Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Perspective on Architects of War

Yesterday, I received an "Order of Discharge" notice related to the Architects of War (AofW) bankruptcy process.  It reminded me that a number of people have asked me for my thoughts on AofW (AKA Alien Dungeon / Robot Peanut Studios) and it's bankruptcy.  Why ask me?  I was an investor in the business and may have a better understanding than most of what went on and how the business came to unravel.

Side note: The notice I received related to the Baker's personal bankruptcy, the dissolution of the business is still ongoing.

One point to make upfront is that, as an investor, I lost money when AofW went under.  My losses came from two sources - a direct equity investment and a partial guarantee on a bank loan to the company.  Losses in business investments are nothing new to me as my "real world" job involves being a partner in a Venture Capital firm that invests in tech and financial services companies.  Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't - it comes with the territory.  While disappointed in the outcome, especially the personal toll it took on the Bakers, their trade partners in the miniatures industry and AofW's customers, I'm not mad and, more importantly, I wasn't cheated.  As the man says in investing "You pays your money and you take your chances".

Out of respect for Barb and Ernie's privacy I will refrain from specific numbers but my losses were not insignificant but they are also not material to my financial well being.

Lastly, while I have tried to be as even-handed as possible these thoughts are my personal opinions and may not be universally shared nor agreed with -  in other words, "your milage may vary".  

The Bankruptcy:
Both the company and it's owners filed for bankruptcy in the 1Q' of 2016.  Bankruptcy is not something to be taken lightly - it's public and exacting in it's toll.  During a Bankruptcy process, the remaining assets of a business are given over to a court appointed trustee whose job it is to sell those assets (liquidation) and recover as much value as possible.  The proceeds of the liquidation are then parceled out to the creditors based on their preferential order.  Not all creditors are treated the same as some have "secured" rights.  In AofW's case there is a bank loan that has a significant amount outstanding that has to be settled first before any proceeds go to other creditors.  The general order of preference is:

- Court and Legal Fees (lawyers always get paid first - they're rather adamant about that!)
- Secured creditors (there's only one - the bank loan)
- Trade debts (obligations to suppliers / customers / employees)
   -- There is a fairly large amount owed to suppliers/vendors (mostly related to All Quiet) very little to customers (again mostly related to unfilled pledges for the All Quiet Kickstarter)
- Investors

I'm doubtful the net proceeds from the liquidation will fully pay back the bank loan but we shall see.

What Went Wrong?
One of the core issues faced by AofW (and just about any other small business) was a of a lack of growth capital.  In addition to the funding levels there were some challenges that were unique to the business itself including (1) a lack of experience with technology/social media and how to use it to  drive direct retail (online) sales and (2) a under estimation of the operational and logistical challenges of bringing the "All Quiet on the Martian Front" product line to market.

When it first opened it's doors, AofW was a specialized miniatures dealer that had it's own line of resin terrain pieces and sold historical miniatures from other manufacturers (namely Perry Miniatures and Gripping Beast).  The terrain pieces were top notch but expensive due to the cost to manufacture and ship (resin is heavy).  All the products were designed by Ernie and cast by a local Maryland vendor.  The historical lines were great for a gamer like me but the margins involved in selling other companies miniatures are less than 10% - they generate lots of top line volume but no profit.  AofW carved out a nice niche in the historical market but never generated a profit as a historical vendor.   What the company didn't expect was the impact that cheap laser cut terrain would have on it's resin product line.  The advent of 4ground and other laser cut manufacturers really cut into the product demand for the higher priced resin products.

Ernie correctly believed that the way to drive both growth and profit was to create his own game IP and expand into the much larger fantasy/SciFi market.  He went about learning how to do so by first writing and publishing the ACW skirmish ruleset "Uncivil Wars" and then doing his first Kickstarter for a fantasy skirmish game "Fanticide".  Both games were moderately successful but never "caught fire" a sales perspective.  One of the things that limited their potential was not really understanding how to use social media to drive both attention and a following.  Social media is a business skill that needs to be learned and understood by any miniatures manufacturer.

Based on what the company learned with it's previous game design projects it embarked on the "All Quiet on the Martian Front" game.  As a design idea, I thought is was brilliant - great concept, interesting period and quasi historical.  AofW went about the creating the game with a recipe that couldn't loose - get name brand game designers to write the rules, check!.  Take a well know work a fiction and make a game out of it - check!  Put a great deal of thought into the product design - check! Run an apparently successful Kickstarter to fund the thing, check!  How could it go wrong?

Despite raising a little under 305K for the project from 1,003 people the project failed -why?

A series of inter-related missteps.

(1) Kickstarter Discount Was too High:
During the course of the kickstarter, the offer was sweetened to appease several vocal individuals who wanted a "better deal"  There was one particular individual who kept whining that the kickstarter was priced for the 1% and, therefore, unfair to people like him.  He was as rude as he was min-informed of basic economics.  It was decided to throw more freebies in to "sweeten the pot".  Making these midcourse changes proved to be catastrophic as they significantly decreased profitability and increased the complexity of the project fulfillment.

(2) Production Delays:
AofW relied on sub-contractors for all its manufacturing including metal / resin casting, the plastic molds/casting down to the printing/binding of the hardcover rule books.  All of these activities were overseen by a very small team with deep product design skills but limited production management experience.  The design and production of the plastic components went well but the initial costs were under-estimated.  The contractors for the metal and resin proved to have over-stated their abilities and under-costed their bids - delays crept in as new subcontractors needed to be found.  The delays from these missteps built upon one another and delays cost money as staff still needs to be paid.  Remember while there historical line was still in operation it never generated excess cash so there was no financial support from there.

I do share some blame here as when Ernie asked my advice on when to set the initial delivery date for the kick starter, (which ended on June 3, 2013) I suggested December of the same year.  It was theoretically feasible but didn't build in any cushion for delays.  Dumb advice from me.

(3) Shipping Costs:
The impact of the production delays forced the company to decide break the shipping up into several "waves" which proved to be a material financial hit as the shipping costs more than tripled.  It was a decision that was based on trying to get the product both in customers hands and out to market at the same time.

(4) Direct Sales Never Took Off:
The overall marketing strategy for the product outside of the Kickstarter significantly relied on developing trade sales through brick and mortar game stores.  This tactic proved to be costly to implement from a manpower allocation and not very fruitful as game stores are very stressed from a business viewpoint and can't afford to take chances.  Too little was focused on building online buzz and community about the game.  In the end, both direct and "trade sales" never really took off.

(5) Poor Customer Communications:
In late 2014 a decision was made to limit communication to the kick starter backers to just "official announcements" from exhaustion and frustration.  I can understand the frustration one can get from dealing with gamers as anyone who looks at TMP or some of the comments on the All Quiet kickstarter page will understand.  Sadly, that's something a small business person can't afford - if you don't communicate all that's left is the small minority who want to vent.  I tell the CEO's of businesses I invest in that bad gossip sells better than good gossip and you don't have the luxury of ignoring it and not communicating as something worse always fills the void.  More importantly for every ranter there are many more customers with legitimate issues and grievances that need to be acknowledged.  Any communication from a customer is a chance to improve and shouldn't be passed up.

Don't get me wrong - ALL businesses make mistakes as they bring a concept to market.  If it was easy, everyone would do it, but it's not.  The core issue for AofW was that it didn't have a big enough capital cushion to weather any misstep, let alone multiple ones.  As the mistakes piled up the company tried to stay afloat by taking successively risky steps - from selling kickstarter product early before the backers got it first, selling the existing historical inventory at ever steeper discounts, delaying payments to suppliers, moving to PA to a much lower cost environment and to be closer to a potential manufacturing partner and ultimately changing the payment terms and disclosures to take money upfront even when out of stock.  It was a death spiral.

Some of those decisions were bad judgement but none were done will ill intent or from a desire to defraud.   Others, like taking money upfront for out-of-stock items should never had been enacted.  I think you'd understand how this type of thinking can occur if you either owned or were involved in a business that had deal with a dire situation - tunnel vision and a desire to succeed can outweigh more reasoned judgement.

So What?
I think there are some key learnings that one can take from this experience

(1) NEVER LET YOUR HOBBY BECOME YOUR BUSINESS
Perhaps more a personal observation from me, but a hobby is a stress reliever and a business is a stress creator.  I think it's very difficult for a hobbyist to make the transformation to a business runner especially with something as esoteric as miniature gaming.

(2) ACCESS TO CAPITAL IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS
Starting a business is not for the faint of heart nor the short of funds - having access to enough capital is the single biggest lever one has to be successful.  Capital can come from savings, friends or investors.  Starting a business under the assumption of "if I build it, investors will come" is really risky.  If you're afraid to ask people to fund your dream, then keep it a dream and move on.

(3) KNOW BOTH WHAT YOU'RE GOOD AT AND WHAT YOU'RE NOT
There are a lot of strong opinions about Ernie and I'm not going to editorialize here.  I will say Ernie is a superb product designer with the gift of imagination.  As an operator he had to learn lot on the fly and was too willing to believe his subcontractors initial promises.  Perhaps another way to put it is  that a small business owner needs to have the same scrutiny bar for good news as they do for bad.

(4) BE PREPARED TO FAIL
All business endeavors make mistakes and start ups make even more as they are pushing into new frontiers.  Accept that fact and embrace these mistakes as the critical teaching tools there are.  If you don't accept the mistakes as yours then you really can't learn.  More importantly,  incorporate some cushion into both your production and financial plans to reflect there will be unanticipated setbacks.  See point number 2 above.

(5) KICKSTARTER IS A LIMITED PURPOSE TOOL
Kickstarter are neither good nor bad.  They can be used as a sales finance tool but should never be used to fund pre-production products.  As a financing tool a Kickstarter can be used very effectively to fund inventory build for a product's introduction and to gauge market receptivity.  The key to using Kickstarter wisely is understanding your production costs and timelines so you can both accurately gauge the discount to offer and know the time to delivery.  Neither of those were known for All Quiet and were the cause of it's downfall.

(6) SOCIAL MEDIA IS A REQUIRED SKILL
Brick and mortar retail outlets for historical miniatures are dead - some may be hanging on right now but their prognosis is terminal.  If your coming out with a new product for the miniatures market you need to really understand how to drive sales through online channels.  If you don't, get someone who does or find something else to do with your time.

(7) ALWAYS COMMUNICATE WITH CUSTOMERS
Do so even if you've just got bad news.  As stated earlier the void is filled by some who are practicing "recreational outrage" and others who have legitimate concerns.  All shape your brand and need to be attended to.

The Post-Kickstarter noise:

The is still a lot of angst from the Kickstarter community about fraud / suing / talking to states attorney generals, etc.  All I can say is to remember that failure isn't fraud and the the company exerted a more than legally sufficient effort to fulfill on its obligation and completed 80% or so of the project.  Given that the retail price discount was 40% it's hard to see any net harm.  Don't get me wrong, I'm disappointed that I will not get all my stuff (the Goliath was a really cool design) but I don't think I was cheated.

More importantly read the damn user agreement with kickstarter - you don't get the huge discount without taking some form of risk and one of those risks is that the project fails and you don't get your toys.  If you can't accept that risk, don't play the game.  Whining, stomping your feet and posting about the unfairness of the world really doesn't get you much.

Closing Thoughts:
At the end of the day, I'm heart broken for the Bakers who literally lost everything in an attempt to build a business.  I can only wish them the best in their future endeavors whatever they may be.      Ernie has his personality challenges (which is not all that rare in our little tribe, is it?) and some of his decisions while running AofW burned bridges with other industry players who are justifiably angry at how things turned out.  For those of you who wished the Bakers ill from this adventure - congrats you got your wish in the form of extreme personal stress, public failure and financial ruin.  That is a very steep price to pay for attempting to bring a dream to life.

I think our hobby is lessened without the presence of AofW and I, for one, will miss them.











Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sectional Terrain: 3 Panels done

 The three 2x4 terrain panels for Historicon are done!  All thats left to do is a 6 ft x 1 ft shoreline. With the shoreline, I'll have enough panels to make a 15 ft x 6 ft playing area for the land portion of the game.

After Historicon, I'll need to build some panel storage racks but thats a project for another day.

The basic ground cover is a mix of two types of Woodland Scenics Static Grass - 2 parts Light Green (FL364) and 1 part Dark Green (FL636).  The affix the static grass to the board I put down a think layer of undiluted matt medium.  Work in relatively small areas (18 x 18 inches).  The static grass is applied by placing it in an old wire mesh strainer which I tap against my hand (like a terrain making tambourine).  The strainer is held about 3-4 inches above the panel.  Once one section is done move onto the the next.

When brushing the matt medium along the edge of an existing section it's best to only brush away from the sceniced portion (in the second photo  it would be to the right or top of the picture frame).  You'll pull some fibers into the new area but those will get covered up by the new layer when it's  applied.

You can also use standard white glue as an adhesive.  Ive found matt medium to be a bit better as it never yellows - sometimes white glue will yellow over the passage of a few years.

Take your time and move section by section.  I like to leave bare spots to break up the visual pattern but never plan them out.
 Once all the flock is laid down, the next step is to seal it with diluted matt medium (50% water / 50% matt medium).  This part requires two simple steps.  First lightly wet the board tops with spray water that has a drop of dishwashing soap in it - the soap breaks down the waters viscosity and help it low evenly.  Once a section is wet spray the diluted matt medium over it (even the base areas).  The water will "pull" the matt medium through the applied flock and when it dries its set and will stand up to aggressive tabletop action.

You want to wet the top but not soak it - if you've got water dribbling off the edges of the panel then you've put on too much.  It's not really a problem but greatly extends drying time.

I use spray bottles from old household cleaners to apply both the water and the diluted matt medium.

All three boards drying.  It takes about 3-4 hours to dry and set.  You can see I still need to paint the rock face on the hill panel (center).  I'll do that when I move the boards inside and can work on them in better light.

Please notice how I've pulled the panel apart - thats so they don't get "glued together" while the matt medium dries.  As with most useful terrain making hints, I've learned this one the hard way.



The shell holes were also finished after the edging grout had set.  It was easy - paint the edges using the same medium brown paint and then used some "soot chalk" purchased years ago from Bragdon Enterprises for my model railroad.  It's easy to apply - just put a little in the center of the crater and rub it in - the friction from the rubbing causes the material to adhere to the surface.

Let me know how you think the craters came out.  In the fall, I'm planning to do a "WW I themed panel" with trenches and craters do this was a little bit of a test.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sectional Terrain: Craters

I got a little bored making the terrain panels and decided to add some shell holes in the corner of one of the flat ones just to add some interest.  Sometimes these spur of the moment decision end in disaster but this one may work out.

Making shells holes with an extruded polystyrene material is easy - just use a heat gun to "melt" a depression and the base form of the creator is done.  I've used a heat gun to also break up the flat contour of larger panels.

Safety Note: Do this outside for both ventilation and fire control risk.  Polystyrene is flammable and one wants to do this where in the odd change it catches fire you can let it burn out on its own.  Doing this in an enclosed workshop or even worse a basement doesn't give you that options.  Outside also vents the fumes.

 The next step is to build up the crater edges and for that I use my trusty pre-mix grout and white glue mix.  I ring the depression with the grout/glue mix and then carve some slots with my custom crater making tool in the upper left.  OK it's just a wooden paint stirrer but it get the job done.

I then use my finger and a little water to smooth out the slot and make it look like the earth was ejected out of the crater.

And their done - a little creative painting and I'll have some craters.

I also managed to paint all three panels with the basic ground cover.  The grout edges of the crater haven't fully cured so I'll need to touch them up today.

Next step - apply ground cover (mostly static grass).

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Battle of the Buffet - After Action Report

 First a shot of the opposing army - as you can see I am greatly outnumbered plus this horde of future dental surgeons is commanded by a most fearsome leader - my lovely wife (extreme left of the first row).

I doubt I've ever seen a more fearsome order of battle.  Obviously, we were using the ruleset "Hordes of the Things" for this battle.

 As with any siege,the most important factor that determines success or failure is supply.  We laid in a significant food store including this table for the main supplies...
 A secondary table for the warmed food - what's in it?
 Quiche made by yours truly.  In this tray are my quiche Lorraines and some ham-n-cheese quiches.
 In the second warming tray are the vegetarian ones - some have broccoli other asparagus and one test one with artichokes.  The artichoke was a hit.  At the risk of sounding pompous, I am the King of Quiche.
 A secondary defensive food line was made in the kitchen with finger food
 And finally the redoubt of last hope - the desert table.  Hopefully three interlocked defensive lines would hold off the impending assault.
 An advance party of the enemy shows up under the guise of helping to set up.  These women warriors are most crafty indeed.

 Battle is joined and in the time it takes me to roll double sixes the walls are breached and the enemy floods into my kitchen to sack and plunder.


 Oh the carnage....

 Unlike many barbarian tribes these amazon warriors pride themselves on good table manners and
 a proper sense of decorum while plundering a city.
I think I can recall this conversation "oh Dr Reidy, you must be so proud of your husbands miniature collection"....

 My wife addressing her victorious troops

and they are held in rapt attention - perhaps I can make my escape whilst these blood thirsty warriors are enthralled by ministrations of their leader.

 Drat I've been spotted by Oxanna!  Hmm they seem to be giving my wife some form of tribute

 Noooo!!!!!! its gardening related which means more work for me!!!

Alas, we must bid a fond failure to the graduating class.  I shall miss the young lady on the left in the first row the most - she makes a wonderful peach pie.

Thus ends the game which was ignoble defeat for me.  You ever have one of those games you knew you were going to loose before the first die is cast?



Saturday, May 14, 2016

Awaiting the Onslaught of the Golden Horde

Golden Horde of female dental students, that is.

Yes it's that time of year where my home is over run by 30-40 twenty something female dental students for my wife's annual bash.  Usually this chaos happens in April but it's been delayed to May this year.

Luckily no catering disasters like last year (I do make a mean quiche by the way) but lots of house cleaning and stern warnings from my wife to behave.  To be honest, I'm a little offended that she thinks i'm capable of such rudeness.  It's not like the stripper pole incident of 2011 wasn't just a nice bit of good natured fun and a whole lot of mis communication - it's not like I contractually guaranteed them "A''s...

Anyway, most of the prep work is done and I'm off cutting veggies for some type of veggie tray and then I'll be making a few quiches tonight just to hold in reserve.

Wish me luck - these things can be very dicey and never-ever stand in front of the buffet table and the ravenous horde.

Just don't do it

My son and I do hope to escape tomorrow for some sailing if the weather holds.


Sectional Terrain: Ground texture Applied

I managed to get 2 of the 3 panels ground "textured".  The third will wait for today as I ran out of gap filler (spackle) and need to grab some this morning from the hardware store.

The ground texture is 2/3 pre-mix flexible tile grout (sandstone colored) and 1/3 white glue.  This concoction has worked well in the past as it dries rock hard but retains some flexibility so it doesn't crack from usage and/or moving the boards.

I'm still tweaking the hill design.  The sides have been beveled down to a 30 degree angle which will support most figures.  There will be an exposed rock face on the other side but that's just cause I like making them.

I did experiment with cutting a groove in the hill but really don't like the look and will fill that in later today.

The new terrain making workbench is working out very well as I can work on multiple panels at the same time.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sectional Terrain: A bit of progress

The pink foam was cut and placed inside the frames.  On the spur of the moment I decided to make one of the panels a rather large hill.

I may take the second level off or lower it a bit.

Next step sealing and adding ground texture using a mix of flexible tile grout and white glue.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Historicon 2016 PEL is Out!

The Preliminary Event List (or PEL) for Historicon 2016 is out and once again Mike and I will be running some games.

In fact we've got 6 events set for the con as we both enjoy putting on games more than playing in them.  Unlike the past 4 years which have featured American Civil War themed games were changing up a bit - still on the same continent, but a bit earlier with the War of 1812 and the American Revolutionary War being the topics.

First off we're scheduled to run 4 versions of our "big Battle game titled "Grapeshot on the Chesapeake, with a hint of Garlic?"  Here's the game description from the PEL:


It’s 1814 and an invading British / Canadian army is besieging an American shipyard near St Michaels, Maryland – can the US forces hold out long enough to complete the refit of the USS Wasp and get her to sea? Will the relief force of an unexpected ally arrive in time? This game will be an extremely hypothetical contest that features a French intervention into the War of 1812. The game will have over 1,500 28mm scale figures, a 3 foot long frigate model plus several gunboats and a few surprises. It will all be silly fun but may offend some historical purists. Children over 12 are welcome if accompanied by an adult. Prizes will be awarded to all players. 

We'll be using a modified version of Longstreet for the game as I've found that ruleset to be really fun for con games - easy to teach but with tactical nuances that keep a game interesting.

The game is set to run 4 times over the con and will likely have a few unscheduled plays if there is demand

Thursday (July 14)

Start Time        Game #      
10:00am           T-293        

4:00pm             T-314        

Friday (July 15)

10:00am           F-311        

Saturday (July 16)

9:00pm             S-317    

We'll also be running a skirmish game set in the Revolutionary War using the same table called "A Madman's Steeple Chase, which is described in the PEL as:


In the dewy morning mists of the American colonies, the pickets begin to stir, unaware of what the day will bring... A 28mm American Revolution (or American War of Independence if you must) skirmish game using Perry Miniatures. This game will focus on fun. Children over 12 are welcome if accompanied by an adult. Game Masters are Mike Marchant and Miles Reidy 

Scheduled game times:

Friday (July 15)

7:00pm            F-294        

Saturday (July 16)

3:00pm             S-318        

Both games will be using the same terrain (we'll just move it around a bit).  The table will be pretty big at 18ft x 6 ft but I think we'll have enough miniatures to properly fill the space.  The kind folks at HMGS have graciously allowed me to use the same table for the entire con which really helps with the logistics.  We do have a bit of terrain to build to get ready but all the mini's are done.

I'm looking forward to the con and hope to see a lot of you there.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Historicon 2016: Terrain Building

Hisoricon is just under 11 weeks away!

The good news is that the armies are pretty much done - some minor rebasing but not more than a few hours of effort.

The bad news is that there's a good bit of new terrain I need.  First up is 3 new terrain panels which at 2' x 4' each allow me to extent the battlefield for 6x10ft to 6 x 14'.  On Sunday morning, I built the frames for the new terrain panels.

2 of the panels will be generic flat terrain and the third will have some rolling hills and maybe even some pre-planted trees.

I still need to build 6 ft of shoreline and then a host of terrain details to make the board interesting.

It's terrain building season!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

St Michael's Con 2016

 I really like gaming conventions but being an obnoxious "Type A" personality, I always wonder how hard could it be to put one on a gaming weekend for a group of like minded souls?  Rather than post on TMP with uninformed thoughts, I decided to find out and hosted a gaming weekend for 11 of my gaming buddies over a long weekend.  While my little event will not rival Salute or Historicon, it was a nice experiment and a whole lot of fun.

Set up started on Wed night when Steve came over and we were able to baptize his new gaming table with it's inaugural game of X-Wing!

Thursday am was devoted to prep work, which mainly involved laying in food supplies.  11 adult male gamers will consume "mass quantities" of food and have been known to turn violent if not fed properly.  Don't worry there was also an ample supply of beer.

One thing I did decide early in the planning was to go with low set up / take down games (X-Wing / Armada and other board games.

Later thursday, Steve's table got a real work out with the start of another "Heroes of the Aturi Cluster" X-Wing campaign.   This picture is actually from Friday as I forgot to take pictures on thursday.  The first six initial arrivals on thursday were treated to a dinner in town and then there was gaming to 3:30am


 On Friday morning we had an uninvited guest - a 5 foot long queen snake.  You can also see we get a little bit of pollen out on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

 All of the guests arrived sometime friday and the serious gaming began - here is a pair of strategic thinkers playing the new star wars rebellion game.  I made breakfast for the crew on Friday - eggs and bacon.  We went through a lot of bacon that weekend.

 The dining room table was protected by a painting tarp.  It proved to be a wise decision.  One side note - our dining room table is 8ft x 4' so it must have been designed for gaming!

 Yet more X-wing - I think I played in 14 X-wing games during the event!  As the gaming stretched into Friday night we ordered Pizza and played yet again until 3:00am
Happy geeks

Satruday dawned to a pancake breakfast cooked by your's truly and yet more bacon.
 Dano on the left is usually very shy and reserved but somehow we were able to coax him out of his shell.  The group is playing the Zombiecide "Black Plague" game which was a real blast.
I got to play a lot of new games but the one that stuck out the most for me was "Lords of Waterdeep" - what a fantastic game.
 Dinner Saturday night was a group cooking event.  I really need to get better kitchen staff.  We had a wide array of grilled meats, some star wars mac-n-cheese and steamed crabs.  There were also some lettuce for the burgers so we could say we ate a vegetable.

Gaming Saturday night stretched again to 3:30am with very raucous games of "Bang" and "Panic on Wall Street".  Three nights in a row staying up to 3:30am is an impressive streak for me.

As Sunday morning dawned it was time to close out the con and I bid a fond farewell to my guests.

So what did I learn?

Hosting a gaming event like this is the most fun I've had gaming and I will definitely do it again next year and increase the size to 20 or so.

Things that went well

(1) Food
Everyone seemed to be well fed and there was enough options to keep everyone happy regardless of dietary restrictions - The group BBQ on Saturday night went really well and was a lot of fun.

(2) House Wear and Tear
My house sustained no damage - while we may all play rather silly war-games, this group of friends are class acts and knew what fate awaited me from my wife if they broke something in the house.  My lovely, yet fierce, wife was both impressed and surprised at the lack of damage

(3) The Participants
All 11 of my guests were a joy to host and I'm grateful they decided to give this whole experiment a go.  Most of them are associated with the WWPD "gang" or put on convention games with me.  I kept the initial guest list pretty restricted as I didn't know how many would show up and if they'd have fun

I'll post a group picture of the participants as soon as I track one down.  I'm pretty sure Chippendales has nothing to fear from us.

(4) The Location
I think people really liked St Michaels.  It's a bit off the beaten path but is a nice vacation spot and offers a lot to do if people one day bring their wives and/or kids to next years event.

(5) Fun
Perhaps the most important indicator of success is that everyone appeared to have fun.  No one was left out of any gaming opportunities and there was a lot of laughing and high-jinks.  I didn't keep a formal tally but my best guess is that there were at least 60 games played across 6 or so game types.


Things that could have gone better

(1) Game planning
I really didn't do any and it worked out fine but next year I'd like to have more historical games and maybe a tournament of some sort.  That requires more advanced planning and, more importantly, enlisting volunteers to run different types of games.  I don't think we'll have a detailed PEL on online registration system but I do think a little more effort here on my part will pay real dividends

(2) Accommodations
We have a relatively nice place in St Michaels and the pool was open.  but it was straining at the seems to sleep 11 adults.  If I moved the event back a few weekends we could setup canopy tents for some outside gaming and even get the heartier souls to camp on the property.  It will also still be off season so I can also negotiate a cut rate hotel cost for those with more discerning tastes.

(3) Healthier food options
Next year I need to make sure there are wider array of healthier food options (fruit maybe even a vegetable of two).  While eating charred meat is fun and all, three days of a carnivorous buffet can take it's toll on ones waistline.

Overall
I had a blast doing this and will definitely put on another one next year with a larger size and a good bit more advanced planning

Ok here's the real reason I put this show on - left behind gaming stuff - I got two tokens from X-Wing, an empty plastic dice box and the timer from "Panic on Wall Street".  I'm sure I'll have full games after only a few years of hosting these events - Muuuhawwhawwahaawww.....