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.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Next Project: British Force for Bolt Action

As I come down off my post-Historicon high it will soon be time to return to the painting workbench.  Right now the workbench is covered with ACW "stuff" but I think a change of pace is in order.  While at Historicon, I picked up a bunch of the new Blitzkreig 28mm scale tanks from the Architects of War booth.  Wow - I have never seen better casted 28mm vehicles.  A few months ago I picked up one of the new Desert Rat plastic box sets so it's time to get cracking on a British force.

The forces theme will be early to mid war and I'll use them in both Western Desert and Pacific scenarios.  I did go a little overboard with the Blitzkrieg models so my Brits will have a lot of armor choices - Crusaders, Grants, Honey's and even up to three Bren Carriers.  I'm building the force with Bolt Action in mind as a ruleset but I think they'll do for any 28mm WW2 skirmish rules

As you might suspect from reading this blog, I'm a bit of a Perry snob (OK, drop the "bit of a" from the previous phrase).  That said, both the tanks and the figures are really superb and I hope my painting skills are up to the task.

This project is set for August and then it will be back to either more ACW or War of 1812 in prep for a game at Fall-In.  Mike's Confederate ironclad was so popular at Historicon that I think a Union monitor might be in order!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Historicon 2013: More Sink the Tennessee Pictures

 I've received several requests for more pictures from the Friday ACW skirmish game Mike and I ran at Historicon: "Sink the Tennessee!"  The game used the newish ACW skirmish rules from Architects of War and depicted a Union raid to sink or capture the ironclad CSS Tennessee.  Uncivil War works great in a convention center as they are simple but allow a lot of tactical flexibility.  The first picture is the initial setup.  There were four union players - 2 calvary troops of 18 troopers armed with spencer repeating rifles.  1 infantry regiment of 24 figs and an amphibious unit of 18 Marines and 6 Engineers.

 I was surprised that one of the convention speakers, Paul Westermeyer, and his young son played - they commanded the northern most Union calvary regiment.  Paul is a historian with the US marine Corps and a bit of an expert on civil war marines - I was very relieved that he choose not to point out the many historical inaccuracies with my confederate marines!  There were four confederate players, one commanding the ironclad and her crew, another for the town watch , a calvary detachment and a large encamped regiment.  The confederates would also receive reinforcements as the game went on which means time was not a friend to the union.

 The Westermeyer clan proved to be very aggressive calvary commanders and managed to get about 2/3rds of their command shot up tangling with  the confederate infantry.  Things would improve for them a bit later...
 The Union Infantry made a series of very quick forced marches and made a run to overwhelm the confederate marines guarding the dock.
 The second Union calvary troop took up a position along a stone wall that allowed them to contest both the town militia and the calvary patrol.
 Desperate fighting at the water's edge where three confederate marines attempt to hold off the union infantry.  The Amphibious force made a surprise move and rather than attempt to board the  ironclad directly they landed on the far shore and had to march to the dock.
 More desperate fighting as confederate marines spill out of the ironclad to hold back the union swarm.
 The Union calvary along the wall decimate the confederate cav and town militia but are ground down by the reinforcing confederate infantry - the dread Louisiana Tigers!  At the top of the hill you can see the other confederate infantry regiment advancing on the town.  In the Lower right is the remnants of the Westermeyer command - glory awaits them...

 Give those Yankees a whiff of the grape!!!!!  Despite several rounds of canister the Union manages to clamber on top of the Tennessee and begin to fire on the command deck.

 Against all military logic and parental advice, young Lt Westermeyer charges the larger Confederate infantry regiment and succeeds in holding the massed rebs off for three critical turns

 That delay is not without cost
 A view from the northern edge of the battlefield.  One of the very innovative features of the Uncivil war rules is that the presence of fallen troops negatively impacts morale so casualties are left on the battlefield.

 The LA Tigers try desperately to re-board the Tennessee
The Union engineers manage to blast open the top hatches and the Union infantry poor into the interior - we had three turns of see-saw fighting between the confederate crew and Union infantry and victory went down to the very last dice throw when the final confederate crewmen fell.

Victory and possession of the Tennessee went to the Union!

This game was a lot of fun to put on and we had great prize support from Ernie and the Architects of War crew.  Mike and I were also very surprised at Paul Westermeyer's generosity as he gave each of three of his books on Marine history, including one about confederate marines in the civil war.  I am very grateful to his generosity and now understand  I have a bit re-painting to do!.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Historicon Report: Battle Along the Mississippi

The second game Mike and I ran at Historicon was a set-piece battle loosely based on the Vicksburg campaign (it was along the Mississippi river, which was about the only link to Vicksburg).  The battle featured a slightly larger confederate force attacking an Union force.  The objective was simple capture at least two of three objectives.  The objectives were the chicken coop in the lower right, the hill in the center, and a small plot in the upper right corner.  The first picture shows the initial setup.  Both sides had 3 brigades on the board and one in reserve.  The CSA had 8 batteries of artillery to the Unions 5, but that would change later in the game when the captured ironclad (see the previous post) makes an appearance.

 A shot down the confederate line.  The CSA had four players (each with a brigade).  All of the miniature on the table are Perry.

 A shot down the Union line - similar set up to the CSA with four players each with a brigade.  We used black powder as the rule set with some minot simplifications to facilitate convention play.  All of the players we had for the game were great and it was a real pleasure for Mike and I to host them for a few hours of dice rolling.

 The initial confederate advance.  The original plan was (I think) to seize and hold the hill in the center with two brigades and send the other two to attack the Union's right flank.  At least that was the initial plan....

 More units advance and a Union calvary unit attempts to charge the CSA guns but rolls poorly on the order dice and comes up short in a bad spot.

 The Confederate reserves arrive and march towards the Union right flank.  The Union reserved (4 calvary regiments) arrive the following turn along the river edge.

 The Union shuffles back trading real estate to keep the advancing confederates under fire - it was a good strategy.  The initial confederate plan of just holding the hill got thrown out for a general advance - it may not have been a sound strategy but it was great fun and just what a convention game is all about!  Good Show!

 Oops- the capture Tennessee shows up - think super "artillery battery" in Black Powder terms,  The confederate brigade on the extreme right begins to take a pounding.
 The main confederate attack forms up slowly due to some command dice issues.  One of the really fun things about black powder is the command system which is very clean but can lead to some unpredictable results.

 More confederate advances but losses are mounting....

 FInally the main attack strikes!
 The high water mark of the attack.

 The confederate right flank collapses as it's exposed flank is pounded by the Tennessee and Union reinforcements.

 Another shot of the climatic Union counter attack.  We called the game at this point with the CSA having two of four brigades broken and a limited chance to regain the initiative.

A view of the guns from the Tennessee.

All-in-all it was a great game and I'm very grateful for the help Mike and I got from the players - they were a great bunch.  We also had very nice prize support from Architects of War and every player got a certificate for store credit at the AofW booth.

I'm looking forward to my next convention game!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Historicon Report: Sink the Tennessee AAR

 Just a few pictures and a brief summary of the "Uncivil Wars" game Mike and I ran at Historicon last night.  The game's theme was a union raid to destroy or capture the Confederate ironclad Tennessee.   The first picture show the ironclad getting off a canister shot, trying to kill the Union engineers and there damn explosives.  Surprisingly, the engineers escaped harm.

 Another "whiff of the grape" at some Union Marines - they didn't fare so well.

The climatic battle involved the crew of the Tennessee vs a union infantry regiment that managed to force their way in - this fight went on for 3 turns until the crew was finally subdued and the ironclad seized.  While a Union victory it was by a very narrow margin as you can see the LA Tigers just about to try and board to re-take the ship!

We thought the game went very well - I'll post a more detailed battle report when I get back from the con!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Historicon 2013 Prep Part II

 As with all cons where I am a GM the last few days are filled with frantic preparations.  First up. here are some shots of the finished ironclad that will be featured in my games on Friday and Saturday.  Mike did an outstanding job and now it's my responsibility to get this 31 inch monster to the con in one piece.

 Actually in two pieces as the top and side come off to allow for some action in the interior!

 The command deck has a ship's wheel and chart desk complete with top secret plans.  A request for any Union players in either game - please don't enlarge the photo, you may get an unfair advantage for the map contents.

The guns are all large bore Dalhgrens or Columbiads and were a lot of fun to both find and put together.

Lastly, here an in-process shot of the Bolt-Action Dice-Bot my son is building for Judson of the WWPD Bolt Action podcast.  When completed, this bot will be able to drive around the battle field, avoid terrain and minis and pick out random order dice or dump large amounts of regular dice for shooting etc.  Sean had another, paying project, take a bit more time so we may not get the programming done in time for Historicon but it will be ready for Fall-In for sure - no more nasty dice bags or socks for Mr Judson!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Historicon 2013 Prep

Preparations continue for Historicon - which is next week!!!!! (sorry for the gratuitous use of exclamations points).  Pictured to the left is Ernies from Architects of War / Alien Dungeon's ACW collection which will be used in both of the games  that Mike and I are putting on for him.

Despite the time challenges of running a business, bringing a fantastic new game out (All Quiet on the Martian Front and a new expansion for Fanticide, Ernie has found the time to to make some terrain panels for the games.  I'm really looking forward to putting the games on and there will be top flight terrain.

In other Historicon prep news, the Architects of War booth will be huge and will feature a very large presence for the upcoming "All Quiet on the Martian Front" games.  I've had the chance to play test this game a lot and it's a hoot to play.  Check out the demos and then get in line while we all wait for the release this December.

Ernie's also reported that AofW has a complete restock of Perry miniatures along with the rest of the lines they carry.  As most of you know, I'm a big Perry fan - I haven't found any miniatures that are better than theirs, period.  The new WWII line along with the plastics / metals for their American War of Independence line are simply stunning.  I think most other manufactures learn by trying to copy the Perry's.

Oh yes, Mike's finished the ironclad for our games and it's 31 inches on 28mm scale nautical glory.  I wonder if the Union can capture or sink her during the Friday night game or end up seeing her blast them to bits on Saturday......

I hope to see you at the 'con.

Friday, July 12, 2013

US 3rd Armor vs 6th FJ Regiment, Periers France June 1944

The third game that my son and I played in the WWPD Overlord campaign pitted the US 3rd Armored division against the German 6th FJ Regiment.  Alas my I-phone was zero battery so there are no pictures.  The mission was Hasty Attack with the US attacking.  Each force was complied on "Easy Army" and set to 1,750 pits +/-.  The orders of battle where:

US 3rd Armored (Confident / Trained)
1 HQ (2 M4 Shermans)
1 Platoon of 4 76mm Shermans
2 Platoons of 4 M4 Shermans each
1 Light Tank Platoon (5 Stuarts)
1 Full Armored Rifle Platoon
1 Platon of 3 Priests

6th FJ Regiment (Fearless / Veteran)
1 HQ with Panzersheck)
2 Platoon of Para's (9 squads each)
1 HMG platoon (2 sections)
1 FJ light gun platoon
1 SS Tank Hunter Platoon 3 Stugs (since I don't have any Jagdpanzer IV models painted)
1 Gepanzerte Platoon (3 Squads) (Confident / Vet)
1 Artillery Platoon (4 10.5cm guns)
1 Pak platoon (3 75mm anti-tank guns)

The Germans deployed their para's, HMGS, lights guns on the board and had the 75mm anti tank guns in ambush.  The US deployed all 3 Sherman platoons plus the light tanks

Turn 1 "Movement to Contact"
US rolls and get serves and brings on the priests.  The US plan is to attack along both flanks with the 76mm Shermans and Stuarts on the right and the other 2 Sherman platoons on their left.  The left flank has to cross some bocage and does so succesfully.

The germans (me) don't get reserves and we hold pat - let the yankees come to us.

Turn 2 Contact!
The US gets no reserves and continues it advance.  I spring my PAK's in ambush on the 76mm Shermans and with glee roll my six shot die 2,1,3,1,5,5 - only two hits that result in bailing 1 of the tanks.  My guns feel very exposed right now.  The stuarts respond by rolling up to the guns and machine gunning them - one gun destroyed and the rest pinned.  The other 2 Sherman platoons on the US right flank roll up to more bocage now have one of the FJ platoon in range

The German get reserves and I elect to bring on the stugs since my anti-tank assets are dwindling.  I advance them toward the 2 M4 Sherman platoons but don't have them in range.  There'a a bit of shooting but no results

Turns 3 First Blood
The US gets gets reserves and brings on the AOP (I learned to hate that plane).
The bailed 76 remounts and the platoons hoses down the remaining PAK repining them.  The stuarts assault the lone gun and knock it out - that's one german platoon.  The Shermans on the right flank stand pat and shoot the FJ in front of them (behind yet more bocage to no effect).  The Priests open up and end up pinning the FJ on the US left flank

Germans: I get reserves and bring Gepanzerte Grenadiers - I'm thinking I need to launch a counterattack quickly to change momentum.  The Gep's follow the stugs and continue to advance toward the US right flank.  The Stugs pull up to the bocage and take some shots at a Sherman platoon and destroy 1 tank.

Turns 4 & 5 Back and forth
The next two turns see both sides shoot back and forth t one another and losses begin to mount.  The  FJ platoon on the US left flank looses 3 squads and the stuarts have maneuvered to get behind them.  The US have also brought on the Armored rifles which are held in the center of the board to act as a mobile reserve

The Germans try to hold on the left but launch their attack on the US right flank  The US loose one Sherman platoon for the cost of the stugs.  The germans also bring on their artillery and move the light guns to support the US left flank attack.  The short range of the light guns makes them of limited use.

Turn 6 Both Flanks Collapse
The flanks are mirror images of themselves the Germans on the left flank collapse as does the US on the right - it's a race to the objectives.  The Priests blast the FJ's on the US left flank and continue to grind them down.  Since I have no AA assets all I can do to the AOP is signal it via sign language.  I have a sign language vocabulary of only one word.

Turn 7 Priests are tanks too.
Those damn Priests remember they're tanks and break the gepanzerte platoon with direct fire.  The FJ on the US left flank also breaks (it was down to 3 squads).  The Germans pass a company morale test but things look grim

Turn 8 The End
The remaining german FJ platoon attempts to assault the armored rifles in a last ditch attempt to achieve a draw but are pinned from a hail of machine fire.  The german light guns manage to take out the US company commander but can dislodge the US from it hold on the objective on the German side of the table

With that I concede the game - it was fairly bloody.  Points wise a 4-3 Victory for the US!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Big Lee's Contest - Prize Chance Enhancing Plug

Big Lee's have a one millionth page view give away contest.  That's seven digits of page views, which is a lot.

Go over and take a look at the fabulous prizes that are up for grabs - treasures far beyond any man's dreams of avarice.

You may be asking yourself (and if you're not, you should), gee, Mr "Uber Geek" isn't promoting Big Lee's give away a bit self serving in that it enhances your chances of winning a prize?  Unfortunately, the answer is Yes but I prefer to think of it as just a side effect to pointing out one of the more interesting gaming blogs out there.  If I win, I promise to use my prize for good, not evil, blah, blah, blah......

The blog is a great read - go take a look!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Skippering a Harbor 20 Sailboat

 Sean and I had the opportunity to try out a new Harbor 20 sailboat Friday in Annapolis.  The Harbor 20 is a small racing class (20 feet long - hence the name) boat that designed to be very easy to sail single handed or with a crew of 2.  The day was perfect for testing a boat as we had strong winds (a steady15-20 knots) and light chop.
The chop meant that I got pretty wet (ok, soaked) but since it was a hot day on the water that wasn't all that troublesome.  The boat was very easy to drive.  It doesn't point as well as a J-boat but it's a real pleasure to sail.  The lines are superbly organized and very easy to understand.  It's just a really well designed boat.

The design of the hull is a standard keel structure and theres a tiny cabin for storage.  There are currently 16 harbor's 20 in the Annapolis racing fleet and the group has some very "genteel" racing rules - no hiking out and all seat cushions must be installed to race.

I like this boat a lot more than a J-70 or Comet-class.  It's a great boat to race or just putter around in.