Beyond the obvious and desired factors of beers and games, there have been two other traditions at Gaming & Guinness, and the first is comic book movies. The first G&G was the same weekend as the opening of V for Vendetta. We are all mad fans of the original comic, so an outing to that had to be factored in, we have been fortunate enough that there has been a decent comic book adaptation in theatres for every G&G save one:
G&G: V for Vendetta
G&G II: 300
G&G IV: The Watchmen
G&G V: Kick-Ass
For this most recent iteration, we also had the option of seeing Iron Man 2, but decided that those of us with families should take advantage of seeing the ruder of the two films with a like-minded group. (And despite departing from the source material pretty strongly, it was still a very enjoyable time. Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl was nothing short of awesome, and a big chunk of my re-watch value will be found in Nic Cage, who channeled just the right kind of Adam West-flavoured crazy for his role as Big Daddy.) Hopefully, our luck in this regard will continue, and if we keep with the May scheduling, I like our odds.
The other tradition is that snow is usually a factor. Not unexpected when holding an event in Edmonton in March, but May?
Although, so long as the weather doesn't keep us from the airport, the rest is negotiable. Coming back from G&G II on Vancouver Island, the weather outside the van wasn't nearly as dangerous as the punchiness (and gassiness) inside of it, and G&G IV was worse, thanks to a ferry delay in leaving the island.
Thankfully, most of the snow was gone by the time we got things underway on Thursday. I picked up the out of towners Wednesday night at the airport in a very official looking vehicle thanks to the magnets Pete had produced with the Pint o' Dice logo on them, and we got the table set up for the following day's huge Warhammer 40,000 battle.
We played pretty hard for about six hours, Mike, and Scott and I, their combined Ork and Chaos forces trying to wrest control of an Imperial planet away from my Genestealer Cult who had stolen it fair and square in the first place, with the help of a bunch of Tyranids from Hive Fleet Polyphemus.
It was a good scrap, largely because Scott and Mike are a lot of fun to play against, but in the end, the forces of ChaOrk were victorious. It was a closer game than previous years, however, and my large beastie did manage to devour infamous ork Warlord Ghazghkull Thraka, a character who has been my bane for over a decade of 40K gaming.
One of my personal highlights was watching Scott's ludicrously big unit of Orks (100 strong at the onset!) roll 172 attack dice on the charge, the most I have ever seen. It should be noted that you do not precisely roll this many dice, so much as dump them.
And it was very gratifying to see my opponents change their plans on the fly when they realized my buggy brethren had liberated heavy weapons, some APCs and a super-heavy Baneblade tank from the planetary defense force armouries. "Bugs got tanks? How long's this been going on then?" Still, the Baneblade didn't do too much other than winnowing the Big Mob of Orks into a more reasonable two score or so.
Still, in the end, it came down to a single set of rolls, which makes for an entertaining and suspenseful game, even when you come up on the wrong side of victory.
After the big 40K game, we had dinner, and more people began to drift in. After supper, we played an improvisational story-telling card game called "Aye, Dark Overlord! which took a while to get into but ended up being a lot of fun. After this, a little bit of team Trivial Pursuit, and then, just for strangeness' sake, tops.
Our friends in the Land of the Rising Sun re-engineered our childhood game of Battling Tops, replacing the simple pull strings of yesteryear with a toothy strip designed to mesh with a fairly decent gearing system in a top made of not just plastic but toothy metal. Now, this is all well and good, you might say, but why would grown men play with toys clearly designed for children? It turns out that there are several compelling reasons; here are the Top Ten:
10. Don't judge me sucka, it's just fun!
9. It's kinetic
8. It's frenetic.
7. It's a nice change from the cerebral games we usually play. (snort)
6. Why should kids have all the damned fun? Our toys were never this cool!
5. Or this dangerous. (There's a graphic on the box that clearly indicates this game should never be played on a table, for instance...)
4. It's dramatic and you can place bets on whose top will survive.
3. There is a rather decent chance that at any given moment, a top will launch itself out of the ring and attempt to buzzsaw someone's junk to the delight of the onlookers.
2. Even when the tops stay in the ring, the sheer force deployed when hefty men exert themselves on an over-engineered toy designed for much smaller people means that they are prone to just full-on coming apart upon collision.
1. You show me another game that produces shrapnel as a byproduct, and I will buy it.
Seriously dude, shrapnel. We were still picking up bits of shattered top on Saturday night. You can't buy entertainment like that. The flinching alone was priceless.
Friday morning we tried out a more harmless game called Cloud 9, which is sort of a 'dare ya' game where you choose when to jump out of an ever-climbing balloon. Do you leap out early and risk losing points, or stay in and lose it all when the balloon plummets to the ground? I can't see it toppling Texas Hold 'Em as the bluffing game of choice, but a lot of fun nonetheless.
After returning from Kick-Ass, we tried Earl's new Zombie game, Last Night on Earth. It's a team game, where one side plays the zombies, and the other controls the townspeople trying to survive. Very cinematically oriented and tongue in cheek, it has great production values, excellent playing pieces and fairly decent game mechanics. It even comes with a soundtrack to add atmosphere.
After an awesome but ominous supper of chili, we broke out the Rock Band and laid into it in teams of four. Everyone rotated through the different instruments, and it seemed fairest to let the vocalist pick the track.
We had downloaded quite a few songs prior to starting, and had a pretty good mix of tracks to choose from, including two by Spinal Tap, one by Muse, and the controversial "Gay Bar" by Electric Six. We even challenged Iron Maiden's "Run to the Hills", a track so difficult it replaces the normal circles on the chart with little devils for 4 out of 5 categories. I don't think we'll start touring anytime soon, but I am extremely pleased that we made it through without being booed offstage (thanks in no small part to Island Mike's solid vocal track!), even before we re-discovered the 'no-fail' mode which keeps things moving along nicely.
All in all I think everyone acquitted themselves nicely, and even when people were playing to fields out of their comfort zone (vocals for some, drums for others), no one quailed or faltered and everyone had a good time whether playing or cheering. Does a little bit of liquid courage help smooth things along? Perhaps.
The next day we re-visited a number of games, including Last Night on Earth, and after supper we broke out this year's marquee event: Circus Maximum.
Pete re-made the board of Avalon Hill's classic chariot racing game Circus Maximus and had it printed onto a 6' long vinyl banner, Mike got hold of 2 dozen 15mm Roman chariots, and yours truly assembled and painted the pieces into something usable. Everyone was quite impressed with the finished product, which took a game we already greatly enjoyed and amped up the scale into something spectacular.
We watched the chariot race from Ben Hur just prior to playing, which certainly helped to set both the mood and the expectation of bloodshed, but which also underscored my wife's assertion that the teams should be matched, whereas the way I had assembled them, no chariot was drawn by more than two horses of the same colour...d'oh!
By far the most challenging aspect was converting the models of the drivers into those unfortunates whose chariots had been destroyed and are now either being dragged around the oval or have cut themselves loose and are frantically running for the walls and safety. I'll post a nerdier step-by-step at a later date, but let's just say that I was gratified that players were so cautious about moving these pieces as gingerly as they did.
I also glued some wings to the first prototype chariot I had built for scaling purposes, painted it gold, and with aid of some cake pillars and assorted wooden bits from Michael's constructed a trophy of sorts, on the off chance that competitive spirits might be flagging by the end of the event.
Looking back, this was clearly unrealistic thinking, and I needn't have worried. In a hotly contested run (at least for the three race leaders), Jeff again showed his intermittent mastery of all things swift (and in a Flash t-shirt no less), and charged to a clear victory, followed by Pete and Island Mike.
The race had only one fatality: our host, Mike, had his chariot shatter beneath him and was unable to disentangle himself from the reins before being dragged to death.
Jeff's early burst from the peloton (wait, can I use Greek terms from bike racing in a Roman chariot game? Too late!) meant that most of the other competitors focused almost exclusively on catching up and not flipping in the corners, with very little ramming the other chariots or even whipping the other drivers taking place.
And so, yet another sub-tradition is born, and I am sure that next year's race will bring an even headier blend of speed and mayhem as we battle it out for our right to inscribe our names on the Winged Chariot of Victory.
At this point it was too late for another race but too early to retire, and so Rock Band was deployed again and we played until the wee hours without care for neither teams nor points.
The next day, I drove the out-of towners to the airport, gathered up a station wagon full of gear (which only covered half of what I had brought), and we closed the book on yet another successful weekend of fun and fellowship. One of the most telling before and after photos of the whole affair might be these two:
(Should I even mention that an additional 4 dozen beer are not accounted for in these pictures? Perhaps not...)