Saturday, August 13, 2016

She's Got It... Venus

Not all that long ago, Evil Eli and I were talking about how to get people to buy into a game so we'd have more opponents and / or allies.  During this conversation, he looks at me and says, "the most important thing to get people to come to your table is awesome terrain".

Rewind to 1997.  I'm hanging out at my parent's house with my Daughter 2.0®, when my good friend Valpurgius calls me.  Actually, at that time he wasn't Valpurgius yet, that's coming up.

Anyway, he says to me, "you should come over to [the new comic & games shop just three miles from my parent's house, now long out of business], my friend Steve is running game demos".

"What's a game demo?", I asked ignorantly, which turns out to be blissfully.

"If you play a game he'll give you some miniatures, come over here".

"I'm with Daughter 2.0® right now".

"Bring her along, they have comics and toys".

"Okay, fine".  <click>.  Yes, back then we were still on landlines, and the phones went <click> when you hung them up.  True story.

So we drive five minutes (yes, there was a time back in history when you could drive somewhere in Atlanta in five minutes) over to the game store, and are underwhelmed by the sight before us.  A couple racks of comics, a small display with blister packs of miniatures I'd never seen, that said, "WARHAMMER" on them, whatever that was, and to one side a table with a few model railroad trees, chunks of that white styrofoam they use to make coolers (it probably was once a cooler) poorly painted to presumably represent rocks, and a handful of unpainted, funny looking miniature guys with guns.  Standing nearby was Not Yet Valpurgius, a very bored, stereotypical comic book shop clerk, and a grumpy looking, paunchy, balding man who was then enthusiastically introduced to me as Steve.  That is to say, NYV was enthusiastic, Steve grunted while the expression on his face indicated painful chronic constipation.

"So where's the game?", I asked, still blissfully ignorant of wargames.

"THIS is the game, it's called WARZONE, and Steve's going to give you a demo", NYV explained with the same look he's had on his face every time he's had a hidden agenda since the first time Dixie, his charming smartass of a mother, caught him sneaking cookies when he was five.

"Okay...", I said while dubiously eyeing the table full of model railroad refuse.

Steve suddenly gained some minor command of language, and asked NYV, "this is the guy who's going to run demos?", inexplicably seeming to indicate me.

That's when I realized the look on NYV's face was because his hand was in MY cookie jar.

Giving my, "good friend" a, "we're going to talk later" look, I asked Steve, "so how do we play this game?"

"you're those guys there in the corner, and you have to kill this big robot before he kills you".

"It's just like D&D, but different", was the brilliant insight offered by NYV, agent provocateur.

Daughter 2.0® was still holding my hand and announced, "I have to go potty", in the grand tradition of every six year old girl ever.  NYV siezed this opportunity to gain as much geography as possible between him and me by generously leading his Goddaughter to the back of the store, which also left me standing at this table of stuff with Svengali Steve, who says, "first we roll for initiative"...

 A few months later, I had run a significant number of demos at several area stores, having collected and painted miniatures representing Capitol Corporation and the Demnogonis and Muwajie factions of the Dark Legion, and was hanging out at The War Room, the greatest gaming store in the history of both games and stores, when Valpurgius (yes, by now he's Valpurgius and I'm Martian Banshee) announces, "we're invited to run demos and a tournament at Dragon Con".

"Tournament?  Isn't Dragon Con comic books?"  Yes, I was that ignorant.

Okay... cutting to the point now.  Inspired and tutored by Dave the Firstborn Canuck and Evil Inside Dave, the local Chronopia demo team, the best demo team I've ever heard of, we knew we had to raise the bar on terrain.  Yesterday, seventeen years later, I hosted an episode of, "This Old Terrain", in which I ressurected the remains of the Venusian jungle battlefield I had made for that convention, and which turned out to be my introduction into letting my creativity loose.  After over ten years of being stored in plastic grocery bags and moved more times than I care to recall, I brought it back nearly to it's original condition.


The pieces, mostly broken, having been sorted.

First to be mended were the banyan trees, mostly because they have the most readily identifiable components.
Next was the Crunchberry Tree forest, because this collection of hacked up artificial flowers is the most memorable, though not my favorite, feature of the terrain set.
The Magnolia seed pods are the only remnants of my Martian Desert terrain, and will now take the place of the long-lost Venusian Blue Spruce trees.  I like these because not only did I acquire them by picking them up for free from under a magnolia tree, the "pod" appearance at this scale inspires me to use them as a "natural hazard, malicious flora" adding an seldom used feature to my games.
Last up are the Oak Leaf palm trees, which also used to see a lot of duty when I was gaming Vietnam.

The set stretched out on a 3ft X 6ft table ready for Bugs to explore the Pleistocene era of Sol III.

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