Sunday, August 22, 2010

Two movies...

...I didn't believe that I would see on R1 DVD, let alone Blu-ray: Star Crash and Shogun Assassin.

Star Crash was an Italian production, and was reportedly conceived as being a Harryhausen-type fantasy film set in space. But then Star Wars was released...

This is one of those odd films that I remember as being a "lost" movie in my memory. It never played here, if I remember correctly, or I'm sure that we would have gone to see it. Much like many Japanese science-fiction films, to my young eyes it seemed like it really was from some other planet. My earliest recollections of it are stills published in Starlog and some of the lower-budget pulpy-paper sci-fi magazines of the late 70s and early 80s, like Media Spotlight. I've read that it ran on cable occasionally, but I never caught it there, either. The only time I've seen live-action shots from it was when I saw the trailer on a compilation tape. The DVD and Blu-ray are due in mid-September.

Shogun Assassin is the notorious American re-edit of the first two Sword of Vengeance films, based on the popular Lone Wolf and Cub manga series, for the British and American movie circuit.

Again, this is another film that I had not seen but read plenty about it. This time I knew it wasn't "lost"; it had been shown in U.S. theaters and released on video, so I knew it actually existed. It wouldn't have played at any of the local theaters and the tape would not have been available at the public library, Chuck Stewart's, Video Movie Center (anyone local remember those?) or any of the other local rental shops.

Although the original Japanese film series became available on R1 DVD, Shogun Assassin remains important as a historical artifact. It works on its own as a movie, but more importantly it represents the influence of the Japanese cinema in general on U.S. audiences (at the same time as kung-fu movies from Hong Kong were incredibly popular here), and specifically the influence of the Lone Wolf and Cub mythology. The manga series would not be published in English until 1987. Shogun Assassin on Blu-ray is out this week.

A bonus image: the cover for the Star Crash DVD. If you compare this cover art to the Blu-ray above, you'll notice the change in framing the title against the art and some cropping at the top. This is probably worth its own post sometime, but I'm disappointed with the cover art choices on many Blu-ray discs. At least the sides of the art are not cropped, as with many Blu-rays.

I'm grateful to have the films presented in such quality, of course, that's the important part. However, the more square-shaped Blu-ray case causes the taller DVD art to be squished most of the time. My own personal preference for DVDs (and Blu) is to have the original poster art used for the covers, or at the very least given a prominent place on the back. I suppose it's just the historian/collector in me.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gen Con 2010 Report

The semester is over, which means I have a chance to write a post-Gen Con report.

The Good

Attendance appeared to be up, from the crowds I saw. All of the publisher reports that I have read said that sales were good, and the con officially broke the 30,000 attendees mark. Very good news, indeed.

I was able to see just about everything that I wanted to and pick up the items I was most interested in. I also found a few surprises.

My main goal was to get a copy of Shadow, Sword & Spell at the show. Their booth was my first stop, and I had my copy signed by one of the authors. They took my name and email address and I got the PDF of the book by email two days later. $12 for print and PDF -- bonus! Rogue Games is building more online support for the game and really pushing customer service.

I found a copy of Villainy Amok for half-price at Chimera Hobby Shop's booth. This is Hero Games' sourcebook of seven classic superhero scenarios, packed with dozens of variations on each. I've wanted this book for quite a while. The plots and story ideas can be lifted and dropped into almost any genre of RPG. I've had a certain one of these in mind since the start of the Freeport campaign, so the book will be used!

BoardGameGeek wins the Diana Jones Award! Very well-deserved!

In all my years of gaming, I've never owned any Gamescience dice. I could hardly call myself a goober without owning some of Col. Zocchi's precision-edge dice. I found a good deal on one of their "Color Explosion" sets. It includes 12 different dice -- translucent, opaque, glow-in-the-dark, all different colors and sizes -- the usual seven, plus some odd ones, including a d20 marked 1-10 twice and a d16. I think these are overstock and/or seconds. Two of the colors are discontinued, and a couple have gouges where the usual mold flash would be. They will all need some sanding, but it's still a good deal for $6.

The booth that is alternately labeled "Adventure Gaming Retail" and "Cthulhiana Corner", Steve Jackson Games and Atlas Games' Gen Con presence, had all of the usual good stuff. DV and I think that they moved last year's regular-priced GURPS books into the 3-For-$10 section this year. It sure seemed that way to us. We went in together on the 3-For-$10 deal and I walked away with GURPS 3rd. Ed. Compendium II and Suppressed Transmission 2, two more books I've wanted for a long time.

On Sunday we finally got to the Paizo booth, and I looked around for any of the Planet Stories series. The selection was sparse (they needed the room for Pathfinder, of course), with the latest in the series and...several copies of Robert E. Howard's Almuric, one of the first books they published. I hadn't picked it up yet (I'm far behind), so now, finally, I have a reading copy of this novel. And I love that cover.

As I mentioned to D., based on the booths at the show and the attendees in costume, I'm calling it: Steampunk is the new Goth. Not that I mind...

The Bad

Another book on my list was Hamlet's Hit Points, Robin Laws' new book on story beat analysis in RPGs, using the plots of Hamlet, Dr. No and Casablanca. I saw it on the table at Adventure Gaming Retail once, Friday afternoon, but then copies were scarce. I missed out on the book and getting it signed. Next year...

When I got back home, I discovered that I didn't get the commemorative d6 in the free swag bag. DVO and Mrs. Kaiju didn't get one either. It appears to have been a widespread problem. I emailed Crystal Caste but they were completely out. Not a big thing, but I do like collecting the dice.

White Wolf's "booth". Really?

It wasn't until after I already purchased Villainy Amok that I spotted it on Chimera's Buy-One-Get-Three-Free shelf, along with various Freeport books that I could have used and the reprint Judges Guild d20 books.

I spent more on food than on gaming goodies, and that includes Mrs. Kaiju's blue anime wig.

I don't mind the cos-players, the more con attendees the better -- they are helping to subsidize the stuff that I like. However, I don't know if it's necessary to wear a costume that takes up a lot of space for the entire weekend. I usually enjoy walking through the con center, but this is the first time I found myself walking outside so that I could move from one end to the other at a standard walking pace.

Speaking of space... the convention center expansion looks nearly finished. This is going into the area where the RCA Dome sat. I'm hoping that having this extra floorspace available will help to spread out the con in a more reasonable way. Many of the events have been farmed out to the hotels. It would be nice to have more of the con held under the convention center roof, yet also giving us room for everyone and their massive cos-play props.

Soon, some photos.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Gen Con wrap-up soon

Busy, busy... Might be a couple of days before my comments on this year's show. I'm also looking at some changes using Blogger Template Designer.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Gen Con: What I'm Looking Forward To Most, part 3

Part 3 of the series...

Castle Ravenloft.

Wil Wheaton will be there, speaking and selling chapbooks of gaming stories. As a fellow member of the "video game/D&D/BBS/Star Wars figures generation", I enjoy reading what he has to say. I'm sorry, J. and G.!

FFG has a Space Hulk co-op/solitaire card game on the way. Looks like fun!

Alderac has a new version of the alternate history World War II game Dust: Tactics that looks like a hybrid board/miniatures game. I'm also interested in their Cadwallon boardgame City of Thieves.

The Cubicle 7 booth will have a wide variety of titles, including the acclaimed ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying. I'm curious about it because Steve Kenson, the "mastermind" behind Mutants & Masterminds, also worked on this. I'm hoping they will also have a copy of Barbarians of Lemuria for me to read through.

Green Ronin will have DC Adventures and some unspecified surprises for their 10th anniversary.

There are at least a dozen more. I'm sure there will be plenty of surprising discoveries to be found. I love finding something great that I wasn't expecting.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Gen Con: What I'm Looking Forward To Most, part 2

Part 2 of my look at new games and other favorites at Gen Con:

Volume 2 of Open Game Table: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs should be available at the show through Studio2 Publishing.

Two books of advice on playing and gamemastering that I've been thinking about picking up for a while: Graham Walmsley's Play Unsafe, and John Wick's Play Dirty.

Tabletop Adventures will have the print edition of the "White Box" Swords & Wizardry rules, and limited print copies of the One Page Dungeon Codex.

Chimera Hobby Shop -- this is the booth that has boxes of dirt-cheap CCGs, discounted miniatures, and row after row of RPG books at 50% off cover.

More tomorrow!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Gen Con: What I'm Looking Forward To Most

Gen Con begins this Thursday...technically -- the unofficial festivities have spilled over into Wednesday in recent years. For me, Gen Con begins Friday morning, when our caravan pulls into town. Really, though, the Gen Con season starts when the buzz for new products begins, when guests and events are announced, and the anticipation starts to build. Two months ago, maybe? I'm already in the Gen Con state of mind.

The title of this post might be misleading. What I look forward to most is the camaraderie, the fun, the shared stories and the shared history. Gen Con is the place where the members of Geek Nation can assemble and wave their freak flag high, for four days at least.

The shared history is particularly important for me. It's a continuous living connection to the past of our strange and wondrous hobby. Stop in and watch the Gen Con Auction for a history lesson, not only from viewing the vintage items but listening to the matching stories from the auctioneers.

More Gen Con nostalgia later. This posting is really about what games, products, and general silliness I'm most looking forward to this year. I was inspired by Zach Houghton's Gen Con vendor previews over on RPGBlog2, which helped me look at the company sites for several interesting new products, along with my notekeeping and bookmarking for the past few weeks as the announcements and previews filtered out. Another important resource is the 2010 Exhibitor Website Directory over at

First of all, Eden Studios will be at the show. Buffy, Angel, zombies... go to their booth and buy stuff!

Fireside Games will have scratch-and-dent copies of their popular co-op boardgame Castle Panic for only $20.

The main book I'm looking for this year is Shadow, Sword & Spell from Rogue Games. From what I've read about it (A Primer, interview), it appears to be a new perspective take on old-school pulp fantasy. By "pulp", I mean The Big Three of Weird Tales: Howard, Lovecraft, and Smith. This might be the rules I've been looking for to run a Conan RPG.

When you walk the the length of the dealers' room twice and then drag your backpack to the next game, you're going to be thirsty. Grab a Rootjack, the pirate energy drink. It prevents scurvy!

And after walking all day, hit the Geeky Clean booth for soap with a d20 inside.

Speakin' o' pirates, matey... Scotty's Alehouse is having a Pirate Gatherin' on Saturday night. I've never been there, but from what I've read this year it sounds like they are getting into the spirit of the con as much or more than even The Ram. While supplies last, Scotty's is handing out one of four commemorative dice with the purchase of a gaming-themed entree. Freeport Sea Biscuits and Gravy?!

So much for the silliness. Tomorrow I'll write more about the books and products I believe will be the highlights of the show for me.