This is an After Action Report of HISTORICON 2019, the Summer show (and largest show) put on by the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society. This show was the first show in the convention’s new home, the Lancaster Convention Center, located in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania. For once, I forsook the pastoral route of 270 to 15 to 30 and I sought the advice of Couselor Waze. That took me up the Wilson Bridge, to 95, to 83 near Baltimore, up to York, then North up to 30.. so yes, I did get a chance to enact the classic “going to a Con” ritual:
Town center appears to be most accessible coming from the Route 30/York side by going down 222 (which I think is called the Fruitville Pike. Any locals can correct me).
I got there in good time. Faster than the farmland route.
The Hotel itself is a Marriott, run by a local hotel group under license. Everything you heard about parking is pretty much true. It’s limited, it’s a logistical challenge. Here’s how I handled that challenge.. I parked my car, got the ticket validated and didn’t leave the spot the entire weekend. The facility is fairly new, having been built back in the oughts. That means: the air conditioning worked consistently. The showers had warm water all weekend. The beds were fine. Any water running in the lobby was actually on purpose.
The Marriott Conference center has two floors of really large conference and meeting space, plus several breakaway rooms and smaller rooms. We had tournaments in Freedom A and Exhibitors in Freedom B. We also used the Commonwealth Room for general gaming (analgous to the Distelfink in size, maybe about a quarter larger). Also a smaller “Independence” room strictly for Naval Gaming. One flight up we used the Heritage Room for club and themed gaming (Like Lard America). One flight up were smaller rooms, one of which held the Hobby University. War College was relocated to the historical house that was preserved as part of the hotel, right there in the lobby.
Lancaster itself, the city center, is a charming little downtown area. I’m not a travel brochure, it’s the truth– this is about as different from dodging across route 30 as it gets. Everything is pretty close and convenient, with restaurants and bars well within walking distance in every direction.
To top that off, it’s just.. I don’t know.. really pleasant. I’m a city kid, myself, and this ain’t exactly Manhattan, but it’s nice to have everything all close like that.
Thursday I jumped in and did some volunteering, after getting fitted for my spiffo new convention volunteer uniform. I opted for something in orange.
It rained like crazy Thursday and part of Friday. For the people who got caught coming over from the Holiday Inn, hey, many, I feel for you. I’m glad I was on the inside looking out on that one.
One of the benefits of working events is you get a pretty great snapshot of what’s being run at the convention at any given moment. Having moved heaven and earth to get Guidebook out in time for the con, I had a pretty good idea of what to look for when looking for eye candy for this report. Therefore, here’s the first part of it.
After a day of getting tickets and auditing tables, I was done in. I went in search of spicy Ramen and then a game to get in. Fortunately, I found something. In my experience, events were a sellers market at Historicon. The Events Desk would open shift with about 40% of all tickets present, since pre-registration was very active. By end of shift there wasn’t much to get in to. I did get a ticket for Zeb Cook’s winter racing game, the Great Idontknowrob Race. Since this post is going to be overwhelmingly picture heavy, I’m posting the games I played and ran under separate posts in other platforms. Just click on the picture for some game impressions located on Spark Pages.
It was fun, it was goofy, and it didn’t take itself too seriously. Perfect.
I did spend some time in the lobby bar talking to a young man named Grant who used to come over to play wild west shoot em ups in my basement back in the day, and is now in his 30s, married and a doctor of chemistry. Oy! I feel old.
The next day was kind of an easy day for me. I walked to the exhibitor hall to get some stuff for my game that night. I needed some road barrier stones to define the curves on the track I was setting up for my Mad Maximillian game that evening. I’m not ashamed to say I spread packaging on the bed of my truck and spray painted them for use that evening. No, I have no shame. I just wish the lighting in the parking garage was better. I also got out for lunch, which was simple– I went to McDonalds because I wanted coffee. I stopped off at the Lancaster market and bought some stuff requested by my kids. Once again, I felt like the downtown had a cool, arty, laid back feel I don’t usually associate with Lancaster.
You just never know what you’ll find downtown.
So, yeah, Lancaster is a cool town. A lot of panhandlers and homeless people, but pretty safe, I thought. I had no problems there, myself, and I liked the central area near the hotel.
The games were still on all over the place.
So the clock on the wall started creeping around to 1800 and I started getting the game I ran Friday night ready. I ran ” A Hot Day of Death at La Cavalria de Strada”, a Mad Maximillian 1934 game, set in Fascist Italy. You can read the separate recap by clicking on this picture below.
From my perspective, this game went off pretty well. I got more players than I advertised for, and I really didn’t think I’d start with even four.. but people kept arriving in dribs and drabs. The Max 34 game wasn’t high-falutin’. It promised speed, mayhem and (hopefully) a sense of humor. I hope I delivered. The players certainly didn’t want to end at the proscribed time, which is a plus.
After I got everything loaded back in the truck, I felt kind of guilty just running one game, since so many people were running more than one game at this convention. I will look into running more than one next time.
The next day, I had made certain I had some tickets for events on Saturday. The first one was a battle from A VERY BRITISH CIVIL WAR, a rule set from a hypothetical Civil War set in Great Britain in the 30s, if there were a strong British Facist party. I love Interwar and alternative scenarios, so I signed up to play.. and I got to be the bad guys in this one.
Click on the link to see the side post about this game. This game didn’t use the titular ruleset and was using Trench Wars, which is a much more simplistic game of “the hordes charge and get slaughtered”. We had the burden of attack versus the local Scot militia, and I think we acquitted ourselves well. Once again there was a little tension with a somewhat bombastic latecomer who kept trying to demand that the game be run his way by repeating his interpretation louder and louder but I resolved this by ignoring his commentary and asking the GM himself to resolve things. 🙂 I loved the scenario and this game. It was a slaughter on both sides but we did reasonably well. Two players got trophies, one for attacker and one for defender. My friend Jeff got one.Pictures on IMGUR
I didn’t do much during the day except go to the flea, and not buy anything there. I did get hooked up with my painting service, and got a delivery.
What’s all this stuff for? You’ll just have to wait and find out.
Saturday night was kind of humbling. I think I’m a reasonably intelligent guy, maybe not an Einstein but I think I know how to play in a naval wargame. It’s one of my favorite genres. Yet, every time I try SeeKrieg I feel like a real dotard. So it proved to be Saturday night. I liked the scenario, and the GM was very patient, but I was playing with a mix of guys who knew it and who didn’t and I kept losing the thread of what was supposed to be going on.
Oh well, I tried! Maybe it’s Victory at Sea for this guy, after all.
After the game I sloped off to the bar for a nightcap and bumped into Mr. John Holly and his friends, and very engaging they turned out to be, too. The conversations ranged far and wide… the hotel, HMGS, gaming, the Sopranos, children, and opera arias. Suddenly the gregarious Mr. Holly was silent, exhausted.. I tiptoed out.
So, yeah, that was kind of my Historicon in a nutshell. Overwhelmingly, the show seemed to be a hit with almost everyone. There were some logistical problems that people focused on. Many people complained about parking. Many people complained that the fare in the neighborhood wasn’t exactly cheap. Some people complained about the walk from the other hotel, and about how it didn’t measure up to the Marriott in many ways. My feeling was Joby Miller knocked this one out of the park. He did it with a lot of hard work, some great staff working for him that he trusted, and a whole LOT of attention to detail. It’s NEVER easy moving to a new venue, as past CDs can attest to who ran the first shows at Fredericksburg, Valley Forge and even the Host. You can’t forsee everything. You can do your best. I think HMGS did its best and I appreciate their effort. This was the most uniquely positive show I’ve been to since the first Fredericksburg convention. I loved the venue– there’s space to do things there and the tables don’t have to be cheek by jowl. I love the downtown location, as I’ve mentioned a few times. I loved the staff of the hotel, who were always courteous and kind to me when I went to them with a problem. The lobby bar is good, though I don’t have an opinion about the food… I didn’t eat there. I think we might need to buy a “rental fleet” of flatcarts to help GMs move stuff from one hotel to the other, and maybe get a squad of youngster volunteers to help the move. Other than that, I know it’s more expensive than past venues, but I think it’s worth it. I would like the show to stay at Lancaster for the forseeable future, if we don’t get shivved in future negotiations.
For everyone I only see once in a while, it was great to see you again. The major reason I come to these shows is to talk to you, and have a beer with you, and loudly argue some obscure bit of history with you, or engage in some unique shared interest. Okay, the games, too. This show was a blast, and I’m not being a cheerleader here. I would love to have another Historicon like 2019. I’ll see you all at Fall-IN!