Sunday, September 23, 2012

SCA Artisan's Day

I have been looking more into the SCA over the past couple weeks to see what kinds of stuff they do. On Thursday this week I had planned to go to an archery practice and then to a group meeting at a restaurant. Unfortunately the person who had originally planned to pick me u pwasn't able to because he didn't have time; he had originally agreed to pick me up but then after I told him where my work was, he said it was farther away from the site than he originally thought. This was a bit surprising because I had showed him where it was on Google Maps before.

So I ended up skipping that part and just going to the group meeting. Most of the meeting was just about administrative stuff, which wasn't really that interesting. But I did get a chance to talk to some of the people there. They have people there that do a lot of interesting medieval-type stuff, including metalworking, embroidery, coin-making, and so on.

Yesterday I went to an SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) event called Artisan's Day. This was a local event where we do arts and crafts stuff (the term the use for that is "Arts & Sciences", or "A&S".) I went because I was interested in seeing what kinds of stuff they made. We had a few things planned, including making apple cider, planning for woodworking projects, and learning medieval stories to tell. As it turned out, we had so much apple cider to make that we didn't get to the other stuff; we just ended up having dinner around a campfire.

Here are some pictures:

The first step in the process is chopping the apples into pieces.

Most of these apples were picked off of apple trees in the backyard of the person who was hosting this event and some of their neighbors. (We did get permission first.) Since these apples were obviously grown without pesticides, many of the apples were bitten off by birds or partially eaten by worms. This picture shows an apple where a worm has eaten all the way to the center. What we do here is cut off the brown part and throw it away, then use the good part. (Thus we see how apple cider was made before industrialized agriculture.)

Here we see the apples being ground up into pulp. Not shown in the picture: finished apple cider that is put back into the system in order to keep the grinding machine cool. A couple times during the process we had to shut the machine down because it was starting to overheat.

This is the press that is used to press the pulp into finished apple cider. This is considered "raw cider" because it is right out of the press. Raw cider can also be turned into "hard cider" - an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting the apple juice. The way you do this is add in some yeast, seal the bucket with a "vapor lock" (a valve that allows carbon dioxide to go out but does not allow oxygen to get in) and wait a couple months.

This is the waste product. It includes both the bad parts of apples that were thrown out, as well as what is left of the pulp after the juice is pressed out of it. What do you do with the waste?
Feed it to the chickens!


So, anyway, it was fun to see this whole process, but I'm not sure yet whether the SCA is something that I will want to be involved in long-term. My guess is a lot of the A&S stuff would be cool to see in action once or twice, but I just don't see myself putting in the time and effort to really get good ad it. And the SCA group seemed to be a much older group, and they seemed to be less interested in the kind of action-packed fighting stuff that I like. But on the other hand I haven't actually gotten to do fighting with them yet, so I don't know. There is a  "Newcomers" event next month that is supposedly geared toward new players who want to get a taste of the fighting action, so I will make sure to go to that.

Monday, September 3, 2012


This weekend I went to a local gaming convention called Tacticon, in Aurora, CO. The convention was from Thursday to Sunday, although I was only able to get there on Friday evening because I had to go to work. But I did get to play several fun games.

One game I played was "Through the Ages." This is a games that is designed to capture the feel of games like "Civilization" the computer game, in the format of a board game. This game is an economy/civilization building game where you start out with a primitive civilization with only basic technologies, and build up through three "ages" to the present day. This is a complex game with lots of interacting systems. You have to make sure you have enough food to increase your population and get more workers, you have to make sure you have enough resources to build buildings for your workers to work in, you have to produces enough "science points" to play your better technology cards, you have to make sure your people are happy enough that they won't revolt, you have to improve your government so you can get enough actions each turn to do what you want to do, you have to pay attention to your military so you don't leave yourself vulnerable to other player's aggression and war cards. The goal of the game is to collect the most "culture points" by the end of the game; the main way you do that is by building "cultural buildings" like theaters, libraries, and certain "wonders of the world". Since cultural buildings produce culture points each turn, you have to make sure you build them early enough so that you have a chance to accumulate points - but not too early, or you'll divert resources that would be better used building your economic engine. At Tacticon, 9 players (including me) showed up to play Through the Ages, so we split up into 3 games of 3 players each. At the convention there were also prizes available for the winners of each event, but each event was requierd to select one winner, so that meant that we were competing for the highest score against players who were playing at the other tables. (That does change the strategy a little bit; for example there are "bonus cards" that come up near the end of the game that give everyone extra points depending on what they have built. So you might want to play a bonus card even though it gives your opponents more points than you, if you mthink you can still win and it helps beat the other tables.) But anyway I won the game and I got my prize which was a $10 gift certificate to one of the vendors there who was selling board games and dice.

Another game that I got there that I really liked was "Catacombs". Catacombs is a game where one player is the "overlord" and is controlling the monsters, and the rest of the players are controlling the heroes who go to fight the monsters. Okay, so far it sounds like every Dungeons and Dragons type game out there, right? But this is different. The way you fight is that the heroes and monsters are represented by wooden disks, and you flick your disk at the opposing disk to try to hit him. Also, the board have "obstacles" which are holes that you put special gray disks in that don't move; they are there to just hide behind. There are lots of different special powers like ranged attacks (rather than flick your own piece to move it, you keep your piece where it is and flick a special ranged weapon piece), chain attacks (where you can do multiple attacks in a row), and so on. I like this game because it has a significant amount of strategy (how to position your forces to take advantage of the cover, how to maximize the benefit of special attacks) and is also very fast-paced and easy to learn.