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SnowCon 2013

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Five years of fun and games

ORONO For the fifth straight year gamers from across Maine, New England and the United States will gather at the Black Bear Inn to crawl through ancient dungeons, cast arcane spells, try to evade insidious madness and barter for sheep or lumber. SnowCon is back.

This is a weekend of live gaming, as opposed to video gaming. It's people around a table rolling dice, playing cards or moving pieces, whether it's role playing games (RPGs), strategic board games or various card games (think of everything from 'Magic: the Gathering' to 'Apples to Apples').

So you meet at a tavern

There is an old role playing trope where the characters all meet at a tavern at the beginning of an adventure. So it's pretty apropos that game masters and organizers of SnowCon will be hobnobbing at the Bear Brew to kick off a weekend of fun and games.

This year's convention is being sponsored by 'your friendly neighborhood gaming store,' Game Citadel, which is located on 720 Broadway, Suite #1, in Bangor.

'The Bear Brew will be having drink concoctions of an appropriate theme,' said Bouchard. She noted that there will also be Nerdprovisation, which is to say, nerdy improv.

After the improv comes dancing, with DJ DeHuman8 spinning Goth/Darkwave/Industrial music for the rest of the evening. 'So you Meet at a Tavern' is 21-plus and the cover is $5 at the door. It starts at 6 p.m. with the improve starting at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 18.

There is a Gaming Library which is being provided by the Bangor Area Gamers Guild (BAGG).

'BAGG has become a unique and magnificent part of the gaming community in the greater Bangor area and we love that crossover partnership,' said Bouchard. 'The members of that group are great supporters of games and gaming. It's really nice. I can't wait to see how their library is going to be.'

Last year a gauntlet was thrown down, and Game Master Chris Pierce created and will be GMing '8 Mile: Challenge Accepted, Yo' an RPG based off Eminem's movie '8 Mile.' Because who hasn't wanted to play this game their entire life?

This year there is a strong focus on gaming. Bouchard said that they listened to the people and the people wanted more gaming.

'Our first year, we had all kinds of different programming, echoing the trends of other gaming cons from around the country authors, short films, panels about GMing and LARPing (live action role-playing) and how to write your own games. All kinds of things that were very genre specific,' said Bouchard. 'We had all those things and it was great, but what we found and listened to from gamers was they didn't want to be distracted or have to make a choice [between playing a game or attending an event].'

So rather than muddy the waters with too many awesome offerings, they decided to narrow their focus of more games.

And that means more quality game masters. These are the people who plan the adventures, keep track of all the bad guys and generally ensure a good time is had by all. Having upwards of 60 unique games to play, there are more than 80 games running throughout the course of the weekend. The following guest GMs will offer incredible gaming experiences.

(Editor's note: Much of this information is from SnowCon's website):

Andre Kruppa, of Andre Kruppa of Game Soapbox Productions, LLC. is known for theatrical, full-immersion role-playing. According to SnowCon's bio, Kruppa has been running games regularly since 1978, with his primary interests including gaming with an historical element, both role-playing and miniatures wargaming.

Kruppa's current projects involve theatrical-style horror gaming with light and sound effects using the 'Call of Cthulhu' and other horror RPGs. He has published three convention-style 'Call of Cthulhu' scenarios by Chaosium as monographs.

This SnowCon, he will be hosting three games in the 'Call of Cthulhu' mythos. Details can be found on SnowConMaine.com.

Jay Libby is a local game designer who is known for his 'G-Core' game. He's also written for R. Talsorian Games and provided artwork for their Cyberpunk v3 product line. He's also written for Cubical 7's 'Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space (Aliens and Creatures).'

Libby has been gaming since the 1980s, playing classics like 'Marvel Superheroes,' 'Rifts,' 'Mekton II' and 'Heroes Unlimited.' He collects role-playing games and has 1st edition 'Dungeons and Dragons' and 'Dune.'

For Bouchard, watching the event evolve has been interesting. 'We've definitely gone from a broader focus to a more narrow focus like fine tuning a laser beam. It's really letting the people choose,' she said. 'The great irony is I don't play very often. I started this [SnowCon] so that I could play a game of Deadlands.' Five years later, I still haven't played a game of Deadlands.''

But 'Deadlands' aside, Bouchard has fond memories of five years of SnowCon.

'I've loved watching our community of SnowCon attendees. It really is a community and not just a bunch of people who come once a year,' she said. 'I love how friendly our convention is, and my greatest joy is that people are laughing and having a good time and it's comfortable.'

The convention is designed to be family friendly, with children under the age of 12 getting in free with a paid adult. But it's also female friendly and newbie friendly.

'[SnowCon is] large but not intimidating. It's a really healthy sized group. It's full of people who love, love, love gaming and love, love, love SnowCon. I think people have a tendency to go and help each other learn games,' said Bouchard. 'People are very patient. So it's a really nice place for people who are just really getting into gaming or miss it.'

It was important to keep the convention family-friendly.

'Drew and I have a 5-year-old. We have a kid who is the same age as SnowCon,' she said, pausing to marvel at attempting to run a convention while being the mom of a newborn. 'Gaming lessons are elementary. Bing a good loser and a gracious winner are important. Losing gracefully and not pitching a fit - the basics of human manners can be taught through board games and RPGs.'

She noted that children have to learn to abide by rules, learn creativity, troubleshoot situations and problem solve.

'You can really think outside the box, and with RPGs have total creative control. There's cooperative storytelling, learning empathy and seeing the effects of your actions on other people,' said Bouchard. 'In tabletop gaming, you're with other human beings. Manners are important. You learn how to talk and interact appropriately with other people. You learn how to play against or play the game against each other. The life skills are endless, and we're not even touching on the basic fun and amusement of it. Nothing is more fun than kicking back with a bunch of friends and people you really like and rejoicing in defeats [of enemies] or successes [of friends], talking a bit of smack, gloating and sulking as the case may be.'

In addition to the ongoing role-playing games and the board game library, there will also be two tournaments: a 'Settlers of Cataan' tournament, where the winner gets a free ticket to TotalCon, and a 'Magic: the Gathering' tournament.

Tickets can be purchased at the door, and you can buy several different tiers: Weekend gaming passes cost $45, Saturday-only game passes are $30 (observers are $15), Sunday-only gaming passes are $20 (observer pass is $10). There is also a Sunday-only educators and current military free pass. You'll need to bring a military ID or school ID/check stub to get in. And if observers change their mind after getting inside and realizing they want to play, they can always upgrade their pass.

For more information and up-to-date game schedules, visit SnowConMaine.com.

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