Fall-IN! 2010 Saturday and Sunday coverage

Continuing from the previous post..

As you might have deduced from my previous not, I did not attend the Friday night membership meeting, but I hear it was well attended and well behaved. I also heard a rumor that Louis Desy, our wayward board member, showed up and poked his nose in long enough to ask a question from the back of the room, then left before anyone could recognize him. This is largely unsubstantiated. I opted to play in the Russo-Japanese naval wargame mentioned in the previous post, and I’m glad I did.

I woke up Saturday at FALL IN with no big schedule or agenda.  The chaps I was sharing a room with were in a big hurry to get to the flea market morning shift, to sell and make some early buys.  I took a more leisurely route, having breakfast first.

I made some purchases in the Flea, mostly 15mm Renaissance that could sorta kinda go with my Leonardo army.  The end result suited me fine.

Leonardo's Army
Leonardo's Army in 15mm. Purty, ain't it?

I really want to develop a few more larger items for the Leonardo army, like the giant crossbow Leonardo designed as well as more tanks and a flapping-winged aircraft or helicopter. Troop-wise, it’s pretty much done. I’m very happy with it. Now if I could only find an opposing force or two of the same whimsical tone.

I did hit the dealer room pretty extensively Saturday just before noon or so. Whether because of the economy or the inopportune weekend (Halloween? really?) Dealers were thinner on the ground then usual, as evidenced by some of the “back forty” being used for overflow flea market tables. One ‘vendor’ was just a guy selling his extensive board wargame collection. Talk about a sea change in the old “flea marketeers versus REAL professional vendors” argument. Back in the “high profile flea market” area in the back of the dealer hall, I met with Bob G. and talked about (amongst other things) the fiascoes of the moment, notably the BCC move disaster and what role Pete Panzeri had in it and when everything transpired. It was highly informative for those of us who have an outsider persepective. Also evident in the dealer area was the promotional booth for the Hampton Roads convention center, which had me wondering if the current BoD had something to tell us or not. Another great deal that’s just too awesome to resist? Say it ain’t so!

I really had a great time in the dealer’s hall.. i picked up 15mm resin ships for my long suffering fantasy naval game from merrimac/old glory shipyards — a Chinese Junk looking thing, and a sailing ship. Combine this with the “galley starter set” I found in the flea and I have four new hulls. Outstanding.

Unakas, A GAFDOZ character
Unakas, A GAFDOZ character

I dropped by the Recreational Conflict booth and found a few new characters from the GAFDOZ universe which I hadn’t picked up yet. I promptly added these to the pile I had given Chort when I saw him next. I’m not sure where I’m going with this one, but it will probably be a multiple player/multiple mission bar fight kind of game, similar to my earliest Wild West scenarios I ran in the 90s. The figures are just so silly looking they are hard to resist– and dang it, they should not remain unpainted.  An ideal setting for them would be a location where many alien critters could meet and interact and fight with each other.  I’m thinking of calling the game DRACO’S TAVERN.

I also bought some of the Garrison line of pulp Science Fiction figures but they are really outclassed by the GAFDOZ (even though the sculptor is the same for both lines!).  The two ranges just can’t be mixed unless you have something really outsized or really tiny.  The cool thing about alien figures is you can’t really definitively say they’re out of scale– who are you to judge?   I’m contemplating adding my Copplestone “Grays” (aliens) to the mix for this reason.

At the RC booth, they were also demonstrating a great looking retr0-style space combat game from Hydra Miniatures called WAR ROCKET.  This is a pretty standard low-tech space combat game with wonderful miniatures– the retro-shiny finny kind of rockets from the older science fiction serials from Republic International, for instance.

WAR ROCKET at the RC booth
WAR ROCKET demo at the RC booth

I must be developing a pulp science fiction jones at the moment, because I ended up violating my strict admonition to myself to NOT get started on a new product or line, and stay focused one one or two projects that have some hope of being finished soon.  Well, that went into the toilet pretty quickly, I’m sad to say.   I ended up buying the IMPERIAL FLEET, since that appeared to be the one that most looked like something that Ming the Merciless would be tooling around in.  I held off on buying the rulebook.  Frankly, I am just not all that enthused about purchasing a big expensive rulebook for 25 bucks until I’m sure that A) the miniatures I bought will get painted; B) the system absolutely has ‘legs” and will expand, and most importantly C) the game is unplayable without them.  There are tons of space combat rules out there.  For those of you who grilled me on TMP about how ‘uncool’ it was to ‘not support a new system’ when I initially voiced enthusiasm for Uncharted Seas couple years back but wanted a set of freebie test rules on a PDF, this is largely the same “shy buyer” phenomenon, but with space ships.  I would urge you to review how well I’ve supported that game since then. 😀

In any event, I’m pretty happy with the Imperial fleet.  They are very Flash Gordon-like.  I suspect the Galacteer fleet will be next on the agenda, once the Imps get painted.  They have a real “Tom Corbett, Space Ranger” look to them.

War Rocket
War Rocket rule book, 25 dollars retail

I also dropped by the “Sarge” miniatures booth and picked up a gang of figures that look suspiciously like the main characters of the recent movie KICKASS..  What I’ll do with them, I have no idea, I just wanted to have a HIT GIRL figure.

For the third show running, I’ve tried to purchase a Ralgard Fleet for Uncharted Seas from one of my favorite vendors, the War Store.  The guy who was working the floor told me they had brought only one and it sold in the first hour.  Oh well, guess I’m going online for this one.

In general, I didn’t see a lot of new product line that floored me, except maybe the stuff that is being done with plastics by companies like Wargames Factory, Warrior Online and the Perry Twins.  The work done by these companies may be a game changer for me, in that I have been staying away from 28mm historicals because frankly, I can’t afford them in metal any more.  It’s too expensive a proposition.   The switch to plastics is making this scale possible for me again.  Especially if I can get somone ELSE to paint them for me.

Oh, I did see something interesting at the paper terrain booth.  Paper armies.. Slick cardboard stock roughly 28mm paper flats of Union and Confederate Infantry, Artillery and Artillery.  I love this idea.. not sure how it would sort out in RL.  I love paper models but they are notoriously fiddly for my giant fingers.  On the plus side the setup for the paper armies seems pretty minimal.

Paper Union Army
Paper Miniatures from Paper Terrain.

After visiting the vendor hall area, I was hungry and went upstairs to get the beef brisket lunch/dinner.   As I was dining, I was visited by Otto Schmidt, Mitch Osbourne and Jay Hadley.  We discussed the board meeting, the current lawsuit initiated by the City of Baltimore when we backed out of the disastrous contract that He Who Must Not be Named signed us up to.  Otto had a surprise, the actual legal papers from the complaint.  I was pleased to hear that the issue has gone to arbitration.   I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but an *actual* lawyer present suggested that if we just “keep our mouths shut and do what the lawyer says” the final tally may not be end-of-HMGS-as-we-know-it bad, just a severe financial hit that will be a few years to recover from.

Court Papers
Copies of the Court Papers served on HMGS by City of Baltimore
RCW Militia (Whites, my unit) cross tracks
One of my units, White Militia, cross the tracks to attack the strong point in the middle

I got into Dave Waxtel’s RUSSIAN CIVIL WAR game Saturday night, using his home brew rule set.  I had a mixed reaction– I think the game was very visual and pleasing to RCW nuts, but it had a distinct ‘gamey’ feel that kind of sabotaged the historicity of the rules.  For instance, the table was set up so: the Reds were defending, but the Whites put out Objective markers hidden from Reds.  The Reds were placed before the Whites but the Whites could come in on the corners.  The Reds could come in on the sides.  Due to the limitations of the table space, we often had a situation where a force on the corner or side would blink and then another faction would be showing up already behind them, already locked in melee.  That seemed a little silly to me.   I  know there was poor recon in this war but that’s ridiculous!  With that said, I did like many aspects of Dave’s rules, in particularly, the drawing down of “pips” every turn.  We start with 40 and Dave rolled a six sided dice at the end of the turn to decrease the pips left.  A very effective way of building tension.

my veteran regiment advances
My veteran White Regiment advances.

Dave sent me a copy of the rules later and it clarified a few elements of his thinking– I still think it’s a bit gamey but I do think it is well conceived.   One constructive criticism that I would mention is that ALL players had to spend a long amount of time building up our units using a procedure that requires a lot of cross-checking.  This allows a unique amount of customization and personalization to the game, but also drags the game to a halt for something like 40 minutes.  I would start the game in future conventions with pre-made units.  Not as personal but it will be faster, I can guarantee that.

The hard working, hard-thinking game awards committee dropped by the game as it was in progress to award Dave some sort of award for his game.  He deserves it for this visual feast, congratulations.

My White Faction did better than the other White Faction (having captured three objectives).  I am not sure what the Polish player did, but I was substantially behind the Red Player at this stage, as he had picked up the same amount of objectives as I had, only they were worth more and he could claim non-faction objectives (I couldn’t).  He also rolled well in some arcane “other factors” victory roll that Dave adds to the end of the game.  No biggie, I had a blast playing it.

Waxtel awarded
Dave Waxtel is visited by the Fall In! Game Awards committee. Huzzah!

After stowing the RCW figures, I sought out Steve and Art and the rest of the crew but they seemed like they were done with boardgames for the evening, it being close to 1 AM.  I drifted up to the bar and sat in with a conversation Tony Ready was having with some sculptors (“Fine Line Designs?”).  It was rather funny and I always enjoy socializing over a beer or  three.

Sunday I wanted to walk the flea market one more time as well as the dealer room.  I didn’t end up buying anything other than some old copies of Panzer Digest in the Dealer room, and nothing in the flea market, which was pretty much picked over by the time I showed up.

Marine Corps Exhibit, Lobby
Marine Corps Birthday Exhibit, Fall IN Lobby

I did get a chance to see the Marine Corps Birthday display in the lobby, which was showy, flashy, informative and also, FREE.  Nice work on this one, Andy.  I suspect there are a lot of Military commands out there with history units like the Marines.  We should take advantage of these as much as we can in our current financial straits.

I wanted to leave before 11 AM, and actually managed to get out around 1130, which isn’t too shabby, considering the siren tug of a gaming convention.   I headed home the same Route 15 route which turned out to be hugely inconvenient for family planning reasons (I had to go to Pentagon City to pick up Annie, as it turned out, and that was a hard destination to vector on from Leesburg).  Should have gone the 270 route, oh well!

Final words on FALL IN! 2010: Thanks for Andy Turlington and his staff and crew for pitching in and working so hard on FALL IN.  I strongly suspect that attendance was low, both in attendees and vendors, but I don’t want that to come off as the typical snarky criticism from convention attendees who don’t have all the facts.   My indicators were crowd size, ease of finding a parking spot, and empty holes in the vendor hall and large gaming areas like Distelfink.  I don’t KNOW for sure… i suspect there’s many factors at work here, like a sluggish economy, a lot of people out of work, it being Halloween weekend, the venue moving back to the Host from Gettysburg, etc. etc.

Let’s just say we had the best danged FALL IN! we could have under the circumstances.  I really enjoyed myself, and I for one don’t mind it being at the Host instead of the Ike.  For all its historicity, the Ike is a very expensive venue and I consider it a miracle of cost-juggling that Andy could and did make a profit there (last year, a bigger profit than other shows).     We may want the Ike for the Gettysburg location but I think we’re going to have to be satisfied with the Host for a while longer yet.    The Host is a venue that has supported us well over the years, and if it’s a little down at heels here and there, it still works just fine and moreover is quite affordable in off-season.  If we want to restore our fortunes, venues such as the Host should not be sneered at for our Spring and Fall shows.   And hats off, one more time, for our gallant FALL IN! 2010 staff for being courteous, hard-working and polite to everyone.. working the convention is a hard gig and I’m always impressed with the cheerful courtesy I experience when I show up as a customer instead of worker..

See you all at COLD WARS 2011!

goodbye HOST
Farewell, until March!


Lord Ashram’s excellent convention footage on his blog, THE HOUSE OF WAR