With a nightmarish shriek, the Heldrake bursts through the clouds of flak and ash, belching fire hot enough to burn flesh and soul alike.
On scything wings it arcs across the smoldering battlefield, swiveling its mechanical head, searching for its next victim.
Finally, the Heldrake’s malevolent eyes pick out a squad of Space Marines, huddled behind the bulwarks of a Skyshield Landing Pad. It zeroes in for the kill.
The Marines check their weapons, glancing nervously at each other and preparing for doom when, suddenly, everything freezes.
“Wait, what are the rules about ranged weapons again?” asks Ian Duncan’s opponent, politely.
“Hold on, I’ll check,” Duncan replies, setting down the intricate Heldrake model and pulling out one of his Warhammer manuals from an imposing stack on the table beside him.
Duncan and his friends are playing a Warhammer 40,000 tournament at Titan Gaming. It’s how they spend almost every weekend, rolling dice to determine the fates of inch-high plastic figures and – according to the mythology – that of the entire besieged galaxy.
“It’s kind of like Risk, but about a million times more complicated,” Duncan explains.
“It’s set in the year 40,000. You have a certain set of point values, and you build an army within that point value. You get to pick out all your guys, all your gear, your unit sizes.
“We have tanks, and big heavy monstrous creatures, even little light infantry guys. It’s all based on dice roles and statistics,” he says.
Each figure has its own set of attributes governing its armor strength, weapons and movement. Even the distance between models affects how much damage certain weapons do. There are literally dozens of manuals and rulebooks governing how the battles unfold.
“It’s a great hobby because you buy the models, you get to customize the models and paint them yourself,” Duncan says.
The tournament at Titan doesn’t require any painting, so some of the players’ armies have yet to receive their incredibly detailed finishing touches. But coming up late this summer is a much bigger tournament that Duncan is getting excited for.
Duncan and about 40 other tabletop gaming enthusiasts make up Northmen Gaming. They will be running a Warhammer tournament at Yukon’s first comic-con event, coming up in August.
“There are a number of us that are pretty excited about it,” Duncan says.
“We’re going to try and have some fully-painted armies on the table so it’s more visually inspiring, maybe get some more players out there and get more people interested in it.”
Christi Matthews is the president of the newly formed Yukon Comic Culture Society, which is throwing the event, called YukomiCon.
“I was thinking I wanted to do an event for High Country Inn every month,” said Matthews, who is an event co-ordinator for the Whitehorse hotel.
“I wanted it to be something weird, kind of like what I’m doing with the Night of the Frozen Dead (a zombie-themed party coming up later this month).
“I asked the owner at Titan Gaming back in November whether anyone would like a comic-con up here, and he says, ‘Oh my God, there’s a comic-con meeting next week,’” she said.
Unbeknownst to Matthews, a collection of comic nerds had already been working towards holding the Yukon’s first comic convention. What they needed was a venue.
Caitlin Beaulieu chaired that meeting. A graphic designer and long-time con fan, Beaulieu moved from Halifax to the Yukon almost two years ago, and found herself missing the East Coast comic scene.
“I was looking at my Facebook and there was all this stuff about people getting ready for Hal-Con (Halifax’s comic convention) and I started thinking about how much I missed it. I also knew there were quite a few people here who were interested in comics and things like that,” she said.
“During that general meeting we had so many people show up who were interested. Christi basically came in, and her support was huge,” Beaulieu said.
“What I said was, ‘I have the venue, and I have the sponsor,’” Matthews explained.
“Northern Vision Development wants to be the biggest sponsor. They’ll give you all the space free, all the accommodation for the guests you can bring,” Matthews said.
“That was that,” Beaulieu said.
“I jumped on the board with everyone else.”
From that meeting grew the Yukon Comic Culture Society board, and plans for the summer’s convention fell quickly into place.
The event is slated for three days, August 8, 9 and 10. Matthews is tight-lipped about some of the special celebrity guests who will be coming, hoping to keep it a surprise. But she’s got leads on securing “someone big.”
Along with the Warhammer tournament, there will be many other events, including Magic: the Gathering games, panel discussions with local and celebrity comic writers and artists, and demonstrations by cinema fight-scene co-ordinators.
Of course, there will also be plenty of costumes and workshops about costume play, or cosplay – the adult role-playing in full costume that most comic conventions are known for.
“There’s also going to be a panel discussion about women in comic culture,” Matthews said.
“Comic culture can tend to be a little sexist sometimes, and we want to talk about how to interrupt that,” she said.
The group shouldn’t have any problem getting interest. Matthews said the board plans to sell 4,000 tickets to the three-day event, and they’ve already lined up 44 volunteers to help run everything.
For more information or to sign up to volunteer, head to www.yukoncomicculturesociety.com.
Contact Jesse Winter at