Sunday, March 31, 2013

International TableTop Day at 7th Dimension Games

International Tabletop Day logo
I spent most of the day yesterday at 7th Dimension Games, in Jenkintown, PA celebrating International Tabletop Day - a day where board gamers were encouraged to visit their Friendly Local Gaming Shop (FLGS), Coffee Shops, Community Centers, etc and play some games. International Tabletop day also represent the one year anniversary of TableTop, a board game show hosted by Wil Wheaton which involves the host, and other geek-culture celebs playing and demonstrating how to play various board games. Tabletop is part of the Geek and Sundry Channel on YouTube.


Players at 7th Dimension GamesThe game schedule at 7th Dimension games was:

12:00 The Resistance
12:30 Star Fluxx
1:00 Evil Baby Orphanage
1:30 Munchkin
2:00 7 Wonders
2:30 Dixit
3:00 Belfort
3:30 Gloom
4:00 Smash Up
4:30 Tsuro of the Seas
5:00 Elder Sign

The Resistance

I arrived just before noon - just in time to join up with the game The Resistance. I had never played this game before so it was a brand new experience. Like the box says, The Resistance is a game about Secret Identities, Deduction and Deception. Players are first dealt a card from what I will call the Loyalty Deck. This card will let you know whether you are a member of the resistance, or a member of the Imperial Spies.

Game play begins with all players closing their eyes, except for the spies who will look around and learn who their fellow spies are. The only thing the members of the resistance know about the spies are how many of them there are.

The game is broken up into 5 turns. On each turn one player is named the leader, and he will choose which players will go on a mission. Once the Commando team is chosen all players will vote by secret ballot whether they approve of or disapprove of the team chosen for the mission. If the team is disapproved of - the leadership role is passed on to the next player until a team is chosen, and approved by a majority vote. The Commando team goes on the mission, and each member of the team places either a success or a failure card face down - members of the Resistance will always play a success card, but depending on the circumstance - a spy may put a success or a failure card in play. The cards are gathered and shuffled, and then revealed. If all cards played are a success, the Commando raid was successful and the Resistance have earned a Success Point. However if a failure is played, the Commando raid has failed, and a point goes to the Spies. Note however, that depending on the number of players, round 4 may require that 2 failures are required in order for the mission to be a failure.

After the turn, leadership moves on to the next player, and a new turn begins. The number of Commandos per raid varies with the number of players playing, and the turn number. Game play goes on until one team receives 3 successes.

I ended up drawing a spy card at the beginning of our game so I was a member of the spy squad. The game went very smoothly and at round 5 both teams were tied at 2 successes each. I was fortunate to have not drawn attention as a spy (the last one standing so to speak, as the other 2 in the group were under heavy suspicion) and I was chosen to go on the 5th and final mission, thereby bringing down the resistances plan.

The game was fun - I enjoyed the subterfuge involved - but I don't know that I would go back to playing it on a regular basis. There are additional cards and additional rules to switch things up a bit, but with this being my first experience with the game, I do not know what is added to it, and whether or not it brings much more to it.

Jamaica

Jamaica is a hybrid Racing/Resource Management game with a Piratical Theme (Aaarrrr!) The object is to collect treasures, and gold coins, and race around an island. The first player to the end gets a bonus of 15 coins to add to treasure he collected on his trek.

Your ship has a limited amount of storage holds, so you need to be careful about what you carry around. Too much treasure and you may not have enough food to feed your crew. Too much food, and you may not have gunpowder to fire your cannons off at your rivals if they attack!

Balancing your load is just as important as gaining treasure because each time you move you are at risk. Some spaces you land on require you feed your crew, others require you spend some of your treasure, some are safe spots, and some are hidden caches of treasure to be looted!

The game was easy to pick up and understand, and I feel it would appeal to young folk so it may be a great game for families. I don't know that it would be something I'd go back to on a regular basis though as it doesn't seem very complex, and I don't think it would change much between plays. But it was fun for what it is.



Munchkin

Munchkin Fu Box ShotThe next game I played was Munchkin - it turns out I was the person most familiar with the game so I was given the responsibility of explaining the rules and getting everything going on it. The store only had copies of Munchkin Impossible and Munchkin Fu so I gave the players the choice of which theme they would  prefer to play, and Munchkin Fu was chosen.

Munchkin is a light hearted, witty game full of back stabbing and adventure. Munchkin Fu drops the fantasy themed sword and sorcery based original for more of a chop socky, asian martial arts kick fest. The object of the game is to be the first player to raise their characters level to 10.

The game is played by "Kicking Down a Door" revealing anything from a monster for you to fight, a trap for you to avoid, or a new class such as Ninja, Monk or Yakuza. Fighting a monster and winning will allow you to raise your level, and get you treasures which will usually raise your battle prowess. Collect tongue in cheek equipment such as a Neon Kimono, or Poisoned Chopsticks, to aid you in defeating stronger opponents.

One of the new comers to the game ended up winning the game, but I did end up coming home with an Exclusive TableTop International Munchkin bookmark - watch out if you ever play with me, because with this bookmark I can automatically win a battle once per game (unless the battle would bring me to level 10).

Gloom

Gloom Box Shot
Next I played the macabre storytelling card game Gloom. For my audience of the Goth persuasion - this game is for you. The artwork of this game is very reminiscent to Edward Gorey, and the mechanics are intriguing.

In Gloom, you take on the role of a family filled with "misfits and misanthropes" as the game maker calls them. Your goal is to cause your family suffer the most catastrophic lives and die in the most horrible and devastatingly depressed states possible.

 Gloom Sample Cards
The cards are very interesting as they are clear. Modifiers are placed on top of them such as devastating events that cause you to have negative self-worth (negative numbers within red circles), or uplifting events to raise your self-worth (positive numbers within black circles). Also included are event cards that can cause you to skip turns, discard or steal cards. Lastly some cards add symbols which can fulfill requirements for you to play certain cards - or give you bonuses if you die with certain symbols revealed.

But remember the twist, in this game you want to die in the most destitute unfortunate circumstances. Half of the fun is in the story telling of how it is that the members of your family have arrived at this or that unfortunate circumstance. The game ends when one family is completely wiped out. Add up the value of all of the deceased family members and the player who has the most negative self-worth wins the game.

This is a game that hits my table fairly regularly, and it's a great game if you have quick thinking creative story-telling friends. And just as an aside there's another version of this game that is based upon the Cthulhu Mythos! Haven't tried this one yet myself - but I'm sure it will be just as good!

Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica Boxshot
This brings us to the final game I played tonight, Battlestar Galactica. This is probably my favorite board game at the moment. The game takes a few hours to play, but the amount of deception and intrigue involved in it makes it one game that I just love coming back to over and over again.

The game begins in a similar way to The Resistance where a Loyalty deck is made and each player is given a loyalty card (or cards depending on the character). The loyalty card given to you determines if you are a human, or if you are a Cylon. You are the only person who know what you are. The goal for the humans is to survive your journey to Kobol while avoiding the bombardment from Cylons trying to destroy you by whittling away at your morale, your food, your fuel and your population - all the time trying to ferret out if a treacherous Cylon is in your midst, who it is, and sending them to the brig before they can do more damage. Meanwhile the goal of the Cylon player is to surreptitiously foil the humans plans, secretly sabotaging skill checks, and evading detection until you have either destroyed the humans completely, or feel that it is time to declare that you are a cylon and make your attacks more direct.

Battlestar Galactica Game
The distrust and suspicion this game builds is amazing. Keeping track of how your missions were failed, and paying attention to the little clues that give away who the Cylon(s) is/are adds so much intensity to this game. And with every turn ending in a crisis - there's hardly ever time to really catch your breath. Each step closer to Kobol can drain Food, or Fuel from your dwindling reserves and I've never seen a game with much of either of these necessities left over.

As it happens, this time I was a human the whole way through the game. An unusual occurrence, because for some reason, the vast majority of times I play this game I end up being dealt a Cylon loyalty card. It was a hard fought mission. The humans uncovered a cylon infiltatror within the 2nd cycle of each players turns - sending her to the brig before she could do too much damage. Halfway through the game another loyalty card is handed out to each player - and the same character received a Cylon card again. She managed to get the loyalty card to another player, and they were able to drain us very nearly to empty in fuel, morale and population.

In my experience the Cylons usually have an advantage in the game but this time humanity survived their onslaught. This game was played with only the base set - but I've played and enjoy it with the Exodus expansion as well. If you haven't played it - I highly recommend this game!

Look at the Swag!

Gloom Giveaway Swag!So that was my day - had a lot of fun and met some new friends. I even came home with a little swag too!

I came home with a TableTop themed Gloom Mini Expansion, and an International TableTop Day Munchkin Bookmark!

Wil Whaton & Felicia Day in Gloom!
Fellicia Day & Wil Wheaton in Gloom!
Munchkin Internation TableTop Day Bookmark!


















Did you make it to an International TableTop Day Event? Where'd you go? Tell me about it in the comments below! And let me know what you think of any of these games I played - do you have different feelings about them - I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, March 25, 2013

A day with the Imperial Amerikan Air Corp.

Photo of the Imperial Amerikan Air Corp.

This past Sunday I spent the day with the Imperial Amerikan Air Corp. (IAAC) a Steampunk Living Fantasy Troupe based out of the Philadelphia, PA area. My first introduction to the IAAC was due to a chance meeting with Major Girth, the head of the group. While he was not in character or in uniform during our meeting, the topic of the IAAC came up, and I was intrigued enough to want to find out more. It came to my attention that they would be exhibiting at Wicked Faire an event that I was planning to be at as well. So I made it a point to visit their conference room where they were holding panels on Alternative World Building, discussions of their upcoming just released (as of april 11, 2013) book "Steam Powered Tales of Awesomeness Volume 1", and performances by the "Cavalcade of Fancy Ladies" a bellydance troupe with ties to the IAAC.
Cover Photo "Steam Powered Tales of Awesomeness! vol 1"

After attending one of their panels, I met and spoke again with Major Girth. I let him know that I enjoyed what his group was doing, and that I'd like to find out more about them, and possibly see what was involved in becoming part of the group.

This past Friday I got a message from Major Girth letting me know that the group was having Singlestick practice at his place, and that I was welcome to come check it out if I was interested. I had absolutely no idea what singlestick was but I let him know that I'd be there.

I arrived at the Girth home on Sunday, and was introduced to the attending IAAC members. They seemed like a great, welcoming group of guys. Little did I know that within the hour I'd be in the midst of the group, being pummeled with 3/4" diameter wooden rods, and enjoying every minute of it!


Singlestick is a martial art that involves the Singlestick, a wooden rod about 3' long, 3/4" in diameter, and a hard leather basket hilt. The rod is used much as you would a sword, parrying blows and striking your opponent. "The Game" of Singlestick comes in several forms, however the form I was introduced to involved opponents being placed at a set distance apart. Their rear foot is planted to the ground and is not allowed to move. The opponents swing and parry against each other until one lands a solid headshot to the other player, thus ending the round.

In the beginning I let them know I was only going to be observing. They said that was fine, but encouraged me to at least take up a stick and participate in the warm-ups learning several different swings and blocking methods - so I played along. After practicing they faced off against each other showing off their skill at "the Game", exchanging blows, parrying, altering timing to throw opponents off rhythm. They all had different strategies, some being very aggressive, others waiting for just the right moment to move in. In some ways it was like a chess match. 

Watching was cool, but I decided I wanted to try it after all. I was offered a fencing mask and Singlestick and was set up to face off against one of the other newcomers to "the Game". Little did I know that despite the fact the opponents I would be facing were also new to this particular art, they all have had previous experience with other forms of swordplay. Needless to say I was outmatched receiving much more often then giving, but it didn't matter I was having fun losing.

Unfortunately because of previous back issues, I couldn't play for very long - and I did end up watching most of the practice. The group was impressive to watch and overall the actual practice lasted about 2.5 to 3 hours.

What did I learn from this experience? For one thing, I am far from being in shape, and that is something I really need to work on! I was told I would be welcomed back to future practices, and that I may want to look into getting a back brace as it may help with back pain and allow me to participate.

After practice everyone hung out for a few more hours to socialize. It was a good time, and I hope to hang out with them again soon.

If you're interested in Steampunk culture, and are near the Philadelphia area, I'd encourage you to check out one of the events that the Imperial Amerikan Air Corps. are attending. The upcoming events they are scheduled to be at are:

Steampunk Gettysburg - March 29th - March 31st in Gettysburg, PA.

The Twisted World: Divine Decadence - April 27th - 28th in Somerset, NJ.

The Steampunk World's Fair - May 17th - 19th in Piscataway, NJ.

Drop by and say hello to them, tell them your heard about them from Mario.

And keep your eyes on these guys, they plan to make a name for themselves as leaders of Steampunk culture, and from what I know of them, they're on the right track, or airship as the case may be!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

An Introduction to the Life of a Geeky Goth

Welcome to my first blog post - Some of you may already know me as Mario, or by my long standing alias Dvlbunny (Devil Bunny). For others, this may be the first you've heard of me. In either case, thanks for stumbling upon my blog, and I hope you find what you read hear to be of interest! As this is my first post, it will be a basic introduction of myself and my past, what geekiness I've been involved with, and my history in the music scene.

Photo of early D&D Basic Edition Rulebook
I started D&D with this basic edition.
I know it's not the first but it's pretty early.
I've been entrenched in the Gothic and Industrial music scene from the late eighties through now, and I've been interested in all things geeky from a very early age. I started playing Dungeons and Dragons with my brother and a neighborhood friend at the age of 8. I've been playing video games even before then. This makes over 30 years of Geekery - and nearly that much time being a goth!

Along with the pen and paper role-playing games, I have also played a lot of tabletop board games - such as HeroQuest, and Talisman. (Truth be told, I still have, and play my 2nd Edition Talisman game, along with most of the official expansions - everything except Dragons expansion - and with what it sells for now - I don't think I'll ever be getting that expansion.) I still do a lot of board gaming with a great group of friends, and also attend open board gaming nights at my Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS) 7th Dimension Games on occasion, where we play games such as Settlers of Catan, Battlestar Galactica, Thunderstone, Gloom, Arkham Horror, Eldersign, and many, many more.

Musical Background

My interest in Gothic and Industrial music started pretty early - when I was young my brother would play bands like Depeche Mode, and The Cure (to this day I tell people how much I hate The Cure - but I must confess I actually do like some of their earlier material) - but I think it was around 8th grade when I heard Skinny Puppy which was the first band that really got me hooked.

Since then I expanded my interests in music to cover bands across the goth spectrum such as:
Sisters of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim, Bauhaus, Christian Death, Killing Joke, The Mission UK, The March Violets, and New Model Army.

And also Industrial bands like:
Skinny Puppy, Ministry, Pigface, Laibach, Foetus, Numb, Front Line Assembly, Clock DVA, and My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult.

I also delved into the more experimental/classic industrial side of things with:
Einst├╝rzende Neubauten, Coil, Nurse With Wound, Throbbing Gristle, SPK, Boyd Rice/NON.

I also listen to Neofolk bands such as:
Current 93, Sol Invictus, Death in June, Rome, Blood Axis.

And some Medieval music as well:
Corvus Corax, Omnia, Faun.

I went to many clubs in the San Francisco Bay Area during the 90s and 2000s - but I was more of a regular at the South and East bay clubs. I remember spending time at Ammo, Backlash, A Winter Gone By, Death Guild, House of Usher, Roderick's Chamber, House of Voodoo, Deviation, and Shrine of Lilith. I'm sure there were lots more but can't think of names right now ... If you remember other clubs from that time period in the SF Bay area - drop me a line in the comments!

As well as being a fan of this style of music, I'm also a musician, and have played in a few bands in my lifetime - including several electronic industrial projects that never got off the ground while a teen in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sirvix LogoThe first project that I was involved with that got any traction was a more experimental band named Sirvix (links to last.fm page). Sirvix played throughout the San Francisco Bay Area in mid 1990s. I played keyboards, guitar, bass and percussion for the project. During that time it was through a mutual friend that we came to the attention of Chase at Re-Constriction records. Chase mentioned that we should reach out to Tom Muschitz of  Decibel Records as he had heard some rumblings of something in the works with him. We sent some feelers out and along with a demo of our music and Tom said we were just the kind of stuff he was looking for in his new Feedback Records label. And so we were signed to the label and our album "Her Dead Love" was released in 1995. A second recording was made "Autumn's Cascade" but unfortunately Feedback was closed before it was released - these rare recordings are available to be downloaded or listened to on last.fm for free. Soon after the recording of "Autumn's Cascade" Sirvix parted ways.

It was a long time, and a move across the country  between projects for me at this point - but I once again took to making music in January 2009 when I and my bandmate John Harford began the Medieval Project Terra Serpentis (links to Bandcamp page).

Terra Serpentis spent a few years playing at the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Renaissance Faires, as well as a few other venues including being part of the Side-show performances at Projektfest 2010.

Our demo CD "Early Times" was released in September of 2010 - and included 3 songs in their traditional forms, as well as the same 3 songs in which I added electronic elements to them. In early 2013 we announced that Terra Serpentis was being put on hiatus as the majority of the members were moving forward with various other projects.

Destroying Angel Early LogoThis included myself as I had recently joined my current project a Neofolk band named Destroying Angel (links to our Bandcamp page). You can also find us on Facebook. I am currently doing percussion for the project but at some point I hope to be adding some electronic elements to the project as well.

What's Coming on this Blog?

Now that you know a little bit of background about me -  you shouldn't be surprised to hear that in future posts, I'll be talking about music I like within the goth / industrial / medieval genres. I'll also be talking about gaming - be it board games, video games, or role-playing games. I'm also a huge fan of technology (and what geek isn't?) So don't be surprised to see a bit of that as well.

Basically - I'm going to write about anything I find interesting - and for the most part - if you fall into the goth or geek categories - I'm sure you'll find some interesting stuff here in the future.

If you have a chance to listen to my music - please feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below. If you find something cool that you think I'd be interested in, add that to the comments as well - or contact me in one of the other ways listed in my profile.  Hell, if you just want to say hi - do that too!