Category Archives: FALL-IN

Yes, there is a Guidebook for Fall-IN! 2017

Main Screen (Guidebook on Web) Fall IN! 2017



To all the good folks attending Fall-IN! 2017, I have to apologize.  I haven’t been Johnny on the Spot with Fall-IN! 2017’s Guidebook app.  There’s a good reason, but you probably don’t care.  Oh what the heck, I’ll tell you.  About a year ago at the end of October, a ten ton tree dropped on Casa O’Hara. The damage was devastating.  My family has endured a long year of rebuilding, being temporarily homeless, and living in a tiny rental as the contractors did their thing.  We are (right now, this week) hitting the end of the tunnel at last.  The contractors are finalizing the work on my house and we are moving back in starting this weekend.  I don’t claim to be the smartest guy in the world, but I’m clever enough to figure out this isn’t the time to go to Fall IN!.  I like being married!  Anyway, all that work (and the recent departure of a beloved family pet just last week) has been a distraction from Guidebook building duty.  Mea Culpa. 


I have not left you all in the lurch.  I wouldn’t do that. I have taken the
data Dan Murawski and Jeff Kimmel sent me and updated and published the
guidebook app as of last night.

It doesn’t display the usual tender loving care I usually put into these
things; Missing are the room maps, Tournaments, Hobby University, and
Speakers (if there are any), social media stuff.  Included are: the events schedule
(with room locations and table numbers), The Vendor Hall map and
vendor listing.

That is about all I have time for, sorry. I don’t consider the omissions
crippling. Unless you are a rank newbie, you can navigate the Host
blindfolded by now. If you ARE a rank newbie, ASK someone. Wargamers are a
generous group and will help you find your table.

The table number will tell you where the room is: D-35 is “Distelfink table 35”.
Usually I spell that out but I don’t have the time.

I don’t have time for a lot of screenshots.  If you have downloaded Guidebook before, the instructions are the same as last HISTORICON.  The user interface is about identical.


The Fall IN! 2017 Guidebook Landing Page will provide you with the download links directly for FALL IN! 2017’s Guidebook, for both Android and IOS, plus instructions of how to implement GB on phones with web browsers. You should be able to download both kind of clients there.

Fall-IN! 2017 GUIDEBOOK on WEB will provide you with interaction with the app on a website (use this with your smartphone web browser if you don’t have a client installed)


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:

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 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.

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!

Event Counts by Category, Fall-IN! 2016

As often happens once a HMGS convention concludes, self-styled experts will claim a certain genre is overtaking historical game entries, it’s a general sign of decline of HMGS and et cetera, blah, blah.  Those of us who have been attending for years have seen the same old argument restated every year,  sometimes posting outrage at the large number of “alt games” at a convention while many attendees are still en route home.  Well, about that… As I have done for 12 previous conventions, I have created a Guidebook App module for Fall-IN! 2016.  In order to make that happen, I have to take data from many sources– tournaments, Hobby U, seminars, etc.  The most important source is what I build the schedule with, the Events sent to me from the Events Coordinator.  So I get to see the raw data from the registration database every convention.

Once all of that is put in spreadsheet form, it’s remarkably easy to sort the data by period, use the COUNTA function, and get totals by period.  There’s nothing particularly slick about my methodology, but I have confidence in it because almost everyone uses the categories established by HMGS as part of the event registration process, although this can be overwritten, and then a judgement call is needed.

So here’s the count, with a couple of caveats– I’m making a judgement about what is historical and what ain’t, and I agree, you might interpret this differently from me.  I am counting fun skirmish game categories like Westerns, Chariot Races, Gladiator fights and Pirate fighting as “historical”, since they take place in a defined historical period.  This year, I also include 2 “Other” games as historical, since they are roughly Napoleonic Age of Sail games, and I also include 3 games that label themselves as “Victorian Alternative Naval” as historical, since they use historical ships in “What If” scenarios.  I rolled up a couple of other periods and put “Pulp” in the “Non Historical” period (since I consider “pulp” mostly a kind of borderline fantasy period springing out of VSF).  I’m only counting non-tournament events.  Most importantly, this data is a snapshot as of last weekend.

So there you are.  Again.  Historical Games ROUTED Non-Historical Games, without question.  In very broad terms, non-historical alt style games are barely 17% of total.

What periods walked away with it? The classic 3, of course: World War 2 (75), Napoleonic (29) and American Civil War (23). That old devil Science Fiction (which I rolled up four flavors of Post-Apocalyptic games into, Zombies mostly) returned a 24, and Fantasy 18.  Surprising?  Hardly.  Many of those 75 WW2 games are rulesets that are commercial successes and very recognizable.. like Bolt Action.  There just seem to be far fewer F&SF household names at HMGS conventions– those players go to other conventions, it would seem.

So there you have it! Another convention, another year without the sky falling in.  HMGS shows are still firmly historical, by a wide margin.

GUIDEBOOK App for FALL-IN 2016, published

I have just received notification that the Guidebook app I’ve been working on for HMGS’s Fall convention, FALL-IN! has passed publication review and now can be downloaded.

I don’t intend to write up how to actually use Guidebook in one of these posts for every convention; the interface doesn’t change that quickly. I wrote a decent overview for COLD WARS 2016, check that post for an overview of features.

Quick Snap of the Events Schedule

I have (as of today) got the schedule and room layouts done, that’s the big job. I’ll be entering Hobby University, Speakers and Tournaments as soon as I get that information. It is downloadable right NOW, I advise you to run and get it as soon as possible.

Here’s the download page:

and here’s the guide online for viewing:

Please help yourself!

Notes: I got the events kind of in two discrete chunks that weren’t formatted for export the same and it took a little while to get that sorted out.. I apologize for the delay.

The one big new feature is the checking in function, which is (sigh) a paid function, so you won’t see it, because we’re kind of cheap and use the free, dumbed down version. It does have potential, though.. it appears you can now set a limit of gamers to your event (say, 8) and keep track of the people as they show up, AND maintain a waiting list of players. Cool stuff! Of course, I had to back that all out when they asked me to pay to upgrade.. sigh.

Update: as of 10/15, I have everything but the Hobby University and Seminars stuff done.  It will automatically update for you when you open it in the app.

Other than that, the basic “trade show” template that I use for miniature conventions is working just fine and doesn’t have other new features.

A sample Floor Layout page.

And here’s the QR code!

Strangely, a Sad Farewell to the Host

A dump.  Seedy. Dirty. Falling Apart.  Run Down... These, and many other creative appellations have been thrown at the Lancaster Host Resort over the years.  The site of so many conventions from both The Historical Miniature Gaming Society and the World Boardgame Championships has not exactly been well loved in the last decade.  The venue we all “loved to hate” has hosted HMGS conventions for 24 years.  I started attending HMGS conventions just prior to the move from the Penn-Harris, so I’ve been to almost the entire run of shows held at the Host.  For much of that time, I’ve worked as a volunteer and for some of that time, as a convention director.  So I’ve grown accustomed to the odd layout of the host, which is oddly spread out and not very handicapped friendly.

As has been released online and in public, the Lancaster Host Property, Buildings and land is up for auction, Dec 14, closing Dec 16.

There is no reason to suspect there won’t be anyone interested in this property.  The property has changed ownership before but never quite like this– before, ownership passed from one entity to another, both of which being interested in running a hotel.  It could be very different this time.  Essentially, this is a bargain basement opportunity for land that could conceivably be worth ten million dollars in the right circumstances.

Funny, I don’t remember it looking like this. Ever.

 Reading the description in the auction listing above, the land and the five buildings on the land are going up for sale on 14 December.  Bidding will cease on the 16th.  Then we’ll have some inkling of what will happen to the Host.  Will future conventions be held there?  I would tend to doubt it, at least beyond the upcoming Cold Wars in March of 2016.  I’m not a property lawyer and really have no idea of what the status of the contracts held by the HMGS and the Host in common would be when ownership passes to a new owner.  Is the new owner obliged to rent the facility to us at all?  Or will they assume the legal penalties of breaking a contract?  When you purchase a property at auction, are you assuming the previous holder’s liabilities as well as his assets?  I honestly don’t know.  Chime in if you have experience in this field.. I certainly don’t.

Man, I don’t remember ANY room at the Host looking that good.  Must be the lighting

Speculating is one thing, sure.  I think what we can assume WILL happen is that the day we have (as an organization) been collectively dreading has finally come to pass.  There is no more blood in the turnip.  If the extremely run down buildings on the Host site avoid the wrecking ball until Fall-IN! 2016, I think we’ll be very lucky indeed.  Personally, I doubt it.  The cost of modernizing the physical plant surely must far exceed the potential value of the property as an investment.  If the weight of existing contract penalties convinces the new owners to stay in business at least for COLD WARS 2016 and even FALL-IN! 2016, I think we can predict a minimum effort at service at best.. as the new owners struggle to eke out a few sheckels of profit with a minimum of investment.  That’s a level of service we’ve been used to in the last few years, so it won’t be very different.

Ultimately, the site will see the wrecking ball, sooner or later, and probably sooner would be my guess.  The strange thing is that I have given the site a lot of grief over the years.. leaky roofs, mold, flaking paint and disgusting bathrooms (by Saturday)… still, as a place, it was our place, and I made a lot of friendships in that place.  I can’t help getting just the slightest hint of misty-eyed contemplating the end of this long, long era, so soon upon the heels of the demise of the Game Parlor in Chantilly, VA.   Change is inevitable, and much of what we once took for granted will be missed in the upcoming years.  I suspect, more than I could guess, I’ll end up missing elements of the Host.  There are very few facilities on the East Coast that had that magic sweet spot of facility space, hotels, parking, eateries, things to do, and great attitude that the Host had in its heyday.  I know for a fact that the present board of directors is at work looking for a new location, but none of the candidates I have heard vetted have the right specific combination of factors that made the Host a success for 24 years– or much of 24 years.

It’s a little ridiculous for me to drive all the way up to Lancaster to be there when that wrecking ball swings (whenever), but part of me really wants to be there.

Fall-IN! 2014, another gripping AAR

I actually got some gaming done at this convention, but there’s no need to break them out into separate posts.  I’ve included links to the requisite screen shows– see the yellow backgrounds.

As reported in the earlier travelogue, I drove up to Fall-IN! 2014 in sunny Lancaster, PA on Thursday. It was raining off and on but I made excellent time. People were already congregating when I arrived, around 3PM. For some odd reason, I walked into a low hanging duct cover in the Men’s room and clocked myself good.  The pain was sharp and intense– if I were a cartoon, I’d have had tweety birds circling my head.   Not a grand manner to start a convention with.  My room was palatial, by Host standards.  No complaints there, but the halls were in poor shape–

“Come and play with us, Danny”… Despite my first suspicions, I was not transported to the set of the Shining (1980). It just gave off the vibe. Multiple leaks were in the hallway. You can’t see it but the ceiling tile is about to collapse about midway down and already has collapsed behind me and the left.

Much as I enjoy the Host’s location and admitting I have had a grand time in this venue for many years, I’m beginning to think the writing is on the wall for this venerable building.  there were multiple leaks all throughout the building and the water went out on Sunday.   It made me think of a Cold War era Eastern European motel, not central Pennsylvania.

The convention was manned pretty well, all things considered.  Dan Murawski was at his wit’s end getting staff at the last second, and thought it did not bode well– as if it were being purposely sabotaged.  Dan’s got a big heart and works his butt off for these things– but unless I see better proof than what I heard, I think it was just a confluence of events that caught him flatfooted.  It happens sometimes– that’s how I started volunteering back in the mid-90s.. I didn’t even realize you COULD volunteer until JT Thomas was caught flat-footed in a similar fashion and put the call out for volunteers.   So, the bright side of things is we got some new faces and maybe they’ll work for other conventions, too.

Thursday I didn’t do much– had dinner with JT, Bob and Cleo and then played some boardgames with friends.  As you can see, scheduled miniatures games weren’t exactly covering the ground Thursday night, although there were plenty of pickup miniatures games.  Friday it turned out I wasn’t really needed in the AM, so took Bob, Cleo and Stephen Gibson to the Knight and Day Diner in Lititz, PA (about 8 miles from the Host, easy to get to).  Prices were great, the food was great, the service was friendly and the company affable.

Steve Gibson– he’s so affable.

Friday miniature games were kicking into gear by the time we got back.  The Distelfink was humming and games were setup and playing.  For all of that, the room was still somewhat sparse for games and there were the usual open tables.  I don’t see anything dire in this, it’s just a matter of scheduling.

Dystopian Wars, but I’m not sure what the event was.

I did do a serious shopping jaunt at this point; I didn’t have a game until 1700 and was footloose and fancy-free. As was indicated in my road trip post on the way up, I had set my sights on some very specific items that I was looking for. I achieved most of my goals. I picked up D&D ATTACK WING (starter set) from Whizkids, plus the Green Dragon and the Arbelest team. Why? Well, I think this is a natural from my Summer game camp– they love X-Wing and this game is different enough that I can run both in one week or all of them simultaneously if I have the kids for it. It’s huge and colorful. I also picked up IN MAGNIFICENT STYLE (continuing my love for VPG games), which is a very miniatures-like game of the final moments of Pickett’s Charge on the third day of Gettysburg. More on that one later. I also got “Steampunk Soldiers” from Dennis. Gorgeous color plates.

After that, my first game of the con:

Friday’s game was Up the Yazoo, a game of American Civil War riverine combat using the Hammerin Iron 2 rules from Peter Pig.   I have reviewed these rules here (favorably), and have a high opinion of this system– it’s evocative of the period without getting deep into statistics and ballistics, and lots of fun.  Greg Wagman did a fantastic job running this game and ended up playing the confederate side with a combination of enthusiasm and dry humor.  The Union boys did a fine job (if I do say so), achieving their objective of blowing up three piers and sinking three Reb Ships.   I lost one ship from my flotilla, as did the other Union player.  We still had two intact Ironclads (Cairo and


I really had a good time with the Hammerin’ Iron 2 game.

I went a little long with that game, so hustled to the Prime Rib dinner at the Host Restaurant, once again, with Bob, Cleo and JT.  That was a very pleasant dining experience which goes to show you the old place is capable of putting in a good effort.  It was too late to really bug someone to get into a game Friday night but I did meet up with some of my droogs and we played a boardgame called AMONG THE STARS, which is sort of a “build a big space station” game that involves deck drafting, hand-swapping and bidding.  I really enjoyed it and thought the card art was fantastic– very thematic.

If I were the early riser type, I suppose I could get up, take a cold shower, do 200 scrunchies, and jog ten miles before jumping into an 0800 game start so I could squeak one in before my afternoon obligations.  I suppose I could, but I’m not that kind of gamer.   Instead, I laid around in indolent sloth and went down to the Flea Market for a sniff around.  I had read the rules for In Magnificent Style the night before and now had it in my head to build a version with 15mm painted ACW miniatures– something I knew I could find in the flea market.  Sure enough, I did, and they were relatively affordable.

Rebel setup

A couple of turns in, Trimble’s Brigade getting shelled twice.

Mission accomplished, I thought.  It looks much better with actual miniatures.  I had to re-base the flea market minis at the convention, which I did after a short bath to loosen the glue.  I probably spent more than I ought for a simple visual effect, but I don’t care.

I worked the events desk from 1 to 4 on Saturday.  This was pretty easy duty and consisted of handing out tickets, solving problems and breaking down the events board.  It was slow, but we actually did have an issue to resolve– one GM who had signed up to run 5 games fairly late and turned out to be a no-show.

Saturday was probably the busiest day for games.

SAGA– Vikings versus Welsh

Bolt Action

I love SAGA. There was a ton of it in the tournaments area.

The big Crime/Pulp game in the lobby started early Saturday evening.  This was the showcase game of Fall-IN! 2014.. with scenery so intricate and detailed I’m certain it won some kind of award.  I don’t think we gave any awards out for Fall-IN!, at least I didn’t see the awards committee at work, anyway.  Too bad!

Some of the interior detail

Here’s a few pictures of the 1920s Gangster/Pulp game in the lobby.  They don’t do it justice.  That was a “mob” scene, Saturday!

S-124, Sky Galleons of Mars part 2


At five, I had a Sky Galleons of Mars game in the Vistas.  I’d been looking forward to playing this game for many years, but never have had the time until this year.. I’m usually volunteering for something.   The confluence of events worked out so that I could play the second part of two thematically linked games.  I’ve got mixed feelings about this one.  I’ve played Sky Galleons before, and don’t have a beef with the system.  I’ve clearly jonesed to play this 25mm version that Dave Kasper runs for some time (see a previous post from 2010).

There might have been a bad group dynamic going for this game, possibly– I got the vibe that it was tilted somewhat towards the Martian faction, but we did pretty well considering every ship in the game had us out-manned.   We engaged the High Martians (aka “The Spider Monkeys”) from a distance and did serious damage to their ships, without suffering a lot of fire in return.  However, their big tactic of swarming and boarding was something we had a hard time defending against.   The game ended early when 4 players (2 Martian, 2 English) bailed, basically saying “Here you go, take our ships“.  I felt bad for Mr. Kasper, because that kind of thing will totally throw off a game– he didn’t look happy.  I was awarded the best British player award, but given the circumstances (being the ONLY British player left) it sort of felt like a Lancaster Tug job.  Still, I was grateful to receive it, and my opponent from the Spider Monkey Clan received the best Martian player.  I hope to play this again with some more committed players– the visuals were magnificent, the ships were just incredibly well done.

Having gobbled my “Hall Pig” down (actually Hall Brisket, but who’s counting) to make the Sky Galleons event on time, I felt slightly nauseous so went in search of a glass of milk, which made things better.    I might point out that with the exception of the kind of greasy breakfast I had had in the Vistas that morning, dinner was the most unhealthy thing I ate all weekend– all things considered I did rather well with food– didn’t overeat, didn’t indulge in overly fatty and sugary crap.  It can be done!

After finishing the rebasing of the 15mm Rebs, I headed down to my last event of the evening:

S-211: Road Warrior Invitational

Sad, isn’t it, what the younger generation has forgotten? All the older players were face-palming… Click to see the slide show.

The Road Warrior game was hilarious, simple and quick-playing.  Lots of people showed up.  Eric Goodlander ran this homage to the 1982 movie ROAD WARRIOR.  The rules were pretty simple, based on the old G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. rule set.  At least, mostly.  The scenario was a classic– good guys are escorting a potential gas tanker through the wastelands, and bad guys attack in a wave of eccentric vehicles.  When a player dies, he re-enters the table on the opposite side he started from.  If the tanker can exit the map, the Good Guys win.  If the tanker is halted, the Good Guys lose the game.  The vehicles are all pretty much converted Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars.

I drove the Mystery Machine van with Alan behind the wheel and Shaggy working the shotgun.  We did pretty well– our van skidded off the road and almost overturned, but we maintained a steady fire at the Good Guy escorts.. and we took out Randy Meyers, much to our amusement.  I was playing with Neil Brennan on the Bad guys side and watched in amazement as he went through 3 vehicles back to back to back.   The game ended rather dramatically when a GOOD guy small tanker tried crashed into the big rig carrying the tanker of gas and it skidded to a halt, with major damage.  A Bad Guy coming on to the board fired a rocket at the cab, and that was all she wrote.  BOOOM!  That game was a hell of a lot of fun, almost too quick, though.  If Mr. Goodlater runs it again, I’ll play it again.

After the Road Warrior was summarily executed and the game ended early, I did something I rarely do these days: Stayed up and BS’d with Neil Brennan and Del Stover, in the Lancaster Host bar, where most business decisions are decided upon:

That was a fun session– we were rambling on reminiscing about games in the past and people who have departed.

Sunday dawned with the usual Sunday frantic packing the car activity, visiting the flea market, and dealer hall– with a twist.  I tried to take a shower, no water came out.  No water in the sinks, toilets etc.  Kind of a revolting development with a convention full of gamers.  At least it happened on Sunday!!!

In the dealer’s hall, I picked up BYWATER’S WAR from Clash at Arms.  I also made a command decision and put off buying a starter set for Alien Dungeon’s Mars game in favor of buying some stuff from Stan Johansen’s ROAD WARRIOR line.  What can I say?  That game inspired me.

After that, it was only a matter of bugging out, stopping at Jenny’s for a moody coffee and omlette, and departing…

Another great Fall-IN!  I have to thank Dan Murawski, and all his staff (especially the last minute volunteers) for putting on a great show.  The attendance was very light, I thought, but we’ll see.  That’s too bad– attendance has been growing under Dan’s leadership– I hope the trend continues.

Final thoughts:

Fall-IN! 2013, Post 2: the convention I went to

I apologize for this being late; I didn’t end up taking a lot of pictures and was with my son for this one, so much of the usual activities, including late night imbibing, will not be present. Sorry!

My son Garrett and I went up to Fall-IN! 2013 on Thursday evening and checked in with no difficulty. The registration lines were longish during the two hours of operation, but not impossible. Everything was the typical chaos of the first day of a convention with people running about setting up boxes of t-shirts, making sure the computers worked, using and training the staff to use them. There were problems with the new registration system; I believe that they were connected to bandwidth being pretty terrible at the Host.

Garrett and I did a little ship maintenance Thursday night as we would be running Big Danged Boats, my newish 15mm fantasy naval rules, the next day. Fortunately, the ships weren’t too smashed up from being in storage and everything looked pretty good. I even added a couple of new factions to the game– O.R.C., the Micro-Vikings, and the Empire of Stahlheim.

Unlike my usual performance at a miniatures convention, I was responsible and didn’t stay up late ANY night I was there, and only had one beer the entire con. Shocking! Odin, look away! The Men of the North are not as they once were.

Friday was pretty frenetic. Had a nice long breakfast with my my friends Steve, Art, Todd and Drew, and wasn’t looking at my watch to assiduously. I was going to hit the dealer’s area for a few items in advance of Friday night’s game but that didn’t happen. Since I had redone my ship charts to make them tinier than the one page affairs I was using, I ended up making a run to Staples to get them printed out in color (since color is important for conveying damage taken).

Setting up for Big Danged Boats was a bit of a fiasco. Somebody was using my table when I showed up at it. Turns out THREE of us were scheduled to use the same tables at the exact same time, and I had to skeeve the next table down, which displaced another guy, causing all kinds of havoc. being able to read the map in the program would have helped; I even had difficulty making out table number in Guidebook, so I’ll have to break the graphic up to Distelfink North and Distelfink South for next show. The sad truth was that there wasn’t a decent map of the Distelfink table layout, nor were the tables numbered anywhere I could see. That would have helped a lot!

Ran BDB, I won’t belabor you with a description of that game, click below if you want to read my two events that I ran.

Click me to read the Big Danged Boats Recap, Friday Night.

I ran it Friday night and was so exhausted after putting it away, I kind of fell asleep in my chair when I got back to our room.

There were some great games being run all around the con, but a lot of empty tables on Friday. I even saw that little room behind the Hopewell being totally dark on Friday. I hope this isn’t indicative of a waning interest in running games. There were plenty of empty tables in the Distelfink on Friday as well– not as a vagary of scheduling, but for long periods of time.

My son Garrett has developed into something of a Battletech fanboy, he got into three games over the weekend and loved it. He is now seriously jonesing for the Catalyst Games Battletech starter set. Nobody had one in the vendor hall; apparently it’s due for a re-release soon. That would account for the inflated prices of the current one on Ebay.

Finally had a chance to visit the dealer area briefly on Saturday, and I have to say I was a little underwhelmed. We did not fill up the Exhibitor’s Hall. I’m certain this is just a fact of economic life; shows are expensive propositions for the smaller vendors and bigger retail store operations, and there has to be a payoff they can measure or they won’t come. The economy still being in the dumper, it doesn’t surprise me that there was some empty space in the back of the hall. What did seem fairly glum was the lack of innovation in the vendor community– and I can only speak for myself here. The really off-beat stuff that I use to make games with is usually found in Vendor halls. My game “The Magi” uses 54mm Wizard figures, predominantly manufactured in the 1990s– when was the last time a company made affordable 54mm fantasy figures? I totally get that a vendor would have to be nuts to cater to every taste, but if you’re not into the flavor of the week, you’re pretty much screwed when it comes to shopping for miniatures at a show. With that said, there’s definitely some vendors out there making some great things that I am coveting. Like Alien Dungeon, for instance…

ALL QUIET ON THE MARTIAN FRONT. Hey boys, if you ever need a reviewer on this stuff, contact me!!

It was good to see On Military Matters back, I had heard they weren’t doing shows any more at HISTORICON. Guess that was BS. Other players were conspicuously absent, such The War Store, Thoroughbred Miniatures, etc.

Jeff Wasileski’s awesome “Steampunk Roman” game was being held when I was running THE BIG DIABOLICAL DUKEROO. Too bad, so sad! It looked excellent.

So 1400 loomed on the clock and we made yet another dash to the Staples and printed out yet another batch of charts, frantically. Please. No lectures about preparedness. That’s how I roll.

The Magi is a lot easier to set up than Big Danged Boats; The rules fit on an index card and the spell index is one piece of paper you don’t need constantly. We pulled it off and it played all the way through; no need to reprise that here, as I covered that in Part 1. See below.

Click me to read the Magi Recap, Saturday Night.

After wolfing down a light repast from inside the hotel…

It’s little cherry eyes follow you around the lobby… SHUDDER!

… I really wanted to (finally) get in a game where somebody ELSE was the GM and I can just have fun playing. I couldn’t find the RAMMING SPEED game (who knew what the table numbers were? not me!) but I definitely didn’t have a problem finding the “Street Riots in Ancient Rome” game, GM’d by Cy Taylor and friends. This was shockingly great. I didn’t have a ticket (duh) and had to take a Roman mob role. Roman mobs, in these rules, tend to be speed bumps for factions who are better armed. Thus, my game was a long series of “Go out in the streets. Meet a better healed and armed faction. Have them start a fight. Die. Go back to the slums. Restart” That is, until I noticed that the Forum and Temple of Jupiter was mostly untended. So I raided the temple, looted the state treasury, and my mob moved South to start an Olive Oil business. That’s a happy ending.

My Roman Mob cheerfully making off with the Roman State Treasury to start an Oyster Farm in Capri. Click to see a Slide Show of this great game

I had a great time, but only played one scenario. I did want to keep half an eye on Little G and also see how the Toys for Tots auction did.

Santa Moe came by and admonished us to give…. til it hurt.

The “Wednesday Night Painting Group” from Erie, PA (I think) ran the Toys for Tots auctions and activities. This was handled very well and the undisputed totals follow:

“Total raised for Toys for Tots: $5,562 USD (New Record)
Total number of auction items: 61 (New Record)
Percentage of vendors who said “yes” when asked to donate to the Raffle: 100% (We have never had a dealer say “no”. They are fantastic!)
Money raised by John Newman alone: $1,834 USD
Tickets sold for the Raffle: $1530
Amount raised for Toys for Tots by the Wednesday Night Painting Group (WNPG): $25 USDK+”

Not bad at all!

So I poked my nose into a few other games running Saturday, just to kibbitz. There were some fun things happening, but I didn’t want to start a new game after 9 PM.

Nothing defines haute couture more than a derby hat and a utilikilt. Gamers are just fashion sluts; let’s face it.

After packing up and hanging out with G for a bit in the room, I felt a strange lassitude. Rather than go down to the lobby bar and sip beers with my fellow blowhards and yack all night in loud voices, I guess “too much Fall-IN!” had caught up with me at last. This fellow sums it up rather nicely…

Poor soul. He’s just overwrought.

So I found myself untangling from the gentle caresses of Lethe Sunday morning with a plan. We were going to pack our crap and get out in time to really have a good look at the dealer’s hall and Flea Market. And so we did. Still couldn’t find the Battle tech starter set for Gar, but I bought a few boats from Joel G., some nifty buildings for my War against the Cthonians project, and some various other bits and bobs here and there. I only purchased things that supported EXISTING projects, and for that I deserve a commendation, thank you very much.

And with that, we were in dire need of coffee and a breakfast, which we found just a few miles down the road at Jenny’s Diner.

It was bigger than my head. No, I didn’t finish it.

Too Much Fall-IN! Until next year.

Let’s go home, dad…


And that was our Fall-IN!.

Observations, and this comes from the constructive part of me, I’m not just slagging. Events were pretty jacked on Friday. Tables not marked. Map not readable. NOBODY around to resolve issues. Angry GMs, puzzled gamers. I can’t really comment on the lines that many were complaining about as I didn’t see them. The food at the hotel was much the same as it ever was, I wish the menu would change up. Attendance SEEMED light, but that might be misleading; I do know I never had a problem parking, not even one time. And that hardly ever happens, even at FALL IN.

I worked the GUIDEBOOK app before the convention (and during). For the very first time, we actually used so much of the FREE package that offers us that we just about ran out of downloads the weekend of FALL-IN. As in we were 5 downloads away from doing that. I’m not saying everybody’s sold on the idea quite yet, but it’s clear we’re making some headway. I attribute this to the Guidebook being ready right about the time of the first PEL, and generally updated as we got closer to the convention. Good idea (on Dan’s part) to push to make that happen early. It really made a difference.

With all that said, a weekend at a gaming convention usually beats a weekend NOT spent at one, MOST OF THE TIME. So I’m glad I attended, and I know I’m glad I took my son with me. He had a blast with the Battletech guys. Passing the torch, you know..

Thanks to Dan and all the Convention staff, particularly Paul Trani, Heather Blush, Scott Landis, Christin Sciulli, Cliff Brunkin, J.T. Thomas and every single one of the poor saps who had to work a registration desk computer with a long line of irate gamers getting angrier and angrier with them. Sometimes we forget that these shows wouldn’t happen without these volunteers. I appreciate them quite a bit.

See you all at Cold Wars 2014.

Fall-IN! 2013 Post 1: the Games I ran

We’re back from Fall-IN! and I will be doing two blog posts on the topic, This is Post 1, the games I ran at Fall IN!, of which there were two.


Friday I ran a game of BIG DANGED BOATS, my 15mm fantasy naval rules set.  This was my event write-up.

F-110 “Fun and Games on the Middle Sea”

It’s a 15mm Fantasy naval extravaganza. Pilot a dubiously seaworthy, slightly ridiculous ship in an all hands battle for domination of the Middle Sea! Rules are Big Danged Boats for 15mm fantasy naval combat. If you’ve had a hankering for a naval game where you can take to the seas riding on a giant steam powered cheese, fighting evil squid headed cultists riding the foot of a dead god (and who hasn’t?), this is the game for you!! Rules are dead simple and aimed at fun rather than statistics. Children welcome, but 12 and under requires a parent to play along with. ROLE PLAYING IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL. If you can’t summon an evil nautical Sea Dog persona for this game, please go play Flames of War! They’ll take care of you!

This game was, by my reckoning, maybe the third or fourth game received by the Events coordinator for Fall-IN! 2013.  It represented a significant effort on my part as it’s a bit labor intensive to put on.  Accordingly, I asked for  standard table size of 5 x 8, with a side table to help me set up with.  Somehow, when I showed up with my boxes of stuff  an hour early to set up, the table became a table that no less than three events were scheduled to use the same table simultaneously!  And no side table!  Since the tables had no numbering on them, it became a logistical chore of the first order to unscrew this problem.   Sadly I think I stepped on the guy next to me since my tables weren’t remotely ready, and HE had to move.  I apologize for this, whomever you were.  I attribute the problem to (perhaps) miscommunication on my part with the event coordinate, but apparently I was not the only person who had a table misadventure.  Organizational Note: Numbers on tables helps.  Printing the map of the table layouts so people can read it helps.  Proofing the Convention book helps.  Guidebook Note: break Distelfink map into two maps, North and South, so they are more readable.

The Game Itself

Big Danged Boat Ships (from Summer Camp)

BDB is a pretty easy game to play, but it has tons of components, ships, crews and whatnot to set up, all of which takes time to break out.   I’m going to an hour and a half setup time, because clearly, an hour isn’t nearly enough.  I am not happy with the rules as written so I haven’t really thrown the printed rules out there for a game, preferring to run it from my tablet computer.  I had some gentle criticism about not having a lot of paper charts for everyone to refer to.  I’ll fix that.

After being rattled during setup over the table fiasco, I didn’t get going until ten minutes after start time, and so it goes.

Factions were: The Gnomes of Battenberg  The Iron Dwarves, the Bone Brigade, the Imperial Navy of Stahlhelm (making its debut), the Cult of F’Vah, The Sea Elves, The Orcish Revolutionary Council or O.R.C. (also making a debut), the Rat-Men of Ingoldsby and The Pirates of Stinkwater.

Deployed, but not selected, were the Wood Elves of the Father Tree, The Seng, the Holy Brothers of Saint Brendan.

The Imperial Ram of Stahlheim chugs into battle, aiming for the Bone Brigade’s doughty Deadnought

Like most games we started with the ships entering the battle area from the surrounding ring of the table side. As a special incentive there were two maxi-kegs of Boom Powder on Skull Island to bring the action into the center. It was minimally effective.

The Rat Men steamed for the island, and got into a little contretemps with the Bone Brigade, firing on them and causing more holes in their wormy hull. The Bone Brigade in turn did their best to fight the Gnomes of Battenberg, killing more crew than they did damage.

Stahlheim’s Imperial Ram avoided direct confrontation and chugged up the starboard flank, turning sharply to bring on an engagement with Bone Brigade.

Crowded below decks on the Imperial Ram of Stahlheim

Some long range shots were fired but it didn’t deter the fight between the Bone Brigade and the Gnomes; boarding and counter boarding was attempted, decimating both crews. Neither the Gnomes nor the Skeletons of the Brigade enjoyed the experience, as the counter-boarding by the Gnomes broke off and they ran back to their ships, leaving two gnomes on the Bone Brigade Galley behind them. Presumably, to a fate worse than unDeath.

The Siege Machine Chugged onward to inevitable confrontation with the Ram of Stahlheim, and for the first time in the engagement deployed the fearsome Big Bopper ramming weapon to moderate effect.

Machen mit der Gross-Bopper!

Through a chain of circumstance mostly brought on by reckless over-gearing and stressing their steam engine, the Gnomes then had a critical overload in the engine dept, instantly annihilating their craft.  You just don’t get a better result than that, and even the kid who rolled 12 on the critical hit table (exploding his boat) recognized the Ragnarok-style entertainment of the moment– especially as he had an action card that stated “from Hell’s heart I stab at thee”.. which was perfect for this moment– it almost took out the ship next to it..

The Iron Dwarves with Mortar and Spotter rowboat steam out to engage the Sea Elves. Beyond the Sea Elves are the Dread Rot Pyrates on the Stinkwater.

The Iron Dwarves fought a somewhat isolated battle with the Sea Elves and the Dread Rot Pyrates at the far end of the battlefield. The Pyrates did what they could do which was mostly gun fire. The Sea Elves actually got involved in a boarding action (on the receiving end) after taking a lot of casualties.

Chaaaarge! into the Sea Elves!

That was quite late in the game, and good news for the Dwarves. The Elves tried to ram the dwarves and missed… sliding along the edge of the Red Menace and setting up boarding conditions perfectly.

Meanwhile, the O.R.C. player had deployed his Revolutionary Martyr rafts with their hand held spar torpedoes. The rafts sailed up to the Cult of F’Vah player and torpedoed the Foot, blowing themselves to mist in the process.

In Response, the Cultists summoned the Squid God.  In the background, the Primus fires on the Gnomes and the Black Galley sails by, peppering them with arrows.

The Cultists Summoned the Squid God (for free, using their card). It did lots of damage to the O.R.C. ship, but it was still afloat and pouring iron into the Foot. The Cultists can continue to summon the Squid God for 2 Magic Points per turn until they are depleted, but at that point they have to start sacrificing crew to bring their Magic Points back up again. The Cultist player was undeterred (perhaps some of the beers helped his belicose attitude) and consigned one of his crew to the altar of sacrifice with a casual “Ah, there’s plenty more where he came from…”.

About this time, we had to pull the plug for time reasons. I performed the new victory point calculations. Did anyone sink a ship? 5 points. 2 ships? 10 points. 3 ships? nobody sank 3 ships. How much damage have you taken? Who has the least? 3 point bonus. Did anyone perform a successful boarding? 5 points. How many Shining Moment Coins are left? Add them in to the total on a 1 for 1 point basis. Our victor was the reluctant Cultists of F’Vah (Player: Scott Landis), who was doing everything in his power (including donating coins!) to give the victory to one of the younger players, which just made him even more nice. 😀

Summary: I got a little rattled by the truncated setup due to the table fiasco, which was too bad because setup is important in BDB. I think we all recovered nicely. I had a great time playing it and I think the players had a great time too.

Game Two, Saturday 1400 to 1600 (approximately)

The Great Big Diabolical Dukeroo!
Distelfink (apparently on the table we were assigned)
Rules: The Magi (home rules)

In the long years since the disappearance of Graros the Unspeakable, your standard Vanished Evil Dark Lord that seems to be in every one of these stories, there have been many promising characters to step into his wormy shoes. The semi-annual Wizard’s Duel attracts many aspirants to leadership. Will you survive to become top wizardly dog? Oh, we’ll see.. We’ll see (evil laugh). Rules are “The Magi”, a miniatures variant of a very old postal game called Waving Hands, a game of casting spells with hand gestures. In this game, players will ALSO be using hand gestures to cast spells that do various things good or bad. Can you fire off that Lightning Bolt before your opponent casts an Impervious Shield? Was that a Shield spell, or does the Caster have Saint Vitus’ Dance? It’s all in the hands…
Simple rules, Children welcome (though 12 and under I’d wish to have a parent playing too).

THE MAGI debuted at Summer Camp, August 2013. It was a huge hit with children.

Essentially, this is a wizard’s duel game where movement and combat are standardized and the focus is on casting spells. Dice are not used. Instead, the wizard players use HAND GESTURES which are dealt to each of them on cards. The player builds the spell in front of himself, and casts it when it’s ready. At all times you have to to keep close track of what the other players are doing and when they do it, as well as keep something building and up your sleeve at all times. This game started as WAVING HANDS (a pencil and paper postal game) in England, and I adapted it (with kind permission from its creator, Richard Bartle) to a miniatures format. I love this game– it’s visual and easy to grasp, yet very challenging. There are three versions of the game I run, based on the audience. I ran the medium version, which requires spell cards to play face up so the opponent can see what the player is creating (or trying to) on the other side of the table.

Rules for everyone fit on index cards so it was astonishingly simple to teach.

Dueling Wizards: Weenus Bitterkins (right) casts a SUMMON SKELETON on Elric Firethrone (left) who responds with a SUMMON OGRE (a far worse monster). Oh Woe!

We had a nice turnout, about six players which is about right. Garrett (my son) played a wizard as part of that group. We ran OCK THE CAVE SHAMAN, WEENUS BITTERKINS, ELRIC FIRETHRONE, SELIM THE MUSSELMAN, SPLENDORA DEATHFIELD, and DOCTOR FATE in this game. I’m contemplating a campaign game of sorts, where frequently reused characters get a small bonus as their “Experience” at the start of the game– the same wizards get chosen so frequently. Essentially they all started on the edges, sidled into the centre, started fighting each other as fast as possible. The thing about this system is to get spell gesture cards put down as quickly as possible. EVEN IF THE OPTIMAL SPELL GESTURE CARDS AREN’T COMING ALONG. Something will work out, there are dozens of spells, and I’m going to add more. Players are slow to pick up on this and spend too much time trying to get the optimal combination. Shorter, tactical spells are often more effective than that Finger of Death you’ve wasted much of the game setting up for your ONE shot spell.

Oh well. It was a blast. Here’s a small slideshow, click on the picture below to see.


So that’s the games I ran. Overall it was a very enjoyable exercise, though BDB could have been a fiasco with the gaming table situation. Fortunately the guy whose spot *I* usurped was cool about it. See you all at COLD WARS 2014!

Some last minute unit additions for Big Danged Boats

Several new units came off the assembly line today, and one or two of them might be run in my FALL IN! game “Fun and Games on the Middle Sea” Friday night this week.  It’s a little unlikely, since they got done very late, but you never know.

Tiny People Collective

The TPC is a collection of some of the smaller races inhabiting some of the islands in the Western waters of the Middle Sea.  There are roughly ten micro-nations in the TPC, but usually only  Leprechauns, Fauns, and Pixies are usually found on the high seas.

Faith and Beggorah!

Leprechauns from the Tiny People Collective

Faun company from the Tiny People Collective

More Fauns

I might have some boats for these blokes. I’m thinking they are on a sailboat of some sort.

Motivations:  The Tiny People Collective is a very loose coalition of tinier races in the Middle Sea who are banding together for protection.   They are not intrinsically technological but do not disdain cannon and other advanced weaponry, they just can’t afford it.  TPC ships ply the seas for security and trade, and will not initiate a fight but won’t run from one, either.  TPC crews often have a magical component to make up for the lack of cannon.

The Empire of Stahlheim

Stahlheim is the the most technically advanced human nation on the Middle Sea, not relying on the Dwarves for steam engines, cannon foundries or other technological advances, they have their own industrial centers within the empire, and are quite capable of creating ironclad armored steam vessels and cast boompowder weapons.  The Iron Dwarves are not very happy about the rapid rise of such a formidable military and economic rival, but try to keep relations amiable.

Motivations: The Stahlheim leadership can be characterized as slightly paranoid.  They consider the monopoly on boom powder held by the Sung to be a strategic weakness and are constantly searching for the secret of boompowder’s formulation.

Stahlheim ship infantry– pole arms, great swords and matchlocks.


These are a tribe of Joms Viking Gully Dwarves.  They are in many respects like the Ragnar Brothers, both in their style of ship (rowed and sail).  They are reasonably fearsome in melee but don’t possess any boompowder weapons, nor desire any.

Let us at ’em!!

The Iron Dwarves consider this faction to be their awkward country cousins, and a trifle embarrassing.

Motivations: The Micro-Vikings are a happy lot, heavy drinkers and savage fighters that make their living as freebooters and adventurers.   They will board a ship for loot and pillage, much like their spiritual kinsmen, the Ragnar Brothers, whom they identify with.

More Wood Elves (Green) and High Elves (Sea Blue/Off White)

I’m still plugging away on the Magic System, and I’m frankly not sure I’ll have it ready for Friday, but at least the wizards are ready:

Poof! Abracadabra!

Not sure what I’ll get done, but I have plenty of boats done already, so I’m not going to panic about anything.

HUGE Guidebook App Update for Fall-IN! 2013, catching up with PEL.

Fall IN! 2013 director Dan Murawski got me a giant event database update last weekend, and I’ve managed to get it all typed in.  Events jumped from 94 to over 250, and the PEL is now published.  So, for the time being, WHAT YOU SEE IN GUIDEBOOK WILL MATCH THE PEL.  I will be adding more updates the closer we get to the convention and can actually edit Guidebook right up to AND DURING the convention (as I have done at previous cons).  If you have Guidebook, don’t worry about it, you do nothing.  Essentially Guidebook sees that an update has taken place the next time you open up the Fall IN! 2013 Guidebook and automatically changes the database.    It will alert you what it is doing:

Guidebook will look at the update file and say, "Hey, the DB has changed.  We're updating that now, just FYI".

Guidebook will look at the update file and say, “Hey, the DB has changed. We’re updating that now, just FYI”.

So, IF YOU HAVE GUIDEBOOK, go and open it up. RIGHT NOW. If you have a live Wireless connection, it will update itself now.

And now, my standard offer.


One of the elements that ISN’T fun about updating Guidebook is there is no way to update banners automatically. So every time the schedule changes drastically, I have to nuke the old and add the new, then one by one by one, add the banner graphics back in. MOST games have the generic “Game” banner, like so:

The standard "GAME" banner.  It's white, it's standard, it's generic.

The standard “GAME” banner. It’s white, it’s standard, it’s generic.

I add a banner to every event. Most of the time, it’s the “GAME” banner you see above. It’s 640w x 240h pixels big, and it can say just about anything you like. Here’s a sample of the GAME banner.

640w x 240h in pixels.  Got that?

640w x 240h in pixels. Got that?

Just because we use a default banner, doesn’t mean YOU have to. Here’s what I did for MY own game, BIG DANGED BOATS:

Fun and Games on the Middle Sea, with Custom Big Danged Boats Banner.

Fun and Games on the Middle Sea, with Custom Big Danged Boats Banner.

Why make my own banner, you ask? Well, why not? It makes your event stand out and be recognized, if you’re selling something, it will draw attention to you. If you are trying to run demo games for a company you could add some details to the banner about how to reach the company, etc. etc. etc. You’re all bright lads and ladies, figure out why on your own. ALL YOU NEED TO DO is design your own banner with the specifications already stated, and send it to me at my email, misternizz at Gmail dot com. I like custom banners.. they are cool, like fezzes.

Keep checking your Guidebook for updates, I’ll be entering them as I get them.

And I’ll see you all at FALL IN!

Guidebook for Fall-IN! 2013 ready early

That’s right! You heard that correctly. The Guidebook App for the 2013 FALL IN convention held by HMGS Inc. on the weekend of 15-17 November 2013 is published and ready to be downloaded. Why so early? Fall-IN! Convention Director Dan Murawski approached me at Historicon 2013 with a desire to publish a guidebook app much earlier than usual so that the word can get out to the people who would like to see something like a guidebook app, but didn’t hear about it in time. There’s no reason why not; many elements of the convention aren’t even close to being finalized yet, such as Event Room layouts, Exhibitor Hall layout, Tournaments and the Hobby University schedule. However, we do have 90+ games recorded now and that number is growing. So, what the heck, we published it early. Don’t be alarmed or annoyed or complain loudly when you don’t see some features you are used to– I’ll have tournaments and Hobby U and the Vendors and the Maps added in when they are finished, and that will be a lot closer to the convention. Right now I’m trying to schedule major updates to the guidebook to coincide with PEL releases and program book deadlines. When I do any kind of update, will publish it directly to the master schedule file they have on their servers. The next time you open Guidebook, you’ll get a prompt saying “Hey, Guidebook for FALL IN 2013 has been updated. Download Update?” That’s how you’ll get the maps and other stuff added in when they are finished. BE SURE TO UPDATE THE WEEK OF THE CONVENTION.

I’ve posted about what Guidebook is several times on this blog, so rather than type it all out, again, read my post about the HISTORICON 2013 Guidebook app to get an idea of what it is and how to use it. Just don’t click on any of the links to in that post, the Historicon app is obsolete and not available to the public now.

How to get the FALL IN! guidebook:

Fall IN! 2013 has gone mobile using Guidebook

We strongly encourage you to download our mobile guide to enhance your experience at Fall IN! 2013. You’ll be able to plan your day with a personalized schedule and browse exhibitors, maps and general show info.

The app is compatible with iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches and Android devices. Windows Phone 7 and Blackberry users can access the same information via our mobile site at

To get the guide, choose one of the methods below:
  • Download ‘Guidebook’ from the Apple App Store or the Android Marketplace
  • Visit from your phone’s browser
  • Scan the following image with your mobile phone (QR-Code reader required, e.g. ‘Red Laser’, ‘Barcode Scanner’).  This will direct you to the GUIDEBOOK APP itself, not the FALL IN GUIDE I CREATED.

The guide will be listed under the “Download Guides” section of the application.  Or skip down a few sections and QR code scan it, if you’re a technophile.

See you at the event!

– Fall IN! 2013 Team

Guidebook created an automatic Fall-IN! 2013 Landing Page here:

If you’re on Twitter help spread the word:
  “Fall IN! 2013 has gone mobile! Schedule, maps, twitter, alerts and more on your iPhone/Android, free!

IF YOU ALREADY HAVE GUIDEBOOK on a mobile device, and the device has a scanner, Guidebook will scan the new FALL IN 2013 Guide into the app by pointing the scanner at the QR Code for the SPECIFIC FALL-IN 2013 GUIDEBOOK, below this line:
QR CODE SPECIFICALLY FOR FALL-IN! 2013 Guidebook, not the app itself.

QR CODE SPECIFICALLY FOR FALL-IN! 2013 Guidebook, not the app itself.  You need Guidebook installed to take advantage of this QR code.

Fall-In! 2012 AAR and apologies

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)

FALL IN! 2012


CLICK THE AETHER SHIP TO SEE SLIDESHOW if the link above isn’t displaying correctly

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.

Events desk

“Yeah, sure, like, we don’t have much going on here, why not add another job to what we do already…”

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.

Fantacide on the Shelf at last

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.

The Creeps attack!

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):

1 of 32 of 33 of 3

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:

Olympica 1Olympica 2Olympica 3

Olympica 4Olympica 5Olympica 6

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.


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.

The two fleets at start of the engagement.

Ships moving

Ships moving at start

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

Vanguard in trouble

The Admiralty is NOT amused by your shenanigans, Captain.

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.

Dodging the navigational screwup

From the untrammeled view of division C, this was easy to avoid.

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.

a line of sorts

Eventually we straggled into something resembling a line a’breast. We were badly spaced out but finally in a position to support each other with gunfire.

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.


Farewell, HMS Neptune!

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.

German fleet.. LEAVING

Gott im Himmel, let’s vamoose!

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.

German High Admiral

The German High Admiral gets his chust rewards, ja!

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!

Victrix 54mm Light Infantry. Nice job, Chort!

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.

WHAT WOULD PATTON DO? Drink beer and pontificate!

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.


WWPD Hijinks.. setting up

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:

Bob Charrette

Sigh.. I hate missing out on a great Steampunk game.. and Bob Charrette puts on a great Steampunk game.

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!

Eric Turner

Shucks, that’s purdy.. and historically, thematically accurate! It deserves an award!

Hey, whaddya know. It DID get an award.. The award for best HISTORICAL THEME GAME of FALL IN!
Way to go, Eric!

He does seem quite taken with it, doesn’t he?

yo ho ho

Pssssst… word is that he sleeps with it…

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.


It’s funny, because he’s actually holding a bag.

Nearby, Bob and Cleo Leibel had received the Soup Plate of Honor for their gigantic Colonial themed game!


Proving once again that “it’s not the silly hat, it’s the game BEHIND the silly hat that matters”

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!

Walt and the very cold and wet FALL-IN! 2011


Yay! I woke up, lept out of my feetie pajamas and bound about the house to get ready for FALL IN!, the Autumn historical miniatures convention run by HMGS (the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society). I actually had a plan, positioning stuff for quick launch the night before. For some reason, nothing works on time when you are going to a convention. It’s like I automatically find some way to FALL IN to a temporal distortion field. In this instance, it was news that snow was expected in the Lancaster PA area, where we were holding the con. So that means.. switching cars to a 4WD, driving to Drey’s school, tapping on the window to get the key, driving all the way back, gassing up the car, packing all my stuff OUT of the van INTO the 4WD.. and..

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! We’re off at last!


Planned departure: 0900 / Actual departure, closer to 1100

Driving up was non-eventful. I went up 15 to 30 to York/Lancaster, like I always do. No stops, and it took about 2.5 hours. This put me at the convention at a point where there wasn’t any staff working at all. That’s right, the staff room was closed mid-day. Why? Because they couldn’t find anyone to work staff! Being hungry, I went to Panera. Even thought it has NOTHING to do with a convention, I had a moment of Zen on the way back. Hot air balloons. Two of them, quietly gliding over the cobalt grey country sky.

Balloon 1
(I couldn’t zoom in to them, they were far too high)

When I got back from Panera there were people in the staff room after a while. It wasn’t my intention to work staff for this convention, but Jon Paul gave me those puppy dawg eyes and I had to say yes. So don’t let anyone tell you that we work just for the free hotel room, cuz mine was already paid for by me. I signed up for a shift on Saturday, pretty much killing my schedule that I had posted on before, but that was okay by me.

Our Crack Staff
Our crack reg office staff. This was almost all of them since so few volunteered to help this time.

As it was, I had already missed out on two or three “must-see” games anyway. HOWEVER! I did manage to sleeze my way into a fantastic game of CANVAS EAGLES Friday evening.

Unfortunately, SLIDE.COM is going out of business. So my old standby for making viewable slideshows has vanished. However, if you this link below you will see a slideshow of:

Click me!

Click me! for slideshow


You may want to “Reverse Order” this (bottom left) to view in sequence

This was a great event for me. Canvas Eagles is essentially an open source replacement for the older GDW boardgame BLUE MAX. I had never played CE before but had played plenty of games of the older Blue Max game, and the mechanics are very similar– your plane is capable of a range of maneuvers that execute on a hex map, and both sides plot and execute them simultaneously. It’s kind of like the old ACE OF ACES system but in 3D. I had a great time. Since the convention was somewhat under-attended to begin with, the GM was looking for players. He had planned for four zeppelins and only one was on the board, with only one French fighter attacking it. The fighter had done some damage, so I came in on the next turn with a Pfalz fighter. I maneuvered around the zepp to get a tailing condition on the Frenchie, then he pulled a wrong move by accident turning AWAY from the Zeppelin, and then when I sped up to catch him, BANG! ZIP!! I overshot him and got shot to pieces. I went into a spin, everything looked dire. I then recovered and tried to line up on Monsieur Froggie again but by that time German victory conditions had been met– the German zepp was off the board. This was played with impressive huge zeppelin models and 1:72 scale aircraft models. Not exactly to scale but that really doesn’t matter– the concept was conveyed in a visual and exciting fashion. I had to thank the GM for the effort he put into the game– the logistical tale for putting one of those games on must be impressive (See the pictures above to get an idea of what I’m talking about).

I would have stayed for a bit and played again after we achieved victory, but had a pounding sinus headache and I really just wanted to take a few advil. Of course, going anywhere in a convention and not meeting people is pretty much impossible (at least for HMGS cons) so I did spend an hour or two at the bar on the way out. Great evening of gaming..


Saturday dawned with rainy slush pelting down. I quickly popped over to Target and picked up some boots (not to be profligate, I needed new ones) a snow shovel and a window brush., then got to the Host in time for the snow to start falling in earnest.


And falling…


and falling…


And fallllling.

That's some heavy snow

I’ll miss, they made convention reports easy.

I did a pass-through of the Flea before taking post on station in registration, thanks to Jon Paul’s encouragement. This was a great idea, as I found a guy selling his old 1:1200 Richard Houston/Lyzard’s Grin era per-dreadnought Austrian and Italian ships for The Battle of Lissa. This was a hell of a find, I got most of the Austrian fleet for half price. Thanks, flea market!

The world won’t end quite yet, it still hasn’t sold.

I worked my shift with no big worries. By Saturday mid day there just weren’t many people coming to this convention. The combination of the date (Halloween) and the snow drove away a lot of visitors that were sitting on a fence about making a day trip. We had a few die-hards.


I revisited the Vendor Hall in earnest after my shift to get a little shopping in. I ended up buying enough 1:1200 ships to fill out the Battle of Lissa Austrian fleet from Outland Games of Ohio (the nearest online vendor carrying this line that I could find is Great Endeavors). I also bought a few more Italians and will probably finish out the line once I’m done with all those Austrians. I also bought some bases for the ships, the new Warhammer historical GLADIATOR book, a couple of magazines and some fascinating 1:600 scaled ACW Artillery men (single stands) from a Polish company. My plan is to paint these up as ships’ crew on open cockpit Uncharted Seas hulls.

Unfortunately some vendors I was looking for did not show up– I was looking for Splintered Light and Brookhurst Hobbies. The Vendors were thin on the ground and the hall was relatively unpopulated for HMGS show. I attribute it to the bad weekend and the weather. Likewise the vendors that did show were not full up– the War Store is a must-see for me and they had very little Uncharted Seas and Dystopian Wars items. Sigh. In any event I was happy with what I purchased (in particular, the new gladiator rules from WH, they look very thorough and interesting.. and I have tons of 54mm glads painted up already).

Dealer Hall

I did see some interesting pieces from Tony Reidy’s old company, Wargames Factory: some pre-painted, pre-assembled figures called “Leviathans” or perhaps “Monsters in the Sky”. They were introduced at GENCON and were there for demo purposes only– apparently they are part of a larger boardgame that is imminent. These look very intriguing, like Aeronef on Steroids.

Leviathan 2

Leviathan 1

Leviathan 3

Leviathan 4

If anyone out there knows anything about this range, I’m interested. Please comment on this blog post.

FALL-IN! is not a convention for making big new product line announcements, and to be honest, I didn’t notice many new things, other than the Pumpkin demon and the Corn God from Acheson creations (below). There was a lot of onesies and twosies and cool lines that I like that got updated but I didn’t really go crazy over anything. Of note was a major presence from Architectural Creations, Barb’s Bunker of old, who are really pushing for a convention presence. Their trench lines were things of beauty, but I couldn’t afford them.

The Corn God

Pumpkin God

Things I was contemplating, but decided against buying this time around: Another War Rocket fleet and some British Landing parties for my cutting out party game that I have in mind to do. The latter choice was one of those last minute decisions– I’m going to have to make a major investment in some scenery to make a port and possibly even a 28mm scale ship, so this isn’t a game I can get off without paying the piper for. I guess I’m being naturally cautious in times of economic turmoil. I normally buy an Ironclad or two from Toby but I’m a little backed up on them at the moment and need to paint my way out of the queue.

To summarize my shopping experience.. not as much as at the other two cons, but I am very happy with what I did get. I’m liking the Gladiator rules quite a bit and of course I’m somewhat goofily pleased that I managed to get most of the Battle of Lissa so cheaply.

Games around the convention:

Sunday Game

WW2 aerial

Early WW2

Wild West

Great Retreat from Moscow setup
(I loved this one.. the figures in the center were exquisitely painted, and they stayed stationery throughout the game, while the terrain pieces moved down the board to signify that the figures in the center were moving.. in this case, retreating from Moscow in 1812)

Retreat from Moscow

Retreat from Moscow

WW2 naval

Cog Wars 2


Trafalgar 2

Moe's zombies
Uncle Moe’s Santa and Zombies game…

HOTT in the cold
Dave Kujit’s “HOTT in the Cold” game.

HOTT in the Cold 2

FOW in the Desert
Flames of War in the Desert


Breaking the line at the Coronels

Interesting MedievalA very colorful medieval era game

Saturday NIGHT, I weaseled my way into Rick Stakes’ large scale Pirates versus Spanish Convoy game (S-256). You may recall I played in one of these at HISTORICON, I had such a good time I came back again. I like Rick’s work on his ships (with one or two exceptions they are all handmade), I like his rules and I like the way he runs events with lots of people in them. Each player ran an individual ship. As a latecomer I didn’t have first choice and got “The Hawk” pirate ship. There’s forty plus pictures in this slide show (link below) and I do not have the time to caption every one, so have a look now…

Rick Stakes

Click on Rick Stakes Handsome Visage

S-256: Pirate Raid on Spanish Convoy game GM: Rick Stakes

Rules were written by Mr. Stakes, and they were reasonably clear and made sense, reminding me strongly of the old WS&IM board game. Game In a nutshell: The pirate fleet was allowed to set up anywhere on the board. Three of the pirates, including my HAWK ship in red, set up BEHIND the Spanish convoy as they came on the board. We sailed in on them at the end of the first turn and my Hawk got too close. We were roughly handled on the starboard side, but that is the price one pays for the weather gauge sometimes. A pirate ship doesn’t have the strength to sail in and go yardarm to yardarm.. I learned the hard way that the optimal strategy was to shoot at the rigging, not the hull, and to say off a distance. The Spanish fleet sailed up the starboard side of the battle, clustering together and ramming each other at one point. This proved difficult for the ships on the port side of the cluster, which bore the brunt of pirate damage. There was actually a Spanish ship that didn’t even fire the entire game on the starboard side! The Spaniards handled their ships well and supported each other in crucial moments. The pirates did not do as well, and were pretty much all over the place. The pattern of the battle for me was: Sail in close, fire off popguns. Kill a few spaniards and bring down some rigging. Get shot up pretty bad. Sail out, turn around, and sail back to repeat. I’m happy to say I didn’t sink but one of my piratical brethren did. We also captured a Spanish Felucca– which made us think that we held victory, but Mr. Stakes graciously awarded a narrow Spanish victory, due to the fact that there wasn’t a lot of pirate tonnage in the water to oppose Spanish progress. We all thanked Mr. Stakes and asked him to run it again at Cold Wars.

Brian Whitaker

Later on, I did the typical for a Saturday, visiting the standard hangouts, the lobby bar, and hung out for a while. Thence to look for some guys from the TNGG group to play boardgames with, but alas they were already gone.


I didn’t even hit the flea market Sunday which was disappointing.. time does fly. I visited the Dealer’s room one more time, and packed my bags to say farewell..

And off across the might Susquehanna and home!

On the way home

General observations: attendance… was what it was. I’m reminded of the great snow of 2007. You can’t fight weather and rumors of weather. You just shrug and soldier on as best you can. Needless to say, I was able to park in FRONT of the hotel almost every day for the entire convention, and I think you get my drift about what attendance was like. I think this is the last year we are scheduling FALL-IN! for Halloween, so maybe it will pick up next year. Extras: I did the Guidebook App again this year and it ended up looking good despite very late support from Events. If I left out something near and dear to you, I apologize. It’s only an effort as good as the data that drives it, and I received what I received 10 PM Sunday night and had it done by 240 in the morning the next day. The data needed to be vetted better than it did. Considering all that, it STILL was a useful product, and I ended up using it constantly. In fact, I have yet to open up a FALL-IN! 2011 program book. Facilities: The Host is a shabby as ever, but the staff supported us well and rose to the occasion as they usually do. No complaints. Weather: turned out to be a non-event for the most part. When I park my car at a HMGS convention in the morning, I really DON’T WANT TO LEAVE for the entire day. Everything I want to do I can accomplish on premises. So having a surprise blizzard didn’t faze anyone. To quote Bob Leibl in the bar: “Oh dear. I’m trapped, trapped I say, in a place with adequate food and drink, all my friends and toys to play with all weekend. What shall I do, woe is me..” (picture the heavy sarcasm). So, in summary, I had a great time, with a few fits and starts here and there that tried to be flies in the ointment but couldn’t manage it. Congratulations to Andy and his tiny crew of volunteers for pulling off another great convention, and I hope he enjoys an honorable retirement.

Going to FALL-IN! 2011 (audio file)

FALL IN! 2011 Art

A little blurb on FALL IN! 2011, what I’m going to try to get into, what I may be shopping for.  See you there!

FALL-IN! 2011 Goes MOBILE!!!

picture of Guidebook on various platforms

Guidebook App on various platforms.

Announcing the Guidebook Smartphone App for FALL-IN! 2011!

HMGS is continuing our experiment in delivering critical convention information to individual users using smartphone technology this FALL IN. Working in partnership with Guidebookapp,com, We have created a limited beta of FALL-IN! electronic guides that download to your Iphone, Ipad, Ipod, or any Android phone.

FALL-IN! 2011 Guidebook Features:

— The entire convention schedule, that’s events, lectures, everything, available via a single guidebook app.

— Maps to the convention spaces.

— Vendor/Exhibitor information.

— A scheduler that will allow you to plan your entire time at the convention.. and it will alert you when an event is coming up by sounding an alarm.

— The ability to “Tweet” your current event to Twitter as you are playing it.

This is our first year using this service– we introduced Guidebook at HISTORICON 2011 and achieved 380 downloads from out of our five hundred downloads per convention limit, so we will still use the limited free service until demand exceeds supply. We may expand our downloads for future conventions if we discover that there is a big demand for Guidebook– but first we need to know if you will use it, or if it is indeed worth the effort for you.

BOTTOM LINE: there’s five hundred downloads. First come, first served. But if you download guidebook, HMGS would GREATLY appreciate feedback on how you use it, and what you would like to see added to it.

I (Walt O’Hara) punched in FALL-IN! 2011 and am collecting feedback from users at I am interested in what more I could add to the guidebook, as well as if we use up every one of the 500 guidebook downloads. This will give me more data on how to approach COLD WARS 2011. Thanks for your assistance in advance.

Walt O’Hara


The main page for the Guidebook app is here: or on it can be viewable on guidebookapp’s mobile site:

1. Get the app

For Android Phones:

The Guidebook app is available in the Android Marketplace for free.


For Apple Iphones, or Ipods, or Ipads:

The Guidebook app is available in the App Marketplace for free:


2. Install as you would a normal IoS or Android application.

3. Launch the application.

4. After the app is installed, a main menu item will be “Download the Guides”

You will see FALL-IN! 2011 prominently in the front page of downloadable guides. If you are in a spot with wireless or use a 3G/4G data network, it should drop down to your device promptly.

5. Once it’s on your device: You can select Schedule, Maps, Artist’s Row, Twitter, My Schedule, To Do List, Exhibitors, and General Info. That’s about it! Use and enjoy! You can get a rundown on the features here: link

For Blackberry Users:

For Windows Phone 7 Users: