Thursday, July 19, 2018

HCON 2018: DAK & Dragons and SOCOM & Sorcery

Being a convention Game Master (GM) is one of my favorite aspects of the hobby.  It combines two unique aspects.  First is an adult version of elementary school "Show and Tell" with the term historical miniatures replacing toy soldiers.  The second is a need to become both a circus ringmaster and carnival barker as you try to get a group of disparate people to enjoy and buy into a gaming experience.  I really enjoy that aspect and try to make a positive impression on my players.

I ran a total of 8 games over the course of the con and enjoyed every single one.  I was a bit worn out by Saturday but still really enjoyed myself.  Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of all the games!

The first game seemed to prove that the rules tweaks and movement trays really improved game play and there was a lot more desperate fighting in the catacombs sections vs last year.

The game featured a number of repeat players including Malcom (in red)..
and Matt (center) who have played in many of my games over the years

The first set of victim from the initial game
I don't really remember all of the details from the games but do recollect that almost all went down to the last turn with possession of the Prof trading hands several times.

Yes, small tanks can fit into a dungeon - why? because it's cool!

Pretty excited to win another PELA award.  To be honest since I was re-running a game from last year's HCON I didn't think I was eligible.  HMGS did do a better job awarding the trophy as a group of people came over and made a big deal about it.  They also made a big deal about some guy named Pete Panzerenie (sp?) giving me the award.  He seemed like a nice guy in a goofy calvary hat and I appreciated him taking the time.  As I asked who he was over the course of the convention I found out people have some strong opinions about him  very strong.  He seems fine to me.

More desparate fighting in the dungeons!

A dragon wipes out a DAK Squad!  This year I toned down the monsters to both speed play and get the two human sides into combat with each other more quickly

I really like how the jungle section came out

The Friday afternoon game featured John S and his son (pictured) as players.  I got an email from John a few days after the con where he told he the game was his son's favorite and he was still talking about it.  That reaction makes all the effort that goes into putting these silly things on more than worth it!

I did get a lot of requests for a copy of the rules, which are a simple spreadsheet.  I'm thinking of writing something up thats a little more formal and then posting it on this blog for anyone to download.  What do you think?
I'll do a more reflective post of what worked and what can be improved later on.  Overall I thought the game went really well and I was very fortunate to have great players for each game.

There was been some hand wringing post con about canceled games and no-shows from the pre-registration system.  I can't really speak about cancellations other than I ran all 6 of my scheduled games plus 2 more.  As for no-shows, it was consistent to previous cons.  All of my games were "sold-out" each day and I always had 2-3 no-shows out of 8 slots.  Every game I ran was full as walkups filled the gap and I often added a 9th player (monsters) to help get people in the game.  I don't think the ability to pre-register for two games really impacted my attendance.

I do want to personally thank all my players - these events are enjoyable not because of the GM (maybe inspite of the GM!) but because the players decide to make them fun.  Yet again, I got a bumper crop of great people to spend a few hours with.  Thank you very much.

I'll probably run DAK & Dragons again at either Cold Wars or Fall In but will likely retire the game from Historicon.  So whats up for next year?  I suspect there will be some hints not to long on this blog.  All I can say is think 15mm rather than 28's......

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Historicon: Other Peoples Games

The games at this year's Historicon seemed to have stepped up several notches in quality from previous cons.  There were a lot of beautifully staged games and game masters who really put a lot of effort in their games.  I'll devote the majority of pictures in this post to what was clearly the best game of the con Dave S's and his lovely wife Kalissa's "Battle of Oulestee" game from the American Civil War .  Oulestee was the only major engagement fought in Florida so the table required some very unique vegetation, which Dave really delivered on.  I should know -  I grew up on the US Gulf Coast and the table reminded me of home.

 This game very deservedly won "Best of Show" and in addition to being beautiful was very playable.

 I plan to steal, oops I mean "liberate", a lot of the terrain techniques used by the Dave and Kalissa for future gaming projects - mimicry is a form of flattery!

 Wow, simply Wow is the best way I can describe this game.

After careful consideration, I have bestowed the title of "Teddy Bear Fur King" onto David as he makes the best use of that material I've ever seen.  David, I trust you'll use this new title and all the powers it conveys for good and not evil....

I'm pretty sure he wanders around his house resplendent in a teddy bear fur robe - and now he can wear a crown with it!

 I loved the Spanish moss on the trees in the swamp areas and think David did a superb job simulating the the plant.  When I was a kid our house (OK trailer) backed up to the bayou and we had Spanish moss all over the oaks.  Dave nailed it!
 In addition to the terrain there were over 1,500 newly painted 28mm Union and Confederate troops on the table - all of which David painted in 12 months.  The figures are from Sash and Saber and I need to think about adding some to my ACW collection - there are very nice.
By the way, I did learn from Kalissa that if you're ever in a game whichDave is hosting the surest way to curry the GM's favor and likely several re-rolls is to say nice things about the French.  Trust me it works.  Feel free not to credit this insight to me....

 Outside the main gaming area there was a giant ancients game that pitted Romans against celts.  What was really cool was the scenario changed daily from an assault on a Roman fortress on Day 1, a Column ambush on Day 2 (think Tuetenburg Wald) and then a meeting engagement on day three.  Very innovative use of the table.
 Perhaps my second favorite game of the show was this Siege of St Elmo - the terrain was breathtaking and the minis superbly painted.

 The GM used an innovative way to simulate the huge number of Ottomans besieging the fort - figures taken off the table for Ottoman losses would re-appear at the back edge as reinforcements - think shark teeth.
 A ginat model of Minis Tirith!
 ACW in 15mm
 A harpoon naval game with teeny tiny ships!

 A game of "Et Sans Resultant" with the rules author in the natty white hat.  I had a chance to goto dinner with the author and his wife and enjoyed meeting them and learning how they got into the crazy business of miniature wargaming.

I am very intrigued by the rules (I have a copy along with 3 of the scenario books).  I highly recommend both the rules and the scenario books to anyone who's interested in the period.  Each Scenario book includes literally hundreds of uniform plates that are incredible useful in painting up your forces.  You'll hear more about these rules in future posts.

 A big Fire and Fury Brigade level game that will be featured in Rich's upcoming scenario book.  Still the best rules for the Civil War out there.
 I loved these giant ship models!

 I did miss getting picture of Bob Giglio's game but it was wonderful and will be featured in an upcoming Wargames Illustrated issue.  I suspect Dave Taylor took better pictures than my I-phone and clumsy fingers could ever hope to!

There were a lot of other innovative and well staged games that I just forgot to take pictures of.  I'm really excited about the future of the con after seeing this level of participation and know I need to up my game for 2019!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Back From Historicon 2018

 This year's Historicon was a blast - probably one of the best I've ever been to.  The first few photos show the table layout for this years games.  The table was 6ft by 20ft.  I had asked for 6x24 but made this work.

Over the next few days, I'm planning to do a series of posts about each day of the con and then the mandatory self important "con reflections" (spoiler - it will be very glowing to the organizers)

Prepare yourselves for a barrage of con related ramblings - you have been warned.
 A shot from the "catacomb" side of the table.  Gamewise, the catacombs are located under the jungle section where there are entrances that correspond to the stairway sections on the catacombs.
A shot of the jungle section, which was new for this year.  I think it came out really well and I think people really enjoyed playing on it.

I ran the game a total of 8 times over the three day con which was both really fun and exhausting.  Very grateful to both Mike M and John D who both pitched in to help me run a game.

 This year's games were a lot more intense and all went down to the last die roll.  There was a lot more frenetic combat in the catacombs which really was very exciting.

Three factors contributed the improved game play.

1) I had uniformly great players including a good number who played last year and several who played the game multiple times this year.  It's the players who determine the gaming experience and I was blessed with an outstanding group of people.

2) I tweaked the rules to make the monsters a bit less imposing so the player groups could get to the catacombs quicker and start bumping into each other.  There was a lot more allied vs axis combat in this years games.

3) The movement trays - these things dramatically increased play speed without making the players feel rushed.  Despite reducing the play time from 4 to 3 hours each game got in 20-25% more turns than the previous year.  I was very surprised how effective such a simple solution could be.

Surprisingly, I was given another PELA award, which was awarded for the first game I ran so the connection got off to a great start.  I thought the quality of the games this year was really off-the-charts, so the competition was fierce.

Here a shot of my latest award nestled with the rest on the award shelf.  It's located just to the right of my most prized award - the "Honorary Posties Rejects" commemoration.  Hallowed ground indeed.  Now to find a way to parley these accolades into lucrative endorsement contracts with sports shoes companies....

Ugh - the ugly underbelly of putting on a convention game - unpacking.  I managed to get the car unloaded and everything down to the basement but suspect they'll stay in those boxes a good bit of time before everything is put away.