Ziggurat Con - The World's First War Zone Game Convention?
Which Con are you going to this year? GenCon? Origins? Dundracon? How about Ziggurat Con? The latter is brand new this year, and is being held at Camp Adder/Tallil Airbase on June 9. In Iraq.
When President Bush ordered troops to Iraq, he probably never imagined that he would be ultimately be responsible for what very well could be the very first D&D convention/game day ever held in a war zone. Ziggurat Con, being held June 9 from 1200 to 2100 hours at Camp Adder/Tallil Airbase, is open to all allied military personnel and civilian contractors in Iraq.
"Here in Iraq, we do many things on the different Forward Operating Bases to help keep our spirits up," said SPC David Amberson, the Con's organizer. "Here at Camp Adder/Tallil Airbase, we have lots of sports activities -- baseball, football, dodgeball, kickball -- and we work with many marathons across the US like the Boston Marathon. This is a great way to improve morale among the troops, but what about those who prefer Role-Playing Games?"
The Con's historical landmark "mascot" -- the Ziggurat that gives the Con its name -- can be found on the post, and hails from the ancient city of Ur. Nearby is the house where it is believed that Abraham (a large figure in the Bible, the Koran and the Torah) was born. Cool digs for a Con -- if not for the fact that there's a war going on. Amberson, however, emphasized the need for soldiers to relax and kick back with enjoyable activities from time to time.
"There is a deeper sense of camaraderie in a war zone than you see back home," said Amberson, who is a supply soldier with Alpha Company, 86th Signal Battalion. "You eat with these people, work with them on a daily basis, and can even share a tent with the same people. When work is over for the day, we can sit back, relax, drink our favorite sodas, eat our favorite snacks, and play a bit of D&D. This helps us relax in a very stressful environment. We found a place where we can go somewhere far away from the IED's, mortar attacks, and gunfire, without ever leaving the safety of our camp. The next step was only logical."
Miss Joy Brown, an employee with KBR who works with MWR (the army's Morale Welfare & Recreation Department) has graciously allowed service members to use part of the Community Activity Center to hold the Game Day. The Ping Pong room will be set up for RPGs (Role-Playing Games, not to be confused with the rocket propelled grenades which share the same acronym), and the DVD Movie room will be playing Anime Movies all day in support of the event.
"Miss Brown has expressed her support of the soldiers who are planning this event, and who keep her in the loop," said Amberson. "In many events, MWR does the running around, trying to get supplies and support; however, in this case, it is the service members themselves who are contacting the publishers and manufacturers. This makes it a real event for the service members, by the service members."
The largest problem with running a Con in Iraq, of course, is that there are no local stores or game publishers, and few game books on the post. Even dice are in short supply, with many soldiers breaking the unwritten taboo held by many gamers and (gasp!) sharing dice. Thankfully, many game publishers have also lent their support, and have agreed to supply game products to help the Con along. aethereal FORGE, Sovereign Press, Final Redoubt Press, Goodman Games, Paizo Publishing and Steve Jackson Games are among those that have thrown in their support for the convention. But Amberson indicated that the soldiers could definitely use more.
"This convention is currently in drastic need of prizes and giveaways for the troops," he said. "Everything donated will go directly to the troops, or to MWR to use as loaner books for the soldiers."
For more information, contact SPC David Amberson at the following address: david.amberson (at) iraq.centcom.mil
Donations can also be sent to SPC Amberson directly at the following address:
SPC David Amberson
A Co 86th Sig Bn
APO, AE 09331
"We thank you all back home for supporting us, and we promise that we will try to come back home safe and sound," said Amberson.
Con organizers pictured above:
Standing: SPC Jerrel Barber, Mr. Jeff (JB) Brown, SPC Christopher Watkins, PFC Samuel Dennison, SGT Gary Decker, SPC Kathleen Hirsche
Seated: SPC David Dennison, SPC Konrad Schlarbaum, DPC David Amberson
Others not pictured: SPC Matthew Joslyn, PFC John Gilbert, Mr. Raymond Knapp, CPT Andrew Heymann, Miss Joy Brown