Huzzah for HISTORICON 2012!! And it’s another fine AAR from one of my favorite conventions ever, HISTORICON. As you already know and some have groused over, the location for HISTORICON changed from Valley Forge Pa to the Fredericksburg Convention Center, located just outside the city of Fredericksburg in the Center Park shopping area.
First, let’s dwell on the intangibles. Fredericksburg is a very affordable area, and the convention center is set well back from the main road (route 3– the famous Plank Road of the battle of the Wilderness, for history fans). Center Park is not quite a nerd’s paradise, but it’s pretty close– with 100 restaurants of ALL kinds, from diner food to sit-down dinners. And Krispy Kreme donut drive through that is open late (nuff said) and a Wegman’s located directly adjacent to the hotel complex. To quote Crazy Earl from Full Metal Jacket:
“These are great days we’re living, bros. We are jolly green giants, walking the Earth with guns. These people we wasted here today are the finest human beings we will ever know. After we rotate back to the world, we’re gonna miss not having anyone around that’s worth shooting.”
Perhaps that overstating it, I admit I have a filter problem. But the fact remains, the elements that are needed to make a HISTORICON work are present– space for tournaments, space for vendors, lodging (at a three hotel complex that is adjacent to, but not connected, to the convention center) and most important, OTHER STUFF for people to do who are being dragged along but not at the con– lots of food, cheap hotels nearby, history all over the place, outlet malls up the road, King’s dominion down the road, Washington DC a mere hop skip and a jump away… It’s an area that has many distractions that people can take advantage of– I personally really like the Center Park area– Irish Bars, and Pool Halls and Biker Bars and rib joints and sushi places.. a guy like me is in hog heaven here. Not to mention a hobby shop being in the complex, and a game store down the road, and a craft shop for emergency supplies, and the people’s grocer, Wal-Mart. I liked it.
Wednesday night was a classic first night at a convention– I had some small roles in the prep for this one, having put together a commercial for cable networks in the Fredericksburg area, and created a GUIDEBOOK for the show itself. So I knew what was going on where, but had no concept of the layout until I actually showed up. The Convention center is a newish structure with a couple of really large halls and some smaller break out rooms. We have dealers and flea at one end, then the large general purpose ball room with tournaments at the far end. (VERY loud in there, I hope there’s something we can do about that). The rest of the layout is mostly small breakout rooms and a hallway for the Hobby University program.
We worked pretty much with no muss no fuss and no stress from opening to closing for the Wednesday night registration shift. I am once again shackled to the reg area, but I don’t mind.. at least the shift goes by incredibly swiftly. There literally was no break whatsoever from the moment we opened the doors until 9:00.. pretty brisk traffic. I don’t know if it really was that way or just seems that way because the reg system is so slow. No, I’m not a fan, and never have been. But it’s what we bought– and we own it until we have money to get something better.
Anyway, we had a great crowd, not too many people upset about trivialities and one thing I can say about my colleagues on staff– they bend over backwards to fix problems as fast as possible and always try to defer to the attendee’s position if it is at all possible. Start with “let’s all be reasonable and we can work this out for you” approach and you generally have a person going from enraged to mollified in no time flat.
After the first shift we were presented with a difficulty– this was a time for the drinking of beer. Perhaps more than one. And nary was there a tankard in sight at the convention floor. There really isn’t a bar there, per se, and the hotels aren’t connected and even (gasp!) do last call intolerably early for a HMGS convention. So we went looking for a diversion that stayed open late, and found one handily in an establishment called QUAKER STEAK AND LUBE… yes, yes, I know, keep the snide remarks down to a dull roar. QUAKER STEAK is a charming little “biker bar” (really “faux biker” but I can hang) located off of the main drag in Center Park. Beer was reasonable and they serve food late. And VERY hot wings, as Bill Rutherford can attest to. He even won a free t-shirt for eating them.
I pulled another shift in the AM, and it was as brisk as could be expected. LOTS of people, slow registration system.. I was about ready to drop by lunchtime, I was so hungry… never a break, start to finish, not even to go wee-wee. Again, part of it was the danged registration system sucking vacuum.
I was my own man after that, and ambled about shopping and eating in the main vendor’s hall. Saw lots of stuff of interest, but if I’m going to put my finger on the big intriguing products of 2012 HISTORICON, I’m probably going to say SAGA, the Dark Age/Iron Age skirmish rules (they look very fun and flexible) and FANTICIDE a sort of/kind of fantasy skirmish game, small units, extremely flexible and easy to teach. I admit I wanted this one immediately, as I’m running a gaming camp in August and this would be JUST PERFECT. So I talked with the owner of the company that puts out both products, Ernie (from Architects of War) and he enlisted me to be a member of the AD “War Party” to run demos. I will be happy to be a War Host for Alien Dungeon and Architects of War. Even though the Alien Dungeon part of Architects of War is just starting up, he might have some version of the rules ready for me to run with my kids in August. Woo Hoo!
Saga was being run in the tournament area as demos and a small tournament by Joe Moore. I like the look and scale of SAGA.. 40 figures a side, more or less, set in the Dark Ages, you can buy pre-packaged warbands for this game at a reasonable price, the action is very contained.. what’s not to love?
Flea Market was pretty sparse on Thursday. Maybe ten tables used out of the whole bunch with the typical dude spread out over many tables “since, hey, nobody’s using ’em, right?” riiiiiight.
On Thursday, the events also were very sparse for such a huge space.
It should pick up tomorrow.
What I saw, certainly was interesting.
After a short blogging and coffee break, I’m off to grab some grub and go to my evening game. I’ll have more for you from the HISTORICON front tomorrow or Saturday.