Cabin 2007

cabin_12-23-07.jpgAs usual, the cabin did not disappoint. There were guests in and out, and I sadly missed the guitar concert that started the morning. Listening to my brother play guitar is one of life’s great times for me. I felt especially excited to be there because I’d thought there was no way I could do it because I had a kid. Yet again, Carlton proves he’s dad of the year!

We ate delicious food and treats, many prepared by the host’s mom (my cooking inspiration since high school). There were also decadent fried biscuits and apple butter. These are Nashville mainstays that are required for the cabin-ness to be complete. We watched a bit of the Colts game and talked while the adults were there (I call them the adults but realize that I am technically an adult- but I cannot call them by their first names, so you know what I mean, right). After the adults left, we exchanged some gifts and got down to the business of gaming. Our host had, of course, a new game for all to try. I’m in!

Citadels was an absorbing, fun game. It was very easy to learn the mechanics and we started playing quickly. The only hitch was that the host had to write the character classes on a napkin so we could remember order of play; the game, being card-based, could have had this printed on a master card. It did contain some game mechanics on cards for each player.

With each round, the play changed. First people vied for their favorite characters (not shockingly, there was a spat between LBFH and Ken over who would be King each round. Ah, the Alpha male!). I stupidly played obvious characters, making it easy for other characters to guess who I was and assassinate/rob me. At one point, maybe feeling sorry for me because I kept losing, Thurbrand passed me the card of the character I wanted to play that round. It was very nice, but I definitely realized my game style was obviioouuuus! It became a very good intellectual game, with some things left to chance but others required strategy, bluffing, and knowing your fellow players’ styles.

I noticed with amusement that I, and some of the others, were resisting using Magic-style moves with our cards, such as tapping, even though no such mechanic was needed. It must be in our blood…

It took about 1-2 hours for play, and was taking longer and longer as each round, the players were more savvy and were going through more permutations of next moves and other meta plays. It can be a quick parlor game or a serious battle to the death, depending on the players’ skill, experience, and BAC.

I loved the game so much that I’m buying it. I want to have a little gaming session at my house, just to see old friends and also to play games again. I do miss gaming. The nice thing for me about games like Citadels is the defined end, as opposed to role playing. For me, I tend to fade quickly due to my demanding parenting schedule (Five AM is ugly early). I can play middle-earth-type games, visit with friends, and opt out for an early bedtime without risking my character’s life (I’m looking at you, Athran the Button Pusher).

We had a between-games break before starting a round of Carcasonne, during which LBFH pulled out the guitar and several of us sang along. We caught sight of a gorgeous moonbow that Ken noticed while out on the deck. Sadly, though I was supposed to have one of my brother’s deliciously prepared cabin breakfasts, I had to depart early. Ah, parenthood!


I miss gaming.

As my close friends know, I have had some significant health problems that have brought my social life to a near standstill. Things are looking better now but I’m still under doctor’s orders to “take it easy.”

I’ve had to stop all my gaming activities. It’s all fine with me because this “taking it easy” thing has really helped me feel better, but I remember a time when the gaming backpack- and my mini-painting set- were both wearing thin with use.

Now Gaming Season is about to start. Gen Con is weeks away…and I can’t attend. The gaming cabin- a group of close-knit friends from all over the country- is very iffy.

It’s definitely like that.A fellow blogger had been posting some hilarious motivation-style posters on his site, so I did a quick google search and found it. The posters had me laughing hysterically. Then I found the one at the right and it was so totally perfect for what it’s like, especially at the cabin. It even looks like the cabin.

With the impending changes in my life, who knows what my new groove will be. I don’t know how I am going to handle it all. But I will. And somehow gaming will be a part of it. I’ve already started mini-painting again, so hopefully things will continue to look better.

Because I miss gaming.


lifeboat.JPGIt's called Lifeboat, but I kept calling it Overboard- maybe because my character kept being dunked! 

I had the opportunity to play this game with its developer, Jeff Siadek.  It was a fun game that could appeal to traditional role players as well as non-gamers looking for a fun "game night" type game.  The rules were not complex, and after understanding a bit about mechanics, it was easy to play.  Of course, experience brings better playing, but I do like a game that beginners can enjoy right out of the box.  The only thing it needs is a game mat to keep track of what activities your character has done that turn (row, fight, et cetera) I will be buying my own copy soon! It was amazing to me to play a game with the person who developed it. It was so much fun to see what their take on playing was.  Plus, the Bucket of Chum card is a stroke of comic genius.

I had purchased Wench, another game-night type game, the previous year, but this game is much more fun and FAR less offensive.  I would recommend it to all types of gamers.  There's nothing like throwing your friends off of a Lifeboat!!!

Gen Con 2006

It's the best four days in gaming and arguably the best four days of my year!Gen Con Overview

I hope you have an hour to spare.  This post is way too long…………

This year's Con started with a bang: my best friend told me she was running out of room for her cousin and his buddies who needed a place to stay.  I have three spare bedrooms and plenty of couch space, so I offered to take in six strangers (!) for four days.  Lots of people thought I was insane.  I noted that most of those people were from the non-gamer population who don't understand the sense of community.  The gamer template, propagated by ignorance through many publications, is all they picture: doughy antisocials who are creepy.  Just from talking to Bryce on the phone, I could tell we were going to have a ton of fun.

I spent all week preparing the house for them: buying snacks, washing sheets, preparing guest rooms, going back to buy more fruit and fruit juice because I found out the were vegetarians in the group, vacuuming, de-cat hairing the whole house, moving Mini into the closet/bathroom….by the time Wednesday arrived, I was exhausted but happy.  I told Amy I was excited for Gen Con- meeting six people staying in my hause, plus tens more at the Con.  She said, "that sounds like hell." To each his own!

I arrived Wednesday night at the Con to work will-call.  Bryce and Mars coordinated taking me home from there as the caravan converged on my house.  I was shoved into the back seat of some guy's (later named Ben) Jeep next to his 8-month old daughter.  By shoved I mean I was holding someone's heavy suitcase on my lap and my feet were scrunched on a box.  Sound awful?  Maybe, but to me, it felt like fun.  Like the fun of a hapless adventure beginning.  Introductions were shouted and we were off!

I was so excited to meet the people staying at my house.  They were all very, very sweet to the pet menagerie- that had been my only concern.  The whole mayhem of Wednesday night kept me awake until well after one AM, even though I was working my real job the next day.  In a normal job, I would be unable to think about anything but Gen Con all day.  However, the seminar I attended was truly captivating.  I had a chance to speak to the woman after whom I seek to model my own career.  She is so engaging and straightforward and intelligent.  It made me love my job even more!  But I digress…

Thursday after work, I rushed to the Con for a quick cruise of the floor, timing the walk for Friday and looking for an inexpensive corset.  I found exactly the right one at exactly the right price- one-third the cost at other vendors!!  Check out for more.  Not to mention that the guy who sells them is really sweet- not all gross and lecherous like he could be.  He laced me into my new purchase and my poor brother said "this is gross.  I don't need to see this.  But it's like a car accident and I can't turn away."  He cracked up everyone in the booth.  We went to dinner across the street and met up with a few other friends.  That night, we watched Serenity.  As the house guest trickled into the home theater, they were blown away.  I was really happy to see that all our blood, sweat, and tears were rewarded with happy guests.  I only wished that Carlton were there too.  After the movie, we played a game of Lifeboat that one of the houseguests, Jeff Siadek, had developed. 

Friday, after the exhausting week, was a late morning.  I was later to the Con than I wanted to be.  I had two in my carpool, so when my sister called to ask where the heck I was, I blamed them. I had timed the walk of the vendor's hall and scoped some "non-gamer" games to show her.  Our time was limited by how long her young son would tolerate being in a backpack.  My brother met us in the hall and the three of us walked together.  No, it was more like my brother and I both saying Oo! Come over here! Hey Wen- check these prices!  Hey- let's playtest this game!  Finally, my brother had to go to a gaming session and my sister said, "aw, don't go, this is fun!" He and I gave each other a look of knowing and yelled "HOORAY!" right there.  Success!  A Gen Con convert!  With a very red face, she followed us around some more.  She and I (briefly) playtested Kill Doctor Lucky, a Clue-like game with more intrigue because the body is alive!  Too macabre for young kids, it looked like fun for adults.  After that, her son started acting up and she had to be on her way.  On the way out, I ran into King Arthur.  We talked for a few minutes, then he said, "hey, do you have a blog?"  BUSTED!  But it was really cool to know that someone somewhere was reading all of this drivel!

ChainmailFriday night, I changed into my LARP outfit- black dress and red wrap.  We cruised the floor quickly and a vendor literally chased after me and asked me to try on his chain shirt for women.  It was really cool but at the tune of $200, I could not justify the purchase.  I returned the shirt and we proceeded to our Firefly-universe LARP.  It was the one that was such fun at Origins.  However, this time, it started at eight but there were still people with no character sheets at eleven PM.  I felt sorry for the crew because I knew they'd had some logistics issues; however, pre-gen sheets would have remedied the majority of the issues.  The plotline really rolled after midnight.  At two thirty, though I didn't feel tired, I drove home.  The LARP was still in full speed!  Our ship did very very well again.  I was a little irritated that the mega-ship generated by some members of the staff was in full play with only one player present.  I would only join this LARP again if they fixed the character sheet issues and had more than one person who knew the plotline.  Still amped when I returned home, I stayed up talking to a houseguest who was also too amped to sleep.

Saturday, exhausted and happy, I made my way downtown for more of the fun.  I walked the floor again, watched as the delicious boys of Edhellen Armoury put on more displays of brute force.  For a fee, any crazy person who feels like being hit by foam-covered weapons can fight people trained in fighting.  Why do people pay for this? I don’t know.  Adrenaline, I guess.  I do love to watch, though.  The best are when two fighters from the Armoury actually do the fighting themselves.  The action is a lot faster and the blade strokes are more elegant.  King Arthur usually swings a battle axe, but I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing him pummel his opponents this year.  Similarly, Blue Eyes (Lancelot? No, leather armor is not the right era I think) didn’t fight much…I guess he broke his pretty nose falling down one night.  This year’s Gamer Olympics featured not just medieval fighters, but Romans in full armor also.  It was really cool to see the strategy when four Romans would fight four gamers: the Romans knew how to switch targets for faster, backstabbing “kills.” I would like to see one of their full-scale battles sometime.

Am I still on Saturday?  Geez. Maybe I should separate this into two posts.

We attended the costume contest.  It was a little disappointing compared to last year, with winged girl and Red Death both being jaw-dropping amazing.  I didn’t stay for the winners, opting instead to head to dinner.  We rounded up the houseguests and headed to a downtown eatery, Houlihan’s.  It was one of the most fun meals I have had in a while.  It wasn’t really about the food (read my review for that, though), it was a table of six very diverse people.  Deipnosophy, here I come!!!  Before all of the guests arrived, a very sweet 50something woman approached our table.  Oz was in costume, I was wearing a corset, and my brother was carrying games.  She politely asked why so many people were costumed downtown.  She had never even heard of Gen Con!  We smothered her with information, told about our non-gamer sister who loved the convention, mentioned the Monopoly and Bridge tournaments, and in general deserve a kickback from the Con for our positive press.  She was so sweet and accepting.  After all of the negative press by folks in Indianapolis, it was nice to talk to someone positive.  After everyone arrived, we talked LARPs, gaming, game mechanics, food, beer, traffic, everything.  I was bathed in the excitement of new people, new topics, and good cheer.

We proceeded back to N-Con (my house) to play Battlestations.  It was eleven PM when a small crew of us decided to hit one of the Con afterparties at local goth club Radio Radio.  The band, Cruciform Injection, was really fun.  I like all kinds of music so I was happy with the performance, but if you don’t like goth or punk, you’re out of luck.  After about two songs of reacquainting myself with goth, I was a dancing fool.  Emphasis on the fool part!!!!  The drinks were pretty strong so I switched to water very quickly.  I didn’t need the alcohol- dancing and singing were my drugs of choice.  I was soaked with perspiration after several hours.As Radio Radio wound to a close, we piled friends old and new into my car and crashed the private club White Wolf vampire party for a while.  We were sorry we hadn’t arrived earlier; drinks were free!  I ran into some other folks I’d met at previous Cons and continued to dance like mad.  We shut down that party too, after which there were a few games of dodge ball.  What? Huh? Yes, I was confused too.  Apparently the goth sport of choice is dodge ball.  I also wished I’d brought my camera.  There’s something disconcerting about pale people dressed in black hurling kickballs at each other.  One of my houseguests begged to stay and play the second game.  We stuck around and he was the first person out!!  Sorry, kid.  We arrived home after four.  AM.  I haven’t been out that late since college.  But oddly, I was energetic.  I was in my element: meeting new friends, dancing, singing.  I miss going out.

Sunday the mood at the Con was very muted.  It wasn’t just me; other gamer’s blogs revealed exhaustion too!  All 30,000 of us were exhausted from lack of sleep and from the aforementioned amped-adrenaline-rushy-ness.  I did a quick walk of the vendor hall to buy a game for my sister and to say goodbye to my new friends.  Oz and I attended a mini-painting seminar.  The teacher was amazing.  He had a voice that reminded me of the guy who used to be on PBS painting “little happy clouds.” The minis had white basecoat like the pros use.  He helped me through the color selection and techniques for washes and blending.  This mini is honestly the best-painted one I’ve ever produced.  I’m excited to apply the technique to my other figures!!As we were painting, someone from Gen Con staff came to our table and announced, “ladies and gentlemen, I’m sad to report that it is four o’clock and Gen Con 2006 is officially over.  You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”  It was depressing.  We walked out of the room, said goodbye to each other, and I was alone at Gen Con.  I soaked in the sad feeling from other gamers, knowing none of us wanted it to end (but geez we sure needed the sleep).

I drove home listening to a sad song by James Blunt and remembering the fantastic times I’d had during the weekend.  I walked in the house and saw the empty rooms and empty couches and started humming another sad song from Les Misérables.  I guess I was basking in, and enjoying the extent of, my emotions: letting them happen and experiencing it instead of denying it.  I laid on the couch in the lower-level family room and sang sad songs while I rested.  I missed Gen Con and I missed N Con.  The house was so full of energy and life.  I spent the rest of the day blasting sad songs and washing sheets, towels, and cleaning in general.

Thus ends my epic post.  Gen Con is an amazing experience and I would recommend it to anyone who likes, well, anything.  I miss all 30,000 of you!


battlestations.JPGI missed the 10-minute noob intro for Battlestations because I was talking on the phone.  That was quite unfortunate: the game is quite complex.  There is one board to show space location and a board each for each ship, built from square modules.  It is a blend of space tactics, board games, and role playing.  I really liked the game pieces and layouts: the artwork was clear and well done, plus the pieces make roleplaying easier when we aren't having to draw every dungeon/room/alley.  Having read zero of the modules, I spent most of the game feeling frustrated.  As I was playing the game with its developers (Jeff and Jason Siadek), two other seasoned Battlestations veterans, and a lifelong gamer, it was difficult for me to overcome my “first-timer” jitters. 

I had everyone telling me what to do and most of my independent decisions were pretty bad.  The veterans and game developers were immersed in advanced play and I kept having to stop them for instructions.  I wish I had played in an all-noob demo first.  For example, the ship designs were relatively complex and I had no idea what were the best actions.  From what I saw of the game, this is the type of adventure that can be built to be more challenging as the GM allows.  I would love to play again after reading the modules and grasping better the space concept.  I have never played a space RPG so it’s all new to me, unless watching endless episodes of “Star Trek: the Next Generation” counts for anything.

Other online reviews also report this is a complex game, but often the complex ones are the most challenging and (duh) most rewarding.

Origins 2006

What would possess a seemingly rational girl to spend a long weekend in one hotel room with three gamer geeks?  Love of games.  Get your mind out of the gutter!!!

My brother and Mike arrived on Thursday, like a good gamer should; Oz and I couldn't spare a square of vacation so joined the crew Friday night.  I had to go to work insanely early- so early that I almost

beat the Evil Day Star out of bed- so we could leave in time to make it to a Firefly LARP on Friday.  What's a LARP, you say?  Well, congratulations: society considers you normal.  For the rest of us, Live-Action Role Playing is the ultimate in nerdliness.  Instead of sitting at a table to game, we trot out our poor acting skills- and sometimes our costumes- and play our games in person.  I have only been in one other LARP and I hated it.  But I love Firefly, I'm up for a challenge, and hey, what else am I gonna do at the Con?

I was not sorry.  We had so much fun Friday night that agreed to return Saturday.  Good thing, because as you can see from this picture on the right *editor's note: photo removed*, my brother was in a Mood after not doing Our Origins Crew.well in the Magic tournament.  We headed to the streets of Columbus, Ohio in search of hopped beverages.  Being lazy gamers, we chose the place closest to our hotel- Barley's . There we shared a brew and Mike and my brother regaled their wins and losses in Magic.  Apparently the folks for whom they metagamed did not show.  WoTC had almost zero presence at Origins, so many teams opted to unveil their new decks at GenCon instead.  Barley's had very good beers , but poor service for a place only half full.  They also had a menu of 20 homebrews, to which our server hastily pointed and said these seven were the only ones on tap.  She walked away and we couldn't remember which ones they had!  When her shift ended, she was replaced by a guy who forgot they had a brown ale, so they need a better system for knowing what's in stock.  The tin ceiling made it awfully loud also.

Exhausted, we piled into our hotel room to sleep.  Mike valiantly offered to sleep on the floorComfy Kitchen Floor!, leaving Oz the couch and my brother the other half of the king bed.

We started the next day Elevensies and a quick shopping tour of the main floor.  I've never been to Origins, so I didn't know what it would be like.  It seemed like the vendors were very similar to GenCon, but where Origins would have one custom corset vendor, GenCon would have five.  I didn't see anything to distinguish the Origins floor from GenCon.  Being smaller, Origins should IMHO do something to personalize and/or specialize to attract a certain segment.  We made mental shopping lists for Sunday and headed to our D&D game.

Cheeese...and Some BeersWe bought our way in with generics and I was worried that we would dilute the game too much.  However, our GM Daniel kept eleven players engaged in a very interesting module.  I have not played D&D for 15 years or so, but Daniel was good at explaining.  We had a good mix of personalities in the mix and lots of quick wit.  The gnome bard was hilarious- my character miserably failed a movement roll, then did well on silent movement.  She instantly began singing a "Silent and Flailing" ode- to the tune of Pink's "God is a DJ!" It was a great mix of fun, polite players fighting battles and solving puzzles.

We had dinner at some random bar.  I would love to review it for you, but it left no impression on me so I can't remember the name or what I had to eat!!  We spent the meal talking about games and preparing for Part II of our Firefly LARP.

The great thing about the LARP style is that the FF format means we formed a ship crew and worked together.  The GM, Karen, had a pretty good gaming system and I was really impressed by her ability to smile so much through the frenetic pace of the scenarios piling up.  Our crew were so innovative in gathering information that we ended up doing very well.  We fed the info to our captain- Oz- and he made great decisions.  My brother wins the acting award, not only for how he played his character's stats, but his Firefly 'verse speech patterns and clever comebacks.  We knew we were on track when GM Karen radioed for some ship stats and said to her crew- "you know, the Thing with the People- in the DESERT…the MEGAPLOT!"  We did very well and our crew was not injured.  After a major revelation, she asked what we would do next.  Oz said, "we'll see you at GenCON!" and we "flew" into the black.  The developers are planning to have a MUSH for us between now and GenCon.  I can't believe I'm about to say this: I enjoyed the LARP so much I'll do it again!

We decided to celebrate our clever gaming with martinis at MoJoe's, a bar my brother had found.  The drinks were delicious and the outdoor seating was great for people-watching.  Indoors was a modern-ish bar with the requisite Techno Mood music that every martini bar must have.  I would recommend it, but the restroom was the dirtiest one I've seen in a long time (please recall that I've been on a nine hour plane ride recently). Paper towels overflowing, half empty soda bottle on the floor, trash… very unpleasant.  The kind that makes one wonder is staying to wash one's hands will make them cleaner or dirtier.  So back to a fun topic- our conversation.  The four of us had a drink or two and enjoyed the evening.  The conversation was fantastic.  All four of us are vastly different people with different backgrounds so the conversation was heated on occasion.  But deipnosophy is my passion, so the wide variety of topics was incredibly enjoyable.  We all had something different and interesting to contribute.

Sunday morning, Mike and my brother left early to return to their spouses/kids after three long days of gaming with only a few hours of sleep.  Oz and I did our shopping.  Even for the non-gamer, the wares are really interesting.  I love all of the funny T-shirts and clever logos.  This picture reminds me of a fellow gamer…you know who you are, you button-pusher…Weaselll

As much as I dislike being a walking billboard, this shirt Philosophy was so poignant that I almost bought it.  I do feel like God delivered the message to each culture uniquely and that we have more in common than we think.  At the very least, we all need to learn to respect each other more.  Ahem, pardon me as I stable my high horse :p

There was some live-action fighting from Edhellen Armoury , The same people who were doing it last year at GenCon.  Sadly, this year, the pros were not fighting, it was gamer y gamer, and the fights were not as good.  I don't know why they opted out.  Liability?  Strain?  I remember the guy who does the most fighting (King Arthur dude) was dripping with sweat last year, and some of the gamers did some bad illegal hits.  Anyway, it's fun to watch the combat.

Fighters in CostumeI would be remiss to pretend that the only interesting thing Edhellen is the fine boffer swords and larp props.  One of the young men who works there has the bluest eyes I've ever seen.  I get Barbara Mandrell-style togue-tiedand embarrassed around him and won't look at him.  Oz uses this for his amusement and points the guy out to me.  Here is the e-vile picture Oz took of the two Armory guys in costume.  The guy on the left is the one who belongs in a King Arthur movie; Blue Eyes is on the right.  Enough said.

Oz and I both bought a few things we'd scoped on Saturday, but found ourselves saying "I'll find that on the internet" or "it's cheaper at GenCon" or "I'll wait until GenCon."  In fact, I've mentioned GenCon in every paragraph of this post.  Here's how I see Origins: First, it's only 38 days apart from GenCon.  Second, it's smaller.  Third, it offered nothing to me I can't have at GenCon (and more of it too).  The small size made it no more personal and no more unique.  I love games, but I can't afford the time nor the money to invest in two Cons so similar.  I was appreciative of what Origins was, but there was not enough to keep me going there every year.  See Oz's blog entry for his take on all of this.

I arrived home tired, happy, and happy to see Carlton.  I am so very lucky to have a spouse who lets me do all of this with my brother and our other nerdy friends.  The amazing part to me is that it's not something he understands.  All he knows is how happy it makes me, and he listens patiently to my stories of winning a saving roll like I'm regaling my latest gold game to a non-golfer.

Why am I awake at two in the morning?  Because I am too stoked about playing FF at GenCon!  See you there!!!!!!! 

Fear of Girls…wait, I’m a Girl!

When I saw this video, I had about 20 reactions. It’s funny, for sure, and well done. However, sometimes the truth hurts, and I’ve said some of the quotes from the film. If I can’t laugh at myself, then I have ignored my best source of humorous material!

The sister-in-law ruins it with poor acting. All of her scenes were bad, except the dinner table one where she doesn’t speak. I was nearly laughing out loud at that. Maybe partly the situation, and partly the fact that most religion’s prayers sound eerily similar.

I don’t appreciate the implied celibate-homosexuality, because it’s just one of those few topics I don’t find funny. Maybe because too many people from all walks of life are having serious struggles with it and my compassion for them overrides the humor.

The Gen Con shirt and other touches indicate that the filmmakers really know their subject matter, and as such, must have been gamers at some point. Every hobby has its extreme members. Gamers are one of the easiest comedic targets. But we aren’t all the same…

Methinks He Doth Protest Too Much

After an intense gaming session on Sunday where my greed and push-the-button nature nearly had Athran killed and me turned to stone, we started perusing my website, my blog, and Oz’s blog for amusing information.

The GM was stationed at the computer (how shocking- the GM was deciding where we would go) and was complaining about the perils of having a website and especially a blog. He berated a couple of my blog entries and didn’t seem that enthused about our websites.

Then, after my ISO meeting tonight, I arrive home and my husband has news. My husband, the hardware/software guru, has helped my GM, the programming guru, to open his own little corner of cyberspace.

I humbly present to you: It’s just nuts and bolts for now, but I’m anticipating a Juggernaut of a site!

See, Gregory, I told you it was fun.