Yay! I woke up, lept out of my feetie pajamas and bound about the house to get ready for FALL IN!, the Autumn historical miniatures convention run by HMGS (the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society). I actually had a plan, positioning stuff for quick launch the night before. For some reason, nothing works on time when you are going to a convention. It’s like I automatically find some way to FALL IN to a temporal distortion field. In this instance, it was news that snow was expected in the Lancaster PA area, where we were holding the con. So that means.. switching cars to a 4WD, driving to Drey’s school, tapping on the window to get the key, driving all the way back, gassing up the car, packing all my stuff OUT of the van INTO the 4WD.. and..
Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! We’re off at last!
Planned departure: 0900 / Actual departure, closer to 1100
Driving up was non-eventful. I went up 15 to 30 to York/Lancaster, like I always do. No stops, and it took about 2.5 hours. This put me at the convention at a point where there wasn’t any staff working at all. That’s right, the staff room was closed mid-day. Why? Because they couldn’t find anyone to work staff! Being hungry, I went to Panera. Even thought it has NOTHING to do with a convention, I had a moment of Zen on the way back. Hot air balloons. Two of them, quietly gliding over the cobalt grey country sky.
When I got back from Panera there were people in the staff room after a while. It wasn’t my intention to work staff for this convention, but Jon Paul gave me those puppy dawg eyes and I had to say yes. So don’t let anyone tell you that we work just for the free hotel room, cuz mine was already paid for by me. I signed up for a shift on Saturday, pretty much killing my schedule that I had posted on before, but that was okay by me.
As it was, I had already missed out on two or three “must-see” games anyway. HOWEVER! I did manage to sleeze my way into a fantastic game of CANVAS EAGLES Friday evening.
Unfortunately, SLIDE.COM is going out of business. So my old standby for making viewable slideshows has vanished. However, if you this link below you will see a slideshow of:
You may want to “Reverse Order” this (bottom left) to view in sequence
This was a great event for me. Canvas Eagles is essentially an open source replacement for the older GDW boardgame BLUE MAX. I had never played CE before but had played plenty of games of the older Blue Max game, and the mechanics are very similar– your plane is capable of a range of maneuvers that execute on a hex map, and both sides plot and execute them simultaneously. It’s kind of like the old ACE OF ACES system but in 3D. I had a great time. Since the convention was somewhat under-attended to begin with, the GM was looking for players. He had planned for four zeppelins and only one was on the board, with only one French fighter attacking it. The fighter had done some damage, so I came in on the next turn with a Pfalz fighter. I maneuvered around the zepp to get a tailing condition on the Frenchie, then he pulled a wrong move by accident turning AWAY from the Zeppelin, and then when I sped up to catch him, BANG! ZIP!! I overshot him and got shot to pieces. I went into a spin, everything looked dire. I then recovered and tried to line up on Monsieur Froggie again but by that time German victory conditions had been met– the German zepp was off the board. This was played with impressive huge zeppelin models and 1:72 scale aircraft models. Not exactly to scale but that really doesn’t matter– the concept was conveyed in a visual and exciting fashion. I had to thank the GM for the effort he put into the game– the logistical tale for putting one of those games on must be impressive (See the pictures above to get an idea of what I’m talking about).
I would have stayed for a bit and played again after we achieved victory, but had a pounding sinus headache and I really just wanted to take a few advil. Of course, going anywhere in a convention and not meeting people is pretty much impossible (at least for HMGS cons) so I did spend an hour or two at the bar on the way out. Great evening of gaming..
Saturday dawned with rainy slush pelting down. I quickly popped over to Target and picked up some boots (not to be profligate, I needed new ones) a snow shovel and a window brush., then got to the Host in time for the snow to start falling in earnest.
I’ll miss slide.com, they made convention reports easy.
I did a pass-through of the Flea before taking post on station in registration, thanks to Jon Paul’s encouragement. This was a great idea, as I found a guy selling his old 1:1200 Richard Houston/Lyzard’s Grin era per-dreadnought Austrian and Italian ships for The Battle of Lissa. This was a hell of a find, I got most of the Austrian fleet for half price. Thanks, flea market!
I worked my shift with no big worries. By Saturday mid day there just weren’t many people coming to this convention. The combination of the date (Halloween) and the snow drove away a lot of visitors that were sitting on a fence about making a day trip. We had a few die-hards.
I revisited the Vendor Hall in earnest after my shift to get a little shopping in. I ended up buying enough 1:1200 ships to fill out the Battle of Lissa Austrian fleet from Outland Games of Ohio (the nearest online vendor carrying this line that I could find is Great Endeavors). I also bought a few more Italians and will probably finish out the line once I’m done with all those Austrians. I also bought some bases for the ships, the new Warhammer historical GLADIATOR book, a couple of magazines and some fascinating 1:600 scaled ACW Artillery men (single stands) from a Polish company. My plan is to paint these up as ships’ crew on open cockpit Uncharted Seas hulls.
Unfortunately some vendors I was looking for did not show up– I was looking for Splintered Light and Brookhurst Hobbies. The Vendors were thin on the ground and the hall was relatively unpopulated for HMGS show. I attribute it to the bad weekend and the weather. Likewise the vendors that did show were not full up– the War Store is a must-see for me and they had very little Uncharted Seas and Dystopian Wars items. Sigh. In any event I was happy with what I purchased (in particular, the new gladiator rules from WH, they look very thorough and interesting.. and I have tons of 54mm glads painted up already).
I did see some interesting pieces from Tony Reidy’s old company, Wargames Factory: some pre-painted, pre-assembled figures called “Leviathans” or perhaps “Monsters in the Sky”. They were introduced at GENCON and were there for demo purposes only– apparently they are part of a larger boardgame that is imminent. These look very intriguing, like Aeronef on Steroids.
If anyone out there knows anything about this range, I’m interested. Please comment on this blog post.
FALL-IN! is not a convention for making big new product line announcements, and to be honest, I didn’t notice many new things, other than the Pumpkin demon and the Corn God from Acheson creations (below). There was a lot of onesies and twosies and cool lines that I like that got updated but I didn’t really go crazy over anything. Of note was a major presence from Architectural Creations, Barb’s Bunker of old, who are really pushing for a convention presence. Their trench lines were things of beauty, but I couldn’t afford them.
Things I was contemplating, but decided against buying this time around: Another War Rocket fleet and some British Landing parties for my cutting out party game that I have in mind to do. The latter choice was one of those last minute decisions– I’m going to have to make a major investment in some scenery to make a port and possibly even a 28mm scale ship, so this isn’t a game I can get off without paying the piper for. I guess I’m being naturally cautious in times of economic turmoil. I normally buy an Ironclad or two from Toby but I’m a little backed up on them at the moment and need to paint my way out of the queue.
To summarize my shopping experience.. not as much as at the other two cons, but I am very happy with what I did get. I’m liking the Gladiator rules quite a bit and of course I’m somewhat goofily pleased that I managed to get most of the Battle of Lissa so cheaply.
Games around the convention:
(I loved this one.. the figures in the center were exquisitely painted, and they stayed stationery throughout the game, while the terrain pieces moved down the board to signify that the figures in the center were moving.. in this case, retreating from Moscow in 1812)
Saturday NIGHT, I weaseled my way into Rick Stakes’ large scale Pirates versus Spanish Convoy game (S-256). You may recall I played in one of these at HISTORICON, I had such a good time I came back again. I like Rick’s work on his ships (with one or two exceptions they are all handmade), I like his rules and I like the way he runs events with lots of people in them. Each player ran an individual ship. As a latecomer I didn’t have first choice and got “The Hawk” pirate ship. There’s forty plus pictures in this slide show (link below) and I do not have the time to caption every one, so have a look now…
Rules were written by Mr. Stakes, and they were reasonably clear and made sense, reminding me strongly of the old WS&IM board game. Game In a nutshell: The pirate fleet was allowed to set up anywhere on the board. Three of the pirates, including my HAWK ship in red, set up BEHIND the Spanish convoy as they came on the board. We sailed in on them at the end of the first turn and my Hawk got too close. We were roughly handled on the starboard side, but that is the price one pays for the weather gauge sometimes. A pirate ship doesn’t have the strength to sail in and go yardarm to yardarm.. I learned the hard way that the optimal strategy was to shoot at the rigging, not the hull, and to say off a distance. The Spanish fleet sailed up the starboard side of the battle, clustering together and ramming each other at one point. This proved difficult for the ships on the port side of the cluster, which bore the brunt of pirate damage. There was actually a Spanish ship that didn’t even fire the entire game on the starboard side! The Spaniards handled their ships well and supported each other in crucial moments. The pirates did not do as well, and were pretty much all over the place. The pattern of the battle for me was: Sail in close, fire off popguns. Kill a few spaniards and bring down some rigging. Get shot up pretty bad. Sail out, turn around, and sail back to repeat. I’m happy to say I didn’t sink but one of my piratical brethren did. We also captured a Spanish Felucca– which made us think that we held victory, but Mr. Stakes graciously awarded a narrow Spanish victory, due to the fact that there wasn’t a lot of pirate tonnage in the water to oppose Spanish progress. We all thanked Mr. Stakes and asked him to run it again at Cold Wars.
Later on, I did the typical for a Saturday, visiting the standard hangouts, the lobby bar, and hung out for a while. Thence to look for some guys from the TNGG group to play boardgames with, but alas they were already gone.
I didn’t even hit the flea market Sunday which was disappointing.. time does fly. I visited the Dealer’s room one more time, and packed my bags to say farewell..
And off across the might Susquehanna and home!
General observations: attendance… was what it was. I’m reminded of the great snow of 2007. You can’t fight weather and rumors of weather. You just shrug and soldier on as best you can. Needless to say, I was able to park in FRONT of the hotel almost every day for the entire convention, and I think you get my drift about what attendance was like. I think this is the last year we are scheduling FALL-IN! for Halloween, so maybe it will pick up next year. Extras: I did the Guidebook App again this year and it ended up looking good despite very late support from Events. If I left out something near and dear to you, I apologize. It’s only an effort as good as the data that drives it, and I received what I received 10 PM Sunday night and had it done by 240 in the morning the next day. The data needed to be vetted better than it did. Considering all that, it STILL was a useful product, and I ended up using it constantly. In fact, I have yet to open up a FALL-IN! 2011 program book. Facilities: The Host is a shabby as ever, but the staff supported us well and rose to the occasion as they usually do. No complaints. Weather: turned out to be a non-event for the most part. When I park my car at a HMGS convention in the morning, I really DON’T WANT TO LEAVE for the entire day. Everything I want to do I can accomplish on premises. So having a surprise blizzard didn’t faze anyone. To quote Bob Leibl in the bar: “Oh dear. I’m trapped, trapped I say, in a place with adequate food and drink, all my friends and toys to play with all weekend. What shall I do, woe is me..” (picture the heavy sarcasm). So, in summary, I had a great time, with a few fits and starts here and there that tried to be flies in the ointment but couldn’t manage it. Congratulations to Andy and his tiny crew of volunteers for pulling off another great convention, and I hope he enjoys an honorable retirement.