HISTORICON 2012: Thursday into Friday, Saturday, and Snippet of Sunday

Continuing from my first post HISTORICON 2012 recapped…  So much goes on at these things that it’s hard to put it all in one post.  So this is the second half of my Convention AAR of HISTORICON 2012, in Fredericksburg VA last weekend.

The rest of Thursday went well, we played some games, I got off shift around 12 and ended up napping a little bit.  I woke up at a knock at the door, and it was the concierge with a large fruit basket.  “We’re sorry, Mr. Osbourne, really” and handed me a fruit basket.  Now, this is interesting on a couple of levels.  For one thing, I am not Mr. Osborne (I presume, Mitch Osborne), and he wasn’t sharing a room with me.  A little later, I walked down and tried to give it back, saying “I’m not Mitch Osborne, this is mistake.”  “No, it’s quite alright, keep the basket. Really.  KEEP THE BASKET. ”  Well, okay then.  A little fruit never hurt anyone.  Thanks, Mitch!

I returned to the Convention Center and tried to get into something, anything, for the evening. Here’s where I had a problem with some of the decisions leading into HISTORICON 2012. It was the decision of leadership to allow anyone to pre-reg TWO games vice the usual ONE game. As a result there wasn’t squat left for the walkups or people getting off staff duty who just wanted to grab a ticket to something interesting that evening– and pretty much all that was left was Battletech and a few Science Fiction games. I was a little disappointed.. then I noticed Chuck Stocky was running a FIRESTORM ARMADA game in the main hall and beelined for it. I have some experience with UNCHARTED SEAS (which Firestorm is based upon) and kind of knew how to play it already, even if it was my official first time playing. I had a good time, I played the Terran Alliance versus the Sorilyian Collective… At best I’d consider this a draw. I had an unscathed battleship, but some shot up Cruisers (lost one) and 2 corvettes left. The Soryllians had a shot up battleship, some damaged cruisers and NO corvettes left. I think I could have taken him in the end, but it would have gone to the wire. He had to leave early.

FIRESTORM ARMADA GAME, HUMANS VERSUS SORYLIANS, Click on picture to go to Slideshow on ImageShack(TM)

Friday was okay, worked like a fanatic until noon, then things slowed down a lot. I finally got some shopping in. I bought SAGA (rules only) and a box of Saxon Thegns and Viking Bondi (plastic). I didn’t get into anything special, just hung out and shot the breeze with some folks. I noticed that Miniatures Building Authority had once again set up a series of terrain tables as set pieces for GMs to play on and that Jim Stanton was there running his Gnome Wars thing. Lon Weiss from Brigade Games and I talked for a bit and he mentioned that Jim is active in something called WARTV.TV, which broadcasts live streaming broadcasts of wargaming topics (sadly, mostly 40K) on the internet. Jim apparently has been streaming his Gnome games live as they happen at cons and he also was wandering around the convention interviewing people for WarTV.TV. I love this idea. This hobby could use that sort of exposure and wider audience, especially as it broadcasts on Ustream.com.

Check out: A Walk around HISTORICON and WARTV.TV Historicon Footage on Ustream Archive

I might be inclined to try this in the future.

After dinner, I headed for one of the breakout rooms. I was fortunate to have obtained a ticket to the remake of Frank Chadwick‘s Space 1889rewrite

Space: 1889
Space: 1889 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

demo game, what appears to be the reconstruction of the Soldier’s Companion rules (which were pretty danged good to begin with, in my opinion).  I have a long history with S: 1889 and wouldn’t miss this for the world.  This was a gigantic, sprawling scenario where the forces of JUSTICE (UK, GERMANY, RUSSIA, etc.) were fighting the forces of FREEDOM (U.S., Japan?, Fenians, Martians..) for control of an artifact rich area.  It was  a hoot.  It was, also, a bit of a slaughter.  For me, anyway.  I was stuck on a boat at the start and that just screamed TARGET to the despicable Russians, the treacherous Prussians with their Aerial Corvette, and Traitorous, Waffle Eating Belgians.  I was shot to pieces, but I had fun doing it.

SPACE 1889 / MARS NEEDS STEAM slideshow
The Noble Freedom Loving Americans (run by your humble narrator) come under fire from the treacherous Justice loving Belgians, Russians and Prussians. We were doomed out on that river, I tell you!!! (Click to see a slideshow of 30 pictures, some blurry).

I’m not sure what the new rules are going to be called, really, but I can report they play very fast and the salient information I needed to play was on one piece of paper, front and back. Not bad!  Thanks to Frank Chadwick, Christian Sciulli and Thomas Harris for a visual feast.

Various Other Impressions:

There was a lot of Old Become New at this convention. This is an amateur remake of an old TSR Dungeon Crawl game with a big facelift.
Tiny Pearl Harbor… a great looking game on Saturday

I wanted to be good Friday night and get to bed earlier than 3 AM as I had the past two nights but of course, that didn’t happen. I ended up oversleeping and dashing off to make the morning shift just in time. Saturday morning was once again, and in a very puzzling fashion, a busy day. Walkins were very brisk for the day, and continued until 4 that afternoon. No, I’m not overstating it.

I stopped by Jeff Wasilewski’s table on an errand and he commented that he was starting at 12 and would be happy to include me in GOODBYE TO GUNS OR ALL’S QUIET ON THE RURITANIAN FRONT, 1918. I think Jeff’s a grand GM with a brilliant imagination and a knack for making toys out of junk and found objects. Check out the giant bomber and Tsar Tank he made for this game. My brave Ruritanian troops attack with the Allies and even did very well for themselves. The Tsar Tank got to the first German trench and had a malfunction directly over the trench. I dropped a naval brigade right down on top of the Germans and they broke and ran for it. We still had a bitter fight ahead but resistance crumbled. Of course, the military element of the game was kind of meaningless in the face of storyline: “Amidst the chaos of the Great War in the Balkans, a brash young American ambulance driver (Ernest Hummingberg) attempts to rescue his true love, a downed Ruritanian aviatrix. But standing in his way is not only the might of the Central Powers but also numerous rivals for this popular lady’s affections. It’s a love story.. with poison gas”. And so it proved to be.. as the doting elderly king, the game ended for me when Ludmila was carried off the board. So it goes. Still, it was fun and funny and I’d play it again!

Jeff’s game in Slideshow:

More Saturday going into Sunday pictures:

Antietam: the Cornfield– Confederate Side

Yay! Bob and Cleo win an HMGS award thingie for their big three table Sudan game!
Brian DeWitt’s great 54mm Chariot race. I haven’t played this in maybe a decade. I know my daughter was in grade school at the time, because she rolled the dice for me.
Bob Charette’s Sky Runners Race Game.

That night, Saturday Evening, Garrett managed to drop in to hang out with me for an evening (that’s my son, for those of you who don’t know me well). Gar and I sleezed our way into Howard Whitehouse’s annual Saturday night pulp extravaganza, where we played members of the Osiris society, whose chief concern was keeping the sarcophagus of a long-dead Pharaoh in the Cairo Museum. It was the typical fun crowd, Full of hams. I had to play a beautiful assassin, just like in real life. My son Garrett played an Egyptian labor gang, also spies for the Osiris society and he led a successful labor strike that became a full fledged riot!! I’m so proud! And our faction won! This game mightily impressed Garrett, who thought it was simply hilarious.

CHAOS IN CAIRO! by Howard Whitehouse and 30 of his closest friends!
Corrupt Egyptian police shake down some foreigners.
A particularly hairy moment towards the denouement of… CHAOS IN CAIRO!!!
Garrett inherits the old Irish penchant for labor relations.

Lots of other things were going on that night, including a live broadcast of the podcast WHAT WOULD PATTON DO?


The crowd gathers in the lobby

Sunday, we got breakies and I had to do some minimal duty in the morning. Then it was off to shop a bit while Garrett played in Nancy Ott’s marvelous miniature version of the old Avalon Hill game MYSTIC WOOD. Another great board game converted into miniatures–

Mystic Wood set up
Garrett Playing Mystic Wood
Garrett in the middle of Mystic Wood, all blase about victory and stuff…

I saw a few boardgame conversions.. including one of my favorite microgames, OLYMPICA, run by Steve Johnson, and OGRE, redone as BORG..

So with that done (Garrett won! woo hoo!) off we went home, and I have to say I loved HISTORICON. It was fun to hang out and be at a convention with friends, not worrying about the imminent demise of HMGS, just enjoying a great convention and having fun. I saw a lot of cool new stuff– maybe the standouts for me were SAGA, FIREBALL FORWARD, the new SPACE: 1889, and FANTICIDE. I am glad I went, glad it worked out and I hope we had a decent attendance. It looked a little light, but that is hardly surprising at a new place and with all the people determined to not come because it wasn’t in a state they approved of. I do know, because I saw it with my own eyes, there were TONS of walkins, and they went very late every day. Congratulations and thanks for another fine convention, HMGS.
Okay, all that gaming, wacky anecdotes, and logistics stuff is over.


There’s been some negative jabber from various folks who delight in being overly critical here and there and some terms have been thrown out like “the convention was held in the middle of nowhere” and “it was in a shopping mall” or “the hotels are separate from the conference center, that sucks!”

Let’s talk a few facts. I was there. This is what I saw.

Fredericksburg, VA (really, the outlying suburbs of) is not exactly the middle of nowhere. It is midway between Washington DC and Richmond, the capital of Virginia. It’s not exactly a bustling burg, but it isn’t any smaller than Lancaster PA, and probably larger. What’s more, the convention center was less than a mile as the crow flies from I-95, the busiest traffic corridor on the East Coast. Fredericksburg is a LOT easier to get to than Lancaster PA, which probably deserves the appellation “middle of nowhere” more if you look at it objectively (don’t like that statement? Where’s the nearest Interstate to Lancaster? Look at a map). I will caveat my statements with the admission that this location was absurdly easy to get to; but I live in Northern Virginia, so I absolutely admit I’m not sharing the pain of my New Jersey brethren (and also from parts farther North). Sorry. That’s the way the chips fell this time. Think of it like this; the many, many Virginian wargamers have been perfectly happy to go North to a convention when they had to, and they will be happy to do it when the next one moves. Then we’ll be the ones complaining. Except that we won’t be. Cuz we’re like that.

Front of Fredericksburg Convention Center. “Big Fred”

Also, this wasn’t a “Convention Center inside a shopping mall”, as has been stated. It’s a Convention Center located about 1 mile off of a main road (Route 3) that passes through a light commercial area, which is festooned with (primarily) restaurants of all kinds. If you think that’s a detriment, go get your head examined. There were three primary hotels located a very short distance from the main building. Don’t take my word for it, here’s a picture:

Homewood Suites, adjacent to parking lot
The much talked about Wegmans is right next door. Their marketplace cafe is worth a visit.

I’ve been accused of cheer-leading before, so I’ll start off with some brutal objectivity. Were there problems with this site and this convention? There sure are and sure were.   My observations follow.

Let’s start with the one people will no doubt mention first. Noise abatement in the large ballroom. My WORD, this was loud. I’m 40% deaf in one ear, a result of a misadventure in my youth. I could barely hear. Something has to be done.

See the large, uncovered concrete walls? Imagine the echo when the space fills up with people. It’s intense!

One hopes there is something we can (or the center can) do to alleviate this.

Next, and most acute, I counted three men’s rooms working on the entire site. And of these, two were two-holers and one was a three-holer. After the, ahem, usual appetites of this crowd of hungry gamers went to work and the inevitable happened, you can just imagine the wretchedness by Saturday. And in one bathroom, the toilet seat broke after some generously proportioned gentleman used it. As I had hit upon that dark moment when a man has to make a decision… back to the hotel room or tough it out right here? on Saturday, the calls of nature forced the decision upon me and the only one available was the one with the broken seat. I had to assume a posture worthy of a yogi to conduct the proper response, all the while praying that gravity wouldn’t take over… “Sweet Jesu, hold…HOLD!….”

That’s a problem; and the impetus is upon the convention center to fix it.

Show specific things that bugged me were the choice of the registration location (small, hot and stuffy, very cramped)

The Registration system was the sure-fire winner it always has been, but I know I have to be fatalistic about it; it’s the one we have and the one that isn’t going to be replaced any time soon.

The dealer’s area seemed smaller and certainly had fewer vendors– not sure if there was some desire to stay away on purpose or not but many vendors were missed, so the ones that were there (and had the scratch) could spread out a bit. My favorites were there; Architects of War, The War Store, Brigade Games, etc. So I didn’t mind unduly.

Pre-registration allowed TWO games a day for people who pre-registered; this was a bald faced grab at attendance.. That works both ways. Sure, people were eager to snap up two events a day but that didn’t leave a lot for the rest of us at the convention. And that sucked!

People were kvetching (at a distance, mind you) about the air conditioning. It seemed perfectly adequate the entire time to me.

So, that’s about all I can think about to address various gripes and happy to glads. No, it’s not perfect. And attendance was not where it could be. But it was still a great time and for once, it was fun to be happy and not cynical and gloomy, just hanging out with friends and playing games. Why not?

Video streaming by Ustream

Dudley can have the final word here.

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  1. The Wegmans was a plus. My young adult sons noted that the main game area was giving them headaches to play. 95 was a mixed blessing. The last 20 miles in at 2:00 Thursday took me an hour and a half, even with a jump off to Route 1 looking for some relief. I was in an offsite hotel, so was part of the parking problem rather than the solution, but, in any case, my games required enough stuff that dragging it over from the nearest hotel would still have been somewhat of a pain.

  2. I liked the site and hopefully they can do something about the couple of real issues. I also wanted to thank you again Walt for your work on the Historicon Guidebook app. This was the first year I used it and found it extremely helpful, especially as I was on a one-day Saturday blitzkreig to the con.

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