Of Coups and Cowboy Hats; my Fall-IN! 2009 Travelogue

As always, I’ll preface this travelogue with the standard disclaimer: I am not an official in the organization “HMGS East”. The opinions contained herein are my own and do not reflect any official statement by the Board of Directors of said organization.  You can skip over any HMGS politics stuff by avoiding reddish font later.

I arrived at Gettysburg on Friday in the afternoon. Kicked about the Dealer’s Hall and bought a couple of 54mm scaled farm and out buildings for my 54mm skirmish game I’m working on from ALL THE KINGS MEN.

Cabin for All the King's Men series
One of the 54mm foam buildings from All the King's Men

I then tried to get into a game in the evening. It didn’t work out. So I played Aerodrome 2.0 instead, and the results are recorded separately. Had a good time, too!  Getting out of that about 8PM, I felt like I had an inordinate amount of time on my hands and went looking for more trouble to get into.  The ballroom was in full swing and many cool games were up and running.

I really liked David Kujit’s Hordes of the Things! game using Japanese movie monster (style) figures pulled mostly from Monsterpocalypse.

Hordes of the things game using Monsterpocalypse
Monsterpocalypse figures for a Japanese movie monster army.

If I had seen that in the program, I’d have played it.. Drat.   Looked like fun!

In the lower ballroom, Del had a great setup for a couple of Science Fiction games.  I believe it was Warhammer sumpin r’ other. They looked great.

Del Stover, former HMGS East President
A Pensive Del Stover

He put some big effort into the terrain board, which was his own special one he brings to conventions:

It's a bug hunt, Mr. Rico
Bugs, Mr. Rico! Millions of them!

About this time, I heard from someone, I think it was Chuck Turnitsa, that “HMGS East has deposed its president, Pete Panzeri, and the move to Baltimore’s Convention Center is not on”.

Well, yeah, right.  Rumors at a HMGS East convention.  However, as I sat down to play a late night game of PANDEMIC with my TNGG (Thursday Night Gaming Group, Chantilly Game Parlor) chums–

Pandemic Game played late Friday night, Fall In
We actually won this one, though it looks hopeless here.

Of course, Bob and Cleo dropped by with some wine and goodies, and we had to hear the gossip.  I mentioned what I heard, they mentioned what they heard.  And then Frank Preziosi dropped by, and he confirmed that he, Frank, was now the president of HMGS East.  He (correctly) didn’t comment on past events, just that “a change of leadership and direction” was needed for HMGS East, and the first action of Thursday’s BoD meeting was to enact leadership change– new BoD member Jim Petrie made a motion to put Frank up as President, Frank seconded it, and there was a call for votes.  Frank became president by unanimous vote.  I asked him what the status of the BCC move was, and what was actually true vice rumor.  He pulled out a piece of paper, and read a statement, which I will try to recount accurately.

We have presented the Baltimore Convention Center with several points in our contract that have not been negotiated well and are not acceptable to us.  We are attempting to give them time to respond or at least enter into negotiations.  Our lawyers have drafted a letter that gives them until (I believe) November 27.  If they will not respond by that time, we will seek a different location for Historicon 2010.

(Frank, if you read this, if I didn’t get a particular correct, forgive me, I’m going off of memory here and I had had a glass or two of Bob’s mead first).  Frank’s comments are the only official commentary I care to repeat, as every other conversation I had last weekend was very emotional and often overblown… the rumors were flying around about costs, and steadily rising NON-convention costs disguised as promotions and professional services, and the decline in profitability.

This is about all I care to comment on the BCC move in this journal– I’ll use a different color font if you want to skip over this bit and move on back to Fall-In!.  I thought then, and still think, it was ill-advised in the current economic environment.  I know several people that simply won’t go– not because they hate HMGS, or Pete Panzeri, or Historicon, or Bob, or toy soldiers.  They aren’t going because they can’t begin to come up with the money to pay for this.  I love going to conventions, just as much as anyone– but I can’t justify (roughly) 900 dollars in expense for a long hobby weekend (presuming I was going to stay near the BCC itself).  So my plans were to do the day trip thing on Saturday, figuring a 30 dollar a day garage fee beat out a 200 dollar a night hotel fee.  Moreover, I’m not going to condemn people who decide to vote with their feet and not attend.  Their reasons are as good as anyone elses.  A while back, then president Pete Panzeri and convention operations VP John Drye both approached me for my opinions on a move to the BCC, long before any contracts were signed.  I said to them “You have to serve that core component of HMGS that will always make a convention a success– the gamemasters and members who come to every convention, without fail.  Make it impossible for them to attend, and Historicon 2010 will surely fail.”  They nodded, looking serious, and asked “If it does move there, will you support it?”  I said “If the move is a fait accompli, There’s not much I can do but look at ways to make it work for me, and  share what information I have.”   Meaning, what’s done is done, the contracts are signed, there’s no point in whining now.  They heard me, they heard a lot of people, and the contracts were signed.  I shrugged, and I have not attacked this decision publicly, just as I promised.  I also won’t attack people who vehemently do not want to go– they are members too, and deserve to have their opinions heard.

A couple of banditos.. or man squaw, you take your pick..

Gradually, disturbing little information tidbits started to arise– the August financials revealed that HMGS East had spent a rather large sum of money on NON-convention expenses.  That wasn’t chicken little hysteria, it’s right there in black and white.   Moreover, a simple trend analysis that anyone (who is a member) can do will reveal that our net profit (the money that we bank and use to put on MORE conventions) had dropped significantly, and our costs had grown astronomical– coming close, but not intersecting, the Gross Revenue line (yet).  Some costs are unavoidable– for instance, if our table vendors dramatically increase their rates, if the facility cost itself goes up.. well, some of these are hard to fix.  However, there’s not much transparency here– and the impression is given that HMGS is in an environment that badly requires cost controls and accountability.  Do I think anyone feathered his nest? Profited by lax cost controls?  Got a fun little junket to Vegas on the society’s dime?  Nope.  I think the people spending all the money were honestly trying to do what they thought (at the time) was the best thing for HMGS East’s future.

So, in sum (opinion piece just about done here), I think retreating from the Baltimore Convention Center is a good idea, given HMGS East’s current financial meltdown.

Back to Fall In!!

Pandemic concluding (we won!), I hung out with some of the MD Partizan folks, including Andy Turlington, our esteemed Fall-In! Director.  He expressed his frank and forthright opinion on many things, including his Christian compassion for his wayward Events Director, James Mattes, and recent political changes in HMGS East.

Andy asks: how come it's not a Turlington Drachma??
Now, if I had tried that, I'd been called egotistical!

As you might expect, I was chuckling– and I chuckled more after a few more beers.
Back to the hotel (Marriott Suites, Presidential Circle, wonderful hotel). I honestly wanted to be at the Membership Sensing meeting the next day, because I was expecting high drama.. but woke up with a splitting headache and partially dehydrated.. wonder what could account for that?? Frank Preziosi had really told me what I wanted to hear the previous evening, so I took time to have a large, leisurely brunch instead. Just what the doctor ordered, two pots of coffee later.

Arrived back at the convention Saturday, and walked right into a RAM SPEED/ROMAN SEAS game run by the excellent Mr. Cantwell. This game is described in detail here. I had a lovely time, great rules, great paper galleys. I will be buying Mr. Hotz’s cds of ships soon.

I had only worked the dealer area briefly on Friday– now I wanted an in-depth look. I didn’t really spend like a drunken sailor, but I did make some good strategic purchases that will supplement current projects– I already mentioned the 54mm barns and outbuildings I purchased Friday. I also picked up Dwarven Submarines, Heavy Cruisers, and an Orc Raider heavy cruiser ship for the game UNCHARTED SEAS. These are the two fleets with some excellent specialist ships– I plan on getting more as I will be running a game fairly shortly for the TNGG. I bought some great snap together river sets from the Pegasus Hobbies folks. I’ve been needing something like that. How could I visit a convention and not get sucked into a new period? I’ve held off, I really have. The last time I invested heavily in the big keen, new thing was Uncharted Seas, Cold Wars 09. Now it’s something called GAFDOZ. Yes, I’ve found a pulp SF line that just, maybe, might be silly enough for me. Here’s an example:

Sagitta of Vega, Gun for Hire
Sagitta of Vega, Gun for Hire

Of Killer B games current GAFDOZ line up.. I have purchased the following:

  • Bare headed Captain Gamma
  • Commander Algol: The Traitor
  • Corvus Libra: Master Inventor
  • Gunner Bede: The Spectral Flyer
  • Hydrus Advancing
  • Jek Starkiller: Galactic Gunfighter
  • Kaitos Deneb: The Killer
  • Klug Pluton
  • Major Canis: The Tyrant
  • Sagitta of Vega: Gun for Hire
  • Sir Gannymede: The Lost Knight

These are rather big and cartoony, but I don’t care.  I love the look of them.  My goal is to find something in remotely similar scale– robots, retro sf themed.. and make a skirmish game out of these figures.  They are super silly, just what the doctor ordered!!!   I also bought some great markers from Litko, who was present and doing a brisk business.  I picked up “On fire and smoking” markers (small) and tiny little splash markers for UNCHARTED SEAS, as well as a rather splendid Compass Rose.

All things considered, I did well in the Dealer Hall.  I’ll forfend from the typical look at all the vendors photograph, you’ve seen them before.

Saturday night, I got into a game of CORPORATE ZOMBIES, run by Uncle Moe, a.k.a., that big-hearted lug, Shawn Reis.

Shawn Reis
They calls him Uncle Moe.

This was hilarious fun.  I hope to make a separate post on it.  Alas, my camera’s battery died and all I have of this game are crappy phone pictures.  Sean may send me a few.

After that, late night ruminations with Del Stover, Patrick, Orest, a few other guys.  Typical HMGS East political conversations.  Alas, it went until almost 3 AM, so I was NOT up for a game of Uncharted Seas on Sunday, no matter how much I wanted to drop in.  I did a cursory look around the Dealer’s area, and then pointed my aging Ford Taurus station wagon south, ruminating that it was one hell of a convention.

Thank you Andy Turlington, for your selfless work in resurrecting the Events schedule after it was abandoned by Mr. Mattes.  Thank you, as well, for all the other niggling details that went into a great time that was had by all.  And thanks as well to the Fall In staff, who had a new registration system to put up with and learn on the fly– and no end of other challenges.  Thanks to the many GMs who put on fun games that I either played or watched with envy.  Thanks to my friends for showing up and making a convention one of the best getaway weekends a guy like me can have.  And yes, thank you, HMGS BoD, for providing us with the means and wherewithal to put these things on three times a year.

A weekend well spent.  And now, the obligatory Fall In Slideshow of fun!


  1. Dear Walt

    Nice report. We shall see what the future brings.

    One of the first things that has to happen is that the HMGS Bod has to stop operating in the “black ops” manner it has. It leads to a perception of illegality and chicanery. Thefirst thing that it also must do is get a sense of fiscal responsibility and make radical retrenchments on the expenditures line. I do not believe that costs can go up beyond our control. There is a recession on and business for everyone is down. The table renters are hurting too. So this is the time when they come with price quoes to say “No.” We will not accept a price increase, and will go somewhere else if you won’t hold firm on prices.

  2. I agree with your point about communicating with the membership in a more straightforward manner, Otto. For years now, we have had the “Pete filter” on so many things that we really have no clear idea of what has transpired with the central issue, the BCC negotiations. I honestly don’t think the central actor(s) acted dishonestly, but they certainly have acted in a manner that calls their action into question– as members of HMGS East, we should be asking the hard questions. After all, isn’t it our money they are spending?

  3. That is entirely true Walt. But I have no seen the BOD act from that position- that is, as caretakers of a public trust since the days of Wally Simon and even– yes– shudder– Pat Condray. Few of the Bods in between acted from what I considered was the standpoint of fiscal responsibility and worse, most have enacted more from a “permanent sense of entitlement. “That is– an elitist point of view that they knew more of what we wanted then we ourselves. So it remains to see if this movement to oust Major PeePee is a true “revolution” in sentiment to return it to the operating idea of before or merely a panic move to oust the Major because of the danger he posed to their ability to fulfill their sense of entitlement.

  4. My camera battery died while at Fall-in, and you have two pictures of my clubs games in your slide show- I was just wondering if I could copy them.

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