Back in 1993 some guys I knew came home with this weird game that came in decks and packs like baseball cards. They told me it was cool, but I wasn’t interested. Instead I concentrated on my Blood Bowl™ league, which was up to 22 teams that year; so big we had to play at several people’s houses. One of those nights, Scott Baumann was coming over to play his game. Scott was part owner in a comic/game shop in Pewaukee, WI, so I told him to bring me a few packs of these cards I’d been hearing about. He did, and Chris Boles and I opened ‘em up and we played all night. ALL NIGHT. We proceeded to lose focus on everything else, staying up till the wee hours in the morning playing for ante off our HUGE pile decks of 100-120 cards.
I started organizing leagues among our friends and my co-workers, including an insane draft where everyone put out a couple boosters and a starter deck and we sorted it all out by type. We drafted those using a football-esque draft style, with positions and rotating order. You should have seen it when the first person twitched on land. WOOSH it was all gone. We were playing ONLY cards on the table, you couldn’t add land from outside, making those land insanely valuable.
Sometime later a guy named Wes Beshears, who had some experience with the Little League organization. Put on a tournament in Sun Prairie, WI. Scott Baumann and I attended this event and took 1st and 2nd. Wes had a little meeting after the event saying he wanted to start a Sun Prairie based club for magic. We were all in. The first meeting was held and a name was ratified. We dubbed ourselves “Sun Prairie Area Magic club” or… SPAM. We began organizing tournaments for the club as a way to bring in a little money to put back into cool stuff for the club. To sanction things back in the day, you could only run Single elim. No round robin or Swiss styles were allowed for sanctioned matches. So we devised a method, borrowing a bit from a Madison based club everyone called “the Guild”, to incorporate a round robin style of play. This method had people set up in groups of 4 or 5 and play a round robin set within that group. The winner of each group would move on to play in the single elimination, sanctioned portion of the event.
I was running an event of this type for Pegasus Games during “Madison Games Day” at Edgewood college, and we were giving away a pack to every person, no matter what their final record was. The free pack happened to be Fallen Empires. One of the players came up to get his pack, not realizing what it was, and extended his hand asking for his prize pack. I pulled out the Fallen Empires pack and he retreated, holding up both hands as if surrendering and said “No thanks, I’d rather have a paper cut”. And so, the Papercut award was born. Any prize received regardless of record, we call the “Paper Cut Award™”.
Skip forward a couple years to late 1996. Stephen Anderson, a local player who was decent and had been traveling to Chicago to play in these new Pro Tour Qualifier tournaments they’d been holding there brought up the idea of trying to convince Wizards to run one in Madison. After all, we had a ton of great players, many of whom spent time at the top in those Chicago events. We all agreed and I decided to see what it would take. Wes had gone off to law school by this time, and Chris and I were running SPAM.
I contacted Wizards to ask them to bring a PTQ to Madison and had a brief interview with a guy named Chris Galvin. I learned that these events are not actually run by WotC, but instead are farmed out to private contractors, and if I wanted one in Madison I had to convince them I, or someone else, could run them. Well I had some sanctioned events under my belt and decided maybe I’d try it. There was one catch; Chris wanted me to run a “large cash prize” event to prove that we could handle the different sort of players a competitive event would bring. Previously I only ever played for donated packs and things of not much value, running events mostly just because it was fun to play in events!
I was pretty nervous about this, as I had a job, but it wasn’t amazing. I didn’t have a store and so the event it’s self had to pay for all the expenses, including the money, or it came out of my pocket. I didn’t really have $500 to spare. So Stephen volunteered to “back me”. He offered to put up the $500 prize if we didn’t turn enough people to break even. Well, how could I refuse that! So I was in.
I scheduled my first $500 cash prize event for mid December 2006, downtown Madison. I chose a Sunday (because the room was cheaper) that happened to coincide with a Packer football game and during UW finals week, I just didn’t think to check those sorts of things!. I also found out later during the day that there had been a PTQ in Iowa city the day before. So while I was pleasantly surprised that 70 players showed up. I was quite disappointed, because we had been pulling 120+ for our semi-annual fund raiser events. I reported the event (Swiss format finally!) and thought to myself, that’s that. Oh well, I gave it a good try and I didn’t lose money so I didn’t have to make Stephen pay up. I assumed that wouldn’t really be what they were after for numbers. Turns out I was wrong.
Early 1997 Chris called me and offered me a PTQ for Madison to be run in the spring. That first event was April 13, 1997. Chris Boles continued on with me for the first couple years. Providing rock solid ops. He programmed an Excel spreadsheet that we used to run our events, assigning each player a tournament number that linked to their DCI number and using sheets of paper with barcodes on them to scan results in to the spreadsheet. We used that until DCI reporter was introduced in… 1998 was it? We used it for quite a while.
For that event, since it was going to make a profit and I was paying myself, I couldn’t use the SPAM name. I settled on “the Legion”, as a play on how many people were involved with the organization. I would get phone calls asking to talk to the “judge coordinator” or the “accounts department”. I would chuckle a little, say “hold on”, put the phone down, then pick it back up again as the requested department. I was a Legion unto myself.
After I ran my first PTQ and WI State Championships, WotC approached me about running a prerelease, but they wanted me to do it in Eau Claire, WI to help hit the Minneapolis crowd. Minneapolis had an organizer who had been running things but he’d been “fired” due to some shady things (allegedly). I couldn’t find a hall big enough in Eua Claire, so I ran my first prerelease at a golf course/bowling alley in Osseo, WI. Where the manager of the place promised me a bunch of things he didn’t deliver… including space to hold 300 people. We ended up taking over his restaurant and running him completely out of food by the end of the Tempest Prerelease.
For Stronghold we moved to Minneapolis (St Paul actually), pairing up with Con of the North. I began running PTQs in Minneapolis as well and that started what is now almost 12 years of driving back and forth between Madison and Minneapolis.
Chris Boles moved on to his “real life” sometime around 2000. I was getting busier with events (and had my “real” job too). But it was becoming more and more my thing. Somewhere around this same time I started taking the events business a little more seriously and the name of the company morphed into “Legion Events”, “the Legion” was just clunky and frankly a little weird.
I opened the first Misty Mountain Games in Madison WI on Jan 3rd 2001. The hope was to have a space to run my events and in the off times sell some stuff to make the store more maintainable. So many stores had come and gone in the Madison area that I was sure it couldn’t be done without the events… besides the original Pegasus store which has been around since the early 80s.
On the events side, I took on more games and a little more territory over the years. I branched into Yu-Gi-Oh and WoW and a few games no longer with us including the likes of Vs. System and Spoils.
In 2004 I worked my first Magic Nationals as a scorekeeper for the junior Super Series finals. I followed that with stints on the public events stage for 2004 Worlds in San Francisco and 2005 Nationals. 2006 was a pretty huge year for me.
I got a call from WotC in late 2005 asking if I was interested in running all the Public events at Pro Tour Honolulu and a little later in the year at Charleston, NC. It took me something like .25 seconds to answer HELL YES! And off I ran into the next chapter of Legion Events. Things worked out so well between the nationals and worlds I’d done with WotC and then the Pro Tour in Honolulu, that they asked me to continue on running the Public events for all the Domestic (North American) Pro Tours. It was an honor I gladly accepted.
The other half of my exciting 2006 was opening Misty Mountain North, in Burnsville, MN. I had been looking for a place in the Minneapolis area for a while. Looking for an area under supported by game stores and with a cheap enough venue I could get a large enough space to hold the 400+ person prerelease events. I finally had found that space and the deal was on.
Over these last 15 years I have had the wonderful blessing of meeting so many amazing people and becoming friends with such a great cross section of people from ALL over the world. A friend I made at that first Minneapolis Prerelease, Marc Dudda, even introduced me to my wife, Lindsey. Something for which I will be eternally grateful.
This year I move into yet another venture and expansion of business as I move into the distribution of TCG supplies; Deckboxes and Sleeves. As I write this during the PTQ in Misty North on Jan 2nd, 2010, my manufacturer is putting together a quote for Legion Supplies card Sleeves which should hit distributors within the next 2 months!
Thanks for reading through this rambling history, and thanks for encouraging me throughout the years. My facebook friends list shows 799 friends as of this afternoon. I ONLY add people I know and can put a face to. SO many of those 799 are the great folks in gaming I’ve met. My life has been enriched by you all… well, by most of you. 😉