Book Review – The Lafayette Escadrille – by Steven A. Ruffin


With the centennial of the Great War upon us I expected more books and interest in the Lafayette Escadrille.  This was, after all, a pioneering group of Americans that flew for France years before the US even declared war.  Most of its surviving members went on to be the nucleus of the American Air Service.  Without the Lafayette Escadrille and its larger fraternal organization, the Lafayette Flying Corps, the US Air Force might have begun as a debacle.  Instead it was seeded with these combat veterans.

When I heard Steve Ruffin had a book out on the subject I was excited.  In the last few years Jon Guttman and I both had written books on the Lafayette Escadrille – albeit mine was a biography of one of its more “unique” pilots, the rogue Bert Hall.  I had to wonder…would Ruffin’s book really be able to stand out?  There are a lot of books about this unit out there over the century since the war.

This one does stand out.

First, it is a photo history of the unit.  Ruffin hit some of the same places I did for photos of the unit.  What he brought to the table was context.  Paul Rockwell’s photos are in boxes down at Washington and Lee University.  Ninety-percent are unlabeled.  Steve Ruffin dove into that treasure trove (and others) and not only identified the men, but where they were and when they were there.   This book is chocked full of photographs, many of which we simply haven’t see.

Some of my favorite images Ruffin included were side-by-side shots of the men and machines, then a modern shot to show the same camera angle at the same locale today.  I loved these then-and-now images.  It is a testimony to how he must have buried himself in the research.

On top of that there are a lot of color images of the aircraft.

On the history itself, Mr. Ruffin did his work too.  He did not give us a glossed-over summary of the unit but instead went to archival sources to tell the story.  This is always a favorite of mine.  Let the men speak in their own words – with their own letters.

My only critique of the book, albeit minor, comes purely from a historian’s slant only.  It’s not footnoted.  I would have liked to know where the sources of some of the quotes he had came from.  And yes, that’s me being nitpicky, but I often find footnotes useful (and in some cases even entertaining).  On a personal note:  He dug up material that I missed in my own research when writing The Bad Boy, and I want to see where he found it!

Does Ruffin break new ground with this book?  Yes.  Some of the letters he has here have never seen the light of day in a century.  He gives us some new tid bits that will appeal to WWI aviation historians.

The Lafayette Escadrille – a Photo History of the First American Fighter Squadron, is available from Casemate Publishers for $37.95.  It is well worth it if you are an aviation enthusiast of the era.  If you are a buff, make sure you join the League of WWI Aviation Historians as well, 

Book Review – Failure of Justice – John Ferak


Failure of Justice

True crime is a genre with a lot of sub-categories.  There’s serial killers, non-murder crime books, mob/gang crime, cold cases, and most recently miscarriages of justice.  John Ferak’s book Failure of Justice falls into that latter category.

It is almost like a twisted season of Fargo (which is a compliment).  A woman is brutally raped and murdered in a small Nebraska town (Beatrice).  It is every small town in America.  The crime goes unsolved for four years.  Then deputy of questionable reputation (a failed pig farmer) picks up the case.  Through deception and coercion, one suspect after another is forced to turn against others, confession and implicating the others.  Only one of these alleged perpetrators digs his heels in and claims his innocence.  It is a spiderweb of unfounded accusations and confessions that have nothing to do with the physical evidence.  Soon the “Beatrice Six” are convicted on their own mutual words and sent off the prison.

And that’s just the start of the story!

What Ferak does is untangle this complicated plot, one spiderweb strand at a time.  What the reader comes to see is that these people, in some cases virtual strangers, have been manipulated by the legal system.  It is raw and unfair – and downright scary.  This could happen to anyone.  When you watch HBO’s outstanding “The Night Of…” it is a mirror of what the Beatrice Six went through.

John Ferak kept me in-line as a reader as he unravels this story – no small task given the complexities of the case and the number of characters involved.  Outstanding work here.  He takes us through the eventual release of these perpetrators and the pursuit of the real killer.

This is a story of horrific miscarriages (multiple) of justice – of small towns, bitterness, nepotism, and the gritty underbelly of almost every community.  I was riveted through the entire book and the level of detail provided is outstanding.

The only thing I can compare this too is Mardi Link’s Wicked Takes the Witness Stand, a similar story in the same sub-genre of true crime.

Failure of Justice should be required reading in law schools as a lesson in what not to do.

Gen Con 2016 Battle Damage Assessment

Only at Gen Con will you see Kylo Ren force choking Dead Pool.

Holy Crudstunk!  What a convention.  I’m still mentally and emotionally recovering from an awesome convention.  We arrived mid-day Thursday and it was packed (61,423 unique attendees for the entire con).

No matter how cool you are, you are never Stormtrooper in a kilt cool.
No matter how cool you are, you are never Stormtrooper in a kilt cool.

My highlights and observations, as usual, are in random order:

No Wizkids this year and Wizards of the Coast was not there as a floor presence.  Wizkids once more found ways to alienate its core fan base by simply not showing.  D&D was moved to the Hyatt ballroom, which actually was much better (and quieter) than in the past.  What it meant was more symbolic – the game that was the impetus for the convention was off-site.

D&D Saturday AM.  Fun on a bun

There were a lot of kids games this year – more than ever.  It is great.  Start ‘em young and they will stay I say.

GaleForce Nine released Star Trek Ascendency.  We did a short demo-ish round of the game and my thoughts were twofold.  One, I love the idea.  Two, this thing is a beast to run, probably shorter set-up time than Twilight Imperium, but nearly as complex to play (if not moreso).  Some of the game mechanics are cool, like how you connect the ever-growing map of exploration of the various empires.  The pieces were attractive, but, as Andrew (one of our band of merry men) said, “This would be awesome on a computer where it could manage all of the logistics.”  Playing time, I was told, was around 45 minutes per player for the full game (thus two people is 1.5 hours).  It was advanced, cool looking, but you need to be pretty hard core for this to be fun.  I may yet pick up a copy for review.

This had the potential of being a bit complicated…

A lot of companies didn’t have produced product – but were demoing future Kickstarters.  I played Heavy Hitters (big jumbo robot combat) for a round or two.  We are talking Godzilla-size big.  Kind of cartoony of a feel – much more beer and pretzels than what I expected.  That could be a good fit for this in the market.

Some of the miniatures game boards were spectacular

I met with a lot of industry folks.  One of my favorites was touching base with Jolly Blackburn at Kenzer Co.  They sold out of the CattlePunk graphic novel after two days at the con!  A lot of companies had that issue – things just sold out quickly.

Warlord Games released Konflikt 47 and the starter sets.  I did sit through the demo and my thought was Bolt Action takes on Dust.  I liked the demo enough to purchase the rules (which they sold out of twice) and I hope to do a detailed review on this in the future.  This is so compatible with Bolt Action that they should release a separate book for Bolt Action owners.

A German Walker enters the fray!
A German Walker enters the fray!



An American Sherman with a Tesla Cannon maneuvers for a shot!
An American Sherman with a Tesla Cannon maneuvers for a shot!

I stopped by Black Book Editions and thanked them for re-releasing via their Kickstarter, the Polaris RPG.  Not only did they deliver the Kickstarter ahead of schedule, it was great quality and exactly what they promised.  How rare is that?

I swung by Ironclad Games and was pleased to see All Quiet on the Martian Front with actual product.  These guys salvaged the battered remains of the game system.  I had a long chat with one of the staff and they are looking at fixing the glaring rules issues and are working on creating new product!   It is a great visual game that still packs a crowd in on the demo floor.

A disappointment was that Delta Green released its Player’s Handbook.  Yes, it gives you everything you need to play the game – just none of the background information.  When is that coming?  December (ish).  Given that it took them three years to produce the player’s handbook, I’m surprised they didn’t have something that would have inspired me to purchase the book.  What good is it if I don’t have the background of the universe?  Even if it is good – it’s a fumble in my eyes.

A super-neat concept was Privateer Press offering you a full refund or exchange if you sat through their demo of WarMachine.  Gutsy move on their part.  There was paperwork involved but I was awfully darned close to purchasing two factions just for grins (when would I have time to paint them though?).  The rules are much more streamlined than the last time I played.  I have to admit, I’m weakening here…what was that website?

Mantic Games had Deadzone and I sat through a demo of it.  I loved the minis and the terrain. The game was solid, though I felt like it too had a Dust feel to it.  That’s not a bad thing, just my observation.

Deadzone carnage.
Deadzone carnage.

The lines were much smaller this year at Fantasy Flight Games.  I tried out the new Game of Thrones game and liked the photos from the TV series, but didn’t like the physical game elements or the play.  Fantasy Flight had a standing demo of a new fantasy game that looks like it leverages their Star Wars movement system and dials and such.  It looked impressive – but wow, another fantasy miniatures game?  That could be a tough nut to crack given the market.

Fantasy Flight's new minis game promo
Fantasy Flight’s new minis game promo
A home-brewed 3D Game of Thrones game that was frankly pretty awesome.
A home-brewed 3D Game of Thrones game that was frankly pretty awesome.

My troop played the D&D intro event (now a regular thing for us).  It was a good scenario but we took zero damage for two hours of play.  I grossed out everyone after my character (a Dwarven fighter that brewed beer I named “Tipsy McStaggers”) killing a goblin and licking the goo off of my Warhammer (ala Ghostbusters).  Apparently I was the only one who made the connection to the film.  People moved away from me after that.

I played in the ‘Mech Pods as usual.  I know the tech is getting old but that never stops it from being fun.

The Pokemon Go players were a bit goofy.  Seriously, you are in a game convention – you can play with your phone anytime.

The entrepreneur section of the hall was great, lots of new companies.  I played Mindworm Games Exiles, an old-west shooter.  It all came in a wooden box with lead miniatures, branded on the outside to the point where you could smell the burned wood still.  It was a neat concept but a little pricey for me.


I picked up IDW’s Back to the Future dice game for my grandson.  I haven’t played yet but I have to tell you, IDW is putting out some quality stuff out of their portfolio of IP’s.  I’ll review this later.

On the BattleTech front – I signed a lot of Betrayal of Ideals and one of my stories appeared in Front Lines giving me two books released at the convention.  By the early afternoon Saturday Betrayal had sold out (winning!)

Surprise - I had two books out!
Surprise – I had two books out!

That led up to Masters and Minions – the annual tournament between the BattleTech creativity and Catalyst business team against the uber-fans.  This year my ‘Mechs were an Executioner pained as Iron Man and a new Warhammer painted as Dead Pool.  Colin Duffy painted my ‘Mechs and is one of the best I have seen.  In the last two years I was wiped out by Death From Above.  This year the battle was brutal.  I lost the Warhammer to a massive golden BB shot to the head that caved in the cockpit.  I felt the pain coming back, that nagging feeling of defeat.  Better yet, the shot came from a ‘Mech that was falling prone.  That’s right…a killing shot to the head from a downed ‘Mech.  Go ahead and chuckle – we all did.


James Miller, my partner and clearly the brains of our outfit, guided me to not doing something stupid…”James, can I do Death From Above now?”  “No Blaine, you still have all of your weapons.”  “Grr…”  James is one of those guys that knows all of the charts and modifiers in his head.  Jacked up on caffeine infused Canadian Bacon illegally smuggled across the border and cannoli’s he sucked down during the game – James kept us alive.  There were moments when it was touch and go, but we finally redeemed ourselves.

Brent Evans and Randall Bills' force
Brent Evans and Randall Bills’ force

IMG_1270 IMG_1273 IMG_1268

We all piled on a Wolf’s Dragoon Marauder just because we could.  Those Dragoons hate to hear, “Feels like Outreach all over again doesn’t it?”

Before that head shot that took out my Dead Pool Warhammer
Before that head shot that took out my Dead Pool Warhammer
Sometimes the answer is to just pile on
Sometimes the answer is to just pile on

In the end we had three battered ‘Mechs upright while the opposition had a Wraith, which kept on winning damned initiative rolls.  We took him down, honorably.  As always the fans got to keep our ‘Mechs (though I had a set of extras painted up for my personal collection).

The BattleTech fans cornered me for many side conversations about upcoming books (remember, you are sworn to secrecy) and a lot dropped by for autographs on Betrayal.  It is all about the fans and the players.

The Wings of Glory big tournament
The Wings of Glory big tournament


Incredible miniatures set-ups are a tradition at Gen Con and this year did not disappoint.
Incredible miniatures set-ups are a tradition at Gen Con and this year did not disappoint.

Overall, it was a great convention.  Now to recoup for Gen Con 50 next year!

Non-Spoiler Review of Star Trek Beyond

Just a wee scratch
Yeah – that’s not going to buff out…

Disclaimer – I’m a Treker…always have been, always will be.  This new film is the third in the rebooted Star Trek universe and I was looking forward to it. I was not disappointed.

The movie finds the crew of the USS Enterprise in the middle of their five year mission and feeling the loneliness in the vastness of deep space.  Some relationships are strained.  Others are more solid than ever. You get a sense that these characters have been through a lot together – beyond the films.

The plot is solid.  This is not about starship combat – it is about loyalty, commitment, and honor.  The writing is almost perfect.  Bones and Spock have some wonderful one-liners between the two of them.  There was a lot of different pairing that takes place in this film that we haven’t seen before in a Star Trek film.  That made it neat and fun to watch.

I was not a big fan of the action/fighting scenes.  The way some were filmed I lost track of who was hitting whom because of camera angles and jostling.  It is a very minor nit to what is a top-notch film.

What I really like is this film stands on its own. It is not a sequel as much as a continuation of the story.  They incorporated the death of Leonard Nimoy perfectly, making it a key plot point in the film.  There’s even a homage to the original series of movies here with a single photo that says more than any dialogue in the movie.

I particularly liked the fact we saw an NX class starship here – albeit a precursor to TV’s Enterprise series.   I know a lot of people hated Enterprise, but I have come to like it quite a bit and this nod to that era was well done.

We got a new character, Jaylah, who was awesome as well.  I was a little disappointed that we didn’t see Dr. Marcus still with the crew – nor did we learn her fate.  Again, such a minor nit that it hardly is worth mentioning.

All of the internet hype about Sulu being “Openly gay” in the film was, for the most part, inconsequential.  In fact, if it hadn’t been for the hype I probably would have missed it entirely.  The internet breeds cynicism.  It turned out to be a big non-moment in the film.  Stupid internet trolls…

Overall, I give Star Trek Beyond a solid five stars.  A great film for a hot summer weekend.

Clan Wolverine News!

CAT36044_Betrayal of Ideals Full Cover POD copy.pdf

Just posting that headline I can almost hear the audible groans and resounding cheers.  I am pleased to announce that the novel, Betrayal of Ideals, will be available in BOTH print and ebook form for GenCon this year.  For many of you this is a new BattleTech novel which may or may not be exciting.  It is for me so allow me to bask in it.  

Over the years I get at least two emails a month asking if this saga, the true story of Clan Wolverine’s downfall, would ever be in book form.  Originally e-published on BattleCorps, this book has never been in print before.

I proposed this idea to John Helfers, the BattleTech editor last year at GenCon.  We both conspired to see this come to life along with some fans who kept prodding.  John hit me out of the blue a few weeks ago with an editorial pass of the manuscript and I realized that there was more we could do.  I wanted to provide some new material to the book so that the readers from BattleCorps would have an incentive to take another look at this important book.  So I crafted two new chapters, at the beginning and end of the book – leveraging some of the newer source material from the Operation Klondike Sourcebook.  The results is a very cool and robust book.  The Klondike sourcebook is one of those things I wish I had available when the story was originally written.  Great stuff!  John told me it was okay to pop the news.  

Sidebar:  I had to take a break from working on my current all-new BattleTech novel to pull this off – time well spent I might add.  Yes, that’s right, another BattleTech novel (all new) is in the works.    

When I originally wrote the book it was the subject of Internet Trolls claiming I had retconned the history of the Wolverines.  Not true!  It has been said that history is written by the victors and what we know about the Not-Named Clan came from sources that were party to their destruction.  They revered Nicholas Kerensky as infallible.  The Wolverines were the boogeymen of Clan history, an evil that had to be eradicated.  Mass murderers driven crazy with power. 

I came at it from a different angle.  What if everything printed thus far was only one side of the story?  What if the reality was something else?  What if Nicholas Kerensky was an egocentric madman who allowed the Wolverines to be set up to keep the rest of his people united?  (I know, this is sacrilege to Clan fanboys).  What if the early days of the Clans were more politics and petty jealousy than honor?  That is what Betrayal digs into. 

For the record, Nicholas had a bit of a screw loose, we pointed to that in the sourcebooks.  I mean he used the Monguls as a model for his new society iconized with animal totems.  It’s either visionary or the acts of a nut-job.  

I’m not implying that the Clans are not great.  As with any successful culture, they rarely live up to the image they like to project.  Yes, there are stalwarts who live up to those high-and-mighty ideals, but often they are not the dominant voices that are echoed through history.  I wanted to explore that with Betrayal of Ideals

I make no apologies for this book.  Personally, I think it is one of my better efforts.  The internet trolls will wail in false agony at this canon, which only makes me smile. 

This is an epic tale of a proud warrior culture painted unjustly as demons, who were brutally hunted down by their own people. It was a strange book to write since we all know essentially how this story ends (essentially).  I wanted to include some elements that would be a treat for BattleTech readers/players.  So, some new ‘Mechs were needed…and the SLS McKenna’s Pride (just because).  There had to be a flight from Clan Space because we all know the Minnesota Tribe has some connection to the Wolverines – right?  The Wolverines are fighting the ultimate lost cause and the readers know that from the very start of the book.  That means this had to be a grand story. 

Some of the scenes are chocked full of symbolism and that was all very deliberate. I really wanted to explore those early years of the Clans in a dangerous and formative period of their history.  With all enemies defeated, it was only natural for them to turn on themselves.  

The characters were an ensemble cast.  The story could not easily be told from one character’s perspective.  I wanted to make sure that the full ramifications of the Clans turning against the Wolverines were made clear to the reader.  One of my favorite scenes (and there are many) is with the Ghost Bears near the end of the book.  It was something that had impact all the way into the Jihad era.  There had to be a cost to the Clans for cutting off one of their own limbs.  I personally like the main characters and the turmoil I was forced to put them through. 

The new epilogue – well, that is something that I think people will be buzzing about for a while.  He he he. 

One of the big advocates of this book was Brent Evens at Catalyst.  Brent went out and got a new artist to do a cover for the book that I absolutely love.  The Wolverine banner in the background in flames – perfect. 

For those of you that read the story on BattleCorps, there’s some new stuff here – so check it out.  For those of you that never read it, saddle-up.  It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.  WOLVERINES!!!! (think Patrick Swayze or Charlie Sheen) 

My Annual 2016 Gen Con Survival Tips

Stompy ‘Mech Time! 

Yes, it is that time of the year again – time for my unsolicited updated list of GenCon tips survival.  These are to be treated as tongue and cheek – intended with a hint of a sense of humor.  If you’re offended, well, suck it up…this was intended to be useful and hopefully funny.

#1:  Plan in advance.  Go online, figure out what you want to do.  DO NOT try and figure all of this out while you are at the counter buying tickets.  This is like that person standing at line at Starbucks for 15 minutes, getting up there and going, “Hmm…I’m not sure what I want…”  Don’t be that guy.  Everybody hates that guy.

#2:  Pack as if you are going to be at the convention center for 16 hours straight…because you are.  Slip in some snacks because let’s face it, convention food is expensive and sucks.  Bring pencils, pack your lucky dice (you know the ones!) graph paper, phone charger, a small tape measure (for miniatures games), aspirin, you know – typical geek gamer survival gear.  Think over seriously if you need to bring all of your rules books and game manuals.  Chances are the guys running the game are going to have a copy there.  Don’t over pack.  You don’t need to bring your PC with you, I’m almost positive.  Keep it simple, keep it light.  Pack what you need but remember, you’re not setting out to climb Mt. Everest (or Mt .Doom, your choice.)

#3:  Be prepared for the rush to the main hall when it opens.  Yes, when the balloon goes up and they open the doors to the sales floor, it is a geek equivalent to the running of the bulls in Spain (albeit a little safer).  Don’t fight the masses, ride it in.  To answer your question now:  Yes, it’s that crowded every year.  You can’t get in without a badge, have it out and visible.  The Door Guards will stop you dead in your tracks, meaning you are subject to being trampled.  Also, nothing sucks more than being in a crowd of 2000 only to find out you have turn around and run back to the hotel room through a sea of angry and exited geeks.

#4:  Cosplay is part of the experience and is encouraged.  If you are going to do it, don’t design a costume that is going to injure passersby.  Think it over.  No one is more of a douche-bag than a guy that has designed a costume that is hard to get around or trips/blinds people when you pass.

#5:  If you’re going to be one of those people who stop in the middle of a crowd to take a picture of the booth-babe wearing a chain mail bikini, do it quickly and don’t clog up the corridor.  She’s not going to go back to your hotel room with her because you’re taking her photo and you don’t need a photo to prove to your buddies back at the office that there were indeed females at the convention.  Okay, that last point – I may be wrong.

#6:  Bathe and use deodorant.  This shouldn’t have to be a tip, it should be common sense.  Based on my own experience moving through the crowd, I had to include it.  Look, you paid for a hotel room right?  Go back at some point and at least use the shower.  Foot powder, toothpaste, and clean clothing (a fresh set for every day) shouldn’t require mentioning – yet here I am doing it.  Why?  Because people don’t do it!

#7:  While you have no adult supervision and can do what you want, be respectful of others.  In other words, bringing your leftover Taco Bell burrito from dinner to that 8am gaming session and eating it during the set-up is just wrong.  You do know that their meat isn’t real meat, right?

#8:  For your meals eat outside of the convention center.  First, convention food sucks.  I don’t blame the folks in Indianapolis for this, it sucked when the convention was in Milwaukee too.  It is something of a tradition to stand in line at the nearby Steak N Shake for 20 minutes at least once during the con for me, but that’s just me.  I also like the brisk walk to the attached mall.  They have a food court, variety, better prices, and it’s a hoot watching the locals interact with the convention attendees.

Go only five blocks away and there are a lot of eating places.  Gamers hate leaving the convention site, even for an hour for food, so if you are willing to walk, downtown has a LOT of eating options and the further you walk, the smaller the crowds.

The Food Trucks are your best friends.   I only discovered where these vendors parked three years ago and found their offers to be a much better alternative to eating on-site at the con.  Let’s face it, everything is better than the food in the convention center.  While we’re on it…

#9:  Don’t frighten the locals.  Look, Indianapolis really seems to like having Gen Con in town – well, at least they like our money.  Don’t try and frighten that family on the sidewalk with your Orc costume waving a sword and cursing in Orkish.  Not cool dude.

#10:  While I totally appreciate Cosplayers, sometimes the costumes are confusing as all hell.  Don’t be insulted if people ask you, “who are you trying to be?”  Corollary:  Taking any other costume and tossing on a Deadpool mask is not as innovative as you like to think it is.  (We call these folks “Douce-pools”)

#11:  There is always someone that knows the rules better than you.  He’s arrogant, overweight, and wearing a black tee-shirt (then again, who isn’t?)  Nothing kills a game faster than two guys trying to prove who is smarter about the rules regarding the splatter effect of a Mark IV plasma rifle in zero-G.  We get it, you read and memorized the rule book.  Stop ruining game play for everyone just to demonstrate your incredible powers of memorization…please.   We refer to these individuals as Rules Douches, or the more French- La Rules Douchebag.

#12:  Don’t just sit around.  Go and check out the miniatures games, or some of the big events like the Live Dungeon.  You didn’t shell out all of that money to sit and read a catalog you picked up did you?  The convention won’t come to you – you need to move.

#13:  Do some prep work if you are planning on buying some specific products.  Some companies are bringing limited quantities of games to the con for each day, or a certain day.  If you aren’t in line at the right time, you’re hosed.  The short version of this:  Make up your mind on what you are going to purchase and do it.  If you wait too long that newly released product can/will sell out.  Check the web sites and Twitter feeds of your favorite companies to see if that new product will be available and when.

#14:  Wear comfortable shoes.  Preferably shoes that do not have an aroma (see Tip Six.)

#15:  Go back to your hotel at night and get some sleep.  The convention is not designed as an endurance test.  You’ll need the energy.  All night gaming is great, if you’re young, but even then you need some sleep.

#16:  Attend the auction.  You’ll be able to tell your wife/mother/cat/significant other than that shelves and containers of games you have ARE of value.  You’ll be surprised at what games people collect and what they will pay for one.  It’s also kind of fun to see last year’s hot products being sold for a pittance of what people paid for them a year ago.

#17:  Play the demo games.  Look, games cost money – a LOT of money.  I sit in on demos, watch tournaments, etc. to figure out where I’m going to spend my cash.  I recommend you do the same.  Try some things you’ve never played before.  Think of this as a chance to test-drive new games and systems.

#18:  Don’t insult your favorite writer or game designer intentionally.  These guys work hard to produce your fun.  Don’t be “that guy” that shows up to tell someone how horrible a product they wrote in 1992 was, or how they made a mistake in an out-of-print 1989 book.  We get it, you can read.  If you’ve traveled all of this way to show off your knowledge, you’re a decade or two off.  If you meet writers, authors, artists, designers – be cool and respectful.  As a writer in the industry, I welcome comments from fans…but there is a limit to critique that I will endure, and I am not alone.  As a corollary – there is a limit to the number of things you want autographed.

#19:  Go early to the con.  Get out of bed and get to the convention early.  There’s a lot going on and the lines are significantly shorter.  I hit the MechWarrior pods usually at 8-9am when the convention hall is empty-ish.  They are a tradition I am addicted to.

#20:  WIN.  Savor your victories.  Cherish the lament of your foes as they are crushed under the weight of your killer die rolls and strategy!  Don’t rub it in, but enjoy it.  Serious dude, don’t rub it in when you win.

You didn’t travel all of this way to lose did you?  Hell no!  In other words, have fun!

#21:  Don’t wear costumes that are designed to deliberately upset people, unless those people are politicians.  You can abuse them all you want – they deserve it.

#22:  Wear something other than a black tee shirt.  At GenCon, black tee shirts are like camouflaged ghillie suit for snipers.  Everyone is wearing a black tee shirt.  Someone someday will earn a PhD studying why gamers are drawn to black tee shirts.  In the meantime, I recommend wearing something else (something clean), in a color other than black.  Corollary:  Reading the hilarious tee shirts is one of the more phone things about the Con.

#23:  Don’t abuse your demo rights.  Okay, in the main showroom, the vendors often offer short demos on their products.  These are a major part of the experience.  Don’t abuse the privilege.  I saw one guy camped out a table last year for four hours.  There were a lot of people wanting to sit in, but this guy had decided to turn a demo into a full-fledged campaign.

#24:  Remember the GenCon food groups.  Caffeine, Chocolate, Salty Snacks, Caffeine, Pointless Carbs.  Beef Jerky, while not a formal food group, is also permissible but please be discreet when eating it – no one looks cool tearing into a piece of jerky.  Yes, Caffeine is listed twice because it is important.

#25:  If you want to do free events plan on a wait or get there early.  A good example of this is the paint and take event Reaper puts on.  It’s cool to get a free mini you paint there, but everyone wants to do it and there’s usually a line.

#26:  If you want the Convention giveaways – go to those booths first thing when the doors open.  A lot of these vendors run out in the first 20 minutes.

#27:  Con-Crud – prepare for it.  Con Crud is not a variant of Pandemic – it’s the social plague that hits thousands when they return from GenCon on the following Monday.  Use hand sanitizer (you have to bring your own on this).  Load up on vitamins and other legal medications aimed at reducing colds, flu, or whatever it is that morphs into Con-Crud.

#28:  Meet the celebrities.  I’m not just talking about the “name” celebrities.  This is a chance for you to track down that favorite author or artist and shake their hand.  I make a point at every GenCon to network and meet people (and re-meet people I met years before).  Mingle and be social.

#29:  “Language” I’m noticing more and more kids at the Con which is great.  If you feel the need to curse, make sure only the adults are around.

There you have it guys – GAME ON!


Non-Spoiler Review of Ghostbusters

Reminds me of my help desk days…

With all due respect (none) for the internet trolls that panned this movie based on its first trailer, I actually enjoyed the new Ghostbusters.  It is not a sequel but a reboot of this franchise, and yes, they have laid the foundation in the post-trailer credits for a sequel.

The film is good – not great.  The strengths – Kate McKinnon as the mad-scientist engineer of the group, Jillian Holtzmann.  Yes, it’s the Egon role, but she brings us a new quirky character that made me laugh several times in the film.  When she licks her guns before shooting – priceless – a move I intend to lift at GenCon when I’m role playing next month.

The special effects are awesome.  My wife and I saw it in 3D and this is one of those rare films where 3D works well.  The special effects aside, the film has a solid plot.  It’s not a rehash of Ghostbuster’s films, but breathes fresh life into it.

The cameo’s make the film.  Even the fleeting homage to Harold Ramis is well-done, tasteful, and not overpowering in the film.  Everything was done respectfully, as it should be.   Even the Ghostbuster’s iconic firehouse manages to stir emotions with the viewers.  It’s like when you see the USS Enterprise in Star Trek – it is a character all on its own.

My only complaint was that Chris Hemsworth as comedy relief was okay (lukewarm at best), but not great.  Put on the wig and pick up Mjolnir Chris – you are a perfect Thor.  Trying to fill the Annie Potts/Rick Moranis roles is not your thing.  Please, go get your hammer.

Comparisons to the original 1984 film are almost impossible to avoid, but I will.  This film stands on its own.  The writing was solid – as was the acting and character development.  Now that we have cleared the hurdle of the film being its own entity, we can move forward with sequels.

I rate this a solid 4.5 out of five stars.  Funny, good pacing, a rollicking fun romp through your memoires of the original film.   A total protonic reversal on the cynical internet trolls!