Local Nerdery to Keep You Warm

cropped-cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgYes, I know. Winter has come to the Prairies and your first instinct is to hibernate until it goes away. Mine too. But I’ve also learned that getting out and gaming can help speed the winter away. So here are a few local (Edmonton) gaming events happening in the next while, to help drive away the winter blues.

Gamemaster Support Group (Monday, February 13, 6-9pm) – Hub of nerdery and mighty fine comic shop and used-book store, Variant Edition, has begun hosting a Gamemaster Support Group, designed to give local GMs a chance to meet, discuss issues around GMing, and swap ideas and stories. I was very sad to miss the first of these, but I’m planning to make it to the next with proverbial bells on. The focus for this one seems to be GM materials, and they’ve asked the GMs attending to bring along examples of materials they use at the table. So I’m especially excited to see all the cool things my fellow GMs use at the table. Not only is a cool learning experience, but sometimes you need to vent and only your fellow GMs will understand.

Bitz Swap (Saturday, February 18, 9am-5pm) – Alongside the Colder than Carbonite 2017 Infinity Tournament, Bitter North Gaming will host a Bitz Swap. For those not in the know, amongst miniature gamers a bitz swap is a chance to buy and trade miniatures and miniature bitz, for modding your miniatures, building terrain, or just picking up an army you’ve had your eye on super cheap. If you’ve been interested in starting in the hobby, this is also sometimes a good opportunity to get into the hobby less expensively. And if nothing else it’s a chance to ogle some cool miniatures and talk to other tabletop wargamers.

KEFCon – The Gauntlet (February 25-26) – Hosted by The Gamer’s Lodge, The Gauntlet is a 17-hour gaming marathon fundraiser in support of KEFCon. Tickets are $20, and you get a $5 food voucher from The Gamer’s Lodge as part of that. The gaming goodness starts at 9am and runs to 2am, with multiple tables of gaming running the entire time. Plus there’ll be folks on hand to teach the games (I should know, I’m one of them), so it’s a perfect time to try out a game you’ve never played before. You can register for the games ahead of time through Warhorn. Beer, food, and gaming, what more could you want?

So get on out there and while away the winter with some gaming. Hopefully I’ll see you there!


Get in the Con Game!

cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgGen Con started today, with tens of thousands of gaming nerds gathering in Indianapolis to celebrate the hobby they love. Sadly, I am not among them this year, though I have made the pilgrimage to gamer mardi gras in the past. If you have the means, I highly recommend attending Gen Con at least once in your lifetime. The experience is like nothing else.

But even if you can’t get to Gen Con this year, there are likely plenty of smaller gaming conventions just waiting to entertain you. There are regional and local cons held all over the world, run by nerds who love the tabletop hobby as much as you. Sites like Upcoming Cons and Game Convention Central can help you track down nearby cons. Most local cons will advertise where the gamers hang out, so check out your FLGS or game café for posters and/or flyers.

I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and we have a number of local cons which feature gaming. It wasn’t always the case, of course, but with the general rise in popularity of tabletop gaming came an interest in sharing that experience with others. Even five years ago you could struggle to find something year-round. Now, I’m actually staggered a bit by choice. For those living in Edmonton (and the rest of Alberta, if you want to make the trip) here are some upcoming gaming cons happening in our fair city.

Edmonton Expo (Sept 23-25, 2016) – While not a gaming con per se, the Expo is a big convention and has a little bit of everything. In the last couple of years the tabletop gaming area has expanded and improved, and the Expo has introduced hundreds of new people to the hobby, as well as showing off new games to the veteran players. Full disclosure, I’m the Tabletop Gaming Team Lead for the event, so I might be a touch biased. But we try to make the tabletop gaming area as welcoming as possible, with an eye toward getting folks around a table and playing something. Because playing the game is the fun part, right? This year I’m excited because we have a number of local game designers and companies demoing their stuff, and folks can come try out games which are fresh on the market.

FallCon (September 30- October 2, 2016) – Not a local con, but definitely close by when compared to other cons you could travel to, FallCon happens every year in Calgary, AB. Currently in its 29th year of operation, it is currently the province’s longest-running gaming convention. And it shows; every year FallCon is a well-run weekend of fun for boardgame enthusiasts. Also a great con to help get an idea of what it’s like to travel to a con, if you haven’t done that yet. Think of it as the start of your training regimen for attending Gen Con.

IntrigueCon (October 14-16, 2016) – Locally run by Hazard Gaming, IntrigueCon is an annual role-playing convention. Its attendance is growing nicely, with a wide variety of both new and classic RPGs for local gamers to try out. The staff and volunteers are great, and the times I’ve managed to get out and run a game have been a blast. Edmonton gamers, if you’re looking for a great con experience while still being able to sleep in your own bed at night, this con’s for you.

Gamealot (October 21-23, 2016) Yes, that’s right, you can get in two back-to-back gaming conventions in the space of a week. One of the Edmonton area’s longest running gaming conventions, Gamealot used to be run out of Mission: Fun and Games’ store every September. This year they finally acknowledged that the store could no longer contain all the gaming goodness, and have moved to a much larger off-site venue. But in true Gamealot fashion, the weekend is shaping up to be just as packed with boardgames and card games as ever. And this is definitely the place to go if you want a boardgame palette cleanser after your IntrigueCon RPG experience. You’ll likely find me there running some Cheapass Games and the like.

KefCon (November 19-20, 2016) – An acronym for “keeping evenings fun”, KefCon is brand new boardgaming convention just entering its second year. No dates are announced for the next one, but they seem to be trying to run a single-day event every six months (the last was in mid-July). I haven’t been myself yet, but friends have told me it’s a good time, not unlike spending a day at your friend’s house playing boardgames. You know, if your friend’s house was the size of a local community hall. Update: They’ve picked some dates in November, and have expanded to two days. Tickets are on-sale now!

GOBFest (April 8 & 9, 2017) – Organized by local group POGOB (Players of Games on Boards), GOBFest is a wonderful two-day boardgaming event. Went to KefCon and you’re ready for something a little heftier? This is for you. Not only do they feature scheduled games and tournaments, but they have an impressively large library of games you can borrow for open gaming. Not to mention a number of “life-sized” games, for when you want to be the meeple. I’ve run games and played games at GOBFest, and had a blast doing both.

Okay, that’s my list of Edmonton gaming cons available for your enjoyment and titillation. Did I miss one? Did I get something wrong? Drop a note in the comments. And for everyone not living in my city, get out there and see what’s going on near you. You’ll be surprised at what you might find with just a bit of digging.cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpg

Five from my Pull List

It’s no secret I’m reading more comics these days…oh, it is? Okay, well, since starting my part-time job at Wizard’s Comics, I have been reading a lot more comics. And I mean a lot more. I would say my comic intake has easily quadrupled, and spread beyond the gaming related comics (PS238, Knights of the Dinner Table etc) that I stuck to previously. I could try to excuse this by saying that I am reading more for work, so I can do my job better. But in all honesty that is a happy bi-product. No, if I have to look for the root cause of my swollen comic file, it’s Brandon.

You may know him better as @soupytoasterson if you frequent the Twitterverse. But whatever you call him (and @Leask may have some helpful suggestions, just ask him), Brandon is really good at selling comics. His secret? Honest enthusiasm coupled with optimism for the comic medium. Yep, that’s it. No trickery, no magic. If you come into the shop looking for comics, Brandon will try to set you up with something you will love. And if you have a file with us, he’ll be proactive about suggesting stuff you might like. Because Brandon wants you to love your comics as much as he does (his comics, not yours. But he also loves your comics, I just…never mind.)

So it was inevitable that some of that enthusiasm would rub off. As a result, I have added many titles to my pull list that I would otherwise have passed over. And I think it behooves me to pass some of that new found enthusiasm along to you, gentle readers. So here are my current top five titles, in no particular order. If you like what you read here, head out to your Friendly Local Comic Shop and pick them up. And drop me a line so we can talk, because that’s what cool nerds do…

Aquaman – Yeah, that’s right, Aquaman. Long has this character languished as a hapless B- or C-rated hero in the DC universe. But after hearing a few good things I read the first two issues in the store, and I was intrigued. What got me? One of the ongoing story-lines has Aquaman dealing with all of the misunderstandings surrounding his abilities. They actually take all of the criticism and insults that have been leveled against the character over the years, and made that part of the character arch. Combine that with some great writing from Geoff Johns and really expressive art from Joe Prado, and this is a comic I’m excited to read every month.

Fatale – If this were just a film noir-style comic, I’d probably read it.  If it were just a cthulhu-based comic, I’d probably read it.  Combine those two things together and the chances of me not reading Fatale approach zero.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s part of the solicit for Fatale #1:

“GUNS! SEX! SECRET CULTS! AND MONSTERS!  Nothing the BEST-SELLING and AWARD-WINNING creators of SLEEPER, CRIMINAL and INCOGNITO have done so far will prepare you for the explosive debut of FATALE!

A reporter in 2012 stumbles on a secret that leads him down the darkest path imaginable… to a seductive woman who’s been on the run since 1935, a mobster who may be an immortal demon monster, and the stories of all the doomed men who’ve been caught in their decades-long struggle.

FATALE blends noir and horror to tell a riveting epic unlike anything you’ve seen before.”

Geeklings, that is the kind of story that gets me out of bed in the morning.  Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are telling one hell of a great story here, and the art sets a mood both gritty and sultry.  Out of all my pull list, this is the title I re-read the most, though to be honest I find myself just going through the books and admiring the style as much as I do any of the words.  An evocatively beautiful comic.

Saga – Having been a fan of both Brian K. Vaughan‘s work on Y: The Last Man and Fiona Staple‘s North 40, I was super-excited to hear these two would be working on a new comic together.  It certainly didn’t hurt that the story promised to be an epic (well, they did call it Saga) tale of intergalactic intrigue, in the vein of Babylon 5 or Dune.  And even though I have only read issue #1 I have to say, I hope this gets the audience/sales it deserves.  Because it would be a shame if this beautifully rendered tale of two lovers caught in the middle of inter-planetary war was cut short.  I don’t just want to read to the end, I need to read to the end!  Saga is currently my favourite sci-fi story, and I am including many seasons of Stargate SG-1 and Star Trek when I make that determination.  I am a sucker for romance and intrigue set against a backdrop of science fiction.  If you are too, this is a comic you need.

Thief of Thieves – Also only at issue #1 is this little gem.  Sometimes it seems like a comic is written with me in mind.  Thief of Thieves is written like the creators entered my mind, Inception-style, and pulled out everything I have ever loved about every heist/crime show I have ever watched.  Hyperbole?  Hyperbole is for the weak, and in this case even it wouldn’t capture how much I’m enjoying this comic.  I know, I know, it’s only issue #1.  But I have faith in Robert Kirkman and the rest of the team.  Even if it only remains an entertaining heist comic it is worth the cover price.  But I can already see it hinting at so much more, and that is how it stole into my top five (yeah, yeah…).

Let me put it this way: do you love Leverage?  Do you miss it in the off-season?  Then reading this will fill that hole in your heart, and serve as an added bonus when Leverage comes back.  (If your answer to my first question was “What’s Leverage?, I…I have no words.  Just watch it.)

Smoke and Mirrors – This one almost slipped under my finely-tuned nerd radar.  Which was shocking, because a modern-day tale set in a world where magic is the prevalent technology is so firmly in my wheelhouse it’s like a part of the architecture.  As luck would have it, though, this caught my eye as I put it on the New Comics shelf, and after waiting an appropriate amount of time for real customers to snag it, I grabbed a copy.  And I can tell this is going to be a fun ride.  I can’t say too much at this point without spoilers but…okay, think of our world as it is now, with our massive reliance/dependence on technology.  Now imagine if someone came along and actually demonstrated real magic, as a force that could be measured and controlled.  Now imagine that in reverse.  Yeah, I thought you’d like that.  And that isn’t even a fraction of what is going on in this comic, not by a long-shot.  I’ll be reading voraciously…

Okay, that’s it for me.  My top five doesn’t even touch on all the comics I have on the go, so I’d better get back to it.  Leave a comment below and let me know what you’re reading.  And swing by the store some time so we can chat…

Nerdiness Afoot in YEG

Ahoy, nerdlings!  Winter seems to have passed us by and it is time to shake off our hibernation and get out into the world.  Conveniently, your fellow geeks are running events  firmly in your wheelhouse.  So give yourself a shake, put on your best pop-culture t-shirt, and hit up one of these upcoming events:

50,000 tweets, a fundraiser, and a (fake) birthday celebration

No one can deny Brittney Le Blanc’s status as YEG geek royalty (minor royalty, like a duchess or something. Don’t get cocky, Brit!).  Her work with YEG Girl Geek, coupled with her tireless promotion of all things Edmonton have certainly earned that for her.  And she is generous to a fault.  So generous, she has turned the celebration of her new column and her (fake) birthday into a fundraiser for the Edmonton Public Schools Foundation.  Join her and a gajillion of your fellow nerds at  Brittany’s Lounge (10225 – 97 Street) on Friday, March 30 for cake, drinks and merry-making!  And as an added bonus, for just $2 you can enter the raffle for Brittney’s 50,000th Tweet!  That’s right, for one brief 140-character moment, this member of geek royalty could be your mouthpiece.  So come on out and celebrate for a great cause!  Click on the heading for more details and to register.

Brass and Brew IV

Join the Edmonton Steampunk crew for another merry event on Saturday April 7, starting at 5pm.  Put on your steampunk finest (or don’t, no one will judge) and enjoy some fine company and libations.  This is an all-ages event, though minors do need to leave before 9pm.  This event occurs inside City Center Mall in the Elephant and Castle restaurant and pub located on the third floor of the mall, next to the Cineplex movie theatre.  So fire up the steam velocipede and head on down!

Robert J. Sawyer TRIGGERS Launch in Edmonton

Join Hugo and Nebula Award-winner Robert J. Sawyer as he launches his 21st novel TRIGGERS.  The reading takes place at Audrey’s (10702 Jasper Avenue) on Wednesday, April 11 at 7:30pm, and there will be signings afterwards.

A thriller’s pacing and a chilling near-future world. Sawyer delivers here.” — Booklist
A turbo-charged techno-thriller. A combination of classic and contemporary science fiction.” — Publishers Weekly
A tense, race-against-the-clock adventure with a surprise ending.” — Library Journal

Avengers Movie Marathon

With all the upcoming events such as the Calgary Expo (April 27th to April 29th), The Avengers Movie (May 4th) and Free Comic Book Day (May 5th), what better way to kick it off than an Avengers Movie Marathon at Happy Harbor (10729 104 Ave).  Spend all day Sunday, April 15th watching all the movies that will lead up to what we all have been waiting for since 2008.  Starting at 10am, here is the chronological movie schedule:

Iron Man
The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2
Captain America: The First Avenger

So pack some snacks, bring the family and spend the day reliving the stories of the Avengers and anticipating the movie that will bring them all together!  Admission is a donation to the Edmonton Food Bank. That’s all. Please make sure to support the cause while you enjoy your day!

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That’s all for now!  Get on out there and get your geek on!  And as always, if you have a nerd event and you want to get the word out, drop me a line here.

Public Displays of Nerdery (and where to find them)

There is nerdery afoot and aflight in the city of Edmonton!  And you need to get out there and take part, lest your nerd cred atrophy over these long winter months.  To forestall any nerd-cred shrinkage, why not take in some of these fine events:

An Epic Valentine’s Day of Epic Epicness

Join the Graphic Content folks, along with Comics! The Blog as they host a special Valentine’s Day screening of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, tonight at the Metro Cinema.  Starting at 9:00pm, there will be drinks provided by Metro’s official supplier Alley Kat Brewing CompanyAnd, you can have your drink – in a fancy red party cup, just like in the movie! – inside the theatre itself!  Screening starts at 9:30pm.  Tickets are $10 adults, $8 students/senoirs, and Metro Passes will be accepted. The film is 112 minutes long, rated PG, and we’ll be showing it in glorious 35mm.

Chapters Mini-Comicon — Author Appearances

Saturday, February 18 at 11am, join Edmonton literary and comic celebs Andrew Foley (Done to Death, Cowboys & Aliens), Dave Gross (Pathfinder, Forgotten Realms), and Robert Burke Richardson (Old School, The Matriarch) for readings, signings and a Q&A.  Where else are you going to talk to these three together in one place, outside of a fancy-schmancy convention? Well, at the 170st Chapters, in this case.  But besides that, nowhere!  You would be the most foolish of fools to miss out on this opportunity, so make your way there this Saturday!

GEEKS UNITE! “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”

Friday February 24th at 11pm at the Metro Cinema!  At Last! Another film completely different from some of the other films which aren’t quite the same as this one is. King Arthur (Graham Chapman) and his knights Sir Galahad the Pure (Michael Palin) , Sir Lancelot the Brave (John Cleese), the quiet Sir Bedevere (Terry Jones), and Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir Lancelot (Eric Idle) embark on a low-budget search for the Grail, encountering many very silly obstacles. Classic 35mm film comedy on the big screen…costumes & coconuts encouraged! Join the Knights Who Say Ni!, Tim the Enchanter, Roger the Shrubber, the Black Knight, the oppressed Dennis, Prince Herbert & his father the King of Swamp Castle & many more!

Happy Harbor’s Movie Nite! U-Decide!

Happy Harbor is having a movie night, Saturday, February 25th, and you get to pick the movie!  Choose between TUCKER & DALE vs EVIL or VAMPIRE GIRL vs FRANKENSTEIN GIRL; you can cast your vote on the Facebook event page (follow the heading link)  Whichever gets the most votes is what you will watch.  HH now has a snack bar (chips & chocolate bars) with coffee to go along with our pop so all you need is a donation to the Edmonton Food Bank and it’s extra crazy, geeky movie action time.  And if you haven’t seen the new HH theater in action, it’s pretty awesome!  Movie starts at 7pm, so cast your vote and don’t be late!

Okay nerds!  There are four events to get your nerd juices (ew!) flowing!  As always, if you know of any nerdly events going on in Edmonton drop a link in the comments below and I’ll post them on the blog.  Now get out there and have fun!

Nerd Events Update

Even though people are busy with the holidays, there are still plenty of nerd events on tap.  Here are the ones I know about:

Game Day for Cthulhu

Come and join your fellow gamers at Happy Harbor Comics (10729 104 Ave) for an afternoon of gaming on Sunday, December 11th.  The games will run from 12 until 5pm at the latest.  It’s your chance to meet some new people, try some new games, and have an awesome time.  The featured game will be Call of Cthulhu: the Mansion of Madness.  If people would like to bring their own games, such as card games, board games, or other RPG’s for people to try out, please feel free to do so!

Graphic Content Presents: Akira

This month, Graphic Content has decided to counter-program against the torrent of feel-good holiday flicks and Oscar bait that are about to inundate the theatres of our fair city. Instead, we will be digging deep into nerd history and showing 1988′s Akira, the hyper-violent realization of Katsushiro Otomo’s epic manga of the same name, and the film that basically put anime on the map in North America.  Tuesday, December 20th at 9:15 PM at Metro Cinema at the Garneau Theatre. The movie is rated 18A and runs for 124 minutes. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students/seniors. Metro Passes will be accepted. Box Office opens at 8:15, come early to check out the comics chosen to go along with the movie.

Underworld Kalidor presents: A New Years Eve Masquerade

Underworld Kalidor will be hosting a New Years Party like no other. We have rented the beautiful Wilton Park community hall outside of Calmar, AB. There will be feasting and dancing. We will also be presenting the Underworld Kalidor LARP awards. This is a great opportunity to show your family and friends what Underworld is all about. Although this event is out of game, please come dressed for a Kalidor Masquerade (medieval/ fantasy attire suitable for a ball). We will have some loaner costumes available. Doors open at 5pm, and tickets are $30 and cover the Feast, the Venue and the Entertainment. We will have a cash bar with $2 drinks. Please do not bring outside food or alcohol. We will also have a DJ and plan to party all night. There is sleeping space available if you bring an air matress, pillow and blanket.

Indiana Jones Triple Feature

Cue the music…It’s the New Year’s Day Indiana Jones Triple Feature at The Garneau! Come for your favourite film, stay for a double feature or hang out for all three! Start 2012 with one of the best action/adventure film series ever made (Winner of six Oscars between them all).  Admission: Adult: 1 film: $8, 2 films: $14, 3 films: $18; Student/Senior/Friends of Metro: 1 film: $6, 2 films: $12, 3 films: $16.  Metro passes accepted

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Have anything geeky going on between now and the New Year?  Drop me a line and I’ll spread the word!

Monday will mark my 100th post here on Renaissance Dork, and I’m celebrating with something special.  I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I can say that there are prizes involved for the clever among you.  And because I’m a nice guy, prizes for the not-so-clever as well.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Random Acts of Publicity: LitFest

For the final instalment in Random Acts of Publicity Week, instead of talking about a single book by someone I know, I’m going to talk about a single book festival by someone I know.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you LitFest, produced by my pal David Cheoros.

As described on the website:

“Litfest is a festival, not a conference. We don’t just sit around and read books (although we do that too). At LitFest, nonfiction content comes to life. Avid readers with nonfiction content and creators through a series of events chic gatherings and gourmet experiences.

LitFest is an exclusive event. LitFest is the only nonfiction festival in Canada. It brings together some of the best-selling, award-winning and emerging authors of books, magazine and film content. It also supports Edmonton as a local incubator for nonfiction literary talent.”

Begun in 2002 as the successor to the Alberta Book Fair, LitFest provides 10-days of non-fiction literary programming.  The festival presents a wide range of readings and events focused on some of the most interesting non-fiction writing to be had today.  Examples: Irshad Manji discussing the content of her books The Trouble with Islam Today and Allah, Liberty and Love; Will Ferguson reading from Canadian Pie; A Taste of Scots, featuring a reading from How the Scots Invented Canada by author Ken McGoogan, followed by a reception toasting Scotland (yes, including whiskey).  And this is just a fraction of the events running over the ten days; the schedule has to be seen to be believed.

One of the things I love about this festival is that it is not set in a single location in the city.  Events for LitFest run at locations in St. Albert and Spruce Grove, as well as various locations around Edmonton: the Stanley Milner library, Garneau Theatre, Haven Social Club and The ARTery, just to name a few.  This was a great choice by LitFest, because it gives the festival a very inclusive community feel, as well as opening up what would otherwise be and Edmonton festival to our surrounding communities.

You can buy a Festival Pass, or pick up tickets for individual readings and events.  You can even grab a Gold Pass that will get you into the festival and the special events, like the Charles Taylor Prize Gala, A Brunch of Writers and Genu-Wine.  Tickets and passes can be picked up in advance through Tix on the Square.

If you love reading non-fiction, and want to expose yourself to some of the best in NF literature, LitFest is the place you need to be.  Check out the LitFest website for details like event times and locations, and make sure to take in an event or two or ten, during the October 12-23 run.  You will likely see me there.

Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Below.