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30 Apr 2007

The War on Terror, LA style

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We get up early, not altogether with it after yesterday's marathon desert purgatory. We need to help Bill prepare Meltdown Comics for the world's first War on Terror Tournament. Spirits run high, even if our blood sugar doesn't.

When we get to Meltdown on Sunset Boulevard, we're immediately impressed at the rather insane lengths Bill has gone to for this tournament. There are giant posters up all over the place, American flags, colourful backdrops, bins filled with ice and chilled beer, ammo cases, army hats, sofas, snacks ... this man has gone to town. At this point we're hoping it's just going to be us four, hanging out and drinking all weekend.

Tom and Andy S rush off to Home Depot just before the doors open to get some mural painting equipment. Meltdown's owner, Francisco has set aside a large, white wall for Tom and a mixture of fear and excitement soon sets him on his feverish way.

With new tournament rules to hand, the first group of five are well into a game before midday. Then another four turn up and another four. There's shouting, laughing, cursing and happy chaos filling the room - it's a lovely sight.

There are people from Al Gore's cable network covering the entire weekend, so with two camera crews, there's a bit of tussle for premium angles. We were hoping for some 'Man Bites Dog' crew-on-crew violence, but sadly everyone got on just fine. That's the thing about Los Angeleans - they're just too damn friendly and nice.

There's shouting, laughing, cursing and happy chaos filling the room - it's a lovely sight. The rest of Day One is spent advising on tricky rule decisions, illicitly helping out weaker parties and generally soaking it all in. It's quite an unusual and - dare we say it - special event: strangers from different walks of life coming together to play this strange game. Some of them really get into it as well, playing up to 4 games over the two days. We get a great mix of people along over the weekend. Even the technician for the Happy Mondays stopped by. But that's about as celebrity as it got.

DAY TWO: We kick-start the following day by heading to Mann's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. We're told this is the place to be if we want to draw in even more people than yesterday, so we don the jumpsuits, grab a load of flyers and jump in the van.

We've already got a feel for Hollywood as not quite being the place you might imagine. It's got a pleasant, slightly seedy atmosphere and everything's a little run down, with pockets of both insanity and genius liberally sprinkled around. Mann's Chinese Theatre is definitely a pocket of the former. In fact, it's a refined concentration of pure looniness.

First off, it's the place to promote anything and everything. That means wearing an orange jumpsuit and shouting "War on Terror! Play the War on Terror!" does NOT get you noticed. We positively blended in. Catwoman was the first 'character' to express an interest. She looked pretty bored with being Catwoman, so talking about a satirical boardgame seemed welcome relief. Catwoman was surprisingly lucid and vocal on the subject for a cartoon supervillain and Superman was soon drawn into the huddle. Superman was very keen on the idea and was all up for having a game there and then on the famous star-emblazoned pavement (sorry, sidewalk), but a photo request sadly pulled him away again.

We met a couple of kids on their way back home from a big night out who declared they would take the "detour of their lives" to attend the WoT Tournament. We gave one of them a free balaclava as a reward and he pulled it on immediately and then ran off to scare Elvis.

Meanwhile a heated argument was breaking out between Princess Lea, Andy T and Catwoman. Princess Lea had apparently spent too much time in orbit, since it was difficult - to say the least - to get even the most basic of facts through to her. How, for example, do you begin to explain to someone that Saddam Hussein was not piloting one of the planes that hit the World Trade Centre on 9/11?

After almost two hours wearing boiler suits in the midday heat, talking to random crazy, funny and scared people, surrounded by slasher movie villains and bickering superheroes, we had to call it a day.

Back at Meltdown and our work had - thankfully - born fruit. Balaclava dude was there playing a particularly heated game with his mate. They both agreed this was the best thing they'd done since being in LA. Result! He gets a raven on a skull for being such a hardcore nutter.

Elsewhere, the highscore table is getting cramped near the top. We present Miro, an eight year old kid who double-nuked his own Mum (who then nuked him back) a special reward of a signed set for being such a pre-emptive hero. Miro wants to "put the world straight" when he grows up. The kid's had a good start.

The end of the Tournament and a brief prize-giving ceremony sees smiles and tears all round. We can't all be winners. And yet, we all are. Isn't that cool?

That evening, we go out with Bill and Catwoman for a farewell meal. Conversation takes some weird turns and - for once - stays clear of the War on Terror. Sexual politics and anthropomorphic ducks are on the agenda instead.

After a final day in LA, we're all smitten. It's a great place, full of weird and wonderful people. We'll miss it for sure. A special shout-out to Bill Gilman for his endless hospitality and for having the balls and ingenuity to pull off this sort of event. We couldn't imagine a more fitting end to such a fantastic and educational trip.

America. Fuck yeh!

Posted by TerrorBull Games on 30 April 2007 - 0 comments

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