Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Historicon AAR

Okay, I finally got around to typing up my experiences from this year's Historicon. Summary: I had a firkin' blast.

Bob Bryant (of Might of Arms) and I drove up Wednesday morning. It was rainy and cold, and I was beginning to seriously regret my choice to pack nothing but shorts. We drove for about 10 and a half hours, including a stop for dinner. Our hotel this year was the Classic Inn, next door to the Host, just across the parking lot outside the Flea Market/Ancient Tournaments area. It wasn't any nicer than the Host-- in fact, our furniture was sticky, apparently in a failed attempt to refinish them-- and the room was smaller, but it was cheaper and it was actually closer to the gaming than some of our Host rooms have been. As long as it didn't rain, we were gravy. (Duh duh DUHHHHHH!)
On Thursday morning, we got up and went to have breakfast at Bob Evans down the road. Shorts did indeed turn out to be the right choice once I was in Lancaster. The Con didn't start until noon, and I wanted to visit the Bird in Hand Farmers Market. It's not a bad little place, and I stocked up on jellies and jams for back home. Next year, I will just buy sandwich stuff here on Thursday and keep it in a cooler for the rest of the con. They had some nice looking loaves of bread and cold cuts, which would mostly beat eating at the Host.
My pre-reg game was at 5:00, and I tried to get into a Look Sarge, No Charts games run by Buck Surdu. Yet again this year, I was unable to walk into a Buck Surdu game, it's becoming a Historicon tradition. The game actually looks quite nice, but I think it's getting a bad reputation because of the emphasis on not needing charts. You don't need charts, but you do need custom base labels, table markers, and two sets of custom dice. Still, once you had the setup and knew the rules, I bet it would give a nice game. Maybe I'll find out next year. I tried to take some pictures of the base labels, but didn't have much luck.

Instead, I played in Buck Rogers and the Secret Laboratory, a Fantastic Worlds game run by Duncan Adams. It was pretty fun, and had a lot of character, using some really old Sci-Fi "flats." It was a fun little game and we were really duking it out, so much so that about an hour in, Duncan had to remind us that there was a scenario.

My prereg game was President for Life, an AK-47 game run by Richard Ciarlo. Also in my game was Eric Burgess of the Charlotte Garrison. We tried and failed to take the radio station to let our country know about the recent restructuring of government.

Eric let me know that Chris Velas would be running a pick up game of his Saturday Piquet: Field of Battle Isandlwana game, which I was also preregistered for. I was really looking forward to this game, and wasn't disappointed. Chris (with some help, I believe, from his brother Pat) had created a beautiful board and some really beautiful 28mm figures, starting sometime in March this year. He ran it with one stand units representing a company (or there about, in the case of the Zulu).
In this pick up, Eric and I were British. I commanded Durnford against the left horn of the Zulu. Much like the real battle, I was battered by the very fast moving left horn, and soon had my mounted NNC routing and my mounted Volunteers (the only units I had facing the left horn) falling back, both down a stand. Yet the valiant Durnford managed to rally both groups, regrouping the routers-- restoring them to full strength-- and had them pull back across two dongas, giving us a little breathing room. The British rifles pounded the Zulu, and it was a very near run thing, but in the end, the Zulu assault stalled as three of their commanders were killed, and the British pulled out a narrow victory.

At some point Thursday, I had to rework my Friday scheduled. I had prereged for a game of the Easiest Rules Ever for Napoleonics. That sounds very appealing to me, but as I was blocking out my time, I realized that I had overlooked the fact that this game was six hours long! I don't care how easy the rules are, I don't want to sit at one table for six hours. So, I dropped it and picked up two other games-- a Gloire game and the new Piquet Fantasy game, which I wasn't crazy about playing in, not being much of a Fantasy fan, but thought it might be interesting since it was Piquet.
On Friday morning, I stopped by Broadsword: The Raid, a Stargrunt 2 game run by Mark Kinsey with Mark Mills and Northern Lancaster Wargamers. I knew I was going to leave early, but was interested in somebody else's Stargrunt 2 game, and they didn't mind that I just sat in for part. I didn't pick up from the event description that it was a Traveller setting, which I don't know much about, but it was fun and I met Doctor Merkury from TMP.

My first prereg game was the Pirates of Skeleton Cay, a Gloire game run by author Pete Murray. As I had mentioned the blog earlier, I was pretty excited about .45 Adventures/Gloire, and was looking forward to playing in some games. Rattrap Productions was there in force, with what looked like two games going all the time, especially on Friday. Playing on their small but well detailed two foot by two foot game boards was a lot of fun. Pete referred to it as "terrain bonsai." I didn't catch them running the same game twice. I did also meet Illumisar, Deathwing Chris V, rorrim and Operator5 (Rich, the .45 Adventures author) from TMP hanging around that area.

I have had some pirates for a while, which naturally would work with Under the Black Flag, but I was also wondering if the 40mm AWI figures I have been painting up would make a good game. I decided not so Gloire, your characters just can take a lot of damage, and is much more suited to "Hollywood" styles of games, where the stars can soak up a lot of damage. I mentioned this to Bob, and he told me about playing in a Brother Against Brother game run by Bob Moon, and that he enjoyed the rules. I swung by the dealer's hall and found a copy. Flipping through it, I was had cards for morale, and seemed to be geared towards large scale skirmish. Still, I kept it in the back of my mind.
I also checked out Sash and Saber 40mm figures. They had a few FIW packs which would work really well for both AWI, which I'd already started, and FIW. I got to thinking that with just a few FIW specific units, like Roger's Rangers, I could easily do both conflicts. However, the only deal I saw at the booth was to buy five $40 packs, and get a sixth free. I wasn't really interested in six packs, so I figured it could wait until I was ready to mail order it.
Pat Velas had mentioned he was running a Napoleonics FoB game that afternoon, so I dropped the Piquet Fantasy I had signed up for, taking a later session instead, and hung around his table. We talked a lot about how he and Chris had painted their figures. They used two techniques which I was familiar with but hadn't seen combined to very nice effect. They "stain" painted their figures-- priming white and then painting with thinned paint to produce highlights in one pass-- and dipping-- they followed up with a very thin covering of Minwix Polyshades Tudor. The figures, both the Napoleonics and the Zulu, looked really great.

I rounded out the day with the Piquet Hostile Realms Fantasy game, Unholy Alliance run by Peter Anderson. It was interesting, combining FoB initiative, some elements of standard Piquet, and heroes with RPG stats. Still, I'm just not into Fantasy enough to paint two armies of twelve units, each consisting of four stands. HotT is just about my speed for fantasy. Peter gets my vote for best GM of the entire con-- he had two five liter can kegs at the end of the table for the players, including one of hefeweizen which I pulled my fair share of.

I left a little after 9 (I had let them know I would be leaving early) as several people had mentioned on TMP that they would be meeting in the bar at 9:00. Well, I saw nobody and swung through several times the rest of the night and never saw anybody. Still, despite that, it was a very social con, much more so than in the past. I had already met many of the Piquet guys, which sort of leads to introductions to the rest, and I was wearing my con badge, and ran into at least twenty different TMPers, which made the con down time a lot more fun.
Anyway, come Saturday morning, I hit the Bob Evans again for another of their really good salsa omlettes, and plotted my day. Bob Moon was running a FIW BAB game at 8:00, but I had decided I wasn't interested, so I planned to try for a Fantastic Worlds game at 9:00. Still, I hit the Host right about 8:00 and cruised through the Wheatland room, being right by the entrance, taking pictures. Lo and behold, I am standing right before Bob Moon's Black Wampum board, and it is beautiful. I do a quick figure count, and it looks like he only going to be running about 50 figures...not bad! He announces room for two players, and I hop in, for a very excellent game.

Bob's game reinforced the idea that you don't need wonderfully painted figures to have a beautiful table. I don't know if I'll ever believe it deep down in my gut, but my brain recognizes it as true. The figures he used were an average quality up close, but the effect of the them on the table overall was really great. Bob's terrain wasn't especially complicated (although he did have some really nice pieces), it was just thorough. I really enjoyed it-- even if my militia reinforcements got blown away by Indians who, we realized later, actually didn't have firearms.
So, I immediately headed to the dealer's hall, searching for Brother Against Brother. Of course, it was sold out! I couldn't find it anywhere. Disgruntled, I headed back to the Host for Chris's Isandlwana game.
This time, I played the Zulu right horn. I initially got some very nice movement, putting the right horn very close to contact with the main British line in front of Isandlwana, and threatening to flank it. I thought it might turn out to be a resounding British defeat, but the British commanders did very well by putting their flank companies in square and shooting up the attacking Zulu. Before too long, we had four Army Morale Points, down from 64, and the Brits had two, down from fifteen...and then we went to zero and the Brits were back to seven! I declared it a British victory then, as my rightmost induna tried to get around Isandlawana into the British fugitives. There were few cowards this day, though, as neither army broke, and the numbers came to play, as the Zulu forced the British into a small cluster before Isandlawana and destroyed them. Again, an excellent game!

Afterwards, I trundled back to the dealer's room and walked it again, not really finding much else I was willing to pay for. As I was leaving, I passed the Sash and Saber booth again, and saw another show special-- buy four FIW packs, and get a free blockhouse. Hey, now that's not too bad, and right there on the table was the tavern that Bob Moon had used in his game. I asked Chris Hughes of S&S if this building was the one you got for free. He said no, but he would let me have it instead. So, buying four packs I was probably going to buy got me a free $75 building...not bad, not bad at all!
As I went back through the Host, I swung through various gaming areas taking pictures. In Distlefink, I found the Dieter Dellinger and the Susquehanna Historical Wargamers prepping Trouble in Penn Woods, using This Very Ground, Iron Ivan's FIW rules. Well, what a coincidence! I hopped in and ran some Troope de la Marine and Indians. I was a little wary of the rules, which seemed to be very lax about things like formations, but after playing a little bit, I decided that I liked the rules and would have to pick them up.

I left the game early (I did this a few times, but always let the GM know before the game started) so I could make a pick up game of Pat Velas' Napoleonics. Sadly, it had filled up before I could get in.

Saturday night, I wound up hanging out in the Host lobby with several people I had just met, like photonred, Mserafin and BCantwell of TMP, and Ed of Two Hour Wargames and had a really great time until around 2:00 AM. Bob and I slept late on Sunday, until around 9:00. One last trip through the dealer's hall netted me a copy of This Very Ground, we drove through Burger King for breakfast, and then we were off.
On the way, we were having a fairly animated discussion about the con and future gaming ideas, and a lot of discussion about Flames of War, when we approached a tunnel. "Bob," I said, "I don't remember a tunnel on the way up here." We turned around and found we had missed I-81 by forty miles, tacking eighty miles onto the return trip. Maaan, like this trip wasn't long enough!! Still, it was a small inconvenience all things considered. It was a great trip, and, even though I still pledge to mock HMGS East's politics, they are to be heartily commended for running the best Historicon I have been to. I can't wait for next year!

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