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Origins:  A View from the News Bunker

By Justin Hall Gang Members - Bob, the man in the pink shirt, has a wildly funny joke planned. Everyone else is smiling because they haven't heard it yet. For a $50 ticket to Origins, you could play nearly any board game, card game, role-playing game or metal miniatures game ever invented, straight for almost fifty hours - if you weren't strapped to large ex-military gamers hungry for news.

Our General Jim dictated a strict regiment of news-gathering, so we've established a beachhead in a conference room on the first floor of the Red Roof Inn across from the convention center. At any one time, there's at least one or two bearded men hunkered down over their laptops struggling with the database and those few survivors back at the company. It's been two days since we ate anywhere outside of here - cheesesteak remnants wrapped in foil sit next to a drip dry bottle of Reisling.

Jim's military training has fostered a deep team ethic for him. If there's one producer who hasn't finished their stories, then Jim stays up with that person until they get their writing finished. Even if Jim's finished. Even if it's bleary-eyed three in the morning. And then he's up by ten to continue leading the troops. While I admire his dedication and I'm astonished at his discipline, I pride myself on leading a more balanced life at Origins. I play at least an hour or so a day of Faselei on the Neo Geo Pocket Color, so I can remember what carefree pleasure feels like. Then I take a moment to remind the others, and quickly dodge a large flying elbow.

Occasionally people pull their heads out of the world of Unplugged news and tell stories: military history, war stories, memories of gaming past. Bob recounts the historical path of the vikings, from marauding fun-loving Scandinavian hordes to elite guards for the Byzantine empire. Bob recounts his time dressed up as a British soldier in a reenactment of Revolutionary War era skirmishes - marching in wooden shoes, in the snow from Trenton New Jersey to Princeton New Jersey, wearing thin wool and a bearskin cap. Bob explaining how good chocolate melts at body temperature, and suggesting ways to test this theory.

It's an intense time - bonding during fifteen hour work days, gathering around a long wooden table in green leather captain's chairs. "While you were at the conference Justin, we really missed you. But we'll take better aim next time." Bob says.


Our Historical Miniatures Wargaming Editor Bob has brought a gastronomical touch with him on the road - while we are slaving away in a generic hotel conference room, Bob is serving us salted cashews, homemade chocolate chip with cinnamon cookies, oatmeal with orange chunks, and uncorking bottles of wine late each afternoon.

News articles we slave to write,
so on we work, butressed by food,
and Bob Liebl each calm Columbus night,
proves he's quite a gourmet dude.

(apologies to Edward Robinson)

We missed out on his cookie "death by oatmeal" but we haven't missed out on any of his jokes. After almost each one, Jim pipes up "that was the worst one yet - below the belt." They're mostly puns, intensely obvious and unabashedly delivered. He was a high school teacher for 25 years - I asked him, "What did you teach?" "Neaderthals."

We found cheap rooms at the Red Roof Inn. The walls are thin - late at night, my head on my pillow, I fight sleep as I struggle to keep up with the social affairs of the cavorting wargamers next door. We were last minute arrivals, but somehow Jim's charms won favour with the night clerk - she kicked housekeeping out of their rooms so we could know lodging excellence.

At the Red Roof Inn, besides the numerous gamers, people from the RPGA four to a room, there's a wedding party or two. So late at night, between the sweaty geeks stumbling in from gaming, there's the occasional bright shimmer of an opulent evening gown as some lithe young beauty ascends to the elevator with her freshly shaven cohort. It's a reminder that outside of this world of gruff, bearded gaming, there is a world including skinny pritty people. I figure those are the people that got out of wargaming after Avalon Hill went downhill.

HunkerBunker - Bearded writers sit hunched over their computers, feeding the insatiable hunger of readers waiting for breaking Wargames News.Occasionally Jim would hoist two laptops and three digital cameras across his chest, and wade into Origins itself. While he was firing penetrating questions at young marketing assistants at old-school wargame companies now owned by "HasBorg," around him the Unplugged community was gaming their days away. Most of them were bearded military looking men, like the dedicated gamers I was with, but a few were youngsters. How does the youth of today slip into the depraved cycle of miniatures wargaming?

It turns out that Magic is a gateway game.

Sometimes I wonder if collectible card games aren't the height of consumerism. In order to stay on top of the game, players keep buying stacks and stacks of painted cardboard. Magic: The Gathering, the leading collectible card game, has sold well over one billion cards since it was first published a mere four years ago. Since then there have been dozens of imitators and excellent games, both printed upon millions upon millions of cards. It's an orgy of mindless purchasing!

I decided to explore the pheonomenon by buying more cards for myself. At DragonCon, I bought a starter deck and a few booster packs for an old and underplayed game Illuminati: New World Order. Then, before I had a chance to play that game more than once, I decided it was time to buy another game. This time, I bought a box with six starter decks for NetRunner. I picked this one because cyberpunk has always tickled my sense of adventure (I loved Neuromancer, Circuit's Edge, and I'm loving Deus Ex still), and because I had a chance to interview Peter Adkinson the founder and president of Wizards of the Coast, the pre-eminent publisher of collectible card games, and he mentioned that Richard Garfield, card game designer par exellance, said that NetRunner was his most elegantly designed game. It's a two player card game and the rulebook is over fifty pages long!



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Table of Contents
A View from the News Bunker
Unplugging Games
The Next Generation of Bearded Men
The Species of Origins
History of Origins
History of Miniatures


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