Monday, July 30, 2018

London 2018: Tucson on the Thames

 Mary Beth and I just got back from a week in London and we had a fantastic time despite the Arizona like heat during most of the week.  This trip was a combination professional and personal.  On the professional side, I had a board meeting and Mary Beth was speaking at the International Association of Dental Researchers (that's a wild and crazy group).  The personal side was that it was our 31st wedding anniversary.  We managed to balance both aspects well and had a fantastic trip.

I've been to London over 30 times (yes I counted that up) but outside of a few trips to the Imperial War Museum (for research, of course) I've never done any touristy things.  We made up for that this trip and really had a fun time.  I think I also have been granted honorary Korean citizenship for aid rendered to a group of retired Korean sailors who were visiting the Cutty Sark at the same time.  More on that in another post....

 Given Mary Beth was speaking at the IADR conference in the Excel center we stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel near the O2.  It was very convenient for MB to get to the excel center but the O2 is rather dreadful.  The Hotel itself is nice with excellent restaurants and is in close walking distance to one of the ferry docks.  I fell in love with the ferry service and used it extensively during the trip - going as far west as Vauxhall.  It's opened up a new way to experience the city that I really enjoyed.
 An accidental picture of me in full touristy regalia - bright yellow fishing shirt, cargo shorts and beat up sneakers.  Yes, what I do for men's fashion trends is similar to what Trump does to intelligent discourse - perhaps the less said the better...

I wasn't really trying to take an "artsy" picture of myself - I was, rather, trying to take a picture of the Cutty Sarks carpenters shop but it umm didn't work out so well.

 A photo of my lovely wife inside part of Westminster Abbey.
An action shot of my wife in an, ummm, contemplative mode, while riding back to the hotel in an Uber.  We did a lot of walking in the glorious weather.

Oh year the weather - wow was it hot from Monday through Friday of the week.  Like Arizona high 90's hot.  Flying in Monday morning looking out the window I thought we were flying over Arizona - all the grass had turned to a slightly charred tan.  The heat didn't really bother me that much while outside - some of the places we visited like the British Museum don't have AC and got rather toasty on the inside.

The weather broke on Friday as we were walking through the garden exit at Buckingham Place (I told you we did very touristy things this trip) - we got soaked but the things really cooled down.  It was also fun walking in the rain to the restaurant (The Thomas Cubitt on Elizabeth Street - it was superb).  Saturday's weather was glorious (65-70F sunny and windy).

Another great highlight of the trip was the chance to meet in person with Martin Cooke - a fellow gamer and legendary participant in the infamous Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge.  We met on a non-gaming related topic and I tried to give what little amount of advice I could (i'm not all that bright, you know).  It was a real pleasure to talk with Martin and I look forward to seeing him again in the future.

All in all, it was a grand trip

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Best Single Image of my Historicon 2018 Games and Plans for 2019

I "liberated" this picture from Joe Procopio's wonderful "Scrum in Miniature" blog site as I thought it captured the silliness of the games I ran this year at HCON.

Even better is the fact that Joe and his band of near-do-wells live in the area so hopefully we can get some gaming in.

The wife and I are off on vacation for the next week to celebrate our 31st anniversary.  It's kind of a working vacation as she's speaking at a conference and I've got a board meeting on Tuesday but at least we'll be in London, which is my favorite place to be outside the Chesapeake Bay region.

I'll be using my time off to have a hard think about what to run for next year's con.  I plan to return to a more historical theme (sadly, no dinosaurs, dragons or mummies) and am thinking of running a truly historical game and then a hypothetical encounter on roughly the same table.

What's the game period?  We're going "Old School" on this one and will see a return to Napoleonics - that's right,  Bony is back and he'll be there to chew bubblegum and kick-ass.  One logistical point - he's all out of bubblegum!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Historicon 2018: Final Thoughts

Another Historicon has come and gone.  Overall I had a grand time and think it was a really good show.  To be honest I came in with some real apprehensions as I preferred the Fredericksburg site over the Host.  While the con seemed more active than last year, it was hard for me to determine if attendance was up or not so we'll have to wait to see the numbers when they come out.  I'll organize my thoughts into the standard Good News / Bad News format.

1) Con Management - I thought HMGS did a superb job running the con in difficult circumstances with the Host's construction.  The new registration system worked perfectly - scanning your code to register was brilliant.  They were also much more active in managing the gaming area as I had someone come up and check to see if I really ran my game 5 out of 6 times that were on the schedule.  At least we'll be getting some data to asses no-shows (both GMs and pre-registers) rather than the idiotic ramblings on TMP.

2) Loading and Off Loading - I was located in the Distelfink room and getting all my stuff in and out was really easy - much easier than Fredericksburg.  That answer likely varied a lot based on which room your were assigned.

3) Convention Vibe - not to get all new aged on you but I thought this year's event had a lot more energy than previous ones

4) Seeing my gaming friends - always a huge plus for any event and also enough motivation to push through the things that make putting on a con game hard.

5) The Host is showing some promise - I can't believe I typed that last sentence.  I have not been the biggest fan of the Host but I did see a few signs of life.  My room was reconfigured and was actually very nice.  There has been a lot of basic infrastructure work but I suspect there is a lot more to do and don't have high hopes things will be much improved by Fall In.

Bad News:
1) The Host is still a dump - it may not remain so (maybe) but they really shouldn't have held a convention there given it's current state.  I realize HMGS had no choice after the NJ site fell through so I'm glad the HCON was held, but the Host's management showed poor judgement in having the event given the state of their facility.  The worst offender was the food vendor who was just terrible and very customer unfriendly.  There was effectively no food onsite.

The vendor hall was nice once you got in but the walk was long and I saw a number of people struggling, especially if they had weight or mobility issues.  I stopped several times to help a guy get back from the venue as the walk back was uphill.

2) Game cancellations - this seem "seemed" to have a lot of game cancellations - 30 or so a day.  I find that puzzling and don't believe that people are going through all the trouble register a fake game just to save the tiny registration fee.  Sadly gamers of a certain age may flock to silly conspiracy theories.  Still we may get some better info here based on the GM checking that was done at the con.

I am now planning to attend Fall-In (but not run any games) so there has been some improvement with the Host.  It's been years since I've attended Fall-In or Cold Wars and that was due exclusively to the state of the Host.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

HCON 2018: DAK & Dragons and SOCOM & Sorcery

Being a convention Game Master (GM) is one of my favorite aspects of the hobby.  It combines two unique aspects.  First is an adult version of elementary school "Show and Tell" with the term historical miniatures replacing toy soldiers.  The second is a need to become both a circus ringmaster and carnival barker as you try to get a group of disparate people to enjoy and buy into a gaming experience.  I really enjoy that aspect and try to make a positive impression on my players.

I ran a total of 8 games over the course of the con and enjoyed every single one.  I was a bit worn out by Saturday but still really enjoyed myself.  Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of all the games!

The first game seemed to prove that the rules tweaks and movement trays really improved game play and there was a lot more desperate fighting in the catacombs sections vs last year.

The game featured a number of repeat players including Malcom (in red)..
and Matt (center) who have played in many of my games over the years

The first set of victim from the initial game
I don't really remember all of the details from the games but do recollect that almost all went down to the last turn with possession of the Prof trading hands several times.

Yes, small tanks can fit into a dungeon - why? because it's cool!

Pretty excited to win another PELA award.  To be honest since I was re-running a game from last year's HCON I didn't think I was eligible.  HMGS did do a better job awarding the trophy as a group of people came over and made a big deal about it.  They also made a big deal about some guy named Pete Panzerenie (sp?) giving me the award.  He seemed like a nice guy in a goofy calvary hat and I appreciated him taking the time.  As I asked who he was over the course of the convention I found out people have some strong opinions about him  very strong.  He seems fine to me.

More desparate fighting in the dungeons!

A dragon wipes out a DAK Squad!  This year I toned down the monsters to both speed play and get the two human sides into combat with each other more quickly

I really like how the jungle section came out

The Friday afternoon game featured John S and his son (pictured) as players.  I got an email from John a few days after the con where he told he the game was his son's favorite and he was still talking about it.  That reaction makes all the effort that goes into putting these silly things on more than worth it!

I did get a lot of requests for a copy of the rules, which are a simple spreadsheet.  I'm thinking of writing something up thats a little more formal and then posting it on this blog for anyone to download.  What do you think?
I'll do a more reflective post of what worked and what can be improved later on.  Overall I thought the game went really well and I was very fortunate to have great players for each game.

There was been some hand wringing post con about canceled games and no-shows from the pre-registration system.  I can't really speak about cancellations other than I ran all 6 of my scheduled games plus 2 more.  As for no-shows, it was consistent to previous cons.  All of my games were "sold-out" each day and I always had 2-3 no-shows out of 8 slots.  Every game I ran was full as walkups filled the gap and I often added a 9th player (monsters) to help get people in the game.  I don't think the ability to pre-register for two games really impacted my attendance.

I do want to personally thank all my players - these events are enjoyable not because of the GM (maybe inspite of the GM!) but because the players decide to make them fun.  Yet again, I got a bumper crop of great people to spend a few hours with.  Thank you very much.

I'll probably run DAK & Dragons again at either Cold Wars or Fall In but will likely retire the game from Historicon.  So whats up for next year?  I suspect there will be some hints not to long on this blog.  All I can say is think 15mm rather than 28's......

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Historicon: Other Peoples Games

The games at this year's Historicon seemed to have stepped up several notches in quality from previous cons.  There were a lot of beautifully staged games and game masters who really put a lot of effort in their games.  I'll devote the majority of pictures in this post to what was clearly the best game of the con Dave S's and his lovely wife Kalissa's "Battle of Oulestee" game from the American Civil War .  Oulestee was the only major engagement fought in Florida so the table required some very unique vegetation, which Dave really delivered on.  I should know -  I grew up on the US Gulf Coast and the table reminded me of home.

 This game very deservedly won "Best of Show" and in addition to being beautiful was very playable.

 I plan to steal, oops I mean "liberate", a lot of the terrain techniques used by the Dave and Kalissa for future gaming projects - mimicry is a form of flattery!

 Wow, simply Wow is the best way I can describe this game.

After careful consideration, I have bestowed the title of "Teddy Bear Fur King" onto David as he makes the best use of that material I've ever seen.  David, I trust you'll use this new title and all the powers it conveys for good and not evil....

I'm pretty sure he wanders around his house resplendent in a teddy bear fur robe - and now he can wear a crown with it!

 I loved the Spanish moss on the trees in the swamp areas and think David did a superb job simulating the the plant.  When I was a kid our house (OK trailer) backed up to the bayou and we had Spanish moss all over the oaks.  Dave nailed it!
 In addition to the terrain there were over 1,500 newly painted 28mm Union and Confederate troops on the table - all of which David painted in 12 months.  The figures are from Sash and Saber and I need to think about adding some to my ACW collection - there are very nice.
By the way, I did learn from Kalissa that if you're ever in a game whichDave is hosting the surest way to curry the GM's favor and likely several re-rolls is to say nice things about the French.  Trust me it works.  Feel free not to credit this insight to me....

 Outside the main gaming area there was a giant ancients game that pitted Romans against celts.  What was really cool was the scenario changed daily from an assault on a Roman fortress on Day 1, a Column ambush on Day 2 (think Tuetenburg Wald) and then a meeting engagement on day three.  Very innovative use of the table.
 Perhaps my second favorite game of the show was this Siege of St Elmo - the terrain was breathtaking and the minis superbly painted.

 The GM used an innovative way to simulate the huge number of Ottomans besieging the fort - figures taken off the table for Ottoman losses would re-appear at the back edge as reinforcements - think shark teeth.
 A ginat model of Minis Tirith!
 ACW in 15mm
 A harpoon naval game with teeny tiny ships!

 A game of "Et Sans Resultant" with the rules author in the natty white hat.  I had a chance to goto dinner with the author and his wife and enjoyed meeting them and learning how they got into the crazy business of miniature wargaming.

I am very intrigued by the rules (I have a copy along with 3 of the scenario books).  I highly recommend both the rules and the scenario books to anyone who's interested in the period.  Each Scenario book includes literally hundreds of uniform plates that are incredible useful in painting up your forces.  You'll hear more about these rules in future posts.

 A big Fire and Fury Brigade level game that will be featured in Rich's upcoming scenario book.  Still the best rules for the Civil War out there.
 I loved these giant ship models!

 I did miss getting picture of Bob Giglio's game but it was wonderful and will be featured in an upcoming Wargames Illustrated issue.  I suspect Dave Taylor took better pictures than my I-phone and clumsy fingers could ever hope to!

There were a lot of other innovative and well staged games that I just forgot to take pictures of.  I'm really excited about the future of the con after seeing this level of participation and know I need to up my game for 2019!