Sunday, April 29, 2012

Space Empires--The Advanced Campaign

A few weeks back, my friends Terry, Tom, Joe and I set out to reconquer the galaxy in GMT's Space Empires.  We tried to randomly draw which empire we'd lead, but Joe & I resumed command of the Altairans and Chulakians we played during our initial session.  Terry & Tom ended up swapping realms, with Terry ruling Terra and Tom the Viscount of Vasyria.

We employed all the advanced rules, which included vessels like fighters and carriers, raiders; along with bases and merchant pipelines (trade routes).  We didn't include the warp points and doomsday machines from the optional rules, but added the indigenous aliens of deep space.

After we explored and exploited our home regions, more or less, we ventured beyond our borders, where the last remnants of the Greyling Empire awaited us.

Despite inhabiting the cold wastes of Deep Space, the Greylings gave our scout ships warm receptions at:




...and Arrakis.

While the Altairans managed to avoid tangling with the Greylings, they had problems of their own.  Altairan scout ships encountered:

Unknown dangers... holes...

...or merely got lost. 

The other empires ran afoul of natural hazards, or experienced catastrophic accidents, to be sure, but after loosing a half-a-dozen scout ships, the Altairan High Command wised-up.  Research and Development efforts were then focused on building cruisers with long-range scanners (in game terms, this is the Exploration Technology).

The other star-faring races didn't catch wind of this development until an Altairan cruiser group uncovered a nebula and mineral deposit just outside their border, without blundering into them.

By the end of the Explore & Exploit Phase of this campaign the galaxy looked pretty much like this: 

The Expand & Exterminate Phase of this campaign, will be resumed at a later date, when our starfleets are strong enough to take on the Greylings--and each other.

Note:  There's still a lot of uncharted areas in Deep Space.  This is because, we decided on an in-house rule, brought up by Terry (I think), that replaces the Danger! and Lost in Space counters with another token until something tangible turns up.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Book Review: Every Thing I Need to Know I Learned from D&D

"Don't tell mom" is the mantra among my siblings and I.  There are aspects of our lives we'd rather not have our mother know about, so when we confide in each other, we always insert the mantra-phrase at some point in our conversation.

What does my mommy issues have to do with Shelley Mazzanoble's latest book Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Dungeons & Dragons?


You see, Shelly's mom, Judy, continually bombards her darling daughter with well-meaning advice and self-help books.  Said darling daughter, has other ideas on what's best for her.

So the book is a humorous quest for knowledge and enlightenment our hapless author can relate to and more importantly, use.  Topics such as spirituality, travel, fitness, cooperating with others, romance and even child-raising, are related to corresponding game techniques.

There are seven other reviews for Everything I Need to Know, 3 x 5-stars, 3 x 4-stars and one 2-star rating.  The disappointed raters thought the book was more about the game D&D, rather than about associating gaming experiences with real-life and searching for solutions.

I must admit that my own 5-star rating is somewhat biased.  Shelly and I come from the same hometown and we're both now living in the Seattle-Tacoma area.  So it was very entertaining for me to read about familiar sites and places.

If you're a gamer, especially a D&D player, you should be able to relate to some of Life's dilemmas Shelly finds herself in.

Webcomic Chapter 3 Posted

When I started this story, my intent was to post one chapter every month.  Unfortunately, I had some technical difficulties which caused all the pictures to be deleted when exported them from the Comic Life program to computer's C-Drive.  I'm sure this was due to operator error.  In any case, I didn't have time to recreate Chapter 3 before travelling back east to visit my family.

Despite being a month behind, Chapter 3 has now been added to Breakout from Bongolaan, which consists of pages 48 through 77 (54 through 84 using the slideshow) and is also posted on my Redshift Chronicles site.

The Soundtrack Interlude for this chapter is:  I Know There's Something Going On by Frida.  I always thought this song evoked a sense of mysterious foreboding.

One of my friends told me he couldn't find the second chapter.  I realized that clicking on a picture initiates a slide show, so the reader may not see any of the narrative on the blog's page.

In response to this, I created title pages for each chapter.  Here are the titles for the previous chapters:

I used images that weren't already incorporated into the body of the story.  Since only a fraction of the photos I've taken get put into the story, finding a suitable pictures for titles has been easy--so far.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Book Review: Danger Girl, The Ultimate Collection

Just as I was leaving the Emerald City Comicon, I happened to see a copy of Danger Girl: The Ultimate Collection and added this to my own, less-than ultimate graphic novel collection.  I've known of Danger Girl, but haven't read any of the stories, until now.  This volume is comprised of Danger Girl 1-7, along with a prelude, and introduces us to pistol-packin' Abbey Chase...

...whip-crackin' Sydney Savage...

...knife-tossin' Natalia Kassle...

...and techie wizardess "Silicon" Valerie... they attempt to thwart the plans of the Hammer Empire's quest for global conquest.  (Or "reconquest" in the minds of these neo-nazi types).

I found this series to be fantastically drawn and an entertaining blend of Indiana Jones, James Bond, Charlies Angels and Tomb Raider, with a dash of Star Wars thrown in.  In other words, Danger Girl is an action-adventure movie in comic book form. 

According to the Danger Girl entry in Wikipedia, Abbey and her gal-pals have gotten themselves into several compromising positions since they first tangled with the Hammer Empire back in 1997. 

Danger Girl: The Ultimate Collection also includes an introduction by Bruce Campbell and Danger Girl's creator J. Scott Campbell, along with cover art from the original releases and a sketch book. 

I'm happy to add my 5-star rating to Danger Girl: The Ultimate Collection's, other ten on This piece of work is shaken AND stirred!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Centennial Sinking

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic.  I'm almost as fascinated with maritime history as I am with naval and military history.  And very few maritime disasters are as fascinating as the Titanic.  There's even a homepage for artifacts that have been recovered since the wreck was discovered by Robert Ballard.  I saw the exhibit when it came to Seattle 11 years ago.

My interest in the Titanic pre-dates the James Cameron film.  I read A Night to Remember by Walter Lord back in high school and did a book report on it.  And despite today's special effects and the re-analysis of the Titanic's sinking after the wreck was discovered, I still think the movie version is better than the Cameron's film.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hell Over Korea Wargame: Freshly Maid's 2nd Mission

Tim, in the role of Captain Decker, took Freshly Maid out for another spin.  This time over the Antung-Yalu River bridges. 

Here's his AAR for Mission #2:

Took off in the dark and almost immediately ran into rough weather; tried to get around it and managed to fly through the soup to reach the formation rendezvous, which was carried out successfully. Were not happy to see that we were going all the way to MiG Alley with no escort, but intel says fighter activity was not expected. That was not how it turned out.

Short of the target (Zone 8) a CCF Yak-9 attacked from 6 o’clock low. Fire from the lower turrets and tail gun caused him to break off. Upon reaching the target area, cloud cover was about 8/10ths so we had a tough time seeing the target. As we approached the IP, another CCF Yak attacked from 9 o’clock hi—he too was forced to break off from our defensive fire.

Over the target itself we encountered medium flak and took hits to the tail section that shorted out all the electrical systems to the tail turret, which remained inoperable for the rest of the flight. Bombs were dropped, but it is not likely we actually did much damage (off target, 0 percent). As we exited the target area, more light flak followed but only managed some superficial damage. Then a VV-S MiG-15 came at us head on. The bombardier fired both forward turrets, but didn’t register any hits. Lucky for us, neither did the MiG, which did not return. Away from the target (Zone 8) a North Korean Yak-9 attacked from 10 o’clock high, but was driven off as previous attacks.

We managed to remain on course without any further difficulties, though we once again hit some bad weather that pushed us off course temporarily, but did not cause further difficulties. We landed as planned around 1645.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Gaming: ECCC-Style

Gaming, whether the wargaming, role-playing, or computer variety, go hand-in-hand with sci-fi/fantasy and comic book conventions.  Games are an interactive way to experience the adventures of one's favorite heroes (or villains), in one's favorite setting, from Middle Earth to the "galaxy far, far away..." 

The organizers of the Emerald City Comicon, knew this and devoted two entire sections of the WA State Convention Center to gaming.

While tables in the above photo were only half-empty, keep in mind this was taken on a Friday afternoon.  I'm sure by Saturday and Sunday, every seat was taken.  Also, open gaming is often conducted after the official events come to a close.

In order to participate in table-top gaming, one needs playing pieces, or preferably miniature figures--painted figures.  Bringing unpainted figures to a game is a social faux-pas and is like wearing white after Labor Day, or having red wine with fish.  But not everyone has the patience to develop their skill.  (Like me).  So painting workshops, like the one pictured above, are also part of the venue of most conventions.

Now here is every gamers' favorite superhero--the game store owner.

Shown here, ready to leap tall game shelves in  a single bound, Gamestore Man, is disguised as Chris Ewick of The Game Matrix, in Tacoma. 

I spent several minutes chatting with Chris while he was giving several players a crash-course in one of the demo games he brought with him. 

There were several other vendors in the gaming area.  However, as my departure time drew near, the only vendor I spent time with were the folks at the BobaKahn booth.  Some rare Star Wars Miniatures caught my eye and I was debating on whether to purchase any of them.  But when I looked in my wallet, I realized I was down to my last $20 bill and I needed to pay for parking. 

I left 15 minutes prior to the closing of the Exhibition Hall and my parking fee was $18.  Just enough for 1/2 gallon of gas (at today's prices).  I went home, tired and hungry, yet happy for my 5-star experience of my first comic book convention.

In the future, if I get a chance to attend all three days, I'll probably sit-in on some of the seminars and workshops and maybe even participate in a game, or two.  (Unless I win the lottery, my budget couldn't afford a 3-day shopping spree).  But even if I'm limited to just one day, next time I'll try to remember all the books and things I wanted to have signed this year--but forgot--and bring them along next time.

Until then, maybe the Spirits of ECCC Past Shows will help to remind me...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Cosplay Capers at the Comicon

Conventions, like Emerald City Comicon give fans a chance to dress-up as their favorite heroes--or villains.  The geek-tech term for this activity is known as cosplay

Some costumes were downright racy and riske.  The playful Poison Ivy, pictured above, was tame in comparison to some of the others.  The folks who dressed-up were more than happy to pose for the camera, but sometimes I could snap a candid shot, such as this one of Poison Ivy (#2) and Catwoman, checking out merchandise (to buy, rather than steal).

Usually, conventions hold a formal costume contest in the evening.  But I was only attending for the afternoon and I was on a quest for various merchandise.  Despite the time crunch, I managed to take over a couple dozen photos of casual cosplay. 

First up, were the "lone wolf" fans I encountered, like Wolverine here.

As I backed away from those adamantium claws, another bystander and I bumped into  Black Canary, ready to lash out.


While I dodged Black Canary's kicks, Tank Girl got the drop on me. 

Fortunately, Dumbledore was nearby to protect me from the crazy, tank-driving, Aussie chick. 

But even Dumbeldore's magic, however, was no match for this mini-gun wielding--whoever he was suppose to be...

I imagine he was from some video game like HALO or Gears of War.  (Okay, I admit it, my geek-cred on computer games is deficient in this area).

While evading the mini-gun fire, I found this ufamiliar heroine.

What I found most striking were her eyes.  Notice the color?

And speaking of color, here was a young lady in every guy's favorite Star Trek female uniform.  You know you're safe among geeks when someone renders you the Vulcan Greeting.

Cosplay, both the sinister and the sincere, wasn't just limited to individual fans.  Oh no.  Fans with similar, if not identical passions, travelled in packs. 

Here, Darth Vader and his wingman, took a break from Force-choking laggard Imperial Officers, to pose with fans.

"You don't know the power of the Dark Side!"

After evading Vader's Force-grip, I stumbled across a squad of Mandalorians establishing a perimeter around the Rat City Roller Girls' booth.  Presumably, to protect the girls from over-zealous fans.  (The Mandalorians obviously have never seen a roller-derby game).

After I cleared the Mandalorian check-point, I discovered Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jango Fett were part of the security detail in the celebrity guest area. 

Jedis and Mandalorians weren't the only troops on duty.  Imperial stormtroopers and scout troopers were also out in force that day (and I'm sure reinforcements arrived on Saturday and Sunday).

"You are part of the Rebel Alliance and a traitor.  Take her away!" 

While this was my first comic book convention, I've seen cosplay pictures of other comic and sci-fi/fantasy conventions.  There's always one, or more often, several, Princess Leias in slave-girl outfits making an appearance.  The Emerald City Comicon proved to be no exception.

At least here, the princess was escorted by a Jedi bodyguard. 

Now I'm not sure who these women were suppose to be.  I suspect some Anime, or Manga characters.  (Another geek-deficiency of mine).  Whoever they were, the guy certainly looked happy to be standing among them.

I'm not sure what story Mr. Kung Fu Fighting was from, or who the cardboard robot was suppose to be, but I certainly recognized Princess Amidala.

Ah.  Nothing said "love," like the shared homocidal mania of The Joker and Harley Quin.

Saying "goodbye" to the convention, the Star Trek way.  But who knew what the guy in the white lab coat was thinking.  Probably coniving a way to separate the woman-in-red from her yellow-shirted escort.

I've managed to catch an episode, or two, of Archer and thought they were a laugh-out-loud riot.  I liked them so much, I bought the DVD sets to Season 1 and 2 in one fell-swoop.  As I made my way through the crowd, I managed to find the under-the-covers duo of Agents Sterling Archer and Lana Kane

These two were my favorite cosplaying couple.  Among the singles, my favorite was the woman dressed as the Aurra Sing.  However, I could never get a shot (camera-wise) at the elusive bounty hunter and I didn't want to get thrown out of my first comic book convention on charges of stalking.  (You'd figure a psycho-killer, bounty hunter would be use to that).

So, these were the cosplayers I captured for posterity this year.  I'm sure I'll see some of the "usual suspects," the next time I attend.

For you Star Wars fans, if you'd like to get involved in cosplay, but don't want to go-it alone, there's a few organizations you can join:

"Rebel scum" can pledge their allegiance to the Rebellion...

...while conformists can fall-in to the ranks of The 501st Legion

Meanwhile, "independent operators" can join the Mandalorians

Each of these groups had booths in the celebrity area and were actively seeking recruits.