Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Historicon 2017: Final Thoughts

WARNING: Self-Reflective drivel ahead, proceed with caution.  There, all the legal notice requirements are out of the way.

The 2017 version of Historicon was the 8th consecutive HCON I've attended and the 7th I've run games at.  I really enjoy the con and look forward to it every year.  The 2017 version seemed a bit bigger than the past few years and definitely felt more "alive".  While the FCC isn't a perfect venue, it did well this time out and I'll miss not having HCON there next year (more on that topic below).

One of the best things about the con is seeing old friends like Ivor and his son Jacob plus meeting new ones like Dave S and his wife, Kalissa.

It was also great to see a lot of my regular players so up for repeat runnings of my games.

I also got to catch up with Ed Spetigue, who is doing really well in his post "Architects of War" life.  Please check out his new gaming company Battle Valor Games.  The minis are really cool and the game seems to be gaining lots of traction.  We did catch up on old times and the debacle that was Architects of War - what a mess that was.

I also got to catch up with Rich Hasenauer, author of the superb Fire and Fury rulesets.  Sadly, Rich is leaving the Maryland area to move down to his place on the NC coast but I'll get to see him at the cons.  He's a class act and the Fire and Fury rules are the best for ACW gaming.

Some Thoughts on the con:


1) "The Convention Vibe"
This version of Hisotricon in Fredericksburg felt more "alive" to me than past versions - the attendance seemed a bit bigger and people were a lot more active.  I know this is a rather subjective comment and might be influenced by my games going well but 2017 really was one of the better Historicon's that I've attended.

2) Game Quality
The quality of the games this year in the main hall seemed to be higher than usual with some of the standouts including:
     - Ivor's Agent Carter game (second picture)
     - Dave and Kalissa Seibicki's "Ambush and Grammichel" game (this was the best game of the con)
     - Ben Franklins War steampunk game
     - The huge (ok huuuugggee) Team Yankee game
     - Frostgrave Treasure Hunting in the Frozen City (amazing table)
     - By Fire and Sword Campaign games (I really like this system and need to get back to playing it more)
     - Captain Henry Morgan raid Maricaibo... (the giant pirate game at the back of the main hall)

     I know I missed some other great games but this year just seemed well above average

3) The FCC venue
While not perfect, I thought the environment was really good and the noise level a bit lower than previous years.

4) My games went well:
Again a subjective positive but I was really nervous running such a big/complex game on a set of home grown rules.  The rules can be improved but they worked pretty well with 80+ plus play-testers.  By the way when I say homegrown rules, I really mean stolen as I took parts of various rule sets, the largest donor being the superb Donnybrook ruleset.

I was excited to get another PELA award and appreciate some of the board members coming over to chat with me about game running and how to improve the cons.

5) Cigar Box game mats:
These worked extremely well and really reduced the wear and tear in transportation.  Terrain boards are really nice to look at but are a real pain to transport.

6) The convention staff
Always a pleasure to work with and everything ran very smoothly for my vantage point.

7) My Players
Yet again I had a great set of players for every game - it's the players who make a game successful, not the GM.  It was great to see some returning faces and meet new friends.  I look forward to having them at my table again next year.

Opportunities to Improve:

1) Extra GMs:
I need to enlist more help putting on these games.  Mike was able to join me on Thursday which was a BIG help but I need to do a better job coordinating others to pitch.  Hopefully I can convince Ivor to lower his gaming standards and pitch in with me for next year

2) Switching out miniatures:
I ran what was essentially the same game with two sets of miniatures (ww2 and then moderns).  Next year I should stick to one set as the time taken to switch out the troops is a bit tedious

3) Simplify my rules:
 Keep the one page but also set a font limit of 14.  I realized I could have streamlined the rules even more (and did so as the games progressed).  More on this point in another post.

4) Finish the Terrain Earlier
I usually set a goal of having all the minis painted before entering the game into the PEL (3-4 months before the con).  That's worked really well the past few years.  I think I need to set a similar goal for terrain as I just ran out of time.  The terrain set up used for the game was good but didn't have all the finishing details and LED lights that I had originally planned.  Going forward the new goal will be minis done six months before the con (I can dream) and the terrain before the PEL system opens up.  Lets see how that works.....

Concern for the Future - The Host:

I am less than thrilled with the pending move of Historicon back to Lancaster and the the Host "resort".  It's not really an issue of travel as both locations are just 2+ hours driving from my home.  I find the FCC and surrounding area to be vastly superior to Lancaster and the decrepit Host in terms of dining choices, venue, you name it.

There have been some minor positive signs with the recent change of ownership in the Host, but my most recent personal experiences with the place have been abysmal.  I'm trying to keep an open mind and will both attend and run games in 2018 but I'm not excited about the location.

Please don't read my concerns as a negative comment on the board and the convention staff.  It was clear that the dwindling attendance at HCON over the past 5 years warranted a change.  The Board was dealt another blow when their NJ plans fell through but it still kind of feels like circumstances have forced us to go back and live in our collective parents dark/dingy basement.  It's nice to have the refuge but it also sucks all-the-same.  Maybe one of the other cons will switch to the FCC in the future.

I will be going to Fall-In this year, which will give me a chance to re-evaluate the Host.   I'm hoping the new owners have worked some magic on that decrepit beast.


I failed my Willpower test roll on spending discipline this year (yeah, I rolled a 1) and left the con with a good bit of "loot".

- A lot of pirate stuff from the new "Blood and Plunder" game system - I really like what I've seen and am leaning towards a Pirate theme for next years Historicon game....
I really blame John over at the 1000 Foot General blog for getting me interested in this game - at least that's what I'm telling my wife

- A renewed interest and new Swedish troops for the 15mm "By Fire and Sword" game system.  The rules are really elegant and the minis a lot of fun to paint.

- Some reinforcements for my 28mm DAK forces in the form of a box of Perry plastic DAK troops and a german halftrack from Rubicon

- A revived interest in Flames of War / Team Yankee.  I may have been too quick to write off version 4

Thanks again to all the volunteers who organize and work at the con - I try to do my part by running games but without their herculean efforts there would be no con at all.

Despite my whining about the Host, I'm looking forward to HCON in 2018!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Historicon 2017: Days 2 & 3

 Friday and Saturday were very hectic days and I ran the game 7 times.  What follows is a picture dump from this games.   I had a great group of players for each outing and really had a lot of fun.

 German Recon takes a hit from a Red Dragon

 Catacombs breached!

 Get the professor!

 a group of happy players and Connor, my GM'ing mascot
 The next game saw more of the same silliness

 Gnolls were really tough (2 melee attacks per fig, 7+ armor save on a D10)

Group 2 form Friday.  This time Connor and his father got to a actually play and he won!  His Aussies grabbed the professor and got him out giving him the official title of MVP!

 Last game Friday was with Malcom and his friends - a great group of gamers who have played in my games in the past and are a real pleasure to game with.

 Happy faces

 Saturdays games started at 10am and I was dragging a little bit and rather hoarse

Italians in the caverns

 What a great group of players!

 The 3:00 Saturday game was a lot of fun and went fairly quickly.  Apparently people were talking throughout the con on what the best strategy was to win the game!
 John and son seemed to be having a great time.  John is also from Maryland and runs the 1000 ft general blog.  Super nice guy and fun to game with.

 Hmmmm, do any of you see a family resemblance?  I had 8 sets of fathers and sons play in my game over the weekend which was really neat and made me a little jealous my son couldn't attend.  Maybe next year...

 More dragon mischief.

The group from game 9 - yet another great group of players.  I forgot to take pictures of game 10 and ended Saturday exhausted but really satisfied things went well.

You may notice that in addition to a lot of father/son teams there were a large number of player who played multiple versions of the game.  I think that's a good sign that it was fun, which is what I'm aiming for and really makes all the work that goes into pulling one of these things off really worth it.

I was very fortunate to have great players for every game - that's the most important aspect of gaming success!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Historicon 2017 Day 1

 I ran my first game in the morning on Thursday and had a great group of test subjects - oops - I mean players.  I was really nervous as this was the first time I've run a game using rules that I wrote.  Of course I borrowed form other rule sets like Donnybrook, Bolt Action and others, but still it was a bit nerve wracking.

I was very fortunate the Mike and his son could make it down on Thursday to help out with the game.  Mike's been super busy at work and I was worried he couldn't make the con.  We'll start planning for next year in a few weeks.
 I also may have been a bit too zealous in keeping them to one page - the print was a little small!  The morning game was "DAK and Dragons"  We did discover that a Panzer III can, indeed, kill a Dragon but it was a very prolonged fight!

The objective for the game was for one side or the other to get into the catacombs and capture "Professor Ackbar" and then escort him off their map edge.  It seems the mad professor is trying to resurrect the dreaded Mummy King.
 The game play moved very quickly and everyone seemed to grasp the basics after the second turn.
 First team into the catacombs.  Everywhere there's a yellow dot, something happens when a team gets within 6 inches - usually something with sharp swords or large teeth.
More teams making it underground.

The French get their FT-17 stuck in a doorway and now need to find a new way out while being chased by Gnolls.

 The throne room has been breached! and professor Ackbar is in sight - but he has some friends guarding him
 A single surviving German figure manages to get Ackbar out after several rounds os see-saw combat .  This game went to the Axis but it was touch and go.
 My first group of players and myself on the right.  Game one was a blast to run and everyone seemed to be having a great time.  One of the benefits of GM'ng is you get to meet a lot of great people and strike up friendships.  One of my favorite players is Florence, of "the Notorious Flo" as I've named her.  She is a lovely person and a fantastic player.  And, yes, she commanded the Panzer III that put down the dragon!
 Game two started at 3:00.  It was the same game concept but we used modern figures rather than WW2, hence the name change to "SOCOM and Sorcery"

 The Throne Room was first breached by the Taliban
 One player figured out he could access the thrown room from the pyramid and sent a US marine team to snatch the professor away from the weekend Taliban as they were' being shredded by the Devours of Amnant (the croc-guys)
 The Professor was bundled into a HUMVE and driven off the map - victory to the coalition!

I also acquired a self appointed jr GM (Connor, the young man giving the Thumbs-Up).  He insisted on rolling for the monsters and ended up correcting me on the rules I had written.  He was usually right.  I had a lot of repeat players during the con which is a sign people liked the game.  Cody, the young man in the Yellow T-Shirt was the first.

I ran a third game but forgot to take pictures.  That was roughly 10 hours of GM'ng on Day1.

 Now for some pic's of other games - amazing Russo-Japanese War ship models.  I love wandering around the con and looking at what other people create - so many fun ideas and standards to aspire too.
 An old Architects of War resin well.  There's some nostalgia there...
 This table had amazing Frostgrave terrain - it's a modeling standard that I aspire to but haven't achieved yet.

 A thirsty foot long Team Yankee table - look at all the Soviet tanks
 Lots and lots of Russians
 Not so many NATO opponents.  I did suggest to one of the GM's that they could simulate a tactical nuke by simply flipping over one of the panels.  That idea wasn't received as openly as I would have thought.

There was a lot of Team Yankee at the con and people seemed to be really enjoying it.
 Dave S's brilliant tank battle table
I really regret not getting a chance to play this game.

There were a lot of Cigar Box Games battle mats at the con.  I used three of them for my desert terrain - it's just SOOOO much easier to transport terrain cloths than panels to a con.  I like how this able used the ones that have printed trees and other details.

Stealing ideas for a Jungle themed terrain.
 A whimsical Pirate themed table.  I picked up some Pirate stuff from the Blood and Plunder line and have been thinking about a Pirate game for Historical 2018...

Just thinking at the moment...

I was really excited to win an award and ended the day exhausted but really happy.  A lot of work goes into making up a game and seeing the players have fun at the table is really rewarding.