Weekend tournament brings together gamers
The Carbondale Civic Center chambers saw many battles during the weekend. Whole armies rose and fell, the depths of ancient castles were plumbed and fantastic beasts were felled.
Of course, they could have all fit into someone’s pocket.
The third Egypt Wars event was held Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which brought together fans of fantasy gaming for role playing, card games, board games and miniature warfare.
Scott Thorne, event organizer and owner of Castle Perilous Games, said more than a hundred people participated at this year’s event, the only one of its kind in the area.
He said it’s run by volunteers and put together by a planning committee. It follows a one-day event in the fall that acts as a sort of dry-run for new organizers, he said.
Among the many games available to play were Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pathfinder and Warhammer 40,000.
Tabletop games have increased in popularity in recent years, and one of the most popular, the card game Magic, has doubled in sales in the last three years, Thorne said.
One of the reasons gaming is gaining recognition is its replay value in times of recession, he said.
“Compared to a movie or dinner out … You can play them over and over again,” Thorne said.
He said their appeal is also tied to their social element.
And that social aspect is nothing new.
Tyler Morrison, of Sikeston, said he’s been a fan of such games since he was a kid in the ‘70s and was introduced to them by his friends in middle school.
He’s remained a fan since then, through his time in talk radio to his current janitorial business. Now, he sells books for Troll Lord Games out of Little Rock, Ark., at conventions such as Egypt Wars.
In the meantime, he said he runs weekly role-playing games at his house, which attract a wide variety of players and where he’s made new friends.
And while the heyday of role playing may have been in the ‘80s, he said, he doesn’t see himself or other longtime fans giving it up anytime soon.
“I’m sure some of us will be sitting in the nursing home and instead of playing shuffleboard, we’ll be playing fantasy role-playing games,” Morrison said.
Not everyone quite understood the appeal of the games, though.
Artist Drew Tucker, who illustrated some of the first Magic cards, made an appearance at the event.
He said he knew the founders of the game when he was going to school in Seattle in the early ‘90s.
Though he and his musician friends weren’t into fantasy games, especially in the height of Grunge-era Seattle, he took on the job to illustrate the cards and ended up doing about 60 of them over the years.
“Some of this, it baffles me,” he said.
Nevertheless, Tucker, who teaches art at John A. Logan College, said he loves coming to the event to meet and talk to fans.
And while there was an air of friendship and camaraderie at Egypt Wars, the competition was nevertheless very real.
Saturday saw the Warhammer 40,000 tournament.
The game involves armies of miniature soldiers of various civilizations, ranging from space-suited orcs to tank-driving knights. Players generally paint their own figurines and build the tabletop terrain that serves as a battleground.
James Cox, main judge of the tournament, said the involved assembly of the game is part of the appeal, though how much time one puts into it is up to the player.
“You can spend no time at all, or you can spend months,” he said.
Jason Parks, of Herrin, took part in the tournament with his large orc army, which he said is all about overwhelming the opponent.
He said he first got into the game in the mid-‘90s because he liked the models.
Once the timed games began, the sense of urgency was palpable. Players briskly acquainted themselves with the scenario they’d been assigned, then they got to work setting up their armies on either side of the terrain.
Parks kept his yellow Games Workshop tape measurer handy to figure out the range of his units, which included everything from small foot soldiers to hulking robotic warriors.
Of course, the largest of them wouldn’t pose a threat to a house cat, but the stakes were nevertheless big.
Cox said the tournament raised about $100 for charity.
And despite the good cause, the games were still about friendship, he said.
One player in his group of friends lost everything in a house fire a few years ago, he said. Within a week, they’d bought and assembled an entire replacement Warhammer army for him, he said.
Still, he was able to self-deprecatingly acknowledge the reality of their hobby.
“We’re grown-ass men playing with dolls,” he said.