Saturday, July 27, 2013

Historicon 2013, Final Thoughts

Yes your worst fears have been realized, yet another one of those wordy semi-thoughtful blog posts from me.  Think of this post less like the babbling ramblings of a semiliterate gamer and more like a tour-de-force in abnormal physcology and you might just make it through the post.  The key word in the last sentence is "might".

Anyway, this past Historion was the fourth one I've been too in a row and the second held in the FCC center in Fredericksburg, VA.  I enjoyed myself thoroughly and have already made hotel reservations for next year.  My friend Mike and I GM's two civil war games - one on Friday night and the other on Saturday afternoon which seemed to go very well.  Having Mike's 31" 28mm scale model of the CSS Tennessee helped a lot with setting the right mood for both games.  I also was able to hang out with Ernie and the Architects of War crew (they tolerate me in return for helping out).  The AofW booth (along with their Sci-fi / Fantasy brand Alien Dungeon) were spectacular this year and seemed to be always busy - I hope some of you got to check out the new "All Quiet on the Martian Front" minis, they are fantastic.

Anyway, here are my thoughts day by day through the con

I arrived Wed night and checked in to the Hampton Suites, which is next door to the FCC.  That's a big plus as it proved to be very easy to roll the minis for my games over and then roll them back to the room.  The only real downside from Thursday was due to some non-gaming issues I had a board meeting that went way lonngggggg, I missed the games I had planned to play in on Thursday.  It's a rather depressing state to be sitting in your hotel room, with gaming going on a 100 yards away, participating in a board call where the management team seems to enjoy using a 100 words when 1 would suffice.  I did have a fun dinner with Ernie and some of his crew and made a lot of vendors very happy on thursday.

Missed my morning game due to more board calls (crap) but spent some time socializing with the WWPD crew and finished the final touches on the civil war skirmish game.  I started setting up the game at 4:00 for it's 6:00 start.  The game seemed to go great and it was a lot of fun to put on.  We took the game down and I wandered back into the main hall in time to get into a board game of Battlestar Galatica with the WWPD crew.  The game was a bit confusing for a first timer but it was A LOT of fun.

OK, I signed up for a civil war game (via the onsite ticket system) and arrived to help set up (I always appreciate it when players help with setup or take down and try to return the favor).  The game was just about to kick off when a player showed up and had pre-registered to play.  He seemed quite upset and since I was the last one to get a ticket, I offered him my spot which he took without saying thanks.  Well that means more time to spend money in the vendor hall and contemplate todays declining standards of social behavior.  Mike and I started setting up our big Black Powder game which started at 1:00 and went to 4:00.  Again, I think the game went really well and I had another blast being a GM.  One thing that made the game a lot of fun was there was a kid's game a few tables over where the one of the objectives was to make as much noise as possible (which they succeeded at).  It was a lot of fun to see the kids have such a good time and I even got my players to yell back which was a hoot.

I do regret missing the Bolt Action tournament on Saturday but I had scheduled the Black Powder game before knowing when the tournament was.  Saturday night I sat in on the WWPD podcast (what a geek I am) and then played a rousing game of "Spartacus" - wow that's a fun game - every phase has unique game mechanics and options - what a hoot.  I also played a silly "castle attack" game which was a lot of fun and I got to give unsolicited advice to WWPD's Chris H on the proper use of a wingman.

Packed up - one last stroll through the vendor hall and I went home

Closing Thoughts
Due to some scheduling issues, I never got to participate in any PEL-listed games other than the two Mike and I put on but I still had a blast and look forward to coming back next year and also to attending Fall In.  I did have some key learnings:

- When GM'ng multiple games try to do them on the same day as in AM / PM.  It cuts down one full cycle of setup and take down thus preserving more time for participating in other games.  Mike and I would have an extra 1/2 day free if we ran the first game in the am and the second in the PM.

- Make sure you know the tournament schedule before committing to a game time - The only thing I regret is not playing in the Bolt Action tournament on Saturday, which I could have done with a bit more planning

- Come back to the FCC after dinner for pick up and board games - those are as much fun as a scheduled games and it's a way to meet more gamers - thanks to the WWPD crew for supplying all the board games and getting a new HCON tradition started.

- Be flexible - stuff happens and the HMGS registration system isn't perfect, if you get bumped from a game or it's over booked that's not the end of the world.  I also need to plan better.

- All gamers want to have fun in a game, so as a GM you need to focus on that rather than the adherence to every rule minutia.  Mike and I were very fortunate to have great guys for all our games but we did spend some time streamlining the rules and making sure people are having fun during the game.

As for the facilities, there was an improvement over last year.  I'm sure all of you have seen the postings on TMP that gleefully list the deficiencies of the con.  The sound in the main hall was loud but better than last year.  I found it tolerable.  The chairs were awful, so next year I'm bringing a few fold up camping chairs - problem solved.  The bathrooms could have been better but that's a staffing issue (need more help).

Overall, I'd give the event a strong "A" grade - with a few more improvements in the facility it can be an A+.  By the way HMGS, I'd be willing to pay a bit more ($5 or $10) to afford additional staff for cleanup and/or carpet tile rental to reduce sound at the FCC.

One last thought - what is it with TMP these days.  I used to enjoy going there but over the past year there seems to have been an even more significant turn to the negative - there was actually some knucklehead complaining about kids yelling at their games this year at HCON - I think the phrase was "need more consideration for older people"  What a lode of crap - we need more gamers and kids yell when their having fun so I say let'em do so.  Anyway, it just seems to me that TMP is devolving into a series of posts that can be best summarized by the phrase "get off my lawn!"  It's really a most depressing place.


John de Terre Neuve said...

Lots of good advice, one of these days I will actually attend one of these events.


Francis Lee said...

That's good advice and a good guide and very true about TMP and the sad sacks who don't like noise, bright lights, heat, kids etc.......same happened on the boards after Salute 2013!

Sean said...

Nice wrap up post and it all sounds like good advice. Perhaps these cons need an old curmudgeon room so that those who can't be bothered, won't.

Mark Rabuck said...


I couldn't agree with you more about your take on that Old Man Grumpus on TMP. Those kids two tables over were having a great time, and they're likely to come back in a few years as the the sort of folk I want to game against: enthusiastic and fun-loving. We did a fair job of challenging them for a while, but I'm too dang old to keep up childlike enthusiasm for too long!

jmilesr said...

The important thing, Mr Rabuck, is that you tried.

Thanks again for playing in the BP game - it was a lot of fun to out and that's really due to the players. Still working on what I'll do for Fall-In!

DeanM said...

Amazing iron clad, Miles. I've yet to make it to this great con, but I know how inspirational it is. The guy who owns Armchair Adventurer in Hawaii reopened his store after attending the 2002 con and being reinvigorated. Best, Dean

John said...

Seems like Old Man Curmudgeon's comment struck a nerve for many of us. I saw the same but about "need more consideration for older people" and reacted the same way Miles.

I'm not writing TMP off yet. No need to let a few Negative Nancys poison the whole board. Hopefully those same enthusiastic kids will be on TMP soon and counter some of their grumpiness