Chicago Geek Guy

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12 Days of Holiday Gaming – Custom Heroes

Friend of Chicago Geek Guy, Jame Nettum, returns with some suggestions for the holidays!

Time for another round of 12 Days of Holiday Game Recommendations (or whatever I randomly decide to call it on a daily whim). Some quick points before we start: I focus on games that won’t necessarily be on a “best of” list, but are still quality titles that are worth your time and money; I’ll make sure to disclose personal connections to the games in question; Lastly, these games are not in any particular order other than my top three.

And on that note we’ll get started with Custom Heroes (by AEG), and those disclosures. I got Custom Heroes for free at GenCon, but that’s because everyone who attended AEG’s Trade Day seminar did. I’m also gaming buddies with an AEG employee, but to my knowledge she didn’t work on this title.

Custom Heroes is a card game for two to six players. Its core mechanics are those of a simple trick-taking game, though the goal is to get rid of your cards rather than collect tricks. Cards come in a set of 1 through 10, with one set per player. The deck is fully dealt out at the start of each round. The lead player starts of stack of cards of any value and quantity they choose. The next player must play the same number of cards with an equal or higher value, or pass. Play continues around the table until everyone has passed, at which point the last player to have contributed to the stack starts a new one. The round continues until only one player has cards left in hand. The first player out of cards gets 5 victory points, and points diminish for each player out after that. The first player to reach 10 or more points, and be the first one out the next hand is the winner.

What sets Custom Heroes apart from other trick-taking games is that it’s part of AEG’s Card Crafting System (like Mystic Vale, which I reviewed last year), meaning that during play the individual cards will be modified. In Custom Heroes they’re through “Card Advancements” which are printed on transparent plastic, and sleeve right into the normal cards. The Advancements have a variety of effects, from changing or modifying the value of a card, or causing a stack to count down rather than up. They are used at a player’s discretion, always before contributing to the stack. Players don’t have to use their Advancements, or they can use all the ones they’ve managed to save in one big play. Since the entire is deck dealt out each round the changes made by the Card Advancements will effect the rest of the game. This is a great mechanic, because players need to remember that when they use their Advancements for a massive play, those cards could be used against them next round!

While the Card Advancements are a very clever twist that makes Custom Heroes stand out above other trick-taking games, the artwork on them also deserves a special note. The game’s art is a rather bombastic anime style, and each of the numbered cards features its own hero character. The Card Advancements modify the artwork of those heroes, giving them various weapons or power effects. The game would still be solid fun without this cool feature, but its inclusion gives a unique visual flair to the end product (and various visual shorthands once cards get heavily modified).

I greatly enjoy Custom Heroes. It scratches the same itch I have for the likes Wizards, The Great Dalmuti, or Gang of Four. But the Card Advancements add unique features that aren’t in those other titles, such as providing a handicap for people who got dealt lousy hands (the loser of each round gets to draw the most Card Advancements), and changing the depth of each value. I’ve always had a new experience each time I play. And I know that some people have adverse reactions to anime-style artwork, but if you’re a fan of any sort of trick-taking game you should give Custom Heroes a chance.

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday in 2016. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.

Flood at Bucket O’Blood

Never underestimate the damage of a possessed washing machine. After owners Jennifer and Grant McKee closed up Bucket O’Blood Sunday night, the malicious spirit set to work. The foul device leaked bucketfuls of water through a crack in the ceiling to wreak havoc. When the owners returned to open the Avondale book and vinyl shop on Monday morning, they returned to disaster. Water had inundated the store during the night, soaking brand new and used records in tons of water, decimating the retailer’s collection of 7″ records, soundtracks, jazz, punk, and part of the metal collection.

Jen and Grant set to work drying out records and sleeves, mopping up the floor, and assessing the damage. It took three days before they could re-open. Support from local fans poured in. People offered to come by to help clean or to just drop off food and beer for the owners. They finally opened their door after three days of lost sales and a tremendous loss in inventory.

“The best thing people can do is come in and shop. We’ve lost a lot of money and we need to generate new inventory.”

“We’ve gotten a lot of warm wishes and offers to help,” Jen told me. “The best thing people can do is come in and shop. We’ve lost a lot of money and we need to generate new inventory.”

Bucket O'Blood Beer Raffle

3 Floyds Brewpub has donated a wood-aged Baltic porter created for Corrosion Of Conformity for the raffle.

This Friday, fans of Bucket O’Blood will have their chance to help the store at a massive Flood Sale and Party. “What we need most is cash to buy more inventory,” Jennifer explained. “We were closed for 3 days (i.e. not making money) and we lost a lot of inventory that we have to reorder. We’re hoping people come out Friday and buy the discounted records so we can recuperate some of our losses and move forward.”

From noon until 9:00 pm, customers will have the opportunity to purchase deeply discounted items damaged in the flood. The vinyl is fine! It’s just the sleeves that got trashed. Cheap Kiss Records has donated a room full of records to help Bucket O’Blood get back on their feet. This is the chance to get some choice records at rock bottom prices.

The shop will also raffle off some amazing artwork, rare beers, signed collectibles, and rare vinyl. And, like nearly any Bucket O’Blood party, local brewers will have samples on hand to share for a small donation.

Come on down to support local business and get some great music!

Bucket O’Blood Flood Sale and Party, Friday, September 22, 12:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Bucket O’Blood Books and Records, 3182 N Elston Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60618

Bucket O'Blood

There’s some really great records getting marked down for Friday.

Orion Couling: At the Intersection of Geek and Activism

His name is Orion Couling.

Orion CoulingHis very first memories are of The Empire Strikes Back. His hard working, often absent, police officer father tried to make up for lost time with a string of presents: Star Wars toys. He spent his childhood in the boondocks of Michigan looking for a lost father figure he knew was fighting for justice. As he grew, so did his love of sci-fi: A Wrinkle in Time, Narina, Ray Bradbury, Star Trek. The genre provided excitement the rural area where he lived lacked.

At college, he discovered activism. He learned he could use this love of science fiction and theater to help drive social change.

His name is Orion Couling. On Saturday, September 2, he’ll combine his love of all things geek and his activism to lead Hope and Light: A Chicago Nerd Vigil Against White Supremacy. The Chicago Geek Guy had a chance to chat with Orion about the intersection of nerd and social justice.

CGG: What is it that you do now and how did your love of sci-fi shape your day job?

Orion: I run a mid-sized, not for profit theatre company in Chicago. Our focus is on marginalized communities, primarily differently abled people and kids to learn in alternative ways. This work is augmented by our semi-professional troupe who performs to raise money for our educational work. I also run a cosplay company that works in libraries and a children’s hospital. You see a sci-fi theme in all of this work. From our Star Wars Shakespeare MacSith to Peter and the Starcatcher, we are the company embracing the imagination. I am blessed that this is my day job. So, whether I’m teaching light saber at a library or writing a play about Minecraft with homeschoolers I get to live my dorkiness.

Orion Couling“I’m always honored to play Captain America.”

CGG: What’s been your favorite cosplay experience?

Orion: Oh wow. I’m not sure. I love doing Bumblebee from Transformers. It’s stilted so I’m 10 feet tall. I’m always honored to play Captain America. The kids love him so much; him and Spidey. But I’m premiering a book based cosplay at the renaissance faire next week that I’m thrilled about. The character is an Abhorsen from Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom Trilogy

CGG: Can you remember a moment when you really made an impact with cosplay?

Orion: Nothing surprising. But when a 5-year-old looks at you and sees their hero in real life, it’s pretty amazing. When I get to teach nonviolent crisis resolution at a library while doing a light saber workshop I feel like I’m making a difference.

“Becoming a nationally recognized stage combat instructor gave my resume the boost needed to justify someone hiring me to teach wand or lightsaber.”

CGG: How did you make the transition from fan to a professional fan?

Orion: A combination of a really good network of friends and a lot of hope. Learning the history that was the foundation for my fandoms was essential. Becoming a nationally recognized stage combat instructor gave my resume the boost needed to justify someone hiring me to teach wand or lightsaber.

CGG: What can you tell me about the path to becoming a nationally recognized stage combat instructor? What have you worked on?

Orion: I am an instructor through Dueling Arts International. It’s an international stage combat organization. I have been a recognized instructor since I was 26 (I think). I’m 39 now. I have over 50 professional production credits in mostly stage and some very limited film work. I have nearly 100 youth productions that I’ve worked on. Sci fi highlights include Predator-the Musical, Tammy (a coming of age story about a girl who was part T-Rex), Star Wars of the Roses, and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

CGG: I first “met” you through the feminist Facebook group, The League of Ordinary Gentlemen. What drove the transition from fan to activist?

Orion: I started my journey as an activist during my sophomore year in college at Northern Michigan University. I took a class on the theater of cruelty. It focused largely on Central and South America. It basically used the theater to advocate for social change. I’ve been actively involved in that process since.

The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere, an album by Utah Phillips and Ani DiFranco from the 90’s, also spoke to me. It dealt with excepting the responsibility of privilege and action

“I felt it important to help push the cultural boundaries and responsibilities of Geekdom.”

CGG: When and how did you realize you could merge the two? Geekdom and activism?

Orion: That key element is relatively new. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. The proceeds from MacSith allowed me to support educational efforts. In some ways, that play was a soft sort of activism. Looking at Chicago’s growing geek culture and its organizations, like the inspirational Raks Geek, I felt it important to help push the cultural boundaries and responsibilities of Geekdom.

Orion Couling“Use light sabers instead of swords. Embrace the world of sci-fi but stay true to the script.”

CGG: Tell me a little bit about MacSith. Where did the idea come from and what challenges did you face implementing it?

Orion: MacSith sounds farcical. In reality, it was hard hitting Shakespearean action. It started out as a project to get kids excited about Shakespeare, about 10 years ago. It evolved into a professional production that received critical success. It was a simple concept: Use a very tight cutting of the play (75 minutes) without changing any of Shakespeare’s language. Use light sabers instead of swords. Embrace the world of sci-fi but stay true to the script.

CGG: After MacSith, what happened next in terms of geek activism?

Orion: Not enough. I continue my work in marginalized communities but this situation has really spoken to me about the need for much more.

I am in the process of planning a Wonder Woman styled workshop and all the proceeds will go to a local battered women’s shelter.

“…we are set into this world with all the elements that we need for fulfillment. We are like seeds. We must water the seeds of compassion and dialogue…”

CGG: What drove you to create The League of Ordinary Gentlemen?

Orion: I felt that men needed a positive community to discuss the transition from the version of masculinity most men I know grow up with, to a more supportive and equal place with women. I feel that important changes need nurturing. I hold to the Buddhist philosophy that we are set into this world with all the elements that we need for fulfillment. We are like seeds. We must water the seeds of compassion and dialogue and not water seeds of privilege. The fact is, I mess up, relentlessly, all the time. It has become a place where I can take my losses and stumbling blocks and seek advice from a group of people sworn to uplift the same values.

CGG: How do you think it’s working out?

Orion: It’s definitely been good for the sharing of resources and fellowship but I’d like to see us offering free workshops and lectures.League of Ordinary Gentlemen

CGG: Where and how did the idea for the Nerd Vigil emerge?

Orion: I was attending a candle vigil for Charlottesville and two quotes really stood out.

“Let our light of peace (candles) shine brighter than theirs of hate (torches)” -I put in the parenthetical words- but it got me thinking. What could I lift in peace that we shine light? Wands and light sabers were the clear answer. Who could I lift them with? My nerd sisters and brothers whom I care so dearly for in Chicago.

The other quote was “love is an action word.” It’s not enough to passive stand by or comment on social media. We also need time to grieve and grow.

I have three very dedicated speakers who will offer their peaceful perspective. I’m hoping to act on love

“If we even do one of those things it will be a success. If we do all of those things, it will be incredible.”

CGG: What are you hoping to achieve from the vigil?

Orion: Just as the description states. A peaceful resistance to white supremacy. To remember the fallen of Charlottesville and those who died before in this struggle. Finally, to encourage the nerd community to broaden their horizons in multicultural characters. If we even do one of those things it will be a success. If we do all of those things, it will be incredible.

CGG: What’s next for you after the vigil?

Orion: The Wonder Woman workshop! Most likely in October. Just got all the shields and swords!

Literally fighting for social change. Mixing high energy stage combat and stunt while raising money for women who have been put through hell.

Hope and Light: A Chicago Nerd Vigil Against White Supremacy occurs Saturday, September 2, 2017 at 7:30 pm at 50 W Adams, Chicago, IL 60603.

So… You Want to Build a Character in D&D

Turns out, there’s help for that. Christopher Green put his knowledge of Graphics Arts into good use to come up with a handy chart for those new to the experience. This graphic walks a reader through character creation in an interesting, thought provoking, and meaningful way. Meant for folks brand new to RPG’s, I think it will help those with a lot of experience in the game.

You can find more useful resources like this over in the Facebook Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition group.

 

Come Get Some! Midwest Convention Schedule

Earlier this week, a friend asked me if, as the Chicago Geek Guy, I knew of local gaming conventions scheduled for the near future. I had to confess. I didn’t. Undaunted, I reached out to groups on Facebook and Reddit to compile a convention schedule of events in the Midwest.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

October

  • Dan’s Con of the Vale, Brookfield, WI – http://coldironconventions.com/
  • Mini-Hoopla, Janesville, WI – http://www.gaminghoopla.com/mini-hoopla.html

November

I consider this a work in progress. Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below.

Anime Midwest Cosplay – Day Two!

Some more astounding work and creativity from #AnimeMidwest.

Anime Midwest 2017

Picture 1 of 33

Anime Midwest Cosplay – Day One!

I saw some great work on the first day of Anime Midwest. Here’s just a small sampling.

Anime Midwest 2017

Picture 1 of 26

Back at Anime Midwest!

Trinity and I have made it back to Anime Midwest for another year.  I’m looking forward to the convention as an attendee as opposed to a presenter. I want to see what other people are doing and the information they’re sharing with others:

My first-day schedule looks like:

  • Linkara and the Geek Talk Comics
  • Worbia workshop
  • Cosplay Creeps and How to Handle them
  • Con Parents
  • V is for Villians Concert

Trin and I also brought two costumes each. We’ll be out on the floor getting seen. I promise lots of pictures for the social feeds and future galleries.

If you see a WWI Pilot Batman or Pirate Deathstroke, be sure to say hi!

Wolfcon: The Little Con that Could

I can’t say I had ever heard of Wolfcon. In the 13 years I lived in Lombard, Illinois, little did I suspect the nearby College of DuPage hosted this little gem of a game convention. I didn’t learn of Wolfcon until Robert Lindauer reached out to me via Chicago Geek Guy looking for judges and GM’s. I took the opportunity to talk with him about the convention.

CCG: Let’s start with your personal history of gaming? When did you start? What have you played? When and how did you decide to run a convention?

I couldn’t imagine how something like that could come from a game

Robert Lindauer: My father owned a number of Avalon Hill war games, and we used to play them together. These were the old games with little cardboard chits signifying military units. We played Luftwaffe, Tactics Two, Stalingrad, Squad Leader, etc.

Then one day in High School, some friends of mine were talking about a game they played where they were battling centaurs – and they described what happened in great deal. I couldn’t imagine how something like that could come from a game, so I accepted the invitation to play D&D. That was my first introduction to RPG’s. That group of friends and I played for many years and attended GenCon when it was in Wisconsin, regularly.

So, I was introduced to gaming at a young age, and played a wide variety of games, from Risk to Diplomacy, to Star Feet Battles, to Top Secret and Gamma World, to Magic – about every game that I have come in contact with over the years. Lately, I have been playing a lot of Pandemic and Codewords.

Running a convention has introduced me to many new games.

But I also play Puerto Rico every so often, Times Up, and Settlers of Catan. It all depends on the group of friends participating. I was even playing Heroclix for a little while with my nephew. Running a convention has introduced me to many new games.

At Wolfcon, I run Call of Cthulhu and an ongoing D&D campaign set in ancient Rome that I originally started while in college.

Wolfcon itself was predated by a game day run out of a local church by John Kavain, the other principle organizer. I was introduced to him by a mutual friend. He needed judges to run some RPGA events, and I was a passable GM by that point. He convinced me to join a local game club, GB7, of which the Wolfpack was a chapter. I remember that the thing that sold me. He gave us all free t-shirts with the word “Wolfpack” and picture of a wolf.

We had a sort of “your uncle has a barn, and I have these old costumes – let’s put on a show” moment.

About 14 years ago give or take, the key members of the Wolfpack, 5 friends, John Kavain, Bill Murray, Rob Reichel, Jeff Stein and myself were sitting around talking about GenCon wondering why there wasn’t something closer. We had a sort of “your uncle has a barn, and I have these old costumes – let’s put on a show” moment. GB7 had an extensive games library we could use. We knew lots of judges. We had experience running a game day. We had connections to sponsors. Perhaps most importantly we had a venue thanks to John’s friend at the church, Father Claiborne.

We’ve had a lot of ups and downs over the years. We lost several of the original members, but also made great connections, and great discoveries. Wolfcon could never have existed without the support of judges, vendors, Mayfair Games, Days of Wonder…. There is a long list of people and organizations that gave us what we needed when we needed it.

CCG: What do you look forward to the most when the con comes around?

They are the nicest, most accepting, inclusive people I can think of, anywhere. Every year when they come together – it feels like a reunion.

Robert Lindauer: By far, interacting with the people who make up the gaming community. They are the nicest, most accepting, inclusive people I can think of, anywhere. Every year when they come together – it feels like a reunion.

CGG: What did you want to accomplish when you first started working on the convention? How far have you gotten in those goals?

this year is looking to be a growth year

Robert Lindauer: When we first started, we just wanted to see if we could do it. Still, I have always wondered if we could turn it into something larger. I always thought it would be nice if there were a family friendly convention in Chicago that matched its thriving geeky/game community in scale. By that measure, we are a failure, or at least the jury is still out. While we have had as many as 240 attendees in the past, over the last few years that number has gone down dramatically.

Though, this year is looking to be a growth year.

But as I think on it. I haven’t ever really measured success by size. Whatever scale we run at – I am satisfied if the people who come out have fun.

Miniatures at Wolfcon

Miniatures at Wolfcon

CGG: How many attendees do you expect this year? How many events total and of each type?

Robert Lindauer: My best conservative guess is that we’ll have around 80 attendees this year, give or take a dozen. We have about 30 role- playing (Pathfinder, Sparks, Call of Cthulhu, D&D) events, and a couple of different board game tournaments scheduled. There will likely be several dozens of board game sessions – but these aren’t typically scheduled. We’ll also run our collaborative computer starship simulator non-stop through the convention. I’m also hoping that we add a few more events in the next few weeks as well.

CGG: What do you hope for the future of the convention?

Robert Lindauer: I am hoping to attract more people and groups interested in collaborating on putting the convention together, and for the convention to be a nexus for the various gaming communities in the Chicago area to connect with each other.

CGG: What would you like to say to someone considering going or attending the con for the first time?

Robert Lindauer: Give us a try! We have a full slate of fun events (most free with admission) – role playing, board games, prize tournaments, a puzzle hunt, giant Jenga, a games auction, a starship bridge simulator, and perhaps most importantly, a chance to connect with some of the nicest people who play games in the Chicago area all in air conditioned comfort with free parking. AND – If the very affordable $10/day or $20/weekend cost is too much for you – send me an e-mail we always need volunteers.

Starship simulator at Wolfcon

Starship simulator at Wolfcon

Wolfcon at College of DuPage
Student Resource Center (SRC 2000),
425 Fawell Blvd , Glen Ellyn, IL 60137 
Fri, Sat, & Sun, July 7th, 8th, & 9th, 2017

Introducing Chicago Geek Guy Studios

I just couldn’t find what I was looking for.

I kept looking, without any luck. Sometimes, I just don’t understand how a rule mechanic is supposed to work from reading the rulebook on its own. I didn’t want to watch a video from a whole playthrough of an RPG session in the hopes that it would answer my question. I wanted something that could help me with a table top RPG the way The Rules Girl helped me with board games. I couldn’t find what I needed. Time for Chicago Geek Guy Studios.

While prepping to run a one-shot Eclipse Phase session, I kept puzzling over a concept called Measure of Success. Once an understanding finally sunk in, I realized other people likely suffered from similar issues. As I am planning to deliver a series of one-shots using different systems over the next year, I also needed a way to introduce my players to different rule sets without taking too much time from actual play.

After talking the idea over with a few friends and buying some green fabric, I made the first video in a series I’m calling “That’s How We Roll.”

That first video taught me some important things:

  • Green screens need a lot of light and hate wrinkles. I eventually built a wooden frame and stretched out my background to even out the color.
  • iOS has applications that act like a teleprompter. I can look right into the camera and still read a script.
  • The image shakes a lot when trying to record while holding the camera. Tripods are the way to go.
  • It’s easy to speak too quickly while recording. Speaking at a reasonable speed will seem slow, but it’s much easier to understand.
  • Good lighting takes time to set up (or a ring light)

With these fresh ideas in my head, I bought a ring light, a teleprompting app, and a tripod to start another video. This time, I also roped in a collaborator. Trinity brings a great sense of humor to filming and I hope she’ll join me in more of them.

Here’s some work we did for That’s How We Roll: Tales from the Loop:

Got any tip for video production? Leave them in the comments below! I can sure use the help!

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