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Battle Zone Ursa hosts wargaming tournament, and space to learn to play

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Beau Geiss and a friend are playing a tabletop wargame At Tier 1 Games.

They’re moving “tiny space men” around on a board of terrain and vehicles. A roll of the dice determines whether an attack hits or misses. And whether Beau’s tiny space men, live or dies.  

Warhammer 40,000 is one of about five different game systems available at Battle Zone Ursa. The tabletop war-gaming convention is this weekend – Saturday and Sunday -- at the Egan Civic and Convention Center.

"It's something special when a lot of people can't find games during the week, everybody's working , so you don't get off until 5 or 6 o'clock," Geiss said. "When you can guarantee yourself three big games in a day, you kind of don't care how you play or how you do, because you're playing a game that you really love to play and you get to do it guaranteed for that weekend." 

Geiss and fellow gamer Jon Quennell stopped into the KNBA studio recently to talk about the event.

"I liken it -- the tabletop gaming that we do -- to a game of chess, so each side has its own set team or army. The difference with a lot of the games that we play is you can kind of decide on what your team is made up of," Quennell said. "Where I might be able to pick three queens, and that's going to be my entire chess team. … That's the easiest way to do it, would be like really fancy chess with beautiful high-quality kind of pieces and you get to decide kind of how its setup and how it plays on the table.

And some of the pieces are beautiful: ranging from tiny models about an inch and a half tall, to the larger models that resemble robots, demons and monsters.

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Warhammer 40,000 models were on display Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, at Tier 1 Games, Anchorage. (Photo by Tripp J Crouse/KNBA)

 
"At Battle Zone Ursa, while there will be kind of serious tournament play -- or as serious as you can be with little plastic space guys -- we're going to have series of tournaments for about five different game systems, but there's also going to be open play," Quennell said. "If you're just interested in how this stuff works, there are going to be tables set up for people to come in give Warhammer 40,000 a try, give some of the different games a try before making that jump in. And also get to see up to 60 really beautifully painted armies, some really pretty stuff and gaming being played at the highest level."

There’s also vendors, so if you see an army you like, you can buy the models and get started.

"You're going to look at a different bunch of boxes," Quennell said. "You're going to pick the one that you think is prettiest because, honestly, that's the best way to go, you’re going to be looking at these guys a lot so. Pick up your box, you got little clippers and some glue to stick everything together, and then you got to paint it. This is a real DIY hobby because your spending money on these models and then building them yourself, painting them yourself. After that you get to play them on the table. Up here the community is so fantastic, if you're not sure how to build we have people here who are willing to help and how to paint all that other kind of stuff. 

 
"But it really kind of starts with finding an aesthetic that you really like or a model that you really like and just kind of picking that up and assembling and going from there," Quennell said.

The event is partially funded through the non-profit Senshi Corp., which is known for putting on a large cosplay event in Anchorage every year.

"The money goes right back into paying for this year and hopefully paying for some of next year, too," Quennell said. "Last year we had about 30 tables, this year we have 45 so we're kind of growing every year. 

We're really lucky to be able to put 100 percent of the money that goes to this back into the community to give them the best quality gaming event that we can give them. 

General admission is $10 at the door.