So I’m sitting in Gamescape playing D&D Next (aka 5th edition) when my ears twitch and I hear something over my shoulder:

“No, I have an X-Wing tournament to run that day,” Shane Case says to somebody, and I whip my head around. Whhaa?!?! Is this a lead on a competitive game that I can write about for the Ace of Geeks blog and get one more story out of the way in my quest to win back my soul? I dash over to him and hover until I there is a socially appropriate time to interject and ask awkwardly worded and poorly prepared questions. Case is completely unprepared. I can only imagine this would be like someone seeing Spider-man fighting crime and then turning into Peter Parker so that he can be a reporter for a moment.

Case is happy to answer questions for the leading competitive gaming reporter for the largest blog that starts with the letter “A” and ends with “ce of Geeks.” He tells me about the game and gives me the time and location of the event.  I’ll show up there next week, after I get some Dropzone Commander squeezed in.


Star Wars: X-Wing is a fast paced, space ship based dog fighting miniature combat game produced by Fantasy Flight Games. When they say “fast paced,” they really mean it, game turns last only a handful of minutes each, and the rules are structured so that you don’t have a lot of down time and always have to pay attention. Two players build a force of small ships and go head to head on a 4’ by 4’ table with scattered asteroid debris for terrain. Unlike some of the other games I have reported on, Star Wars: X-Wing comes pre-packaged with its a lot of the tools you need to play. There is no measuring tape, players each have their own movement tiles that they use to measure out their movements. They use a range marker that measures out ranges of weapons and special 8 sided dice that determine what happens when you shoot other ships. Stat cards and markers and decks of damage cards also come in the basic set of things you need to play the game.

"Isn’t that a transport ship?  Aren’t we all transport ships?  Can’t we all just get along?"

The models come assembled and painted, but that did not stop some of the players from modifying their ships to fit their own personal tastes.  This is the point I am trying to make with the unsubtle pun in the title: miniature games that are coming out now are trending toward self-reliance.  Players who came up through the days of buying lead figures and flocking their own trees are going to play with their toys come hell or high water.  Newer players are going to look at a starter set and say, “You want me to give you $80 for some plastic and then go and buy my own dice, tape measure and cardboard buildings? Yeah, right, I’m going to play Bananagrams.”  But Star Wars: X-Wing doesn’t look like a tabletop miniatures game.  It looks like a board game.  You have pieces and you move them around the board and you roll dice.  There is no painting or gluing or any need to buy an X-Acto knife.  Unless you want to.  And that is why this is the New Hope of miniatures games: you come for the Star Wars genre and ease of entry into the hobby.  You stay for the collectables you told yourself you would never buy. (No, really, I’ve spent too much damn money on this game. -Ed)

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For the past four years I have made a new costume to wear each year San Diego Comic-Con. My obsession with Game of Thrones hit a peak last year, and so I dressed as Catlyn Stark, as presented by Michelle Fairley in the series. The costume went over well, but a lot of the feed back I was receiving was that I looked a lot like Sansa. So this year I decided to go for it.

With Sansa’s extensive four-season wardrobe to browse through, I decided on a dress from season 3. There were several factors that informed my choice, one of which was that I have never done any embroidery. I knew teaching myself another skill was not in the cards for completing my project on time. Another factor was the fabric. The motifs used on the show are distinct and finding a good look-a-like will either cost you time, money, or both.
Spurred on by the annual 50% off remnant sale at Britex, I started scouring for a purple upholstery fabric with a reverse towards the end of April. I spent about two hours digging through the remnants to find something that would fit the look. The total sale was $63. I came home with two things I thought might work. First, I grabbed 4 ¾ yards purple upholstery fabric that had a barely visible pattern. The second purchase was a flowery brown and gold print that I mostly bought for its reverse. I bought 7 yards of it, came home and realized it wasn’t what I wanted. It looked too “Lannister”, yucky! (The Lannisters are yucky but Sansa’s ok?! - Ed)

The purple fabric at top left ended up being my under-skirt.

Over the next two weeks (until I was paid again), I looked online. I checked every discount fabric store Google could feed me. There were several viable options, but buying fabric online felt a bit risky.
I opted to check another San Francisco gem – Discount Fabrics on Mission ave. This store had some fantastic candidates. There was a beautiful lavender with a large, silky flower motif, and several purples and browns to choose from as well. In the end I didn’t get the purple and olive green I was looking for, but I got damn close. I took my prize to the cutting table to find out there was only 5 & 3/4ths left on the bolt – and there was no more anywhere in the store. I considered my options and decided to go for it. And because I felt I needed a “just in case”, I bought 6 yards of the pretty shiny lavender fabric. These two items plus two packets of light green piping bumped the project up a good $89.

I used the “wrong side” for a more GoT look.

The costume designer uses very specific motifs for each character, and wanting to be true to her vision, I started to obsess a bit on jewelry. I found an almost perfect copy of Sansa’s dragonfly necklace on Etsy and wrapped the chain with dark mauve embroidery floss. Etsy also sold a suitable “vintage” substitute for Sansa’s Cabochon-type engagement ring in Lannister red and gold.

Sansa’s dragonfly & Tyrion’s engagement ring.

 Let me be honest here, after that I did bloody nothing towards making the costume for a month. I did add the occasional reference photo to my iphone, but otherwise I squandered my time. I was scared – the next step meant actually drafting a pattern.
I had watched as a friend  effortlessly took a sharpie to wrapping paper and made the shapes of a garment one year ago to draft my Catlyn. He didn’t even have to measure, it just worked. So cautiously, I took out my wrapping paper, I grabbed a pencil and I started  to draft my first pattern.
ONE MONTH, ONE WEEK TO COMIC-CON – Pattern Drafting

The first thing I wanted to tackle was something I saw as a rather large hurdle, the front of the dress. Sansa’s dresses almost always have a princess seam, however the dress I chose also had a triangular neckline and a wrap-like front. I attempted to sketch out what I thought this would look like until I was happy and out of wrapping paper. Grabbing whatever cloth I could find from my graveyard of scraps, I traced the pattern onto fabric and pinned it together. Voila! But it was more like Voil–huh? Everything fit together, but the dress was about twice as large as it needed to be. So got a good laugh at how I looked in the dress and then I set to work with alterations.

Not quite what I had in mind.

 ONE MONTH TO COMIC-CON – Experimentation & Anxiety
I was afraid of screwing up and cutting something I might not have a copy of, so I decided to set to the lazy man’s way of altering a pattern. I sewed all of the seams together and tried the dress on inside out. Starting from the back, I pinned where I thought a seam could come in to make the dress drape right. After pinning a piece on the right side until I was happy, I would measure and pin until the left side replicated it. Then I would sew over the line I had made in pins and test if it improved the fit. If the answer was yes – it stayed. No? It got the seam ripper and I started the process over again. I did this with every seam on the bodice until it was about 80% of where I wanted it.

 

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Based off last weeks’ successful special episode, the Ace of Geeks now has a brand new Sunday podcast - Chasing the Dragon! Follow as six brand new D&D players, most of them on one substance or another, navigate their first adventures. In this episode: “The High-landers return, and face the brain-melting puzzles of the Golden Pixaxe’s final resting place. Can they solve the riddles and save their own lives? Can Ganesh stop touching dangerous things? And will Tanglar/Thoringar ever suss out the secrets of the mysterious Ruby? In our first listener driven challenge, you decide!”

Jarys and Melissa have moved into their brand new bungalo on the island of Alameda, and Mike drops by for a visit to check it out. We discuss the board game Seven Wonders, Vampire the Masquerade LARPs, the Big Bang Theory, Magic the Gathering, and Mike regails Melissa with all the stories of Jarys’s past she’ll need to know now that they’re living together. Such a good friend.

I’m fairly new to cosplay - I’ve been to only four cons so far.  I’ve done costumes for both Denver cons, and the Wizard World San Antonio Comic Con. Because my self image isn’t the greatest, I’ve been really nervous about doing cosplay for conventions - and my experiences in the past haven’t helped with that.
When I did costumes for the first Denver con that I went to, I did a Lady Joker on the first day, and my Crow costume on the second day. I got a lot of positive comments - James O’Barr (the creator of The Crow) had nice things to say about my Crow costume, too, when I went to pick up some art I had  commissioned from him. But I also heard some negative things - like, “Is that a cross-gender Crow? Isn’t she a little out of shape for that? What would Brandon Lee say?” and “What would O’Barr say?” I wanted to yell at them, “Hey! I’m right here!” And I knew what Mr. O’Barr would say, since he had already said it to my face.  I tried to stop listening, but I couldn’t stop my heart from buying into that crap and it ruined my con  experience.
A similar thing happened the following year at the Denver comic con. My boyfriend, Matt, and I did our  couples costume - Cobra Commander and Baroness. I was nervous about it, because of what had happened the previous year. I saw a woman who had my body type who was about my age, and she was shamelessly wearing a slave Leia costume, and she looked really great! I walked up to her and  complimented her on her costume - it was really well done. I asked her a few questions about it, like how long it took to make, what materials, and so on. She pleasantly answered all of my questions, but as I started walking away she  said  ”Aren’t you a little… heavy… to be Baroness?” I just sighed  and kept walking. There it was - body shaming. And yet, the thing that I was most embarrassed about was my internal reaction to her comments - the urge to say something equally rude back to her - I didn’t, but man, did I want to.
When I started thinking about costumes for the San Antonio con, I was trying to think about costumes that would be fun, but then I started playing that whole “you’re too fat for that” loop in my head. Matt encouraged me to cosplay whatever I wanted to cosplay. He reminded me that it’s not about what other people think - it’s about having fun and being whatever I wanted to be. He also reminded me about one of my favorite cosplayers, Ivy Doomkitty.
The Wizard World San Antonio Comic Con turned out to be a much better experience for me. I met some really great people, saw some really well-done costumes, and had a great time. This time around, I had no issues like I did in Denver. I also got a chance to talk with Ivy Doomkitty herself at her table about the issue of body shaming. She told me about some of the stuff she’s gone through as a professional cosplayer. She had also shared the same experiences on her facebook page, which I’ll link to here for brevity’s sake:
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Wonder Woman collage by Phil Jimenez


For a long time now, Warner Bros. has teased audiences with prospects of a Justice League team-up film. This year, the Superman/Batman: Dawn Of Justice project has been on the tips of everyone’s tongues, and recently we were titillated with casting choices. One of the most talked about casting choices was that of Gal Gadot in the role of the iconic original female super heroine Wonder Woman. However, the dust has since settled on that news, and it isn’t the actor in the role which concerns people anymore, it is the costume which said actor will wear. During the Warner Brothers panel last month, at Comic Con 2014, Zack Snyder’s vision was finally unveiled to the public. This is what it looked like:

 The feedback that I’ve seen on this costume has all been very close to an equal 50/50 split of favor vs. disdain. The support of the costume has mostly centered around the fact that the character is overdue for an update, and the criticisms generally boiled down to these three: no originality, no functionality, and no respect for the source material. Having written a previous article  which utilized history as a predictive factor to remind costume designers that a more traditional iconic design for an iconic character has always been more successful (Hence, why the character would be ICONIC…She’s easily recognizable!), I’d like to address each of these topics one by one. However, my findings may surprise you.

“She just looks like a glorified Xena: Warrior Princess..” This was one of the first comments to question the originality of the costume, as messages of its like riddled sites from article readers and bloggers. There were even quite a few memes like this:

And like these:


Which addressed the lack of originality or vision with this costume design. However, when Xena came out (pun intended) to audiences in the early 90s, people were excited. They called her the ‘Wonder Woman of the modern age.’ Since the Wonder Woman character was clearly following that evolutionary path, wouldn’t it be fitting that she does bear a Xena-like resemblance?
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Yesterday, we all received a devastating blow, when the world found out that Robin Williams had passed away. Williams had a huge impact on all of us, so we decided to forgo our content this morning and give the staff a place to share their thoughts and tributes. I’ll be updating this post all day as more of them come in - we invite you to share your thoughts and stories in the comments, as well.



Mike Fatum
It’s strange to think that one man could be such a part of so many lives. When I was very young, I first met Robin Williams through Nick at Nite reruns of Mork and Mindy - a show my parents had grown up with. Over the next several decades, I would grow up with him as well, through the popular movies like Mrs. Doubtfire and Hook, and through his darker fare like Insomnia and Final Cut - but to me, Robin Williams would always be exemplified by one single role:


What Disney’s animators did for Williams was finally free him from the constraints of reality that had been holding him back. The Genie was Williams in his purest form - a madcap, mile a minute style of comedy, punctuated by the sincerest, sweetest moments of pure heart. That no one can ever really separate the Genie from Williams is a testament to how well that film captured him, heart and soul. Aladdin is my favorite Disney movie, and a full 90% of that is because of my love for that big, blue personification of Williams.

When I was in high school, we very quietly put on a version of Disney’s Aladdin for elementary schools in the area. In the largest part I’d ever received, I got the opportunity to play the Genie. Most actors would take an opportunity like that and try to put their own spin on the character - I’m not that dumb. Any kid that came to see that show got to see me standing on stage and aping Williams as hard as I could, because there’s no way I could ever improve on his performance. I don’t think I was as good. But even though I was 1% of Williams’ talent, I still was able to steal the whole show by embodying him on stage. His talent was so incredible that a kid doing an impression of him doing an impression can get a laugh.

Robin Williams lifted all of our lives, and touched every single one of us. There hasn’t been an actor of any generation since the Stars of the 1940s that had as big of an impact. We will all miss you, Robin. Thank you for being our Pagliacci. May you find the peace in the great beyond that was denied you in life.

Stephanie Cala
When I was a kid between the ages of 4 and 14, I spent my summers visiting my grandparents in California (I had lived in Florida at the time).  Since my grandparents were from the stone age, all they had to offer my sister and I in the entertainment department were a set of jacks, badminton rackets, a flat soccer ball, a deck of cards and a few VHS tapes.  Well, I shouldn’t say a few.  More like four total.  They were The Parent Trap, Aladdin, Jumanji, and Mrs. Doubtfire (three of which include Williams). 

Now, please understand, my younger sister and I didn’t get along as kids.  My idea of a good time with my sister was punching her so I could be put in isolated time out away from her.  My loathing for my sister seemed to be only matched by her incessant need to annoy me.

However, we shared a common enemy: boredom.  My sister and I were in desperate need for something to distract us from the idleness of our own minds.  We would watch, rewind, re-watch, rewind, and re-watch these videos over and over and over again until we practically had them memorized.  Then the following summer we would repeat the process.  The first few summers we had dreaded it, but as we grew older we started looking forward to being able to watch these videos together.  It gave us some common ground in which we could laugh with each other for a few hours instead of hating on each other. 

And really, what is comedy without that bit of escape?  Laughter, like music and love, is a universal language.  It’s a difficult language to sometimes put to words or set to music, but it’s something that can be felt by all.  Williams was one of those amazingly talented people that was able to put those feelings and emotions into words for us to enjoy.  And for that, I’ll always be grateful.  Goodbye Robin Williams, you will be missed greatly.

Mae Linh Fatum
I was surprised how deeply the news of Robin Williams death affected me.  Then as I thought about it, Robin Williams plays a starring role in many of my strongest memories.  Aladdin was the first movie I watched so many times that I had memorized it (I even wrote an Aladdin fan fic).  Hook got me into Peter Pan, and Mrs. Doubtfire is still one of the funniest and most heartfelt Dad movies that I have ever seen.  Then I remember channel surfing one day in my dorm room and my roommate and I decided to watch What Dreams May Come. Robin Williams was in it, so it had to be funny.  Flash forward to my roommate and I sobbing our eyes out for two hours straight.  I will always remember that movie, because it has touched me in a deep way, and I hope beyond hope that he is not in that upside down chapel, rather Christopher Reeves got him to the field where he will be joined with his family.

Thank you Mr. Williams for all the laughter and also for making it very clear that depression and suicide is a serious illness.  We will always remember you.

Hello there. It has been some time since I’ve graced this here website with an article, and I’m sorry about that, but I have been busy with creative endeavors elsewhere. That and Mike hasn’t asked me to write an article since we got into that argument about who would win in a fight, Godzilla or Galactus. (Devourer of Worlds my ass -Ed) Chairs may have been hurled, egos bruised and an understanding on why us geeks don’t fight each other: we get tried quickly and look ridiculous.
Anyway, my short hiatus was due to the fact that, aside from mocking films on the internet, I actually do try and make them myself in what spare time I have. My last film, Devil May Care was almost entirely crowdfunded, and went on to win some Best Of Awards at a couple of film festivals. I am currently in the middle of crowdfunding my next picture, a fantasy film-noir comedy called A Bad Luck Guy In A Bad Luck Town. Let me tell you, it’s a freaking nightmare from which you cannot wait to wake up from.
You’ll read lots of articles about how to make a successful Crowdfunding Campaign. This is will not be one of those articles. At all, it’s not that we haven’t found success Crowdfunding, but there is a reality to the process that is not often talked about. Here is my rundown on what I’m going through right now, so maybe you can be a bit more prepared if you do try and Crowdfund your project.
Obsession is unavoidable

Oh, that wasn’t what you meant? My bad. -Ed

I have checked our IndieGoGo page probably close to five hundred times since we’ve started, and we are only in our fifth day. I checked it twice while writing this article. You’ll check it when you’re out with friends and family, and they will get pissed, and you won’t care because damn it, you need to see if people donate! My Executive Producer is basically running the campaign and sends me a text every time someone donates, but what if she’s in the bathroom? Or she doesn’t have internet? I HAVE TO KNOW!
It’s going to drive you nuts and there is nothing you can do about it.
 The days where no one donates (and there will be those days) are the worst, because then you are trying to figure out what you’re doing wrong. Have you reached out to other services? Posted it on Reddit? Twitter? Facebook? Did you email that one guy you met at your last networking night? Are we just inherently hated? ARE COSMIC FORCES AGAINST US?! (the answer to that is always yes). My hair has already gone a few extra shades of grey because of this damned campaign.
You have to give yourself a day off. Mine is Sunday. I refuse to do any movie related work on Sundays (unless its urgent) because I just need a day to spend doing normal people things, like sleeping and not having anxiety attacks every half hour. So I sleep, play some video games, visit the fam, do the laundry. It’s the only thing keeping you from slipping into a dark deep pit of despair and rejection. Mine is under my desk. I spend a lot of time there.

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Picture Ever since some of Mike’s co-workers found out he was a Dungeon Master, they’ve been begging him to run a game for them. Welcome to that exact game. Watch as six brand new players - most of them, let’s say, partaking in some way, turn from newbies to enthusiastic dungeon delvers over the course of the next hour and a half. In two parts!


First, a disclaimer: I have a lot of privilege. I’m white. Male. Heterosexual. Middle class. Cisgendered. Able bodied. I have a few marginalized statuses, but you probably couldn’t tell any of them by looking at me, so I pass, out in the world. These experiences are from my point of view, and they may be somewhat sophist to people who experience marginalization and systematic oppression every day.

I tend to be a bit outspoken when it comes to social justice issues. When I say “tend to” and “a bit” you understand that I mean most of my friends (even those who agree with me) have gone through at least one or two moments on Facebook where they said, “Chris, please shut up. Please for the love of God, just shut up. Just for a few minutes. Just this once. Please!”

From time to time, however, someone offers up some slightly more savvy discourse, and they often end up wondering, in particular, about how I came to care so much about the issues I have. Formative experiences about speaking out against injustice involve my mom, and no small amount of bravery can be attributed to my idolization of Luke Skywalker. But those experiences set a timber. They laid the foundation for wanting to do the right thing. They don’t themselves help me parse the thicket of discourse to determine what the right thing is.

That comes from video games.


When I was young, video games were pretty simple. The first game I ever played involved a square picking up an arrow to go look for a chalice, and my favorite game required you to run to the right until you died three times. (You could run to the left, but the crocodiles were easier to jump going right.) And of course there was an inexplicable hostility that a certain airplane had for the river it was raiding.

Boss fight. Circa 1979.
Shit just got real, yo. As I grew up, video games got better and their objectives improved. There was plenty of rescuing princesses, of course, and stopping alien brains, and terrorist organizations who apparently had the money to build giant fighting mecha but didn’t think to put some motion detectors outside their death fortresses, but we also started to see more complex machinations. Villains didn’t always just twirl their mustaches or go by names like Sinistar–some of them even thought they were the good guy.
 
As we reached the turn of the century, and video games began to come into their own as a complex and nuanced art form, we gamers began to take on the avatar mantle of heroes in much more complicated dramas. Sometimes we were on the wrong side when we started out. Sometimes the villains lied. Sometimes complicated political dramas were unfolding with no moral protagonist.
Of course these days in video games we can even choose to be complete dicks, adding a whole new layer of choice and complexity to the journey of the gamer.

Like, COMPLETE dicks. All this nuance and flexibility has helped me to be a better person. We can all figure out how to be a good guy when evil aliens show up to destroy Earth. We can all make the “right” choice when some eight foot tall fucking BDSM turtle kidnaps a woman who’s begging for help.  But as things get more complicated, and everyone is just looking out for their own interests, it becomes a little tougher to figure out whose side of the story to listen to. That’s where video games come in.

Imagine you fired up a video game and entered in the starting city of a modern (yet steampunk because steampunk is awesome) town. You’re probably going to talk to a bunch of people and find out what’s going on. And you will start by talking to everyone. You won’t just talk to one group or another. They’ve all got stories. You won’t ignore someone who lives in the bad part of town. You know (as any good gamer knows) that there may be vital information in the hands of basically anyone. You don’t value any stories more than any others.

Now imagine the first people you talk to are kind of bitter and mean. They treat you with some hostility but they do talk to you. They tell you of terrible things happening to them. They all have stories about how their experience isn’t fair. They don’t get enough steam for their punks in their part of town. They are powerless. Poor. They may even ask you to help them. They have definite perceptions about injustice in which they exist. They say it is all around and permeates their lives. Their ancestors were very badly treated, and even though things are better, they still aren’t equal.

As you move on, you discover a second group. They are much nicer and friendlier. This group lives in a better part of town. They are, by and large, richer and much more powerful. They have all the steam they need and their punks are well stocked. Almost everyone on the TV shows is from the second group and they control the voice that comes over the city-wide PA system telling everyone what a fine equality-loving society they all live in. Almost everyone in political power is from the second group. Almost every notable person in this city’s history seems to be from the second group.

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