Fanatics turn out at Jaffa

Snake Eyes gaming club members lean over a patchy green terrain filled with dozens of painted “Warhammer 40,000” miniatures.

As the scenario unfolds, the technologically superior Tau Empire is attempting to expel the Chaos worshippers from their planet. One player picks up a dozen green dice and rolls to decide whether his next strike will wound or kill his opponents.

Dozens of loyal gamers and cult-movie fanatics gathered Friday night at the second annual Sci-Fi Valley Con at the Jaffa Shrine Center.

Event promoter Casey Bassett said even though Fridays are usually slower, this year’s crowd was bigger than the last and he nearly doubled the number of vendors and artists who signed up to attend.

“A lot of people are even coming in late tonight,” Bassett said Friday, and with the weekend and today’s costume contest approaching, he’s expecting a packed house.

The Hungarian Wand Shop’s Greg Laslo, sporting a Dumbledore’s Army T-shirt, was selling Harry Potter wands and said even six years after the final book and two years after the last movie installment, the market for all things wizard still is strong.

His handcrafted wooden wands sell for between $18 and $24, although custom orders with exotic wood or more intricate designs sell for more.

“Each one is an original,” he said, cut from a wooden block before he sands and paints it.

Compare that with $30 mass-produced plastic wands sold at The Wizard World of Harry Potter park at Universal Studios, he said.

Nearby Rebecca Miller and Allie O’Neal of the Geek Girl project were selling hair accessories, colorful dice bags and starter kits for new Dungeons and Dragons dungeon masters, as well as do-it-yourself zombie kits in miniature cardboard Necronomicon boxes.

Miller said she couldn’t be happier with the venue and turnout, saying that last year’s wrestling events, which now are being held on the Jaffa’s first level, drowned out customers.

The project bills itself as “everything girl, everything geek,” Miller said, and the website’s editors and writers do everything from videogame and TV reviews to maintaining a Pinterest page for crafty and healthy geeks, she said.

O’Neal, who runs the Pinterest page, said even though the group is only a year old, it is branching out across the country and that the two are the only Geek Girls on the East Coast.

Hungry gamers feasted their eyes and filled their stomachs on treats baked by Toni Illuzzi of Johnstown’s Custom Cakes and Cookies.

Donning alien ears and Star Trek T-shirts, Illuzzi’s sister, Terry Penna, and friends sold cupcakes decorated to look like brains, peanut butter buckeye eyeballs and UFO gobs, among others.

Penna said her sister attended Sci-Fi Valley Con last year and has since been brainstorming news ways to liven up the desserts and rotate them based on what’s new and popular.

Last year there were more Harry Potter and Twilight themed treats, she said, but this year’s big seller is Dr. Who.

Bassett said he couldn’t be happier with the event and the star appearances, including “Clerks” actor Brian O’Halloran and the 1966 Batmobile.

Bassett said he’s already planning for 2014.

“I’m trying to get a DeLorean for next year,” he said, smiling.

Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.