Stuffed Crocodile

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Tag Archives: Poland

25. Lodz International Festival of Comics and Games

So yesterday my wife[1] and me went to the International Festival of Comics and Games in Lodz (Międzynarodowy Festiwal Komiksu w Łodzi).

Yes, there is an international comics and games con in Lodz, but don’t get your hopes up, it wasn’t really that international. Actually, the most international thing about it was that Alan Grant was there, and he was the only guest who wasn’t from Poland itself. Oh, and I myself was skulking through the trade floor, so I guess I count as well.

I was in one of the earlier editions of the con a few years ago (2009?) and actually liked it back then. Since then they moved to a new, bigger location and got themselves an additional focus on games. It used to be only a comic con. The focus on games? Mostly video games. It was rather impressive actually. It now is held in the Atlas Arena in Lodz and the whole floor was full with computers and consoles, while the panels were in conference rooms underneath.

There was more than just comics and video games there though, Lego had displays, and there were a few board game companies that had their stalls. Most of the traders dealt in comics though, both used and new, and of course in the usual fan paraphernalia.

One particular shop had really good rates on American comics, basically giving them away for 2/3rds of what they normally cost (they had a 1$=2pln exchange rate). Unfortunately it was, as so often, kind of hard to still find something after the whole of Lodzian comic fans already went through their stock.

I did not actually get to any of the panels, but some of my friends who did were not really that impressed. Although they did get free comics out of that, so there is that. (this one among others actually, which is a mix-up of The Shadow with Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth; cheeky).

One thing that surprised me was the amount of Polish comic publishers. There were a lot of them there, selling their stuff, and sometimes rather obscure stuff as well. My wife found herself some mangas and some Polish indie comic, while I managed to get what was most likely the only German RPG product in the whole building. I actually wonder how that particular book made it there considering that the product line isn’t even so popular in Germany (it’s a monster book for the high fantasy setting for Das Schwarze Auge, written as a travelogue). Now of course I have to find the rest of the more recent Myranor stuff somewhere. My collection is lagging behind.

All in all a nice change of scenery, but it lacked focus. It would have been better if it was just comics, or just games, but like that it was a bit bland.

[1] if you were wondering why I didn’t post in ages: I got married, and Jesus Christ the amount of stuff and things to do and documents to get for an international couple is just crazy. I felt like going mad sometimes. It actually reminded me of this classic movie scene.

[Boardgames] Chińczyk

This is an actual board from a cheap collection of generic games I bought a while ago. I would lie if I said I did not buy this exactly for this board. I had hoped for a few more tokens and things in the collection that would justify buying it, but it turns out that cheap was nearly an understatement for the thing.

But anyway, this one I just bought for the political incorrectness.

Mensch ärgere Dich nicht!is one of the classics of German boardgames. It’s basically a streamlined Pachisi-derivative very similar to Ludo, or Parcheesi. It was invented by in 1907, and sold badly in the beginning, like all true classics.

It’s claim to fame can be traced back to the shrewd marketing moves it’s inventor made during WWI: he gifted a few hundred sets to field hospitals “so the poor injured soldiers have something to do.”

I guess I could have imagined better games to play when wounded and in pain, but the soldiers seemed to like it: the sales figures of the game went up astronomically after the war.

What people often forget about that war is that it was not just Germans in those armies on the German side. Prussia had a large part of Polish people fighting for them, Austria had Hungarians and Czech, and a few others. And all of them got these nice games to play. The result was that this game became popular, and was translated into various European languages. The game is one of the most public domain titles around, pretty much every game company in Germany has at least one version around.

Now, most countries went the route to just translate the title like that (“Man don’t be angry!” or something along those lines). Not so Poland. Here it was called Chińczyk (Chinaman). Why that only the gods, and some ancient half- forgotten marketing executive know. But the designers of the boards are milking that title for all it’s worth. And this board is one of the tamer ones.

I guess there is a reason for that casual racism, and that would be that Poland is a rather homogenic country, with a large part of the society ethnically Polish (and white), with nearly everyone having the same religion (90% Catholicism), and a strong national identity. Now, this picture is of course not completely correct. Poland has been one of the most ethnically diverse countries in Europe up to the end of WWII. Most of the Jewish population left after the war, was driven out in the 60s, some ethnic Germans are left in Silesia, some Muslims are left in Eastern Poland. For the last 60 years or so though Poland was inhabited mostly by Poles.This is changing very slowly: Vietnamese immigrants that came during the 70s and 80s do not actually intend to go back to Vietnam because they grew up in Poland, and some of the bigger cities are slowly attracting people from other countries.But all in all the populace is not really that welcoming for noticably different people. Racism and anti-semitism are incredibly casual, and a lot of generally intelligent, nice people I meet here don’t see anything wrong about making casual racist jokes about that black coworker, just to lighten up the mood a bit.

I guess it doesn’t help the the only way people meet Asian people in their childhood are either those in the Chinaman game, or serve bad knockoff of Chinese food in some hole in the wall…

Poles love Warhammer

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

No, seriously. It’s even a bit creepy. In Poland Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is THE roleplaying game. This comes from the time when Poland finally opened up to the west and the first proper game that was published was WFRP. It gelled perfectly with the Polish soul. And if you don’t know what I mean with that you have never seen vendors sell candyfloss and balloons on a Polish cemetary.

This of course poses a certain problem for me, as I have a profound dislike for Warhammer.

It’s not that I really hate the system. I will not go and tell lies about it, I will not try to make it worse than it is. There are even some nuggets in there that I really like (e.g. Skaven). But in my opinion the whole Warhammer background is needlessly gauche and over the top.

Warhammer is… how shall I say it? Like a Manowar album. It’s nice listening to their songs once in a while, singing along with these ridiculous lyrics, trying not to break into laughter when looking at them in their videos, all earnest and proud. But how am I supposed to deal with that all the time?

Of course the problem so far only came up in discussions about roleplaying. In my English language group I have two players who do play Warhammer, but I don’t. And so I don’t need to play it with them. And I don’t speak enough Polish to play in a game yet, so that option will not even come up.

The infuriating thing comes when someone tries to tell me that Warhammer is the top of the evolutionary ladder for RPGs, and that D&D must be for kids because it has all these ridiculous monsters. Completely unaware that playing Warhammer and telling people that their game is kids’ stuff comes across… rather like a bratty teenager, desperate not to be seen as a kid anymore.

Well, hello, we are playing games in which we are wizards and thieves and elves and whatnot. Not trying to seem like kids should not be the top of our priorities!

Of course I met other people like him before. The same arguments I heard in Germany about DSA. Maybe that is why it annoys me that much. Because I thought I had these discussions behind me already.

Why listening to boozed roleplayers is useful (at least sometimes)

English: Warsaw Downtown skyline

Image via Wikipedia

I am listening to the Happy Jacks podcast quite often on my way to work. Together with the RPG Circus and Fear the Boot it is one of the most listenable podcasts about roleplaying around. Ah, well, and it is the funniest, which might have to do with the fact that the guys skillfully blend drinking lots of beer with bullshitting about roleplaying games. Although some of the best ones are the livestreams from the cons they attend, I sometimes have troubles keeping a straight face when on the tram. All of a sudden someone tells about a game that involved dinosaur-riding nazi gnomes or lazerponies with war flashbacks and… I don’t know, I just lose it. My fellow travelers might think I am a bit strange, but well… that might not be so new.
So, what actually peaked my interest was one of these letters they had a while ago, written by an Aneta (wait, whut?!) from Poland (Whut??) talking about expatriates playing games in English.
Hey, that letter is talking about me!
Well, not really. It turns out that what I expected is actually true: there are people playing RPGs in Poland that do play in English and do not actually play Warhammer.
Unfortunately they are in Warsaw, and I am in Łódż, as usual. Because which expatriate would be so stupid as to move to Łódż when he could have the real big city?
Uhm… me.
The Warsaw-centrism in Poland is something really annoying in this country. It’s always either Warsaw (the capital) or Kraków (the historic capital) which get all the glory, jobs, and interesting people.
Oh my god. I sounds like a Lodzian. I have gone native!