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For me World Fantasy Con was a once in a lifetime opportunity to attend a conference like it. Even though its a yearly event (I believe) I’d be very surprised – and I genuinely mean that – if it happened in the town where I am living again and if it were to have the selection of speakers and attendees again, such as Sir Terry Pratchet.
I have never attended a literary convention before and had no idea what to expect. To be honest, I was quite apprehensive and was constantly wondering “how long until I put the foot in it?”. Until I arrived, I really wasn’t expecting much. The website, first contact I had with the prospect of this convention, is not very user friendly and the newsletters were blocks of text that made me wonder if this con was both world-class and for/by writers. Sorry guys, but blocks of text with little formatting and even less visual appeal doesn’t make for good reading, specially for dyslexic people like myself.
When I arrived though, my fears were dispelled and wafted away by the most amazing organisation I have seen in a convention. My badge was found within 20 seconds and the lady at the counter even said “Ah! Yes!” when I said my name. Admittedly, very few Spanish sounding people, but impressive nonetheless.
The good impressions continued when I was asked to choose from a selection of books and put them in a bag. For free. In total, I got about 7 books. One of them was the convention souvenir. A hefty tome gorgeously illustrated, just as nicely hard-back bound and a joy to behold. The rest of the books were a selection of art books, novels and drafts. The impressive side of it is not jus that they were free, but that they were there at all! To see how many publishers had supported a convention to that level is an incredible sign of the support they believe the convention warrants. Something other publishers should keep in mind when supporting conventions of any kind.
The program was also extremely well designed. Good descriptions of the panels, a lovely time table where you could see *exactly* what was happening at any point and where and maps of the hotel so you, simply, could not get lost. I didn’t get lost once.
The panels were taking place in four rooms and about a wide selection of topics. From Machen and his influences – there were 8 talks about Machen – to authors using pseudonyms, script writing, how to finish your second book, American influences and “in conversation” panels with luminaires like Sir Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman.
The organisers also thought about drink and food. There was a room open pretty much all day (until 8pm) offering food at very, very good prices. The spacious tables perfect for conversation and make new contacts. Fantastic detail!
There were low points, though. I attended 5 panels a day between Thursday to Saturday, and one panel on Sunday. I have to say the moderation and organisation of some panels left a bit to be desired, with some panels being *abysmal*. It is truly terrifying, as a listener, to hear how one of the panellists hadn’t heard about the subject matter (Machen) until two days before the event. Word of advice, never admit to that in public, even if it is true! The moderation in some of the panels was also mediocre at places. Some moderators truly didn’t understand that the panel wasn’t about themselves and offered more input than the speakers. In one of the panels, one of the panellists didn’t get the chance to utter a word.
The lesson? Do not choose the biggest expert as the moderator! Specially if that person has an ego!
Another lesson I’ve learned, six people in one panel is *way* too many people! Seriously, if you’re ever organising a panel, have three panellists and a moderator. Four panellists if you have no choice. That leaves each panellist with 10 to 15 minutes to talk and a fair length of time to invite questions from the audience.
Third panelling lesson: Make sure the panellists know each other or, at the very least, they know about each other. If you’re organising the panels, make sure to send everyone a short bio of who else will be there so they can take a look and see what works they’ve published in the past. Seriously, it makes quite a difference!
Despite the flaws obvious to someone who is as unforgiving as myself, the panels were very informative and, even though I don’t think that’s excuse for the poor organisation and moderation, worth attending. There’s room for improvement there and a world class event like this deserves world class panels and world class moderation.
The other thing I didn’t see enough of was World. The overwhelming majority of panellists were either from the USA or the UK. Granted, there were some from Canada, some from Australia and a few from other countries, but I missed having a more international and mixed bunch of panels. I’d have *loved* to attend a panel on South American or Far East fantasy authors or artists.
It might seem that I’m being overly negative here. I am not. I am pointing out where I felt there was room for improvement. That didn’t make the event bad or worthless, though. I just feel the organisation could have done with a bit of extra help to iron some corners.
The effects of this convention on me have been quite vast, I must admit. I am quitting playing videogames so I can make time for more writing and reading. I have continued with an adventure I started to write more than a year ago and also started to write a story based on the same adventure based on how it turned out when I played it with my friends. I am going to submit some of my short stories to internet groups and see what happens. The worst case scenario is they won’t like it.
The most important thing that’s happened, though, is that I am not going to let myself be put down by my own self. Absolutely no one at the convention put me down. Not a single person told me to keep my day job, to forget about writing or to, simply, keep it to myself, just because I have dyslexia, an accent or I don’t do it – or want to do it – for a living.
It was warming and overwhelming to see how people who are at the top, people who don’t need to encourage you because they’ve proven who they are and why they are where they are, spare not a second to encourage and offer support when faced with insecurities.
So hey! if they think I should continue, why shouldn’t I?
And why shouldn’t you?
LAS VEGAS, NV – July 2, 2013 – Guitarist Mike Stone, formerly of Grammy and MTV Video Music Award-winning progressive rock group Queensrÿche, has joined the musical team creating the trans-media project Dragon Kings.
“It’s great to be working with Mike,” says project lead Timothy Brown. “He brings exactly the kind of progressive vibe our album needs.”
Dragon Kings is Brown’s spiritual successor to his previous creation Dark Sun, an award-winning game universe for the Dungeons & Dragons game. Dragon Kings is an entirely new game world envisioned in fiction, art and music simultaneously.
Last week, the Dragon Kings project announced the collaboration of two prominent industry artists, Brom and Tom Baxa, both of whom helped envision and illustrate the Dark Sun game line. Mike Stone is the first musical collaborator announced.
“Tim approached me with this project and I was intrigued by the blending of progressive metal and game concepts,” says Stone. “The idea of describing a fantasy world with progressive rock songs is innovative.” Stone is taking the lead songwriting role on the Dragon Kings project, as well as playing lead guitar and contributing vocals on all tracks. Stone toured extensively with Queensrÿche and participated on five of their releases including Tribe and Operation: Mindcrime II.
The Dragon Kings project will include color illustrated game books, but also a full-length progressive rock concept album that describes the new world. Brown contends that the music will be an emotionally powerful presentation that will bring the world to life, much in the spirit of Rush’s 2112, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and Queensrÿche’s Operation: Mindcrime. The product launch envisions a hardbound game book, an art-intensive album-sized world gazetteer and lyrics booklet, and a progressive rock CD.
According to Brown, other high-profile game, art, and music industry collaborators will be announced over the next few weeks.
To learn more about Dragon Kings, visit http://www.dragonkingsproject.com. Also join these communities to become involved and watch for the latest updates:
Keep on rockin’ in the old world
I hear you talking you know. When you think I’m not around. I know you all think I’ve got it easy, being the incarnate manifestation of an aspect of evil birthed by the psychic agony of all the sentient beings of the universe. But it’s not all roses you know. For instance, after a hard day at the office, corrupting the pure and tending my pestilential wastes (yes, I know, there’s a cream for that), I love nothing more than unwinding over a nice board game. I know, I know… you’d think the last thing I’d want to do in my downtime is emulate my work slog, but it’s alright for the renaissance merchants and galactic warlords amongst you. Always managing to convert your real-life expertise into effortless victories – you don’t know how lucky you are. But where’s my game? Something that lets me take advantage of my… Wait! What’s this come tumbling through the vortex of despair to land at the foot of my throne of bone and brass? ‘Chaos in the Old World’ eh? Okidoke, let’s take a look.
Chaos in the Old World invites you and three of your friends to take on the role of the Ruinous Powers of Chaos, the dark gods of Games Workshop’s Warhammer universe. As you may have inferred from the title, this is the original grimdark fantasy-esque setting, not to be confused with the grimdark sci-fi setting of Warhammer 40k. If you’re only familiar with the latter, meh, the gods are the same in both strands, just think Orcs not Orcz. If you’re familiar with neither, don’t worry too much, it won’t be a problem. Knowledge of the backdrop to these exploits is not necessary to play and enjoy the game, but I shan’t lie to ya, there’s definitely an extra kick of pleasure to be had from familiarity with the lore and bestiary of the universe, little touches of flavour text and small thematic flourishes will pull you deeper into the game if you get them, but won’t exclude you if not. It’s a tough tightrope to walk, but it’s just the first example of the excellent balancing act on display inside this box.
Anyway, enough of such fripperies; To the game! Once everyone has selected and gathered to them the player sheet, tokens, upgrade cards, chaos cards and awesomely sculpted army of miniatures appropriate to their god, the board is randomly seeded with a few starting tokens and the unholy crusade for the hearts and souls of the hapless peoples of this benighted world begins.
Each player takes it in turns to exercise their godly powers by either summoning their minions on to the board, or playing their chaos cards into the regions of the map. These cards act as orders or magic spells that affect the targeted region and/or any minions therein. Each card will cost you power points to use, and of course if you’re summoning things that’ll cost you too. Your use of these power points is tracked on the player mat with an upsettingly-easy-to-lose marker. There’s three flavours of unit for each player, Cultists, Warriors, and the subtly named Greater Demon. Warriors and Greater Demons are mainly for intimidation and fighting, whereas any Cultists that survive the oncoming battles will deposit little corruption tokens in their regions.
Ah, yes, the battles. once everyone’s summoned and cast to their heart’s content, or their power is exhausted, any areas containing opposing forces see battle fought with heretical warcubes… okay, dice if you must. Following the slaughter comes the chance to score points. If any player has enough minions and/or expensive enough cards to exceed the value printed on the region containing them, they score some lovely points, and the first to fifty is the winner. Mind you, that’s only one way to score points…
Another is with those puny cultists you’ll have spread across the board. While they’re useless in a fight, what with doing nothing but praying and sacrificing, if any survive the battle round they drop corruption tokens for you. If any region ever contains twelve or more, then that region is ruined. This means the farmer’s market there will have to close, and also that the whole map is scored, with a set number of points going to each player depending on the number of their corruption tokens present. There can be five of these ruinations in a game, and if nobody’s edged past the magic fifty points when they’re all gone, whoever has the highest score is the winner.
What Chaos in the Old World is then, is that hoariest of game mechanics – area majority – decided not with numbers of troops but with these corruption tokens. What sets it apart is the layers of finesse and theme draped over it by the finest of publisher Fantasy Flight’s chrome-weavers. Well, that’s one of the things…
The main selling point is really the third way to win the game. Threat. As well as the decidedly genteel point-gathering routes to victory, and thrumming away profanely beneath the whole affair, is the ichorous pulse of the third route to victory. You see, each of the four gods available to play has a slightly different… peccadillo. Bloodthirsty Khorne cares only for the slaughter of war, pestilent Nurgle wishes to see all things end in corruption and disease, Tzeench the fate-weaver seeks the fearful beauty of change and mutation while Slaanesh pretty much just loves to fu… party.
By pandering to your god’s desires, be it instigating battles say, or corrupting populous regions with plague after plague, you will earn the much-coveted threat advancement tokens. These will allow you to tick forward your threat dial on the board and be rewarded with points, upgrades or other useful things. Tick forward enough and the little window in the dial will show text declaring you the winner.
Here’s where that balancing act comes back to the fore. Chaos exhibits the best kind of asymmetry in games – asymmetry done well. Each of the gods will have to tick that dial round a varying amount, and each of the different prerequisites to do so have different levels of ease to accomplish, meaning for some players this route to the win is a more valid prospect than for others. Khorne, for instance, just has to kill something to earn a token, and doesn’t have to tick it as far to win as poor Nurgle, who has to get nearly all the way round by trying to preserve two cultists per turn in the heavily-contested populous regions. This is offset though by Nurgle’s ability to summon swarms of cheap units in an attempt to reach the points victory. Of course, both these strategies are in danger as soon as other players realise what you’re up to and react accordingly.
If I have a serious, or semi-serious, reservation about Chaos, this is it. It will take a few games before everyone at the table is able to spot the weaknesses each god’s likely strategy. Initially everybody at the table will swear blind that Khorne has a far too easy ride on the threat dial. A few games in, you’ll all be certain there’s nothing to be done about Nurgle’s corruption tokens being strewn willy-nilly across the board. Then Tzeench’s card’s are overpowered. Then, having worked out what to do about all of these, it seems obvious that Slaanesh’s dial advancements are earned far too easily. Only then will you look down and realise you’ve all been perched on a tightrope so fine as to be rendered invisible this whole time. This is when you’ll start doing a lot more counting of corruption tokens and ruination-based maths. My only other slight quibble is that the box says this plays 3-4. It does play with three, sorta, I guess. The problem is the four gods consist, more-or-less, of two mutually antagonistic pairs. Once you’ve seen the tightrope, if you’re playing with three, the player lacking their ‘opposite’ will, more often than not, be more secure in their footing and take victory.
To hell with it though, that only matters if you’re considering Chaos as a finely balanced area-majority based eurogame. Which it is. But, wait for it, it is also a trashy, dice based, plastic-laden pile of fun. The components, from the myriad tokens, via the gruesome plastic minis, to the lush board trompe-l’oeiled onto stretched human skin, are as lush and lovely as they are unwholesome.
Yeah, just a word about that, if you’re not the kind of person who can happily recognise/wallow in the campily dark-and-evil overtones for the nonsense that they are, you’ll have a hard time enjoying the game no matter how good it is. Back to the point though, the crowning achievement here is, at least for me, the way the game encourages you to almost start role-playing your character without even noticing it. If you’re Khorne you’ll be spending all your points throwing down terrifying monstrosities amongst your opponent’s forces just itching to start a scrap. Before long you’ll actually begin to feel a thrill of glee at the inevitable demise of those pathetic whelps. As Nurgle your cultists will move in clusters far and wide to both avoid conflict and extend your infestations across the world. Tzeench, whose card-drawing mechanism is slightly different to everyone else’s, will be covering the board in magic, to both cycle through spells faster and facilitate those dial advancements, all the while influencing what your opponents can do and trying to predict what cards will be useful where and when. Playing as Slaanesh requires you concentrate your cultists in areas with noble or hero tokens, as well as trying to get everyone else to just stop fighting and fu… party already.
Ah – hang on, I haven’t told you about the Old World deck. At the start of the game this is going to be built from the large deck of Old World cards supplied. From this you’ll extract, at random, one card per game turn. That’s seven or eight if you weren’t paying attention earlier. At the start of each round one of these is going to be drawn and placed onto the board. Up to two of these can be in effect at once and they do things like add tokens to the board, give out points for various things, or (particularly unwelcome once when I was playing as Tzeench,) forbid the playing of chaos cards. These global effects mean that every game of Chaos has a slightly different flavour, that the gameplay will flow in subtly and not-so-subtly different ways depending what comes out and in what order, adding some excellent replay value to the whole thing. Oh, and here’s a fun thing, if the Old World deck is exhausted without anyone winning, that symbolises the peasants and princes of the Old World resisting your nefarious advances and everybody loses. Ha!
Here then, is a game deserving of your attention. It is both a knife-edge points race and dice-fuelled confrontation. What’s more impressive is that these two conflicting halves of its psyche sit so beautifully together, and while a player’s character certainly influences the way they’ll play it, a canny god can still confound their enemies’ expectations and adapt to changing circumstances. It’s not unheard of for Nurgle to win through threat, or Khorne through points. As a three-player game it’s an excellently atmospheric iteration of dudes-on-a-map, and as a four-player it absolutely sings.
At last! Finally my day-to-day life as an unspeakable entity of the Pit has stood me in good stead for a game I can share with my friends. To celebrate why don’t you all come over and after a game or two of Chaos in the Old World, we’ll slaughter a couple of innocents, scrape off our buboes and retire to the blood pools where we can all fu
Rome May Not Have Been Built In A Day, But Empires Can Be Built In Under An Hour.
My first brush with Jeff Siadek was at Origins 2011, where he was next to the Ninja Magic booth, selling copies of Battlestations. I introduced myself and told him I was a big fan of Battlestations. We chatted, and he was a truly nice, laid back kind of dude. One might not expect him to be a designer of conflict games based on his personality, but trust me, his latest creation under the Gorilla Games brand, World Conquerors (WC), has his trademark flair for carnage. That said, unlike Battlestations which is a very long game, WC is a one hour exploration of how Hitler would interact with Napoleon, had they both lived at the same time. Suffice it to say that it would be a glorious bloodbath, although history tells me to bet against France every time.
WC was sent to me at the same time as was Banditos, and I apologize for taking so long to get this review out, because this game is incredible. Unfortunately, with it’s "Riskesque" look I had a lot of trouble finding people who wanted to play it. But, after seven plays at this point, I’m no longer having the same problem. It’s nothing like Risk except that you have some territories, some armies, and you kill stuff. And that, in my estimation, is a good thing because I despise all Risk versions but Legacy. In fact, I would have to say that WC is actually unlike any other war game I’ve played. The only game I can think of that’s even close, and by close I mean a distant relation, is Smallworld, and that’s primarily due to the ever-changing leaders and the time track.
World Conquerors is not about conquering the entire board, there’s not any player elimination, and while you’re technically playing against everyone else, there’s more of a feeling that you’re simply trying to pick off the lowest-lying fruit, which are generally wherever your enemy isn’t. "What," say you? That’s right, the object of WC isn’t to smoosh all of your opponents into little rippy bits, it’s to have the maximum amount of territories owned at one time. The catch is that you only have four rounds of battle to do it in. As such, there is no king making, and the game can be played just as well with two, three or four. Obviously, it’s harder to get as high a score in four player games as there will be more opposition, but at the end of the day, the whole premise of the game is that you’re just trying to build the largest empire you can, measured at the end of each turn, rather than dominate others. It just works remarkably well.
Now, let’s talk about the bits for all of you bit-crazies like myself out there. The game’s box, bits, and cards are all of very nice quality, with the box art having great illustrations and the cards have decent depictions of the conquerors you can play to the table during the game. There’s a ton of wooden cubes which represent single armies, and there’s beads which represent a legion of five armies, all of which are also very nice quality. In essence, I’m not unhappy that there’s no expensive plastic soldiers, a sheet of supply tokens or some such other crap, because the game just simply wouldn’t benefit from it, and as it rests, the game is really inexpensive due in part to the lack of that crap. Considering that you can get the game at Coolstuff for $26.00, you really can’t beat the value. Just as with Banditos, there’s a lot more game in the box than the low price would indicate. All in all, it’s a steal of a deal, especially after I tell you how it plays.
I think the best part of what comes in the box is the rulebook, though. There’s not a lot of things in there that require an FFG-esque 20 page FAQ with highlights and pictures. It’s really not that complex of a game, and the rules are all laid out in…wait for it…a total of eight pages, only six of which actually have rules on them. It’s definitely one of the easier games to learn and put into play, but that doesn’t mean it’s a throw away. In a way, the game reminds me of Small World, but with much more direct interaction, with more random, and with a better and more historical flavor. I’ve included a link to the rules at the bottom, and I invite you to check it out. It’s a shame there’s not more reference to the cards because the cards really are where the game play kind of melds into the finished product, so to speak.
What makes this game special and different is really in the goal. As I said, instead of conquest based on eliminating enemies, the object is to, by the end of the fourth round, have built the largest one-time empire. What this means is that you don’t need to end the game with the most territories owned, you simply need to have, at one time, had the largest empire in history. It’s unique and fascinating in its implementation, and I have to admit that it is one of the best empire builders I’ve played, based primarily on it’s terseness and lack of rubbish chrome ornamentation. This doesn’t even begin to talk about the fact that it scales well and is one of the only war games I’m aware of that can be played with three players and be a rubbish exercise in king making.
The game play is based on the idea that you start each round with a grand emperor, who are historical nasties and not-so-nasties, all of whom have special abilities. You have a set amount of armies, and you simply start taking territories by a simple roll off. Now, this is where the game really shines: If the territory has an occupying army, the defender gets to roll an extra die for each adjacent territory that is occupied, where you get to roll one for each of your territories bordering the defending territory. So, you really are simply trying to pick off the easiest targets most of the time. Now, while this isn’t much different than any other territory conquest game, what IS different is that you have very little in the way of compelling reasons to do so. Similar to Smallworld, the points you score are based solely on the number of territories you hold at the end of your turn, but unlike that game, the points are not cumulative. The highest score you ever had is your score. It’s like the song says, "I’m not as good as I once was, but I was as good once as I ever was!"
Another unique thing about the game is that the Conqueror cards are multipurpose, to say the least. One is always played at the beginning of a round as your Ruler, which gives you a bonus and a mission. Their pawn is also placed on the board in their home location, which are treated as Generals, who give you a re-roll in battle. Further, the cards can be played as Generals in and of themselves, which act like rulers in a way, but they only allow re-rolls. The third way to play a card is as an agent, which is used to help or hurt your opponents during battles, or give a bonus in some way. It’s very Clowdus-esque in the sense that each card can be played in myriad diabolical ways, and I think that the cards inexorably promote the theme and pair with it well.
As to the cards, there’s a wide variety in what they do. Some give bonuses only to one kind of battle such as a naval battle, one allows you to transpose 6’s into 9’s, one allows you to move your General pawns thus giving you more situational flexibility. The fact that they can be played three ways really makes the game exciting, and there’s a lot of cards to choose from. Unfortunately, though, you start with only three cards and during the game you only get one additional card per turn, meaning you will always have a tough decision to make regarding implementation. Do you use them as an agent to cause trouble? Do you use them as a General? Do you make them your Ruler for this turn? Some of the decisions are agonizing, which just further underscores how great the game is. The tension can be truly excruciating, and there’s several times in every game I’ve played that I wished I had one more turn, or one more card, which in my opinion is a sure way to determine whether a game’s length and pacing is a match for the game play.
Now at this point I’d normally have a complaint or two. Maybe it’s priced too high, maybe the plastic is terrible quality and can’t be easily painted, like Flying Frog’s minis, maybe the game is just too dull, too long, too short, too silly, too light, too heavy, maybe it has a pasted-on theme….SOMETHING. But honestly, there’s just nothing bad to say about this game. Turns are short, there’s a good amount of player interaction, the bits and art are all good, and it just seems to do everything right. I Can’t even call it soul-less because if there’s anything that Jeff Siadek can do to a game, it’s give it a soul. So, really, the only negative that I can mete is that perhaps the game is too random in that if you roll poorly you will be destined for failure. To me, though, it’s not a negative. Just as the Spanish Armada lost to the English back in 1588, partly due to skill, but in large part due to bad luck, so can you lose the game if you have ruddy luck. In other words, it’s a matter of taste.
Why I Love To Conquer The World, Repeatedly:
- Solid game play and unique theme make this a remarkable conquest game
- The mechanics’ implementation makes the sum greater than the parts
- A three player war game? Whatchoo Talkin’ ‘Bout Willis?? Yep, it’s true!
- One hour to rule the world!
- The price of Gorilla Games are great, and for $26 bones you’re a fool to not get this
Why This Game May Never Even Grow Up To Be A Tin Pot Dictator:
- A lot of random, so if you can’t handle that, go back to Waterloo
- AP prone players may take longer than they need to during turns, maybe
- People who like these kinds of games MIGHT find it a bit too light
It’s really simple to me – if you’re looking to get a conquest "Dudes on a Map" type game with card play and that only runs about an hour, look no further. If you’ve ever played Risk or Axis and Allies but never get it to the table due to length, look no further. Hell, if you liked Smallworld but wanted more meat, then you should definitely get this. In all cases, if you’re a fan of Ameritrash games, you should certainly do your level best to give the game a try, because as far as these kinds of games go, to pack this much game in a $26 box and an hour of play time is just spectacular. Suffice it to say, I will be very sad when this goes off to a reader’s home tomorrow, as promised him. Yes, I’m still giving away the last review copies that I got before the July 4th moratorium I imposed on the site…and this is one of the last casualties.
Rules of the game:
Buy it direct from Jeff and cut out the middle man: http://siadek.com/