Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Journey into What? by Seth Oakley


This weekend I went out to play some Warmachine, a great table top game I just picked up recently. I got a few cool models, and I painted some of them up in a really sweet purple and green paint scheme. I got my dice and my army book and my iPad app with the army list and WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU PEOPLE DOING ON THE TABLES?!?!?!

Oh. Right. It’s the Magic the Gathering Pre-Release weekend. The one weekend every three months where all other geek hobbies are pushed to the fringes and no one can get table space. Alas. I guess I will just have to make the best of it and write an article for Mike about the competitive game that is Magic the Gathering. And holy shit is it competitive.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Fat Man's Thoughts on His First Crossplay. By John Garcia

A couple of weeks ago, I debuted a new costume for Wondercon.  I believe that cosplay is for everyone, and anyone can cosplay as whatever he or she wants to be, because it’s fun.  Being a big dude, I am relieved to live in an era when guys of my size can don a Superman or a Batman costume if they want to.  Still, despite this more accepting rhetoric of the geeky, convention-going community, there are a few trolls out there whose sharp tongue, or faceless message board posts tend to ruin my day despite what I believe to be the awesome thing about cosplay: just having fun.  This problem is slightly exacerbated by people who are not necessarily regular convention-goers (and a huge number of which will be at a popular convention like Wondercon). They tend to just see a “Fat Superman” and say “Eww, doesn’t he know Superman is skinny?” 

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Five Kinds of People Who Should Go See Only Lovers Left Alive, by Alexis George

Shakespearean conspiracies, century old vampires, and an immortal soundtrack

Jim Jarmusch, director of acclaimed films like Dead Man and Broken Flowers, is not everyone’s cup of tea. He’s more like the smooth whiskey you shoot down at a bar where they’re playing Iggy Pop over a spaghetti western on the tv. His movies seem more like long form music videos than anything else. The guy wears sunglasses inside, and he can get away with it, because he’s just that cool. The guy has turned Johnny Depp into a cowboy, Forest Whitaker into a samurai, and now he’s gone and made vampires out of some of the most entrancing British people on Earth.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Episode 98: Something Something Space Something Something

This week Jarys and Mike sit down to discuss the dropping of the World of Darkness MMO, the incredible show Cosmos, and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Additionally, we give a shout out and big thank you to each of the fans who supported Extra-Life when they bought tickets to The Knights of Badassdom. You all very much deserve to hear your name on the podcast, surrounded by our gratitude. Just let the gratitude flow over you like the healing waters of a hot spring. You are so awesome. And attractive. Can we be friends?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

League of L’s - By Seth Oakley

     The North American League of Legends Championship Spring Split took place over the last 4 months, from January 16th through April 6th. This was a series of 112 games where 8 teams played against each other 4 times each. The two highest placed teams get an automatic promotion to the next Summer Split. The 4 middle teams, placing 3rd through 6th place, go to the playoffs for a chance to get into the summer series. The bottom two teams get bumped, leaving the series. They can play in other tournaments and competitions during the year to qualify for the World Champion series, but they aren’t going to be around in this summer. Many teams use this Split to practice their team compositions, work on their strategies, and scope out the other competitors.

     Games are played in a studio with cameras, announcers, audience members, and a live feed to streams all over the world. These games are watched by thousands of fans, shared on social media, and saved on the League of Legends page where you can go back and watch many of them. These have analysis, interviews, commentary, announcements, and of course, full game recordings. If you are looking for the newest combos, high level strategies, powerful builds, or just wanna see what pro players are doing with the game, this is the place to look.

     Now that the Split has come to an end, it’s time for a look at what the pros were playing for the past 4 months. Without further ado….

     2014 North American League of Legends Championship Spring Split standings:

     Cloud9 (C9): Cloud9 had a great split, finishing first place after gliding through second for almost the entire series. They kicked off week 1 with a bang, defeating the team that would go to dominate the split and the national favorite. It was only in week 10, near the end of the split, that they pulled ahead again to take first place. With a final record of 24 and 4, and a head to head record of 3 and 1 with the runners up, C9 took a commanding hold on the top of the ladder, and they don’t look like they are going to budge.

     Team Solo Mid (TSM): Team Solo Mid is definitely the crowd favorite in North America right now. They led the split for 8 weeks straight, dropping behind Cloud9 only at the end and a really painful loss in the last week (that was a great game, by the way, week 11, day 2, C9 and TSM, if you get a chance). No other team has the crowd chanting their name with the same volume. They will be strong team to watch moving forward.

     Counter Logic Gaming (CLG): A strong split for CLG, but not that much to say about them. Their bottom laner is DoubleLift, well known and extremely skilled Marksman who also shows up as a commentator and analyst for Riot. CLG went 18 and 10, and stayed in third place for most of the split after a poor second week. They will face the sixth place team in the playoffs for entry into summer split.

     Team Dignitas (DIG): Dignitas is recovering from a difficult Season 3 where they were almost sent into relegation this season. They didn’t make worlds after taking losses to Cloud9 and Team Vulcan, and had an overall losing record of 12 and 16. They dance back and forth from 3rd to 5th place for a while until they finished in 4th place.

     Team Curse (CRS): The thing I remember the most about Team Curse is that their current Jungle, IWDominate, formerly known as IWillDominate, was banned for a year for toxic behavior. He was prohibited from playing in any LCS games and all of his accounts were blocked. Having reformed his ways, he left Dignitas and joined Curse to help them go 11 and 17. They danced back and forth with Dignitas for 4th, but landed the split in 5th.

     Team Coast (CST): Just out of relegation in the back end of 2013, Coast pulled themselves up into LCS and have managed to hang on to the place so far. They ended up in 6th place, the last one available to make it to the playoffs for summer. Their final record was 10 and 18. Note how close 4th, 5th and 6th places were, with only 1 game making the difference.

     Evil Geniuses (EG): Also known as Krepo’s Team, the Evil Geniuses are going to have to bring it back to the drawing board. They went 8 and 20 and only had a winning record against two other teams: Team Curse and the 8th place team.

     XDG Gaming (XDG): Formerly known as Vulcan, the new name is Ex Duris Gloria, which they say means, “From suffering rises Glory.” I don’t know if they need more suffering, but they could do with a little more glory. They finished the split 7 and 21, they have the very interesting honor of being able to say that beat every other team once. They just lost to every other team 3 more times.


     I really need to work on my transitions. There are several things I looked for in the records of the game. I’ll try to explain what the numbers I found actually mean.

     The most popular champs are the ones that people picked the most often. These were Thresh, Lucian, Shyvana, Leona, and Caitlyn. This team is missing a mid laner and a jungler (or a top laner, depending on where you put Shyvana), but shows how these champs held up throughout the split. Thresh has always been a strong support. Lucian stayed popular when Jinx got a nerf to her snare ability. He also has a strong early game, and a lot of teams used him in snowball strategies. Shyvana performed better than the late game Mundo and kept up with the early game powerhouse, Renekton. Leona, a good support, was the runner up choice to a lot of teams that couldn’t get Annie or Thresh. Caitlyn is a strong Marksman, but in the lack luster ADC meta right now, she was picked more by default than for her advantages (range is nice though).

     The top 3 bans overall were the champs that were banned more than any others. They were, in order, Kassadin, LeBlanc, and Elise. This mirrors the picks in that they banned mid laners so people have to pick other stuff and thus diversify the champ pools. Elise is a strong early game champ, has strong execute damage for taking contested dragons and Barons, and a ranged stun that everyone liked. Or hated, since she was banned. Kassadin was probably the most defining champion of the Spring Split. He was banned in 66% of the games, and 74 times out of the first 88 games. Think about that number for a second. 74 out of 88 games, if you were purple side, your first ban was almost guaranteed to be Kassadin. He was finally patched, but the damage was done. 42 teams banned him and lost. 32 teams banned him and won.

     I have the numbers for the most popular picks and bans from each team as well. The name of the champ is followed by the number of times it was selected. Keep in mind that each team played 28 games.

     Cloud9: Renekton (12) Thresh (10) Lucian (9) Shyvana (8) Elise (8). They have two consistent top laners, and a good bottom lane pair. C9 played a varied mid lane and were not committed to their Jungler either. They banned Kassadin (8) Pantheon (7) and Lulu (7).

     TSM: Lucian (11) Shyvana (10) Annie and Thresh (9), and then a 4 way tie with Sivir, Leona, Gragas, Doctor Mundo (8). The Annie focus is the only thing new here. Together, Annie and Thresh make up half of their support picks. TSM did not have a consistent Jungler, though they banned Elise (12) Kassadin (10) and Lee Sin (9), not wanting to face those Junglers.

     CLG: Shyvana (16) Thresh (9) Leona (9) Ziggs (8) Elise (7) The 19 Shyvana picks are amazing. Looks like you know what you need to counter against CLG. The problems is that Shyvana doesn’t have any good counter picks, only counter strategies. The top bans were Kassadin (14) Gragas (6) and then Annie and Pantheon tied with (5). 14 Kassadin bans soaked up a lot of their options, they were more afraid of him than anyone else. If you think about the fact that he never got banned after the 88th game, this means that CLG banned him on blue side some of the time, preferring not to play him, even when they could first pick him.

     Dignitas: Annie (15) Lucian (9) Jinx (8) Dr. Mundo (8) and Lee Sin, Thresh and VI (6). The Annie with 15 picks shows where they crutch lies. Along with the 6 more Thresh picks, this is 75% of their support picks in two champs. Their bans were amazing, with LeBlanc (19) Kassadin (8) and Lulu (7). So that’s the highest in either picks or bans for any one team. DIG was so afraid of LeBlanc in the mid lane they banned her more than any other team picked her.

     Curse: Caitlyn (15) Elise (10) Thresh (7) Renekton (7) and then Trundle and Vi tied with (6). The high number of Trundle picks is interesting in that initially some casters thought it was a troll pick (pun unavoidable), but it held up earlier in the split. Watching IWDominate on Elise was fun, but she got banned a lot too, so it looks like his back-up was Vi. They banned Evelyn (9) Kassadin (7) and LeBlanc (6). Eve scared them, so they didn’t want to see her very much.

     Coast: Lucian (11) Thresh (9) Leona (9) Shyvana (8) Caitlyn (8). This is a fairly diverse champion pool. Nothing really stand out here, the diverse mid lane was pretty typical as were the diverse jungle. Interestingly they have the same picks as the overall split favorites, just in a different order. Their favorite bans were Lulu (12) LeBlanc (9) Kassadin (8). All normal mid lane bans, and yes, Lulu showed up as a mage in the mid for a while. She was a strong member of the Stampede comp, which I’ll talk about later.

     Evil Geniuses: Morgana (9) Thresh (8) Lucian (8) Gragas (7) Caitlyn (7). Morgana was only picked 23 times overall, so Krepo was more than one third of them. She only won 9 of these 23 games, but I don’t think that these were the same 9 games. The bans were Renekton (10) Elise (10) and Kassadin (9). The Renekton ban shows the fear of the early game strength that EG saw in the alligator man.

     XDG: Thresh (11) Leona (8) Sivir, Shyvana, Elise and Caitlyn with (7). Their only big focus was on their support champions, XDG didn’t have any strong go to champions that defined their team. Their bans were similarly normal with LeBlanc (10) Kassadin (8) and Thresh, Renekton and Pantheon (5). They were the only team to have Thresh show up on their most banned list and their most picked list.

     Here are 5 champs that I thought should be on more teams lists. These are the winningest champions in the split. I chose the arbitrary number of 6 or more games to be in before they counted as winning champs. Here they are with their success records: Draven (75%) Vayne (71%) Lulu (71%) Sivir (66%) Alistar (66%). And of course, who could have the winningest champs without the losingest champs right next to them. In the same format: Kayle (9%) Syndra (16%) Ezreal (25%) Riven (28%) Ziggs (34%). Some of these really surprised me. Kayle drew 17 bans over the course of the split. With a 9% success rate, I don’t really see the point in that ban. Ziggs was another that came up a lot, he was a great wave clearing tool kit, but people only saw the profit in it 34% of the time. Riven is only notable because she was such a beast in Season 3.

     Teemo, Nocturne and Aatrox all hold the “One hit Wonder” title. Aatrox was fielded once by Curse. Teemo was brought out by Cloud9 against TSM for what turned into a very embarrassing first game of the split for TSM. Nocturne was also fielded by C9 late in the season when their grip on their title looked pretty solid

     My favorite statistic from this whole thing is this: The greatest predictor of whether a champion will be picked in any given game is whether or not it’s name starts with the letter L. There are 118 champs in the League (Vel’Koz was not in this split, so we are using 117). There are only 7 champs in the league that fit this description: LeBlanc, Lee Sin, Leona, Lissandra, Lucian, Lulu and Lux. These champs were pick a total of 208 collectively, out of the 1120 total picks. That means that less than 6% of the champs held more than 18% of the picks. In case you missed it, this explains the title of the article, from now til the next split, I’m calling it the League of L’s. The strongest predictor of a ban was whether or not your name started with a “K” and ended with “assadin.” Ok, enough for silly stats.

     Who didn’t get the love? Who is underpowered? Who needs to rebalanced?

     There were several champs that were never picked in the entire split. The names of the forgotten appear here. Many of these champs got love from other seasons, but some are doomed to the sands of time, never to be spoken of again (not actually true, the lowest pick rate of a champ in general play is only Urgot with 0.48%, and he did show up twice).

     Anivia, Ashe, Blitzcrank, Brand, Cho'Gath, Darius, Diana, Fiora, Galio, Gangplank, Garen, Graves, Hecarim, Heimerdinger, Irelia, Kennen, Lissandra, Malphite, Malzahar, Maokai, Master Yi, Miss Fortune, Mordekaiser, Nami, Poppy, Rammus, Rengar, Sejuani, Shaco, Singed, Sion, Skarner, Swain, Talon, Taric, Tristana, Tryndamere, Twisted Fate, Udyr, Viktor, Xin Zhao, Yorick, Zilean.

     After that moment of silence for our unmentionable brothers and sisters, there are a few names I would like to speak aloud to break the quiet: Hecarim, Heimerdinger, Poppy, Rammus. These are the champions who due bans from teams but never actually got picked. The Heimerdinger patch was actually a little terrifying for some time, but people got over it, and he never saw play.

     One last memory, before we say good-bye to it forever: The Stampede Comp. This was team comp that had no engage except running up and hitting you in the face. Shyvana in the top lane, Volibear in the jungle, Kayle or Lulu in the middle, Sivir as Marksman, and Lulu or someone with the Talisman of Ascension as support. The idea is to get everyone together and run as fast as you can at the enemy, jumping over them, flipping them, whatever it takes to get to the back line and kill the carries. It was amazing to watch in action. Evil Geniuses played it twice, once successfully, once not so much. Farwell move speed comp. You will be missed.

Seth Oakley is an educator and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who lives in Pacifica, CA. He loves costuming, analog gaming and role playing games. He got this job in a bar after making poor life choices and has to work through 98 more articles before Mike will give him his soul back.

A big thank you to Thomas Tan, who created the graphics for this article, except for the opening graphic. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Hubris of the Thaumaturge - Poem by Jarys

After laying waste to hither and yon
In search of the spell to, past death, live on
The Thaumaturge did regally descend
upon Stone Vale, the home of her last friend.
Clothed in long robes lined with the runes arcane,
The Thaumaturge led legions of the slain
Past timid village, up the rocky path,
To the teacher who had escaped her wrath.
The Mistress Magic paused her dead and strut
to knock upon the door of humble hut.

“Come out mentor, your offense I forgive
If now you teach me to forever live.
For I’ve yet to enjoy only the peace
Of knowing that my wise rule cannot cease.
I’d prefer not test your longevity
with pain. Accept my deal with brevity.”

Many minutes passed before a reply,
From obscured crone was given with a sigh.
“What I have ain’t meant for such as you,
Whose daft desire is farther than her reach.
With what I taught, much land you did accrue
And many were the ethics you did breach.”

Unsatisfied with this heavy rebuke,
The Thaumaturge swore not to let her juke.
This mad query, which was quickly endorsed
By notched arrows, from undead bows divorced.
They split and shred the weak wood of the hut
Revealing elder crone bare, to rebut.

The Thaumaturge did first a spell invoke.
As burning runes from rocky ground awoke.
They wrapped their mistress in a frame of Djinn;
Fleshed of swirling devils, the mage within.
A thousand keen swords from the hulk bristled.
In recognition of this feat, whistled
The crone “nigh evr’y lesson I have taught,
You’ve learned, but one. From this, I see your end.
You’ll die in that Djumble of Djinn you wrought;
Punishment for assaulting your last friend.”

“You will suffer first” The Thaumaturge cried
“Many have so threatened and sooner died.
I’ve crushed foes who’ve made a clearer appeal
“I'm safely ensconced in a mass of steel
and fire. This, my newest creation, grants
Me preservation from sword, shaft, or chants.”
With this final word and anger in eye,
The Thaumaturge lifted construct’s foot high.
But before she did as ambition bid
The spell caved, her hold on the devils slid.
Seizing advantage of her will’s release
Djinn set upon her, each taking a piece.

( Creative Commons License to Jarys Maragopoulos)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

…And Then They Dream of Love - a short story by Jarys

     Charlie had taken the early shift, preferring the long hours of prep work before the bar opened to staying at home by himself. He kept his hands busy and his mind blank by throwing himself into the prep work. This place had a long inventory of tasks necessary for a mid-end bar to keep their one hundred percent cleanliness rating. Glassware accounted for…he didn’t think about her. Fruit and other accoutrements chopped…he refused to think about her. Then dumping out the American Eagle butts from the ashtrays outside…her favorite brand of cig- no, he refused to think about Jessica.

Monday, April 21, 2014

An Open Letter to Wil Wheaton

     (To be perfectly honest, I wrote this tonight mostly for me. But I'm putting it here because I do, honestly, think it's a good idea. If you agree, share the hell out of this. There's only one way we can make this happen, and that's by having Wil actually see it. Please hit share, or like, or email it to your buddies, or post it to your favorite sites. Please.)

     Dear Mr. Wheaton,

     Please come and be a guest on the 100th Episode of the Ace of Geeks Podcast.

     I figured I'd write that first, because no matter where in this note I put it, it's exactly where a lot of people are going to roll their eyes, throw up their hands, and click away to another site. I can hear them slamming the AIM chat room doors right now, but I'm hoping one of them isn't you, Wil. (Can I call you Wil?)

     Right now, I'm sitting in a flat in London, England, on a vacation from my amazing job with my wonderful wife. She's sleeping peacefully in the next room, but I can't sleep just yet. Something keeps running around in my mind, wanting to get out, and when that happens I have to go into the next room to write it, no matter how jetlagged I am.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Episode 97: Twisted Sister Podcast

Mike and Jarys welcome Found in the Alley's Ryan and Robert (with Bryson Perez and Mae Linh Fatum) back to Podcasting. We cheer up Jarys over Colbert's new job, encourage the LARPing congressional hopeful, and throw shade on various superhero movies. Additionally, we discuss our new competition being held with the Found in the Alley podcast....Summer Movie Draft! The Ace of Geeks and Found in the Alley hosts have bid on each of their favorite movies coming out this summer and will collect points according to how each movie in their lineup performs in the domestic opening weekend. May the best podcast host win!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Three Awesomely Geeky Movies that Most Geeks Haven't Seen. by Sam Stafford

     Toward the end of my most recent tl;dr article, I suggested that if you're tired of bland remakes you might want to check out some of the good stuff in your local video store and/or Internet.  Today I'll be telling you about three fantastic geeky movies, all made in the last ten years, whose combined budget is under $1M -- that's less than one percent of what it cost to make the largely forgettable Robocop (2014).

     This is part of the "long tail" of movies that are easily missed, and I'm going to bet that you haven't seen any of them.  If I'm wrong, let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Was it Really That Bad? Judge Dredd - by Kyle Johannessen

I started this series to see if movies that get a lot of internet hate are really as bad as everyone thinks. My admittedly wishful goal was that maybe one of these films were misunderstood in some way or maybe they just couldn’t meet our exceedingly high entertainment expectations. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was… Ok. Still not a great film but nowhere near as bad as the Internet flame machine has led us to believe.
And then I had to sit through two steaming piles of garbage that made me want to rip my own eyeballs out like Sam Neil in Event Horizon. That’s right, I’m looking at you, X3 and “Other Third Film That Shall Not be Named!” YOU SUCK!
Now I fear that I have fallen into a trend and you, dear readers, have become accustomed  to my suffering as I have been asked by the fine people who run this website (read MONSTERS) to continue subjecting myself to up to two hours of torture for your own sadistic entertainment.
You are all monsters. The things I do for you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My New Brick Addiction. by John Garcia

Like many people coming out of the Lego Movie a couple of months ago, when the movie was over, I wanted more.  I was not sure what exactly.  The story was great, and it had a beautiful ending. The animation of the toys was fun, whimsical, and satisfying.  It must be something else, and after a bit of thinking and a trip to the local Target, I started to think that it may have been the product placement. 
Fall, fall I did into the multi-colored world of Legos.  It was a ridiculously opportune time to buy Legos as Walmarts and Targets were putting their late 2013 inventory on clearance.  I’ve always known and seen this type of Lego clearance every year, and even bought a few of these giant $80-$120 sets that were slashed 66%-75% off, but I bought them as Christmas or birthday presents for nieces and nephews.  This year, that marketing bug of the Lego movie was still on my back, and while I was trying to resist it, another perfect thing aligned to seal my fate: the perfect sets were on clearance. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

What the Internet's "Satire" Says About Us. by Mike Fatum

Yeah, no. That's not real.

When I was in college, there used to be a tiny little newspaper holder - one of those glass ones where you put in a couple of quarters, and it lets you take out a paper - sitting up next to the steps to campus. It was bright green, and free, and it carried a little paper called The Onion. I loved when a new edition of the Onion came through - I would grab a copy and laugh myself through the entire thing.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Episode 96: Mage has Ruined Christmas

Picture Mike and Jarys walk straight from a showing of Captain America: The Winter Soldier to the podcasting studio, and bring you their thoughts on the movie! Plus, we welcome back Seth Oakley and Stephanie Cala, and talk about this year's April Fool's jokes, how Adamantium poisoning would actually work, and the many, many diseases Seth has had.

Episode 96!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bioshock Infinite: Your Argument is Invalid. (Part 6). by Chris Brecheen

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Five

Two quick reminders:
1- This is part 6 (and the conclusion) of a multi-part article, and I’m jumping in with no recap.
2- While I’m not decoding the end or discussing the plot directly, there will be spoilers.

And so…here we are…at the end. The Art Snobs are electrocuting Video Games with force lightning of elitism, but what they don’t realize is that the “dark lord” standing next to them is a geek with a degree in humanities who is going to use what he learned to turn on them.

Time to toss this “video-games-can’t-be-art" argument down a strangely placed bottomless shaft.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Thief Reboot: Good Game/Bad Game?

Garret's just gonna take this now okay thanks
This week, Jarys and Eli got together to discuss the new Thief game. Rather than try and make it a standard review, they found their conversation interesting enough to share with us. Enjoy! -Ed

Jarys Maragopoulos
Alright, let's start by introducing ourselves. I'm Jarys Maragopoulos, Co-Host of the Ace of Geeks Podcast, and Editor for the Ace of Geeks.

 Eli English
I'm Eli, writer for the Ace of Geeks.

 Jarys Maragopoulos
And we are both playing the new Thief Reboot game.

 Eli English
So, Jarys. What are you enjoying and disliking about Thief so far?

 Jarys Maragopoulos
I'm glad you say "so far" because it should be mentioned that I am only on Chapter three of the game. We both are coming to this conversation with some holes. I have not completed this game, but you have, yes?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Connected Universe - the benefits of Crossover. by Mike Fatum

It was a moment we all knew was coming. It had been in all the trailers, the TV spots, even some of the posters. Yet, despite every surprise that had come before and would come after, nothing got a cheer in the theater the way that one, single shot did. The Avengers, standing back to back in a circle, the camera panning around, the Hulk roaring at the sky. It was a moment we'd all been waiting our whole lives for, come to life, impossibly, in front of us.

It was a moment no one would ever forget. But why was this moment, one that Marvel had been building to since their first movie as an independent studio, so important to the fans?

The answer lies in a Connected Universe.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Wood for Sheep. by Seth Oakley

Spoiler Warning: I’m twelve, so I’ll be making “Wood for Sheep” jokes every chance I get. Get off the train now if you’re not going this way.

Settlers of Catan was created in 1995 by Klaus Teuber, a German game designer and dentist. If you didn’t know he was German, you are forgiven, he has the the least German name of all of this business partners, Müller, Lüdtke, Neugebauer, and later Fritz Gruber. It is a “German Style Board Game,” which is to say that you can probably find a copy that has rules in only symbols and pictures. You will scratch your head for a while trying to figure out what they mean, and eventually fail and have to look the rules up online in your language. It also means that the game is simple in complexity, medium in length, abstract in concept and wood in shee- I mean indirect in conflict style. Players assume the role of “settlers” on the island of Catan, a fictional setting with no explanation of how you got there or why there are only three native organisms: grain, trees and sheep. They acquire resources, trade and build settlements for points.

Catan is wildly popular, winning at least a dozen awards, but the creators are too humble to put them up on their website for lazy sports reporters like me. Instead I have to look around the web to find out that they won four awards in their first year alone. (But he's still to lazy to put what the awards were...-Ed) If you haven’t played it, I recommend it. The game is deceptively simple. It feels like it is one of those games that has been around forever, like Monopoly, or Connect Four.  Catan comes in a wide variety of flavors now, so if you prefer your board games mixed in with Pirates, Barbarians, or Star Trek, you’re in luck. If you prefer mixing your board games into breakfast cereal, or your wood into your sheep, not so much luck.

"Enough" you say! "You always do this, Seth! Less history, more information about competitive play in things that I did not think had competitive play! How can I get more wood for my sheep?!?!" Shut up, almost done.

The first championship for Catan was held in 1995, in Germany at the Deutsche Mannschaftsmeisterschaft im Brettspiel, or the German Board Game Championship for Teams. This was open only to German players. In 2002, so many other countries had created their own championship tournaments that it was decided that World Championships would be held. The top 2 players from each country compete for the top slot as the Best at Settling. The world championships are held every two years. 2008 was in Germany, 2010 was at GenCon Indy in the United States, and 2012 was back in Germany. In the off years, Europe and North America both hold their own championships, because we just can't get too much wood for our sheep.

Rankings are done by country, awarding points for the success of the highest placed individual from each nation. Winning the tournament nets your country 40 points, with less going to those ranked lower. Two individuals from each country are invited based on their performance in their own national championships, and the winner of the previous year is invited, mainly to scare the crap out everyone, especially the sheep. The United States came in 9th in 2012, with S. Evan Walters taking home 24 points. The trophy looks like some kind of monument to wood with a metal knot on the top. I guess you trade it for the sheep later?

This poor man made the mistake of putting his picture on the internet with Catan and a check. -Ed

"SETH! SETH! I want to be a Catan World Champion! Where to I trade my wood for sheep?"

I don't think anybody wants that wood. There are dozens of Pre-qualifier events all over the United States right now, and your odds are not terrible. There were about 2000 participants from the US two years ago. If they have, oh, say, 39 pre-qualifiers already this year, and 25 more to come before GenCon in August, you are looking at a one-in-not-too-big-of-a-number chance. These aspiring settlers get whittled down to one representative from each pre-qualifier. Each of these is a feeder event for the National Championship at GenCon in Indiana, so winning one of these tournaments could get you transport, entry and lodging at the National Qualifing round. You can find your local pre-qualifier tournament in your area on Mayfair's website.

"Last article was about millions of dollars in prize money, so how much can I expect take home from Germany?"

Not much. The qualifying rounds only net you about $250 to $750 depending on attendance and location. This is not the advertising fueled revenue stream you are going to get with professional esports. On the other hand, we are talking about a board game that is coming up on it's 20th birthday soon. How long before we get global Elo rankings and age grouped tournaments? Are we going to see masters and grand masters of Catan? How much wood are they going to get for their sheep?

Seth Oakley is an educator and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who lives in Pacifica, CA. He loves costuming, analog gaming and role playing games. He got this job in a bar after making poor life choices and has to work through 99 more articles before Mike will give him his soul back. 

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Memory of Eastern Europe - By Eric Fuller

     We were patrolling an area where we had heard about a Croat incursion that had run into a refugee column. When we finally reached the point of collision between the rebel trucks and the refugees, I received another lesson in the varieties of combat experience. I had truly believed that I had seen the worst of the worst, that nothing else would shock me or even move me very deeply, but the sight of the calculated butchery along the dirt track taught me differently. Even the victims of the massive chemical attacks farther south had been impersonally chosen, struck coldly by systems that stood at a distance- aircraft, missiles, or long range artillery. But this time many of the bodies along the road had been killed by men who stood before them, close enough to sense them as human beings, to hear the variety of fear in their voices.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Hits Keep Coming. by Sam Stafford

The Hits Keep Coming
After I read Mike's article on Robocop, and his three observations on how movies have changed since the first Robocop, I thought to myself, wouldn't it be easier to just say there's an elephant there?
The man who touched the trunk said: "An elephant is like a thick tree branch".
"No! It’s like a pillar," said another who touched the leg.
"You’re both wrong!", said a third who touched the tail, "the elephant is like a rope."
So after I blathered at him a little bit about hit-driven economics and feedback effects and looking at pachyderms from a more holistic perspective, he said I should write an article, which is what Mike usually says when he wants me to stop nerding at him (and nerd at you, gentle reader, instead). What I'm going to try to do here is break down the reasons behind the evolution he was describing, and why we shouldn't expect to stop seeing bland remakes in theaters any time soon.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

28 Cheese Sandwiches You Wish You Were Eating Right Now. By Charlie St. Claire

      Hiya Folks! My name is Charlie St. Claire and I'm new to the Ace of Geeks Blog! You may not know me, but I have been a long time writer for some very popular websites. But none of those internet sites have ever let me write to my interests. Always this technological doodad or that summer action picture. Never has there ever been a chance for Charlie to write what Charlie REALLY wants to write. So when Mike and Jarys asked me to write an article on cheese sandwiches' rad selection, I knew my time had come. It doesn't matter that the Ace of Geeks is still small, it's the perfect place for me to express my one true love.