The Williamsburg Muster for 2013 was held last week at the Holiday Inn Patriot in Williamsburg, VA. This is a local favorite of both mine and my son Garrett– it’s not nearly as overwhelming as the HMGS conventions can be, I know about 50% of the attendees already, and the attitude is what I like in a convention; laid back, friendly, uncomplicated and inclusive.
Sadly I never get there the day ahead of time, because I’m usually taking my son who usually has school to attend that week. So I miss all the fun stuff on Friday. We arrived around noon on Saturday after an uneventful drive down 95 and 64. Oddly enough, Gar immediately met someone HE knows (Bob Watt’s son, they are both on HS Rifle team together). They chattered for a few seconds and then Gar said “Can I have my badge? I want to go play something”. This is new. Usually Gar hangs back and doesn’t engage unless I do; I tell him to find something to get into but usually he is plays whatever I find interesting. I don’t mind, but I don’t want to get in the way of what HE thinks is fun, either. All it took was for him to discover a droog of his own age to convince him. So off they went to play GNOME WARS, which Gar took to like a duck to water.
Gar really enjoyed Gnome Wars.. and I think it was largely due to him being involved with gamers in his peer group or younger. I think he feels constrained sometimes playing something that is likely far less fun but he might be too polite to mention it. Here’s a little in-game color commentary on the assault in progress!
Being somewhat feckless at this point, I was looking for a game to get in that was starting relatively soon. I tried Sean Conlon’s Minimech game. This is a more streamlined variant of FASA’s Battletech which scales down to 6mm.
Minimech Slide Show (Below)
Sean found another guy to play and we chose equal sides– 2 heavies, 2 mediums and 2 lights. Unlike in Battletech, the abilities of mechs on both sides are generalized; mine behaved exactly like my opponent’s, so it came down to who maneuvered what where and when. I set up with two mediums and two heavies West of a River in the Urban area you see in the slide show above. I tried to put my heavies on overwatch and flank with my mediums and lights. The lights were pretty useful but deployed on the wrong side of the river (East) to do much good initially. I got into a scrap with my opponent’s single light mech and tried circling around it with one of my lights and engaging him with the other. He didnt’ take the bake and retreated across the bridge. On the West bank, my mediums took some damage but kept side slipping around the enemy until we started running out of space. I lost a mech and that had me down a bit (which is punishing from an initiative perspective– two turns of taking fire back to back can be devastating in this game). I got a better feel for the mechanics and started taking more chances and taking advantages of the bottle neck that was growing on the Western flank. You really have to go all out or have some form of combined attack with these mechanics– if you shoot and run, you are risking overheating (indicated by the red triangle markers in the slideshow above), which can blow you up real good.
With so few forces in the mix it’s hard to “walk off” heat build up unless you retreat into cover for a turn, which is what I did quite a bit, since I was at a numerical disadvantage most of the game. Toward the end, MiniMech really became exciting, as the piles of flaming wrecks channeled movement and possibilities. My light mechs made the long trek from the other side of the river and caught the enemy from behind, taking out a light mech. We also did a number on one of his heavies. We called the game when my opponent got boxed in and said “at this stage, I wouldn’t come out to engage you and I suspect you wouldn’t engage me either, we’re both down too far. So we called it, giving him the nod for victory as he had more mechs at the end of the day. MiniMech is a great little game that has all the elements of the pappa game, Battletech, but it’s a lot faster to play and concentrates totally on the fun stuff– fire, movement, and things that get all ‘splodey. Tip of the hat to Mr. Sean Conlon for making it and running this game. His website: Rothgar’s Workshop
I checked in with Gar and he was already done with Gnome Wars and working on his second game of the day, BATTLETECH. This really surprised me quite a bit– Battletech isn’t rocket science by a long shot, but it is still dependent on a combat system that is fairly detailed and uses charts extensively. I didn’t think it would be something a young man with short attention span would like. Yet, there it was. He jumped in with both feet and professed to like it a lot. In fact, when I got done with Mini-Mech and told him I was going to go check in to our hotel and get some dinner, he blithely waved his hand and said “get me something from Wendy’s, dad, I want to finish this”. Hmmm.
I didn’t see much of his game but he was very excited about it and even asked to look into getting a starter set from Catalyst Games. I said I’d consider it IF he was still interested a month from now. At 90 bucks a box, I can’t afford to have a bigger gaming dilettante than I am in the house.
WARHAMMER ANCIENT BATTLES
For the evening’s entertainment I got into a generic Roman Civil War game using WAB. This was run by Clifford Creech and Bob Watts. I was the right flank of a Roman Garrison army which was legionaries and auxilia versus a polyglot of legionaries (rebels) in the center, barbarians on the right flank, and auxilia and cavalry on the left flank facing me. I had a thin streak of cavalry which would have had to fight versus a solid cohort of auxilia cavalry. That wouldn’t do. Either I would move my legionaries against his auxilia infantry and archers (not very effective) or I could use infantry offensively against the cavalry. Fortunately, the enemy cavalry advanced only a single rank towards my position. I moved my entire cohort out and then angled sharply right. Seeing the threat, the formation changed to move right and angle into the gap forming in the center. The center was developing into a big, crunchy, legion on legion battle… with my side having the edge in drilled, armored troops.
This is where the battle was being decided, the flanks.. exciting as they might be, were a sideshow. If a cavalry charge into the flank of our center units did some damage, it might actually rout some of us back at a critical moment. So, it was pretty easy to decide what to do.. Charge right in with my leading infantry unit (just barely) and attack the cavalry regiment as it wheeled away from us. That put them to rout, and they fled back into their lines.
Nothing gigantic for the casualties, and they rallied next turn, but the big gain was that my rapidly dressing front line of infantry was in a position to interdict ANY large cavalry movement before it could commit to trying to change the center. The rest of the battle on the right flank, was pretty much done. Our left flank was a lot of smoke and clamour as the barbarian horde being used by the rebel army had to charge because of their limitations about being in the visual presence of enemies. They charged and pretty much got ground down into a pulp.
There was not much left for me to do and the center was close to done when I left. Once they launched their SUPER SECRET WEAPON on the rebel army’s butt, the battle was pretty much done!
We did take a break for the raffle, I won nothing as usual.
Sunday was pretty thin but the Muster does have their flea market on that day, so I like to stay for Sunday. I found an Orc Fleet from Uncharted Seas, painted, at a decent price. I also picked up a giant foam CTHULHU DICE game at full price, but it was silly enough for me to want it.
We decided we wanted to give Leviathans a try.. I had planned on RUNNING it as an event but had been so ill I just really didn’t feel like investing the time doing more than an out of the box effort.
Garrett and I moved some pieces around the board and took some desultory shots at each other.
Okay, I’m probably going to write a much long piece on this, so stand by for that. However, ahem, Catalyst Game Labs… listen up. You have an exciting, visual idea. You have WONDERFUL miniatures. You have EXCELLENT packaging. Your components are top-notch. You have a great, logically consistent Edwardian Science Fiction universe to play in. You’ve really done your homework… except in one area. These rules are incredibly badly written! They reference stuff that isn’t defined.. they have dense, poorly defined graphics where they choose to use them. The descriptive text really really needs work. We were confused.. and had to work through the introductory battle slowly, one step at a time. We had to guess at the designer’s intent several times. There is no one place where all this stuff is on a single piece of paper, which would have helped. I was disappointed in the rules, but not the ships. I’ll try it again, and if need be, write my own ship to ship combat game.
So that’s pretty much the show for me. I like this one… everything’s very laid back and drama free, which can be a refreshing change. The Muster is certainly my favorite semi-local non-HMGS convention at the moment. I’d like to thank all involved for working their tails off to make a great convention for whomever attended. Well done!