Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fall In 2014: The Host is most definitely not the Most

When writing comments about gaming events, I try to be even handed (and likely fail) and take into account these events are organized by volunteers who share my hobby but spend in-ordinate amounts of time and effort to "put the show on".  Perhaps the most important thing I can say is "Thanks to all the volunteers and GM's who make the show happen".  As for the event itself well I have a markedly divided view - the gaming aspect of the con was superb.  It seemed to me like attendance was up a bit and the crowd was generally happy to be there.  I had a fantastic time catching up with old friends and making new ones in our odd little hobby.   Despite a shortage of volunteers, things went smoothly and I really enjoyed the show.  Excellent event.

So where's the "yeah, but in this little diatribe?"

Ahhh yes, the venue.  As with past years, Fall In was held at the Lancaster Host Resort (as Cold Wars will be).   The location is great from a North Eastern US gamer perspective (it's only a 2.5 hour drive from St Michaels, MD for me).  Unfortunately, the redeeming qualities of the Host end after latitude and longitude coordinates.

The place is a shambles.  Every con that's held there has a special "Host Moment" that range from inedible food, leaky rooms and hallways, mold, non-functioning TV's and wireless - you name it was bad.  For me the apex of Host Moments was the year the staff needed to roll up not one but two septic system pump out trucks and run 5 inch hoses through the front lobby entrance to service the mens room in the main hall.  Oh yes, this event occurred during check in on Friday and you had to step over the leaky hoses to get to the tournament gaming room.  Nothing says quality lodging like a main lobby replete with leaky septic hoses in full working glory - kind a like a "filth fountain".  I thought this moment could never be topped.

I was wrong.

This year the Host out did themselves in yet another plumbing related mishap - they ran out of water early Sunday morning - not just for my room but the entire facility.  Think about this - you've got a hotel filled a thousand or so gamers waking up Sunday morning after late nights of gaming, beer and fatty foods (ummm not me of course - my wife reads my blog) and there are no working toilets on the facility.  I'll let your imaginations run wild.  Apparently the water level monitor in the Host's cistern failed and the system didn't know to refill itself and the water just kind a drained away.  The facility just isn't maintained (perhaps the 50 or so buckets in the hall to catch leaks is a tip-off to that fact) and I doubt that's likely to change.  The staff tries to do a good job but lets just say they have the chips stacked against them.

Some people defend the Host because it's cheap, and that is true, but still one has to get some value for whatever price is paid and I think we've gotten to the point where guests need to be compensated for the risk the take staying at the place.

I understand from talking to some of the HMGS volunteers that the current contract for the Host runs through 2017, but the last year can be voided without penalty.  I would strongly suggest they start to look for a new venue - perhaps to the West as the Host isn't going to cut it.

As for me, I doubt I'll do another overnight for a con at the Host.  Cold Wars is the next one and I suspect that I'll just drive up for the Bolt Action tournament on Saturday and head home.  There is an interesting event in Williamsburg which will likely get my spring'con business The lack of my presence will not move the needle but I just can't stomach the Host anymore.


Stryker said...

Living in the UK I have no idea about this venue but your tale is quite amazing (and entertaining from my perspective). Perhaps someone should get Gordon Ramsey to visit?

Steven MacLauchlan said...

The Host is so decrepit. For some reason, I love it though... well, I love the idea of it. It has that Grand Budapest Hotel vibe to me. It's an ancient thing that was perhaps once magnificent, fading away.

That's how it's romanticized in my head, anyway. Once I actually spend time there worrying about bed bugs, sewage leaks, and inability to flush toilets, the grotesque reality sets in.

jmilesr said...

I too have many fond memories from HMGS cons and really do appreciate all the hard work that HMGS staff puts in to hold these events.

Unfortunately, the downward spiral of the venue has reached a critical point for me. If the water issue happened on a Friday there would have been a very good chance the Host would have been force to close until fixed which would have a pretty dire impact on the con.

styx said...

Wow, that sounds like a true hotel from hell if I ever heard one....none of my hotel stays have ever really been that bad....well one, where we checked in and checked out as soon as we opened the hotel door. Bugs, sheets looked unkept (or clean), dirt in the bathroom....yea.....we left and got a refund.

Perhaps you should stay at the hotel next door next year, use Hotels.com or Priceline to get a good price...works for Shatner

Jon Yuengling said...

You may not have to worry about the Host for long. It is schedualed to be demolished and rebuilt as codos and shopping. Funny thing is the area knows of this but HMGS has been quiet.

Steven MacLauchlan said...

Yeah, that building definitely needs to be demolished.

Also, those tables! I am still picking out splinters!

Ron Carnegie said...

Hmm, I heard so many northerners complain about the host for Historicon, but its disasters seem like a walk in the park compared to this one! Let me extend my welcome to you if you decide to come down to Williamsburg for our con. I say our, I'm not really involved in running it at all but I do always attend and run games there.

edb1815 said...

We have been staying at the Country Inn & Suites next door for years - after one of our group got a nasty infection staying in a moldy Host room!

Prices for the County Inn are reasonable in the winter -ie for Cold Wars.

I think people stay at the Host for convenience only.

Michael Peterson said...

Most entertaining report. I hope one day to drive down from Ontario for Fall In, but if this place is still standing I shall avoid it!

Curt C said...

I love the Grand Budapest Hotel comment. Kills me. Right! Well, Miles, though the sewage fountain sounds horrifically compelling if we do come down for a gaming shindig I suggest we 'splash out' and find better quarters. Just sayin'.