Gar and I pointed the van southward last Saturday for a visit to the Williamsburg Muster, a great little convention that we’ve become fans of in recent years. The Muster is a mixed format gaming convention, with heavy representation among boardgamers, roleplayers, and miniature hobbyists. Unlike HMGS conventions the ODMS (Old Dominion Military Society) doesn’t ostensibly limit the content of cons, so the subjects are all over the place. The Muster (and the ODMS summer convention, Guns of August) takes place at the Holiday Inn Patriot Center, an aging Holiday Inn on the outskirts of downtown Williamsburg. The Muster takes up three large rooms, space wise, and about a dozen vendors attend from a variety of areas– mostly game stores, but also some publishers and manufacturers like Lock and Load Games and Thoroughbred Figures.
We arrived around noon of Saturday, experiencing no traffic on the way down. We had reservations at the local Day’s Inn but didn’t bother checking in immediately. Instead we went directly to the muster and said hi to some people, and then sleezed our way into a game of SPACE:1889. Man, I was glad I did!
This was a game of SKY GALLEONS OF MARS, done in 25mm using a mix of miniatures and lightweight ships made out of some rigid styrofoam material (apparently) and covered with veneer to look like wood. Very lightweight and durable stuff.
I played a disreputable pirate, Garrett played a small Ironclad steamer. Another chap played a Japanese patrol frigate, and young Lindsey and her beau, whom I’ve worked staff with at HMGS conventions, played the roles of A British Aphid class patrol frigate and a slightly more up-gunned Privateer.
I love Frank Chadwick‘s Space: 1889 universe and was an avid player back in the day. I’ve wanted to play the 25mm scaled Sky Galleons games that I often see on the PEL at HMGS cons but they are never at a good time for me. I was very pleased to get a slot and thankful that the GM put it on.
The battle was fast and resolved well. Gar and I signaled a little diplomacy at the outset, which is allowed (and it gives the signalman something to do). I suggested that Gar fire his machine guns at my kite so that the other players would think we were not allies. Predictably it did nothing. Gar fired at the Privateer with some long ranged shots and scored some hits, but didn’t unship the guns or kill a lot of crew. I took a long ranged shot at the British kite and blew up the biggest gun they had. This earned me a hard stare from Miss Lindsey.
Hey, I’m a pirate, not a diplomat, right? So we fired at each other long distance and Gar did the same with the Privateer AND the British. I took an unlucky hull hit which caused me to lose some liftwood, and it dropped me a level. Now I couldn’t shoot UP, and the guys above me had a hard time shooting DOWN. I bided my time and soon enough the Aphid dropped down to my level, as did the Russian. While Gar kept her distracted with brisk fire, I managed to get some grappling lines on that held.
Sadly, those Jolly Jack Tars were made of stern stuff. And there were more of them after my Marines manfully got shot up on the approach. So the first boarding was repulsed. We went in for another try, all or nothing… and..
… we got repulsed with heavy casualties. Oh dear. We beat feet to get back on board the Kite at a fortuitous moment. The Japanese were finally in the game and were taking long ranged shots at everyone, which had started a double sized fire on the Aphid. Time to break off and run for it!
Runnnnn Awaaay! We were down to 2 guys, on a shot up kite, but we lived and weren’t captured. Somedays, all you can do is all you can do in the pirate trade.
FOR A SLIDESHOW OF THE ACTION, visit my Photobucket Account. I don’t want to make this AAR too crowded..
The game called at about 3 PM. We did a walk around and poked our noses into some other events, but we needed to get our UNCHARTED SEAS: BATTLE OF THE STEAM PLUME game ready so couldn’t sit down for even a quick game. We went out for some chicken and got the sheets ready. We had planned to go with a laminated card and dry erase approach, but some of the sheets didn’t get printed. So I used the tried and true method of Spartan Games’ fleet composition sheets. I had to hand it to the lady working the front desk, Molli. She believes in customer service. I went online with my Ipad, found the downloadable from the Spartan Games site, downloaded to my Ipad, forwarded to her personal email, and she printed them out on her fax machine. A Gadget enabled happy ending!
There were tons of great games in both big rooms during Saturday. I liked the 1:600 Ironclads CSS Virginia vs. the USS Monitor scenario being run in the main room, but a fellow can’t be in two places at once. It looked fun!
Other standouts were constant demonstrations being put on for ADVANCED SQUAD LEADER (Avalon Hill/Multiman Publishing), BATTLE OF WESTEROS (Days of Wonder), Most LOCK AND LOAD games and other fun activities.
The DYSTOPIAN WARS game was very tempting, but naturally it didn’t synch with my schedule, and it went very long..
One of the vendors was running a mix of Battletech game and FIRESTORM ARMADA Demos, and they had some sharp looking stuff out.
Again, tons of fun things to do, not enough time to do ALL of them…
Saturday Night, we got our sheets filled out and got back an hour ahead of our start time for the UNCHARTED SEAS game we were throwing for the convention. The scenario was a tad more complex than normal, as I was working with strict alliances (firm between Dragon Lords and Shroud Mages, loosely allied between Iron Dwarves and Men). That meant that there wouldn’t be a lot of chaos and deal brokering. This game would also have more fliers than past games, as the Elves now had an Elder Dragon, the Humans had Da Vinci glider assault launchers, the Dragon Lords had their Naugras, and the Dwarves had their Zeppelin. We made a big effort to pay attention to the DEFENSIVE FIRE, AERIAL ATTACK and DIVING Rules for this game, as everyone had a “death from above” weapon. To further complicate matters, I added a live volcano that randomly spouted a gout of lava, which had the potential for wreaking havoc with the fleets sailing around it.
The map looked roughly like this, not to scale of course.
THE BATTLE OF THE STEAM PLUME AFTER ACTION REPORT
A Strong coalition of Allied nations approached the Demon’s Forge Archipelago to force passage for the Colonization fleet moving into the Darnak Cluster. The Imperials were anxious to set up a strongly defended trading post in the vicinity as the islands had proven to have high concentrations of iron, nickel and sulfur. Unfortunately, local volcanic activity is high and the straits approaching the proposed landfall are dominated by an active volcano… which should makes things lively for any fleet venturing through the area.
The Battle of the Steam Plumes began with fleets from the Elves, Orcs, Bone Griffons, Dragon Lords, Shroud Mages, Humans and Dwarves on the table, but we quickly pulled the Orcs out (for balance) and then the Bone Griffons and Elves. The Elves fit in the scenario better than the Bone Griffons, but we didn’t have enough players. I played the Imperial Human fleet with 1 battleship, 3 cruisers, 6 regular frigates, 4 martyr frigates, and 5 cargo ships whose function was really just as victory points. In addition, I had two assault glider launcher balloons at my disposal, which were hidden on a cruiser and one of the cargo ships. The Iron Dwarves were run by my rather loose “Ally” Dewey LaRochelle, who had a Battleship, 3 cruisers, 2 heavy cruisers, 2 submarines, 6 frigates and a zeppelin. The Dragon Lords (run by a player named Derek) were more firmly allied with a client fleet, the Shroud Mages (run by Garrett), and they had a battleship, 3 cruisers, 2 Celestial Heavy cruisers, 1 Dragon carrier (that launches two flights of Naugra dragons), and 6 frigates. The Shroud Mages have a hodgepodge of units, including a battleship, three cruisers, 3 infiltrator destroyers, 6 frigates, and 3 other destroyers. Of the two opposing fleets, the Shroud Mages hit harder but the Dragon Lords are more versatile. As you can see in the graphic above the Humans encountered the Mages and the Dwarves encountered the Dragon Lords. I had the Eagle battleship out in the Van of the attack to bring its devastating broadside to bear. In no time whatsoever, The Eagle destroyed a Shroud Mage Cruiser and two frigates. Similarly, the Iron Dwarves conducted a massive frigate attack with combined fire on the Cruiser van of the Dragon Lord fleet, and they started loosing ships immediately. The Shroud Mages lost another cruiser to gunfire but the Eagle got into a bad spot where she couldn’t retreat to a distance and use her amazing broadside, and she caught a lot of fire. The Humans lost a cruiser in the counterattack and some frigates. The Humans brought up the Martyr frigates and they sailed in to another Shroud mage Cruiser squadron. The explosion did for the cruiser and two frigates, to much rejoicing. Alas, the Shroud battleship maneuvered into a position to take the stricken Eagle under fire and sank her. Meanwhile the Dragon Lord Celestials had gone down and the Dwarven Zeppelin was poised to bomb the Dragon Lord Battleship. The Dragon lords launched the Naugra dragons at the Zeppelin and it went down hard, ripped to shreads by repeated clawing and ripping attacks by the tiny dragons. That was not enough to stem the tide of victory on the Dwarf side, but it did slow him down a bit. Meanwhile the Humans tried the best trick in their arsenal, secretly launching one Da Vinci assault wing from the balloon platform. The Assault group was 16 crew strong and descended on to the banged up Shroud Mage battleship, wiping out the crew inside. A substantial prize!
The Dragon Lord fleet was now decimated, but so was the Human fleet, being down to just a cruiser, a few frigates and a collection of valuable cargo ships. The Dwarf fleet steamed (slowly) to support the humans, who captured another cruiser to glider assault. At this point we called it, as an obvious Allied (Human/Dwarf) victory, with an individual victory by Dewey LaRochelle on points.
Things that went well: The Balloon Assault ships. Dwarven Frigates attacking combined. Naugra Dragons. The Shroud Mages have a great Destroyer in the Infiltrator, which is essentially a giant pointed ram. Ramming was the big tactic of the Shroudies, and it worked well. The Humans had to rely on gimmicks, like the Martyrs and the Da Vinci glider assault. Hey, it worked great. The Dwarves had their enormous firepower and armor but lacked speed. This was the game that the Shroud Mages came into their own, and even the Humans impressed me if I do say so, with using their assets wisely– the Battleship pounded from a distance (until it couldn’t maneuver). The cruisers held off and fired from the edges. The Dragon Lords were recently beefed up with some heavy cruisers and I am hoping it will give that fleet greater legs in a long fight. The Volcano surprise was fairly wimpy and didn’t go as planned. We will remedy that for the next time I run it, which will be Cold Wars 2012.
Garrett can be seen in this video example of gunnery combat, tending to the demise of the Imperial Human Battleship, the Eagle.
Dewey LaRochelle took many pictures, all of which can be seen in this slideshow.
Sunday dawned with no major stress. We were out of our hotel (Days Inn downtown) in no time and popped in to the convention again for the morning. We HAD planned to run Ironclads on Sunday but the crowd was minimal and we had been strongly encouraged (let’s say) to get home for some Super Bowl party action. We did have enough to time to sit in on a remake of Circus Maximus (Avalon Hill boardgame) as a large scale miniatures game.
This was a lot of fun– the GM, Cliff Creech, had streamlined the old Circus Maximus game to a one page set of rules. Presentation was excellent and Cliff is a good and patient GM. Sadly, I took a light chariot to see if I could break out of the pack to win in a sprint, and my own son Garrett rammed me to cause wheel damage. The inevitable happened– I risked it, I failed, I flipped. Fortunately I had revenge two turns later when Garrett ALSO risked it, failed and flipped! Bwa ha ha ha haaaaa! For a look at this game, see the smallish slide show on Photobucket.
We hung around and did some last minute shopping before heading North again, and played a few light games, notably my new Pyramids game from Looney Labs and Martian Invaders.
Martian Invaders is a big hit, the way Zombie Dice was a big hit. We played it all weekend long.
So, in conclusion, we both had a wonderful time this year. Thank you, Old Dominion Military Society, for running this great small scale Mid-Atlantic convention. We always have a grand old time at the ODMS cons and we find their philosophy of “no politics, no stress, just fun” to be very agreeable. Definitely a gamer’s convention!!