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!


Tim Viva said...

My son, Noah, and I had a blast in your games. Your award is well deserved, not only great looking figures and terrain, but the game flowed well to an exciting conclusion within the time slot. Can't ask for more than that from a convention game.


Paul O'G said...

Fantastic stuff Miles - thumbs up all round and congrats on the well deserved award. If you can find a sponsor for the airfares, I'll volunteer to be your co GM :-)

Is the Host where I met you at Fall In 16? Interesting - I too, hope that some extra coin has been invested in that place.

jmilesr said...

Tim: thanks for your kind words. You and your son are always welcome at my games

Paul: It's the same place - there are new owners so theres some hope for improvement - we shall see. Hmmm, let me look into airfare sponsorship,,,,,

Ivor Evans said...

Great stuff Miles! Agreed on the "feel" of this year, very positive all around. Looking forward to the next one!

Jonas Skinner said...

I agree, there seemed to be a lot more energy this year and I heard the same comment from a lot of other attendees. The noise was really reduced by the addition of carpeting in part of the venue. I also thought the dealer hall was was better organized and offered more choice.

My only complaint about the venue were the restrooms. Once again they were dirty, smelly and usually accompanied with long lines.

I hoping that this year is a sign of resurgence in the Con overall.