Kapow! Las Vegas Comic Expo Set to Kick Ass (Too)

What: Las Vegas Comic Expo
Where: Riviera Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV
When: September 28-29, 2014
How Much: $20-45 a Person
Website: http://lasvegascomicexpo.com

The Las Vegas Comic Expo returns this weekend to Las Vegas, hosted at the Riviera Hotel and Casino and runs from September 28 to September 29. The weekend show will pack in some big names and talent including comic book legend Neal Adams (Batman, X-Men, Green Lantern-Green Arrow), Joe Benitez (the exceptionally illustrated steampunk-themed Lady Mechanika), and Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets), and Image Comics co-founder Whilce Portacio among dozens of other comic book writers and artists. Among the celebrity guests, male gamers who grew up in the 1990s will recognize Donna D’errico (Baywatch), while everyone should know the hulking form of Lou Ferrigno. The Excorcist’s Linda Blair has high billing along with True Blood’s Kristin Bauer, but for sci-fi/fantasy fans and gamers alike, who could beat Sylvester McCoy? Sure, he played the seventh Dr. Who, which by itself is platinum in geek culture, but he’s also Radagast the Brown in The Hobbit! It’s not too often that you get a chance to meet someone who has a miniature sculpted in his likeness (though that may change thanks to Mimic Miniatures Personalized Gaming Miniatures Kickstarter).

Tickets are $25 per day per person or $45 for the whole weekend at the door, but if you pre-register tonight (September 25), you can get in for $35 for the weekend or $20 a day. Doors open at 10 AM and close on Saturday at 7PM and 5PM on Sunday, though on Saturday night there will be a Cosplay Contest running from 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM, much like San Diego Comic-Con’s Masquerade. But compared to SDCC, the Las Vegas Comic Expo (LVCE) is a much more intimate affair, with an attendance last year of just over 7,000. This year attendance is expected to remain consistent, if not exceed the inaugural year, which featured comic creators like Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy. Panels will run throughout Saturday and Sunday this weekend on topics ranging from “Zombies and Pop Culture”, “Women in Comics” to “Fantasy Writers” to “Promote Your Comic Book or Die”. While larger comic conventions have multiple competing panels, at the LVCE attendees will only have to choose from either the Main or Annex panels, so seating may be limited, especially at focused panels spotlighting a celebrity such as Sunday’s “Sylvester McCoy: The Hobbit” and “Kristen Bauer” on Saturday.

Gaming at the Las Vegas Comic Expo

The LVCE isn’t only about comic books, fantasy, science fiction, and popular culture, of course. It will also offer a lot of gaming, including many demos of games to the general public featuring King of Tokyo, Heroclix, X-Wing Miniatures, and Netrunner, which should be easy enough for casual gamers to pick up. On Sunday AEG’s Legend of the 5 Rings card game will be demoed from 11:00 AM-4:00 PM, which sounds like just enough time for a beginner to learn the mechanics of the incredibly complex card game. Roleplaying games will be supported with a strong Pathfinder contingent providing Beginner Box Bashes throughout the day in addition to Pathfinder Society Scenarios Mists of Mwangi, Black Waters, both parts of The City of Strangers, and one of the newest scenarios, PSS 05-04 The Stolen Heir, wherein heroes attempt to rescue a nobleman’s daughter, as well as the high-level PSS 05-05 The Elven Entanglement. For a full list of Pathfinder organized play at the Comic Expo, check out the Warhorn listings.

Gaming Tournaments at the LVCE

Tentacled eye stalk monster Shuma Gorath heroclix figure

Shuma Gorath in All His/Her/Its Glory!

Besides the demos of board, card, and roleplaying games, the LVCE will also incorporate a number of tournaments. On Saturday afternoon Patrick Booth will be running an entry-level Ascension tournament, followed by a DC Deckbuilder Tournament on Sunday. The winner of Ascension will take home a voucher for the newly-released Darkness Unleashed expansion, with the DC Deckbuilder winner receiving a voucher for the as-of-yet-unreleased DC2, which will release in December. Both come courtesy of Avatar Comics and Games. New players to Ascension can try out the game before the tournament, during the earlier demo sessions, and simply need to pony up the $5 to participate in the tournament, with all cards and counters supplied by Avatar. Las Vegas’s largest dedicated gaming store, Little Shop of Magic, will be running Magic: The Gathering tournaments on Saturday and Sunday based on Friday’s release of the much-anticipated Theros expansion with prize support coming from the store. Meanwhile Maximum Comics will provide prize support and run HeroClix tournaments on each day, as well as Marvel Legendary and Star Wars LCG tournaments. Prizes for Heroclix include such convention exclusive figures as Shuma Gorath (from Dr. Strange) and the Trinity of Sin (from DC Comics’ recent Trinity War), which have attracted the notice of some of the top contenders at the recent Heroclix World Championships, which were held in August at Gen Con, according to Dustin Hall. Hall, the LVCE Games Director, has already received notice of players traveling from Utah and California to compete. For an overview of prize support and tournament entry fees, please refer to the LVCE’s gaming page. As for miniature games such as Warhammer 40K or Warmachine/Hordes convention games organizer Dustin Hall says that there are plans to address that portion of the gaming community next year.

And Plenty of Cosplay

Besides Saturday evening’s Cosplay Contest, there will be many cosplay-themed panels and cosplayers in evidence at the LVCE. Cosplay queen Jacqueline Goehner is just one of many female cosplayers who will be sitting in on panels like “Cosplay 101”, “Kids Cosplay”, and “Business of Cosplay”. Goehner will be debuting her Starfire costume which will – based on her Witchblade costume worn at previous conventions – leave little to the imagination. While Starfire is an orange-skinned super heroine famous from DC’s Teen Titans, Goehner will also be cosplaying as Midna the Twilight Princess from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which should see her a bit more clothed. Goehner’s panel participation will include one on wig making and styling, another on making a body cast, and another on the process of making a Witchblade costume. Besides her Starfire and Midna costumes, Goehner also plans on cosplaying Wonder Woman and has plans for a fourth costume, but admits that she probably will not finish it in time for the convention.

Scantily clad cosplayer in Witchblade costume named Jackie Goehner

Goehner as Witchblade and Herself: At LVCE She Will Unveil Her Starfire and Midna Costumes

Blonde hair and a trident mark a cosplayer playing as Aquawoman at Phoenix Comic Con

Brieanna Brock as Aqua Woman at Phoenix Comic-Con

Also going as her favorite character of Wonder Woman will be Brieanna Brock, but she will be playing as the Red Son version of the character. In the Red Son universe created by Mark Millar, Superman is raised by Soviets instead of the Kents in Kansas. The Wonder Woman of that universe is much grimmer in appearance. Not to worry, the second character Brock will be playing is Leila from Code Geass, who will add a bit of color in with her costume. Brock’s Red Son Wonder Woman will be bolstered by a Red Son Power Girl and several other Red Son-inspired DC characters. Brock will be busy at the LVCE leading the Cosplaying 101 panel and helping the other panelists as the cosplay director. Brock has recently branched out past the superhero genre into the twin worlds of anime and manga which is what led her from only having read Death Note to exploring the world of Code Geass. As she says of her choice of Leila, “I love powerful characters that are portrayed as leaders and also value a team.” Both of the costumes are brand new for Brieanna Brock, who loves the challenge that a new costume provides. Speaking of her Red Son Wonder Woman Brock says “it was definitely a challenge and after being finished I feel proud to bring that inspiration to life. Showing it off is fun too, it’s a perfect opportunity to educate others about the character, the series, and cosplaying in general.”

In the female-dominated world that is cosplay, there are pockets of masculinity, which will be represented at the Las Vegas Comic Expo by the 501st Neon Garrison of Stormtroopers who will be featured in their own panel on Saturday.

The First Las Vegas Comic Expo

Three T-Shirt Designs from Zombie vs. Human I Run With Zombies Zombie Eating Power Up Mushroom and Zombie Unicorn or Zombiecorn

Zombie vs. Human Shirts

In 2012, Ralph Mathieu, owner of Las Vegas’ own Alternate Reality Comics attended and exhibited at the first Las Vegas Comic Expo and spoke highly of the experience as well as his vendor sales. Mathieu is particularly looking forward to seeing writer Gerry Conway at this year’s expo. Conway co-created The Punisher, helped kill off Gwen Stacy, and created the DC character Firestorm, but it’s his Spiderman-Superman crossover which Mathieu holds in particularly high esteem. Alternate Reality Comics is joined by many other Las Vegas local comic book stores in the exhibitors’ hall including Maximum Comics, Avatar Comics and Games, and Comic Oasis. Avatar chief Kristian Norberg said that the previous year was a “success” for his store and ran “fairly well”, paying for the booth rental and then some. Besides selling comics and merchandise to attendees, Norberg was able to take in and enjoy the Artists’ Alley at the 2012 LVCE. Any fears he had of a comic convention fiasco, such as the one Las Vegas witnessed in 2003 at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, were allayed by his experience the first year.

And Other Exhibitors

L.A.-based Zombie vs. Human will be exhibiting at the Las Vegas Comic Expo, selling a variety of men’s and women’s T-shirts with zombie themes, all in an effort for customers to be prepared “for the zombie apocalypse”. For proprietor Aaron Berg, the Comic Expo is a chance to be among like-minded company for whom their clothing line requires little to no explanation.

Card-Boards Wooden Card Holders

Ever since I first used a Card-Boards Card Holder at a friend’s house, I’ve been hooked on the devices and want to use them in every game that uses more than three playing cards. $15 gets you four of the attractive, smooth, wooden holders from Card-Boards, located in Orem, Utah. I sprung for eight of them because the Card Holders really are that useful. It may be hyperbole to claim that the boards revolutionize card games, but now that I have used them, I don’t want to go back to spending 15-90 minutes holding a hand of cards. Imagine playing Scrabble without the tray for your letter tiles and you’ll begin to understand the true worth of Card-Boards.

Cards from Guildhall Board Game from AEG held in wooden Card-Boards card holder

AEG’s Guildhall Cards are Easily Sorted Using a Card-Board

While Card-Boards.com owner David Hacking originally made his card holders for family games of Ticket to Ride, they are useful and usable for almost any card game where players need to hold a private hand of cards. Hacking’s now sold over 2,000 of the boards and it’s easy to see why. Measuring 10″ by 3.75″ wide by 0.75″ tall, a Card-Board has four slots cut into it. Each card holder holds about 16 standard playing cards without the cards overlapping one another. The slots are cut to a depth of approximately 3/8ths of an inch and will obscure that much of a playing card. As for quality, I imagine the wooden boards will last a lifetime and beyond. There are other companies besides Card-Boards making this style of wooden board, of course, but I found Card-Boards’s response to my order as well as the shipping to be lightning fast. If you’re playing with unprotected cards without plastic sleeves, the Card-Boards also help to prevent the transfer of sweat, oil, and Cheeto-dust to the cards that can happen with prolonged gripping. Your cards should also remain straighter because they’ll be free of the bending tendency that accompanies holding cards in a semi-circle.

Game of Thrones LCG Lannister cards in wooden Card-Boards holder

A Card-Board Card Holder Can Keep a Pride of Lions Ready for the Game of Thrones LCG

A Significant Downside and Two Minor Ones

The only real downside to the Card-Boards is obvious in that they require a flat surface to rest upon. In small cramped spaces or without a table available the Card-Boards will not be of much use. A minor downside of the card holders is that properly holding a hand of cards is an actual learned skill that is expected of most adult gamers. I may be making a mountain out of a molehill, but children do need to develop manual dexterity and hand and finger strength, besides the skill of not revealing one’s hand to other players. However as an adult, I’ll stick to a Card-Board when I can get away with it and avoid hand cramps. The only other problem the Card Board could pose is that it reveals your hand when other players get up from the table and walk around to answer the phone or get more chips and soda. In this respect, it’s also like a Scrabble tray but at the point where this becomes an issue, you’ve probably got bigger ones.

The Perfect Use for Card-Boards: Hanabi

R&R Games’ Hanabi is an addictive game of near-silent cooperation, the 2013 Spiel des Jahres Game of the Year Winner, and also the perfect way to use Card-Boards card holders. While I’ve played Hanabi a number of times, I’ve never done so by holding the cards in my hand. Instead we play using the Card-Boards. Each player’s hand of 5 cards is always perfectly visible and we have an easy time pointing out which card to discard or play. With a player’s cards tilting away from that player there is no danger of a player getting a glimpse at his own cards and the game becomes a purely mental and social exercise. The Card-Boards have the added advantage of allowing further organization based on the transmitted knowledge of what number or color cards are by using the other three rows. Now this may break the spirit of the game, but players could possibly do so already by trying to hold their cards in different places by using their ring or pinky fingers.

Game of Hanabi played using wooden Card-Boards card holders

Hanabi is Much Easier and More Enjoyable with Card-Boards Card Holders

Excellent for the Elderly and Others with Special Needs

As good as the Card-Boards are for a fairly healthy adult, they are even better for the elderly or others who suffer from arthritis. As such, the Card-Boards would make a great gift to a grandmother or grandfather. Children (or adults) with disabilities will also benefit from the Card-Boards. Simply by using a card holder, those with moderate to severe cerebral palsy or who are quadriplegic could still play most card games and retain the same level of secrecy that most card games demand. The dealer could deal cards directly into the Card-Board with the player giving instructions as to which cards to play or remove. “Play the middle card.” or “Discard the second card from my left.” could suffice for instructions.

The Fan Style of Card Holders: Not as Useful

When compared to the fan style of card holders, where cards are clipped or slid into a holder, the Card-Boards design comes out ahead since it has multiple rows, is more durable than plastic, is stylish, and is generally less expensive. Handheld fan-style holders can be just as hard for those with disabilities to hold as managing a hand of cards conventionally. Due to this, I would recommend Card-Boards to both teachers and parents because they allow every child to participate in educational games and activities. Any concerns a student may have about standing out from his or her peers by using a card holder will vanish once their peers realize just how many advantages a Card-Board has and just how comfortably one can play by using one. Every player will want one.

Resource cards from Attika in wooden Card-Boards Card Holders

Even for Games with Fewer Cards Like Attika, the Card-Boards are Useful and Keep Hands Free

Knight Chills – Roleplaying with a Vengeance DVD

DVD cover of Knight Chills Roleplaying with a Vengeance with a knight's great helm in the foregroundIn 2000 at CineVegas I saw the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Its director was also its only star, playing over 40 roles as the screen cut from one camcorder shot to another. Sometimes he conversed with himself and other times he “acted” with a dummy. He also wore a gorilla suit. One by one viewers left the theater. Some swore in disgust. One newcomer came in and got up and left in less than a minute. It became an endurance contest as those of us who remained enjoyed a sort of camaraderie, occasionally looking over at one another with disbelieving looks, grateful to have something else to look at besides that dreadful, dreadful movie. Knight Chills from 2001 may not be as bad, but it is plain awful and ranks among the worst movies I have ever seen. In fact, on IMDB I give it 1 out of 10 stars.

The film centers around a group of roleplayers so unlike one another that my suspension of disbelief snapped within the first five minutes. We have one or two jocks who like to bully a fellow player when not getting drunk, a stoner and his girlfriend, another girl who is overweight and snarky, and the group’s GM, a high school teacher whose wife occasionally plays too. Then there is John, who is pretty intense. It takes over 40 minutes of painful exposition on screen before unlikeable nerd John finally gives in and crashes his car into a tree in an emo fit of rage, sorrow, and rejection. Naturally John mutters a spell-curse as any roleplayer would before he kills himself, “To the land of the shadow I will ride, turning from the cold earth, deep my love, my vengeance. Squire and steed, the quest will be fulfilled by the solstice of Yule; I cross the Veil.” Then his car explodes and he roars demonically in the flames.

If I seem a little apathetic about the nerd tragedy that is John, let me explain that I’m probably not being harsh enough. At the beginning of Knight Chills, when his mother or aunt mentions that Uncle Sal is dying, John storms out of the house and mutters “Sea hag!” under his breath. It comes out that he has lied to her about attending gaming for the night, since she’s religious and against his roleplaying. Maybe she’s still bothered too about John allegedly killing his younger brother (a rumor the GM’s wife is delighted to share). Besides this matter of murder, John constantly hits on the stoner/slacker Zac’s girlfriend, both calling her number 14 times without leaving a message and making overtures to her in person, creeping her out by kneeling and begging, “Please don’t leave, Jahandra. Let me warm you with my pledge of undying affection.” Her boyfriend, the stoner Zac, is played by DJ Perry. And it’s DJ Perry we have to thank for this piece of garbage, since he produced and helped write it. Its production values for normal scenes are actually not that bad (reminiscent of an X-Files episode) but the acting, along with the horrid script, is probably one of the reasons that Knight Chills belongs in the horror section.

That and the whole revenge theme and coming back from the Beyond. John unfortunately doesn’t stay dead and instead returns as the semi-mysterious Black Knight. Does he right wrongs in this new form? No, he continues the lame existence he already had and leaves red roses as an ominous foreshadowing before killing his fellow roleplayers who mocked him in life. Maybe they deserve it too; they also mock him at his own funeral, clowning around until they are shushed. Despite his purported knightly ideals in life, the Black Knight also kills off a random, innocent bystander girl. For a fuller plot summary with many more laughs than the actual Knight Chills, read Something Awful’s review.

Gaming in Knight Chills: “This is a game.”

For all of its many evils, Knight Chills does manage to capture some typical gaming moments in the two gaming sessions at the start of the film, however poorly lit they are. The group plays by candlelight, of course, as all true role-players do, in a basement with cobblestones painted onto the cinderblocks. Wooden shelves loaded with miniatures beckon over the GM’s shoulder. The GM even wears a special Renaissance hat in the second session. The players break down as follows:

  • John – Sir Jonathan Kallio, a Knight of the Rose, High Executioner, Protector of the Golden Flame of the Ancients, who wields a Sword of Righteousness
  • Zac – Morgan who wields a sword (and has the least amount of roleplaying time on screen)
  • Brooke – The enchantress Jahandra who uses “Dagger of Fire” and “Angelic Blast” spell abilities
  • Nancy – The ranger Shanara who uses enchanted arrows
  • Hanee – Teek, who has a Brooch of Illusion which grants invisibility. He also has a Crystal of Penetration.
  • Russell – Aristo the bard, who curiously wields a battle axe (unless he is referring to his guitar as his axe)
  • Laura – Catherine, a priestess, who stands ready with her herbs and magic, serving her “Ultimate God”

The players encounter goblins in the first session before confronting an ice demon with an “icy scourge” on a mountainside. Jack the GM (or Lord of Lore in the film’s fictional RPG) narrates with passion, but the real conflict at the table happens between players John and Hanee, whose characters come to blows after Hanee has Teek attempt to spook Sir Kallio’s horse. The action spills over into real life, despite warnings that “This is a game.” Hanee fumes outside the GM’s house, “I’m going to choke the piss out of that little geek.”

In the second session the characters are in a maze and take turns describing their characters’ actions. The GM pulls Hanee aside into a different room to describe what Teek sees as he scouts ahead. This is a nice touch and perhaps the first and only cinematic capture of roleplaying on the side of a group. The camera circles around the room as the group fights a demon. Throughout both gaming sessions there are sound effects and music, added to heighten the viewer’s tension. I’m on the fence about their inclusion, but since Knight Chills is so bad, it doesn’t really matter anyway. More interestingly, while they play with miniatures, there are also random Woodland Scenics trees on the tabletop in both scenes. I have to imagine that director Katherine Hicks or one of the set directors suggested adding them to create a more visually interesting tabletop, but they are odd and out of place.

While it’s never shown on camera, John also works as a hobby shop clerk where a popular game called Pandemonium is played. When the GM confides that he can’t let his wife know about his spending habits, John is in disbelief, “No way! You can never spend too much on gaming stuff!” John has a point there.

The Redemption Found in Knight Chills

For a brief moment Knight Chills actually gets good. John has died and his funeral’s over. Jack the GM calls to his wife to come downstairs, asking if she’s touched anything. Miniatures have mysteriously been set up on the basement table on a “dungeon floor plan”, which the wife recognizes as the layout of their house! They go to check on their son and his rocking horse is rocking eerily, but he’s “fast asleep” in bed. Creepy! Sadly this doesn’t continue and rather than the survivors needing to roleplay or analyze miniatures to solve the mystery, the Black Knight slowly stalks and kills off his victims. The miniatures scene also features the best actor in the film, Tim Jeffrey, as the GM. His on-screen partner Laura, played by Laura Alexander, is the pits though. Ultimately roleplaying does play a part in dealing with the Black Knight at the climax of the film with the GM using his Ultimate GM Authority, “I command you to hold, for I, and I alone, am the Lord of the Lore. You have done well on your quest. All your enemies are vanquished and you’ve won the love of fair Jahandra with your courage and your bravery. I declare this campaign over. You may cross over now, into the Hall of Heroes where you may eat and drink and sing song until ye be summoned to action once again.” If only I got to make such speeches at the end of every adventure or campaign!

All Those Other Gaming Movies: Not So Bad

Apart from those few scenes, another redeeming quality that Knight Chills has is that it makes other bad movies about roleplaying look brilliant by comparison. I would gladly watch the bizarre Skullduggery over and over again rather than ever lay eyes on Knight Chills again. Geekin’ can be painful to watch, but at least it has some comedic moments. The fairly straight-laced Mazes and Monsters seems better and better every time I’ve watched Knight Chills. Maybe that guy Tom Hanks should have gotten an Oscar for his part.

And What Knight Chills Reveals About IMDB

Knight Chills also revealed something else. It has a number of accurate reviews on IMDB.com for a movie that is on the level of Transylvania 5000, Ishtar, and Batman & Robin; most reviewers try to warn other viewers about what a horrible movie it is and to avoid it at all costs. Their warnings:

  • “the dumbest movie ever made” – angelandthebeast
  • “the worst piece of crap I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot of horrible B-movies)” – moovie_expert
  • “Whatever you do, do not waste your time or money on this one!!!!!” – bluebloodraven
  • “I had honestly thought I had seen the worst movies had to offer, until I saw Knight Chills I was wrong.” – JFerenczy

So it stands out when users give it 6, 7, 8 and even 10 stars. I’ll be the first to admit that my Perception can be quite low, but it has taken me all these years to recognize that IMDB can be a great haven for internet trolls, who can rate a bad movie positively just to enjoy their victims’ imagined anguish and grief. Further investigation also reveals that many of the positive reviews were done by reviewers who only have reviewed Knight Chills and no other movies. Knight Shills anyone? In all fairness, most of the negative reviewers from above had also only reviewed Knight Chills and no other movie on IMDB, but I tend to credit that to their humanity and overwhelming desire to save others’ time from the horror that is Knight Chills.

Consider, if you care to, the following review and note the reviewer’s IMDB username. Either it’s a perfect internet trolling or a bit of self-promotion from the film’s producer/writer/stoner.

imdb review with name djperry at top and 10 stars for film Knight Chills

DVD Bonus Features: The Dungeon

If you actually bother to watch Knight Chills despite warnings about how bad it is, at least reward yourself with the Dungeon Tour bonus feature. In it, one of the writers, Jeff Kennedy, takes the viewer on a tour of the basement room or “dungeon” used for the roleplaying sessions. Kennedy also explains that some of the film’s bizarre RPG persecution scenes were based on his own life as a teacher. Besides the aforementioned shelves of miniatures, there are also trophies that Kennedy’s gaming club collected from years of attending Gen Con and a giant Shivan Dragon M:TG card. Kennedy started the dungeon in 1989, but began gaming as a wargamer in the 1970s, and built his own custom, maplewood gaming table as well as an initiative tracker using wooden discs on a rod. Kennedy ends his tour by saying “Gaming inspired my partner DJ Perry and I to write and produce Knight Chills – and possibly Knight Chills – Part 2, we’ll see – and I hope it inspires you to do a bit more gaming. Some of the best times I’ve ever had have been around this table gaming.”