Sunday, July 11, 2010

3 Days at Historicon

Well I just got back from my first "overnight" game convention experience after attending three days at Historicon.  I must say that all the gibberish and hand-wringing concerning the convention on TMP and the impending demise of Historicon was way off-the-mark.  I had a blast and the Valley Forge Convention Center was definitely a big step up from the Host in Lancaster.  The convention center hotels (I stayed in the Radisson) were adequate (they're not a Four Seasons) but the pricing was reasonable.

I was able to play 3 games at the convention and help my friend Ernie both with his debut of Architects of War and put on his Black Powder game with the Perry brothers and John Stallard.  There may have also been some new lead acquisitions but the less said about that the better.

I really enjoyed the 2 pre-WWII dreadnaught games that I played which were put on by members of the Northern Virginia Gamers club (NOVAG) using their home grown rules.  I found the games to be a lot of fun and really liked the feel of the period.  In fact, I ended up purchasing a fair number of WWI ship models from GHQ and as a result have yet another period to game / model.  I will say the guys from NOVAG did a very nice job hosting the event and ensuring the form of the rules they used where both approachable and yet gave a good feel for the period.

The highlight of the con for me was helping with the "Black Powder in the Peninsular" game that was co-hosted by Architects of War, Warlord Games and the Perry Brothers.  The photo to the left is a picture of the 24' table with the scenery in place.  You can see a lot of the new terrain pieces from Architects of War on the table - especially the fortfication set, which is a very difficult location to assault!  My role in helping put the game on was to lug stuff around and help new players with the rules while playing.  I did a pretty good job on the lifting stuff part.

Here's a picture of the game masters.  From left to right Ernie Baker (AofW), Alan and Michael Perry and John Stallard.  Having the authors and main play testers of the rules moderate a game is fairly useful!  The game featured almost 2,000 of Ernie's personal collection of 28mm Napoleonic figures and had 6 players per side, each commanding a brigade.  My command in the game was to be one of the two brigades to assault the fortification in the center of the map.  My Brigade attacked the right side and another player attacker the left.  Technically, we were supposed to just screen the fort but got really good command roles and attacking is just a lot more fun!  The fort was defended by a brigade of British and a brigade of Portuguese infantry.  Oh yes, it had a ton of artillery too!

After the previously mentioned lucky command role, my brigade was able to make contact with the defenses on turn two.  My first assault was repulsed with moderate casualties on both sides.  In a subsequent turn I was able to renew the assault with the support of the reserve battalion and....

Breached the defenses!  The British brigade was quickly despatched but those damn Portuguese were superbly played and manage to hold the last third of the fort until the end of the game.  While the mechanics of Black Powder are elemental they lend themselves to both very quick play and a real feel for command trade-offs .  I really like the ruleset and recommend it highly.  It's not for everyone as there is moderate detail and a lot is left up for player discretion but for me gaming is as much a social experience as it is a competition and these rules blend the two nicely.  There will be a lot more (and better!) pictures from the game posted on both the Architects of War website as well as their blog.

Lastly, a picture of John Stallard and myself.  John's a great guy and very fun game host.  I think he may have missed his calling and instead of owning a miniature figure company he could have been a very successful game show host.  He's a very affable fellow but I do not recommend trying to keep up with him in a pub.

As for the debut of Architects of War,  Ernie reports they did a very brisk business at there stand and was very pleased with the reaction to their initial product line.  I was able to even make a sale or two!  Check out their website when it comes up in the next week or so.

All-in-all it was a great trip and I look forward to next year!


Der Alte Fritz said...

What a wonderful experience to be able to play in a game with the Perrys and John Stallard. You are very lucky - wish I could have been there.

Excellent convention and game report. I have a copy of Black Powder and look forward to giving it a try.

Stokes Schwartz said...

Agreed! Sounds like lots of fun, and the Napoleonic tabletop looks really impressive with all of it's various and sundry scenery. Suddenly, my 10'x6' seems tiny by comparison!

Best Regards,


JAM said...

Great stuff Miles, I am envious as well. I was thinking out driving down for a day, but got stuck with a night shift (first in 2 years).

It sounds like you liked BP, I have the rulebook, and plan to give it a look.

I have beens following your friend's blog and look quite forward to their online store opening.


VolleyFireWargames said...

I am so glad to hear a positive report on Historicon and the new location - I stopped following one group just because of all the Historicon bashing that was going on. Wish I could have played in that Peninsular game it looks like it was fun - Don't suppose the OB's and maps with objectives are available anywhere? Definitely playing with the Perry Brothers must have been a real treat. Do you know if Architects of War are going to be at all the HMGS conventions from now on? I might see if I can scare up a copy of Black Powder just to look it over.

jmilesr said...

Thanks for the comments.

It was a real treat to play with the Perry's and John and a bit of a relief to see that even the authors had to refer to the rule book a few times when a tricky situation came up - just like us mere mortals.

Stokes - my table is only 8x4 so I to am a bit envious of the table size. Black Powder does require a bit of room - which is why I play it with 6mm figures on my home table

There wasn't really a formal OB for the battle but the table was broken into three areas. A village on one end, the British Fort and a bridge at the other. The scenario involved a British defense of the fort and surrounding areas while awaiting a relief column that had to cross the bridge and fight it's way to the fort. It was a good scenario as both sides got into the action.

The AoW web site should be up in the next week or so and I believe they will be stocking the BP rule book.

Beccas said...

It's my goal to go to Historicon one day. It's a long trip from Asutralia. And what a once in a life experience having a game with those legends. Brilliant.

DeanM said...

Very cool! Wow - playing with the authors of BP and playing with the Perrys. This is the second posting I've read today about how much fun BP is. I may just have to get it. Dean

Galpy said...

What a great looking game and obviously a great time all round very lucky.

RazorOne223 said...

That looks like a lot of fun, something that just won't or doesnt seem to happen in central California! I want to move back east and home to get back to real wargaming!!! :(


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Sounds like you had a lot of fun!

Docsmith said...

Miles - lets see - you go to the one of the biggest and best wargaming cons on the planet; you get to play with thousands of some of the best figures around; you have a Black Powder game with John, Michael and Alan, some of the author's and finest figure makers around; you win by beating British line with French column!!! (- how good is a BIG battle with BP eh?); you get to go nuts and spend up without the pre-approval of your Minister of Finance and generally have a ball for three days.

Yep, for wargaming experiences, doesn't get much better than that, you lucky bugger!

Yours green with envy,
(who had a wonderful week at work - NOT!)

jmilesr said...

It was tough duty, Doc, but somebody had to do it.


The convention really exceeded my expectations and I'm negotiating with executive management to get approval to attend the Fall-In this October. I had best complete my application before the credit card statement shows up.

One of the nicer aspects of attending a convention is that it provides tangible proof that the vast majority of gamers are nice people. Sometimes, one can get the opposite sense from the discourse that is displayed on such forums as TMP.


paintpig said...

Grrrrrrr! grrrrrrr! greeeeen with envy. What doc said and you got to play 'racing' games at the bar grrrrrrrrr!


jmilesr said...

Well there was some fun in the bar, but I'm finding that as I age (still on the south side of 50) the time required for refit and recovery in the morning is getting longer.

I did get the green light for Fall-In, but the effort involved in completing the required Honey-Do list may make it a Phyrric victory!

VolleyFireWargames said...

Times like this make me happy I am single NO honey do lists or hall travel permission slips required for travel.

christot said...

Lovely looking game (how could it be other?). I do like the architects of war stuff.