Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Longest Road - part 2

Local gaming hero David Zevin won the Settlers of Catan pre-qualifying event at Gamex in May. Since flying to Indianapolis to compete in the qualifying round of the Settlers of Catan Worldwide Championship at GenCon, he comes home a champion. He won the GenCon event and will be heading to Burg Wildenstein in Germany to represent the United States in the final rounds! David met with Neil Figuracion at Game Empire in Pasadena to share his experiences.

You can read the first part of the interview here: The Longest Road - part 1

Strategicon: So here we are again, David. Things have gone your way it looks like.

David Zevin: (Chuckles) A little bit. A little bit.

S: Since you left the Settlers event at Gamex, you went on to win GenCon. That was just last weekend. What was your experience like getting there?

DZ: It was a little weird. Actually I was doing some volunteer work for the Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles and there was this big tournament of the Maccabi games - Jewish junior olympics and a friend of mine needed a tennis coach. So I kinda volunteered to do that. So I was in Omaha, Nebraska for five days leading up to GenCon and I missed the first day. I flew directly from Omaha to Indianapolis and I was kind of exhausted. I got like 5-6 hours of sleep for like five nights leading up to GenCon. So it had been a wild week.

S: So you got to GenCon. What was your first impression? This was your first trip, right?

DZ: First trip to GenCon, yeah. I was a little overwhelmed when I first got there. Just 'cause it was much bigger than I had thought it was... It was like Comic Con, basically - tons of people dressed up. It was just this room full of vendors and everything. I wasn't expecting quite that. I was expecting things to be more like our Strategicon, where there's a lot of gaming going, but not a lot of other things.

S: What do you think GenCon is focused on?

DZ: I'll say it's focused on making money. Every tournament you enter costs a ticket, which will cost you about two bucks or more. The whole room is just full of people selling you stuff. Mayfair games has a giant booth there and Rio Grande Games and all these other [companies] have all these giant displays there. They'll demo games, but they're doing it in the hope that they'll sell it to you. Everything there is set up to make you spend a lot of money. It's kind of tough to get off cheap at GenCon.

S: How different is that from the Strategicon conventions?

DZ: Well, one thing I like a lot better with Strategicon is that to enter a tournament is free. And then at GenCon, when you win a tournament you actually get nothing but a ribbon for the most part, unless it's a big event which costs a lot more money to enter.

S: So what do you think the Strategicon conventions are doing right?

DZ: It's just a lot friendlier atmosphere. It's kind of a very laid back atmosphere where you can just jump into a game. You can even play a game you've never heard of before in a tournament and win your first time out.

S: What was it like competing in the Catan events at GenCon?

DZ: Well, it was a little intense. I found out when we got there that everything was going to come down to two games, single elimination games. One thing I liked about the pre-qualifier was that we would play four games and then take the winning percentage. So even if you didn't win... if you scored well they would actually take that into account.

S: How would you describe the players that you met?

DZ: You know, there were some good players, like you would find anywhere. My last couple of rounds at [Gamex] were much harder. A little luck went my way [at GenCon] but I won pretty handily. No one had more than six points in my first game and seven points in the second. I was a good three to four points ahead of anyone. In Catan that's a good, wide margin. I was never really worried, but I was in a couple of games at Gamex.

S: What was the experience like - winning at GenCon?

DZ: It was cool! It was a little overwhelming knowing that I was gonna go to Germany as one of two Americans representing the U.S. I think there are going to be a pool of 40-50 people in Germany. Yeah, we're gonna do our best.

S: You are one of the two American players going to Burg Wildenstein in Germany. What do you imagine?

DZ: I think it's going to be a lot of fun! We're staying in a castle. We're gonna do some fun stuff around there I would assume. I think it's about a three hour train ride to the nearest airport. It's in the middle of nowhere in this castle playing Settlers of Catan. It's gonna be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

S: ...with forty or fifty people from...

DZ: With forty or fifty people from other countries. Trading is gonna be interesting. Gonna have to brush up on my romance languages.

S: [laughter]

DZ: We'll see how things go. I'll learn "sheep" in a lot of different languages. That should be useful.

S: Do you have any messages to send to your potential competitors around the world?

DZ: I'm just gonna send the same message I sent in our last interview: Watch out! I'm coming to Germany. It's gonna be trouble for you guys.

S: Thanks very much and congratulations!

DZ: Well, thank you!

The next Strategicon convention is coming up in just a few weeks: Gateway is scheduled for September 3-6, 2010 and has a host of great events scheduled! Special guests include Race for the Galaxy designer Tom Lehmann and Looney Labs, who will be launching their new Back to the Future card game!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Longest Road - Part 1

This was originally posted at the Strategicon website. In case you didn't know, I organize all of the board game tournaments for Strategicon, including the upcoming Gateway Convention, September 3-6, 2010!

After decades at the table, Dave Zevin won the Settlers of Catan Worldwide Championship pre-qualifiying round at Gamex 2010. We sat with Dave for a while to hear about his experience.

Interview conducted by Neil Figuracion

Strategicon: Dave, how long have you been gaming?

David Zevin: I've been gaming since I was three or four. I was playing the games that we [Eurogamers] don't really like as much any more, like Monopoly. I was kicking people's butts at Monopoly when I was like five or six, I would say.

S: How did you get introduced to Settlers of Catan?

DZ: Settlers, I was introduced to by a friend of mine in High School, pretty close to when it came to the United States, I think. I liked it then and I continue to like it today.

S: Have you played a lot of Settlers?

DZ: I have played a ton of Settlers. I would have to think that I have played more Settlers on an actual board than almost anybody that I can think of. Almost every day in college, me and my roommate would play two player Settlers, even though the box says 3-4. We would also play with our suite-mate a lot. One of them was Pre-Med and one of them was a Bio-Chemical Engineer. They both almost flunked out, because of Settlers, I think.

S: [laughter]

DZ: We would play just way too much. Like once, twice a day for that entire year. In college alone, I played 3 to 400 games.

S: What brought you to Strategicon?

DZ: I couldn't find enough gamers out here [in Los Angeles] that I knew. So I went online to look and found the SoCal Gamers. I found out through them that there was this game convention and I said "yeah, sure that sounds like something I'd like to do." It's just a very chill atmosphere and you can get in the games that you want to get in and you can win prizes. It's cool. I love it!

S: What inspired you to get involved in the World Championship competition?

DZ: I was kind of on the fence about it actually. I knew this would be a huge commitment. I know that I'm a pretty strong Settlers player. I won the Mega Settlers [tournament] a couple cons earlier. I was happy I did it, but it took up a good portion of my con and I knew this was going to take up even more. I wanted to do it. I wanted to see if I could make it to Indianapolis. See if I could represent the U.S. in Germany. I think that that would be awesome.

S: When you got to the pre-qualifier event last weekend, what was your experience like there?

DZ: It was positive. There were some good players. I was fortunate enough to have the best winning percentage there. The first game I lost. I won five straight after that. [joking] even I lose Settlers occasionally. Five out of six isn't bad.

S: [laughter] So what was it like playing with a group of Settlers players for hours.

DZ: It was kind of daunting by the sixth game in two days. You're kinda seeing sheep in your sleep. It was a good experience. I look forward to doing it again in Indianapolis.

S: You take it to the final table at Gamex. What was that final game experience like?

DZ: It was pretty easy actually. The semi-final was the scary one for me. There were a couple of instances... I kinda had to come out of nowhere to win that one. I had to use every trick of Settlers in my book to win that one. I wasn't getting the rolls. A lot of it comes down to initial placement and I got hosed. I was able to get some lucky cards at the right time and make some good moves and I won. The final game, I was ahead the whole game. People were teaming up against me the whole game and it really didn't matter beccause my placement was better and I was getting some lucky rolls. I started ahead and finished with a pretty healthy margin of victory.

S: So what does it feel like to represent your home convention?

DZ: I'm gonna do my best! It feels good. I'm gonna hopefully represent SoCal and hopefully take down these Midwesterners and Easterners. Show 'em what we're made of.

S: What do you have to say to your potential opponents?

DZ: I'm coming. You watch out!

S: [laughter] Thank you very much, Dave!

DZ: Thank you!

Click here for part 2, with the results of the GenCon tournament and more about David Zevin's journey on the Longest Road to the Settlers of Catan Worldwide Championships!

Also, check the Strategicon website for the board game events schedule. It's gonna be a rockin' fun weekend! See ya at the table.

An excerpt from the life of Scott Pilgrim

Above is a short video from Adult Swim that excerpts a flashback from the pages of Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim series. Below is an interview that I conducted with O'Malley for Broken Frontier a few years back.

One of the breakout comics of the last few years was a book called Scott Pilgrim. Scott Pilgrim combines action, romance and rock and roll into a package that puts the funny back into funny books. Bryan Lee O’Malley, creator of Scott Pilgrim met with Neil Figuracion at the San Diego Comic-Con to discuss his roots, his slacker friends and how vegans earn their psychic powers.

BROKEN FRONTIER: It seems like Super Mario was a big part of your life. Did you spend a lot of time with your friends…

BRYAN LEE O’MALLEY: [Chuckles] I guess so. I feel like everyone around my age did. Yeah, Super Mario 3 was a really big deal when we were all little kids. It’s just sort of like the fabric of my childhood, I guess.

BF: You were the artist on the second Hopeless Savages series. Was that your first comics work?

BLO: No, it was the first thing that I drew that… (hesitating) No, it wasn’t. I worked with my friends – they were in a thing called Studio XD, back in 2000-2001. I lettered their book Last Shot and I worked with Udon for a while doing various things. I did this Spider-man book for little kids. Then I inked an issue of Queen and Country and then I did Hopeless Savages.

BF: What’s the story behind Lost at Sea ?

BLO: I was in California with the Studio XD guys. I was really angsty and had a lot going on in my mind. So I wrote this book that was from the perspective of this teenage girl. Part of the thing I was feeling was just too ridiculous to be a twenty-one year old guy.

BF: Do you feel something like a teenage girl?

BLO: Oh, I used to. I used to be like an angsty sixteen year old girl. I was just really overemotional, over-thinking everything. I was lost at sea, so the book just came out of my mind set. So that was like trying to clear my mind out a bit. Same with Scott Pilgrim, really. Just trying to clear out some of the nerdy junk culture.

BF: Well it seems like Scott Pilgrim is a pretty big change of pace from that.

BLO: It is, but more like a change… like when I’m looking back at my teen years it’s more angsty and like [makes an agitated gesture] whoooo! Then when I’m looking back a little later, like in my twenties, I’m still kinda angsty but it’s not the main thing. I’ve had other stuff to do, other stuff on my mind - relationships and friends ships and stuff like that. So I’m kinda looking more outside of myself, whereas Lost at Sea is really, really internal.

BF: Scott Pilgrim seems like the first great action romantic comedy of the new millennium.

BLO: [Nervous laughter] Okaaay…

BF: How did you initially pitch the series to Oni?

BLO: I don’t totally remember. It was a bit smaller at first. I think it was going to be one book originally. The pitch was basically that it was Blue Monday, which is one of their books – Blue Monday meets Dragon Ball!

BF: Was the reader response surprising?

BLO: It has been, gradually. We’ve been doing it for two years now. The first one came out almost exactly two years ago. At first there was not much [response]. You know, a trickle. It’s just been snowballing really, really steadily. By this time, it’s pretty big.

BF: Your hero Scott seems to be on the tail-end of adolescence. Do you know a lot of guys like that?

BLO: Yeah. All my friends are like that, and I was like that for a long time. I don’t know if it’s always been like that but people in their twenties right now are not growing up, really. They’re still acting like teenagers, [but] they’re just getting apartments and getting drunk every night instead. Having nothing really to do, they’re working in the service industry and stuff. I’m just trying to take a look at that world. A lot of my friends, it’s just like you wish they’d grow up and do something with their lives but they don’t. So that’s kind of Scott Pilgrim.

BF: And then there’s Scott’s true love, Ramona Flowers. Was meeting Hope Larson like that?

BLO: I started writing the book before – not like the actual book but taking notes for the series – before I actually met Hope. But then it just naturally developed. The love interest became sort of my love interest for the time. So she became this American girl, but there’s bits of other girls I know. It’s kind of an amalgamation.

BF: Scott has to defeat Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends. Is love ever easy?

BLO: Not really. Not when it’s any good. It’s usually not Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends hard, but it’s never super easy.

BF: Is there a particularly Canadian point of view in the book?

BLO: I don’t know. I mean it’s one of those things that it’s hard to sort of answer yourself. Like other people look at it and maybe they’ll know. I mean probably [there is], because I grew up in Canada and that’s where I spent my whole life. I’d like to think so, but I feel like a lot of Canadian fiction in entertainment, like TV and movies and stuff, [portray] and attitude that I don’t really like; like really kind of meek.

BF: What would be an example of this meekness?

BLO: I don’t know. I’m probably just making it up?

BF: Well, Canadians are stereotypically polite.

BLO: They’re polite, yeah, and sort of subservient in… What’s that other word I’m looking for? I don’t know. They’re a little too nice – almost passive-aggressive. Yeah, I feel like Canada needs to, I mean not Canada itself but Canadian artists and writers need to stand up for themselves more maybe.

BF: Well, what are real Canadians like if they’re not meek and polite?

BLO: Well they are meek and polite but they’re not… I don’t really have my point of view on this formulated yet. I’m in the process of it. I might be doing some writing for my friend who works for the CBC. You know, I’ll figure it out as I go along.

BF: I actually served your vegan shepherd’s pie recipe for a family dinner.

BLO: Did it go over well?

BF: It went well.

BLO: Some people came over yesterday and they were like “We keep trying to make your vegan shepherd’s pie and it’s not good.” They keep screwing it up and it turns to liquid or something. And it’s like I think you might be using too much liquid. You just have to use a splash really. I don’t know what they’re doing wrong.

BF: Actually it wasn’t that hard for me.

BLO: Yeah, it’s not really that hard.

BF: I guess I’m curious about this whole vegan king fu mythology that you’re creating. Where does that come from?

BLO: [Chuckles] Well, my wife was vegan for a while. Some of my friends were vegan. Some vegans are dicks about it. Not my friends – not most vegans, but some of them are like… I’ve heard vegans say things like “Vegans don’t sweat!” Like that kind of thing.

BF: [Stifling laughter]

BLO: So I just kind of built it up in my mind. I was probably reading Akira or something and I was like oh yeah, so vegans can fly and destroy you with their mind. It was like a natural progression in my mind.

BF: If you could mash up a few different bands, what would Sex Bob-omb sound like?

BLO: Sh*t, I’ve done this before. I remember saying it was early Bis and Uncle Tupelo. I think that’s a good combination.

BF: I hear rumors of a Scott Pilgrim movie.

BLO: I do too. I don’t know. Someone came by [the Oni booth] earlier and said “Oh! They turned in a second draft of the screenplay!” and I was like huh? Then another guy asked “How many drafts? How many screenplays have they written?” I don’t know what’s going on.

BF: Is there actual talk about a real movie.

BLO: There is talk. There is [inaudible] signed somewhere. There’s a few people involved. Edgar Wright was at the show and he’s supposed to be directing it, maybe. If he decides to. It’s not green lit, so we’ll see – fingers crossed.

BF: Would you want to be involved in that process?


BF: More involved than you are right now, apparently.

BLO: I’m involved. I’ve talked to the writer and the director. I’ve been consulting. I’d like some more money.

BF: Who wouldn’t? What would you want the movie to feel like?

BLO: Well if you’ve seen any of Edgar Wright’s work…

BF: What’s he done?

BLO: Shaun of the Dead and Spaced which is a British show. It’s just started airing [on BBC America] actually. Spaced is a lot like Scott Pilgrim in a lot of ways. So I think he has my sensibility. I’d like it to feel like the comics, but in a movie. I think it’s do-able.

BF: So you’re not going to be involved in scripting the film?


BF: So what’s next for Bryan Lee O’Malley?

BLO: I’m just working on the fourth Scott Pilgrim book right now. I haven’t started drawing it yet. Everyone’s like “When’s it coming out? Is it coming out next week?” No, it’s not. It’s going to be out next year, sorry. It just takes a long time.