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VIDEO: Darkside of the Force's 'Rockin' on the Death Star'

By Editor T. Rob Brown
(April 2, 2014) -- Darkside of the Force is a local Star Wars rock band located in Southeast Kansas/Southwest Missouri.

Their soon-to-be-released song "Rockin' on the Death Star" is a parody of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World." The rock video depicts members of the 501st Legion, as well as Star Wars fans and cosplayers from VisionCon in Branson, Mo., and Gen Con in Indianapolis. The video was shot and directed by T. Rob Brown as part of a master's degree project for Pittsburg State University in Kansas.

Kickstarter Report: Reaper back at it, Hickman offers storytelling board game

UPDATE, Oct. 26, 2013: Less than 15 hours remain on the Reaper Bones II Kickstarter campaign. Your chance to get Reaper's new minis for less than 65 cents each (in the core set) is almost gone. This campaign is currently at 14,280 backers pledging $2,634,739. In addition to announcing the final portions of Expansions No. 2 and No. 3, Reaper has given us a glimpse of Khanjira, the World Breaker. This massive miniature can be added to your pledge for $25.

UPDATE, Oct. 23, 2013: The Reaper Bones II Kickstarter only has three days left--it ends Saturday. As I write this, the total is at $2,190,204. Backers have unlocked a lot of cool new things. Mr. Bones (Reaper's mascot for the Bones line) has made an appearance as well as a new Sophie (Reaper's mascot succubus). In addition, new smoky purple translucent miniatures have been added into the mix for shadow creatures such as the amazing Shadow Demon.

UPDATE, Oct. 9, 2013: The Sojourner Tales Board Game Kickstarter ended on a high note with a mystery $5,000 pledge in the final minutes to reach $55,651 in total pledges.

By Editor T. Rob Brown
(Oct. 5, 2013) -- Things constantly change, evolve, and improve in the world of gaming--Kickstarter offerings are no exception.

As you've no doubt figured out, I'm a big Kickstarter fan and love to support creative projects whenever I can. For this edition of my Kickstarter Report, I'm going to talk about two gaming-related products you might want to check out, and soon. Reaper is back at it again with Bones II, which looks to offer even more miniatures than the previous Bones project. Another great project is by legendary game designer and novelist Tracy Hickman, best known for his major contributions to the creation, development, and writing for DragonLance and Ravenloft: "Sojourner Tales."

Sojourner Tales

Since there's only four days left to get involved, I'm going to start off with the Hickmans' unique project. Yes, that's right. I said, "the Hickmans," as in Tracy and Laura Hickman. Laura co-created Ravenloft with Tracy. To understand a bit of where the new board game Sojourner Tales is coming from, perhaps a bit of recent history will help. In recent years, Tracy and Laura have been creating a series of books called "The Dragon's Bard." They pitched the series of lovable fairytales to several book publishers and couldn't sell it (initially). These are heart-warming books set in a fantasy world. Think along the lines of "Princess Bride," and who doesn't love that, right? Tracy told Gen Con attendees that the publishers wanted more blood and gore but he and Laura wanted to make a family-friendly series. They took it to the fans. Fans at Gen Con bought subscriptions to be the first to read the chapters as they were released, help edit in the Hickmans' forums, share ideas, and get a numbered, first-printing, signed hardback of each book as it released. The first two, titled "Eventide" and "Blackshore," respectively, have been released. The third in the series, "Mordale," is currently in the writing phase.

The first module that we played for the prototype of "Sojourner Tales" at Gen Con was set in that family-friendly fantasy world of the "Dragon's Bard." But Sojourner Tales is even more than just that. It is a board game that involves some strategy but is not overly complex. It's simple to learn, easy to play, and fun. You move your pieces around the board, fighting for story markers. Each story marker that matches your player color can be collected by you and advances the overall story arc for your game. When this happens, you get to read and attempt to complete a portion of the story. Think along the lines of the old multiple path or Choose-Your-Own Adventure books. But it's a board game. But it's an app. But it's a board game!

"Sojourner Tales" prototype game at Gen Con 2013 The prototype version of "Sojourner Tales" on display at Gen Con 2013 in Indianapolis. MidWest GamingNews/T. Rob Brown

It's the first board game I've ever played, even counting all the soft RPG ones, that contained so much story and possibilities. You can make your own stories for this game or purchase additional modules online from Tracy and Laura or from other contributors through his forthcoming marketplace. Yes, he's selling licenses to allow you to make your own games and sell them for profit -- and you can get that as an option through this Kickstarter.

How does it work? The story modules will be made available in the three most popular formats: Kindle (mobi), epub, and PDF. You can access them on nearly any electronic device: smart phones (iPhones, Androids, Windows phone, Blackberry, etc.), tablets, Kindle, PC, etc. The board game events will give you a Chapter and Episode number combination that refers you to a point in the document. It's quite simple to use and intuitive.

When I first saw the game, I saw all the possibilities for fantasy but then Tracy and Jamie Chambers, who was playing in the prototype with us at Gen Con, mentioned that all of the pieces on the board with fantasy art could be swapped out with science fiction, steampunk, horror, pulp gumshoe, or whatever you like. Many of those art options are now available as stretch goals in the Kickstarter.

Speaking of stretch goals, great news. If the fans reach the appropriate stretch goals, several famous authors are going to write adventures that will be included in the Kickstarter version of the game. So far, the list includes Kevin J. Anderson (of Star Wars and Dune fame), RA Salvatore (of Forgotten Realms and Star Wars fame), and even longtime computer game designer Richard Garriott, you know, Lord British (of Ultima fame). Like I said, there's only four days left to check it out. See what you think.

Tracy Hickman and "Sojourner Tales" prototype game at Gen Con 2013 Game designer and author Tracy Hickman (center) signs autographs and shows off the prototype version of "Sojourner Tales" at Gen Con 2013 in Indianapolis. MidWest GamingNews/T. Rob Brown

"Sojourner Tales" on Kickstarter.

"Sojourner Tales" information on Tracy Hickman's site.

Reaper Bones II: The Return of Mr. Bones

I'm sure past readers are familiar with my love of the Reaper Miniatures Bones line and its previous Kickstarter, which just finished fullfilling recently (I believe). I created a video (see previous article), have more videos coming, and a previous article featuring the Reaper Bones Kickstarter. Well, they're back--as in "Reaper Bones II: The Return of Mr. Bones."

He's baaaaaaaaaaack. And back in force. In about 18 hours of going live, the Bones II Kickstarter blasted through more than a page of stretch goals and pulled in more than $1 million in pledges. A hefty first day that only some of the biggest and most popular Kickstarters see. Before the first 24 hours were up, they also topped 10,000 backers.

This time around, there is a Core Set you can pledge $100 for, as opposed to the Vampire set in the last Bones Kickstarter. In addition, there is a Core Set Expansion No. 1 for $50 which has already had an additional 10 figures added to it and possibly more to come via stretch goals. Reaper continues to grow the Core Set as well, which started out with 54 miniatures but is now expanded to include 147 (most of that attained in the first day of pledges).

There are still more than 20 days left to join in on this project. It includes multiple add-ons from small mouslings ($10 for 10 of them) all the way up to some rather large dragons. Dragons add-ons include: Narthrax, Cinder, Blightfang, and Verocithrax so far. There are dragon hatchlings included in the Core Set and another dragon included in the Core Set Expansion No. 1. The expansion's name indicates that additional expansions may be forthcoming but Reaper officials declined "to confirm or deny" such speculation in the comments section of the project.

Another interesting add-on includes a translucent Gelatinous Cube which comes apart. The base contains a skeleton but there's room to put most human-sized miniatures inside the cube. This is sure to be a hit with a lot of Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder players. Speaking of Pathfinder, there are several new sets of miniatures for those fans (two Heroes sets and a Villains set). Additionally, even Savage Worlds fans will get some love with Deadlands miniatures this go around.

Reaper Bones II on Kickstarter.

VIDEO: Kickstarter Report: Reaper Bones, Part 1

By Editor T. Rob Brown
(July 13, 2013) -- Kickstarter's growing influence and ability to help creatives make their dreams come true is the focus of a new short video series by T. Rob Brown.

The first episode, approximately 15 minutes long, covers the recent delivery of the Reaper Miniatures Bones Kickstarter and briefly touches on "Boss Monster" by Brotherwise Games and "The Duke" by Catalyst Lab Games. The release date for episode 2 has not yet been set. More info to come.

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White House Responds to Death Star Petition

By Editor T. Rob Brown
(Jan. 15, 2013) -- The White House has done an unexpected thing in its response to a petition to build a Death Star--it took a humorous approach.

Not only is the White House response humorous, but it's well-thought out and written by someone who obviously knows and appreciates Star Wars. That someone is Paul Shawcross, chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget. In the petition, he references a wide variety of Star Wars characters, situations, and trivia facts. I can honestly say, this is the most fun government document I've read in nearly 20 years of journalism.

In case you've been stuck in a closet with a supermodel for the past month, a petition was formed to request the U.S. government begin working on a Death Star, allegedly to create jobs for the unemployed. Regardless of rather you believe such a tactic is wise, more than 34,000 people have signed the petition thus far.

As follows is a copy of the White House response and a link to the official whitehouse.gov website: White House Response

Official White House Response to Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.

This Isn't the Petition Response You're Looking For

By Paul Shawcross

The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn't on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:

The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it. The Administration does not support blowing up planets. Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

However, look carefully (here's how) and you'll notice something already floating in the sky -- that's no Moon, it's a Space Station! Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that's helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations. The Space Station has six astronauts -- American, Russian, and Canadian -- living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc. We've also got two robot science labs -- one wielding a laser -- roving around Mars, looking at whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.

Keep in mind, space is no longer just government-only. Private American companies, through NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO), are ferrying cargo -- and soon, crew -- to space for NASA, and are pursuing human missions to the Moon this decade.

Even though the United States doesn't have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we've got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we're building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun. We are discovering hundreds of new planets in other star systems and building a much more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that will see back to the early days of the universe.

We don't have a Death Star, but we do have floating robot assistants on the Space Station, a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke's arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers.

We are living in the future! Enjoy it. Or better yet, help build it by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field. The President has held the first-ever White House science fairs and Astronomy Night on the South Lawn because he knows these domains are critical to our country's future, and to ensuring the United States continues leading the world in doing big things.

If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star's power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.

Paul Shawcross is Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget

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What's cool on Kickstarter right now?

UPDATE, Sept. 3, 2012 (Labor Day): The backers of The Gamers:Hands of Fate have surpassed the $320,000 mark and not only is the movie funded but it's possibly the third most-funded movie ever on Kickstarter.

In other Kickstarter news related to this article, Monte Cook's Numenera is now at $218,000. At $220,000, Cook is adding in a technology book called Sir Arthur's Compendium. Recently, that Kickstarter also unlocked a deck-building card game set in Numenera and based off AEG's Thunderstone system. At $240,000, a GM screen gets added in. There are 14 days left to go on this project's funding phase.

UPDATE, Sept. 1, 2012: There's only six days left to go on The Gamers: Hands of Fate Kickstarter campaign and they haven't quite made goal yet. They're currently at $291,700 of the $320,000 they need to make this movie. If backers can reach $325,000 (just an extra $5,000), they're giving most backers a free miniature of the Shadow.

Also, the trailer they made from Gen Con is now up for viewing on their Kickstarter page, so feel free to check that out to see if you're interested in backing this project: Gamers 3 Kickstarter.

UPDATE, Aug. 25, 2012: The Reaper Bones Kickstarter has ended at $3,414,676 and is the third most-successful Kickstarter of all time. The past 15 minutes were hectic and even caused Kickstarter to crash and lag multiple times as Reaper fans continuously hit F5 to see if the 8-inch-tall Cthulhu add-on stretch goal would be achieved -- it was. That total made this project 11,430-percent funded by its 17,744 backers.

Image by Reaper

In other updates for the Kickstarter projects covered in this article, The Gamers: Hands of Fate is at 70-percent funding with $224,500 pledged from its 2,364 backers with 13 days left to go. Monte Cook's Numenera has reached 842-percent funding at $168,470 pledged by its 1,901 backers with 22 days to go. Matt Forbeck's Monster Academy is currently at 60-percent funding with $6,095 pledged by its 161 backers with 22 days left to go.

UPDATE, Aug. 24, 2012: The Reaper Bones Kickstarter has surpassed $2,060,000. The next stretch goal is set for $2,240,000 and will add "Half-Size Heroes" (four halfling/gnome minis) for Vampire and Undertaker levels backers.

By Editor T. Rob Brown
On Kickstarter (Aug. 23, 2012) -- If you're a Reaper miniatures fan or have any use for a whole bunch of unpainted minis at an unbelievable price... run, don't walk, over to Kickstarter.com as soon as you can.

Here's the deal: This campaign ends at 5 p.m. Central Time (GMT-6) Saturday, so just a couple short days from when I post this article. If you pledge at the Vampire Level ($100) for Reaper's Bones Kickstarter campaign, you will get more than 200 miniatures -- that's less than 50 cents each. These are the Bones line that are unpainted plastic minis based on the regular Reaper molds but many are new molds that are being created as part of this campaign.

Image by Reaper

The majority of the miniatures in this deal are Dark Heaven style but it also offers some for the Chronoscape and Pathfinder lines. So, you get mostly fantasy minis but some sci-fi, modern, and mixed genre ones. Another height of this campaign is that Wayne Reynolds, famed D&D and Pathfinder cover artist and Magic: The Gathering artist, has done the concept art for some of the large scale dragons that have become available as optional add-ons due to the vast increases in funding. As I write this, the campaign is nearly at $2 million. At $2,060,000, everyone who has pledged at the Vampire Level will get two storm giants added in, as well.

This is one of those rare opportunities for DMs/GMs to fill their monster coffers or for players to get a wide variety of character minis. It also offers a rare Sophie on a motorcycle (there is also a topless variant), for those who collect the Sophie miniatures.

For more on this amazing deal, check out: Reaper Bones Kickstarter.

For those who haven't heard of Kickstarter, it is a crowd-source funding website with the intent of helping people's creative endeavors become reality. What this means is that supporters can review a video about a product and review information about a product to see if it's worth investing in. Kickstarting a campaign is an investment, so there's no taxes charged -- you're not buying a product, you're backing an investor. As a reward for investing, instead of profit sharing, you are offered some form of reward. Most Kickstarter campaigns ship the rewards free of charge to those in the United States and sometimes free shipping to Canada as well. Usually, there is some additional charge for international shipping.

Kickstarter allows fans to help authors, artists, game designers, musicians, filmmakers, and a vareity of other creative people provide to the public even when the big publishers say, "No." Here's an actual example. Wasteland was a popular 1980s computer game (Apple II/Commodore) in the post-apocalyptic subgenre of sci-fi. In fact, it may have been the first graphical computer game created in that setting. It was created by Brian Fargo's team, which also included author Michael A. Stackpole (I, Jedi, X-wing series, Battletech series, DragonCrown War Cycle, etc.). In the '90s, Brian Fargo wanted to make Wasteland 2, but due to rights issues with the name, the sequel was called, Fallout.

Fargo pitched the idea of going back and doing a Wasteland 2 but couldn't get any modern publishers to consider the game despite his successful computer RPG track record. He switched gears and decided to see if the fans wanted to pay to make the game so he turned to Kickstarter. Fargo set a goal of $900,000 -- one of the largest Kickstarter goals at that time, I believe. Not only did the fans back that hefty goal, they nearly gathered $3 million to reach 325 percent of the goal. Not only is the game being created but the success increased the size of the game and brought Stackpole back on board to help write for the setting, as well as other stretch goals set by Fargo.

While not all Kickstarter campaigns are going to see the type of success that Wasteland 2 discovered, there certainly is a lot of potential out there for people who understand the Kickstarter crowd and have a great product they want to bring to reality.

Another big Kickstarter campaign right now is The Gamers: Hands of Fate. This is the third film in the popular and comedic Gamers series by Dead Gentlemen and Zombie Orpheus Entertainment. This group is popular with the Gen Con crowd and gamers across the country. This campaign ends in about 14 days and is only about 60 percent of the way toward goal. Kickstarters previously funded the group's endeavor to create Season 2 of JourneyQuest, a popular web mini series with several of the same actors from the Gamers series, such as Brian Lewis, Christian Doyle, and Jen Page.

Images by Dead Gentlemen Productions/Zombie Orpheus Entertainment

For more on The Gamers: Hands of Fate, check out: Gamers 3 Kickstarter.

In the RPG section, there's a big Kickstarter campaign for a new sci-fi setting called Numenera by legendary game designer Monte Cook (D&D 3rd Edition). There's about 24 days left to go on Cook's campaign, which has skyrocketted to more than $150,000 in funding.

The best level to pledge at is "The Real Deal" ($60) or higher in order to get pretty much everything (at least in PDF form plus a hardcover of the main campaign book) that Cook's creating for this in-depth campaign world. As of now, supporters have helped fund a campaign book, a player's book, three adventures plus a Kickstarter exclusive adventure, and a bestiary. An expansion to the bestiary will also be included if the appropriate stretch goal is attained.

Numenera images by Monte Cook's artist, compiled by T. Rob Brown

For more on Numenera, check out: Numenera Kickstarter.

Over in the sci-fi novels category, you have to give a nod to prolific author Matt Forbeck for his very ambitious 12-for-12 attempt this year. Forbeck is writing a 50,000-word novel every single month for his Kickstater supporters. The current trilogy is called Monster Academy and is a kid-friendly set of stories about an orphaned young dragon who must attend a boarding school for monsters. There are about 23 days left to go on this Kickstarter campaign.

He has already completed the first trilogy based on his Brave New World superhero RPG. In addition, Forbeck has already shipped out the PDF version of the first novel in his Shotguns & Sorcery trilogy, which is a Western-themed setting featuring magic and is also the second of his 12-for-12 projects this year. The third project is the Dangerous Games trilogy of murder mysteries set at Gen Con in Indianapolis. The third was the most successful one thus far, with $18,000 pledged.

If you missed your chance to get in on the other 12-for-12 campaigns, don't lose hope -- Forbeck has offered PDF versions of those other books as backer rewards, if certain stretch goals are met.

Images by Matt Forbeck

For more on Monster Academy trilogy, check out: Monster Academy 12-for-12 Kickstarter.

[Editor's Note: Due to space and time, I obviously can't cover every Kickstarter out there but will try to keep you informed of some of the better ones I find. If you believe there's a major Kickstarter campaign that deserves to be covered on this website, feel free to drop me an e-mail: editor@midwestgamingnews.com -- thanks!]

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First-hand Gen Con 2012 experience

UPDATE, Aug. 26, 2012: Today, Travis Shofler, Chad Denton (The Agreeable Brains podcast co-host), Jason Denton and myself will be playing some of the new games we purchased at Gen Con this year. Full report to come.

UPDATE, Aug. 20, 2012: Travis Shofler and I were just guests on The Agreeable Brains podcast, regarding our Gen Con trip. Chad Denton, one of the two hosts of the show, is part of our Murder of Nerds. The podcast is online: The Agreeable Brains and go to Episode 62. "Scott and Chad are joined by Travis and T. Rob to enjoy gummy worms and talk about the four best days of gaming: Gen Con 2012. Theme song by ThorSquid. Topics covered: Cards Against Humanity, Fantasy Flight Games, X-wing, Star Wars RPG, Gen Con, food, Greater Than Games, Infiltration, Mage Wars, Red Dragon Inn, Sentinels of the Multiverse, Slugfest Games, Edition Wars, Smash Up."

The Agreeable Brains is "Two guys you don't know talking about stuff that doesn't matter."

Column by Editor T. Rob Brown
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (Aug. 19, 2012) -- First, let me start off by saying congratulations on 45 years of Gen Con to Peter Adkison and his staff as well as anyone who has helped operate Gen Con in the past.

Second, Gen Con is one of the few things in life I look forward to just as much as my birthday, Christmas, and possibly moreso even than Thanksgiving. It's no ordinary event -- it's epic cubed. This year certainly was no exception.

I'm going to run you through my Gen Con experience and give you a little taste of what I experienced from "The Best Four Days in Gaming" and including some of Indy's awesome cuisine.

What might shock some is that I don't go to Gen Con primarily to play games. Yes, it's a gaming convention and I do play games but I also go for the overall experience, education, relaxation, time to spend hanging with my friends, and the great food. So, let me begin at the beginning of our epic adventure.

As you might know, my group lives in the Joplin, Missouri, area where that big, damn tornado hit in 2011. This year, we left as a group of 10 -- what we like to call, "The Murder of Nerds." This name was adopted several years ago because we didn't like the term "A Stink of Gamers." My friends and I do shower and use deodorant, after all.

I thought this was my eighth Gen Con but my good friend Travis Shofler insists that we've been going at least 10 years and that's quite possible -- one does lose track of time when having fun. Editor's Note: I just checked and our first year was 2004, so this was our ninth year attending. All I know is that our first year here was the 30th Anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons and we've gone every year since. Yes, it's that much fun. We pine away for it all year long.

In the past, we've taken at least two vehicles to accomodate our group size. This year, the Murder decided to rent an extended van and it was quite nice. The van fit all 10 of us and we only had to take one vehicle. This also meant that we were all in on the jokes here and back home. When you split into two vehicles you sometimes miss out on some fun humor or antics. This year's highlight, although it got old quick, was Justin Riley's voice combination of Bane (from "The Dark Knight Rises") and Deckard Cane (from the "Diablo" games series) to become Deckard Bane. Trust me, those voices aren't too far apart (neither is Sean Connery's voice). Justin said the craziest things in Deckard Bane's voice and we laughed quite a bit.


The Murder left super late Tuesday night, Aug. 15, 2012, with our annual pre-Gen Con Denny's stop -- full bellies, then travel. The trip was uneventful (the way we like it), other than many humorous anecdotes about past Gen Con trips, such as jokes about me pushing Travis up an escalator (I had no idea I was so strong *grin*) and many other such things you wouldn't understand without actually having been there on our many wacky journeys.

After driving all night, we arrived just before lunch time Wednesday, Aug. 16, in Indianapolis. Keep in mind, you lose an hour when coming from Missouri to Indy (but gain an hour back when you return). Wednesday was a great day, considering Gen Con doesn't officially start until Thursday. Like most smart Gen Con attendees, we all pre-ordered our four-day badges and had them mailed to us -- so we didn't have to wait in the one- to two-hour-long will call line. All we needed were event tickets that we didn't previously sign up for.

So, we first checked into the hotel (we stayed at the Crowne Plaza -- the one with the trains inside the hotel and is attached to the Union Station (beautiful architecture). The hotel was not only less than a block from the convention center but was even the closest hotel to the dealers' room (the main event at Gen Con, in my opinion). After the hotel, we headed to Giorgio's.

If you've gone to Gen Con and you've never been to Giorgio's, then shame on you. This is one of the best Italian eateries I've ever been to (and I don't shy away from Italian food). I've yet to find something there that isn't highly delicious. Their lasagna is amazing, their ziti is excellent, their pizza is better than most, and their pepperoni breadsticks are awesome. We typically go to Giorgio's at least twice per Gen Con trip -- we love it that much. On top of that, the prices are pretty fair too for the portions.

So we headed over to the convention center and waited in the much-shorter event registration line to get our event tickets. For those of you who've never been to Gen Con before, you must first buy a badge then you can buy event tickets for whatever events you want to attend (keep in mind that many events are free but some do have a cost and that cost varies depending on the length of the event, rather the event includes add-ons for a game (such as miniatures or card packs), or involves any of the celebrity attendees.

After some relaxing time back at the hotel room taking a nap (none of us slept too well in the van), we woke up hungry. There was only one place that could satiate our appetite -- Claddagh's Irish Pub. Many of the Murder were parched for some stout ale and ended up drinking a new brew called Dragon's Milk. Most of us dug our forks into a fish and chips meal fit for a celtic king. If you haven't eaten at Claddagh's, I highly recommend it. We try to eat there twice each Gen Con trip.

As we were leaving Claddagh's, I happened by Cam Banks, the lead designer and creative manager for Margaret Weis Productions (my boss on the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying book line). Cam is a brilliant designer and I'm not just saying that because he's one of my bosses. [More on the new Marvel game and Cam later in this long article.]


The alarm clocks blasted various chimes throughout the hotel room and Thursday, the first day of the convention, had arrived. Each year, we like to attend the opening ceremony for the convention when gaming legend Peter Adkison (sometimes with a guest, this year it was a man who had attended all 45 years of Gen Con... wow!) rolls out the ceremonious dice and the dealers' room is opened to the con attendees. It's crowded but the feeling of anticipation (to get in there and see what new games might possibly enter our lives) is overwhelming. The giant foam dice hit the floor and Peter announces that Gen Con is officially open and the flood into the dealers' room begins.

Some people push and shove while others are more considerate but the masses all, eventually, make it inside the holy sanctum. The Gen Con dealers' room is a hard thing to describe to someone who has never been to a convention of this magnitude. I mean, Wizards of the Coast literally has an underground-style castle-like area that you walk through inside the dealers' room.

Inside that structure, they had a giant statue of Lolth (the demonic goddess of the Underdark and sworn enemy of the legendary Drizzt from R.A. Salvatore's novels). Last Gen Con, Dungeons & Dragons had gone with a Neverwinter theme and this year it was the Underdark. Also inside the booth, you could try out D&D Online's newest expansion and get a sneak peek at the beta for the forthcoming Neverwinter Nights Online game (Forgotten Realms). D&D gamers will end up having two MMOs to choose from. For trying out D&D Online, they handed out a drow mini (usable with D&D's new Dungeon Command squad-based miniatures battle system -- preferably to be used with the "Sting of Lolth" set) and a code for a free winter pup pet for D&D Online. If you got your picture taken with the Lolth statue, you would get a free d4 that featured drow symbols. By going around to different events at the convention, you could collect the rest of the set of drow dice.

There's so much going on in the dealers' room that it's hard to cover everything but I'll try to do my best here. One of the card games I'm quite fond of right now is the Star Trek Deck Building Game by Ban Dai. Normally, I jump on Star Wars products/games first and Star Trek takes a back seat but this game is the best deck building game I've ever played. If you're not familiar with deck building games, they're a more-recent card game design where you start with a small deck of cards and you compete with other players to build the best deck. The first deck building game I can recall was Dominion. Other deck building games include Ascension and the Resident Evil Deck Building Game (also by Ban Dai). Ban Dai's booth was promoting all of its titles with promo cards. I don't know about you, but I'm a sucker for promo cards for games that I play -- especially ones where the promo cards are useful.

You just had to make a purchase, even a pack of cards for some other game, and you could get a set of promo cards for the Star Trek Deck Building Game. I snagged onto that quick. The set of seven promos included one previously released of Jean-Luc Picard that was out in 2011. The remaining six promos are all new ones I hadn't seen before: Jean-Luc Picard (as an ensign), Temporal Vortex (special), Holodeck (special), Data (as an Old West outlaw), Worf (as an Old West sheriff), and Thomas Riker (the transporter clone of Riker but copied from back when he was a lieutenant). I'm anxioius to give these cards a try in our next Star Treck Deck Building Game session.

Speaking of Star Trek, both Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation and also from The Guild plus longtime Wil Save column writer for the D&D magazines) and Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura from the original Star Trek series) were at Gen Con this year. One of the days, Wil was even sporting a kilt.

Stay tuned for Part II...

Gen Con 2012 Part II: The Epic Journey Continues

Column by Editor T. Rob Brown
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (Aug. 26, 2012) -- As journeys go, the Gen Con event is always one that is too epic to fit within the confines of a single article and can't easily be written in a single session -- we now continue.

As I'm thinking back on Thursday, one thing comes to mind -- breakfast. I forgot to mention where we went for breakfast. One thing gamers can never have too much of (or can we?), is pizza. Yes, we had pizza for breakfast at least two mornings during our Gen Con trip.

There's a small pizza eatery inside the Hyatt Regency that is attached (via skyways) to the Indianapolis Convention Center, where Gen Con is held. Pizza di Tito has some great calzones, wraps, and huge slices of pizza (a slice is a fourth of a pizza). During Gen Con, they typically open early (for breakfast) and stay open late (until about 1 a.m.) to accommodate the visiting gamers. Gamers do tend to be night owls and Gen Con is certainly no exception to that theory.

So, back to Thursday. In many past years, I have overbooked, overplanned, overscheduled, and in another redundant saying, bit off more than I can chew. So, this year, I only planned one specific event for Thursday and two for Friday. In years past, I had 8 events scheduled per day. While I do go there to learn and improve my writing and game design skills, it's also my vacation from my full-time job. When you go crazy with event tickets, you leave yourself little time to relax and really soak in the con's amazing atmosphere.

Nearly a decade of attending Gen Con has taught me one thing -- you will never be able to do ALL of Gen Con each year. So take it in stride. Some events are must-dos that I intend to do almost every year (like the Hickman Killer Breakfast and XDM class) but unfortunately, there will be conflicts. Unless you just like one type of game and only do that, you will find other cool stuff that overlaps the must-do events that you select. In other words, if you're there for the right reasons and you're bored at Gen Con, something's wrong with you -- it's not the con's fault.

I can't remember a single year where I left Gen Con and said, "I did everything I wanted to do this year." There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. You know why? Because it brings me back every year to experience things I heard about but wished I had experienced. The key is to just enjoy yourself, be glad for what you were able to do and not worry so much about the things you missed -- but add them to next year's calendar, if possible. Some events are a one-time deal.

This year's only Thursday event was one of Michael A Stackpole's magnificent writing classes. If you're not familiar with Stackpole, he's a New York Times bestselling author who is famous for his works on the Star Wars line, Battletech line, his DragonCrown War Cycle fantasy series, his past work for video games like Wasteland, and among other writers he's known for his classes and The Secrets line of writing aids. I make a point of taking at least one or two Stackpole classes each Gen Con. The classes are reasonably priced at $8 for an hour's worth of professional information -- the inside scoop, or The Secrets, as Stackpole often refers to them.

[more still to come...]

MidWest GamingNews coverage to return with Gen Con 2012

Editor's Note by Editor T. Rob Brown
JOPLIN, Missouri (Aug. 14, 2012) -- As most of you may have realized, this website has been practically defunct since March of 2008. I ended up starting a freelance game design career and worked for Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro as a game designer on "Star Wars: Clone Wars Campaign Guide" (2009) and "Star Wars: Galaxy of Intrigue" (2010) and this year began working for Margaret Weis Productions on the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying series with "Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War Event" (2012) and a forthcoming title that I can't talk about due to an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement).

Balancing that with my fulltime newspaper job as a photojournalist isn't always an easy task but it's a rewarding one. With each book, I learn more about the fascinating world of game design. I've had the game design bug since I was in junior high school and first started playing Dungeons & Dragons. I wrote a rough sci-fi RPG titled, "Gyrobot" (see GyrobotVestiges.com for info on the novel I'm working on based on that game -- the idea has been around for quite a while, inspired by Voltron, Transformers, Robotech, and a slew of other sci-fi robot stories).

To complicate matters further, my home and car were destroyed May 22, 2011, by the catastrophic EF-5 tornado that ripped through Joplin. I have spent the past year replacing many items that were lost or destroyed. Managing my websites slipped farther down the list of priorities.

Unfortunately, that meant I didn't have the appropriate time or priority to maintain this website. For that, I am sorry because so much has happened in the world of games that I have missed reporting on. I hope to remedy this problem for the future. I plan to kick this website back off with coverage of Gen Con Indy 2012. My plan is to update this website Monday, Aug. 21, 2012, with coverage from the Best Four Days in Gaming. Most of it will be first-hand reports and observations. Maybe I can even talk some of my friends into writing a few things about Warhammer 40K and Magic the Gathering -- some of the things they're more interested in. We'll see.

Please stay tuned and don't give up on me just yet. I hope to post photos from the past several years of Gen Con. I bought a new pro camera last year and the image quality is just stunning compared to the previous camera. I hope you'll enjoy the images and coverage.

I will be tweeting and posting images to Twitter/Facebook during the convention. Be sure to tune in there as well. My Twitter is Broodslayers and my Facebook is t.rob.brown -- thanks for reading.

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Dungeons & Dragons co-creator dies

By Editor T. Rob Brown
MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (March 4, 2008) -- Although some may joke that he didn’t make his final saving throw, none can argue with the major impact Gary Gygax had on the world of fantasy.

Unfortunately, the genius that co-created the world-famous Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game system along with Dave Arneson, has died at the age of 69. Gamers the world over will miss the creations, sage gamer advice, and new worlds he might have created. Credited as the creator of the ever-popular Greyhawk setting, which for much of its life, was the cornerstone world of Dungeons & Dragons. Eventually, other worlds created by other game designers were added to the mix. Gygax’s main world spawned a series of Roleplaying Gamers Association (RPGA) adventures under the title “Living Greyhawk” that ran almost up until the present.

Gygax was a common sight at major conventions like Gen Con in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he often was one of the main guests of honor due to his major contributions to gaming -- often he is referred to as the father, or one of the fathers, of fantasy roleplaying. His work has been spin-off into a theatrical movie (Dungeons & Dragons), a TV movie also released direct-to-DVD (Dungeons & Dragons II: Wrath of the Dragon God), an animated TV series, card games, comic books, and so much more.

He will be missed.

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Related links: Associated Press Report, CNN Report, Yahoo News Report, Gaming Report, Troll Lord Games’ Forums, blog at Forbes, another Forbes blog, Order of the Stick Tribute, Wil Wheaton Tribute, Wizards of the Coast, and Dork Tower Tribute.

Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition Announced!

Bill Slavicsek (left) and Christopher Perkins talk about the new D&D 4th Edition online toolsD&D Dragon BannerD&D BeholderDungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition LogoBill Slavicsek reveals D&D Fourth EditionChristopher Perkins talks about the history of D&DA giant D&D miniature of a trollBill Slavicsek (left) and Christopher Perkins discuss the four parts of Fourth Edition
Photos by T. Rob Brown

By Editor T. Rob Brown
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (Aug. 16, 2007) -- During a special announcement at Gen Con Indy, the veil of secrecy surrounding the possibility of a Fourth Edition to Dungeons & Dragons began to lift.

Key Wizards of the Coast design research and development team members (Bill Slavicsek and Christopher Perkins) announced the 2008 release of the game’s fourth edition at "The Best Four Days in Gaming." The new edition will still be part of the d20 system but will be more streamlined.

The following changes were announced: Thirty levels, easier to DM, defined roles, new power sources, resource management, and new encounter design. Fourth edition is divided into four key parts: The physical product (books, miniatures, etc.), organized play (such as RPGA games and special events like the Worldwide D&D Game Day), the community (through the new Gleemax), and digital offering (D&D Insider).

The new D&D Insider went live online shortly after the announcement was made. The new E-zine includes the types of things players came to expect from Dungeon and Dragon magazines. In addition, it offers expanded content, behind the scenes, designer commentaries, podcasts, and an E-version (a PDF of the books players buy, which will include a product code to access the download).

Of all the announcements, the addition of official Wizards of the Coast PDFs for the hardcopy buyers received the largest applause from attendees.

The online resources are expected to have a populated database to add new functionality to the tools that are there. D&D Insider is supposed to have new articles three times per week and monthly digital issues combining all that content. The online tools will include encounter and dungeon builders and a monster database.

Currently, D&D Insider is in preview mode and is free. Later, there will be a fee. Subscribers can utilize applications that offer such things as a D&D game table where players can join in online games whenever and wherever they want. Voice chat and text chat will be available as well. The map can be drawn on and digital miniatures are used for movement. DMs can call up images for handouts.

If you sign up for D&D Insider soon, you might be eligible to playtest Fourth Edition.

What will Fourth Edition be like? Many of the hints Wizards of the Coast gave included a more streamlined system -- which is exactly what they did with Star Wars Saga Edition. It is quite likely that some or many of the changes to that game will also be unveiled as new changes to D&D.

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More GEN CON Indy 2007 Coverage

Wizkids releases Star Wars Pocketmodel TCG

Star Wars Logo

By Editor T. Rob Brown
AT RETAILERS (June 13, 2007) -- Rather you dreamed of dominating worlds with an Imperial fleet, protecting them as the Rebellion, or participating in the Clone Wars, your time is now.

Wizkids, known for their Pirates of the Spanish Main TCG, HeroClix, and MageKnight games, has released another game that’s sure to sell well and grow in popularity: Star Wars Pocketmodel TCG.

So what makes this game special other than being yet another game bearing the Star Wars franchise? Consider it a hybrid CCG and miniatures game, if you will. Learning from the success of Wizkids’ highly-popular Pirates franchise, they mastered the plastic constructible collector card game, and have now brought that knowledge to the Star Wars Universe. Yet, that’s not where the appeal of this game ends.

Not only does each booster pack contain four to eight ships (in a mixture of commons, uncommons, and rares -- though a rare is not guaranteed in every pack, just like the Pirates boosters), but also six collector cards that affect the outcome of the game. In most modern miniatures games, each miniature includes a card but the card merely reflects the capabilities of that particular miniature and otherwise has no game effect. Instead, the Pocketmodel TCG system incorporates cards that also come in a mixture of commons, uncommons, and rares, which modify game play each turn. In addition, they have incorporated Objective cards in a similar concept to the old Star Trek and Star Wars CCGs by Decipher.

Through the use of Objective cards, players no longer have to destroy all of the enemy fleet in order to win the game. By destroying all three of your opponent’s objectives you can also win. This system allows for new and different strategies than used before in some CCGs or in some miniatures games. In addition, this game is smooth and handles well in short sessions -- it’s sure to please tournament fans as well as the casual gamer who likes to get in a game or two on occasion. You don’t need to take complicated measurements for space travel -- instead, WizKids made it simple and to the point -- there are only three regions of space: Your zone, your opponent’s zone, and the contested zone. After all, there’s hyperspace in Star Wars anyway, right? Why boggle the game down with unnecessary complexities? Keep it simple and therefore, keep it fun!

Already, powerful ships like the Millenium Falcon are selling for a pretty penny on ebay. If trends hold, this could be one of the hottest new games of 2007. WizKids has already brought out foil alternate cards for tournament support and are available at some retailers -- it appears they are ready to back this product with a community, tournaments and good prize support. For the hardcore gamers, this type of extended support can make or break a game.

Another little-known fact right now is that Imperial Power-Up Packs have variant rare cards, depending on where you purchase the box set. The Imperial Power-Up Packs include the following exclusives: Darth Vader’s Imperial-class Star Destroyer (from Episode IV: A New Hope), a rare; Darth Vader’s Lambda-class shuttle, an uncommon; two Talon Squadron X-wing starfighters, commons; and several common TIE fighter models. In addition, there are 30 cards. Of these 30 cards, every Imperial Power-Up Pack includes three exclusive uncommons, one each of: Boarding Party, Tractor Beam, and Admiral Piett. Those cards bear a "P" before their number to designate them as exclusives. There are three other exclusive cards, all rares, available as well -- but acquiring them all will require serious collectors to purchase the Imperial Power-Up Pack three times, each time from a different retailer. Currently, players can purchase the hobby store pack which includes three copies of the Meditation Chamber card. Reportedly, Target and Wal-Mart will each have three copies of a different rare (these rares are listed on the checklist). Since each pack comes with three copies of the exclusive rares, and one each of the exclusive uncommons -- a serious collector could purchase one from each of the three retailers and be able to field all three of each card in their deck (the constructible play deck is 30 cards, of which no card may be repeated more than three times).

For further information on which ships are included and which cards are available, check out our lists HERE.

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Return of the Star Wars RPG on store shelves

Star Wars Logo Wizards of the Coast, publisher of the Star Wars RPG line

By Editor T. Rob Brown
AT RETAILERS (June 6, 2007) -- Star Wars RPG fans have been waiting since a long time ago, yet not necessarily in a galaxy far, far away, for the return of the well-loved Star Wars-flavored d20 system. Now, the circle is complete.

When last we met news from Wizards of the Coast, a division of Hasbro and publisher of the Star Wars RPG d20 line, in 2005 the support of the RPG portion of their Star Wars franchise rights had taken a complete backseat to the miniatures game. Despite the release of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, the company focused on its miniatures line and left the Star Wars RPG fans stranded in space without a hyperdrive -- they even canceled the RPGA Living Force campaign. Then, in early 2006, RPG stats were suddenly included with some of the company’s Star Wars Miniatures line products. This was followed up by an announcement at Gen Con Indy 2006 that they were working on a new Star Wars Roleplaying Game Saga Edition Core Rulebook, scheduled for an April 2007 release.

Despite some expected delays, the fruit of that labor is now on store shelves and in the hands of many die-hard Star Wars RPG fans. Initial reactions from the fans might have included, "another core rulebook?", "It’s about time they included Revenge of the Sith material," or "Where did armor class go?" The truth of the matter is that Wizards has completely revamped the rules system -- they’ve streamlined it, made it sleeker, faster to play, easier to create characters with, and made lots of changes that just might appear in upcoming versions of their more-popular Dungeons & Dragons RPG line.

By streamlining the classes down to five basic, starting classes, it might seem like they've taken options away from the players but in fact, the options are vast. Through the use of a new Talent system, each class has numerous variants via Talent trees for wide customization opportunities.

For instance, in the Revised Edition players could choose between three Force-based characters: Force Adept, Jedi Consular, and Jedi Guardian. To streamline this class, there is just Jedi. Within Jedi, though, are talent trees for the Jedi Consular, Jedi Guardian, Jedi Sentinel, lightsaber skills, and so much more. You can now mix and match these Feat-like abilities to build your character just the way you want them.

Want to build a gunslinging scoundrel with awesome piloting skills like Han Solo? No problem, he's still a Scoundrel class. Perhaps you want to tailor your scoundrel to be more of the gambling type like Lando Calrissian? No problem, he’s still a Scoundrel class -- just taking different Talents than Han Solo would have.

The vast number of improvements and changes to this system are too numerous to list in this article. For a time, fans will be the learner. The best way to soak up the new system is to play the game with some friends or pick up the book and delve into its immersive chapters.

Star Wars RPG Saga Edition is now the master.

[Editor's Note: For Additional Star Wars RPG Saga Edition links visit: Official Star Wars RPG Page, Star Wars RPG Saga Edition on Overstock.com, http://greatsithwar.com, http://t-rob.com/swrpg.htm, and don’t forget our site’s forums at http://t-rob.com/phpBB.]

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GEN CON Indy 2006 Coverage

Magnificent Egos set snags nomination

ALLEN, Texas (March 18, 2006) -- The Game Manufacturer's Association (GAMA) announced that Magnificent Egos boxed set MEO1018, Galladon with Rose Immaculate Steed received an ORIGINS Vanguard Award Nomination. The Vanguard Award category for Unique Game Products is reserved for game products and accessories that push the boundaries of current conventions.

Galladon is a multi-part, pewter and resin kit containing a scale model of the 6'7" paladin, Galladon, both standing with sword drawn and mounted with pennant/lance on his giant, celestial Clydesdale, Rose. The true centerpiece of the kit is the large warhorse clad in filigreed barding and finely detailed rose vines. The figure was designed by top fantasy artist Jason Engle and sculpted by renowned sculptor Sandra Garrity.

"We are ecstatic about this," Magnificent Egos President Chris Clark said. "The amount of detail and precision required really pushed both the artist and sculptor and required that we really stretch our production methods. It is fantastic to be recognized for our work and we are grateful to the Academy of Adventure Game Art and Design for the nomination."

MEO1018 Galladon w/ Rose Immaculate Steed is available from retailers now or at the Magnificent Egos website (www.magnificentegos.com). It is available to retailers through ACD, Blackhawk and Alliance Games. For more information about obtaining Galladon or promotional material for retail stores, please email Steve Creech (screech@magnificentegos.com).

Magnificent Egos, Inc is a Texas based manufacturer of fine pewter and resin, fantasy figurines for modeling and gaming. To obtain a catalog of their products, please email James Stubbs (nigerianoilminister@magnificentegos.com)

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BioWare Corp. announces new studio
New studio recruiting for MMORPG project

EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (March 13, 2006) -- Canadian videogame developer BioWare Corp. has announced the opening of a new studio, BioWare Austin, based in Austin, Texas. It is the second of BioWare’s studios and the first to be located outside of Canada.

BioWare Austin has already begun work on a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) title; the new game will mark BioWare’s debut in the massively multiplayer online space. BioWare has recruited some of the top talent in MMO and RPG development, both to manage the development efforts at BioWare Austin and to collaborate with the experienced team at BioWare Edmonton, to develop a game that combines the best of BioWare's great past games with a compelling persistent online experience. Joining the Austin team as lead designer is James Ohlen, BioWare's Creative Director, whose previous credits include lead or co-lead design roles on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Neverwinter Nights, Baldur's Gate and Baldur’s Gate II. Also leading the BWA team are MMO veterans Richard Vogel and Gordon Walton. Richard Vogel brings 15 years of experience to BioWare Austin, previously serving as VP of Product Development for Sony Online Entertainment’s Austin studio, as well as launching Ultima Online as a senior producer at Origin. Gordon Walton recently served as VP, studio manager and executive producer at Sony Online Entertainment as well as VP and Executive Producer at Electronic Arts.

"BioWare is committed to a seamless collaboration between our two studios to ensure the same high standards of quality and creativity our dedicated teams have always delivered," said Ray Muzyka, co-founder and Joint CEO of BioWare. "With our extensive heritage in the role-playing genre, BioWare Austin is extremely well positioned to innovate in the massively multiplayer online space for BioWare’s valued community of fans."

The new BioWare Austin comes soon after the formation of BioWare/Pandemic Studios, a partnership facilitated by private equity firm Elevation Partners. The new entity combines top videogame developers BioWare Corp., an industry leader in the role-playing game genre, and Pandemic Studios, an award-winning developer of best-selling action titles.

BioWare Corp. is an electronic entertainment company which develops computer and console video games "focused on rich stories and memorable characters." BioWare’s developers are currently working on Mass Effect, a brand new BioWare-created intellectual property, and an Xbox 360 exclusive, to be published by Microsoft. Mass Effect is "an epic science-fiction role-playing game set in a spectacular new vision of the future." BioWare recently completed work on Jade Empire, the first game based on a BioWare-created intellectual property. Jade Empire was released in April 2005 and has enjoyed critical and commercial success. BioWare is also hard at work on Dragon Age, a high fantasy RPG set in another brand-new world created and owned by BioWare. BioWare's Technology Architecture Group is also developing the cutting-edge next-generation BioWare Eclipse Engine technology for multiple platforms. BioWare has an online fan community at www.bioware.com consisting of almost 3 million registered users who regularly connect to discuss the company’s current and future games. In November 2004, the company launched the BioWare Online Store at store.bioware.com, where fans can purchase new content for their favorite BioWare titles and merchandise. Previously published projects include: the action-RPG of 2005 for Xbox, Jade Empire; the 2003 Game of the Year, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic for PC and Xbox; the award-winning Neverwinter Nights series; the genre-defining Baldur’s Gate role-playing game series for the PC; MDK2 for Dreamcast and PC, MDK2: Armageddon for PlayStation2, and Shattered Steel.

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D&D Minis: War Drums at retailers

AT RETAILERS (March 1, 2006) -- In the distance, the sound of the War Drums echo over the rolling hills as the armies prepare to face off in mortal combat.

Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures: War Drums was released this week at retailers in the United States. This new set features a higher amount of fighter classes and various warrior factions than previous D&D Minis sets.

Fans of Eberron’s warforged will be happy to find four new warforged in this army's ranks: Warforged Captain, Warforged Scout, Warforged Bodyguard, and the Warforged Barbarian. With the uncanny success of Eberron, it’s no surprise this race would be so featured in this set.

Dragon fans will be pleased to see the Large Bronze Dragon, which has an excellent paint job and sculpt as do a great many of the miniatures in this set. Several longtime minis fans at Changing Hands Book Shoppe in Joplin, Mo., reported they thought this was the best-painted set of D&D Minis they’ve seen yet.

This set also includes six Epic characters, as first introduced in the last release: D&D Minis: Underdark.

War Drums is the third set of D&D Minis to come in a starter box in addition to the standard booster boxes. Starter boxes retail for $19.95 and include several extra miniatures, including two specific ones (commons) for a specific combat scenario included in the box. The starter box also includes two new maps for the minis game. Booster boxes include the standard eight minis and retail at $12.95.

For the complete checklist, check our D&D Minis resources: http://t-rob.com/ddmini.htm

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SW Minis: Attack on Endor beginsStar Wars Lightsaber

AT RETAILERS (March 1, 2006) -- If the yapping noises of Ewoks and the zapping noises of blaster rifles weren’t enough to let you know the Attack on Endor had begun, the shaking of the trees as the Imperial AT-ST stomps its way on through might be your final answer.

Star Wars Miniatures: Attack on Endor was released this week at retailers in the United States. This new set features a repaint of the AT-ST huge miniature released in the SW Minis: Universe set in August 2005 and re-releases of three Imperial troops: Scout Trooper, Stormtrooper and Stormtrooper Officer. The only differences are a different symbol on the bottom of the minis as well as a different symbol on their cards. All you need to complete this scene is a small, rag-tag army of Ewoks to slaughter at will. Ewoks were part of the SW Minis: Rebel Storm set released in August 2004 and later re-released in 2005.

This new set retails for $19.95 and also includes two double-sided maps and a scenario booklet that also includes statistics for several characters (and also the BARC Speeder and Boga the varactyl, aka Obi-Wan’s mount from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) for the Star Wars Roleplaying Game Revised Edition d20 by Wizards of the Coast. Fans of the Expanded Universe will be pleased to get RPG stats for Kyle Katarn (Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series of computer games), Dark Trooper Phase III (from the same games), Grand Admiral Thrawn (from Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy of novels), Baron Fel (Imperial pilot from the Rogue Squadron novels), plus Prince Xizor and his follower Guri (both from the Shadows of the Empire novel and games).

For the complete checklist, check our SW Minis resources: http://t-rob.com/swmini.htm

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Spider-MIB sighted

By Editor T. Rob Brown
ONLINE (Feb. 24, 2006) -- It's official -- movie Spider-Man is now an MIB.

According to the official Spider-Man 3 movie website at SonyPictures.com, the webhead will be wearing black in the third installment of Sam Raimi's movie series based on Marvel Comics’ famed wall-crawler.

In leiu of singing the Will Smith Men in Black theme song, he might decide to choose Back in Black by AC/DC.

Previously, Sony released a photo (see below) on Oct. 5, 2005, of one of the villains who has a striking resemblance to Sandman from the comics (Thomas Haden Church as Flint Marko -- aka Sandman).

"In addition to the on-going relationship between Peter Parker and M.J., these films are driven by the great actors who have brought our villains to life," Raimi told Sony Pictures’ website. "Thomas Haden Church will be a fantastic and challenging new nemesis and we all look forward to working with him."

Keeping in mind the addition of the black costume, this leads us to the questions: Will Venom be the other villain? Is the addition of the black costume only a precursor to Venom becoming the key villain for Spider-Man 4? Every avid Spider-Man fan out there knows Venom is a strong enough supervillain to be a one-villain movie, just as were the Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus.

Photo Credit: Merie Wallace for Sony Pictures

Another key cast member, Topher Grace (most famous for That ’70s Show), was announced back on May 19, 2005, for Spider-Man 3, by director Sam Raimi and producers Laura Ziskin and Marvel Studio’s Avi Arad. Grace joins Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, and Thomas Haden Church in the blockbuster franchise.

"Spider-Man will face double the trouble in our next film and I couldn't be more excited about the direction we are taking Peter Parker and the franchise," Raimi said. "Topher Grace is an extraordinarily-talented actor and will be perfect for the complexities of the role we are developing."

If the rumor mill is correct, Grace will be playing Eddie Brock, who becomes Venom. Even if you don't believe the rumors, Kirsten Dunst, who plays Mary Jane, accidentally let it slip in a media interview that Church and Grace were playing Sandman and Venom. Reportedly, Dunst had not seen the movie’s script at that time.

Given all the cameos or tie-ins to the comics, it can be difficult to guess just which supervillains will pop up and when in Sam Raimi’s rendition. One thing money can probably safely bet on is that Bruce Campbell will return for a third Spider-Man cameo.

In the past two movies, brief cameos or references were made to Eddie Brock (the Daily Bugle reporter who becomes Venom and who hates photojournalist Peter Parker/Spider-Man for getting him fired from the newspaper), Dr. Conners (who becomes the Lizard), J. Jonah Jameson’s son (who becomes the Man-Wolf due to a moon rock that grafts itself to his skin -- and in some versions of the story, brings the alien symbiote -- aka the black costume and aka later as Venom -- down from outerspace), and countless others.

In the comics, Spider-Man was forced to rip the moon rock from Man-Wolf's throat, accidentally killing J. Jonah Jameson's son in the process. For this deed, Jameson was never able to forgive the web-slinger and went on to hire thugs to kill Spider-Man, and even went so far as to create the Scorpion to help fulfill his want for revenge. Will the movies follow the plot of the comics? Perhaps or perhaps only loosely. Marvel has been known to re-write its own storylines, as do many other comic companies, to conform to changes in society and technology.

At this point, only Sam Raimi knows. One thing’s for sure: Tobey Maguire returns as Peter Parker / Spider-Man in Spider-Man 3, in movie theaters May 4, 2007.

The Spider-Man film franchise has grossed more than $1.5 billion in worldwide ticket sales to date. Production on Spider-Man 3, which was written by Alvin Sargent, was scheduled to begin early 2006.

For the official photo: http://spiderman.sonypictures.com/

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Gen Con committed to Indianapolis
Indy's largest annual convention to remain

SEATTLE, Wash. (Feb. 10, 2006) -­ Gamers around the world can continue to anticipate the fun and excitement of the annual Gen Con convention right in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. Gen Con LLC is pleased to announce the Gen Con Indy convention will indeed remain in Indianapolis for the next several years.

Gen Con has confirmed that they will be returning to Indianapolis in 2006 to celebrate the company’s 39th year and to continue the fine tradition that has been established in Indianapolis. Gen Con has signed an agreement for an additional four more years in Indianapolis, keeping the convention in the city at least through 2010.

"We are thrilled to keep Gen Con in Indianapolis," said Peter Adkison, CEO of Gen Con LLC. "The city has worked with us to address the question of size and capacity and we are satisfied that the needs for space for attendees and exhibitors will be met.
"Ultimately we need to provide our attendees and exhibitors with the best possible show we can produce and Indianapolis is the place where that can happen."

For the past three years, the Indiana Convention Center has been home to the largest consumer game convention in North America. Staying in Indianapolis has been Gen Con’s goal considering the success of the past three years at the convention center. When last years attendance reached more than 25,000, a 13-percent increase over the previous year, discussions were raised concerning the increasing numbers and whether the facility would be large enough to accommodate the growing event.

"Gen Con has quickly earned a special place in the heart of our city," said Bob Schultz, spokesperson for the Indiana Convention & Visitors Association. "We are thrilled at Gen Con's decision to become an annual event on our convention calendar and promise to meet and exceed gamers’ expectations for outstanding visitor service and value in Indianapolis for years to come."

In 2005, Gen Con’s "Best Four Days In Gaming" generated more than $35 million in direct visitor spending for the Indianapolis community ­ the financial equivalent of hosting an NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Final Four.

At Gen Con gaming enthusiasts don’t simply attend — they participate in more than 5,000 gaming events including interactive game play, hobby-related events, and computer gaming. Attendees can join in card games, board games, role-playing games, live-action role-playing games, seminars and workshops ranging in topics from how to develop games to how to paint miniatures.

Gen Con has more than 250 booths from which enthusiasts can learn more about their favorite games and products with companies ranging from the biggest in the business to hot, smaller shops. Often game manufacturers use Gen Con as
a stepping stone to display their new games or to run premier tournaments. Gamers can now mark their calendars for the next great gaming event. Gen Con Indy 2006 will take place Aug. 10-13 at the Indianapolis Convention Center. With more new-product introductions than any other game convention in the U.S., Gen Con is the place where consumers, game manufactures, and vendors get together to experience the latest and greatest in the gaming industry, along with time-honored classics. For more information and to register, call (800) 529-EXPO or visit www.gencon.com.

Gen Con, LLC produces the largest consumer fantasy, sci-fi and adventure game convention in North America. Its operations include Gen Con Indy, Gen Con So Cal and Star Wars Celebration III, and licensee for European Gen Con shows. It was founded in May of 2002 by former CEO and founder of Wizards of the Coast Peter Adkison, who solely owns the company headquartered in Seattle, Washington. The company’s mission is to create The Best Four Days of Gaming! every year for its customers. For more information visit the website at www.gencon.com.

The Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association’s mission is to advance Indianapolis tourism and economic growth. The total annual economic impact of tourism on the Indianapolis economy is $3.2 billion, which leads the way to 76,000 full-time equivalent positions in the hospitality industry. For more information about Indianapolis and the ICVA, go to www.indy.org.



[Editor's Note: Edits for grammar, punctuation, artifacts, and syntax made to press releases by GamingNews Editor T. Rob Brown, http://t-rob.com]

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