Fantasy Flight’s First Big Box Expansion for Android: Netrunner

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The fine folks over at Fantasy Flight Games made my day yesterday with the announcement of their first big box expansion for Android: Netrunner.  Dubbed “Creation & Control“, this boxed set introduces a whole slew of new cards for the Shaper faction of runners and the Haas-Bioroid corporation.

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Android: Netrunner is part of Fantasy Flight’s line of Living Card Games.  Since it’s release at Gencon 2012 last summer, the game has garnered some hefty praise from fans and critics alike.  The theme has players entering a cyberpunk world of giant, malicious corporations and the quasi-heroic Runners who hack into their servers to steal data and disrupt the status quo.  Haas-Bioroid stands as one of the largest and most influential corporations in the Android universe and is behind the influx of biotic labor – mass produced androids that are taking peoples’ jobs.  The Shapers, on the other hand, are the artistes of the Runner community.  They aren’t trying to make the big bucks or topple regimes like their Criminal or Anarch comrades.  For the Shapers, running is simply a fantastic challenge and each line of code they write to bypass corporate ICE is a work of art.

Even though I tend to favor NBN as a Corp and the Anarchs as my runners of choice, I think there will be plenty to love in this box for me and every other Netrunner player.  The ability to include a limited number of cross-faction cards in any given deck means that players can find a lot to love in Creation and Control.


The After-Con Report: Anime Milwaukee

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Anime Milwaukee celebrated it’s 4th year recently and I was lucky enough to be in attendance.  For such a young convention, I was pleasantly surprised by the professionalism of the staff and how smooth the whole thing operated.  The Hyatt Regency in Milwaukee was a fantastic venue with helpful, friendly staff  and the Delta Center had plenty of space to accommodate the show while still being easily navigable.  Unfortunately, Milwaukee itself wasn’t quite as good to attendees.

From a programming perspective, I was absolutely floored by Anime Milwaukee.  All of the classic elements of an anime convention were there – a cosplay masquerade, the Saturday night rave, and guest panels/signings.  However, AMKE’s panels had a surprising amount of depth and diversity.  Speed dating (which has become more and more popular at conventions) made an appearance on Friday and Saturday while fans got their fix at panels for series such as Mega Man, Digimon and Final Fantasy VII.  Interspersed throughout the schedule were more interactive events such as Karaoke, Cosplay Combat Chess and Whose Line is it Anime.

Of course, I was particularly interested to see what kind of tabletop gaming would be present at the convention.  AMKE did not disappoint.  They had a huge tabletop gaming area with a vast library of games that folks could rent out and play.  For the competitive types, there was a plethora of tournaments ranging from Magic: the Gathering to Ticket to Ride.  Even with these events in full swing, I never saw the game room lacking for space if a group wanted to come in and play something casual.  It was beautiful to behold.

The vendor’s hall was smaller than I expected it to be, but had a great array of booths and shops overloaded with all sorts of interesting merchandise.  The folks from the Bristol Renaissance Faire were there as well as representatives from other Midwest anime conventions like Anime Central and Ohayocon.  I think my favorite thing about AMKE’s vendor hall had to be the fact that, upon entering, the first booths attendees would see were those of the Artist Alley – all smaller artists selling their own artwork and crafts.  That was a classy move and it warmed the cockles of my heart.

I mentioned before that the Hyatt Regency was a great hotel for this show, but I feel it really needs to be stressed.  Finding a hotel that not only wants to host a con, but is willing to have their staff don convention t-shirts and be ready with local restaurant menus and directions can really boost attendee satisfaction.  I was very impressed by the front desk staff’s calm, collected demeanor when dealing with check-ins/outs and the hotel bartenders’ ability to crack wise and have a good time when surrounded by folks in elaborate costumes.  They even opened up their penthouse restaurant, Polaris as a maid cafe.  I didn’t have the opportunity to visit, but I heard nothing but good things from the attendees, staffers and maids.

With all the good I can say about the con, it is unfortunate that the city of Milwaukee had to put a black mark on my weekend.  Many of the local businesses were nonplussed when it came to dealing with otaku and several restaurants and bars in the area seemed to actively shun business from AMKE attendees.  Now, a lot of this comes from the convention rumor mill and I couldn’t be everywhere, but the overall vibe and the few places I did go to didn’t fill me with enthusiasm.  I will give props to Rock Bottom though.  The staff there was incredibly friendly and went out of their way to make sure a few folks got fed even after their kitchen had closed.

Overall, Anime Milwaukee was a huge hit with me.  I had long thought that I was burnt out on the anime convention scene, but AMKE had enough going on for an old-timer like me to have a great time and be reminded why I love anime, Japanese culture and cosplay.  When year five rolls around in 2014, I’ll be there!


All Wings Report In!

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The second wave of ships for Star Wars: X-Wing the Miniatures Game have been tantalizingly close, yet aggravatingly out of reach for months now.  Luckily, the long wait is over and fans of the game can now head to their friendly local game store or preferred online retailer to get their hands on the Millennium Falcon, Slave I, A-Wing and TIE Interceptor expansions.

The Millennium Falcon expansion, in all it's glory

The Millennium Falcon expansion, in all it’s glory

X-Wing’s release at GenCon last year was a huge hit for board and miniatures gamers alike.  The simple, yet strategic gameplay had enough depth to satisfy the most ardent wargame veteran while being simple enough right out of the box for newcomers to get right into the action.  Sadly, the second wave ran into production issues and did not meet it’s planned release in late 2012.  Fantasy Flight did the best they could with the models they had by sending out Kessel Run event packages containing the few wave 2 models they had, but these were not nearly enough to meet the demand of a fan base that blew through their entire first print run of core sets.

X-Wing in action at the GenCon 2012 Tournament

X-Wing in action at the GenCon 2012 Tournament

Luckily, the game has not stagnated thanks to fan support in the form of custom missions, league play and continued tournament support.  Now that wave 2 is finally on store shelves, fans have new material to keep the game going strong through 2013.


Live and Let Brony

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After its first season in 2010, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has become an almost unbelievable phenomenon. The show boasts one of the most diverse and active fanbases in recent memory.  Known as bronies (for the guys) and pegasisters (for the gals), MLP fans across the country craft immaculate pieces of fan artwork, stitch together gorgeous (human-appropriate) costumes of their favorite characters and host a plethora of conventions worldwide. Celebrities such as Stephen Colbert and Gabe Newell have even stepped forward to show the bronies some love.

And what’s behind it all?  Well, Hasbro has certainly put together a hell of a show.  My Little Pony boasts an impressive cast of talented voice actors, an amazing team of animators and the savvy to leverage the show’s incredible accessibility.  The fluid animation style uses bright colors, but isn’t limited to pale yellows, hot pinks and vibrant purples which may peg it as a girl’s show.  The main characters (or “mane” as the case may be) are all female, but have the support of a wide array of male co-stars ranging from Spike, the lovable dragon sidekick to Discord, the harbringer of chaos (voiced by none other than John de Lancie).  Older audiences can appreciate a slew of clever jokes while catchy musical numbers bring fans of all sorts together in much the same way as Disney’s classic animated films.  This potent combination has created a franchise that appeals to the target demographic, but is able to reach far wider.

While the show’s message touches on making new friends by learning more about them, helping them when they’re having a problem and promoting harmony all around, it certainly isn’t for everyone.  The almost aggressively cute antics of Twilight Sparkle and her friends can be a huge turn off to some folks and the occasionally rabid devotion of bronies and pegasisters is enough to turn off others.  But contrary to popular belief, bronies are not any stranger than your average Browncoat or Trek fan.  Like ’em or not, they’re here to stay and I say that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is worth at least an afternoon’s worth of “When in Ponyville, do as the ponies do.”

You might just enjoy yourself.


TableTop Day: March 30th

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The fine folks at Geek & Sundry have declared March 30th to be TableTop Day!  This day of gaming is in celebration of the hit YouTube seriesTableTop (starring Wil Wheaton).  Anyone interested in joining in on the festivities is encouraged to head to the event’s website to find a friendly, local game store nearby.  Besides getting the opportunity to play a slew of fantastic games, attendees will have the opportunity to score some great promotional items.

Atlas Games has already announced their TableTop: Gloom mini expansion and other publishers such as Asmodee, Days of Wonder, Steve Jackson Games and Indie Boards & Cards are also on board as sponsors.  All in all, it looks to be a great day of gaming for everyone!