Belegarth’s Battle for the Ring VI Set to Rule Them All January 17-20

Belegarth foam fighters clash in dusty Battle Game at Battle for the Ring V in Chino CA

Battle for the Ring Brings out the Best of Belegarth

On January 17, a horde of over 400 foam fighters and battle gamers will descend on Prado Regional Park near the San Gabriel Mountains of Chino, California for three days of camping, combat, and camaraderie at Battle for the Ring VI. While Battle for the Ring founder and coordinator Anastasia Nagel says that all signs point to the event surpassing 450 in attendance, for Nagel the magic number to beat is 407, which was the attendance at last year’s Chaos Wars in Idaho. By comparison, the fifth Battle for the Ring in 2013 drew 378. When not dishing it out in massive field battles, Belegarth and Dagorhir fighters will compete in tournaments, attend classes ranging from Great Weapons to Brewing to Embroidery, and party like it’s 1099. In 2013 Nagel took Battle for the Ring VI to Kickstarter and was successful in crowdfunding $3,685 for the event, which may soon be the largest Belegarth event west of the Mississippi. For anyone who missed the boat on the special Kickstarter admittance, $40 will cover the three days and four nights of camping and fighting.

Battle for the Ring VI Activities

What: Battle for the Ring VI
Where: Prado Regional Park, Chino, CA
When: January 17-20, 2014
How Much: $40 Admission
Website: https://www.facebook.com/events/603470826342638/

At the heart of Battle for the Ring are the field battles and much like at SCA Wars, the prime fighting is reserved for the weekend. This year’s climactic, final battle is called the Siege of Barad’dur and will be fought on Sunday. It may feature a castle objective constructed out of patio posts and tarps to represent the Dark Tower of Mordor. Nagel, who fights under the game name of Anastasia of Chamonix, was a little hush-hush in describing the scenario, wishing to keep it a surprise for those attending, but elaborated that the final battle is a derivative of a bridge battle. The scenarios are the creations of Field Marshal Salvador Solis, or as he’s known in Belegarth circles, Darth Cheeseheart. To coincide with the fifth Battle of the Ring last year, Cheeseheart created a Battle of Five Armies scenario with forces fighting over Smaug’s treasure. Similarly the second Battle for the Ring featured a battle based on the Two Towers.

Even if they lack a thematic name or purpose, Darth Cheeseheart has been hard at work in planning all of the other unit battles that will unfold at BftR. He plans on staging other “castle-siege type games” as well as Capture the Flag with anywhere from two to eight teams. In another battlefield scenario, teams will work to transport an item across the field. With the short winter daylight hours and the limited time frame of only three days, for Nagel it’s important to get everyone out onto the field fighting at the same time, as opposed to Chaos Wars which is a week-long event that takes advantage of lingering summertime sunlight. Another highlight of Saturday will be the feast in the evening, which is included in the $40 admission. Catered by Porto’s Bakery, the feast will be a festive time to trade war stories over meat pies and chicken pies, not to mention stuffed potato balls, salad, fruit, and bread.

Bel Bowl and Aztec Football

While he’s not the creator of Aztec Football, Cheeseheart is particularly proud of his Bel Bowl Aztec Football tournament, describing it as his “baby”. Aztec Football features teams of 8-10 players taking turns on offense and defense, with the offense using a designated player as the “ball”. If the “ball” manages to make it through the goal markers (set approximately 15-20 feet apart), the team on offense scores a point. If he or she is thwarted, the teams switch sides, playing through three rotations of offense and defense. Fighters do not respawn when killed each turn, so careful tactical play is a necessity in the special battle game which allows armor, but not archery. And the Bel Bowl is popular! Salvador Solis expects 100-120 participants this year and describes Bel Bowl as “the most competitive fighting aspect of the entire event, with top-tier teams and fighters joining.” Part of the thrill of Bel Bowl is the pageantry of the parade that precedes the actual fighting with judges awarding points to teams in the parade based on costuming, intimidation factor, evocation of the Aztec/tribal theme, and originality. In keeping with its Aztec theme, the figurehead captains of the losing teams will be ceremonially “beheaded” at the end of each match. For the winning Bel Bowl team there is eternal glory… and belt favors. The belt favors will feature an Aztec design as well as the words “Bel Bowl 2014” to commemorate what will be a hard-fought victory.

The Dominance of Catalyst at Bel Bowl

The team to beat in 2014 already has Bel Bowl 2012 and Bel Bowl 2013 belt favors. With most members hailing from Oregon, Team Catalyst has won Bel Bowl two years in a row. In explaining their dominance Solis credited the unit’s leader Bhakdar as being “perhaps the best fighter in our entire region.” At 6’5” Bhakdar certainly looks the part of the ogre persona he plays in game. Teammate Jeremy “Remy” Brookshire elaborated on Catalyst’s past successes, “I guess our ‘secret’ is that the vast majority of us have been fighting together since high school or from the heyday of Babylon [in Bend, Oregon] where all of us lived or fought, sometimes two to three times a week. We know each other, our individual strengths and weaknesses and we know how to survive; it’s how we won every field battle at Chaos Wars XV, when we won the banner.” Staying true to their name, Catalyst has also catalyzed Aztec Football at the Bel Bowl through their heavy use of javelins, allowing them to strike at range.

Classes and Tournaments

Combat Class schedule and tournaments from Battle for the Ring VI

BftR VI Has Many Combat Classes and Tournaments to Offer

Nagel is also proud of Battle for the Ring’s expanded class offerings. Now attending fighters from the rest of California, as well as Montana, Washington, Nevada, and Wyoming can take classes in Embroidery, Brewing, Belly Dancing, English Dancing, and Traditional Hand Drumming. Combat classes include Amtgard 101, Imbalanced Skirmish Tactics, Introduction to Reds (which are great weapons capable of “breaking” shields), Offensive Shield-Work, and Fundamentals of Archery, all taught by volunteers. Ever since Battle for the Ring grew out of being a day event at the UC Irvine campus, Nagel has turned to a growing team of volunteers to assist in pulling off the event. Nagel estimates that she has about 25 volunteers in charge of particular areas, whether they be Arts & Sciences classes or Security. These 25 in turn will have over a hundred volunteers toiling under them.

One such department volunteer is Aizen of the San Diego realm of Andor. Aizen will be overseeing all of Battle for the Ring’s daily tournaments which have a very narrow time frame, running from 12:00 to 1:00 on Friday and Saturday and beginning at 11:30 AM on Sunday. Besides the aforementioned Bel Bowl, the tournaments will cover Florentine (two weapons), Polearms, a Newbie Tournament for fighters of no more than a year’s experience, an armored melee-weapon Champions tournament, a 4 Man team tournament, and an Alpha/Omega tournament which forces veteran fighters to pair up with newbies.

Camp Open Houses

Another innovation for 2014 that Anastasia Nagel eagerly anticipates are the Camp Open Houses, which will begin at 6 PM on Friday night. Established camps have been invited to host an activity or to provide food for visitors and will be denoted by lanterns hanging outside their camp entrances. As the Empress of the Anduril Empire of Southern California, Nagel will be hosting an Alice in Wonderland-themed bash within BftR’s castle, taking the roll of the Mad Queen. Visitors will be made to switch chairs, much like musical chairs, except in this case, when the music stops, there will be a symbolic execution for the slow and chairless. Not to worry, the “dead” will also receive a consolation bag of candy.

Char of Blackwater needs no consolation. Instead he’s excited about the Blackwater camp as well as Bel Bowl, which he calls “a great scrap every year!” The Blackwater household will be hosting a Resurrection of Disco party for its Open House and includes members from several different units throughout Belegarth. Members bear a Blackwater house sash adorned with the group’s device, the rook. But there’s a group within the group: the fighting unit of House Blackwater is the Cult of Blackwater. Cultists are further denoted by their voodoo doll sashes. Somehow disco does figure into all of this as the Cult of Blackwater will be performing a sacred reincarnation ritual and drawing a spirit into a host body who will perform something akin to the “Indonesian Sanghyang trance dance. But with disco.” As if that weren’t enough, Blackwater also promises to add Voodoo zombis and loads of Kool-Aid to the mix.

For those who prefer earthier and heartier entertainment, the Germania camp will feature traditional medieval German food at their Open House and drew praise from Nagel for their “entirely period camp” that the nationwide group sets up. Rather than sleeping in mundane nylon tents from REI, Germanians sleep in shelters fashioned out of canvas and cook all of their food in cast iron pots. The group has been rehearsing its version of the popular Viking drinking song “Life Blood” to teach to camp visitors, as well as the board game hnefttafl.

The Dragon’s Inn: Tabletop Gaming

Speaking of board games, from 7:00 PM to 1:00 AM every evening there will be tabletop gaming indoors at the Dragon’s Inn. Gamers can level up in Munchkin or play other board and card games like Settlers of Catan, chess, Bang! or Cards Against Humanity. This year there will be a Magic: The Gathering draft tournament called The Wizard’s Duel which will span the length of Battle for the Ring with players drafting cards for $7 on Friday evening and culminating final battles on Sunday night. The tournament and game room are the domains of Anastasia Nagel’s real life husband, Brian Marion, who fights in Belegarth under the name of Golem. As for Nagel, she’s not a big tabletop gamer and describes herself as “the brutal combat one in the family”, fighting with her preferred sword and shield or “sword and board” as it is known in battle gaming and LARPing. The Prado Regional Park holds a special place in the couple’s hearts because they were married there in 2011 with their wedding even being a Belegarth game event.

Battle for the Ring VI Feasting Fighting Schedule

A Portion of Battle for the Ring VI’s Extensive Schedule

Battle for the Ring VI “Celebrities” and BeyondGeek Documentary

In the real world he’s Dane Johns and a graduate student studying Medieval History, but in Belegarth his name is Sir Par. He’s also the president of the Belegarth Medieval Combat Society and has been playing Belegarth since 2003 and he’s very, very excited about attending Battle for the Ring VI. As a knight, Sir Par has five squires under his tutelage including Salvador “Cheeseheart” Solis and is especially looking forward to his Squires’ Trial which he will run on Sunday morning, “testing their teamwork, leadership, and adaptability against some of the best fighters in the sport.” Sir Par will be coming down from his home realm of Rath in Boise, Idaho. Besides overseeing the overall corporate welfare of Belegarth, chairing its legislative War Council, and setting the national standards for qualified marshals, Sir Par also does a good bit of fighting as well and pointed out that he is always a “tournament win possibility” himself. Sir Par confirmed that should Battle for the Ring reach Anastasia Nagel’s estimation of 450 people, that it will be the second largest Belegarth event in the world, trailing behind Octoberfest which draws between 800-1000 Belegrim annually.

Thomas Hegstrom Oakey shares Sir Par’s enthusiasm for Battle for the Ring. More famously known as Elwrath, Hegstrom Oakey hails from Provo, Utah where he is a member of Ered Duath and said of Battle for the Ring, “I can’t tell you how much I enjoy it each year; it’s a infusion of new life after a dreary winter. I will go every year if possible.” In 2013, Elwrath was a critical member of the winning four-man team in the Four Horsemen tournament at the War of Reckoning in Southern Utah. His Elite Blood Falcons unit has won the first unit battle at Battle for the Ring for the last two years running as well, but Bel Bowl victory has eluded Elwrath at Battle for the Ring thus far. The Elite Blood Falcons Bel Bowl team has come in second place behind Catalyst for the last two years, so he will come to this year’s Battle for the Ring with a score to settle. The Elite Blood Falcons tend to live up to the first part of their name and are composed of individuals who pride themselves on being or trying to be, in Elwrath’s words, “top-tier fighters. We have had (and still do to some extent) a policy of only approaching and recruiting ‘elite’ fighters.” Founded 21 years ago in Tennessee by Ivan Darkspear, the Elite Blood Falcons have members throughout the country with pockets in Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee, Michigan, and Idaho. As for the Elite Blood Falcons’ chances in the Bel Bowl this year – and especially against Catalyst – Elwrath admitted that Team Catalyst’s members “will make for a challenge no matter what kind of team I can muster to fight them. I do think we’ll have a better chance than ever before though.” A part of that better chance will be the right gear for the fight; Elite Blood Falcons’ opponents can expect a lot more armor from the team this year as well as javelins being thrown at them.

Peter the Quick is another visiting fighter who is famous within Belegarth circles and will be traveling all the way from the Numenor realm in the Champaign/Urbana area of Illinois. He will reunite with Catalyst’s Bhakdar, who was his former roommate in college. Jeremy “Remy” Brookshire of Catalyst estimates that Bhakdar and Peter the Quick are “in the top 2%” of fighters in the three most popular battle games of Dagorhir, Belegarth, and Amtgard. Peter the Quick has certainly had time to improve his fighting style; he began fighting in August, 2001 at Tir Asleen in Ames, Iowa. Peter the Quick looks forward to seeing old friends at BftR as well as meeting a whole new host of fighters with whom he has yet to cross blades. As for Peter the Quick’s legendary reputation, his Numenorian ally (and Forged Foam owner) Sir Galin attributes it to both his unparalleled skill in one-on-one combat within Numenor and his social skills. As Sir Galin says, Peter the Quick “takes the time to teach and build relationships with so many younger fighters.” Sir Par also did not take long in vetting Peter the Quick’s skill at arms, pointing out that Peter the Quick, Bhakdar, Elwrath, and a fighter named Shy who will be attending Battle for the Ring “are four of the top ten fighters in Bel.” What makes Peter the Quick so good? It turns out that “the Quick” part of his name isn’t ironic; “Peter the Quick is very fast,” said Sir Par, who then added “But his overall approach really revolutionized two weapon fighting” as well.

BeyondGeek Battle Gaming Episode

Still shot showing foam fighters from Dagorhir's Mallenorod chapter in a fighting line with female in front

From BeyondGeek: The Camera Follows Dagorhir’s Mallenorod

A documentary film crew from BeyondGeek will be following the Mallenorod Dagorhir group from the San Francisco Bay Area over the course of the weekend for an episode dedicated to the emerging sport of battle gaming. The episode’s host, Sage Michael, has been training with the Mallenorod chapter where he learned how to create his own foam boffer, as well as the basics of Dagorhir combat. According to series producer Joe Gillis, BeyondGeek is intended to air on PBS and may eventually be available via DVD. Gillis’ credits include Yard Crashers and Turf War on the DIY Network, as well as a stint on America’s Heartland on PBS. Each of BeyondGeek’s first season’s six episodes will focus on a single geeky topic for 30 minutes from JP Aerospace to World War II reenactors to the battle gamers represented by Mallenorod. Gillis and his seven man crew will be capturing a lot of the action on all three days of Battle for the Ring.

Belegarth and Dagorhir? Battle Gaming? Jump right in!

Though heavily inspired by the Lord of the Rings, in both Belegarth and Dagorhir the focus is on martial prowess and skill at wielding foam boffer swords and shields, instead of cries of “Lightning bolt! Lightning bolt!” The closest either battle game comes to magic is the seldom-used Healing Poem of Dagorhir, which Belegarth realms abandoned when they split off from Dagorhir in 2001. That’s not to say that there won’t be fantasy elements at Battle for the Ring. There will undoubtedly be players at Battle for the Ring who identify as goblins, trolls, and dwarves and though not every Dagorhim or Belegrim plays tabletop RPGs like Pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons, almost every battle gamer has acted out an interest in fantasy by playing those games or World of Warcraft, League of Legends, or other fantasy video games.

The rules of Belegarth and Dagorhir have remained similar despite the Belegarth-Dagorhir split; in both rule sets, most battle games are over in 3-15 minutes and typically involve “killing” opponents by strikes to the torso. The head is an invalid target for melee strikes, while arms and legs count as limbs, lose two of them and it counts as a death. The rules of Belegarth are collected together to form the Belegarth Book of War, which is only seven pages long when viewed as a PDF. If seven pages are too much for any prospective fighters, Battle for the Ring will be offering three Intro to Belegarth combat classes throughout the weekend, providing ample opportunity for any new fighters to test their mettle and dive into battle gaming.

Las Vegas Comic Expo 2013 Cosplay Contest

Cosplay Contest at Las Vegas Comic Expo with Iron Man standing in Front with Palms Lit up By Lights

Iron Man Joins the Cosplayers For a Photo Op

An expectant crowd gathered Saturday evening at the 2013 Las Vegas Comic Expo, awaiting the start of the Cosplay Contest. Judging the event were cosplay guests Brieanna Brock, Toni Darling, Ivy Doomkitty, and Jackie Goehner, while Valerie Perez served as the MC. Perez occasionally made humorous asides as contestants strutted their stuff on stage, but more often, was a reassuring figure in her Wonder Woman costume with all the warmth and charm of Dolly Parton.

Cosplayers gathered on stage with a variety of costumes including Mami Kraven and Invisible Woman

Superhero Cotumes Predominate at Las Vegas Comic Expo

One by one contestants stepped onto the stage and turned around to model their costumes. Some delivered lines of dialogue. Kickass and Hit Girl had a lengthy interaction with a good deal of acrobatics involved. Later a second Kickass took the stage, this time with batons. There was a Judge Dredd who took command of the stage, three of the Watchmen in the form of the Comedian, Night Owl, and Rorschach, and a Flame Princess from Adventure Time. A Ghostbuster had to slowly turn to show off his backpack’s elaborate details. The cosplay of Edna E. Mode from The Incredibles had the audience in stitches, while some lesser-known costumes drew polite applause and a good deal of confusion. Solid Snake knelt on stage, pistol at the ready. “Gender bender,” spoken by Valerie Perez, introduced a Captain America as well as a Dr. Who later on. DC had both heroes and villains with a Red Son Superman and a Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Joker. Not to be outdone, Marvel had a Wolverine, an excellent Jubilee, and an original Nick Fury. Kraven the Hunter stalked the stage. Pinky Pie from My Little Pony was exuberant, matched only by the adult Ash from Pokemon, who was met with a roar of laughter when he did his victory pose. There were two separate pairs from web-comic Homestuck and finally two adorable children who shyly wandered about the stage, with the boy in a Captain America costume and his sister in Fantastic 4 get-up as the Invisible Woman.

Cosplay Contest at Las Vegas Comic Expo with DC characters Red Son Superman, The Comedian, Poison Ivy blowing a kiss, Catwoman, The Joker, Harley Quinn, and Rorshach

DC Characters Face Off Against Their Marvel Counterparts While the Judges Deliberate

As the judges conferred all of the contestants piled onto the stage for group pictures including a suggested Marvel vs. DC. At this point Tony Stark must have put the bottle down, because an Iron Man materialized onstage and posed. There was a brief Kickass-Kickass conference before they leapt up onto the stage, bringing Hit Girl with them to photobomb the Marvel vs. DC shoot.

Kickass Cosplayer Looking Uncertainly at Marel and DC Characters around him on stage

Kickass #2 Looking a Little Panicked About the Kickass Photobomb

The Results

Kickass looks down at a grinning Hit Girl onstage at the Las Vegas Comic Expo's Cosplay Contest

Entertaining Duo: Kickass and Hit Girl

First up were the honorees with the judges recognizing Kickass and Hit Girl. Though they had such good chemistry that they might seem to be brother and sister, Kickass later revealed that the two had only met earlier in the day. With only a quick rehearsal, the pair was quite entertaining. The Hit Girl cosplayer announced “I want to be Hit Girl when I grow up!” and then it was on to fellow honorees Karina Perez and Tiffany Silver as Blondie and Baby Doll from Sucker Punch. Perez won a signed James Stone comic, while her counterpart got a gift certificate to a local bar and grill. For Perez, even the honorable mention was a shock, given how “amazing” her fellow cosplayers were and the fact that it was her first time cosplaying. The acknowledgement has fueled Perez and Silver who would like to expand their Sucker Punch group to include more girls, while individually Perez has begun work on a Power Girl costume.

Sucker Punch cosplays from Karina Perez and Tiffany Silver with both using guns at Las Vegas Comic Expo

Honorees Karina Perez and Tiffany Silver as Blondie and Baby Doll from Sucker Punch

3rd Place: Anne Marie Page as Rydia

Green-clad Anne Marie Page cosplays as Rydia from her wheelchair with a female Frieza and Edna E. Mode behind her at Las Vegas Comic Expo Cosplay Contest

Anne Marie Page as Rydia from Final Fantasy IV

Coming in at third place was Anne Marie Page as Rydia from Final Fantasy IV. Page was a fan of the Heather Irete’s Mami cosplay as well as Josh Dietrich’s Halo ODST Medic. She spent Sunday at the Las Vegas Comic Expo in an Oracle costume, but looks forward to playing Kyoko from Magica Madoka and Hsien-Ko from the Darkstalkers video game. Page has been cosplaying for over five years and has played Sailor Saturn, Chii, and Olette from Kingdom Hearts II.

2nd Place: Josh Dietrich as Halo ODST Medic

Halo ODST Medic Dietrich waits his turn at the Cosplay Contest at Las Vegas Comic Expo

Halo ODST Medic Dietrich Waits His Turn

While he took Best in Show in the Sy Fy Channel’s Naked Vegas’ Cosplay Contest the evening before, “both events were fun” for Halo ODST Medic Josh Dietrich, who took second place on Saturday evening. Dietrich is a fireman in the Air Force and also a cast member of Duel at Dusk Productions where he performs under the name of Crow Shadowfire. Earlier on Saturday Dietrich was in a Jedi costume because he also cosplays with the 501st’s Neon Garrison. His ODST costume took him two weeks to build, but he has adding to it over a period of months, describing it as a “work in progress.” The chest, arms, and legs are constructed out of high impact polystyrene with straps and buckles riveted to them. A close look at his costume reveals that his mundane name is painted on just above his visor. In a sense Dietrich is cosplaying as himself or as he puts it, “I basically took my character and said if I joined in 550 years, what would I do? This is pretty much what I would be doing.” As for his own favorite costumes, he favored the manly ones with a lot of props or armor, picking out Judge Dredd, as well as Kraven and Deathstroke. Judge Dredd’s costume had “a lot of detail” and his cosplayed “had the character” down, but Dietrich had praise in general for the contest as well: “a lot of people put a lot of time into all their costumes. It really impressed me.”

Shaved head Jedi Crow Shadowfire waves his hand to pass through Stormtroopers at Exhibition Hall at Las Vegas Comic Expo

Dietrich Pulls the Old Jedi Mind Trick on the 501st’s Neon Garrison Stormtroopers

1st Place: Buck Steele as Kraven the Hunter

Closeup detail of Kraven the Hunter cosplay jacket with lightup eyes

Closeup of Kraven Costume

Twenty-two years ago Buck Steele sold comics and ball cards at a collectibles shop and met his future wife when she walked through the door. The love and affection between the two was quite evident after the costume contest, in which Steele took first place for his Kraven the Hunter costume. Mrs. Steele said, “I think he’s pretty amazing. He just blows me away with his craftsmanship and his creativity.” Buck Steele’s foray into cosplay is a fairly recent one with Steele first cosplaying the Red Skull the previous year. By day Steele works in auto parts in Pahrump, Nevada which is roughly 45 minutes away from Las Vegas. The discovery of a “big Macklemore coat” at a yard sale prompted him to make his Kraven outfit. Thirty to forty hours later, after taking time for the paint to dry, and his costume was complete. The fur coat started out white, but Steele airbrushed a lot of color into it and his tights, which are the only part of his costume he had to send away for. The lion on his chest has light-up eyes which Steele got from Radio Shack.

Buck Steele cosplaying as Kraven the Hunter complete with Spear and Glowing Lion Eyes

Buck Steele as Kraven Poses on Saturday Night Once Most of the Audience Has Cleared Out

When Steele went up to receive his prize, the showboating super-menace known as Spiderman jumped up on stage and the two mugged for the cameras, just as they had done earlier in the day in the Exhibitors’ Hall. Steele shared that the hardest part of his costume was keeping his “gut sucked in.” As for which era of Kraven he was playing, Steele easily explained “This is straight-up Steve Ditko. Amazing Spiderman 15, first appearance. I got to take a picture with the book today!”

Best Group: Mami and Team Magpie

Heather Irete in handsewn Mami cosplay dress from Magica Madoka

Heather Irete as Mami

Next up was the Best Group award with Team Magpie winning. Led by Heather Irete who cosplayed as the character Mami, Team Magpie also consisted of three other members who worked a giant caterpillar creature down over Mami to “swallow” her during the group’s first time on stage. MC Valerie Perez called for an encore performance, “Let’s see her get eaten again!”

Heather Irete in cosplay as Mami from Magica Madoka waits to get her head eaten

Heather Irete as Mami Waits to Get Her Head Eaten Off by Giant Caterpillar

Irete’s no stranger to cosplay, having sewn and attended conventions for the last twelve years. She even has her own online cosplay portfolio, Angelic Threads. Irete was also a panelist earlier in the day at the Cosplay 101 panel. She estimates that her Mami costume took about two months, not counting the wig. “Each wig that I’ve worked on has probably been around ten to twenty hours each; it’s not an easy thing to make.” As for future costumes, Irete was full of enthusiasm as she outlined plans to construct a Tamaki costume from Oran Highschool Host Club, picking a male character who goes in drag in a dress at one point. Irete’s costuming attention is grabbed by anything that is “really silly, sparkly, and shiny”, which the character in the dress will certainly fulfill. She’ll also be wearing an Attack on Titan costume and a Final Fantasy VI costume in early November to AnimeVegas, where Irete is on staff. She’ll be joined by boyfriend Brian, who made up a third of Team Magpie (and is also a consummate board gamer) and together they’ll play Setzer and Daryl.

Best Performance: Andrew Myers as the Zombie

Valerie Perez dressed as Wonder Woman fends off Zombie with a baton on stage at Las Vegas Comic Expo

Wonder Woman Defends Herself!

Andrew Myers dragged himself onto stage both when he first shambled his stuff and later when he went to receive his prize for Best Performance. He also spent a good deal of time trying to chase Valerie Perez’s Wonder Woman down, but was a suitably slow predator for her to evade. That and she used the podium for protection as she tried to keep the undead menace at bay, though there may have also been threats to use her Lasso of Truth. She definitely warded Myers off with one of Kickass’s batons.

Horribly burnt Zombie cosplayer Andrew Myers next to smiling yellow trenchcoat wearing Jubilee in crowd at costume contest

Andrew Myers as the Zombie Watches Other Competitors Alongside Jubilee

Best Craftsmanship: Manuel Samson as Deathstroke

Deathstroke cosplayer brandishes sword on stage at Las Vegas Comic Expo

Deathstroke Brandishes His Blade

While there were a number of contenders for Best Craftsmanship, the title and the prize bag of comics from Cosmic Comics ultimately went to the guy whose completed helmet included a face mask, wood paste, paper mache, cardboard, stucco, a helmet, and a clay mold for the eye piece. In other words: Manuel Samson as Deathstroke. Samson estimates that he spent a month or two on the costume with much of it made out of cardboard including the chest and shoulder pads. Samson is another new convert to cosplay, having only done it since June, when he cosplayed as Black Mask from Batman at the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con. Samson was particularly taken with the artistry and effect achieved by the Dragon Ball Z cosplay of Frieza, which featured a lot of body paint.

Cosplays of Deathstroke, Inspector Gadget, Data from Star Trek, and a Raccoon City Resident Evil SWAT Member

Manuel Samson as Deathstroke Joined by Friends: Inspector Gadget, Data, and RCPD Officer

Best in Show: Samantha Nicole as the Painted Doll

The contest came to a close with the Best in Show award, with the winner receiving a Captain America statue limited to 250 copies. In the end the prize went to Arizona resident Samantha Nicole as the Painted Doll from the film The Devil’s Carnival. Samantha Nicole was elated with her win saying, “I feel so honored and it’s really, really awesome.” Not only did she win Best in Show, but it was Nicole’s first time ever entering a costume contest! She got her start in January 2013 when a friend told her that she “sucked at sewing”, so Samantha Nicole set out to prove her wrong and it seems to have worked!

The Painted Doll as cosplayed by Samantha Nicole at Las Vegas Comic Expo with Knightingail standing to her right

Samantha Nicole as the Painted Doll Joined by Fantasy Comic Character Knightingail

In “The Devil’s Carnival” the Painted Doll is played by actress and singer Emilie Autumn. Samantha Nicole is a huge fan and will be returning to Las Vegas later this month to see Autumn perform live at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. For Nicole cosplay is also an expression of her fandom as she loves the movie, the character, and the artist who plays the Painted Doll. As for her next costumes, she’s working on a Jean Gray/Phoenix costume, but would also like to cosplay as a Gatoman from Digimon as “nerdy” as that may be. There may also be a Poison Ivy “with roses in her hair” in her near future, based off of the Batgirl Begins episodes from the third season of the animated The Batman.

Samantha Nicole cosplaying as The Painted Doll next to Knightingail at Las Vegas Comic Expo

Samantha Nicole Displaying the Mannerisms of the Painted Doll with Knightingail

Samantha Nicole’s Captain America statue will stand “with pride” on her desk and keep watch over the cosplayer as she continues to prove her friend wrong. Appropriately enough, two of Nicole’s favorite costumes at the contest were the Invisible Woman and Captain America, worn by a brother and sister pair. “I really loved the little kids. They just stole my heart.”

Every Las Vegas Comic Expo 2013 Cosplay Contestant in costume crowded into a group shot

All of the Cosplay Contest Contestants Including the Adorable Invisible Woman and Captain America

For more pictures from Las Vegas Comic Expo 2013 and further articles about the convention, be sure to visit Craven Games on Facebook.

Top HeroClix Players Brawl and Smash at Las Vegas Comic Expo

Trophy Reading Las Vegas Comic Expo Heroclix Invitational 2013 with Heroclix on tableAt the recent 2013 Las Vegas Comic Expo some of the top HeroClix players in the country gathered for two days of tournament action. The crowning achievements in HeroClix organized play are the World Championships, which first took place at Gen Con in 2007. Beginning with Gen Con 2013, WizKids split the title into a Modern Age Champion and a Golden Age Champion. The Salt Lake City contingent at the Comic Expo was led by current Modern Age HeroClix World Champion Jake “Jeterey” Williams who brought two of his friends with him on the six-hour drive from Utah. Southern California players Pat Yapojco and Justin Jimenez – also familiar faces from Gen Con 2013 – brought even more friends from the LA area. Judging and organizing the event was another top player, Dustin Hall, who would have loved to play in it. In both 2011 and 2012 Hall was in the Top 10 at the World Championships. Also missing out on the playing action at the LVCE was Roland Wellington, a 2013 World Champion Top 8 finisher, who was manning the Cosmic Comics booth inside the exhibition hall at the expo. Wellington also has the distinction of having the first Masterpiece figure designed after winning the 2005 Wizard World HeroClix Championship Invitational Series in Los Angeles, selecting Wolverine as his figure. Saturday started with a Golden Age tournament and then switched to a charity tournament in the evening with the best prizes reserved for Sunday’s Modern Age tournament.

Golden Age Tournament: September 28

Team bases were predominant in Saturday’s Golden Age tourney with several New Mutant team bases, two X-Men Blue Strike Forces and one Hellfire Club. Other players favored figures on slightly smaller bases, including reigning Modern Champ Jake Williams, whose team revolved around Gotham City Police Department Cruisers.

Player Profile – Jake “Jeterey” Williams

From: Salt Lake City, UT
Day Job: Club DJ and Concert Promoter. Williams has a whole team of Go Go dancers who think it’s “hilarious” that he “plays with little plastic guys on the weekend. I can be at a club DJing on a Friday night and the next day be playing in a comic shop.”
Began Playing: 2004, 2005, “right after Legacy came out”.New York Yankees ball cap on Jake Williams head as he plays Heroclix
Favorite HeroClix Piece: “White Lantern Sinestro. It’s a fun figure, retired now, but it’s a really fun figure to play.”
Strategy for Golden Age:“To win? Kill them before they kill me.” Williams wanted to run people over with G.C.P.D. Cruisers again, with Talia from Batman Alpha and a Paramedic in his force as well. Williams devised the team after first coming up with another team that would beat everything except for cop cars/GCPD, so that’s the team he went with instead.
Favorite Power: “Any time you can deal damage without rolling the dice! Poison… there’s Star Trek ships with mines that do 3 damage.”
HC Realms Activity: Williams says he’s on it A LOT. “You have to though, because with all the powers, the questions, the rules, the new combos, if you don’t keep up on that stuff, someone else will and that someone else will beat you. I don’t mind getting outplayed, but I hate when I get beat by something that I just didn’t prepare for because I didn’t see it coming, you know, I didn’t study or I didn’t look it up. That’s when I get frustrated at myself.”
Other Games Played and Comics Read: None. He might pick up the WizKids Attack Wing game, “because it looks kind of fun.” The thing he likes about HeroClix is once you know how the game plays. it doesn’t matter if it’s Star Trek, Pacific Rim, or one of the video game franchises, the mechanics are the same. “Once you learn those mechanics, you’ve learned the game.” As for comics, Williams has read “a couple of Batmans over the years, one or two Marvel.” For him, it’s all about the game: “Can you outthink them? Can you bait them, can you get them? I like the strategy part of the game. That’s my favorite part of it. The superheroes are a bonus. That’s not why I play the game.”
Tokens: HC Realms tokens.

Williams explained that the age of turtling that saw HeroClix players KO an opponent’s piece and try to hide until time ran out is long over. “What was working a year ago isn’t working now. The game now is more about the Alpha Strike. If you can get across the map before they can and you can do a lot more damage than they can, right off the bat, that’s really what the game’s come to.” Williams quickly won his first match and was soon joined in victory by all of his Gen Con peers. Williams had time to elaborate: “We’re seeing figures coming out that can do 21-24 clicks of damage first turn. Ghost Rider with +2 Flurry and Heroes for Hire can do a ton of damage first turn. You can do crazy amounts of damage right now. It’s kind of a balance though. How can you withstand the Alpha Strike, but how can you also hit them before they hit you? It’s fun though. I’m having as much fun playing the game now as ever.”

Fresno player Frank Martinez had a dominating presence as he played, looking more like a linebacker than anything else as he scored several victories before he came to tower over Justin Jimenez. But Martinez was apprehensive as he acknowledged his opponent’s force, “The Blue Strike Team Bases are vicious. Realistically I’m going to have to deliver a lot of damage early before he starts popping off his characters, because he’s going to drastically increase his force size as compared to mine. So I’m going to have to hope that Madame Webb ends on a good ability. She’s random. I’m playing with Lady Luck here in Las Vegas; I am a gambling man, that’s why I brought the team I brought.” As it happened, Martinez’s luck ran out and Jimenez defeated the Fresno police officer.

Player Profile – Frank Martinez

From: Fresno, CA
Home Store: DJ’s Comics and CollectiblesCloseup of HeroClix player Frank Martinez smiling
Day Job: Police officer.
Began Playing: June, 2012, around Batman: Streets of Gotham and No Man’s Land
Favorite HeroClix Piece: “Marvel 10th Anniversary Thor with the lightning backdrop, Avengers Initiative, Running Shot, 11 Attack, 4 Damage, with a solid defense. He’s not playable competitively; he lacks certain abilities and additional team abilities that make him successful. Even if I put a Bat Belt on him, I have to use another piece to get him across the board. Really, Heroes for Hire is so hot everyone has to play it. He lacks the multiple attacks that they have.”
Golden Age Strategy: “My premise is to get Alpha Strike. Obviously with the introduction of Shatterstar into the game from Wolverine & X-Men, and this being Golden Age, I’m able to utilize a lower-point character like Iron Fist who has an incredible attack and damage power and attack abilities, as in he can penetrate defenses or I can do multiple attacks. Coupled with the ATA of Heroes for Hire, I can get off possibly 4 attacks, up to 12 damage in one turn. Madame Web is a support piece that transports across the board to support Iron Fist and Shatterstar. Madame Web can be given a power action and she can be placed near friendlies.”
Other Games Played: None. But Martinez has a “very extensive comic book habit”, favoring Superman and Thor. The sculpts of those figures are what got him into HeroClix. Between his wife and kids and his work in law enforcement, HeroClix is all that he has time for. As for whether he plays HeroClix with his children, Martinez said of his son, “He knows Super Senses, but he’s still too young.”

The Final Bout: Blue on Blue, Justin Jimenez vs. Pat Yapojco

A loud whoop of “Blue on Blue!” signaled the end of the third round as a player realized that Justin Jimenez and Pat Yapojco’s X-Men Blue Strike Force team bases would be having a doppleganger fight with one another. The strength of the Blue Strike Force is something that Jake Williams has come to respect. He got caught at Dragon*Con by that particular team base when it was brand new. In that bout it was Gambit who stunned Williams, when the character’s Energy Explosion hit Williams’ whole team for 5. Lesson learned! “You can study and prepare as much as you want, but there still could be something out there, some trick or mechanic that you didn’t prepare for, that just catches you off [guard],” Williams advised. However for Jimenez and Yapojco there would be no surprises as both knew the team base inside and out.

Player Profile – Pat “spawn10” Yapjoco

From: Costa Mesa, CA
Day Job: Owner of two Majestix Comics & Games stores, one in Huntington Beach and the other in Costa Mesa, CA.
Home Store: His own Majestix stores (primarily Huntington Beach)!
Began Playing HeroClix: 2002Smiling Heroclix Player Pat Yapojco in a plaid shirt
Favorite HeroClix Piece: Web of Spiderman Bullseye. “He can ignore Stealth, Supersenses, and Shapechange. I hate Supersenses and Shapechange! Those are the worst powers. He just hits. His attack is high. He’s got good stats. He’s not broken, he’s just efficient.”
About Majestix: The store in Huntington Beach has four glass cases with just singles, each one four feet high. In the area they are the only store selling singles consistently. “People are always trading, selling, and buying. Even if it’s sold out, we have them. Gotham, Chaos War Fast Forces, Marvel 10th, DC 10th. We have a really, really big stock.” Despite his large stock, Yapjoco borrows a lot of stuff from other players, preferring to sell everything that he can at his store. Yapjoco would sell prizes won at tournaments like the LVCE’s R.O.C. or turn around and use them himself in his own Majestix events.
Golden Age Strategy for X-Men Blue: “Just make sure I don’t miss an attack, because they can do a lot of damage. And one of their abilities is they basically don’t miss.” Yapjoco picked the X-Men Blue Strike Force based on what he and his Majestix team have “been playing. We don’t know what else to expect. We tested against various archetypes. The consensus seems to be that we have the best chance against everything.”

Yapojco has attended and played in Gen Con’s HeroClix tournaments for the last three years, finishing in the Top 32 last year after going 1-1 in the finals. Unfortunately his points weren’t high enough to move onto the Final 16. Jiminez has much less experience, but had higher rankings at Gen Con 2013, placing in the Top 8 in the Modern Championship and the Top 16 in Golden Age. Returning to Saturday afternoon’s action, Gambit remained firmly in place on both players’ Team Bases during the battle which was characterized by Yapojco’s methodical, patient gameplay.

HeroClix players Justin Jimenez and Pat Yapojco face off with X-Men Team Bases in a tournament

It’s Blue vs. Blue: Justin Jimenez Stands as He Battles Smiling Mentor Pat Yapojco

Yapojco’s patience was eventually rewarded with victory over Jimenez, but both players’ Team Bases were nearly stripped bare of their figures by the end of the tit-for-tat match that witnessed both players sacrificing models to ensure successful attacks using one of the X-Men’s special powers.

Two X-Men Blue Team Bases in a battle to the death

X-Men Blue Team Bases Clash! Both Still Have Their Gambits and Rogues

Saturday Evening Charity Tournament

Saturday evening’s Charity Tournament was quite a success, raising $465 for St. Jude’s Children Hospital. The $5 entry fee for each player was far eclipsed by the tournament’s allowance of a dice reroll for a $1 donation. $105 was raised because of the epic 12-minute dice reroll-off between two opponents in just one of the the tournament’s games. Justin Jimenez eventually won the tournament and five Phoenix Force HeroClix surrounded by transparent plastic flames for his efforts.

ROCs, The Path to Gen Con and Dragon*Con, and the World Championships

Despite having some of the top Heroclix players in the entire world present, there was still a lot of confusion about the ROC nature of the tournament or even just what R.O.C. stands for. The R.O.C. is the Realms Open Championship, which is a series of regional tournament qualifiers culminating in the Open HeroClix Championship(s) at Dragon*Con in Atlanta. Created and sponsored by HCRealms.com, the first set of six ROCs ended at Dragon*Con 2013. Many at the Las Vegas Realms Open Championship at LVCE thought that the event was the first in the next series of ROCs in the expanded program for the 2014 season. In fact though, according to ROC Director Howard Brock, the designation of the LVCE tournament as a ROC event was more of a favor than anything else, a personal favor which was also extended to a September event in Kentucky. The actual ROC 2014 season will begin in December and end at Dragon*Con 2014.

While the Las Vegas players seemed to be enjoying themselves, it was evident that many expected a larger turnout. In terms of attendance, the Majestix Open Series 1K R.O.C., which was held in April, far surpassed Las Vegas Comic Expo’s showing of perhaps 16 players. The Majestix 1K drew about 100 people, according to Majestix owner Pat Yapojco, with many traveling from Utah, Nevada, and Oregon to participate as well as Northern and Southern California. For Yapojco the prestige of the event was key and he called it “the best competition in California.”

The 2014 ROC Season Explained

At the LVCE ROC, Dustin Hall collected and examined team rosters, answered rules questions, kept the time, and made periodic announcements as the clock wound down, but Hall had a hard time elaborating the specifics of the ROC points that players would collect by participating or naming an exact dollar amount for the finals at Dragon*Con. On October 4, ROC Director Howard Brock clarified a great number of things over the phone. For starters, when Hall applied for the event to be a part of the ROC, the ROC organizers “weren’t ready,” but wanted to throw Hall a bone and allowed him to term it a ROC tournament. But calling it a ROC event is a bit of a misnomer since ROC events are characterized by physical prize support and the host must pay for the tournament package that HCRealms supplies. Nevertheless, the winner of the LVCE ROC will receive 100 ROC points for playing.

For the 2014 season, HCRealms is joining forces with TCGPlayer.com to launch a host of Super Qualifiers and other ROC events throughout the United States, Canada, and even England. What were previously known as ROC Regionals will now be called Super Qualifiers. The ROC is also doing away with travel vouchers and Dragon*Con badges as prizes, which Brock identified as being underutilized by winning players. Instead players will have the chance to win Limited Edition convention prizes, hats, trophies, and ranking cards. The cost of purchasing a Super Qualifier tournament pack has also dropped from $1000 to $650 with more prizes offered now than in the past. T-shirts have also been abandoned in favor of hats due to the difficulty and hassle involved in providing players the proper-sized shirts. Deluxe play mat maps using mousepad material are also in the works for prizing, Brock was particularly excited to add.

Super Qualifiers, Qualifiers, and League Play

The top tier of ROC play will be the Super Qualifiers, which will cost $650. Hosts, whether they be conventions or game stores, can purchase and run the Super Qualifiers with many stores like Majestix in Southern California already signed up to run events in December. Besides any other prizes, the first place winner of a ROC tournament will win a card for 100 ROC points. While the points can be used to gain entry into the Dragon*Con Realms Open Championship, the card can also be traded, sold, auctioned, or given away. Additionally there is a third possible use of the card, which will be accessible via TCGPlayer; players will be able to use their ROC points cards at the website for prizes in the HeroClix section, but must mail the physical card(s) in. The suggested entry fee for Super Qualifier players is $25.

Qualifiers are smaller events with only 20 ROC points going to the winner, besides any other prizes. Their cost will be $200 with a suggested entry fee of $15. League kits are only $100 with a suggested entry fee of $10. Brock pointed out that a store owner would recoup the cost with only 10 players. Sticking with tens, League winners will also earn 10 ROC Points.

Top 32 to Split $20,000 and Other Prizes at Dragon*Con

There will be a Super Qualifier on Friday night at next year’s Dragon*Con, which will be followed on Saturday morning by Heat 1 with Heat 2 on Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning will have Swiss-format semi-finals before the tournament ends Sunday afternoon in single elimination. The ROC Points Cards come into play in bypassing the early qualifiers. Owners of a 100 Points card can exchange it for entry into Heat 2 on Saturday while 200 Points can buy one’s way into Sunday morning’s semi-finals.

Brock confirmed that the Top 32 players will receive cash prizes in addition to the many other HeroClix prizes up for grabs with the total pot being $20,000. The official ROC announcement with even more details on the division of the $20,000 as well as WizKids’ involvement is forthcoming, delayed in part due to WizKids’ full plate at the Alliance Open House this weekend, October 4-6.

Customized Marvel HeroClix of Iron Fist in Justin Jimenez's collection

Justin Jimenez’s Modded Iron Fist Attracted a Lot of Attention

But speaking of prizes, Modern Champ Jake Williams said of his Gen Con win, “WizKids really took care of me on prize support. I got a lot of stuff to sell.” He clarified that his World Championship winnings ended up paying for his trip to Dragon*Con as well. As part of being a World Champion, Williams also gets to help design a Masterpiece figure and chose the Batman villainess Harley Quinn for that honor, but could not disclose any details of the upcoming figure.

As for the World Championships, which are held at Gen Con, players can gain entry typically only by playing at WizKids-run events or by playing directly at Gen Con in a series of grinders. Another route is via HeroClix Online. That’s how Roland Wellington won his “buy” for Gen Con 2013. In the process, he needed to go through Jake Williams online and beat him, which forced Jeterey to work his way through the grinders to gain his eventual championship. While Wellington obviously did not fare as well offline, he did place in the Top 8 in Modern.

Player Profile – Roland Wellington

From: Las Vegas, NV
Day Job: Cosmic Comics
Began Playing: “Day 4. HeroClix debuted on a Wednesday. I went to my local store for Friday Night Magic; I was a senior in college. I played and I had one of those Magic nights where you just get stomped. My deck did not work; I lost to two kids. I was ready to throw something (I was a little younger then). So I dropped. I walked by and saw that on the Mage Knight table they had Hulk fighting Spiderman and I was like ‘What IS this?!’ They told me the game. I bought my starter the next day. Been playing ever since.”
Favorite HeroClix Piece: Ultimate Thor from the Ultimates set. “The way that figure is designed is it’s just a monster of a figure. We love it. Me and my friends are big wrestling fans, so that figure got the nickname Triple H, because we kept wanting him to play Thor if they ever made the movie. I remember one time I was doing a training session with some of my younger friends and they really weren’t using him right. I was like ‘No, in this situation you want to attack, you want to go.’ And they were trying to Break Away or something. And me and my buddy said ‘No, you need to do this! And do you know why? Because THOR HITS FOR 5!’ So that saying, ‘Thor hits for 5,’ has just become a saying where it means do what that figure needs to do, just attack and punch someone in the face. He’s kind of the epitome of that philosophy. He does crazy amounts of damage. Just that way that the figure is designed, he’s designed to be pushed, he’s designed to hit Mystics, he’s designed to do stuff that you’re not supposed to do. A couple years ago we had a high level tournament in town for a chase Dr. Manhattan and I was running Thor in one of the teams and it was an old school one and and a buddy of mine was playing a Wildcard Mystic Abuse team and he’s sitting there and he’s like ‘I know Roland. He’s not going to push Thor.’ Nope, I’m pushing Thor on a Mystic and do you know why? Because HE HITS FOR 5, that’s what he’s supposed to do. Just annihilated his team in like three turns. So yeah, Triple H.”
HeroClix Online: “I’m currently, right now, the top ranked online player on HeroClix Online. I’m also the commissioner of the Online Free League and we’re starting our next season coming up in November. It’s up and running fully. They’ve got all the kinks kicked out of the UI. They’re growing the fan base, they’re growing the gameplay. I tell all my players in physical life, you guys really need to play this online because it really tightens up your game. It really does getting you knowing the proper procedures and the order of operations. It’s a really good learning tool for physical players as well. It doesn’t leave room for mistakes. If you miss something online, then you miss it. That’s why it really tightens up players’ games.”

Sunday Modern Age Championship

Compared to the previous day, Sunday’s HeroClix tournament was surrounded in an air of secrecy. Team rosters were covered up to protect them from other players’ eyes and there was no discussion about them. The players would be fighting for Top 8 ranking with first choice of the eight prizes going to the first place winner and down the line as each player would draft their rewards. The best prizes were the sealed “bricks” of Fear Itself (1) and Wolverine & The X-Men (2) with Limited Edition figures Shuma Gorath and the Trinity of Evil rounding them out, as well as other chase figures from Dustin Hall’s private collection. But once play began it was clear that for most of the top players, the tournament was truly about bragging rights and honor.

Pat Yapojco and Justin Jimenez received buys from their placement the day before, leaving other players to duke it out. Jake Williams quickly tabled his Las Vegas opponent. Others eventually followed with many of the vanquished going on to compete in a $25 sealed event because the Modern Age tournament was single elimination. Many of the teams in the Top 8 included Iron Fist, Shatterstar, and Madame Web, including Frank Martinez’s team. Martinez ended up finishing in 5th place and selected the Trinity of Evil as his prize when his turn came up. He was also all smiles once eliminated and was encouraged by his showing, promising to get even better at competitive HeroClix.

Heroclix Players playing Modern Age Tournament at Las Vegas Comic Expo

Modern Age Players (L to R): Pat Yapojco, Frank Martinez, Jake Williams All in a Row

The Final Four

In the penultimate round, Pat Yapojco faced off across from Jake Williams, while Justin Jimenez battled against Las Vegan Alex Pereda. Faces were grim as dice were rolled and figures moved across the map. There were no shouts of exultation, though more than one competitor grimaced, while occasional spectators drifted up to catch snippets of the games. In the Golden Age tournament Alex Pereda had wound up on the bottom tables, but his mixed Modern Age force served him much better.

Player Profile – Alex Pereda

From: Las Vegas, NV
Home Store: Maximum Comics #2
Day Job: Shipping and receiving in a warehouse.
Began Playing: February, 2012.Baseball cap wearing Heroclix player Alex Pereda
Favorite HeroClix Piece: Secret Invasion Namor. “Nobody ever goes ‘Namor, he’s my favorite!’ Namor is the first character that I got. He was in there. I didn’t play him until later. Oh my god, this guy is so awesome. He does so much strong stuff, deals out a lot of damage, which is comic-accurate, that’s what the character does.”
Tokens: Poker chips, because “they just make the board look much neater.” He used to use small dice.
Other Games Played: DC Deck Builder: “it’s really, really fun!”. “I played Magic for a while. This [HeroClix] grabbed my attention way more. This is way more fun.” Pereda has enjoyed trying new board games that he’s seen demoed, such as Munchkin – Axe Hero on Saturday evening at the Las Vegas Comic Expo.
On Team Bases: “I like competitive stuff. The only problem I have with the game is the Team Bases. It takes the fun out of building a team.”

Pereda’s mixed force was eventually overwhelmed by Jimenez’s, while the adjoining table witnessed a string of bad luck as Williams rolled a 4, 4, 3, 4 on his attack rolls and re-rolls during one round. What made the bad luck even harsher for Williams was the fact that he had allowed Yapojco to Perplex his Team Base’s Defense stat up by 1 at the start of his own turn, Yapojco having forgotten to do so at the end of his own turn. Such lenience is not possible on HeroClix Online, which is one of the reasons that Roland Wellington encourages use of the program as a training tool, but having extended the courtesy to Yapojco, Williams was obliged to watch as his own team was destroyed, leaving him in third place. Williams took it in stride and both he and Alex Pereda plan on a Gen Con 2014 presence.

The Modern Age Finals: Pat Yapojco vs. Justin Jimenez

Immediately after defeating Justin Jimenez the day before, Pat Yapojco returned to teammate and mentor mode and began offering the younger player advice on what he should have done differently. Together they had come to the consensus that running the X-Men Blue Strike Forces afforded the best chance of winning the Golden Age tournament. They also based their Modern Age forces, in part, around what they had seen used in Saturday’s games. In the end, Yapojco switched to the more affordable New Mutants Team Base with the addition of the devastating Shatterstar, while Jimenez switched to a team made up of his beloved Iron Fist, Spiral, a Batcycle, and two cardboard Warbot pogs. Both teams had done well, but now the two Majestix players faced off again.

Heroclix game with Batcycle spewing Smoke Clouds and Spiral Figure with Warbots

Jimenez’s Bat Cycle Spews Smoke in an Attempt to Block Line of Fire

Jimenez set up defensively and put up Smoke Clouds, preparing to receive an Alpha Strike. Using a retractable string to measure Line of Fire, Yapojco shot at Jimenez’s clustered figures and scored a hit. He followed up by teleporting behind Jimenez’s lines with Shatterstar and Rictor. The seismic-themed superhero launched a Quake. It looked grim for Jimenez, but according to him, it was all part of the plan: “When he first came in, I was a little worried, but I knew that Iron Fist could still catch him. The crit hit made it even sweeter. He actually helped me when he critted me.” With some of his figures suffering Knock Back from the doubles rolled on the crit hit, they were forced out of base-to-base contact with Shatterstar and Rictor, which freed them up considerably.

Closeup picture of Batcycle, Shatterstar, Rictor, and Spiral in ROC final match at Las Vegas Comic Expo 2013

The Alpha Strike: Shatterstar and Rictor Appear Within Jimenez’s Lines and Rictor Quakes

Jimenez’s main response was to dismount Iron Fist from his cool Bat ride and move him over towards the Team Base. “I picked Flurry because I had looked at the dial before because 5 damage either way puts him on his last click, because he’s got Toughness, so I do 4 and 4 for 8, he’s 9 clicks deep. Basically what I was going for was to do let him do first strike, because he’s going to do it no matter what and I was going to put him on his last click.” Iron Fist proceeded to do just that (and maybe a bit more) and soon the Team Base was no more, leaving Iron Fist and Spiral to mop up Shatterstar and Rictor, which secured first place for Justino.

When asked if the results were a bit like Obi-Wan versus Darth Vader, Jimenez agreed saying that Pat “struck me down yesterday” during the Golden Age Blue on Blue game and added that it was a “very rough, rough map” that Pat had picked the day before. While this was his first time for top honors in an important HeroClix tournament, based on his strong showing in all three of the weekend’s events and his past performance at Gen Con, it’s safe to say that it won’t be Justin Jimenez’s last.

Victorious Heroclix player Justin Jimenez with the 2013 Vegas ROC Trophy at the Las Vegas Comic Expo

Player Profile – Justin “Justino” Jimenez

From: Montebello, CA
Home Store: Majestix (primarily Huntington Beach)
Day Job: Electrical engineer on a railroad, “making sure trains don’t crash into each other.”Closeup of Heroclix player Justin Jimenez smiling at a tournament table
Began Playing: Infinity Challenge [2002]. Justino began playing competitively a year ago.
Favorite HeroClix Piece: Nightcrawler from Web of Spiderman. “That’s where you can just go and pop out, and grab someone, hit them, pull ’em back, drag them, and basically beat them up again.” He also later added that Iron Fist also tops his list: “Iron Fist with the Utility Belt is an absolute beast. Being able to put +2s on all your guy’s stats, he’s got Combat Reflexes, ignores everything, so you cannot lock him down. The only thing that can lock him down is a cop car, but usually when you put +2s on him, he’ll be hitting you for 12 damage and will take out a cop car in one shot. He’s just one of the most versatile, very low point cost characters. If you match him up with other Heroes for Hire he can be just so deadly with the new ATA [Alternative Team Ability].”
Tokens: Poker chips (black and white).
Other Games Played: Settlers of Catan with his family. “I have two brothers, two sisters. Five people everyday at Catan is pretty intense.” Risk, Monopoly, Dominion. Family Business, “It’s a mobster game.” Nothing Personal, “I bought it at Gen Con. You basically go through this list of gangsters, but it looks good.” Xbox 360 and PS3. He doesn’t play any other CMGs because it would be too much money he would be spending. He used to play chess when he was younger and in 8th grade he won a Southern California Unified School District chess tournament. Jimenez contrasted chess with HeroClix: “The only difference is the dice roll. In chess, there is no dice roll. You make good moves and depending on how you position, you can trap other figures. You can manipulate. When I use my background when I build and move teams or move people into a certain position, it’s because everything’s for a reason. If you’re going to put someone here, is it because you want them to overextend? All those things count. The only thing is, this is more advanced, it’s a little bit more fun, it’s a little bit more versatile. The superheroes are more childhood-oriented.”
Craziest In Game Experience: “At the Majestix 1K, I had a Hobgoblin basically Alpha Strike, TK’d out, Running Shot, Pulse Wave and rolls two 6’s and does I think 16 worth of damage to all my characters and put tokens on all my guys. I was pretty much done after that. I lost that game. I could deal with everyone taking 1, but it was just 2-2-2 and Knockback damage. It was crazy.”
Golden Age Strategy for X-Men Blue Team Base: “X-Men Blue’s got a really, really deep defense and with their new special [power], Invincible it’s really good. Jeterey who obviously won with the cars [at Gen Con], I’m expecting maybe one or two people to play that, if they do play that. Basically the cars do 1 unavoidable damage, but Invincible says that you ignore half damage dealt, so unless you deal more than 2 damage, you can’t hurt X-Men Blue, so there comes a point where you hit that power and the cop cars can’t bump. And that was Jeterey’s famous trick when he played Massu, he bumped him to death and didn’t even have to roll. I had a very similar team to him, but one thing that was very tough was that I didn’t win map rolls, so it’s hard to run up and down stairs with a car; they’re not built for that.”

lvcerealmsopenchampionship2013JustinJimenezwithTrophyDustinHallbackground

ROC Winner Justin Jimenez Receives His Trophy From Event Organizer Dustin Hall

A Renaissance for Vegas Game Day – August 17

Gamers try Fantasy Flight Games Ingenious Board Game at Vegas Game Day

Spontaneous Board Gaming at Vegas Game Day: Ingenious from FFG

Several months had passed since I last attended a Vegas Game Day at the Emergency Arts Building here in Las Vegas. On the whole, compared to my first time at a Vegas Game Day, attendance in the early half of 2013 has been down, but on August 17, I saw promising signs of a Vegas Game Day Renaissance. While the morning session had four of the /usr/tech/lib’s six tables reserved for games, there were so many new faces that impromptu board game action spread over to one of the remaining tables.

However back in 2012, Vegas Game Day would typically have all of its available tables booked with a variety of role-playing and board games. At the time Vegas Game Day was also serving as a meeting place for volunteers for the now-defunct Las Vegas gaming convention Neoncon. For VGD organizer Perry Snow, ensuring the right coverage of scheduled games is just one of many challenges in providing gamers a great place to play and meet other like-minded gamers. He also creates and updates the day’s schedule on Warhorn, besides designing and updating the brochure each month which describes the day’s offerings. Snow also spends time monitoring the group’s Meetup page, welcoming newcomers, answering questions, and steering gamers towards others with similar interests. Helping others is a major part of Snow’s regular workday as a programmer analyst, which sees the fan of the Citadels Card Game and the Cortex Plus (Drama) RPG system troubleshooting user problems with computer applications. As someone who has spent most of his life in front of a computer screen, it is the social aspect which Snow enjoys most about Vegas Game Day, meeting and sharing with other gamers in real time.

As Snow tells it, in the past a Vegas Game Day might even be followed by pick-up games at an organizer’s house. If a newcomer gelled with his or her table or party, he or she might be welcomed to come play later or in a home campaign. While there is still that possibility now, Snow is unable to provide it himself, having become married and the father of two. As for the right number of games offered at the tables, Snow admits it can be difficult. In the past he had a dedicated board gamer who could be counted on to bring his own games or play in games scheduled by others. However after three months of little to no turnout for the board game sessions, the player lost interest. For RPGs and would-be GMs, it can be even more draining. The GM can spend hour upon hour prepping an adventure only to not get enough players to play.

Such was the case on August 17 when the morning session of Shadowrun was scrapped due to low player turnout. In part this seems due to Vegas Game Day coinciding with Gen Con, but it’s not the first time that Shadowrun’s been cancelled recently. For now the steady sessions and mainstays seem to be Savage Worlds and Pathfinder Society, but the influx of new players may see some changes to future Vegas Game Day offerings.

Savage Worlds: The Land of Ugh!

Savage Worlds uber-fan Jerrod “Savage Daddy” Gunning has done it again! Taking inspiration from Wingnut Games’ Land of Og RPG, Gunning ran a caveman-themed Savage Worlds session with delightful results. Most significantly our characters’ vocabularies were very limited. At the beginning of the session we made a Smarts roll to determine our vocabularies and took turns drawing words out of a hat. I rolled a 3 and had “No”, “You”, and “Cave” for the rest of the game. We also knew our character’s own names; mine was Frock. True to form, rather than just using poker chips or some other token as Bennies, Gunning provided us with rocks to use to get re-rolls and as rewards for good role-playing.

Five real rocks used as Bennies on top of Savage Worlds Ugh Caveman character sheet

Real Rocks for Bennies Only Add to the Immersion in Savage Worlds: Land of Ugh!

The actual adventure was simple and straightforward. Our caveman chieftain commanded us to go out and gather food and to also look for a rival tribe in the area. Unfortunately for us, to understand this required successful Smarts rolls and a decent amount of role-playing. After knocking a little sense into the less intelligent we set out and came upon some velociraptors. An excellent opportunity to use the Finger-Counting skill! Success! I counted out the number of raptors as three on my thick fingers as my main rival, Urr, moved in to attack. Other players had failed their Notice rolls and blundered about. I may have tried to encourage my fellow cavemen, using my words: “You cave! You cave!” I certainly attacked and brained one, “Frock cave you!” Urr claimed another and our pea-brained ally Grog found some fermented mangos and tossed one down another’s throat. I began to eat the brains of one of the raptors, hoping it would allow me to gain some smarts and received a Benny for my efforts.

“You’re not afraid of the mango.”

Grog handed out fermented mangos, which the rest of us promptly began to eat and successfully passed our Vigor rolls to avoid intoxication, even as we failed to understand Grog’s animated warnings. Around this point, I also used my Pictogram skill to draw a lewd depiction of a velociraptor … riding Urr (which would be far too obscene to show here). To even look at the drawing, Urr’s player had to make a successful Smarts roll, which he did. “You cave! You cave!” I suggestively taunted Urr. Among his responses to me was “Idiosyncratic.” Gunning had peppered the commonplace words like “You”, “Me”, “Rock”, and “Bang” with “Idiosyncratic” and “Perspicacious”. Yes, Savage Worlds of Ugh! was both funny and fun.

The T-Rex Battle

Gamers play Savage Worlds Caveman adventure at Vegas Game Day

Savage Worlds Indeed! Players get Primitive at Vegas Game Day

The climax of our adventure soon arrived in the form of a “big hairy” battling some other primitive cave people. Apparently their vocabularies were as horrible as ours because the beast turned out to be a Tyranosaurus Rex. Supposedly they were a more advanced tribe as well, using spears with sharp rocks attached. Frock had the Arrogant hindrance and paid little heed as those who made their Smarts rolls realized and tried to explain the better weaponry. It was all in vain anyways because Frock rushed off to show the T-Rex who was boss, racing against Urr to make it there. That left Urr’s brother Gurr to try to use the new technology, while Grog began pulling back a tree to use as a catapult to launch mangos (or maybe even rocks) at the terrible lizard.

“Frock you!” I cried as I struck at the T-Rex with my Trademark Club doing 1d6 + 1d10 + 2 points of damage, which actually did no damage because of the T-Rex’s 22 toughness. At some point I wised up and made a successful Cavewise roll to notice that the others attacking the dinosaur weren’t of our tribe. “You no Frock cave!” I bellowed as I brained one after another. Two significant things happened in the meantime, the first being Urr climbing up the T-Rex and Grappling it around the neck. How he wrestled the great beast! Grog abandoned his catapult attacks and made his own contribution, grabbing palm fronds and waving them around. Grog only had “Big” and “No” in his vocabulary and it wasn’t quite clear who he was cheering on, but we did get a bonus for his cheerleading. The attack bonus later turned into a Spirit check when Grog upped the ante and did a cartwheel and the splits revealing bruised, overripe mangos he had stashed down into his loincloth. Gagging at the sight, we managed to fight on and I would love to report here that Frock did the dino in. Being quite Arrogant, Frock thinks he did. It’s possible, though unlikely, that Urr actually managed to choke out a T-Rex.

crude pictogram of dinosaur with blurred crotch held by stick figure cavemen

Another Pictogram (Blurred for Decency)

Having dispatched the dinosaur (and the rival tribe), we needed to communicate the need to return to our cave which resulted in another round of Pictograms. This time most of the group seemed to understand the message and we returned home triumphantly, bearing the full T-Rex (after some successful skill checks). Another highlight of the game was hearing Jerrod Gunning instruct another player, who was trying to get somewhere, “Give me a die up there by Pace. It’s probably a d4 since you’re Obese.” Fun times indeed.

Pathfinder Society Scenario 04-18: The Veteran’s Vault

Pathfinder Miniatures on Flipmat in Pathfinder Adventure The Veteran's Vault

The Veteran’s Vault Holds Many Dangers and Affords Much Combat

When a Level 3 Fighter named Asir Al-Nimr adventures with three first-level characters deep into PSS 04-18 The Veteran’s Vault, the greatest challenge, it turns out, is maneuvering around in the sewers in Full Plate +1. However while I wouldn’t say the challenge was welcome, all of the combats would have been over quickly if I didn’t have to manouever the slow-moving Asir into position first. As my ninth Pathfinder Society Scenario completed, I can say that The Veteran’s Vault is a little atypical in its lack of dedicated skill challenges, instead being a pretty straightforward combat-heavy dungeon (or sewer) crawl. As such, it lacked the compelling narrative of A Silent Tide or the exploration and mystery of Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment, but it should please combat-oriented groups. I was definitely pleased to survive the sewers and dispense Abadar’s justice to enemies left and right with very few scratches on my armor to show. Asir did trigger a trap that did 12 points of damage, which would have felled any of the first-level characters, but the party’s Oracle quickly healed him back to full.

Hero Lab

Earlier in the morning I downloaded Hero Lab from Lone Wolf Development, clicked around in it for 10 minutes, and then purchased a license for $29.99. Offering support from systems ranging from Savage Worlds to World of Darkness to Shadowrun, Hero Lab more importantly has extensive Pathfinder character generation files. Several months ago I had tried to create a new Level 1 Cleric on the fly by hand 10 minutes before an adventure was to begin, but found it too challenging. While Hero Lab has been a little quirky in the two hours or so that I’ve used it, it has worked charmingly well. I inputted Asir Al-Nimr and was pleased to see almost all of my character validate in Hero Lab. Even more pleasing for me was that Hero Lab caught a few of my skills that I had listed as higher than they were and took into account my Armor Check penalty for my magical Full Plate.

Screenshot of Hero Lab Application showing Pathfinder Society character

Validation is a Breeze with Hero Lab – A Screenshot of the Program Showing Asir Al-Nimr in All His Glory

Having earned 9 Experience Points, Asir leveled at the end of The Veteran’s Vault and is now a Level 4 Fighter. I eagerly entered Hero Lab and spent my new Skill Points and chose Desperate Battler from the list of Feats. The Feat provides a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls provided no ally is within 10 feet, which tends to describe the first few rounds of any of Asir’s battles. By the third or fourth round so far, Asir might be moving over to help any comrades who are engaged, having already dispatched his own foe(s). While I could add this new Feat into Hero Lab, I haven’t been able to add Furious Focus in yet. The feat, which offsets the penalty to hit from my extra-damage dealing Power Attack, comes from the Advanced Player’s Guide, which is not included in Hero Lab’s core Pathfinder files. At this point, I can live with the missing feat compared to the $9.99 cost of downloading the Advanced Player’s Guide.

Once I finished tinkering with Asir, I set out to create that Level 1 Pathfinder Society Cleric that had eluded me thus far and ended up making two! Now that Asir Al-Nimr is 4th Level he will be tackling adventures for 4th-5th level characters, which frees me up to also adventure at the lowest levels with my new PCs. I think that the $29.99 for Hero Lab is a true testament to how much I have enjoyed Paizo’s Pathfinder Society organized play, as well as a commitment to further adventures in the world of Golarion. And while I have GM’d a Pathfinder Society Scenario for my home group of players, I have only ever played the game at Vegas Game Days, so I look forward to many more of those as well.

So Much Eye Candy: Cool Mini or Not at Gen Con 2012

While I didn’t get to see Cool Mini or Not at Adepticon 2013, I certainly saw CMON back at Gen Con in 2012.

Every time I stopped by the stretching Cool Mini or Not booth areas at Gen Con, I found a very packed, interested gaming crowd taking in all of the eye candy CMON had on display. Alongside Privateer Press, CMON seemed to have a tremendously successful Gen Con. Attendees new to miniature gaming could be excused for thinking that they were seeing multiple companies’ booths, but the unifying connection in every one of CMON’s 18 booth areas was the high quality and stunning visual displays.

CMON’s Display and Demo Boards

While the Wrath of Kings’ demo boards CMON had brought were functional and better than a simple flocked board, they were not as spectacular as some of their other offerings, but did put the focus squarely on the expressive sculpts of the miniatures. Players had the opportunity to battle as the thin warriors of House Nasier or the porcine warriors of House Teknes.

Piglike Teknes miniatures for Wrath of Kings battle against thin Nasier on desert demo board

Wrath of Kings Desert Demo Board: House Teknes vs. House Nasier

Realistic 28mm scale orange lava flowing over miniature terrain board for Confrontation at 2012 Gen Con

Confrontation Lava Demo Board

Cool Mini or Not kept Confrontation fans’ appetites whetted with a lava demo board of the game. I could have easily missed further Confrontation offerings because there really was so much to take in throughout CMON’s booth space.

There were also demo tables for players to try out Sedition Wars, Relic Knights, and Zombicide, but aside from the two Dark Age boards and Rum and Bones, the most impressive tables were reserved specifically for display purposes.

The Wrath of Kings Display Board

What a sight! The Wrath of Kings Castle was the definition of amazing and probably the envy of rival gaming companies. Designed and built by Rob Hawkins, the table took over 200 hours from start to finish. The Goritsi forces spilling out of the grey stonework buildings really put it over the top. The Goritsi definitely have a darkness to them and are comprised of the lupine Skorza, the female Blood Dancers, and would seem to be led by the red-clad Herald of Blood. Bearing such close resemblance to Confrontation’s Wolfen, the Skorza pose an interesting problem for brand recognition and differentiation, but since they are now released by the same company, the similarities should not matter. The Goritsi also boast the monstrous Ucuzo, which looks like a lab experiment gone awry (or perhaps deliberately concocted).

Pig warriors Union Workers miniatures from Wrath of Kings battle Skorza lupines and monster Ucuzo

A Monstruous Ucuzo Defends the Goritsi City Against the Invading Teknes

Arrayed against the onslaught of the Goritsi are the pig warriors of House Teknes. The rank and file of Teknes appear to be the Teknes Union Workers who wield massive swords. The Ironward is the figure reminiscent of Mad Max’s Master Blaster with a slave-driver on top of a pig warrior/Union Worker.

Beautiful stunning diorama of 32mm Wrath of Kings miniatures clashing at a castle or village

Woodland Scenics Armatures Used as Dead Trees in the Foreground of Hawkins’ Stunning Diorama

In his blog, Rob Hawkins refers to the diorama as a Goritsi City and details its construction in five blog entries, beginning with constructing the hillside foundation followed by the the construction of the buildings’ basic shapes. To enable faster gluing using super glues Hawkins uses Liquid Nails to coat the pink foam in the same way that latex paint is used to protect styrofoam from destructive aerosol spray paint.

Tentacled octopus Zalaak miniatures battles slender female Blood Dancers in Wrath of Kings diorama

Two Tentacled Zalaak Face Off Against Blood Dancers In and Near a Foamcore Building

The city’s buildings are constructed out of pink foam with thick art board used for the roof tiles. Hawkins estimates that over 1,000 separate roof tiles are on the diorama! The one detail that has puzzled me about the diorama since Gen Con is the seemingly unfinished black and white area. This is, in fact, an elemental’s head with white circles for eyes.

Wrath of Kings miniatures fight over a superb Goritsi city at Gen Con 2012 in front of stone buildings with red tiled roofs

The Black Cylinder and Dome is an Elemental’s Head! With White Eyes

Super Dungeon Explore: Von Drakk Manor

Soda Pop Miniatures Chibi Super Dungeon Explore miniatures display castle at Cool Mini or Not Booth

Super Details from Rob Hawkins: Von Drakk Manor

Von Drakk Manor was easily in the Top 5 of all terrain pieces throughout Gen Con for sheer quality and artistry. It also highlighted the expansion forces to CMON’s joint venture with Soda Pop Miniatures. The castle is just as stylized as Soda Pop’s distinctive, chibi figures and was also built by terrain genius Rob Hawkins. He has many more pictures of the stunning layout on his website. The fiery monsters were from the Caverns of Roxor expansion that CMON/Soda Pop released in limited quantities to Gen Con attendees, before they went on sale to the public in October.

Three Cartoonish Dungeon Explorer Miniatures in Cool Mini's Super Dungeon Explore castle with fire elementals at gen con 2012

Von Drakk Manor Plays Home to Caverns of Roxor Denizens at Gen Con 2012

Ron and Bones – Rum and Bones

CMON was also previewing another of its newly-acquired licenses, Rum and Bones. Originally titled Ron and Bones by TaleofWar, the game is a pirate-themed miniatures skirmish game with highly stylized figures. In a booth filled with so many other goodies, the pirate ship did stand out for its quality construction. Little has subsequently been said about Rum and Bones (that I have seen), though Table Top Hell is impressed by the game’s miniatures.

Gorgeous miniature 28mm pirate ship for Rum and Bones at Gen Con 2012 in the Cool Mini or Not Booth

Rum & Bones: Skirmish Pirate Game, Palm Trees from Pegasus Hobbies

From all that I could see of Rum and Bones, each model is a unique personality. The character Teruk’te wears a Sharkskin and will appeal to any gamer who has ever wanted a miniature that wears an entire shark as a costume! Tale of War Miniatures still has information in English available on the game including a downloadable PDF that explains the game’s mechanics, as well as displays the entire range of finely detailed miniatures.

Inside a miniature pirate ship for Ron and Bones at Cool Mini or Not booth at Gen Con with cannons

The View Below Decks Of the Pirate Ship’s Impressive Armament

One of the neater things about the Rum and Bones demo table is that it has been carefully constructed to match the miniatures’ base size and prevent them from slipping or sliding out of position.

Top down view of miniature model pirate ship for skirmish wargame Rum and Bones at Gen Con 2012

The Savage Teruk’te Alongside Pier Del Mocho in Aft Castle High Above the Sloot Gunner

Dark Age Industrial Shop Board

One of CMON’s original brands is Dark Age, of course. Even though I had seen them at the GAMA Trade Show, I still marveled over both of the Dark Age demo boards. Having played on the board with the rock outcroppings, most of my attention was taken by the industrial garage board. The details really bring the board to life with rigging over the top, bike chains used as industrial belts, vats of liquid, and multiple elevations to play on.

Post-Apocalyptic futuristic miniature game Dark Age industrial garage terrain at Gen Con 2012

Did I mention the working lighting? By varying the textures on the board, it creates depth and detail and adds a sense of realism. The diamond-plating used on some of the floor panels is particularly effective. It really does look like a place the mutant Skarrd would have taken over or would be in the process of raiding.

Closer look at industrial garage Dark Age demo board for miniatures at Gen Con 2012

Marie-Claude Bourbonnais as Rin Farrah from Relic Knights

Another attraction in the CMON booths was cosplayer and glamor model Marie-Claude Bourbonnais from Canada as Rin Farrah, one of the chief protagonists of Relic Knights. Bourbonnais posed for pictures with fans and gamers in her self-made costume and later explained that it was her first time attending Gen Con, let alone any tabletop gaming convention. For Bourbonnais it was different than comic and anime conventions, but still “a lot of fun” and reminded her of her high school’s tabletop games organization. At Gen Con Bourbonnais only appeared as Rin Farrah, but she has cosplayed as another Relic Knights character, Candy, in the past. As of early October (2012) she still had yet to play Relic Knights herself, but looked forward to receiving her complete game to try it for herself, but did say that she has watched demos of the game.

Busty Cosplayer Marie-Claude Bourbonnais at Gen Con playing Rin Farrah with miniature her costume is based on

Two Versions of Relic Knights’ Rin Farrah: Cosplay and Miniature

Watching others game is nothing new to Bourbonnais who spent part of her teenage years watching friends paint armies and play Warhammer 40k. While she never got into the hobby herself, for Relic Knights Bourbonnais will be playing Rin Farrah’s faction. Usually though she is quite busy working on her next costume. As a former fashion designer, she’s been sewing costumes and prom dresses since she was 19. Rin Farrah’s leather outfit was a first for Bourbonnais, who makes all of her costumes and props herself.

Yellow tinted glasses and yellow and black spandex on busty Hornet played by Marie-Claude Bourbonnais at Gen Con 2012

MC Bourbonnais as Canadian Superheroine Hornet

On Thursday Marie-Claude Bourbonnais initially appeared as the black-and-yellow spandex-clad Hornet, her character in the Canadian web-series Heroes of the North. Filmed in Bourbonnais’ home city of Montreal, the series is in English, available to view for free online, and follows the adventures of Canadian superheroes. The character of Hornet only appears at the tail end of the first season of the series, but becomes more prominent in its second season, says Bourbonnais. While she came to Gen Con to promote Relic Knights, another company specializing in 3D body scans had also contacted Bourbonnais about capturing her 3D image in the Hornet costume.

Blonde busty anime woman in green swimsuit on Pool location for card game Tentacle BentoBourbonnais also has the distinction of having modeled for a card in Soda Pop Miniatures’ Tentacle Bento card game and has subsequently cosplayed as that character, essentially doing a cosplay of herself. Bourbonnais was also the basis for one of two promotional pewter miniatures in support of Tentacle Bento’s abortive Kickstarter run.

And the Display Cases

Gamers could have also easily missed all of the wonderfully painted miniatures packed into the glass display cases at the back of the Cool Mini or Not booth areas given all there was to see elsewhere. Here and there though gamers’ faces pressed up against the glass that stretched yard after yard. Sedition Wars, Dark Age, Relic Knights, Wrath of Kings, and Confrontation all vied for visitors’ attention, but were safely locked away, like heroin just out of reach of a junkie. There may have been little puddles of drool on the carpet. As one would expect from the home of cool miniatures on the internet, almost every miniature was beautifully painted. The exceptions were the gray master sculpts on display in the cases.

Anime-influenced miniatures for the Relic Knights game with power familiars on display at the 2012 Gen Con

Anime-Infused Miniatures from Relic Knights with Chibi Power Familiars

On top of the display cases though, within reach of any eager gamer was the impressive winged form of the Titan Dragon for Confrontation. Fashioned out of resin, the figure is a true status symbol among miniature gamers with a hefty price tag of $300.

Red, black, grey, and white massive Titan Dragon miniature for Confrontation at Gen Con 2012

The Massive Titan Dragon for Confrontation Lives Up To Its Name: Free from a Display Case

Ravage Magazine

Cover of Ravage Issue 7 Advertising Zombicide Toxic City MallWhile I would have liked to browse CMON’s wares a bit more, all I really had to time to do was to pick up the first three issues of Ravage Magazine. Ravage is an import, translated from French, and plays off of the gorgeous artwork CMON and its affiliates have access to. Like Harbinger Magazine of the early 2000s but with a much stronger visual focus and appeal, Ravage focuses on a wide range of miniatures with Cool Mini’s lines featuring prominently, but there have also been articles on MERCS, Infinity, Privateer Press, and even a look at 6th Edition Warhammer 40k. There are some translation artifacts in the articles that vary from interviews with designers, to game overviews, to painting and terrain tutorials, but despite the language difficulties, the magazine is off to a very strong start and is now in April on Issue 7.

Heavy Gear Blitz Lightning Tournament – 03-08-13

Heavy Gear Blitz players in a gaming shop playing a tournament

The March 8 Heavy Gear Blitz Lightning Tournament

On March 8, ten Heavy Gear Blitz fans converged on Avatar Games and Comics in Las Vegas for a 285 Threat Value (TV) tournament. Local Pod Squad god Mark Perre collected the $5 entry fee, refereed the event, played the ringer army, and supplied many of the armies and most of the terrain. With the restrictions of Priority Level 1, 285 TV, and a single squad, fielding my elite Black Talons would be impossible. A week or two before the tourney, I asked Perre to help construct a list for me from either the Northern squad or Southern squad I have, but he did me one better and offered to create a list from his own miniatures. I was almost all set.

Learning a Game Through Tournaments

Red Resin Outpost Building in 10mm scale from Dream Pod 9

A DP9 Outpost: Part of the Terrain We Fought Over

While this may anger some players, I believe that the best way to learn a competitive game and get good at it is to play it in tournaments. In theory, you will face competitive, well-balanced lists. Your opponent will not have tailored his army to either crush yours specifically or to let you have an easy win. Most tournament players’ lists will also be free of experimental ideas and goofy or silly themes. Bragging rights are on the line and an entry fee has been paid. Because of this, I have played many more games of Warmachine in tournaments than I ever have casually. With the elimination of sportsmanship scores in most tournaments, another objection to noobs playing tournaments is removed. Even if horribly beaten and dismembered, the newbie can’t mark his opponent down, so there should be no concern for holding back on the new player. With all this in mind, I had RSVP’d for the tournament, intent on improving my game.

Southern Gearhunter Cadre

The list Perre handed to me was a Gearhunter Cadre from the South. I had two offensive Striking Jagers with Light Bazookas. These both had an extra Sturdy box coming from Field Armor for +10 TV each. My Army Commander (AC) was in a Command Jager and had 3 Attack and 4 Defense. He was supplemented by a regular Jager with Light Auto Cannon and Field Armor as well as a Brawling Jager. All of my Jagers had Light Rocket Pods.

Game 1: South on South

Having briefly reviewed my Field Manual and paid the entry fee, I faced my first opponent, Tony Sandoval. Sandoval was also using a Southern Army. Sandoval has been playing Heavy Gear since he was 16, when it was a card game. He has a number of the older Ral Partha HO-scale gears which are out of scale with Dream Pod 9’s modern figures. I tried to place my five Jagers conservatively against him, hoping for some Cover bonuses knowing that Heavy Gear is action-packed from the get-go. We chose to spend our Support Points on more Command Points. I only learned later that we were required to do this by the tournament rules. I was also surprised to learn that tournament games were limited to 3 Turns. It turns out that I needed a lot of refreshers, but I had an excellent teacher in the form of my opponent.

Heavy Gear Southern Mamba Takes Cover Behind Building in Tournament

One of Sandoval’s Southern Mambas Lurks Behind a Building Ready to Strike

When the dust settled, I was victorious because the Mamba I managed to take out cost more points than the sole Jager Sandoval had eliminated. Speaking about the match later, Sandoval said, “I thought it was a good game. It was fast like Heavy Gear should be. It was just a little weird teaching somebody how to beat me.” Sandoval’s “lessons” were mostly in the form of bonuses and penalties. If I would move that Hunter just a bit further up, I would get a Crossfire bonus. If my gears were at Top Speed, they’d be harder to hit. We both agreed that bad dice were not a part of my eventual victory. Sandoval’s plan had been to headhunt my Army Commander, but his Hand Grenades’ shrapnel found nothing but air against my AC who boasted 4 Defense dice. Since I was going last, at the bottom of Turn 3 I was able to throw aside any defensive considerations and concentrate fire on one of his exposed Mambas. In this case, I believe Sandoval pointed out that I could go to Stop to get a further +1 to my Attack rolls, which ended up making the difference. After the fight, Sandoval also pointed out that my Brawler Jager with a Light Grenade Launcher spent 90% of the game out of the action, in part because I had placed him far back behind a building. More importantly, I had not realized I had the x15 Light Grenade Launcher until midway through the game.

Overhead view of miniature battle with Heavy Gear Blitz Southern miniatures

5 Gears Still on Each Side With One of My Jagers Stranded Out of the Battle

Despite the loss, Sandoval was excited about the upcoming updated releases for the North and PRDF, though he will have to wait a bit to enjoy them in person. The next morning after the tournament, Sandoval relocated to Afghanistan as a civilian contractor, but he plans on starting a Heavy Gear blog or podcast once he returns. His parting advice to me was, “Just remember to stack your modifiers. Always try to gang up on one guy; concentrating fire is very helpful. The biggest thing is to figure out how to best stack your modifiers against your opponent. Taking a crappy shot with one guy is good if you can get a great shot with another guy.”

Game 2: Battling the Ringer

I began Game 2 when some others players were wrapping up their second games. With the other players tied up, I played organizer Mark Perre who was running the Northern ringer army, a Western Frontier Protectorate Army Veteran Dragoon Squad. Determined not to leave any of my squad out of the action and to be harder to hit from the get go, I positioned my Jagers forward, all at Top Ground Speed.

Three Southern Jager miniatures for Heavy Gear Take Cover Behind Building

My Three Jagers Bunched Together for Cover on My Right Flank: None Survived

Like Sandoval’s Southern squad, Perre had me beat on Comm Events, so I rejected even trying to Forward Observe for the rest of my squad’s Light Rocket Pods. Instead I tried to get the Crossfire bonus from shots coming from greater than 90 degrees apart. My gears ran right up to the board edge, bunching up, trying to get their Light Bazooka shots in. Then metal started getting mangled. One Jager collapsed into a heap, blood oozing out. He became terrain. “Hot metal-munching mama!” I whispered to myself. The rest of my squad avoided a similar fate by simply being obliterated by Perre’s Anti Gear Missiles (AGMs) which were raining down. In the end, I was left with a single gear standing and had only taken out one of Mark Perre’s gears. Part of the reason I had survived even to Turn 3 was due to Perre providing three of my squad members with that Field Armor which added Sturdy boxes to my damage capacity.

Dream Pod 9 Pod Squad Members Mark Perre and Walter Childs at comic shop

Pod Squad Members Mark Perre and Walter Childs at Avatar Comics and Games

Results

Walter Childs won Best Painted for his Southern gears and received a Nu Coal Strike Squad, which he will have painted soon, no doubt. Childs went 0-3 in his games, but was in good spirits. As he pointed out, “For me, the hobby’s about painting, so I felt like I won. That’s all I care about. If I put my models on the table and they get smoked, I’m ok with that.”

5 Grey and Black Southern Heavy Gear Miniatures Crowd Around Building

Walter Childs’ Best Painted Southern Gear Squad

The Overall Winner came down to Kill Points. Though he lost his first game against a Southern player’s Naga striders which were hunkered down behind buildings, Randy Guintivano won his next two games against Northern armies with his beautifully painted Peace River Defense Force General Purpose Squad. Guintivano is a relative newcomer to Heavy Gear Blitz, yet has racked up a lot of games in the two months he has been playing the game, even joining the Pod Squad as a play tester. But Guintivano had done his research; he spent two years reading the Dream Pod 9 forums before moving his first miniature.

Peace River Defense Force Squad for Heavy Gear in front of resin outpost buildings

Overall Winner Randy Guintivano’s PRDF Squad with Chieftain and Four Warriors

Guintivano packed two Rapid Fire Bazookas into his squad, carried by Warriors, the workhorse gears of the PRDF. Yet it was his other two Warriors who had the greater glory on the battlefield, armed with Fragmentation Canon/Shotguns and HHGs. HHGs, as his opponents were quick to learn, are Heavy Hand Grenades. Instead of having a x15 Damage multiplier, they boast a x25 and Guintivano’s MVPs had three each. In his battles, he split his force into flanks in an effort to gain the Crossfire bonus. Then maximizing cover, he ran his close-combat Warriors up at Top Speed, spending Command Points to lob HHGs into the opposing gears’ surprised faces. Guintivano’s tactics on the field were rewarded with a $35 gift certificate to Dream Pod 9’s web store as well as a Peace River Strike Squad.

The tournament had other gains as well. One Warhammer 40K player who witnessed the tail end of the fighting, the ten armies, and the turnout for Heavy Gear is no longer on the fence about Heavy Gear: Blitz. The North has gained a new recruit in Las Vegas.