Posts by kamus73:

    From Conception to Convention Part 5: “We’re Going to Make this Place Your Home”

    February 15th, 2013

    Let’s take a jump into our Wayback Machines and revisit the early days of GrandCon, shortly after Brian and I got together.  If you’re going to put on an event of any kind, especially one of large scope, one of the first things you have to do is figure out where it is going to take place.  It’s one thing to have a game day of 10-15 people.  It’s another to have a party to
    accommodate 50 or so.  But to have an event whose hopeful attendance begins at 200+ is a horse of a different color.  And based on some conversations we’re having, we may see attendance of 1500!!!

    My wife has had great success chairing my kids’ school auction for the past few years.  One of her primary duties was finding the space, and so it was to her we turned to do our initial scouting.  After many phone calls and an organized spreadsheet, Brian and I had about 15 different venues to visit.  Of those 15, we were able to narrow it down to 5 that seemed like true prospects.  And so we set aside a day to go around town and visit with the various locations.

    I had initially begun an entry weeks ago to let you know about all of the nuances of scouting for a location, but it began to get very long.  Let me just highlight a few of the details that ruled out some locations:

    Location #1: Starting price was $7,000!  Yes you read that right.  As Brian and I are cash-flowing this out of our own pockets—no loans, no credit cards, just good ol’ American greenbacks—they quickly eliminated themselves.

    Location # 2: Beautiful though the facility was, it was located in a terrible area.  Parking and safety are genuine concerns.  No one wants to visit a venue where you have to worry about being shot or robbed on the walk from your car to the front

    Location #3: Ideal in many ways, but had a minimum food order of $4,000, not negotiable.  Not sure that we would even
    have that many people to feed, I could not imagine having a need for that much food.  And so another one bites the dust.

    Location  #s 4 & 5: Our final destinations of the day were another hotel and a conference center on a college campus.  When all was said and done, both of these facilities had what we were asking for: they were each in a good location, the price was right, and the interiors were fantastic for our needs, though they were very different.  The hotel had what you might view as a very traditional convention style layout: a hallway with conference rooms to either side that could be divided as we needed.  The conference center had a much less traditional layout, but the interior was so much more than your standard
    conference hall.

    Then it came time to negotiate.  There were issues with space pricing, food pricing, what was taxed and what was not, and probably a few other things that I am forgetting by now.  As a first year convention, we were watching our budget very
    closely.  Both facilities had what we thought we needed, but at the end of the day, one came in about 25% higher than the
    other.  All other things being equal, the decision was made, and we were proud to place our convention at the Prince
    Conference Center, located on the Calvin College Campus.

    Heretofore I have mentioned a lot of things, but I have not mentioned customer service.  The rep at Prince has been and continues to be fantastic.  She has over a decade of experience in her field, and has been incredibly receptive to Brian’s and my ongoing vision of what GrandCon will look like.   So while not set in stone, I’m excited to lay out what GrandCon will
    look like in September 2013 (details are subject to change):

    Welcome to the Prince Conference Center!

    The Great Hall will be divided into 2 areas.  2/3 will be for our Dealer Room, for both retailers and artists.  The remaining 1/3 will be in use for our MTG Mox tournament and draft play.

    The frontroom is called the Fireside Room because its atmosphere is dominated by two flanking floor-to-ceiling fireplaces at either end.  We can’t imagine a better room in which to place our 9 tables of RPGs.

    A roaring fire to set the mood for some role playing.

    The Willow Room to the rear of the building that holds over 100 gamers.  That will house our game library, and it is
    with great joy that I can say that our new convention will be home to the same game library that visits Gen Con, with over 1000 games.

    And the final room, the Boardroom, will be home to our seminars, movies, and LARPers.

    This state-of-the-art room will host films, seminars, and LARPs.

    ***UPDATE: Since the original time of this writing back in December, we have taken up the very last room, the President’s
    Dining Room, which will house even more scheduled gaming!!!***

    The Prince is also attached to a 69-room hotel, and we have negotiated a reduced room rate for our convention attendees.   When you come down from your room you are greeted by a complimentary breakfast, and the convention is no more than 30 feet away.   Coffee, water, cookies, and other snacks will be available to our attendees all day long, free of charge.

    Refreshments await our convention guests

    We have worked hard to give our convention the feel of a mini-Origins or –Gen Con, and the details, big and small, are coming together to make it happen.  The Prince Conference Center is an amazing place to hold our inaugural event, and we can’t thank them enough for their service. We’ll see you there!
    Marc Specter

    Manager, GrandCon

    Recorded 15 February 2013

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    Robert Burke’s Battle for Souls

    January 20th, 2013

    Disclosure: I was provided a complimentary review copy of Battle for Souls. I have played 4  2-player games of BfS to provide a foundation for this review.

    Battle for Souls is a card game in which players assume the role of Good or Evil, vying for the immortal souls of humans.  You will have to keep up not only with the winning of souls to your side, but also with the use of divine powers to keep your opponent from getting the better of you, and mankind.

    The heart of the game is your basic deck of Traits, good or evil.  Each side wages battle with these Traits to win souls.  A set of similar cards as well as a set of unique cards will provide the player an action.  I’ll not go into what each card set begets, but suffice to say that much like poker, a pair is less powerful and 5 card set.  If you are not satisfied with your hand of cards, you can change it through a discard/recard or the addition of a single card to create a set for the following turn.  Though it might seem simple to decide between getting a whole new hand or adding just 1 single card to what you have, it is a decision that will impact every subsequent turn.  When your deck of Traits runs out, you reshuffle and begin again, until all of the souls have been won to a side or banished to Purgatory.

    If it were only as simple as deciding how to stock your hand, BfS would be interesting but forgettable.  The set you collect is not just for the manipulation of souls.  Depending on the side you choose, your card set might also be used to acquire Intercessions or Sins, as well as Holy and Unholy Relics.  There are a good number of these cards, and they can have a powerful impact on the game, as well as add points to your final score.  For example, having 2 pair allows you to gain a free Intercession or Sin, and play a second turn.  But if you can manage to get a full house with one more like card, you can acquire a Holy or Unholy relic.  So do you play for now, or will the next card you turn be the one you need?  All the while you have to keep up with your opponent, making sure he is not winning souls to his side while you maximize your hand.  A very difficult decision indeed, and therein the tension lies.

    Throughout the game there are 21 souls available for manipulation, available 3 at a time.  Every soul begins in neutral position, and it is up to the player to tip the soul’s balance to their favor.  Once a soul has 4-6 Holy or Unholy points, it can be won with a special Reap card.  However, a player cannot just Reap at any time, and when you Reap you may be giving points to your opponent.  Reaping at the right time can make a big difference to who gets the souls, as all souls are Reaped and replaced at once.  So you might play a Reap card that wins a soul for you, a soul for your opponent, and perhaps banished the third to Purgatory.  Deciding when to play that Reap card really matters.  And holding that Reap card back takes up space in your hand, affecting your ability to get future cards.

    The other way to earn souls is to push the Holy/Unholy point value past 6.  If you can do that, the soul is declared wholly Good or Evil, and won to a side without the use of a Reap card.  You begin the game with one Archangel/Demon to help you, but earning a soul this way allows for the revelation of another.  That both affects gameplay and is worth points at game end.  This is a powerful move, but takes valuable time to execute.

    BfS ends when all souls have been reaped and taken to Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory.  Each soul has a 3-point value.  Add to that the points earned through Intercessons/Sins and Holy/Unholy Relics, and the player with the most points wins.

    I really liked Battle for Souls.  It perfectly fills the 2-player niche.  It also supports solo and 4-player games, but I have not yet tried either.  The theme in the game is very heavy, both in the language and the art.  The art is all drawn from classical works of a religious nature.  I can see where the theme might be a barrier to some, but that only enhanced my enjoyment.

    BfS can be very luck-driven.  I played one game with my son where he kept getting 2 pair hands—a very powerful hand indeed—and I could not get anything to synch.  It seemed as if he truly had the devil’s own luck.  For those who are better at keeping track of cards this might not be a problem, but that is not my style.

    Where BfS falls a little short for me is in that each soul is worth the same 3 points.  It would have varied play just a bit if there were souls that were worth more or less.  It would have made me more invested in the decision to Reap at a particular time, and significantly affected how desirable or dismissable any set of souls was to my end game.  That said, this is a minor quibble, and one that could be easily fixed with some additional souls.

    Overall I see Battle for Souls as a very enjoyable 2-player game that can be pulled out for a lunchtime game or for part of a night’s entertainment.  If you have not already gone and backed it on Kickstarter, I recommend you do.  As of this posting it has 12 days to go and is 91% funded.  Check it out at:  Battle for Souls is a solid game: unique theme, beautiful art, tight gameplay, and significant, challenging decisions.

    Marc Specter is an infrequent game reviewer, as well as founder and Team Leader of the Grand Gaming Academy, a team of game ambassadors who represent publishers at conventions large and small.  He is also half of Team GrandCon, who will bring GrandCon Gaming & Comics Convention to Grand Rapids MI in September 2013.  Check it out at and


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    From Conception to Convention Part 4: U-Con and Fanfare

    December 23rd, 2012

    I know, I know, I know…  I have no excuses.  Well, actually I have plenty of excuses—work, family, other hobbies/interests.  I had every intention of getting this blog out at least once a month.  Boy has that proved to be tougher than I thought.  My hat is off to those who do this regularly.

    At the end of my last entry I committed to telling you all about U-Con and Fanfare.  But before I delve into the experience itself, I want to give a thank you to the staff that put together both events.  Not only were they both excellent shows for their fans, but we had great interactions with the people running both conventions, and their support for GrandCon, their willingness to answer questions, and their offer of future advice and assistance is just heartwarming.  It is a great industry to be part of.

    U-Con was a ton of fun.  One of my highlights of any convention for me is teaching games.  The Grand Gaming Academy was there teaching Clever Mojo’s Sunrise City, Stronghold’s Milestones, Thornhenge’s Lyssan, and quite a few others.  There were a good number of vendors, between 5 and 10 by my memory, and we were able to have conversations with all of them to tell them about GrandCon and gauge their interest in taking part.  Personally I got a chance to play a couple games: Mage Wars and Cash’n Guns.  I enjoyed both.

    One of the truly funniest interactions was with a vendor, who took a look at our vendor agreement and said that he felt we were charging too much for a 2-day convention.  Now without getting into specifics, I’ll say that our table price is <$100, and for that you get your table with tablecloth, 2 chairs, 2 badges, power, wifi, 2 bottles of water, and we feed you 1 midday meal each day.  (Hey vendors, is there any other convention out there that feeds you?!?)  I’m no expert, but my pricing seems pretty fair to me.  Oh well, you can’t please everybody.

    Overall I have nothing but compliments for the U-Con staff.  The people were friendly and well-informed.  They had a beautiful onsite program, a great space, and everything ran very smoothly.  So that was Saturday, and Sunday it was on to Fanfare.

    Now I know this is a gaming site, and Detroit Fanfare is a comic book convention, so I’ll not dwell too long.  Our ride over was overshadowed with just a tinge of nervousness since the I-96 shooter had not yet been caught.  Fortunately, neither Brian nor I had to take a bullet in pursuit of our quest to get to Fanfare.  Now I have long since know the difference in behavior between game con attendees and comic con attendees, but walking into Fanfare really hammered that home.

    Whereas game con attendees tend to vacillate between a Dealer Room where you walk around and a Gaming Room where you find a place to be and then stay there for a while, comic con attendees are all about moving around.  People don’t sit down to enjoy their comic purchases in the same way they sit down to engage their new game.  (This has been one of the unique challenges in planning a show that brings the two together.)  Instead of a Dealer Room and a Gaming Room, Fanfare is all Dealer Room, and the energy and noise is just crazy.  Table after table of industry professional engaging the fans, it was overwhelming…and it went on and on and on.  Fanfare was very large, and something to which we can hopefully aspire for GrandCon and Grand Rapids.

    Brian and I made our rounds, but instead of a few minutes, it took us hours, and we still did not see everyone we had hoped to.  But we made many good contacts and there was a lot of enthusiasm for a GrandCon.  Everyone agreed that it was definitely time to make that happen, and I think a lot of folks were impressed with the plan that Brian and I have to bring it together.

    So overall: mission accomplished.  Not only did we have a great time personally, but we made huge strides on behalf of GrandCon, and the concept was received with overwhelming support by everyone.

    As I’m typing this we are only 9 days from the New Year.  Brian and I have been hard at work behind the scenes rallying support for GrandCon, and we have a HUGE announcement that we’ll make on New Year’s Day.  To quote myself, this is going to take GrandCon from the “little con that could” to the next level.  So very excited to make this public, but you’ll have to wait just a bit longer for my next entry.

    After that I want to take some time to highlight the incredible Prince Conference Center.  I’ve been to a lot of conventions, and this place is top notch.

    Talk to you soon.

    Marc Specter

    Manager, GrandCon

    Recorded 23 December 2012



    Family Adventure Time! The Great Sweeping of Ammowan Guest Review

    November 4th, 2012

    Today on Dice Hate Me, we are lucky to have another guest review from the multi-tasking master, Marc Specter.This time, Marc takes a look at a storytelling game, currently on Kickstarter, that is great for families and gamers alike. Enjoy!

    A few weeks ago Robert Burke put out the call offering the opportunity to give his newest game Gnomes: The Great Sweeping of Ammowan (on Kickstarter now:, a try.  Always eager to be an early adopter, I replied and said I would love to give it a go.  By the next day I had received the file.  And it sat.  And it sat.  So in addition to a review, this is my apology to you, Robert, that it too me so long to put this out there.

    Even though I did not immediately take action–despite the gnomes’ impending doom–I did think about how I was going to execute this experiential game.  This was no mere sit down at a table to roll dice, flip cards, and smack talk.  “Gnomes” was about the experience, getting the family together as a group to save the kingdom that had make its home in our yard.  Allow me to explain…

    Gnomes are tiny creatures who live in the Kingdom of Ammowan, aka our backyard (or your backyard, or local park, you get the idea).  Every year the Great Sweeping takes place, where the trolls come through trying to capture the gnomes.  Gnomes are typically very careful to clean up after themselves, especially at this time of year.  But it seems this year a few young’uns forgot and left some things around.  If the trolls find these items, the gig is up, and the gnomes are in trouble.  And so with much debate and a council vote, the gnomes have contacted us, the Giant-folk,  to help save their kingdom.

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    From Conception to Convention Part 3: Extra Life 2012

    October 29th, 2012

    The next entry in Marc Specter’s continuing column chronicling his journey to organizing a new gaming convention in Michigan:

    I love listening to gaming podcasts (especially the one that is allowing me to use his blog).  I have about a dozen on my listening roster, and I was a fan of Cody & John before they retired their microphones.

    About a year ago, they mentioned participating in Extra Life. Extra Life ( is a national initiative of gamers, gaming in support of their local children’s hospitals.  It is officially a video gaming initiative, but Cody & John did theirs as a tabletop gaming event.  The idea resurfaced this year just prior to a meeting that Brian and I were going
    to have with our local independent bookseller, Schuler Books & Music (

    Schuler had found out about us because one of their employees is a gamer, and they wanted an active group like the West Michigan Tabletop Gamers ( not only to be aware of their game inventory, but also to help make other gamers aware.

    So we were sitting in that meeting, hammering out the details of an allience, when I looked over at their great space and popped the question.  No…they wouldn’t marry me, but they WOULD host our overnight game-a-thon.  (Or at least that was the conclusion they came to after a few weeks of decision-making.)  This would not only serve as a fantastic charitable event, but it could serve us as a sort of pre-convention, and put us in front of all of the gamers we were hoping to attract to our main event in less than a year.

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    Make this Deal – A Little Devils Guest Review

    October 15th, 2012

    Today on Dice Hate Me, we are lucky to have another guest review from the multi-tasking master, Marc Specter. On the last State of Games podcast, we talked to Stephen Buonocore from Stronghold Games about his plethora of fall releases, and Little Devils was mentioned. Since we love trick-taking card games, we were definitely interested in knowing more. Thankfully, Marc read our minds and now provides a sneak peek for all you little devils out there who love card games as much as we do. Enjoy!

    I am not really a card gamer.  There is nothing that sounds less interesting to me than a night with friends + a deck of cards.  And I live in Michigan, home to that Midwest stalwart Euchre.  I could just groan whenever a fellow Michigander whips out his deck and says, “I know this great trick-taking game!”  So you can see why, given the nature of Little Devils, it was with significant reservation that I made my approach.

    BUT BOY WAS I WRONG!  Little Devils has proved to me just how much fun a card game can be.

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    From Conception to Convention Part 2: The Only Ship That Won’t Sail, You Say?

    September 10th, 2012

    The next entry in Marc Specter’s continuing column chronicling his journey to organizing a new gaming convention in Michigan:

    In my last entry I mentioned how across my gaming career, it was only recently that I got involved locally with gamers who did not first begin as friends.  Gaming with strangers, albeit gamer strangers, is another matter.  Despite being in sales for the past 12 years, my desire and ability to interact with complete strangers is limited, and walking into a room full of strangers who have known each other forever is a bit out of my comfort zone.

    That is again perhaps why I founded 3rd Wednesday Gaming (3WG).  Now, let’s be Wayne and Garth for a moment and take our wayback machine back even a few years further.  3WG actually began its life as Man Game Night.  A group of buddies were invited at intervals that fit my schedule to meet at B&N and hang and game.  We had a good but limited run.  Life got busy, and after enough aborted attempts at Man Game Night, it petered off.

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    From Conception to Convention Prelude & Part 1: How I Got Here

    August 15th, 2012


    In the beginning Creators created paper. Now the paper was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the paper, and the Spirit of the Creators was hovering over the paper.  And the Creators said, “Let there be games,” and there were games. The Creators saw that this
    was good, and they separated the thick paper from the thin paper. The Creators called the thick paper “boards,” and the thin paper they called “cards.” And there was turns and a round–the first play.

    And the Creators said, “Let there be a vault between the surfaces to separate floor from  ceiling. So the Creators made the vault and separated the floor under the vault from the ceiling above it. And it was so. The Creators called the vault “tabletop.” And there was turns, and there were rounds–the second play.

    And the Creators said, “Let the paper under the ceiling be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. The Creators called the dry ground “the play area,” and the gathered pieces he called dice. And the Creators saw that it was good.
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    Sunrise City’s Bright Future

    February 8th, 2012

    Marc Specter approached me a few weeks ago about writing a review for Sunrise City. To be fair, I wasn’t sure I should run a review of Sunrise City on Dice Hate Me because of my intimate involvement – after all, I was one of the playtesters and the graphic designer for the game. However, I couldn’t not give Sunrise City the attention it’s due, and so I present to you an alternate view of the game, from outside the production circle. I hope you dear readers take it to heart, as I truly believe that this is a wonderful game that many will enjoy. Happy gaming! – Chris

    In these days of the anti-hero, it is very easy to get caught up in the dark and gritty corners of Gotham and its lookalikes.  If that is your bent, then I might advise to you take a step back from Clever Mojo Games’s new release: Sunrise City.  And if you did, you might also be missing a humdinger of a new game from one of small game publishing’s powerhouses.

    In Sunrise City you take on the role—three, actually—of a stakeholder in the construction of the city of the same name.  Through timing the use of your roles and clever tile placement, you and your fellow city officials will build Sunrise City from the ground up.  While you and your opponents literally raise Sunrise City from its foundations, you will score Benchmark tokens.  The player who ends with the most of these will be the winner.

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    Guest Impressions: GenCon 2011

    August 7th, 2011

    Although we weren’t able to make it to GenCon this year, we were lucky enough that a friend of Dice Hate Me was there – Marc Specter. Marc attended GenCon on Saturday and was kind enough to volunteer his impressions of the big show. We’d like to thank Marc for running the gauntlet for us! Also, look for a special episode of The State of Games on Thursday when Patrick Nickell will share his experiences (including interviews with some industry giants) and Monkey238 and I will share our thoughts and experiences at the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, PA!

    Running the gauntlet of aisle 800

    As the grandaddy of all gaming conventions, there is just so much to GenCon.  The events are spread out over multiple venues, and the Exhibitor Hall just cannot be taken in on one pass (or two, or three…).  This is the second time I have visited this show, and the first time I have gone to any gaming convention with my wife, who flies her gamer flag proudly.  I am going to try, however, to convey the GenCon experience.  Here goes…

    Marc's wife, left, with 2 Danaerys Stormborns

    My day at GenCon began at 8:00am with Days of Wonder’s Shadows Over Camelot.  As I walked into the boardgaming room, the first thing I wondered was, “Okay, how am I going to find this?”  Then I looked at my ticket, and promptly headed to the Boardgaming HQ.  Much to my surprise, the colored tablecloths on the tables actually corresponded to my ticket, and I found my game in short order.  It was being run by a single gamer who has a passion for the game.  Since I already knew what a great game is SOC, and what a great company is DoW, I just want to take a minute to shout out to the prepared GM.  There was nothing better than learning a game from someone who is ready to teach.  And while I do not remember his name, I salute you GM, who did a great job of running the event for us.  (He even brought a box of donuts!)

    That took us to just after 10am, in time to be just behind the stampede into the Exhibitor Hall.  And to the EH we went! Unlike other gaming conventions, the EH at GenCon is truly a spectacle to behold.  Mostly because you just cannot behold it in one sweep of your eyes.  The hall is so vast, so cavernous, that the only way to absorb is to just dive in.  Many of the big players had their grand displays, but it was the appearance of the smaller players that really drew me in.

    As displays goes, I think the EH at GenCon just has a very professional, polished feel.  The layout was great, with areas focused for specific interests.  For example, at the far left of the hall was a dedicated family area.  The exhibitors there were all focused on younger games.  As a gamer trying to cultivate a family of gamers, it is sometimes easy to forget that I did not start out with elves, trains, and Euro-style bits.  The Family area really drew that home, and all of the Exhibitors there were truly excited about the younger gamer. Read the rest of this entry “