If you follow my blog you have already read a little about Bicolline. If not, you should look here. Already read that? Great! Come on inside, grab a cuppa, and learn what you need to know in order to go to your first event.
The first thing you need to know as an American is that Bico is in Canada. This adds a couple of minor complications of which you should be aware.
Unless you are a Canadian Citizen, you will need some form of Passport in order to gain access to the country.
Trouble at the Border
The main sources of trouble you will find at the border are if you have been convicted of some sort of drug related crime, or have a driving under the influence conviction. In either of these cases you are likely to get turned away.
Other sources include what you are bringing with you. This should be pretty self evident, but I’ll drop a few of the big ones. First, any guns or drugs are not okay. You may get some push back about alcohol as well, but I’m told as long as you are consuming it yourself you should be fine. In terms of LARP they are very unlikely to take issue with LARP type weapons (boffers, vinyl, and the like). Live steel however, may result in push back. It also may not, but be prepared to either surrender live steel, or bring it home.
Attitude. As far as you are concerned border patrol is god. Be nice, be respectful, be truthful, and you should have no trouble. You are seeking to be a guest in another country, act as such and you should be fine.
Other Considerations About Foreign Travel
Bicolline is in the Canadian province of Quebec, which speaks a dialect of French called Quebecois. This should not worry you at all since most of the Quebecois speak English in addition to their own language, but it bears a moment of thought as you will likely be interacting with folks outside of Bicolline on your way too and from the event. There are pictures on menus, and some places have bi-lingual menus. Again, not cause for concern, but no one likes surprises.
Canada uses the Metric system. A key feature of this is that gasoline is sold by the Liter. A Liter is MUCH smaller than a gallon. Plan accordingly.
I suggest paying for stuff with a credit/debit card. You will usually get a decent exchange rate, and you don’t have to deal with cash that you are unfamiliar with. Make certain though that you give your bank and possibly cell phone provider advanced notice of your travel plans. Being stuck in a foreign land without access to your money, while cranking up a several hundred dollar per day cell phone bill is less fun than you would imagine.
Choosing an Event
There are Five different sorts of events at Bicolline that you may be interested in.
The Grand Battle – This is the week long event held in the summer (In 2020 it will be held August 9 – August 16). You camp on site, and the game goes on 24/7. It is (from what I have gathered) completely amazing. If you are excited about Bico, I imagine that your eventual goal will be to attend one of these. From my limited research it seems that you could likely get out of this on a budget for around $500.00 American which includes about $100.00 US Spending money. NOTE: As of this writing I DO NOT know for certain how much it costs. This is an estimation based on conversations with others about previous years. When the 2020 event gets closer I will write a detailed post about it.
Military Campaigns – There are several events like this throughout the year. Check on the official Bicolline Facebook page for dates. These events are related to the Bicolline virtual game. Once I actually understand the virtual game I will write something substantial about it, but at the moment I only know a little. Suffice it to say that there are various political entities at Bico: Guilds, Countries, Religions, Cults, and Orders. Many of these organizations have “land” in the fantasy world that is Bicolline.
The virtual game seems a combination of Catan, and Diplomacy. The various organizations within Bicolline vie with one another for land and other resources. Differences in opinion naturally occur. Occasionally organizations choose to settle their differences via battle in the real world. The Military Campaigns are when they do it. These events are also held at the Bicolline site, and typically include a day of fighting and a Tavern night (see below). You can stay in the on site buildings (if you have one or know someone), but tents are not allowed. Campaigns cost $60 Canadian for members $70 Canadian for non members ( I will detail membership later).
Special Events – These events are put on by different organizations and can really be any number of things. One of the more common is a sort of D&D style adventure where the sponsoring organization has some sort of story that players progress through over the course of a weekend. These events can be limited to specific groups or guilds (or not), and can be one or two day events. They can really include all sorts of things. In looking at the 2020 Calendar, there is only one, in February, and I intend to go. I will (of course) be writing about it when I do.
The Purple Ball – This is a once per year event where the organizers of Bicolline take an abandoned warehouse, and set it up to look like a Medieval Fantasy Village. Many people dress up fancy, and go to the event. There isn’t any fighting at the ball, and attendees need to arrange for their own lodging in the town it is held in. I’m told it is an incredible event, and I may go in 2021. I’m not planning on going in 2020 though. Tickets to the ball run around $80 Canadian.
Tavern Nights – This is the only sort of event I have been to as of this writing, and I wrote a whole article about it, linked above. It costs $20-$30 Canadian, and there is no camping on site.
Where to Sleep
For the Grand Battle there are lots of sleeping options on site. You can camp in the decorum section if you have a tent that fits the aesthetic. You can camp in the non decorum section with either a camper or tent. You can rent a decorum tent from Bicolline itself, or you can stay in an on site cabin (assuming you know someone or own one yourself). You could also get an AirBnB locally, and go to and from each day, if camping isn’t your thing.
For all other events with on site sleeping you are really limited to either staying at a cabin if you know someone, or owning a cabin yourself. These cabins are typically uninsulated, and unheated so in cold weather getting outside lodging like an AirBnB is best. For the most part on site “cabins” more closely resemble fancy medieval looking sheds so plan accordingly.
It is possible to become a member of Bicolline. There are actually two different types of membership: regular and privileged for $60 Canadian and $95 Canadian respectively. Either membership gets you discounted rates for events, but the privileged memberships gets you 2 registered characters as opposed to 1, it also get you a shorter line at certain events. For me the $60 Canadian one made sense, it translated to about $50 US, and gets me discounted rates for events. I got $10 off for the Tavern night, The longer the event, the bigger the discount. You certainly don’t need to be a member to go to events, but if you plan on going to several, it makes sense. It also helps your guild in the virtual game, by giving you a card for pre registering, and attending events.
Guilds are huge at Bicolline. They are essentially your smaller community as it exists within the much larger community as a whole. It is possible to create your own guild at Bicolline, and certainly possible to go to events without being in a guild. Guilds are the main entry point into the virtual game, and typically have space to camp together ect. At the end of the day, it helps to have some homies. Especially, if those homies have been to Bico before.
In terms of US based guilds there are two I personally know, and can highly recommend: Realms Embassy and The Horse & Hound. These are located in Northern Vermont and New Hampshire. I’ve me folks from both, am in Realms Embassy, I know first hand that they are very helpful, friendly and fun. There is another of which I am aware called The Free Company of Lys Nior, I haven’t actually met anyone from there, but hope to soon, and have heard good things.
There’s also Ordo Civri, and the March Wardens from The Voyage North organization. As far as I know they only do the Grand Battle week long event, and are sort of like cruise directors at Bico. If what you are looking for is an all inclusive week long vacation package, I’ve heard they are an expensive, but solid way to go. I’m told that packages start at over $1,500.00 US.
I got very lucky in my choice of Realms Embassy because they fit my personality and play style well. For the most part though, don’t rush into joining a guild. Take your time, meet some folks and see who your “people” are.
What to Wear
This could really be a huge article, or even a whole book. There a a billion and a half web sites, blogs, and YouTube videos devoted to LARP or SCA garb so I won’t cover a lot in this article, but you will want some sort of Medieval looking pants, shirt, and cloak. leather footwear (even modern combat boots) are acceptable. As these sorts of garments don’t have pockets you’ll want some sort of a leather belt, and some sort of a pouch (I even used an old dice bag).
If you are going to participate in the fighting you will minimally need some kind of weapon. Bico does not allow boffer type weapons so, you will likely need to buy one, or borrow one from someone. Armor is certainly a thing as well, but that is where the costs amplify dramatically. Again, hold off a bit. Armor is not required for combat.
My advice to you is to spend as little as possible on garb for your first few events, and dial in what your character is (see below), before dropping significant money. This hobby can get incredibly expensive incredibly quickly. If you simply MUST buy some stuff (like I did) I can recommend Medieval Collectibles or Epic Armoury Unlimited.
This can be a place where you get hung up a bit, but you absolutely don’t need to. All you really need for your character is a name. That is literally all that’s required. That said, you will eventually want to join one of the in game religions and a guild. You may also find more enjoyment in the Role Play aspect of the game if you put a bit more into your character. A lot of your backstory will depend on your guild, and religion so have a general idea, and go with it. I can say that not even my character name came up much during the Tavern night that I went to.
Keep an eye on the web site for when registration becomes available for an event, and sign up for something. Get yourself an AirBnB, drive on up, and have the best time of your life. Meet some amazing cool/nice people, and pretend to be someone else for a bit. If you’ve stuck with the article this far you are absolutely someone who should be going to Bico. We can’t wait to meet you!