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Austin Chronicle A Big Crowd for Little Wars: Millenium Gaming Convention

By Allen Varney

NOVEMBER 24, 1997:  The author of War of the Worlds played with toy soldiers, and his books Floor Games (1911) and Little Wars (1913) describe, for the first time, simple rules for staging miniature battles. Miniatures gaming spawned board war games, role-playing games, and today's entire adventure gaming hobby.

Wells would be pleased to see hundreds of people converge on Austin's Four Points Hotel this weekend, November 21-23, for Millennium, a three-day gamefest of dice, cards, and thousands of brightly painted miniatures.

Millennium convention co-directors Scott McKinley and Robert E. Smith have been organizing hard since January, lining up people to run events, sanctioning tournaments, and contacting manufacturers for prizes. Millennium offers a large gaming room featuring a variety of different events -- card games, board games, miniatures; another room for game vendors (a good spot to start your Christmas shopping); and three more rooms with miniatures and card game tournaments. As their limited space filled, the directors made the hard decision to exclude role-playing game tournaments -- "this time around," says McKinley. But there's open space if you want to start your own session of (say) Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the Star Wars role-playing game, or any of hundreds of others.

The visual highlight of the con: Several large tournaments of miniature battles set in many eras -- Seven Years' War (what did they call it during the first six years?), French and Indian

War, Phillippine Insurrection (1896-98), Civil War ironclads, Napoleonic era, and imperial Rome's Circus Maximus. One of the most colorful tournaments brings together nearly 40 armies from across ancient history. "You can pick armies that were not historically adversaries," says McKinley. "For instance, you could have Norman knights fighting Aztecs." Also look for popular, easy-to-learn board games like Cosmic Encounter, Settlers of Catan, the hilarious RoboRally, and the six-hour-long Civilization.

But Millennium's biggest draw promises to be its four tournaments devoted to the hit card game Magic: The Gathering. Advertised on MTV and the Sci-Fi Channel, this huge-selling fantasy card game pits two wizards in a magical duel of spells and summoned creatures. Each player builds and plays his own deck of 60 cards, selecting from a universe of nearly 2,500 different collectible cards. It's fascinating to play or watch.

The interaction of cards and strategies makes Magic an addictive intellectual game, and its professional tournament circuit offers five-figure prizes. Millennium doesn't aspire to such grandeur, but the winner of one of its tournaments will go on to play in a Pro Tour qualifying event. The con also features tournaments for other popular Magic-like "trading card games:" Legend of the Five Rings (Kurosawa-like Asian fantasy), Mythos (starring H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu and other alien monsters), Highlander ("There can be only one!"), and Battletech (giant robotic tanks on a future battlefield).

Given the Four Points Hotel's good location
(I-35 at 183), the Magic tournaments, and strong pre-show publicity, McKinley's attendance estimates seem realistic: "We're hoping for 500 people. We've gotten really positive response from both local retailers and gamers."

If Millennium succeeds, the organizers want to make it an annual event, move to a larger venue, and increase the variety of games offered. But will they themselves get to play? "I seriously doubt it," says McKinley. "Both Rob and I are going to be busy just keeping things running smoothly." -- Allen Varney

The Millennium gaming convention will be held November 21-23 at the Four Points Hotel, 7800 N. I-35 in Austin. Entry is $10 per person for all three days. Single and double rooms are $65/night including full breakfast buffet; for reservations, call 512/836-8520 and mention Millennium. E-mail: resmith@ccwf.cc.utexas.edu; Web: ccwf.cc.utexas.edu/~resmith/

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