This year marked my first visit to Lucca Games in Italy and color me impressed. Any convention that can take over a complete city deserves a lot of respect. Lucca Games 2014 was held in Lucca, a small city located in Tuscany and dating back to Roman times. It’s known for its completely intact city walls which have become a pedestrian promenade encircling the old town. It’s an incredibly beautiful place with its narrow alleyways all throughout the old city and impressive churches and cathedral.
I had no idea what to expect from Lucca Games. I had been looking online, trying to find an address of the venue, not knowing events were taking place throughout the city. When I arrived at the Lucca busstop, I somehow managed to completely miss the entrance gates and walked up on top of the wall as I saw some stalls there. I started strolling the walls wondering if this was maybe a free festival of some sort.
When I arrived at an area called The Citadel, I found an information stall where the super friendly members of the organization team explained to me how it worked and provided me with a map and an information booklet. So apparently if I wanted to enter any of the tents I would need a entrance bracelet which I could buy at the busstop area. Whoops. I sat down at one of the benches trying to figure out the map and the Italian language booklet. I soon found Frank Mentzer, the reason I made the trip, in the booklet and saw that he would be signing autographs at a specific location in about half an hour.
So I hurried back to the busstop where in the meantime quite a line had formed of people trying to enter Lucca Games 2014. I waited in line at the one-day ticket cue and already saw many cosplayers in really cool costumes standing in line or parading around the entrance area taking pictures and hanging out. Once inside I walked through the city towards the area I thought Frank would be. I ended up in a tent with a number of comic artists which was obviously the incorrect location but once again the super friendly convention staff helped me locate Frank’s actual location which was a big tent outside of the city walls.
At the Games tent I quickly found the stall and joined the line of super polite Italians all wanting to have their books signed. I saw a good number of the Italian version of The Case of the Missing Magic being offered for signatures but also of course the red box in various incarnations. I had brought the dutch version myself and Frank was kind enough to sign it, ask me to carry the torch for future generations, have a short chat with me, and pose for a picture. He was explaining to everyone who called him Mr. Mentzer that he was just a gamer like them so no need for the formalities. What a great ambassador for our hobby!
From there I went looking for Monte Cook Games where Monte himself was signing copies of the Italian version of Numenera and The Strange RPG. He was kind enough to sign both copies for me.
Then while walking around I happened upon a gentleman whose artwork is gracing a lot of the Pathfinder RPG releases, Mr. Wayne Reynolds. There was an area where some artists were drawing on big canvasses and sure enough, Wayne was one of them working on a elf.
I met up with him at his booth where he was signing autographs and selling some of his art. I had no idea he was at Lucca Games or I would have brought my limited edition of Visions of War for him to sign. So I bought a copy of the regular edition of Visions of War and picked up an original sketch of Shardra, the iconic shaman from their recently released Advance Class Guide. Wayne was kind enough to make a small sketch in my Visons of War as I bought some artwork and pose for a picture.
Having met this trio of gentlemen, my day was pretty much as good as it could get. I noticed that the sketch didn’t fit my trolley which meant I had to carry it all over the place, but hey, it got some appreciative nods from people who recognized the artwork.
From the gamer section I decided to stroll through the city and check on whatever tents I encountered. Many of them were filled to the brim with comics, an area that I lack knowledge of completely but for comic fans this place is a must! Time for food anyways and yes, even the city of Lucca has a vegan restaurant called Nanda’s.
As I hadn’t eaten yet all day, I gorged on two plates of delicious pasta and a hamburger with the staff being pleasantly surprised by my appetite. And great prices, I spent less than 20 euro in this place and took along two bottles of water even.
From the restaurant I headed over to the Japanese section called Japan Town, on the way strolling past the local division of a Star Wars fanclub all dressed as stormtroopers and whatnot. Lots of cosplay going on in Japan Town to no surprise but unfortunately I lack knowledge in that area as well so I didn’t recognize any characters whatsoever.
I then headed over to Villa Bottini where the crew of Assassin’s Creed had taken shop. They transferred the beautiful villa into a true Assassin’s Creed museum full of artwork, and a room where you could actually try the game.
After checking out the villa, I returned to The Citadel where Dragon Age Inquisition had set up shop by way a number of huts resembling a small village. The ‘village’ had a good number of Dragon Age cosplay going on and one of the huts was set up to be able to play the actual game.
By then it was time to catch my bus back to Pisa so I walked over to the busstop again, still marveling on the promenade at all the cosplayers and their outfits. Back in Pisa I hadn’t booked a stay and my flight left in the morning so I figured I’d just stay in the airport overnight but it turned out that the airport actually closes so I had to look for some lodgings. But about 300 meters from the airport building there were a couple of B&B’s so no problem. I spent the evening reading the core rulebook of the The Strange RPG and headed home in the morning.
Lucca Games 2014 was a completely refreshing experience. I enjoyed it a lot and depending on the guest list next year might even return there.