First of all, I apologize for the decline in blogging output from August to now. I haven’t had a lot of free time in the evenings. My daughter went off to college with all the attendant angst that represents, and I have been FALL IN! 2012 events coordinator for this past convention. For better or worse, it’s a time sink, and I haven’t had a lot of energy or creativity to blog much. More on this later. In any event, that’s trend that’s going to change starting right now. I actually have a draft battle report in the hopper that dates back to August. I’m going to have to get on the stick and move out.
(Here’s the obligatory SLIDE SHOW, on Photobucket.. I shy away from adding tons of pictures to these things because I’m not a great photographer and almost never take pictures of what people want to see anyway. If Flash isn’t working on this browser, click on the picture of the Aether Battleship to move on to Photobucket)
So, right, on to one of my favorite kinds of posts, the semi-obligatory convention recap I’ve been writing since… hmmm.. 1996? So here we go– FALL IN. The Autumnal convention for HMGS. The red-haired stepchild made good. The cash cow, nowadays. The least worrisome convention in the HMGS pantheon. This was held the first weekend in November, 2012, at the current venue of choice the Lancaster Host. The Host has its detractors and its proponents; it is a bit worn down, it’s not particularly handicapped friendly and it is laid out in a manner that is somewhat confusing to new people. For me, a convention at the Lancaster Host is like an old Roman soldier putting his feet into his army sandals; not the most plush footwear but he’s familiar with every inch of it and it can continue to provide service for many many more miles. Dan Murawski was convention director for FALL IN!– and I have to say that he did a great job. Being a CD can be very challenging, not just with the job on the face of it, which requires many, many hours of work, but also the back-channel considerations that come with handling the delicate diplomacy of HMGS. I’m sure it was an eye-opener for Dan! Poor sap! Har har har har! Seriously, he done good and we owe him a big “attaboy”, a couple of Michelob tall boys, and thank you for his efforts. I worked very closely with Dan during that time and can attest that he was engaged with everything from start to finish, and he was outstanding in helping me resolve problems with the Event Management system.
And speaking of events: I wish I could say I am satisfied with the job I did, but I really can’t. Communication stunk, and it was often my fault. I would miss an email embedded in GMAIL’s “message tree” format, or just not have a lot of time to be on email or TMP or the loathsome Yahoo groups. For that, I can only apologize if you experienced a problem with game scheduling. I had some real life events in my life, mostly work related, which would have me getting home at 7 or 8 at night, most nights, in September. Not a good time to be sitting down to do FALL IN EVENTS at night, starting, say, at 10 or 11 PM. Mistakes creep in when you get to sleep around 2 AM, night after night. This is all fixable. I have told Dan that I would recommend someone else for next year.
For all that being said, we had a ton of events scheduled. Lead got on tables, games got played, and people were happy. That part I am proud of. It was a great show!
The typical stream of consciousness that I usually write in to do an AAR will be a little curtailed in this post, although it will follow my usual time narrative– Thursday I was concerned with sorting out the Addendum pages for the Program Booklet and marking tables with special purpose neon green duct tape. The experience put events in sharper focus for me. People claimed that one of the tables in my Distelfink layout had vanished and that was a mystery to me. The layout matched table for table on Thursday, but was all a hooey by Saturday. The missing table had been consumed by someone making some layout changes on their own without consulting the GM desk. Again, this is fixable but it might require a lot more proactive monitoring by the events people. Like, for instance, if an events shift hits a slow moment, it wouldn’t hurt to audit the Distelfink’s current table setup against what is published in the program book. Just thinking out loud here.
So I had a beer or two Thursday night and some good conversation with friends in the bar, and finished table marking in the wee hours. The next day was Friday, which I spent doing the Flea Market, kibbitzing and Shopping… I found some minis I needed for my 7PM Olympica game in the Flea, which helped a lot. I also broke down and invested hard currency on a game I have been tracking since HISTORICON 2012– FANTACIDE by Alien Dungeon. Fanticide was definitely part of “the hotness” at this convention. The Alien Dungeon people were demoing it regularly and had all the battle packs packaged up for sale.
Now, I’m probably going to review it in depth in a later, non-AAR post, but I like the looks of Fanticide. It’s reasonably generic in terms of mechanics and isn’t going to give anyone wrinkles. Basically it’s a small unit fantasy skirmish game in a very unusual setting (a flat earth with a wormhole of sorts in the center). I dropped about 100 bones on the starter box Friday, which features the Fae (little woodland critters) versus the Libari (American Indian style centaurs). Not my two first choices (I like the Creeps and Flying Monkeys more) but that’s what they had in a starter box.
You can see a a little unboxing video here. Since WordPress doesn’t like the OBJECT or EMBED tags, just go to Photobucket to view it. Sorry!
What I like in this game is that it is goofy, fast playing and very customizable. You don’t HAVE to buy the miniatures they make– you can make a war band based on almost anything, as long as you have the basic elements (stickers, shooters, legends, masters, etc.). Personally, I would be hard put to NOT get “the Creeps” (eventually) and Flying Monkeys. Just because. Oh well, I guess that means I’ll be getting everything then.
There was some empty space at the back of the dealer hall, so it’s clear we didn’t get a full house, but the standard vendors were there.
The Dealer Room, left to right (on Sunday, click to embiggen):
Other big games in Evidence were Fireball Forward (many new product demos), Command Decision (being played), Carnage and Glory 2 (being played), and Combat Action Command. The dealer room had some new product, but for the most part, FALL IN isn’t the big con for product releases, and first tier vendors aren’t there in force. So we saw more resellers than manufacturers present.
Friday night, I ran Olympica, which is a miniatures version of a very old paper microgame from 1978. I have run this before but mostly for a kid crowd. So the rules are far from perfect. The game design includes customizable dice pools that do different things– attacking, defending, maneuvering, leadership, and a mixture of all or any of the above depending on the color dice you choose. It’s an interesting place to start from, but my audience on Friday, being gaming geeks and tinkerers like me, soon had a bunch of suggestions for improvements, all of which I’m going to playtest. In general, my feeling is that the game isn’t nearly as bloody as it needs to be to achieve the flavor of the original paper game, and I need to either shorten the map or increase the ground speed and lethality of the units involved. Most games played so far involve bloody stalemates in the center as the heavily armored UN heavy force punches its way through the Webbie line.
I’m going to save the OLYMPICA replay and design notes for a follow on post. In the meantime, here’s a few pictures:
I’ll be rewriting the rules again, not drastically, but I’ll post on here what I come up with.
Moving on! Friday night! I packed up the game easily enough and put it away, then sat down on the edge of the bed in my room “just for a second”.. and ended up waking up at five in the morning. Exhaustian had set in. So, Saturday morning dawned. I actually had a big breakfast, which even though I had paid for it in cash, was mysteriously charged to my room. How they knew it was me, I don’t know. I wanted to play at least two games on Saturday, as I had been doing a lot of socializing, but not a lot of playing. Which is okay, by the by, some cons are like that. I signed up for JUTLAND 1914 at 11AM and Martian game run by Bob Charette in the evening.
JUTLAND 1914 SATURDAY 1PM to 5PM
If you’ve read this blog for a while you already know I was going to probably get into at least one Naval game. Jutland 14 was a hypothetical scenario that hypothesizes what would happen if the German High Seas fleet sailed out in 14 instead of 16. The rules were “Victory at Sea” which was published in a very old issue of Strategy and Tactics. We were fighting the middle part of a much larger hypothetical event, with the Super-Dreadnoughts of 1914 being engaged North of us, and the creaky, older pre-dreads being just South of us in the battle space. So we were fielding Ships of the 1906-to-1910 variety in my neck of the woods. Indeed, Dreadnought herself was in my division.
The British Line was comprised of these ships:
Vanguard, St. Vincent, Collingwood and Superb (division A)
Neptune, Colossus, Hercules (division B)
Dreadnought, Bellerophon, and Temeraire (division C, which I commanded, though Dreadnought was at the end of divison B)
At start of battle, the three British divisions are approaching the German line in 3 perpendicular lines, A to the North, B in the center and C at the bottom. The German line is heading North and the British lines to the East, with the intention of wheeling North and forming a line to engage with the Germans.
The Germans had these ships which were handled in two divisions. Oldenburg, Helgoland, Thoringian, Rheinland, Westphalian, Posen and Nassau.
Almost immediately, the lead ship of the division A (Vanguard) ran into some trouble, and a control room hit affected his steering grievously. So we were trying to turn into line just dodging the now very slowly moving Vanguard
From the vantage point of division C, this battle was a mix.. my lead ship was the Dreadnought, attached to division B, and that was a ship that was targetted routinely but suffered very little damage until we were all in a line. The Bellerophon suffered many more hits but not enough damage to really degrade performance. The Temeraire.. well, we’ll discuss that one shortly.
Things looked bad for the Vanguard, things looked WORSE for the Neptune, which went up with a critical hit and died a nasty and quick death… before we were in range to fire a shot in anger!
When we got into a line abreast, sort of, the battle changed rapidly.
My division C was now at the tail end of a long line of gunnery that was firing at each of the ships in the German line in turn. As the Huns had a bit of a lead on us for most of the game only the Dreadnought (tailing division B) and Bellerophon (heading division C) could fire back. The combat system penalized ships with battle damage so it would move slower and not fire as quick. Gradually, the tailing German ships started slowing down, and that was when they were under the guns of the Temeraire. At that point, the tailing Germans (Posen and Nassau) were getting struck by 5 or 6 British ships in one turn. The result of this punishment should be obvious.. German ships were going to start going down. Temeraire, now that she was hitting, put both the Posen and the Nassau under the waves.
The Germans made a run for it out of the battle zone, as they couldn’t match that kind of firepower, and it was clear our tactic would be to roll the line up from the bottom. As each German ship was overtaken by the end of the line it would be under the fire of 4 to 6 ships. They were already battered.
At this point we had about an hour or less left, but the Ref called it a draw, as the Germans were clearly on the run, two ships down. We had lost one ship (Neptune) and were shot up here and there, but not as bad as the Germans. The Ref said due to the nature of the British losses, and where we were in the larger, hypothetical battle he had in his mind, he would say the RN wouldn’t have been dancing with glee over the results of this one, but not unhappy either.
The German High Admiral was adjudicated the “best player” and awarded the prize, a fat binder of technical data on the German High Seas Fleet. Great game!
Rest of Saturday…
I had a few hours before the evening game, so I schmoozed the Flea market a bit, and bumped into John Montrie and chatted a bit. He does the odd painting job for me when I want to trade time and quality for $$. He had completed a job for a game that I have been working on, a 54mm Napoleonic Skirmish game of my own design. I NOW have enough decently painted 54mm British Riflemen and Lights and French Voltigeurs to run this game, woo hoo!
I was pleased, I sense you are picking up on that.
On the down side of things, I was shooting the breeze a bit with my friends Art and Derek from my gaming group in Northern Virginia during the day. Derek and Art had been playing the new FFG X-Wing game (which is great, btw, I need to do a review of this). Derek, having disposable income, had jumped in with both feet and bought a ton of it– two starter sets and several onesie and twosie ships. He and Art had run a pick up game of X-Wing in the open gaming area and when they set to packing it up, noticed that someone had walked off with two of Derek’s ships! Theft happens, even theft at cons (in the dealer room, I suppose) but it’s a rare event someone steals directly from someone running a game. What a villainous scumbag.
The What Would Patton Do Podcast chaps were setting up in the main lobby. Their task was to inflict a live broadcast starting right after dinner. I’ve never listened to their podcast but I hear it’s fairly FLAMES OF WAR-centric.
I’m not a huge Flames of War fan, it just doesn’t interest me much at all. However, it’s very popular (obviously) and the kids love it. So I would recommend it. The WWPD guys seemed like nice fellows, albeit loud! I didn’t stick around too long as the live ‘cast seemed to be geared towards giving away a lot of door prizes, which is always a good thing if you like FLAMES OF WAR. I did conduct a hard hitting interview with a WWPD observer which can be viewed HERE as WordPress doesn’t like the Embed or Object tag.
I wonder if there’s enough interest in a general, no specific-game miniatures podcast? WWPD seems popular and I know there’s a couple more, like parts of D6 Generation and such, but nothing that I would call a “generalist miniature gaming” podcast. Bookmark that.
After watching the WWPD gang for a bit I got an urgent request from Dan to take his ticket for dinner. Free food? How’s a man supposed to turn that down? I had a nice meal, idly gossiping with Scott Landis and watching Eric Turner hoover down prime rib and mashed potatoes so quickly that I was a little nervous putting my hands anywhere near his plate. It was a jolly repast, for all of that! Sadly, that did put me over the deadline for my 7 PM game, but that’s life. It went on without my humble contributions:
So I slouched over to the Distelfink to schmooze a bit and noticed if I had whined a little I could have gotten into Eric Turner (he of the speedy appetite)’s THEME game about the Battle of Queenstown Heights. It looked great!
Hey, whaddya know. It DID get an award.. The award for best HISTORICAL THEME GAME of FALL IN!
Way to go, Eric!
Well done to MAJ Turner, but what we aren’t seeing is the OTHER side of the story… One of his players, Scott Landis, had to run the game for half an hour as Eric had been called away to do National Guard stuff that mercifully had been called off as he was halfway up 222.
Needless to say, Scott felt like he was left… holding the bag.
Nearby, Bob and Cleo Leibel had received the Soup Plate of Honor for their gigantic Colonial themed game!
The Awards program was managed and executed by Ms. Christin Sciulli who put in a lot of effort to make it happen. Given that the Hurricane had happened that week, it’s a nine days wonder that most things happened, let alone the Awards event. WTG Christin
Saturday evening devolved into the normal beery, boozy yammering and socializing that one expects at these things. I was kind of disappointed I didn’t get in a pickup game or two, but I had a good time anyway. And thus, off to the land of Nod, and blissful sleep.
Sunday morning dawned, and I did my last trips around the Flea Market (disappointing) and the Vendor area (to by more Fantacide figures). And thence, headed homeward. It was a great FALL IN!, somewhat hampered in attendance from Hurricane Sandy earlier in the week– lots of cancellations to contend with. Attendance was lower than we would like but everyone seemed to have a good time. I’m glad I went! Cheers to Dan M. and his intrepid staff for putting on FALL IN! 2012 and doing a splendid job of it.
I’ll See you all at COLD WARS!