Monday, May 26, 2014

G&G IX: Doom in the Dunes (40K Day)

This ninth iteration of Gaming & Guinness came with some bittersweet undertones, as our host is selling his lovely Ottawa home as a result of splitting up with his wife.  I  am saddened we won't have the opportunity to return to this venue for a future G&G, but Rob did an outstanding job juggling his roles as host, home-seller and attentive dad to his off-site daughter!

Rob was also one of the original Warhammer 40,000 players back in the early 90s in Edmonton, but hasn't had an opportunity to play a battle with his own Eldar models since moving from Vancouver in 2001.

He was also quite concerned about the lack of scenery he had available, but printed out a papercraft hotel, some barriers and a handful of shipping containers that we dutifully cut and taped together that morning.  After throwing the sandy-coloured pool table cover over the ping-pong surface, and throwing some books and pool cues underneath to create some topography, we had a perfectly passable battlefield to work with.  Flipping over a wooden fruit bowl from upstairs to create an organic looking mountain or structure was the final touch.

Despite a lack of familiarity with the rules, Rob threw his Falcon grav-tanks, jetbikes and Vypers fully into the battle, led by his Avatar, a war-god behemoth with a molten heart.  Scott's own Eldar took up position close to the objectives, and the conflict began.  Island Mike's Catachan Jungle Fighters and my Valhallan Ice Warriors did our best to uphold the name and reputation of the Imperial Guard (or, as they are apparently calling them these days, the Astra Militarum).

Objective-wise, there is no disputing that the day belonged to the Eldar;. by game's end, they held two of the four objective points on the field, compared to zero for the Guardsmen.  Still, we mon-keigh took pride in a few highlights, like our company commanders, 'Iron Hand' Straken and Marshall Kratten, taking out Rob's Avatar in hand to hand!  Or when my troop of conscripted troopers rolled a 5 in order to stay in their fight with a squad of Swooping Hawk Aspect Warriors, and then not only breaking them next turn, but wiping them out before they could make their escape!  Good times, good times.

In the end though, our men and armour were not enough to overcome the Eldar's potent combination of mobility and firepower; congratulations, Scott and Rob!  

I maintain part of the problem may have been our use of jungle fighters and troops in winter camo in a desert environment, but that seems more and more unlikely as I consider it.

It was great to have these two armies meet for the first time in G&G history though, and who knows, there may be the opportunity for a rematch at G&G X, even though I could probably go another decade without facing that Avatar again.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

G&G IX: Fleet Maneuvers

Today we saw X-Men: Days of Future Past, which was a great flick, well suited to the occasion, and then played Formula Dé after supper, which I won. (Well, it was supposed to be a two lap race but we called it after one in order to get another game in, but still...).

Following the race, Earl unveiled the special mat he had commissioned for our Star Fleet Battles game, and it was magnificent. Full of brilliant artistry, retro charm, personal references and inside jokes, it was a real prize.  (Full props to Earl's talented friend Jeff Shyluk (of Jeff Shyluk's Visual Blog fame/infamy/notoriety) for the brilliant execution!)

Unfortunately, the Klingon deep space fleet was unable to stop the Federation from securing orbital security around Nimbus 3, and liberating the prisoners taken in last year's game, despite valiant efforts by the IKV Black Dog and First Blood, but it still looked marvelous.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

G&G IX: G&Goodies for the G&Gang

Having arrived safely in Bytown, we immediately set to both renewing one's acquaintances, drinking some beers, and seeing this year's commemorative items, which, amazingly, continued to raise the bar from previous years.

In addition to a t-shirt featuring last year's brilliant logo and selected quotes from The Wall of Infamy, we were treated to glassware featuring the new, capital-themed logo, as well as a fantastic briefcase brandishing the same.

Mike T. also commissioned a host gift; the amazing piece of artwork (shown above) featuring the caricatures of the principals in this mad enterprise!

The pantry situation necessitated sending Mike and Pete on a mission to gather victuals from the local Costco for the coming days while the rest of us got in a game of Anomia. This remains the best game that entertains while simultaneously simulating the effects of a full-on stroke and associated aphasia; the highlight was probably when Earl beat Island Mike to the draw by unexpectedly pulling a pianist from an unlikely source...

After unloading the groceries, we got into a round of Catchphrase, an electronic game which recreates the game-show style fun of programs like Password, while generating almost as much cursing as Anomia,

Post dinner games included Tsuro, Citadels, and Cards Against Humanity, none of which saw me as the victor. Still, if winning was my motivation for playing, I would have quit long ago!

Tomorrow will see half of us battling in the grim theatres of the 41st Millennium while the others...uh, don't , I guess; Imperial Guard versus Eldar. Hopefully the Emperor protects...after all, he got our models this far, didn't he?

Monday, May 19, 2014

G&G IX: Preparing for Departure

The movie tickets (for X-Men: Days of Future Past) were purchased a few weeks ago, the plane tickets to Ottawa a few months back. The games were discussed months ago, and the attendees arranged 9 years back, or decades earlier, in some respects.

And despite all this, and the myriad reminders we have given each other, and the singular significance of this Gaming & Guinness weekend, I find myself scrambling to meet Wednesday's departure.

With this year's event being hosted in Ottawa by our brother Rob, we have given ourself pompous designations, like his Guinnesster of Hospitality and my own pretentious Prime Guinnesster. Brother Scott is our Guinnesster of Transportation and is thusly in charge of the logistical needs involved in moving half a dozen starships, several Roman chariots, dozens of horses, tens of Eldar from the 41st Millennium and their foes from the XXII Vallhallan Ice Warriors Regiment, to the nation's capital, in as intact a condition as possible.

Scott was chosen for this task not only because of his engineering background and responsible nature, and not just for the able assistance of his son William, but also due to the tremendous Battlefoam carrying case he happens to own.

The majority of my 1500 point army disappears into his voluminous container with nary a ripple; in fact, the carrying capacity of each pocket is so immense, I am seriously worried about my ability of finding the detachable snubber from the turret of my signature Leman Russ tank, Cold Comfort. Nearly sixty infantry in this one tray and there is still enough space to carry another three full squads!

Thankfully I have every confidence in the Guinnesster of Transportation to get our models to Bytown with a minimal amount of repair at either end. And in our ability to patch together with superglue and cyanoacrylatic accelerator* any structural shortcomings that might transpire despite our efforts to the contrary.

Now I just need to sort out how I am going to get the rest of the games there, as well as some clean clothes and a toothbrush...

Sunday, May 11, 2014

No Place For A Girl

On Mother's Day, let's reflect for a moment on the idea that every Mom was once a girl.

This is hardly a revelation, I know, but for those of us who appreciate Mums, both our own and others, I think it is important to remember that every stalwart matriarch started out as as uncertain girl at some point in their lives.

Following the spring Cantilon Choirs Concert this afternoon, we had dinner with my mother as well as my sister and her husband, and it was lovely, and one of the highlights for me is Mum telling tales of youth; mostly ours, but occasionally her own. Picturing someone as steadfast as our mother scared to go home because she'd been at the Park Lounge with her boyfriend (my Dad) and had indulged in a third whiskey sour (over a three hour period) is stupefying and absurd, as well as delightful.

I pay more attention to these things now than I used to, because I am keenly aware of my responsibilities for helping the two young ladies in my care transition from girls to women, and perhaps even mothers one day.  To this end, I closely observe the women in my life I admire most, especially their mother, grandmothers and aunts, and make no secret of my admiration for them, in hopes that Fenya and Glory will perhaps pick up some traits osmotically.

Girls need all the help they can get, frankly.  I don't think girls (or women for that matter) have ever had a particularly easy time of it, but lately, it seems to be getting even harder.  On the Edmonton Journal website this Friday, the top three stories were about girls or women being abducted or killed, including the nearly 300 girls in Nigeria kidnapped by Islamic militants threatening to sell them 'on the market'.

These girls were selected in part because of their temerity in choosing to not just study, but learn science, as they were preparing to take a physics test.  And as if denying them access to education isn't enough of an indignity, they are not only likely to be sold into full-on slavery, but there is a ready market for such repugnant trade!  Suddenly, the expression "I don't want to live on this planet anymore," becomes less funny and more poignant, which is simply heartbreaking.

And while we might dismiss such barbarism as being part and parcel of life in the developing world, here in North America, our young women struggle everyday with bullying, wage gaps, relentless attacks on their self esteem, domestic abuse both as children and adults...the list is endless.  Canada is still one of the best places in the world to be a woman, and yet Edmonton is one of the worst places in Canada to be one.

But here's the good news: despite all the unfairness intrinsic to the poopy end of the stick that their gender so often gets stuck with, an astonishingly large percentage of them do make it, and become the women in our lives that we rely on so much for: our mothers, sisters, lovers, and wives; our daughters, friends, colleagues and advisors.

It's as if within every girl, there is a potential Buffy, waiting for the leash to drop, or an Honor Harrington ready to take command of a rotten situation.  The key seems to be in not letting the world convince them otherwise.

This weekend Glory and a bunch of her friends took part in a sleepover at church, and participated in the Dove Self Esteem project.  The soap company put on a series of workshops so a bunch of tweenagers could learn about friendships, body image, and the role of media.  One exercise called for them to share pictures of themselves when they were babies or toddlers.  Glory told me how, predictably, there was much oohing and aahing over each other's pictures, and comments like, "Aw, you were so cute!", but then Rev. James pointed out that they were still all the same people as the ones in those pictures, so why don't they say things like that now?

"Did that blow your mind a little bit?" I asked her.

"Yeah, a little," she grinned.  And this is how we learn, I thought.

At her spring concert today, Fenya got to solo the opening verse of Pete Seeger's bittersweet "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?":
Where have all the flowers gone,Long time passing,Where have all the flowers gone,Long time ago,Where have all the flowers gone,Picked by young girls every one,When will they ever learn?When will they ever learn?

Listening to the tale of young girls gone to young men, who go to soldiers, who go to wars, which go to graveyards, which at last go back to flowers, I thought about how tough it is, and probably has ever been, for girls.  I thought of the headlines, and the Highway of Tears, and my fears for the futures for my own girls.  But then I looked at my brilliant wife, as good a role model as a girl could ask for, and my Mum, the foundation of our family in so many ways, and my sister, a superb auntie now willfully entering a mothering role for her new husband's son, all beaming down at their daughter, and granddaughter and niece, eyes glimmering in pride and melancholy.

And seeing that, I thought to myself, It may not level the playing field, but the amount and quality of love and support and examples, it has to even the odds quite a bit, doesn't it?  

I am so grateful for the family, teachers, coaches, and friends who show my girls what being a woman can be, whether or not all of them are mothers.  I know that as they continue the long, arduous trek from girlhood to womanhood, that their way is lit by a hundred brilliant torches that might not defeat the night, but can certainly keep it at bay.

The girls in your lives face a lot of challenges, big and small, and can use your support.  A helping hand, or a dry shoulder, or some words of wisdom that you give today might well be the foundation of a wonderful Mother's Day somewhere down the line.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Comics & Car Rides

When I think about reading comics as a kid, my earliest memory is of Dad buying me a copy of one of the Marvel Western titles, like Rawhide Kid or Kid Colt. This would have been at a small shop or general store in rural New Brunswick, with a door the colour of barnwood and one of those vintage metal push-bars with maybe the Fanta or Crush soda logo on it. I could always be counted on to wait patiently in the TravelAll while Dad finished up whatever business or running around he needed to do before returning to the farmhouse we lived in, in Riverglade, NB.


Dad had read and enjoyed comic books as a kid in Manitoba, especially the original Captain Marvel (SHAZAM!), but I don't know if he ever read another one after he left the farm for the Air Force. He certainly didn't mind me reading them, especially on the long car trips back to Manitoba to visit the homestead and his brothers.


I still like reading them, usually in paperback collections, and make a point of pointing out series to the girls they might like, like Saga for Fenya, and Runaways for Glory. A couple of weeks ago, the orthodontist said Glory did really well when she had her braces put in, so instead of a snack, I took her to the comic store as a reward and she got first issues of both Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel.


Today, for the first time ever, the girls and I decided to check out Free Comic Book Day. This is an initiative started a few years back that lets comic shops and libraries bring a little of the spotlight back to the medium that's spawned so many blockbuster movies and television shows in recent years. The free comics are meant to expose new readers to comics, especially younger ones, and new comics to older readers as well.


We started out at Happy Harbor, easily my favourite comic shop; clean, well organized, well lit, and spacious, with a tall ceiling since their location used to be a garage. There were over a hundred people in line ahead of us when we got there twenty minutes before the doors opened. A tent containing a huge assortment of free comics laid out on tables (and a Batman Heroclix figure as well!) extended the shop floor into the parking lot. A sandwich truck was getting set up for those arriving closer to lunchtime, but in the tent, you could get a heroic cupcake for a $2 donation to the food bank. Batman was the coolest looking, but I got Black Widow for the salted caramel icing, Glory got Wonder Woman with a fondant lasso, and Fenya took Captain America.


Each attendee was allowed 5 free comics, so we made off with 15 in total. You could get another 5 if you made a $25 purchase. They were also doing sketches for donations, and it was 25% off almost everything in the shop, but the lineup was horrendous so when we confirmed that they didn't have a Lying Cat t shirt for Fenya, we decided to head out.


On the way back though, we stopped in at Warp 2, my first visit in probably a decade or so. Not only did they have the t-shirt featuring the best supporting character in comics EVER, but they also had the free Les Misérables manga "The Fall of Fantine" that Glory was looking for!

I tried to snap a picture of my girls reading comics at a red light on the ride home, but could only catch a glimpse of it. It is a long ways through time, space and situation from sitting in the TravelAll with my father to driving my daughters in the Flex, but there is a comforting familiarity to the scene nonetheless.