So I went to Fall-IN! 2016…


Last week was FALL-IN! the Fall show of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society. My son Gar and I both attended.  I apologize for the late posting, but well, you know, there was that National electing the Moron in Chief thing we did directly after…

Fair Warning: This is my convention post for Fall-IN!, much like the other convention reports I’ve been writing for almost two decades. One thing I try not to do (lately) is to indulge in some of the HMGS political stuff you see more frequently on Yahoogroups and TMP. However, I will be voicing an opinion about the society’s future choices in the post below, and I acknowledge up front some people have no interest in HMGS at all. To make it easy on you, if you don’t want to read anything about HMGS convention policy, avoid the green sections.   Thanks

For those of you NOT in the know, two weeks before Fall-IN!, this happened:

So this fallen oak has had more than just a huge impact on my house, it’s had one on my plans as well.  I cancelled plans to attend Fall IN! and took a week off to concentrate on the backbreaking labor of clearing out my house for the reconstruction crew.   After a week of hard work, I still had no intention of attending, but Audrey didn’t have a problem with a weekend trip, reasoning (correctly) that there wasn’t much the teams could accomplish on a weekend.  It was nice to take a small break from this task and both Gar and I jumped a the chance.

Road Trip!

The earliest I could go was after work on Friday, so that meant an arrival by 9 PM or so.   So most of what we did was pretty brainless– hanging out in the bar and catching up with Otto, Cleo, Bob, Todd and many others wandering in and out.

Where ALL HMGS business is conducted ultimately..

In the midst of typical bar discussion, a member of the BoD dropped in to pimp the proposed move of Historicon beyond 2017 to the Garden State Exhibit Center/Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, NJ.   I kept getting “EDISON NJ” based on the comments going around and there IS a facility there.  Just not the one we’re moving to (Yes, HISTORICON is moving, more on that later).

(Kevin Kelly interjects that “We are talking about the facility in Somerset NJ – not the NJ EXPO in Edison where NJCON is held. The Edison facility is too small and does not allow adult beverages. Not sure why it came up with ‘Somerset’ as a search term. BING lists the Somerset facility only in the first page of results.”)  I was using Google, which brings up Edison for some reason.  Keep in mind when I describe driving times for ME PERSONALLY from Northern VA), this changes almost nothing.

Here’s a good listing for the facility in Somerset: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46826-d1418764-Reviews-Garden_State_Convention_Center-Somerset_New_Jersey.html

I don’t have the economic case that the board member was passing out to justify the move handy, but it was reasonably well thought out and indicated that the Society (HMGS) would save money by going there, and that is the justification for the move– apparently Historicon isn’t turning a profit (or sufficient profit) in Fredericksburg and the BoD (or more accurately, the members that live North of DC) has no faith that the condition can be reversed. I did take the time to talk with the guy– his reasoning was well thought out– the BoD isn’t interested in supporting Fredericksburg for the long haul, that is VERY clear, and he did campaign on doing exactly what he is trying to do, which is move Historicon regardless of what the people who like going there think. What can I say, people voted for him, therefore, it’s the will of the majority!

(Note Bene: after googling Garden State Exhibit center, my results (and the Yelp reference, which I deleted)  might be for a related facility 20 miles away from what I am citing– see Dr. Anderson’s comments, below)

After looking at the travel involved, my resolution to “go where the show goes” is being tested. Driving to Somerset, NJ isn’t like driving to Lancaster (or Fredericksburg). Even the reviews of the conference center on hotels.com state that the traffic is very congested in this area, so you will need to research the best time to arrive. Plotting the trip on Google Maps resulted in “4 hours 31 minutes” (4 hours 5 minutes revised address) , but that’s the best possible result.  it will likely be a lot longer of a trip, closer to six hours.  Maybe more.  I know, I know, this is revenge of the Northerners for their current drive to Northern Virginia, I get it.  I won’t know for sure how long this will be until I try it, and if the convention moves (and you can consider that almost a certainty, see below), I mean to go at least one time, so I can see for myself.  If it sucks too hard, I can always spend the same amount of time and money going to Origins– I haven’t been in years!

Now, having given this alternative site to Historicon (I hope) an objective look from my personal perspective, did we HAVE to move Historicon 2018?  My take is: not really.  The facts that we know are we don’t have ANY convention site in play after 2017, for ANY of our shows, per the email of Kevin Kelly on 3 NOV 16.  “We have been evaluating 2018 contract offers from both the Fredericksburg Convention Center in Virginia and the Garden State Exhibit Center/Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, New Jersey (hereafter “Somerset”) for Historicon 2018. These are the only two venues that have offered HMGS an executable cost feasible contract for any of the 2018 conventions.  The Lancaster Host’s new management has declined to offer us any 2018 contracts at this time, and are not expected to do so until after the results of Fall-In 2016 are reviewed.”

Take a second to soak that in– our venue for two conventions a year for almost 20 years isn’t exactly eager to extend us a quote until the results of Fall IN! 2016 are in.  Sure, we’re “evaluating the 2018 contract for Fredericksburg”, but does anyone NOT think they would be eager for us to return?  Thus, and as I asked the BOD member and asked in the Historicon recap– WHY ARE WE MAKING MOVING HISTORICON THE PRIORITY?  Why aren’t finding alternates for two shows that are clearly now in jeopardy the higher priority??? That makes NO sense. I may have a thought on the reason why– what I hear is that the new owners of the Lancaster Host are the exact same entities that own the Garden State conference center.  Could it be that someone has already offered them Fall IN! and Cold Wars shows in the off season at the Host in perpetuity, to make the Garden State facility more palatable financially?  Who would have that kind of influence?  Ahem, possibly, someone who has some sort of vested interest in that corporation?  Well, that’s only speculation, but if we do have a BoD member who has an existing business relationship with a venue we are in in the middle of contract negotiations with, SOME people might regard that as shady– at least conflict of interest.  That would be a bad thing for certain– if HMGS offers the facility a guarantee, and a show tanks, then the it’s not the facility that loses out, is it?  Can we get a definitive statement that no BoD member has a previous business relationship with this corporate entity?  I’m sure it wouldn’t take a lot of effort, and would be reassuring.  The State of Maryland, where we are incorporated for 501-C3 purposes, takes a dim view of Conflict of Interest.  Just saying.

This is rambling on a bit, I’ll pick it up in a second green section later.

So! after crawling into a bed with a mattress that (no kidding!) felt like concrete with a sheet on top, I nodded off.

We breezed through actual registration and buying a flea market table.  I bumped into Bill Alderman, and old, old friend.  He is the alpha male behind “Big Board Games” which is converting classics into new versions– and is selling a new version of CIRCVS MAXIMVS from Avalon Hill/Battleline.  It’s very spiff.

Saturday day was spent visiting the dealer’s area (I didn’t buy much; see the tree event above for an idea about why) — I was delighted to see the “Badlands” Battlefield in a Box terrain show up again at the Gale Force 9 booth.  This is my favorite series from that vendor– impressive dark desert buttes and plateaus that can be turned into islands for Big Danged Boats, buttes for White Line Fever, and Frostgrave terrain.  I also picked up some sailpower boats and some used 15mm galleys in the flea market.

Later, we did a first for us– instead of gaming, we tried selling stuff in the Flea Market.  It was a learning experience.  I took the 2-5 slot, and had mixed results.  Small stuff sells.  Miniatures sell.  Boardgames? They don’t sell.  I ended up taking two boxes  home and 3 boxes there, so that’s a plus.  I’ll do it again.  One thing about the flea market experience, you get to see some sweet chapeaus.

So, yeah, what can I say about the Flea Market experience?  It kind of dragged on and was a slow way to make a buck on my old stuff.  I guess it beats Ebay.  We’ll have to work on presentation next year.  Perhaps, silly hats?  All I know is I was glad to pack up at 4:40.  That last hour dragged.

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I dozed off, and woke up to find all these tiny dudes bowling under a tree where I woke up…

We got a chance to look at a lot of games, but not play in many.  There were some fun games being run, admittedly most of my first choices had already played when I had the actual free time to play one.  Sigh.  Such are the demands of commerce.

Saturday evening I had a game to get to, so we went and consumed large amounts of charred dead animal flesh in the hotel restaurant.  Well, I did… Garrett ordered tortellini, gobbled it up, then stared at me accusingly while I wasn’t even a third of the way done with my steak.  I sighed, divided it in half and flipped him half, making sure to keep my hands away from his mouth.. the gnashing and chewing noises were truly hideous.


No, it’s not Lord of the Flies.. it’s Hall Pig!

Well, if you know me, or have read this blog before even a little, you know I really enjoy naval warfare miniature games, particularly in odd periods that are pre-World War II.  So I signed up for SAIL POWER, a 15mm sailing game that I had observed earlier.. great setup by these guys!  Large 15mm forts, islands, and tons of reasonably period authentic ships. Since 15mm is my scale for most naval games (see Big Danged Boats), I was all in for this, and I wasn’t disappointed.

There, above, is your intrepid sea dog of a narrator, next to “Sen”, one of a team of dedicated GMs running this event ALL WEEKEND LONG.  They deserve the iron man trophy!  Great setup.. what a fantastic game!  (click the picture to go to the FLICKR Slideshow, btw).

I had such a good time at this game, it really made my weekend.  Thanks to the folks at Sea Dog Game Studios for putting on so many events.  The highlight for me was being played like a cheap flute by one Scott Landis.   He lured me in with some sh*t talk, I responded in kind, charged at him like a bull in a china shop, and suddenly my crew was playing “Shakin’ Hands with Jesus” as we dodged mortar fire from the hidden position on the island!  WOW! that thing was seriously overpowered.  The game emphasizes (roughly) real world sailing models, slightly reversed.  The models are exquisite.  IF you have enough space (and this game definitely requires such), the eye candy factor is beautiful.  You can find the Sail Power guys easily enough, they are on Facebook and other places.

I’m not sure if you have to be on Facebook to see this, but here is a webcast I made playing the game live…

We did the normal late Saturday night stuff, drinking beers and playing games.  Dan Murawski introduced me to KEEP TALKING AND NOBODY EXPLODES, a cool computer/paper hybrid game about defusing bombs where one guy describes what he is seeing on the computer and the other guy(s) work the problem with the (paper) bomb defusing handbook.  Great idea for a game, surprisingly tense and fun to play.  Here’s a little screencast of that game experience I posted to Facebook, if you have an account.

I bought a copy on Steam, myself!

talking about convention locations and the Host etc.

The Host is, surprisingly, a beehive of renovation work and construction.   There were crews all over the place, particularly in the top floors.  The roof is patched and the external plant is about to be pulled out after they finish testing hot and cold water and air conditioning tests in a few weeks.  Looks like all the stained ceiling tiles are gone, at least where I looked.  There was no unpleasant musty smells and the water worked.  On the down side, my bed was harder than a slab of concrete.


Say goodbye to this in a few weeks…

As I said, apparently the new owners are the same people who own the (what a coincidence!) proposed location for Historicon; this is clearly a crew that has some money to put into making the hotel portion prosper.  I’m not sure what their ultimate plans are for the entire site, whether they will continue with the gold course or pave that over, I do know the front end of the hotel will look radically different (which might impact the Lampeter Room at least).  I poked my head into the model room on the fourth floor that will indicate what the rooms will look like post-construction, all very swank.  There is a risk that the owners might evaluate us based on the results of the past show and decide “nah, we don’t need HMGS as a customer“.. I rather doubt that– especially if the Board is literally offering up two shows (and you can bet they are) in a non-seasonal time slot, so we can use the anointed New Jersey location for the Summer show.  As it turns out, they are now more than willing to do business with us.. shocker!

(amended: 11/12 — the BoD released that Historicon 2018 will be held in NJ.  No Surprise there.  It’s a done deal, we knew that already.  Interesting side note, and also no surprise, the folks who now own the Host (AND Somerset) are “pleased with our convention” and extending us a bid.  Knock me over with a feather!).

Do I think this is a good plan?  Do I have any verification this is what’s actually going to happen?  Well, it’s my blog so I’ll say so whether you want to hear it or not.  Nope.  Abandoning the South is a very bad idea.  Most Virginians and North Carolinians and Tennesseans are willing to drive to PA, and probably will continue to, but Somerset is an awfully long haul for most of them.  I have spoken with a few (less die hard) attendees from the DC area and points South, and I think it’s going to have to be a radically better show than it currently is to draw them into that traffic and sacrifice two days in transit.  Sure, people from North complain about the same commute in reverse,  I understand that. They just shouldn’t be assuming the Southerners won’t complain and vote with their feet, just like the Northerners did.  When I said words to the effect of “Wow, are you kidding?  Goodbye Historicon!” to the BoD guy I was talking to, my reply was something like “Well, if you’re not going to support the organization, we don’t need you”.  Okay.  Well, he might have a point.  A possible counterpoint might be.. how about moving ONE show to the Fredericksburg VA Convention center– one that isn’t part of a business that anybody on the BoD has any involvement with, and make it the Winter/early Spring show, e.g., Cold Wars?   No risk of snow, the location is good for a lot of people (maybe not from New Jersey, I admit).  When I brought that up, they said “we’re working on an alternate location between DC and Baltimore”.  I wonder where that could be?  I know the area reasonably well, I don’t know of a venue that could house a HMGS convention, but I admit I haven’t been looking.   Maybe it’s time to create a HMGS Mid-Atlantic, and concentrate on throwing a Winter show down in Virginia, and not worry about having each and every show aim to be really large?  If the Virginians and members further South are so problematic, just cut them loose.  Ah well, it’s just gassing.. nothing will get done as usual.

Sunday, we got packed out and did one last run at the Exhibitor Hall, where I dropped by the Sail Power booth and bought three ships and tons of resin cast guns. Great vendor! They sell secondary casts that aren’t “perfect” at a steep discount. I hope they show up at Cold Wars, I’ll throw more business their way.


“Over the Mighty Susquehannnnnnnnnna!” (we say that every time crossing it..)
And with that, we nosed our car into traffic, and headed home. It was a good Fall-IN! Many thanks to the staff, Dan Murawski, Brenda Zartman, and everyone else who hewed wood and carried water for the show. We had a great time.=


Farewell! Farewell!

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10 responses to “So I went to Fall-IN! 2016…

  1. Walt:

    First, thanks for the report as always, and sorry about the tree on your roof; what a hassle (and expense!).

    I believe you may be confusing 2 different if allied and nearby sites. The site in question is in SOMERSET, NJ (Franklin Township, just North of New Brunswick and Rutgers University. I lived there (Somerset) for 3 years 1981-1984 when I was doing my Residency in Family Medicine, and coincidentally my wife worked at JFK Medical Center in Edison as a physical therapist. The two sites are about 30 mins apart without traffic, twice that at rush hour. Traffic is usually MUCH less in Somerset, except during rush hour (and that doesn’t start at 2:30 like in F-burg!). Access from the North is best via I-287 which generally has light traffic except at peak rush hour times.

    http://doubletree3.hilton.com/en/hotels/new-jersey/doubletree-by-hilton-somerset-hotel-and-conference-center-EWRDADT/index.html

    http://www.gsec.com/

    As a Northerner (SW Connecticut), I greatly look forward to NOT driving to Fredericksburg after 2017 – truly a miserable drive from Delaware on South, and not great coming back with the South Jersey shore traffic on Sunday, either. However, I think it would make all the sense in the world to Place Fall In or Cold Wars in Fredericksburg, and if possible, the remaining convention in Lancaster at the Host if it is available to us Doesn’t even have to be Historicon at Somerset, for that matter. . That way one site is very accessible to those in almost all of New England, NY, NJ, PA, DE (Somerset), One is very accessible to VA, DE, MD, NC, SC, WV, PA (Fredericksburg), and one to PA, OH, TN, KY, MD, DE NJ (Lancaster). In addition, with three sites in use it improves the ability of HMGS to move a con in the event of site issues developing (which has now happened several times, right?). I prefer, perhaps naively, not to ascribe ulterior motives to HMGS BOD members. I greatly appreciate the contributions ALL HMGS volunteers, yourself included, make to running great shows. By comparison, running my usual 3-5 games as a GM is easy-peasy!

    Peter (Gonsalvo) Anderson
    http://blundersonthedanube.blogspot.com/

  2. Peter: Thanks for the kind words! I got the term “Garden State Convention Center and Doubletree Hotel” from Kevin Kelly’s 3 Nov 16 email to the member ship which stated:

    “We have been evaluating 2018 contract offers from both the Fredericksburg Convention Center in Virginia and the Garden State Exhibit Center/Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, New Jersey (hereafter “Somerset”) for Historicon 2018. These are the only two venues that have offered HMGS an executable cost feasible contract for any of the 2018 conventions. The Lancaster Host’s new management has declined to offer us any 2018 contracts at this time, and are not expected to do so until after the results of Fall-In 2016 are reviewed.”

    Googling the term Garden State Exhibit Center/Doubletree Hotel and Somerset, New Jersey rendered the results that I am referencing here. If there is another Garden State Exhibit Center, I didn’t find it and will cheerfully stand corrected.

  3. There are two related facilities, Walt, One in Somerset, and one in Edison, NJ. They are not far apart (? 20 miles), so it doesn’t make a big difference, but Somerset is definitely less “trafficked” than Edison

  4. Walt, the sad fact is that attendance at Historicon had been going down while the costs of the FCC have gone up. It may be that Historicon’s attendance at Somerset may also not increase, but it will be at least $17,000 less in facility costs. To my mind, these are issues that the BOD had to address.

    • Sad is the word for it, since it’s a decision that will cost HMGS so many attendees from the DC area South and points Southwest. When you have a quarter million in cash, you can afford to invest on growth. I guess I see it differently than the board. I do wish them every success, even if I am angry about their decision.

  5. But how long do you keep the flagship convention in a spot that has higher costs, less attendance every year, and more vendors threatening not to make the trip to Fredericksburg? How is that an investment in growth?

    • Do you really think Flagship convention is a term that means anything any more? This decision isn’t being made for marketing reasons, let’s be clear. It was promoted repeatedly as a financially motivated decision. There’s nothing particularly compelling about Somerset other than the facility cost. According to Paul Delaney, Historicon 16 made back 4 times its budgeted profit, so the need to move the show wasn’t that drastic. As for that falling attendance, do you really think moving the show to yet another state 6 hours away will reverse that trend or make it worse? I’m no prognosticator, but I strongly think we’ll lose about 400 attendees by conservative measure by moving out of that Pa comfort zone. They may trickle back; evidence doesn’t support it, though. I think the time may have arrived for a new Mid Atlantic chapter, and a more realistic assessment of how big these shows are going to get. I’d rather go to a dependable smaller show with fewer vendors than gamble on any Flagship show concept.

  6. We are talking about the facility in Somerset NJ – not the NJ EXPO in Edison where NJCON is held. The Edison facility is too small and does not allow adult beverages. Not sure why it came up with ‘Somerset’ as a search term. BING lists the Somerset facility only in the first page of results.
    Kevin

  7. Amended after finding the right facility in Google.