the gothic industrial club Muse owned by JP Dostal. Since then the Nuclear Bombshells have performed at bars, charity shows, and theaters. Shinn estimates that maybe only one out of five burlesque troupes have male dancers. For Shinn, including male dancers is based in a desire for equality, in giving equal treatment to the male body, for female (and male) fans. The Nuclear Bombshells currently boast two male dancers, one of whom, Kevin Matthews, will be stripping down out of his cowboy costume to his bandana, booty shorts, and gun holster at Wasteland Weekend. Matthews will also be twirling fire and says that he is new to burlesque dancing, admitting that he’s “not that good of a dancer,” but adding that he’s “a most excellent grinder.”

Girl in bunny costume and tights has tail checked by "Bunny" character for Wasteland Weekend

Costume Check: Nuclear Bombshells Becca and Yevette in Wasteland Weekend Wear

Wasteland Weekend Preparations

Preparations for Wasteland Weekend began when the Talent Director of Wasteland Weekend, Jared, contacted Duel at Dusk about participating. As he puts it, he “knew right away that this was a group that had a great feel for the whole post-apocalyptic theme we wanted to create. I was confident that their experience with live entertainment, and with fire combat in particular, would help us put on a great show.” The totally immersive event takes its inspiration from the Mad Max films with liberal doses of Fallout tossed in. The entire theme of Duel at Dusk’s camp however comes from the cult 90s film Six String Samurai which follows the katana-in-guitar wielding Buddy across the wasteland on his way to Vegas to become its new king after Elvis’ death, battling gangs and Death himself along the way. For the last four to five months, Duel at Dusk has been busy preparing for the event which is expected to draw 1,200 costumed attendees.

Flaming Hula Hoop Hoop of Death in Angel Spezza's Hands

Angel Spezza with Unlit Hoop of Death

Duel at Dusk Productions will be the only theatrical troupe entertaining every day at Wasteland Weekend; other performers from other groups and acts will be entertaining one or two of the days or evenings with more limited schedules. Wasteland wanderers can expect to encounter choreographed fights pitting Buddy against Death, a psychopathic Bowler, and a Wasteland Samurai with flaming butterfly swords, katanas, Sun and Moon Wheels, and and hook swords, all of which will be on fire. Wasteland Weekend also marks the return of Yevtte Shinn’s flaming whip. One new fiery attraction that DADP members are especially excited to introduce is the Hoop of Death, a flaming hula hoop which will be spun by cast member Angel Spezza, who will be dancing to Lita Ford’s “Playing with Fire”. Like many of their other flaming weapons, kevlar is used as the wick for the Coleman camping fuel on the Hoop of Death, which was ordered from the company Home of Poi in New Zealand and only arrived September 12. What’s it like to stand inside a flaming ring, besides hot? Angel says, “It’s like you’re inside a fire tornado, there’s a lot of noise, and you can’t see past it.” The danger and thrills continue with the Sword Staircase, also to be performed by Angel, incorporating Lion-O’s sword from Thunder Cats, the Eye of Thunderra, as well as several mundane blades and a Klingon batliff blade. Michigan DADP cast members Jay Davis and Matthew Highley will play as the Loverly Brothers, a post-apoc vaudeville act a la Charlie Chaplin in a series of three pieces during Duel at Dusk’s Saturday main stage performance all concerning interactions in Bartertown.

DADP has also partnered with Hollywood prop master David Baker and will be putting on shows inside his Dark and Dagger Circus at the End of the World area. Wasteland Weekend is split into “tribes” or encampments (as is typical for Ren Faires). In the Circus at the End of the World DADP cast member Edward Tyndall will be performing a psychic surgery and Matt Sullins will be doing a strait jacket escape. Duel at Dusk Productions’ and the Nuclear Bombshells’ entire presence at Wasteland Weekend will be as the Fabulous Lost Vegas tribe and much planning and detail has gone into the construction of the encampment which will adjoin a functioning casino run by a different tribe. Initially Dostal had planned on providing several children’s pools to allow Wasteland Weekenders to cool off during the day as part of the Fabulous Lost Vegas day club, but the exact specifics have been evolving over the last month.

Bandana wearing Raven working on a tent in preparation for Wasteland Weekend

DADP Builder Lee “Raven” Buckley Working on Wasteland Weekend Tent

Not all of Duel at Dusk’s offerings will be seen on Wasteland Weekend’s stage or at the Circus at the End of the World, as DADP cast members will be wandering throughout the three full days performing and entertaining as their characters. For instance, Dostal’s girlfriend and DADP costumer Maggie Reese will play as Catherine Pratt, the Martha Stewart of the Apocalypse, dressed in pink burlap. Edward Tyndall will be wandering the tents as the darkly comedic Mr. Cross with his golf bag of torturous implements (which will probably be equally matched by torturous punchlines). Aiding him will be his caddy Max Gardener played by DADP script writer Nick Scalzo. Matt Sullins will be out of the Egress costume and MCing most of DADP’s stage shows, but also wandering as Gentleman Johnny with his hunting dog “Bunny” played by Yevette Shinn. Kevin Matthews will be the Cowboy, offering tours of the Fabulous Lost Vegas camp besides his burlesque run on Saturday night. Many of the Nuclear Bombshells will also be serving as cocktail waitresses at the adjoining casino throughout Wasteland Weekend, including Vera Rayner who will be playing Little Red Riding Hood in her burlesque number. Rayner will also be serving up her blood as Edward Tyndall’s psychic surgery patient.

Matt Sullins in costume as Gentleman Johnny with Cowboy hat while Fur Wearing Bunny Yevette Shinn waits behind

Wasteland Weekenders Gentleman Johnny with His “Bunny”: Matt Sullins and Yevette Shin

One Nuclear Bombshell performance will be Olivia Rose’s self-bondage routine, where she will tie herself onto a spit and be carted offstage, blending elements of the bondage and post-apocalptic cannibalism. Like the other DADP cast members, this will be Rose’s first year at Wasteland Weekend, but she’s no stranger to Burning Man in northern Nevada, where she runs Spanky’s Wine Bar. In her fifth year of attendance at Burning Man, Rose’s “village” or camp numbers 200 there, out of 52,000 festival goers. She’s also used to Burning Man’s epic fourteen day runs held over Labor Day weekends, so Wasteland Weekend will be easy by comparison.

The Importance of Safety

Vicious bladed implements and weapons on a garage wall at Duel at Dusk Productions

Just a Tiny Fraction of the Deadly Weapons DADP Has

Besides taking his opponent’s blade to his chin, Dostal has other firsthand experience with the dangers of stage and sport combat. In a Michigan production of “Peter Pan” Dostal served as the fight director, but had to leave town during rehearsal and suspended practices. The play’s director had other ideas though and that’s when one of the actors lost his eye, his fellow actor’s foil taking it out with a mistimed thrust. The one-eyed actor now has a glass eye and sued the director, but it’s such mishaps that Dostal seeks to avoid. Dostal himself has skewered his opponent’s shoulder while fencing when his blade broke; his opponent looked down because of the pain, but only passed out when he saw the blood because he was a hemophobe. Dostal’s garage, where much of the preparation for events like Wasteland Weekend has gone on, is festooned with weapons of all makes and sizes with most of them being very sharp and not modified for stage combat. While I never witnessed any explicit instruction to be safe when handling weapons, most cast members simply do not pick up or even swing unfamiliar weapons and they all seem to have a respect for the lethality of their surroundings.

Wasteland Medic Crow Wielding Gardening Tool

Wasteland Medic and Real Life Firefighter Crow

This also extends into fire safety. Cast members seem to stick to their own flaming weapons, but when it comes to fire, Dostal has been much more explicit and obvious in his preparations. Like the rest of the kevlar-based fire weapons, Angel Spezza’s Hoop of Death was soaked in Coleman cooking fuel and then burnt off; the first burn removes chemicals used to process it and fuzz from manufacturing the kevlar and usually lasts longer than subsequent burns, which will tend to be more consistent. When it came time for Angel to actually step into the ring though for an actual run through all joking died down and specific instructions on who would or would not be moving in to help her were given. Fire blankets were prepared with the hula hoop posing the additional problem of possibly endangering Angel were she to try to jump over it assuming she were lit on fire. Everything went off without a hitch though, but it all came through careful planning. The real key to DADP’s fire safety is paying attention to the fibers in clothing with synthetic fibers posing the hazard of melting when ablaze. It is not uncommon at DADP practices for a cast member to show a new costume piece and quickly explain what fabric is involved, even if the cast member will not be performing with fire. Dostal also has some help in the form of cast member Crow who brings real world firefighting skills as a Fire Protection Journeyman in the Air Force and as a student of Fire Science. Crow serves as DADP’s medic and was set to play a Wasteland Medic at Wasteland Weekend until his request for leave to attend the event was denied.

And the Importance of Fun and Games

Multicolored Sarina Gast giving the thumbs up with spray paint in hand

Occasional M:TG Player Sarina Gast

Duel at Dusk Productions members also know the importance of having a good time and besides general interests in costuming, comics, science fiction, and fantasy, most members are also gamers. Whip-wielder Yvette Shinn plays both pen and paper RPGs as well as regularly participating in SCA-style guilds and events, even heading her own breakaway “house” focusing on torture. Her aunt introduced her to Ren Faires when she was 5 years old, promising Shinn that one day she could be her squire. She joined when she was 12 and picked up a sword, switching over to a whip at the the request of her guild’s queen to serve as her Torture Mistress. Shinn has even taught Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops about medieval torture and has based one of her Wasteland Weekend characters off of her role-playing game character, Safety Pin, a faceless assassin-tank from Apocalypse World. Her boyfriend Matt Sullins is also no stranger to putting on a costume and swinging a blade, but usually played theater-style LARPs on the East Coast at conventions like MarCon and the now defunct Psi-Con in Connecticut, besides playing in a number of White Wolf World of Darkness LARPs. Sullins played Apocalypse Worlds in person at a Vegas Game Day, but usually plays online in a wiki-based game. While cast member Joshua “Crow” Dietrich is an avid Halo fan and working to finish his own $600 Spartan Suit, he also dabbled as a teenager in Dragonlance, using his father’s own rule set, as well as playing standard Dungeons & Dragons and participating in forum-based online RPGs. DADP Set Builder Lee “Raven” Buckley is an avid player of both tabletop and video game RPGs, pointing to Call of Cthulu and D&D 3.5 as his favorite RPGs. He also LARPed throughout his teenage years in New Hampshire playing Realms, where he developed an assassin character.

Vera Rayner Out of Her Little Red Riding Hood Costume

Ren Faire Fan Vera Rayner

Kevin Matthews, who will be playing the Cowboy and burlesque dancing at Wasteland Weekend, also played Dungeons & Dragons in high school, but never was a “fanatic”. He is a World War II buff though and a fan of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, though he is not a wargamer at all. Vera Rayner on the other hand has never played tabletop games, but does play Guild Wars and Forsaken World on the PC. As a teenager Rayner LARPed in a Vampire: The Masquerade game and she also regularly participates in Ren Faires. At 18, Sarina Gast is both the youngest member of DADP and also the newest. A huge Zelda fan, she also used to play Magic: The Gathering and had a mean zombie deck. Her real passion though is fine art, but she intends to study graphic design in college. Angel Spezza is a Star Wars fan and a D&D player, but spends most of role-playing energy playing a Twi’lek Sith in a Star Wars Facebook RPG. Angel actually met her boyfriend and fellow cast member Crow on the Facebook role-play, moving out to Las Vegas after she fell in love with the man in the Mandalorian armor and eventually joined Duel at Dusk as well. While Crow uses pictures of himself in his Mandalorian armor for his Facebook character’s avatar, Angel prefers to draw her own character. As for DADP founder JP Dostal himself, he played sorcerors in his D&D games in college, already having his fill of melee combat in real life. When he taught fencing in Lansing many of his students were LARPers in Kanar (Knights, Nobles, Rogues), and was convinced to join his students in their quests and schemes, but has not LARPed since. Dostal and Sullins are in the process of setting up their own Duel at Dusk Productions game knight, in addition to their many other plans.

Blazing Forward with Duel at Dusk

Furry Bunny Yevette Shinn with Gas Mask for Wasteland Weekend

Corpser Yevette Shinn in Her “Bunny” Costume

JP Dostal and Company are already at work on other plans for after Wasteland Weekend with the 2013 Labyrinth of Jareth looming large as well as other events which are more pressing, such as a possible show in Las Vegas in December featuring many of the acts from Wasteland Weekend. For the next Labyrinth of Jareth, Duel at Dusk will be comprising the Court of Purgatory for the Queen of the Night. When the real world Shawn Strider and Sasha Travis got engaged and they brought their character counterparts together for Labyrinth of Jericho a rift developed with the Queen of the Night’s followers unhappy with the move, splitting off to form their own court. Without a court of her own, the Queen of the Night turned to Duel at Dusk Productions and now will boast some very elaborate protection to rival the Goblin Court, her Fey Court, and Lord Strider’s own court. Fight scenes will be choreographed between the rival courts and JP Dostal expects several trips to Los Angeles beforehand to fully prepare for the intricate action that will greet the Labyrinth’s visitors next June. In all JP Dostal estimates that DADP will be spending three to four months on their Court of Purgatory with costumes like the Skeleton Corpsers returning, as well as many new characters and costumes including Egress 2.0, a gigantic Hellhound, the Lord of Purgatory, Lady Purgatory, and a very special rolling surprise.

Another project that Dostal has been pursuing and developing for some time is with the City of Henderson, which is to the immediate southeast of Las Vegas. Southern Nevada will be getting a new Renaissance Faire in the Henderson Pavilion venue. Dostal has developed a format that includes an evening play during the Ren Faire’s run with DADP script writer Nick Scalzo about 70% done with his own original Robin Hood script which, while humorous, will tend towards the 1990 Kevin Costner end of things and not so much Robin Hood Men in Tights. Dostal cites the recent loss of 30,000 Ren Faire attendees at the Las Vegas Renaissance Faire due in part to a relocation of the outdoor venue as one of contributing factors leading towards the Henderson Renaissance Festival. Another reason for the new Ren Fair according to Dostal, is that the Las Vegas Ren Fair is not historically accurate, encompassing Roman legionaries to pirates in costumes from the 1600s. Coming from Michigan and Maryland, Dostal and Sullins are also used to much longer 6-8 week Ren Faires, unlike Las Vegas’s 3-day span. Current plans for the Henderson Ren Fair are for a three weekend run possibly as early as March/April 2013.

As for Las Vegas itself, Dostal has been developing an interactive theater project for the Las Vegas Strip and shopping it around to the casinos. Because the choreographed show is still in development there’s not much he can announce about it at present. He can say a bit more though about his efforts in producing a sequel to Six String Samurai and has been pursuing the rights from the movie’s creator Lance Mungia. Dostal plans to make use of some of the existing props and costumes developed for Wasteland Weekend and to film in Rhyolite, Nevada which is where the original film was recorded.

Shirtless and tan male burlesque dancer Kevin Matthews with pistol and fire on asphalt behind him

Kevin Matthews Giving a Taste of Wasteland Weekend’s Saturday Evening Entertainment

To get involved with Duel at Dusk Productions, Matt Sullins suggests contacting the group via their website and points out that, “It doesn’t matter if you have a skill set, if it’s something that you really, really want to do, we’ll find something we can train you to do.”

On a Collision Course with Ian Douglass

At Gen Con 2012, I took the opportunity to play the miniature skirmish game Collision against its creator, Ian Douglass. Douglass, who heads New World Gaming Company, managed a close victory with a frustratingly-effective archer. We caught up on September 8 about Collision, which is available for free download on Douglass’s site.

Overview of Collision

Ian Douglass at Gen Con 2012 in Indianapolis, Designer of Collision

Collision Game Designer Ian Douglass

CG: How long has Collision been in development?
ID: In its current form about three years. It has been kind of a long slog since I have been doing it in my free time.
CG: And by current form you mean as a miniature game and not a D&D setting?
ID: Yes. Collision started out as a D&D setting, and eventually I tried to develop a simplified version of the combat system for larger battles. Through revision it departed more and more from D&D, and after a while I decided that it could be its own game.
CG: So the campaign events at Gen Con? Did those go off? What were they like?
ID: They did go off, and they were a run of a basic campaign in where each battle is tied to the next. However there were fewer battles than I had first planned for because each battle took so long
CG: Who were the players? Had they played Collision before?
ID: Some of the players were friends of mine, some were first-time players, but most had played in one of the intro battles and wanted to play larger battles. I was worried that I wouldn’t actually have enough players to run them, but it turned out to be a great few events.
CG: Yeah, I know from some other game designers, that some of the planned events don’t really happen as intended. Now do you play Collision yourself in this series of campaign games and what sort of things developed for the Gen Con players?
ID: I only participated in a couple of the battles myself. The basic story was that the Necromancer Virgil had suffered a major defeat and was attempting to re-take his captured bodyguard.
CG: And did he?
ID: When I had designed the forces and the scenarios I was worried that Virgil and his forces would be over-powered. The players also felt that the forces were un-balanced, but he was sorely defeated at every turn. Instead of a ride to conquest and re-capture, the campaign turned into the story of Virgil’s death.
CG: Awesome.
ID: I had intended for him to die, but not this soon. He will be coming back though, he’s a Necromancer after all.

Gridded Game Board for Miniature Game Collision at Gen Con 2012

A Game of Collision in Progress on a Rocky Gridded Game Board

The World of Collision

Photograph of game card for Collision for Attendant of the 5 Dragons

The Stat Card for the Attendant of the 5 Dragons

CG: So when we played at Gen Con, I used a Noble Duelist and an Attendant of the 5 Dragons, do these instantly ring a bell with you and you can picture what they look like in the land of Gea automatically?
ID: Yes, the Noble Duelist is a bodyguard of the court of Deadholm, the northern city-state where Virgil is from. The duelist was a red elf and a formidable one at that. The Attendant of the 5 Dragons is a mage from Deadholm who serves Chimeras (essentially dragons), but the 5 oldest Chimeras in particular. The Attendants study magical disciplines that mimic the capabilities of those 5 Chimeras, mainly death, fire, corrosion, frost, and electricity.
CG: Which is why you thought I might have a special power for one of those elements or damage types, I guess.
ID: Yes, that Attendant in particular mastered Corrosive magic.
CG: Going back, what era and edition of D&D did Collision begin as a campaign in?
ID: 3.5 Edition D&D, and my first campaign in Gea as a setting was in 2005.
CG: So a Red Elf, when it was a D&D campaign, are they just regular elves or something a bit different?
ID: For Gea I developed two Elven sub-races: White Elves and Red Elves. Red Elves were more like Wild Elves as far as their stats were concerned, high strength and dexterity. In personality they are impulsive, prone to anger, and make great fighters and soldiers, whereas the White Elves were more frail but magically potent. They are calm and detached and make for powerful wizards or clerics. Naturally they are mortal enemies.
CG: Excellent, I see. And these named characters, Virgil and Rhona, were any of these PCs or NPCs?
ID: Virgil existed as a PC during one campaign years ago, and moved to an NPC role when that particular campaign game to a close. Rhona on the other hand was a PC more recently. Virgil is one of my old characters, whereas Rhona was one of my sister’s characters.
CG: Even better, because I was just about to ask if all of the artwork on your website was Alexandra Douglass’. So she’s your sister?
ID: Yes, though she goes by Lexxy. Apart from the world map which was illustrated by Sarah Williams, all of the art in Collision is drawn by Lexxy at the moment.
CG: How much direction have you given her as to what your world looks like and how much are things that she has come up with?
ID: In this project I have given a lot of direction, providing written description, sketches, tone. Since Lexxy is my sister, her ability to bring my visions to life is unparalleled. There is another project I am developing which I just gave her rough descriptions of monsters and she produced perfect sketches of what I had in mind.
CG: Is she your twin? Who’s older?
ID: She is 4 years older than me, but we grew up with very similar interests. We both grew up with D&D from a young age, so we are both heavily influenced by games. She was inspired to illustrate with the intention of creating art for games, and I was inspired to design games.
CG: As close as the two of you are, what’s it like to share world-building with another person? Is it quite different from being the all-powerful DM?
ID: I never took the DM role with an iron fist. I always liked to involve my players in the creative process, and bouncing ideas back and forth with other people is often how the best things come up.
CG: Gotcha.

Getting Physical with Collision: Mechanics and Crunch

CG: One of the abilities or mechanics that stands out in a unit’s stat card for Collision is the Tarot. What’s the story there?
ID: In its earlier stages, the game had nothing to do with Tarot. In its place characters had a class and a level, but I wanted to separate Collision from D&D more. I dabble in tarot reading, so I came to the realization that there were 4 suits in the minor arcana, and 4 classes in Collision. Plus, the major arcana such as the Tower, and Strength allowed me to create special circumstances for named characters. So in essence a character’s tarot is both who they are and their destiny. However minor arcana characters can change their destinies, but major arcana characters can’t.
CG: What little I know of Tarot comes from the anime series Escaflowne, which features tarot heavily. So for you, since tarot wasn’t initially part of Collision, has it been about digging into your own fluff and really boiling down a character or unit to a tarot card and finding focus there?
ID: Actually the decision to include tarot led to an expansion of fluff rather than a refining of it. As much as a would alter a character to suit a card, I found myself coming up with new ideas because of the tarot. I had to find a place for the characters I already had, but there was so much room. For example who is Death? who is the Devil? who is the Sun? These are all questions I now have to answer, and it will help me grow the game and the content.
CG: Well, what are Virgil and Rhona’s Tarot?
ID: Virgil is the Tower. The short story “The Fall of Virgil” illustrates that Virgil is a character defined by tragedy. Rhona is Strength, and it isn’t just because she is physically powerful either. I am working on her next story to include in the Campaign Battles beta.
CG: What about the underlying points values for building your own units: how much time has that aspect taken to balance and playtest and tweak?
ID: There were a few big overhauls of the character creation system over the years. In its first iteration I was more or less assigning points values based on gut instinct. That system had enough problems that I did a basic analysis of the value of each of the stats starting with a stat line that was meant to be the average weak character. I then came about giving points values to individual stat increases, and assigned costs to more abstract things such as abilities or effects through gut instinct. Then years of testing and tweaking and testing and tweaking. It was hard enough to balance characters, and even harder to balance a system used to create characters.
CG: Yeah, I can’t really imagine. It’s very daunting. But you’re still revising the character creation, right?
ID: Yes, though the newest system will be easier for me to test. I’m not sure there will ever be a time when the character creation system is really balanced, but the point isn’t to create a game meant for competitive play and perfect builds. I believe that I will settle on point costs for this batch of material by the end of 2012 or in early 2013, but I will be adding more options that will need testing, and I will be trying to create and balance the major arcana characters throughout the process. The goal is to have a set of three books, the Core Rulebook, Character Creation Guide, and Campaign Battles, all finished by Gen Con 2013, and funded by a Kickstarter.
CG: Ok, great. I suppose that the dimensions of a game of Collision are not really set. You just need a playing grid, right? I see you suggest 28-30mm miniatures with a 1.5 inch grid, but anything could work really. 15mm or Legos or big Playmobil fantasy figures if that’s your thing.
ID: Sure! also, 1.25″ squares work quite well printed out on 8.5″x11″ sheets of paper, so potentially the game could be played with pogs and graph paper.
CG: But a hex map is too much of a stretch and doesn’t match the mechanics?
ID: Not in this iteration of the rules, but assuming things go well for collision in the coming year, I will be working on variations for collision that can be played on a hex map, or even without a grid entirely.

Gridded Game Board for Collision Miniature Board Game at Gen Con 2012

The Rocky Playing Board for Collision

CG: Besides the rocky boards we played on at Gen Con, I also see that you have a board made with Hirst Arts floor tiles, but that you’re also making your own tiles. How’s that coming along?
ID: I haven’t been able to make too much progress on that front in the past couple of months because of Gen Con, but I will be refining the rocky tiles, in addition to other tile sets to be cast in resin. I will also be experimenting with casting large elevation terrain with the tile designs built-in out of expanding foam resin. I have plans for ruins tiles, dirt, desert, wasteland, marsh/beaches, and water tiles. And there will even be a couple styles of dungeon or interior building tiles for battles that take place in buildings, dungeons, and caves.
CG: So I have to ask: besides selling any tiles, how do you plan on making money with Collision if you can use other companies’ miniatures and can download the rules for free? Or is it more about having the experience and having Collision under your belt for future work?
ID: I intend to produce tiles and terrain to sell, and printed versions of the rulebook for people who prefer to have a nice looking copy of the rules. Beyond that I am considering designing campaign supplements that are not free. I am also interested in creating starter sets for Collision that include miniatures, which would be a good base-line for if someone doesn’t already have a collection. The bottom line was always that Collision wasn’t meant to make money. I want to write games, and the only way to get a job writing games is to write games. Also, I’m a college student, and as much as I love miniatures, I can’t drop a couple hundred dollars every time I want to play a new miniature game. I wanted to design the game I wished existed, so I did.

How Ian Douglass Got Into Gaming: Jeff Grub’s Influence and Family Gaming

CG: Yes, before we get to your college major, who got you and Lexxy into D&D?
ID: My dad Matthew Douglass, who played D&D in college with Jeff Grubb.
CG: Wow, the Jeff Grubb.
ID: Yep, they were college buddies. A couple of years ago I got in touch with Jeff Grubb and told him that I was Matt Douglass’s son and that I wanted to design games, and he gave me some great advice.
CG: Let’s hear it!
ID: Well the part I remember most was that he told me don’t do it.
CG: Haha.
ID: He told me just don’t and that it was hard and dissapointing, not rewarding, and ultimately sucked the fun out of games. Then he waited for my response and I told him that I have to do it, that I couldn’t help myself, and that I wouldn’t be satisfied not writing games. That if I weren’t getting payed to do it I would be doing it for free in my free time. His response was great, because if being told not to write games by Jeff Grubb didn’t discourage me then I had enough drive to do it. He told me some of what he said was true, that it was hard and discouraging, but that if its what you love to do, and you are prepared to have a day job some of the time to do it, then I’m on the right track. I haven’t contacted him in a while, and I think I will to let him know how far I’ve gotten since then.
CG: Should be interesting! Was your father your first DM and how old were you?
ID: I was 6 or 7, and he was my first DM. He ran a campaign that used a mix of 1st and 2nd edition rules, and Lexxy and I each played two characters occasionally joined by Mom’s character. I remember that campaign very well, better than anything else from when I was that age.
CG: What was the setting or what went on?
ID: The setting was very basic. We started in a small city, went to the tavern, and overheard that that there was adventure to be had in Dungeon-01 just outside the city. So we bought supplies and went. He wrote the dungeon in college and it was pretty huge. I remember it being the ruins of a castle that had mostly collapsed, that there were stairs carved in the stone leading to an iron gate that was bent out of shape and Lexxy’s paladin, George, who had a pathetically low Dex score, fell down the stairs.
CG: So it was a real dungeon delve typical of first edition.
ID: Totally. But there were features in that dungeon that heavily influenced me as a DM. I remember finding a chainsaw, and none of our characters had ever seen one before. Finding a single running shoe in a room that was a small jungle. Finding the Holy Hand Grenade from Monty Python’s Holy Grail and having a 20 miniute discussion with a mimic.
CG: I can begin to imagine. So were there ever any threats growing up of no more D&D if you didn’t behave or do chores?
ID: Not that I remembered. D&D was what we would do on Friday nights. We got to stay up late and have root beer and popcorn. I lived for those nights, and I probably could have been convinced to do anything to keep it that way.
CG: Have you turned the tables and been your father’s DM in the world of Gea and Collision?
ID: Only for a couple of sessions. Once I got a bit older and started having adventures of my own, Dad didn’t really have enough time to keep playing, so I took on the DM role and taught my friends to play. Every once in a while I create a module and have Dad and Lexxy, and my younger brother Logan play, since Logan wasn’t around at the time of the family campaigns. Logan is only 10, so I’m a good 12 years older than him.
CG: So Logan is 10, but when you were 10 you developed a card game. What was it?
ID: It was Mythica: Battle of the Greek Gods. Of course it never got further than a paper prototype, It was a basic card game with 3 decks: Hades, Zeus, and Poseidon. Each deck had a character card to represent the Greek god, it had monsters and spells true to their legends, and it was fairly easy to play too. I played with the friends in my new neighborhood when we moved from Ohio to Indiana.
CG: Interesting. Did you pick the brothers for a reason and did you ever think “Hmmn, why not add Hermes or Apollo?” or is it because they each have their realm, earth, sky, oceans?
ID: Well I had the intention to expand it to include other gods as well, but I figured Zeus and Hades disputed often enough to make them good and evil, and Poseidon I thought of as more neutral. In my mind they made points of a triangle and thus were perfect for a rock, paper, scissors type of mechanic. Even then I was worried about balance. But I lost interest after a few playtests; I was more interested in Lego at the time, and just starting to get curious about Warhammer.
CG: Perfect segue, so what miniature games have you played in your background?
ID: Warhammer, Warhammer 40k, Confrontation, Mage Knight, Hero Clix, Ronin, Chainmail, Warmachine, D&D Minis, Pirates of the Spanish Main, Battletech, Battlefleet Gothic, Anima Tactics, and a few others that don’t quite come to mind.
CG: What do you still play today?
ID: I still have my Warhammer and Warhammer 40k armies, but I haven’t played in some time. I don’t really play any of them today. I play D&D, Magic: the Gathering, and board games for the most part. The rest of my time is spent designing and testing my own games.
CG: Collision: board game or miniature game? Or is it just semantics?
ID: I conisder all miniature games to be board games, but not all board games to be miniature games. Collision is at least a miniature game I would say.
CG: More of a board game than a true war game though?
ID: No, I would call it a skirmish war game. Mostly because players bring their own components.
CG: Even though Heroscape has some of the same elements, Collision to me, at least visually with your boards, kind of has more of a chess/Shuuro/Go feel to it.
ID: I could see that, and I do lean heavily on chess motifs in the design and feel of the game. Others have compared it to Final Fantasy Tactics.
CG: Yes, yes, visually, Final Fantasy Tactics and some various Xbox Live Arcade games as well.

Game Studies at Indiana University

CG: Now what is your major all about at Indiana University?
ID: My major is actually Philosophy. I’m finishing up my last year, and I’m adding a certificate in Game Studies through the Telecom department as well.
CG: Yes, so Game Studies is what I’m after. What do you do for that?
ID: I do three things in abundance: play games, write stories, and create games. More of the latter two. In one class we play and discuss board games and mechanics and design games, and in another class the class of 12 or so students all work as a team to design a video game in a semester. I also pick up HTML, some basic programming, and a ton of writing and production skills.
CG: So this video game design class? Is that over? Current?
ID: Current. I’m the producer, and the game we are working on is called Doppelganger.
CG: Realistically, what can your expectations be? Is it just a class project to be forgotten or do you think you’ll have something enjoyable for others to play?
ID: We plan to publish it through the Xbox Live Arcade, and if we can get enough Kickstarter funding we plan to try to port it to mobile devices. A previous class completed a game called Warp Shooter which is on Xbox Live Arcade now actually. It’ll be fun, people will want to play it, and people will be able to buy it. or we fail.
CG: What were the format restrictions, if any? Is it more about your fellow students picking something of mutual interest?
ID: As a group we have to decide what is feasible, and the professor occasionally vetos ideas that are too ambitious, but the group is called Hoosier Games, and there is also a club that follows the same format as the class that I participate in as well.
CG: What’s an example of something that was too ambitious for past groups?
ID: There was a project where students tried to create an RPG that was choked by feature creep.
CG: What perspective?
ID: I’m actually not sure, I didn’t have a hand in it myself, so I’ve only heard people talk about it. I think it was a mobile game where you train a monster, play mini-games, and battle with and interact with other mobile users. But I’ve worked as a level designer for the iOs game Melodus which may be worked on more this year as well.
CG: What percent of your fellow Game Studies’ students would you say want to do something novel and innovative versus some who just want to play games and make a WoW/Modern Warfare/Settlers of Catan clone?
ID: Actually no one seems to want to do something overdone. Each person is invested in designing something familiar, but with mechanics or twists that make it something new and unusual. I’m sure there are Game Studies students that disagree, but a vast majority, 85% or more probably, are innovators, but not just doing something different for the sake of it.
CG: So that must be a stimulating environment. So how has your Game Studies program impacted Collision?
ID: In one of the classes I have an opportunity to earn points for an independent initiative style project. I proposed to set up a Kickstarter for Collision and document the process, and it will be worth almost a third of my grade. But more importantly it has pushed me to work on new ideas as well. I have two other games I’ll be working on this year to playtest at Gen Con 2013, and a basic pub game that I designed in 10 minutes for a class assignment that I may actually publish.
CG: And by pub game, does that mean beer and pretzels?
ID: Yes, and it adapts easily to be a drinking game.
CG: But were you being quite literal and that it was designed to be played in a bar or pub?
ID: Yes, one of my objectives was to create a game that could be played easily at the Ram, since I found myself there a few times this year with friends and I kept thinking, “I need to design a pub game.”
CG: That’s the bar in Indianapolis frequented by many gamers during Gen Con?
ID: It sure is! I’ve already had some excellent playtesting, so I may be trying to build a more polished prototype of it soon.

Game of skirmish miniature game Collision at Gen Con in 2012

A Different Game of Collision at Gen Con Featuring Necromancy

The Future of Collision

CG: Moving back to Collision’s future, I scanned through the current 87-page rulebook and can see that the game is very much in development. I also saw that you’re soliciting feedback on the game. When do you think you’ll have a more finalized version of the core rulebook? I know Gen Con 2012 is your goal for three books, but when would the core have to be pretty finalized by?
ID: I have a stack of edits to make to the core rules, and I will be making some minor adjustments beyond that. It will likely be finished by the end of December 2012 if not sooner, with the character creation and campaign battle rules in the summer of 2013.
CG: Will the end rules be more like a Warhammer or Warmachine rule book and you’ll need three that size? Do you have an ideal page count goal?
ID: Actually the core rulebook likely won’t exceed 100 pages at its current dimensions, and given that the character creation and campaign battles books are both optional material, they should need just the one book to play. As it stands the rulebook should be hardly bigger than it is, and the other two books roughly the same length but it’s hard to tell. The complexity in Collision is limited to the special abilities and effects of the characters, not the core rules, so the rulebook will remain quite small.
CG: Now where will your created characters be found, like Virgil or the Attendant of the 5 Dragons.
ID: I’ll be working on a batch of characters today and tomorrow, and they will get their own post on my blog. In the future I plan to have sample characters available on the site, as well as decks of pre-build characters based around the different values and factions for those players who want high quality cards. When the Character Creation Guide is complete, I will also include a section of pre-made characters with illustrations and flavor text. Also, we may be working on a character creator app soon, so players can select options for characters which automatically generates a card for the character, and a character manager for storing, printing, and sharing characters.
CG: Thanks, Ian.
ID: Excellent! Thanks for the interview!

Games Workshop at Gen Con 2012

Games Workshop had something of a phantom presence at Gen Con. To be sure, you could spot a Games Workshop banner hanging overhead in the Vendors’ Hall, but the floor space beneath it was being used for its subsidiaries, Forge World and the Black Library. The vast main gaming hall comprised of Halls C, E, F, and G had hundreds of tables seating thousands of gamers (which may be quite an understatement), so it was surprising to only spot a handful of Warhammer 40K games as I passed through day and night and no games of Warhammer Fantasy.

Warhammer 40k Apocalypse game unfolding with alien Tyranids versus valiant Dark Angels

A Horde of Tyranids Have Breached the Imperial Defenses in a Game of Apocalypse

One evening I did spy a game of Apocalypse unfolding with a Forge World Imperial Fortress attempting to hold the line against the teeming hordes of Tyranids which had managed to infiltrate into the landing pad area fashioned out of sytrofoam.

Specialist Games

On the other hand, GW games that have been relegated to Specialist Games status like Space Hulk, Warmaster, and Mordheim actually seemed to be more prevalent. Several Mordheim Warband leaders competed against one another across three to four tables bedecked with Miniature Building Authority buildings and other pieces of terrain.

Small skirmish Mordheim warbands battle through ruined city streets in 28mm scale

An Undead Warband Battles Against an Imperial Faction in Mordheim

The beautifully painted Warmaster armies below ironically belong to two Privateer Press employees who were marshaling them one evening. Besides the actual lettered halls like D, E, and F, Gen Con has large hallways which make taking pictures of cosplayers pretty easy and prevent congestion. They are also used after hours for impromptu games like Warmaster, but more frequently for social games like Are You a Werewolf? or card and board games.

Warmaster-scale Dragon and Eagles for High Elves army at Gen Con

A High Elves Army for Warmaster Boasting a Dragon and Giant Eagles

This was actually the first time in over 20 years of gaming I had ever seen any Warmaster being played, much less seen any fully painted forces in person. While it’s quite possible the two generals of the armies see one another more frequently than at Gen Con, for many gamers Gen Con provides the rare opportunity to get in a game or two of a favorite niche game system with a different opponent than normal or simply to play a favorite game at all.

High Elves versus Undead in Warmaster Game at Gen Con in tiny scale

A Tiny Battle Unfolding Pitting High Elves vs. the Undead in Warmaster

Space Hulk was also going on in the main gaming hall. Outside of Warhammer 40K, Warhammer Fantasy, and Lord of the Rings, Space Hulk does seem to get the most playtime of Games Workshop’s smaller titles. The fairly recent rerelease of the game has also captured new gamers’ interest as well. While I didn’t see any Dread Fleet games at Gen Con, on my flight to Indianapolis, an employee of a different gaming company was touting the virtues of Dread Fleet’s ancestor, Man O’War, the epic-scale fleet action game set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe which was released in the 1990s. I am positive that the gamer on the plane would have loved to get some games of Man O’War in at Gen Con if he were given the chance.

Gamers enjoy the Space Hulk board game from Games Workshop at Gen Con 2012

A Whole Swarm of Genestealers Waits Off the Space Hulk Board to Assault Unwary Terminators

The Omnipresent Emperor is Watching

Even outside the gaming halls, Games Workshop maintained a presence. In Cardhalla, builders can come and make anything they desire with the donated playing cards. The resulting structures are then knocked down on Saturday evening at 10:30 with change and coins wrapped in dollar bills. The money collected is given to a charity, the STARS Youth Foundation, with the honor of throwing the first donation going to the winner of a special auction.

Games Workshop trademark Double-Headed Aquila made of cards at 2012 Gen Con

Initially the GW Aquila was blue when I stopped by Cardhalla on Thursday night. Nearby I was pleased to recognize an Inquisitorial emblem, also from Warhammer 40K. While I may have just gently nudged some of the cards behind me, the pile of Austin Powers cards at my feet in the photo below was not my doing, though I do appreciate Dr. Evil’s trademark pinky smirk on one of the cards at my feet. I also appreciate that the double-headed Games Workshop Aquila and the Inquisitorial emblem are made out of Star Trek and Star Wars cards respectively, with some Magic: TG cards laying the foundation of the Aquila. I have to imagine that the creator was very aware that GW’s emblem is trademarked and fiercely protected and that he appreciated his own irony.

Cardhalla Thursday night at Gen Con with an Inquisitor symbol from Warhammer 40k made out of playing cards

By Saturday though the Aquila had undergone a face lift and was now using the red Austin Powers cards in place of the Star Trek CCG cards.

Games Workshop Aquila Symbol Made of Red Austin Powers cards at Gen Con 2012 Cardhalla

The red Aquila wasn’t the only change. The forces of Chaos had put an end to the Inquisitorial reign at Cardhalla. While it’s quite possible that it was stepped on and sloppily repaired, I have to suspect that a servant of Tzeentch took offense to the emblem and corrupted it for his own purpose.

Games Workshop Inquisitor Emblem Tainted by the Forces of Chaos on Saturday in Cardhalla at Gen Con

Vendors and Licensees

Painted Ork Warlord warboss Ghazghkull Thraka for $22 at Gen Con

A Painted Ghazghkull Thraka for $22 is a Steal

One of the strongest Games Workshop presences I saw actually was a shopkeeper in the form of Darryl Dean from the Game Room in Toledo, Ohio. Within the world of Adepticon and Gen Con though, Darryl is known as the “Bits Guy” for the huge quanitty of storage containers full of plastic and metal bits that he brings to the shows. He also was selling completely intact and painted miniatures with low prices like $5 for a Brettonian or Empire knight. Around the painted miniatures Dean had team upon team of painted Blood Bowl miniatures for about $80 a team. He also had a selection of Imperial Guard and Space Marine vehicles.

Ghazghkull Thraka for $22 with a pretty good paint job caught my eye (and helped empty my wallet). I also picked up a Looted Leman Russ battle tank to join my growing Waaagh!, as well as various Witch Hunter and Daemonhunter Inquisitorial servants, including an interesting conversion featuring Necron parts with a plasma cannon.

Painted rack of Space Marine tanks on sale at Gen Con for around $30

Darryl Dean tends to pick up the armies which he then resells en masse, when a group of players switch from one system to another, such as Warhammer Fantasy Battles to Warhammer 40K. Sometimes he buys 10 armies at once. Dean is leery of eBay, only selling at the Game Room and at shows like Gen Con and Chicago’s Adepticon, but is thinking of expanding to Rock-Con in Rockford, Illinois and WinterCon in Rochester, Michigan.

Another aspect of Games Workshop’s phantom yet pervasive presence at Gen Con came through Fantasy Flight Games. Fantasy Flight Games has held Games Workshop licenses for quite some time and the company was showing off Relic at Gen Con, offering attendees the chance to play the Warhammer 40K-themed board game for the first time. Relic draws heavily from Talisman, but pits its 2-4 players against one another in a race to vanquish as many foes of the Imperium as possible.

Board game Relic from Fantasy Flight Games at Gen Con based on Warhammer 40K universe

Relic Board Game from Fantasy Flight Games at Gen Con 2012