Category Archives: Gaming

lurks the weekend, full and turgid with things

It’s been one of those weeks.

Timing, cc by-nc-nd image from hdeb89 on Flickr
Timing, cc by-nc-nd image from hdeb89 on Flickr

Yeah, pretty much like that.

It so happens that this weekend is brimming with things to do, and I’ll be hitting up each of the below events at some point to be festive and decompress. If you happen to be in the Baltimore area, I heartily suggest you join in as well:

  • The Family Game Store‘s Fifth Birthday Extravaganza – Our FLGS is the best on the planet, and is celebrating its fifth year, and we were among the first of its customers, and our presence is therefore mandated, so we will be participating in the revels with them on Saturday evening, October 23. There will be games and cake. It shall be a brilliant time.
  • The USA Science and Engineering Festival Grand Finale Expo – The “largest science festival in the nation” concludes this weekend with a massive free event on Saturday and Sunday from 10am – 5:30pm on the National Mall in DC. Laura will be helping out with space-related activities at Discovering the Universe (booth 435) on Sunday, while I will be pondering what mad mischief I can get into with the American Society of Microbiology (booths 1141 and 1143, also MWA HA HA HA).

  • Capclave 2010 – The regional science-fiction literary convention Capclave is this weekend in Rockville, MD. Laura and I have been twice before, and have found the experience somewhat underwhelming – both times it felt a bit like showing up to the meeting of a club you don’t belong to, rather than a welcoming fan community. That noted, this year’s guest of honor are the awesome Connie Willis and the VanderMeers, which makes it worth finding out if the third time is a charm. That, and hunting down a fanzine panel to attend. Heh.

soon to be well-armed with a Healing Blade

A few months back, I learned of the in-production game Healing Blade. This is a card game designed by two gamer-physicians to be both deeply strategic, as well as an instructional experience for students and doctors to teach appropriately selecting antibiotics to fight specific bacterial infections. Today, it was finally launched on Amazon and through game stores.

So, let’s see – gamer? Check. Physician? Check. Specialty, nay, nigh-obsession with infectious diseases? Check. Trains medical students and residents? Check.

I am, it seems, in the target audience.

A bit of background from the website:

Developed by two physician/gamers, Francis Kong and Arun Mathews, Healing Blade plunges the player into a world of sorcery and creatures, where real-world knowledge of infectious diseases and therapeutics play a pivotal role in the winning strategy.

Choose one of two sides:

-The Apothecaries, Champions of the Healing Blade whose namesakes hearken from real world antibiotics.

-The Lords of Pestilence, Creatures of Disease and manifestations of actual bacterial agents.

As you and your opponent seek domination through corruption and conquest, you must vie not only with brute force, but also with planning, strategy, and most importantly, an astute understanding of microbiology and medical therapeutics.

Early reviews seem to report that it’s a solid game, but I’ve ordered a couple of copies to check it out for myself. I’ll be sure to drop a review here once I’ve played a few rounds. However, I do have high hopes. Why? SYPHILIS. I mean, just look at her

*swoon* Uh, I mean, hand me the bastard sword +3 of penicillin! Yeah. That’s it. Yup.

ReConStruction post-mortem

  • ReConStruction was damn fun. Moreso than other cons in recent memory, there was a refreshing balance of work (being on panels) and actually being able to spend time doing fun con-things that were not work. There was, of course, plenty of partying and socialization – and the usual awesome rule that old friends were spent time with, and new friends were made, applies.
  • Things were rather… desolate in terms of attendance. Usually, most Worldcons run in the neighborhood of 2,000-6,000+ people, and while NASFiCs tend to be smaller, attendance is somewhere in the 1,000-3,000+ range. I was told unofficially that there were less than 800 registered people, which seems about right, based on my observations. In the huge convention center space, this number of people made it feel like a ghost town. There were likely many factors at play, not the least of which were location and challenging economic times. That noted, it also forces me to wonder about the often-discussed idea that the traditional “pure” literary SF&F convention model is less appealing to younger generations of fans, and may die off (quite literally, as the older generation of fans who started said cons and who still make up the bulk of the attendees march onward through time) over next couple of decades unless their content is adjusted for broader appeal. One data point does not itself make a trend, but this was quite the interesting data point.
you can almost see the tumbleweeds, cc by-nc-sa image from John Cmar on Flickr
you can almost see the tumbleweeds, cc by-nc-sa image from John Cmar on Flickr
  • Science Which We All Know Is Wrong ended up being enjoyable, although in a trend that would persist for many panels at the con, suffered for not having a focused topic and for being given too much time (90 minutes). I shared the panel with two people with space science/physics backgrounds and one with a chemistry background. This led to a far-ranging discussion that included practical science and physics myths (ala Mythbusters territory), various space and physics theoretical topics, medical woo such as homeopathy and the marketing of “natural/organic” products, and critical thinking v. belief. The whole thing ended with an extended thought experiment in relativistic physics that involved a jet-assisted titanium phone pole traveling at near light speeds along teflon-coated pavement towards a small hole in the street. Which seems somehow appropriate.
  • As evidenced by the image above, the dealer’s room was rather small, and made to look even tinier by it’s placement in an otherwise barren convention hall. The best thing in the room, bar none, was the Bull Spec table, enthusiastically showcasing Durham’s excellent Bull Spec magazine as well as books by regional authors. They were busy throughout the whole con, and that pleases me greatly. While wandering through the dealer’s room on the first day, I stumbled across the freshly released Voltron: Defenders of the Universe miniatures battle game, which uses the Monsterpocalypse rules. I have never played Monsterpocalypse, but for the love of Azathoth’s 42nd ethereal nipple, IT’S A VOLTRON GAME… and it is now MINE.
Voltron: Defender of the Universe, cc by-nc-sa image from john Cmar on Flickr
Voltron: Defender of the Universe, cc by-nc-sa image from john Cmar on Flickr
  • What Podcasting Can Do For You was an interesting experience, to say the least. We ended up covering the usual ground in terms of what podcasting is, what motivates people to do it, it’s role in people’s lives and careers, etc… All was well and good until one of the audience members (who, it is important to note, was quit pleasant), instigated a back and forth discussion for the last 20 minutes of the panel that was both antagonistic and confusing. The upshot seemed to be that she was offended that in us talking about the effort and work that goes into making a good audio podcast, we were somehow insulting the old-school fannish tradition of printed fanzines. While we, kind of obviously, were not, she persisted with gently offensive comments that quickly seemed to be less about the subject at hand and more about her “brand” of fan community dying out. There’s a rant in here, but I’ll save it for after Aussiecon, for better perspective.
  • Doctor Osborn’s Balloons of Doom was in full force all weekend, which kept many kids (and some adults) highly entertained. Princess Scientist collected quite a menagerie from him, and sucked me into an intermittent balloon creature LARP. Good times. For whatever it’s worth, Doctor Osborn is even better than Vlad:

  • Health and Today’s Fandom was about what you might expect – how to lose weight, tips on globally increase our health, etc… I attempted to inject something different at the end in discussing a paper (relevantly enough to Worldcon this year, about a survey study done at Aussiecon 3) looking at the mental health benefits of science fiction fandom, but I got the feeling that flew like a concrete donkey. Still, it was a pleasant discussion.
  • I partied with Skeeve. Hard. Twice. There was much fist-pumping, off-key crooning, and libations flowed liberally. That dude’s crazy… and I don’t need to remind you, skeevy too. Also, Mary Robinette Kowal‘s launch party for Shades of Milk and Honey was a great time: Mur was introduced by Someone of Note to Someone of Note in a way I cannot repeat but was glorious, Davey (I did a dramatic reading of his Wikipedia page to him, in which we discovered that it is mostly wrong in a hilarious kind of way) considered and passed on his “Hitler moment,” and seeing Mary’s father Ken Harrison do a handsaw concert at the end was strange and wonderful.
Ken Harrison amazes with the handsaw, cc by-nc-sa image from John Cmar on Flickr
Ken Harrison amazes with the handsaw, cc by-nc-sa image from John Cmar on Flickr
Devo Spice rocks ReConStruction, cc by-nc-sa image from John Cmar on Flickr
Devo Spice rocks ReConStruction, cc by-nc-sa image from John Cmar on Flickr
  • Where Are The Next Mad Scientists went to where I expected it would, namely lamenting the current deficiencies in encouraging general science eduction and critical thinking skills. The discussion was pleasant, but everyone breathed a sigh of relief when we cut the panel off at 60 minutes, instead of it’s scheduled 90.
  • Having never been to the Raleigh Convention Center, I was pleased to discover great food nearby. After an epic sushi quest that proved Google Maps on both the iPhone and the Andriod to be full of LIES when it comes to accurate restaurant searches, we were rewarded with excellent sushi at Sushi Sono. The Oxford Gastro Pub has some odd and amazing food, as well as some good beer. Shish Kabob contained a magical man with a fez, who summoned forth delicious kabobs for our gustatory delight.
the be-fezzed master of kabobs, cc by-nc-sa image from John Cmar on Flickr
the be-fezzed master of kabobs, cc by-nc-sa image from John Cmar on Flickr

So ends this post-mortem evaluation – end of dictation.

weekly rounds

  • The 2009 leftover work-glut-that-never-seems-to-get-caught-up-with continues, although the past week has seen premium down time devoted to both Dragon Age: Origins and catching the first stop of Arch Enemy‘s current North American tour. There’s more to say soon about both of these, but for now, check out Ken’s review of the former.

weekly rounds

  • At the risk of inducing a recursive weekly roundup loop, it seems that Overlords Johnson and Miller are starting up a Friday Minion Roundup feature on the retooled Secret Lair site. Everyone involved is stupefyingly talented, which makes this an imperative thing for you to check out.
  • Jim has threatened to hit us with a weekly dose of critical gaming links on The Vintage Gamer, and he is making good on said threat. The only thing more interesting and awesome than the information he’s corralling together is Jim himself (which sets said bar orbitally high), so I command you to go and read.

Hail, Miskatonic!

Propnomicon is a Cthulhu aficionado of great refinement and education, as well as a propmaker extraordinaire.  His website is an amazing resource not only for tutorials on how to make period-specific props that evoke both Lovecraftian and other horror themes, but also to showcase his own brilliant work, and the excellent projects and how-to’s of other designers that he has come across.  I am particularly fond of his “things in a bottle,” several of which I am fortunate to own, and grace the desk in my office at the hospital:

Miskatonic Parasite Specimen, photo: Propnomicon
Miskatonic Parasite Specimen - front view, photo: Propnomicon
Miskatonic Parasite Specimen - side view, photo: Propnomicon
Miskatonic Parasite Specimen - side view, photo: Propnomicon

Recently, he has unveiled the sheet music for the official school song of Miskatonic University – “Hail, Miskatonic.”  John Cmar (class of 1826), my ancestor and namesake, co-wrote this catchy and popular piece. Click through the image to view the original post and get the full high-resolution sheet music:

Hail, Miskatonic - page 1, image: Propnomicon
Hail, Miskatonic - page 1, image: Propnomicon
Hail, Miskatonic - page 2, image: Propnomicon
Hail, Miskatonic - page 2, image: Propnomicon

Be sure to check out his website for more Cthulhian goodness, as well as his Miskatonic University expedition swag on Zazzle and sundry goods on eBay.  Today, he has posted a limited edition Miskatonic University Prop Set for sale, which is exceptionally cool:

Miskatonic University Prop Set, photo: Propnomicon
Miskatonic University Prop Set, photo: Propnomicon

It’s limited to a run of 100 copies, so if you have any interest, I highly recommend you check it out.

Naught But Dust

Dust by Fantasy Flight Games

Last week i09 had a brief look at Dust, Fantasy Flight‘s new strategy board game. It was one of our Origins acquisitions, and is very high on my “needs to be played” list. We first noticed it at the the Adventure Retail booth on Sunday morning, where it was labeled with the following post-it note:

“Did not win the Origins Award, but did place 1st in the swimsuit competition.”

Attention thus attracted, and with some positive information from Mario, I am unashamed to say that my thought process was as follows:

“Prominently illustrated women with WWII style costumery and large guns -> alternate history with mechs and alien technology -> global domination -> over 800 fiddly bits -> squee! WANT”

And so it came to pass that said game was made ours. (Laura‘s thought process was startlingly similar, although perhaps without the “illustrated women” factor.) With the shorter version of gameplay weighing in at two hours for experienced players, it may be awhile before we have a chance to break it out, but you’ll get a report when we do. More information on Dust can be found here and here. Image by: Fantasy Flight Games

io9 on Origins

Dastardly work and events of this week have prevented me from finishing my Origins recap as of yet, although that will be up in the very near future, and be a wondrous thing to behold. Until then, feast on io9’s coverage of Origins, namely over some cool things that I didn’t have the chance to check out personally:

  • Martian Chess – Yet another Looney Labs game that incorporates those darn Treehouse pieces. Like many of their games, it sounds simple, but appears to have some interesting tactical depth underlying it.
  • Terrorwerks – I have heard about this before from the Gamer: The Podcasting folks. Run for the second year in a row, it is essentially an hour-long LARP of the space marines v. alien horrors variety, where players portray said marines. The production values are intense, the reviews are great, and as such, I may need to make time for this next year.
  • Astrosmash – A massive tabletop tactical space battle game with deliciously detailed miniatures, based on a expanded version of Silent Death. It sounds completely over-the-top and a hell of a lot of fun.
  • Car Wars: Rogue Arena – Vehicular combat. A 12-foot by 8-foot miniature city block. Wrecks and carnage. Yes.

For those of you in the US, have a fun and safe July 4th!