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    As my “warcaster" focuses her wind-slice spell, Michael Kessler explains to me that my attack will have  to exceed the armor of his “Jax", a steam and magic-powered battle mech. Michael is a volunteer demo instructor for Privateer Press, publisher of the Warmachine Miniatures game where elite battle mages called warcasters pit their metal armies in a fight to the death. Like all of the games demonstrated Saturday at Heroes Comics & Gaming’s Grand Opening, Warmachine takes place in a fantasy world. In Warmachine, you play as an elite general in the Iron Kingdoms, a land scarred by the warring of powerful factions from religious fanatics to mercenaries. As the game mechanics unfold--physical movement measured with a tape measure (no joke) and dice for combat--two young boys watch wide-eyed until one asks, “Who’s winning?” Michael informs us all that I’m winning, which I attribute to his coaching since I’ve barely scratched the surface of this game.

    Demos like the one I experienced were happening all day Saturday at Heroes Comics & Gaming (361 Baxter Ave.) for the grand opening celebration of their recently-completed store. Heroes has it all: from complex miniature games like Warmachine, to board games like Pandemic, simple or deck-based card games, and rulebook/paper combos like D&D. Ranging between new and collector comics and all types of gaming, Heroes' stock is ambitious in scope: attempting to appeal to the entire spectrum of fans from “Whovians” to the D&D crowd. Their restroom is even in a Tardis in the center of the store (that’s Doctor Who’s space-time vehicle modeled after a British police box for those of you not yet inDOCtrinated.)

    The rear of the store has two rooms, one currently filled with gaming tables that seat around 100 players. On Sunday, 40 players gathered there for the first in-store Magic: The Gathering draft tournament, an all-day event. This was my first time participating in such a tournament, which meant I had to register my player number with the publisher, Wizards of the Coast. These tournaments are serious business with strict rules and licenses required for stores that want to host. Sealed packs of cards were passed by players in groups of eight to pull single cards until they could construct a playable deck of 40 cards, 20 less than a deck you’d play with friends. Since each cards has a mana (land card) cost, players were left to choose 20-25 monster, sorcery, enchantment, and item cards chosen during the draft; no outside cards allowed.

    Magic: The Gathering is both highly collectable and consistently popular. At last week's tournament, anticipation was high for serious players looking to score rare cards for the competition; rightfully so, considering the $500 first place purse and other prizes on the line. 27 players held out until the end with Kyle G. playing a flawless 6-0 in six rounds to take home the big money. Owner Steve Conley was ecstatic about the turnout calling it: “a great show of support for our new store by the community.”

    Unfortunately for me, my opponents knew what cards they needed for the complex strategies they already had in mind. Both opponents were gracious, coaching me along without getting annoyed  (despite the competitive nature of tournament play) and showing patience when I needed rule clarification from the judge (way too often). But in the end we were all subject to the luck of the draw, and a handful of powerful Magic: The Gathering cards does no good without the mana to play them.

    In the other back room, Steve plans to build a podcasting booth and an area set up for hobbyists to paint their miniatures, like those I played with in Warmachine. Other popular miniature games include Star Wars: X-wing miniatures, Warhammer 40K, and Hordes. All miniature games are “war” based where players use figures on a physical scale (usually 15-30mm) for movement and weapon range. Custom painting your figures shows pride and dedication to these games.


    Podcasting has also become a popular media format among gaming stores, enthusiasts, and fans of anime and genre fiction. Local podcasts include Girl Gone Geek (affiliated with The Destination comic shop) and The Nerd Louisville podcast (local non-profit dedicated to growing community) which recorded their upcoming episode with the Louisville Ghostbusters cosplay group on Friday, sans sound booth. According to Steve, the Heroes Comics and Gaming podcast is planned to begin in 6 months and will “cover everything pop culture from toys to TV to comics and gaming, focusing on what’s recent and coming soon”.


    Heroes welcomes fans and patrons of all ages, as evidenced by the four-foot-tall Minecraft blockhead and a very young Captain America hanging around with their parents on Saturday. Cosplayers in attendance were automatically entered to win Batman V. Superman tickets and a $50 store credit, and in another show of community involvement the winner was chosen today via Heroes Comics & Gaming’s Facebook page. Friday/Saturday at midnight a crowd of Magic: The Gathering players lined up for the release of a new card set. Sunday’s Magic draft tournament drew an even more diverse crowd from children, to teens, to mid-range adults, and even a few gamers of a more seasoned vintage. Patrons were awarded door prizes on Saturday including kid-friendly comics and the coveted New Mutants #98 comic featuring the first appearance of Deadpool, the “merc with a mouth” who’s recently made a killing (literally and figuratively) at the box office. While the success of that movie has opened the doors for R-rated superhero cinema, Steve plans to keep Heroes Comics & Gaming a haven for fans of all ages.

    Brandon Stettenbenz's picture

    About Brandon Stettenbenz

    Writer, podcaster, web designer. Content guy with Nerd Louisville. Likes his beer and coffee both dark. Lives in Clifton with his wife who’s also a super nerd.

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