Friday
Feb012013

Put Your Game Face On

They decided to show me their best game face.

There was a time when the mere mention of board games elicited dreary images of playing a monotonous round of Monopoly.  Things have changed from then.  Now people actively seek new games to play with friends at board game cafes and watch web series based around playing them.  With Game Summit at the Palais des Congrès, there’s even an entire convention devoted to finding, learning and playing new games.

This year’s event, running from February 2nd to 3rd, is predicted to be nearly twice to three times as popular as last year’s according the event’s Chief Games Ambassador, Marquis Côté.  That’s saying something since last year they had about 900 people in attendance. 

This is likely thanks in part to the event’s friendliness to newcomers as well as veteran game players.

“If you want to learn a new board game, this is the place to be,” Côté said.

Logo_GameSummit_ELearning a new game can be quite an intimidating process.  The printed rule sets can often be difficult to understand.  If the rules come in a thick booklet, they can even be a little intimidating. To that end, there will be 100 volunteers around to show newcomers how to play any game that interests them.  Intimidating instructions can be left in the box.

Along the same lines, the event has become even friendlier to families with little children.  The introduction of the Kinder Zone to this year’s event sees an entire section where little children can play.  Parents can drop the children off with the staff from Monkeying Around while they go and explore the rest of the event.

“We know, as parents ourselves, we know that spending four hours and having kids around and trying to play a game is difficult,” Côté said.

Those looking to take a little bit of a break between gaming sessions can also find some shopping available.  The Ottawa Geek Market has joined forces with Game Summit to bring together exhibitors and artisans for the event.  Two entire halls will be devoted to artisans showing their wares.  So if a steampunk timepiece is what’s desired, chances are it’ll be here.

The event has been picking up steam year after year.  People from all over Ontario and Quebec make their way down to Game Summit each year.  Some even come from as far as Boston.  It’s garnering the reputation among geeks, and those who want to be, as something not to be missed.

“That’s what we want it to be,”  Côté said.

Monday
Jan212013

Star Trek Catan Review: “To Half-Heartedly Go Where No One has Gone Before”

star trek catan

Licensed games can be hit or miss. You might come across games that are genuinely good like a Game of Thrones or one of the myriad Star Wars games.  On the other hand, the game can seem like a cash grab that leaves fans with a feeling of disappointment and lost opportunity.  Unfortunately, Star Trek Catan falls into the latter category.

For those unfamiliar with the original Settlers of Catan, the game feels like Risk and Monopoly had a baby.  That baby then grew up to be cooler than either of its parents. In fact, those who play it often call it cardboard crack.

In the game, you play the role of a colonizer of Catan.  You collect resources and trade with your opponents to build roads and settlements. Part of the strategy comes in trying to prevent other players from getting resources they need while making sure you get your bases covered. The goal is to get 10 victory points and settle Catan.

So if it has such a well regarded pedigree, where does this game go wrong? It seems like little thought went into bringing the Star Trek license to the game.  Take, for instance, the pieces representing the players.

Roads in this game are replaced by a load of Enterprises while villages and cities are replaced with Federation starbases.  The swap seems like the obvious one to make at first.  A little more thought would have seen each player in control of a different alien race like the Romulans, Klingons or the Gorn instead of all players in the role of the Federation.  In fact, that arrangement would make much more sense in the context of the game.  After all, why would the Federation compete against each other to colonize the galaxy?

foodThat same carelessness to details creeps into other aspects of the game.  I seriously have to question whoever thought that dark blue is a good choice for a player colour when the entire board is mainly black.  Then there are questionable artistic decisions such as the art for the food resource card. It looks like two Big Mac boxes.

There even seems to be a lackluster attempt to tie members of the Enterprise to the game.  You’re given a card each with a different character on it.  These characters will provide you with certain bonuses.  The problem is that their effect on the game is so negligible that there really is no point having them there.  The game is actually better if you ignore them completely.

That’s not to say that there isn’t anything positive to say about it.  The entire set seems to have a higher build quality to it.  In almost all games of the original Catan, the board never felt solid.  At any point, you were certain it would break apart.  That isn't the case with this version.  Everything snaps together solidly making the board at least feel like it’s of a bit higher quality.

That said, this game has a whole host of problems that prevent me from recommending it to anyone.  It’s more expensive than the normal Catan.  In fact, in most cases it can be at least $20 more.  There’s nothing in this game for a Catan player to warrant paying that much more for a game that is basically the same thing but with a pallet swap.  The lack of detail tying it to the Star Trek universe means it’s hard to even recommend to Star Trek fans.  The only group I can see this appealing to are collectors due to its limit availability.  If that’s the only appeal, than unfortunately it’s a poor one since it means it won’t be played often if at all.  Isn’t that the point of a game, after all?

Friday
Oct192012

What do you get the geek who has everything?

Michael Anderson posing in his steampunk costume.

Rainy afternoons, like the one this past Sunday October 14th, usually gives the impression that you should stay at home and enjoy some quite time.  Entering the Nepean Sportsplex initially seemed to give the impression that most of Ottawa agreed.  However, the closer you got to halls A and B, the more Jedi, anime and steampunk characters could be seen lining the corridors of the building.  Once at those halls it seemed like every geek in Ottawa showed up for the first ever Ottawa Geek Market.

Vendors thought it was going to be an average day for them.  They were completely surprised when over 300 people were waiting in line for the doors to open.

“This morning was incredibly busy,” said Angie Kuehl of the Comic Book Shoppe.

Event organizers Stacey Young (left) and Karen Fraser (right) posing with a jawa from the 501stThat enthusiasm would not die down.  Throughout the day the event was at or near the 500 person capacity.

Even the staff running the event found ways to join in with the fun.  It wasn’t uncommon to see security staff deck out as soldiers from video games.  In fact, a personal favourite was the security chief dressed as a Klingon warrior.

Luckily, there didn’t seem to be a need for the staff to intervene.  Fans were just there to have fun.  Some were there to try their hand at a board game.  Others went combing through each vendors unique wears.  Others still just wanted to show off the costumes they created.

In the end, though, everyone simply walked away with a smile on their face.

“It’s been great,” said Dominc Bercier, co-founder of local comic publisher Mirror Comics. “We love Ottawa shows.”

Saturday
Oct132012

Shopping for the nerd at heart

 

Geeks of Ottawa may have noticed there being a woeful lack of a geek bazaar. With geek culture gaining mainstream appeal, it’s a wonder one hasn’t come into existence yet. That’s being rectified October 14th with the first ever Ottawa Geek Market at the Nepean Sportsplex.

The event was thought up by Stacey Young, the proprietor of Geek etc., when she realized that there was no geek themed convention here in Ottawa in the fall.

“I thought that’s silly. Someone should really organize something,” said Young to a friend that was holding a geeky garage sale. It was then that her friend, rather jokingly suggested that she should run the event. However, Young took that as a challenge.

The idea took shape as a way to help the local community and highlight the cool vendors in the area. To that end, not only will there be things like Lego Star Wars jewellery but the proceeds from the admission sales and raffle will go to the Make a Wish foundation of Eastern Ontario.

This commitment to helping kids didn’t come from out of nowhere. A chance encounter with a small child changed everything for her. She was at a doctor’s appointment due to her chemical sensitivity when she saw a small child who was suffering from a disability look up at his mother. The next words from his mouth broke Young’s heart.

“Mommy, when do I get to be normal like all the other kids for a day,” he said.

From that point on a commitment to helping kids and to keeping the market fragrance free was born. In fact, Young takes great pride in her fragrance free policy. Those who want to attend but may be worried due to the fragrances normally associated with the make up that can go into some costumes can breathe a sigh of relief.

That said, expect to see a lot of people in costume. Even the chief of security will be in full Klingon gear. Even though there will be no masquerade due to this being mainly a marketplace, attendees are more than encouraged to come in costume.

In the end, Young expects there to be a healthy turn out. She originally thought that there would only be about 100 or so people attending. Due to the power of the internet, however, she’s now expecting somewhere between 1000 to 2000 people in attendance.

“The geeky community is tight in a good way,” said Young.

Thursday
Apr262012

Dance of the dead

Luca Fiore coaches his extras on how to act more zombie-like

The approach itself seemed like the beginning of many nightmares.  The road to the farm suddenly ends and the only way to proceed is to travel of a dirt path surrounded by trees and wire fencing.  The sense of claustrophobia is overwhelming.  If a zombie music video is going to be shot, there is no better place than this farm.

That’s exactly what was happening this Sunday afternoon at the Riverglen farm. The Love Machine was there shooting their latest music video “Make Believe”. 

The concept for this video came from a collaboration between the band and the director, Luca Fiore.

“I can honestly say that as much as I was writing it, the band was also involved with the creative process as well,” said Fiore.

Jazz hands are the dance of the deadThis is the second collaboration between the band and Fiore.  This time out, Fiore decided to incorporate cameos from his previous videos.  The most notable is Olexandra Pruchnicky who played a murder victim at the hands of the band in their previous video.  In this video, she’s wearing the same blood stained shirt that she received from the previous video.

“Yeah, it’s a little bit of revenge,” said Fiore.

The scene they filmed involved zombies coming through the barn door after our protagonists. Filming the scene proved to be more dangerous for the crew when one of the actors threw his axe aside which missed the leg of the director by inches.

Despite that near injury, the crew continued their work.  However, to make sure the video didn’t stray too far from established zombie mythology, the crew consulted with the Kevin Preece. He’s a local zombie expert who calls himself the Zombie King.  His expertise especially came in handy when it came to dealing with the livestock on the farm.  Preece corrected a mistaken belief that the zombies would leave them alone.  As a result, the crew avoided any interaction with their animal neighbours.

The blood and sweat put into this shoot should make for another interesting video for The Love Machine.  Which is just as well since the zombies will leave nothing else behind.