Category Archives: HMGS

S-177 On the Seas of Tekumel, AAR


This is a general After Action Report (AAR) of a game from the recent HISTORICON 2015 show last weekend called On the Seas of Tekumel.

On the Seas of Tekumel. GM: Steve Braun. Fantasy. 28mm. Rules: Homebrew/Savage Tales. Tekumel is home to many non-human races and the high seas are a great place for them to meet up a settle their differences! See what happens when the insect-like Hluss bring their ancient Lightning Bringers to fight ships made of wood and iron. Join in the fun as the frog-like Hlutgru storm aboard your vessel.

Background: The Tekumel universe was created by Professor MAR Barker, back in the 1970s and possibly as early as the 1940s  (I’m not a Barker scholar, though I know a few).  VERY broadly speaking, Tekumel is a planet that has been colonized by many alien races — the humans who become the “Tsolyani” and the other alien races who have also shown up: Hlǘss, Ssú, Hokún, Mihálli, Nyaggá, Urunén, Vléshga.  Many of these are distinctly non-human in flavor, sporting six legs or radically different physiology, and certainly different philosophies.  At some point in the distant past of high science, a “Bad Thing” happened and Tekumel, its moons and other surrounding planets were transported to a pocket dimension.  As a result, there is no more contact with any of the alien’s home planets, and no more advanced technology, although many artifacts are here and there on the landscape.  Professor Barker took this setting and with the help of Gary Gygax back in the 1970s, created one of the world’s first roleplaying games, THE EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE, back in the 70s.  I owned a copy, which was much thumbed through but rarely played.  D&D was always easier to grasp (although far less elegant) and my gaming buds liked their RPGs like they like their coffee, dark, bitter and easy to grasp.  Empire of the Petal throne has enjoyed a long lasting niche popularity over the years and has gone on to be republished and expanded upon by the fanbase.   There have been five novels, by Barker (I believe), I only have read two of them and found them very interesting, if a little dry.

The Seas of Tekumel is a a brainchild of Steve Braun, whom I believe is a teacher in Maryland, and without a doubt a fan of Barker’s work. He adapted material present in the Petal Throne series (there’s a lot more to it now, contributed by subsequent generations) to a simple, fast playing game mechanic about naval warfare on the ship to ship level. To paraphrase one of his comments– if you are a diehard naval gamer that stresses over armor thickness and gun calibers, this is likely not the system for you. Units of movement are single small ships for the various racial types on Tekumel, all of them roughly 15mm in scale and of galley or large war canoe vintage. The simple sailing rules of movement preclude full speed straight on movement into the wind (which makes sense). Players play a single ship and its crew, which all have a secret goal to attend to.

The playing area was a standard 5 x 8 smaller playing surface– aquatic with small volcanic islands represented on them.. most with alien vegetation and some with structures. Dotted here and there were “opportunities” to loot sites for artifacts from the past.

I was assigned the H’luss, the native species of Tekumel, which are a sort of large six limbed insectoid race. They are depicted as being xenophobic in the extreme and rather hateful of the alien usurpers (which is how they view all the other races). Of all the races on the board, I was the one with a submersible, which looked like this:


The H’Luss Submersible, which I captained.

I had had this faction the last time I played and it was a lot of fun to play them. Unliek everyone else on the board I didn’t move normally== I plotted movement on a piece of paper and showed it to the GM to give him an idea of where my submersible was. Last year, I played it to the hilt and it made for some hilarious moments:


Picture from Historicon 2016 game

We had a much denser playing field than last year, it would seem.  I misread my goal entirely and as it had something in their about this being OUR water (being natives) I thought I had to look for a well!  Nope, he meant “Go steal alien tech and kill them all”.. so I wasted some time on non-existant subtlety, I admit it.

I made up for it by trying to reprise the old “surface and swamp the ship” trick which worked last year.  A large Tsolyani Frigate was parked on the same island as the Hlutgu, who were my victims last year.  I tried to surface under the (now empty) ship and drag it away, leaving the Tsolyani stranded.  It partially worked!

The Xenophic H’luss take the human frigate for a Missouri boat ride

Unfortunately a Tsolyani frigate is substantially heavier than the Hlut Go canoe and I ended up submerging quickly or it would destroy the boat. Mission accomplished, though, they humans were dispatched without a shot fired.

Out on the rest of the seas of Tekumel, the ships were fighting a hard scrum.  I surrendered any idea of taking the Humans frigate for myself, and indicated to the (giant lizardmen, forgot their name) that they could have it, even if they get more points from it. The smaller group of pirates with canoes were all swamped or died fighting. The various other ships got into a traffic jam in the center. The (big lizards) and (giant artificially made people) then got into it right above me, so I swam under them and came up behind them. I had to get some tech.  See that red McGuffin on the back of his boat?  That was part of a multi-piece “something” that it turned out I had to go look for.  Might as well start at the beginning.

I surfaced next to their stern and brought MY ancient artifact on deck to fire at them.  The results were.. unusual.   The weapon of the ancients fired, then blew up, making the back of the enemy craft (and his replacement captain) into plasma.  Oddly it didn’t do much to my boat, beyond killing one of the lower ranked H’luss crew.

And that was about that for the game.  It felt short but it was about 4 hours.  I didn’t get the chunk of artifact, but I did prevent my enemies from claiming it.  I had wasted a little too much time trying to achieve a wrong goal early on to acquire it it.  Victory was determined mathematically, based on things accomplished.  I narrowly beat out the guy who took the empty human frigate as prize, because the GM was being nice about me attaining my goals.  So the stunning victory of the H’lussi on the high seas underscores our basic philosophy: GET THE HELL OFF OF OUR PLANET, ALIEN SWINE

If memory serves, I think the HAWKS (Hartford Weekly Kriegspielers) had an entire “Tekumel track” at last Historicon, and this was just one of those games.  I may be hallucinating.  I know I played in this game, and had a great time with it– the rules were simple, the setting was exotic and the game told a story.  Well deserved bravo zulus to Steve Braun for putting on this game, I really enjoyed it.

Here is a slideshow of every picture I took for the Tekumel game

 

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Make me a hobby sweat lodge: HISTORICON 2017


And so HISTORICON, the big Summer show of the Historical Miniature Wargame Society (HMGS) was upon us on July 12. After working a half day, I drove down to Fredericksburg in my ancient Dodge Dakota pickup (painted primer black, you can imagine how fun this was in temps nearing 100 F).  My options were few, the van being in the shop.

Yes, the inevitable happened while driving a primer black vehicle in 103 degrees.

After suitable recovery time in air conditioning, I ventured over to the Convention center to do something approaching being helpful:

As can happen on the first night, we had our share of crowds– the pre-registration line, of all things, was moving glacially. Eventually everyone got sorted with a minimum of grumbling and people set to doing what the do here, setting up their games or playing pickup games here and there.  Here I am, walking around the Exhibit Hall A the night before the convention started.

There not being much in the way of dinner options at that time of night, I went to COOKOUT, a local chain I’ve discovered, and had the solitary dining through the car window experience.

Cookout.  Highly recommended– try the mocha milkshake.

I came back and commiserated with a few disgruntled people (not Southerners) who didn’t want (and didn’t vote for) Historicon to move to the Lancaster Host, a venue most of us think is on its last legs, promised renovations or not.  To expand on a theme introduced by Michael M. (who is a respectable fellow and wouldn’t want his last name revealed), Historicon leaving Fredericksburg to go back to the Lancaster Host is roughly like dumping your successful second marriage to move back in with your crazy ex-wife– you know, the one that half your friends loathe and half just tolerate.  AND you move back into that fourth floor walk-up she’s been living in since getting out of school, only now the plumbing and electricity are shot and the elevator hasn’t worked for years.  You find yourselves reminiscing about the old romantic days together, but you’re both nervous.  That twinge you feel? That’s a reminder of that time she stabbed you when she went off her anti-psychotics.  It’s only a matter of time…

Here I am, digressing again.

Thursday the convention really began in earnest.  I worked the events desk as a volunteer until 1 PM. Business was a-boomin.  The problem with Historicon in Fredericksburg is there are never enough events for the Fredericksburg space.  We ended up pretty much running out of most of them (as in giving tickets out to them) by 2 PM and had Friday’s games out by 4PM. It’s heartening that the big draw for these things still seems to be getting into a decent game. The Fredericksburg Conference Center, for all its flaws (and it has some, to be sure) is at least big enough to hold every game submitted and then some.  While we’re discussing convention interface, the Guidebook app was very handy this time around.  I expanded the social media options and added lists for staff and seminars.  It really worked like a charm.  Dan Murowski told me the board has approved expanding Guidebook with pay options, so watch out for Fall IN!

The Awards Desk gets better every year.

I did a high speed pass by of the Dealer’s area before running out for more COOKOUT libations. I bought some Pico Armor (I’m remaking the swordfish planes from Taranto) and new Frostgrave stuff.  The “big new thing” was a couple of big new things.  There was a Samurai warfare boxed starter set.. I can’t recall what it’s called but you get two starter armies in the box.  Nice!  The other big thing seems to be gangster games– the pump being primed by the release of MAD DOGS WITH GUNS and THE CHICAGO WAY.  In terms of games being played, I’d have to say that TEAM YANKEE is really catching on with the same folks who like FLAMES OF WAR so much.  I wanted to get in two games a day at H’con, but really ended up doing 1 a day.  My intentions are always good but I was kind of exhausted.  I ended up getting in to Jeff Hiley’s T-574 Frostgrave: Treasures of the Forbidden City game Thursday night and had the time of my life.  Great terrain, and a great crowd.  I’ve broken out an AAR into its own post following this one.


Visit this link for an AAR of Frostgrave

Flickr Slideshow of all the Frostgrave pics

I hung out late and kibitzed and chatted with the TNGG crowd in the lobby, then collapsed, woke up to a free breakfast, and went back to it.  The vast bulk of games seemed to be running Friday from what I could see.  Lines were long and competition fierce to get tickets.

(yeah, I know, these are Thursday tickets, but still…)

There were a lot of good games Friday.  I did jump right in to Ed Watts’ game called F-486 Conan, What is Best in Life? This game was run using the Matakishi Tea House CROM rules I reviewed on here a while ago. I really like the rule set which I wanted to get in to at least one game of before running it myself.  The game had been going on since noon and I showed up late, so I ended up basically running all the roles in Central Casting– the guard commander, the jail house sergeant, the attack dogs, the “other” guard commander.  This was my first experience with a larger group of players and a couple of things grew immediately clear about CROM.  It’s fun, it’s easy to pick up, but requires to player to make intelligent decisions about how to commit dice from dice pools.  That’s what the game is about, at the core.  If you’re a heroic character (like Conan, Bran Mak Moran, Red Sonja, etc) you will have a huge advantage.  If you are a spear carrier, your game experience is destined to be being part of a  human wave that gets chopped up by the heroes.  Recommendation: don’t play spear carriers.  It’s a great game for all of that.

The moment in the CROM game when my “Captain of the Crimson Cloaks” encounters Conan, Belit, and some red haired giant guy. All heroes. They made chutney out of my poor command. Click to see a slideshow of more pictures.

I was quite tired,  having very little sleep the previous two nights and having to be at the events desk early, so after getting three squads of units slaughtered trying to stop three heroic characters (and consuming some rather grody snack bar coffee), I made apologies and went back to the hotel to sit down for a second, then THIS happened.  I was just going to sit down for a few seconds and wait it out.. yess.. just a second or two...

You see, I was going to run back and join in F-402 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum  but had just barely missed being caught in the deluge.  So I sat on the couch in my room, waiting out the gale, my eyes closed, and  traveled in time to 8:30 PM.  So guess what?  No game for me that evening.  Too bad.. I like Jeff and Nick Wasileski’s games quite a bit– they have an absurd level of detail and fanatical regard for historical accuracy.  They say.  I drank some beers with friends and yacked for a bit, and took some pictures:

DAK and Dragons.  You have to look this one up.. 

Dystopian Wars

A strangely familiar looking Chariot Game

Free Chick-Fil-A?  My day is made.  Good things are going to happen NOW.

The Wargame Lending Library made it’s debut and it was surprisingly popular

Bugs, Mr. Rico!

The Martians are coming!

Great End of WW2 setup, center of Exhibit hall A

Epic Pirate Game


7TV setting up

More 7TV

I took a LOT more, but that will make this post three times longer than it needs to be, so see the slideshow here.    My general observations are that the events I saw demonstrated a superb skill in creating terrain and replicating set pieces from source materials, be they history books, comic books or movies.  The ruins of Berlin terrain (you can see some of it above) was almost as good as looking at old black and white newsreels after WW2.  Standouts where the giant 8 hour pirate game that took up a big chunk of space (and a big chunk of Saturday), the 7TV game about Amelia Earhardt, the Frostgrave port city (already mentioned) and the gigantic Team Yankee game in the center of the hall.  One thing that I appreciate is that people seem very interested in the smaller concept rules rather than jumping from one full bore expensive gaming obsession to another.  For instance, three years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed that someone would be running a game about Hyborea as a skirmish game– yet this Historicon had two games of CROM.I was introduced to 7TV at Cold Wars– now it’s an accepted rules set for campy lightly themed SF games. All good things.  People are starting to discover you really don’t need to have a giant library of expensive stuff to have a great time wargaming these days.   Crom and Frostgrave, for instance, can take advantage of the same kind of figures, and you probably have a lot of them already if you used to play D&D.  Historical games?  The same, only more so.  It’s a good trend.


Hobby University setting up

So, Saturday… even more people, even earlier working the events desk.  We had a brisk trade at the events desk, as Saturday was also very active.  We had our fair share of SNAFUs (double bookings, moving games, explaining deleted games, missing tables, misprinted tickets) which we tried to deal with courteously.

There were once again, some fine games running in the Exhibit Hall

A most excellent Russo Japanese naval game that was ending as I walked  up!

The RFCM demo team was here in force, showing off revised Men of Company B, I expect.

Part of the epic Team Yankee game in Exhibit Hall A.  More pics in the slideshow

I have a ton of Frostgrave snaps in a follow up, but thought I’d point this out

Just one of the many pictures of BEN FRANKLIN’S WAR, a visual treat.

What the heck, I know Jeff. the camera loves him.

And even more.

A personal favorite– AWFUL GREEN THINGS FROM OUTER SPACE as a miniature game

I hope this runs at FALL IN! I’d love to play it.

I had a quick run through of the Flea Market and the Dealer’s hall before my 3 PM game, Steve Braun’s Seas of Tekumel.   I didn’t buy much, except a light up temple for FROSTGRAVE and some Pico Armor and some old GW troops from Chort, and some laser cut terrain pieces.  Kind of a slim shopping experience.

Seas of Tekumel was a reprise of the same game, by the same name, from last Historicon.  I once again played the intrepid Xenophobics, the H’luss.  I like playing the H’luss– even if we don’t have the larger crews that the other ships were boasting, we did have the advantage of having the only submersible on the board, an advantage I took advantage of, replaying last year’s nasty trick with less dramatic results.   I took more pictures than this, so click on this one to see more.


The H’Luss submersible raises underneath a giant frigate to strand the crew on shore. Ha ha ha! I can’t believed they fell for it this year!

I wrote another post on this as a follow up; go HERE to see it.  My plans were to sit in at yet another game of CROM at 7:30 but this time plans got in the way.  I ended up hanging out in the lobby of Homewood suites and playing board games with some fellers.  HERE is a slideshow of all my Tekumel pictures.

Sunday was like most Sundays at game conventions– breakfast, lots of coffee,  a spin around the dealer’s and a spin around the flea.  Not much to add.

That was my HMGS Historicon Convention, and it was a great time.  The weather was quite oppressive at times, and it was a chore to walk across a parking lot in the middle of the day– like being in an Indian Sweat lodge.  That part I won’t miss, but like every convention, it was the people who made the difference.  I love these cons.

Obligatory pathos-laden final image:

Farewell, Fredericksburg! Farewell! (Or at least until the next BoD brings us back).

Bow your heads. Dr. Kauderer has exited the building.


I learned today that Dr. Howard Todd Kauderer had passed away. I have no words for this. I knew he had been ill. Yet, he was very active in social media, here and there, ran for the Board of Directors of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society fairly recently, and was always, always, a steadfast volunteer on virtually every convention I’ve attended for the past decade. It’s like he just left the room a few minutes ago or something.

Guys like Todd are the salt of the earth. They aren’t drama queens. They are courteous, and thoughtful, and they work like mules so other people can benefit. Without complaint. I’m not exaggerating, here. Todd usually worked registration at conventions, working long shifts (supervising), and usually a longer shift than a lot of people (who were also working like donkeys, I might add).  When the last dollar was counted and the bank drop made, then he would go have fun for himself.  This was a routine.

It would be disingenuous to say we were close, or even buddies. Todd was one of that tribe of people I only get to see 3 times a year. Yet, he was a very pleasant, kindly man to talk to, even if we ran in different social circles.


Todd welcoming his granddaughter into the world (from Facebook)

Todd, thank you for the gift of your hard work, the gift of your intelligence, and your steadfast decency over the years. May God bless you and hold you in His hand.  At the heart of it, our mutual hobby is all about people, and we should never forget the efforts of people who make the world just a little bit better by the application of patience and understanding.

http://www.sagelbloomfield.com/obituaries/Howard-Kauderer/#!/Obituary

So I went to Fall-IN! 2016…


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

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

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

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

Road Trip!

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

Where ALL HMGS business is conducted ultimately..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

I bought a copy on Steam, myself!

talking about convention locations and the Host etc.

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


Say goodbye to this in a few weeks…

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

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

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

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


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


Farewell! Farewell!

Guidebook App for HISTORICON 2016 released


First of all, sorry this is so late.  I’ve had some serious commitments in my non-hobby world lately, including a son graduating from high school!

As I have done for almost every HMGS convention since 2011, I have prepared a Guidebook mobile app for the upcoming HISTORICON convention, to be held at the Fredericskburg Convention Center, Fredericksburg, VA next week. Now, normally I have this out about a month in advance, sorry about that.. there’s still plenty of time to download your copy.

Functionality changes: Guidebook has been tinkering with features and services in the last year, and some of the features we used to enjoy, like colored icons for tracks, are gone because they have been elevated to the paid level– and there’s not much chance HMGS will pay for the upgrade. However, I have helped the process somewhat by using the following rule of thumb: GAMES (non-tournament) in the schedule are just listed by their titles. TOURNAMENTS have a single capital T, space, then the Game Rules (example: “T DBA..”) before the event title. SEMINARS have “SEM” in front of their titles, and HOBBY UNIVERSITY events start with a HU (Number).

If you search for the Cold Wars 2016 Guidebook post, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how guidebook will work for HISTORICON 2016. It still has a photo albums, social media hooks, news, and other things. The only new (Free) feature I’m trying this time is the Speakers Module.. this replicates the SEM data I have in the main Schedule track. I wasn’t sure Guidebook was going to call that a pay feature too (groan) so i replicated the data on purpose. I’m glad they broke out Speakers as a new function, that’s a great addition.

HOW TO GET IT

Here’s the DOWNLOAD PAGE:
https://guidebook.com/g/historicon2016/

Here’s the ONLINE PREVIEW:
https://guidebook.com/guide/73277/

And if you have a QR Reader, read this one now:

If you have questions, email me, I’ll be glad to help.

See you at HISTORICON 2016 next week!!

Social Media settings for this Guidebook:

Twitter tags: #HISTORICON2016, #HMGS_Inc, #Historicon, #Miniature_Wargames

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/23036244526/ (HMGS Facebook Group)

Be sure to post your photographs to the photo album, that’s how we share the experience with others!

ARF Supplemental: A Blast From The Past


So to continue with a revisit down memory lane, some background: in 2002 and 2003, Bob Giglio and I put together a game called “Amish Rake Fight” (or ARF) which I modestly can claim was well received. Those games certainly were talked about for a decade or so. In 2014, I wrote a long blog post that sort of recapped the concept, the planning and the execution of the two Amish Rake Fight games, and the discussions that took place about a third one “some day”. I did this because human memory is faulty, and the older we get, the less we are going to remember, and I wanted to get something of the great games of my past down on paper, or more appropriately, electrons. Surprisingly, since he is a very talented historical GM with well deserved reputation for being serious about the history and serious about the details, my Co-GM for ARF, Bob Giglio, was more than happy to pitch in clarifications on minor points here and there, and provide a surprising background of digital evidence. Which brings us to this post, which should be considered supplemental to the 2014 one.

First we have a map, and a danged fine one. This is a 2016 sketch by Bob G, based on a 14 year old game (and some photographic evidence). Not bad at all.


Map Sketch © Bob Giglio 2016

(Click on the map to blow it up a bit).  After giving the special rules for ASF weapons (Amish Science Fiction) a re-read, it became clear how the East battle field events transpired.  As I recall, there was a “Meek” stationed at the Stone Foot bridge (Center North) and at least one more in a fording spot in the river.  Surprisingly they performed excellent service, stopping a rampaging gang of bikers in both spots while their less meek brethren circled around behind the bikers and whooped ass with scythes and rakes!

In addition to the sketch map, Bob provided to me (last night) a compendium of background material we came up with to expand a decent skirmish set (Bootleggers, from RLBPS).  We will not present the core Bootleggers rules because they are copyrighted by RLBPS, but the additional ASF stuff is fair game, and some of it is hilarious.  The ASF stuff was a community effort between Bob Giglio, Chris Johnson and myself.  The Handouts were penned by Bob.

Appendix 1: Amish Science Fiction Weapons, an unauthorized supplement to Bootleggers

Appendix 2: ARF Handout 1 © Bob Giglio 2002

Appendix 3: ARF Handout 2 © Bob Giglio 2002

Appendix 4: A rather nice writeup of our then current convention in the local press.
© Lancaster online 2002.

The ARF game is mentioned in some detail, and both Bob and I are quoted.  It was the reporter who wrote this article that the Board Member who was in charge of promotions took such pains to keep away from us, up to and including begging me to take my Amish hat off while I was running the game, so she “wouldn’t get the wrong idea about historical wargamers being disrespectful”.   I suspected if had had the time, he would have tried to forcibly shave off my somewhat authentic looking Amish chin whiskers while he was at it.

That’s about all I have.. If you are interested you can read the original article in full.  It was a fun time and a celebration of the silly side of historical wargaming.

 

 

Lancaster Host: the end of the end, we mean it this time.


Bad news from the Lancaster Host, site of many HMGS and WBC game conventions over the years.  The Lancaster Online just reported a major water main break, causing the ceiling on three floors to break, 2000 residents and crew to be evacuated, and most importantly, the local fire chief has condemned the facility.  Details from the Lancaster Online.News Link

What does it mean?  Very likely the end of our relationship with the Host.  HMGS had a contract with the Host for Fall IN this Fall, but I’d say the Host just effectively cancelled most contracts.  It’s a shame, really.  The Host was a smelly dump, but it was our smelly dump.. As comfortable as an old shoe.

Farewell, Host, you served us well over the years.


 From the HMGS Board of Directors

It’s important to show the other side of the story, always.  I have to hand it to this Board, they have been on top of rumor control and quick to reach out to individual bloggers (such as your humble servant) in an effort to quell the occasional bout of mass hysteria.  When I get that kind of communication, I feel duty bound to post it– it doesn’t cost anything to see the other side of the coin, eh?

As you may have heard a plumbing line ruptured in the Host on Saturday.  Assorted on line accounts can be found here:

http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/lancaster-host-condemned-after-major-water-main-break-collapses-ceilings/article_b84f5ff2-252f-11e6-88fb-ffb8c2d14621.html

http://www.pennlive.com/news/2016/05/lancaster_host_resort_closed_b.html

http://fox43.com/2016/05/29/hundreds-evacuated-from-lancaster-host-resort-after-ceiling-collapse/

In spite of the overblown news reports the HOST has power and water restored Monday.

We spoke with Host management Tuesday and can add the following details:

The Host is currently open for business but with certain areas inaccessible due to flooding and water damage.

The Host had two [2] water pipes break; one on the 400 level and one on the 600 level which caused some of the drop ceiling to come down in the hallways.

Both a plumbing company and a restoration company are on site making repairs.
The Host is planning to reopen the affected areas by  Monday 6/6 at the latest.

We  will update you if there is any new information, especially as regards to Fall IN 2016, and the possibly accelerated remodeling.

Kevin Kelley
For HMGS Board of Directors

With that said, has my opinion changed much?  Not really.  I sincerely feel as if every show we throw at the Host is basically rehearsing for a disaster of these proportions.  Fortunately this was a local dancing event and not one of our shows– that would be a severe financial hit, albeit not cataclysmic, to be objective.  If we had to evacuate everyone from the show, and possibly even refund a lot of the admissions, it would certainly hurt the bottom line, but worse, it would erode any confidence in the holding company that operates the Host currently.  As it is, they operate the place on the barest of shoestring budgets– no investment is evident, beyond sustenance level patchwork measures like renting a portable physical plant to keep the place heated and air conditioned (and parked in the parking lot), or brand new shiny blue tarps to cover the multitudinous leaks over the Lampeter ballroom.  Last convention, we heard a lot of positive stuff at the membership meeting about the company investing money into the hotel.  This just doesn’t seem to have come to pass, beyond emergency repairs.

All that griping aside, I’m a realist.  There just isn’t a competing space anywhere in the “sweet spot” (Central PA).  EVERY alternative the board has looked at seems to have a problem with it that could lead to even worse griping if we move the cons there.  Believe it or not there are metrics for what the BoD is looking for, and they have been forthcoming about what they are– a certain amount of space, adequate parking, attached hotels, easy access to transportation hubs like 95, nearby airports, lots of places to go to eat and even something to do if you bring your family with you.   Lancaster isn’t the perfect option, but it had one thing going for it– it was very cheap compared to other venues, and it hit ENOUGH of those metrics to keep a significant amount of people content for many years.  I’m not sure what we can do going forward.  We might just have to compromise on something major– cost/space/parking/geography, something, to find a new venue.

Cold Wars 2016: I’m out of order? You’re out of order!


I attended Cold Wars 2016 with my son Garrett last weekend, and generally had a pretty good time.  Generally.  I’m on staff for the other two shows of the year, Fall-IN! and HISTORICON, so I generally just go to CW as a tourist these days, and I don’t stay at the Host, as it’s usually full up by the time I’m planning on going to this show.  This makes for a short stay, as I can’t justify staying at a hotel for more than an evening.  Dutifully, we got on the road early for once on Friday and ended up getting to the show in decent time.  Cold Wars 2016 certainly wasn’t attended in record numbers, but enough people were there that parking was problematic on Friday morning at 10 AM, which is a good sign.  We both did something I had never done before this show, and that’s attend a Hobby University class on modifying and kit-bashing Matchbox cars for Post-Apocalyptic Car Combat games taught by Joey McGuire.  Mr. McGuire pooh-poohed my interest in his class, saying he felt I had already taken my class, since I have painted about 60 cars for White Line Fever.  Nonsense, there’s always something new to learn, and I learned something new here.  Actually, a few things, but first and best was a much better method of painting rust than I had used previously:
Start with flat black on all the shiny and metal parts.
Then go with a Burnt Umber dry brush, then with a Shadow’s Flesh dry brush, then actual orangey rust color. Then highlight with a darker silver.  the result is multilayered and subtle, far more subtle than the cars I’ve been doing.


Paint combination for Rust

And here are the results. I took the pickup, Garrett made a retro-cannon out of his “Nashlike” deco car


Killer Low-ridin’ Pickup truck
Gar made an up-armored “Stretch Nash rambler” with two Gatling guns on a rack up top.

I really enjoyed Joey’s class (which also taught me the benefits of Zip Kicker) and would recommend it to anyone. Special thanks to Lon Weiss from Brigade Games for providing packs of add on weapons and armor for this class.

Gar has become a big fan of Battletech (the FASA product, now owned and supported by Catalyst Gaming Labs). So he looked at the schedule and decided to go sit in on the Battletech Grinder games in the Cornwall Room all weekend.

The Grinder, apparently, is a Battletech competition where you play, get killed, and come back as a different, hopefully stronger, mech. Garrett ended up with a Battlemaster at the end but only had it for a couple of turns before they ended the Grinder. So it goes.  Thanks to the guy running this event (which was more than one table, it was a room of Battletech, btw), and thanks to MOST of Gar’s opponents for being nice to the newbie.  The less said about the loud-mouthed kid who complained bitterly about every roll of the die that went against him, the better.

I got into a pre-Dreadnought game Friday night.  I wanted to try out FROSTGRAVE but couldn’t get in to the Friday night game, it being full up.  So I went with a back up plan, and I’m glad I did.  I got a ticket to the Deadly Warfare games playtest of “Black Smoke and Blue Seas” or something like that.  More on this later, since I spent some time relieving myself of money in exchange for hobby items Friday until “go time”.

The dealer’s room was the dealer’s room.. we can’t expect the giant vendors of bygone days and should be grateful for the ones who show up in force, or the old standbys that are still making a showing, albeit in a greatly reduced footprint.

It's a picture from 2015, sorry

I got a copy of the Pre-Dreadnought rules (Black Smoke, Blue Water) we were about to play for the playtest, and starter fleet for Manila Bay.   I also picked up a cigar box battle mat for a medieval/fantasy city, probably for running Frostgrave on.  I got some nice pieces for Road Warrior/White Line Fever in a leftover parts bin at Hobby House, the new Cultists expansion for Frostgrave and the spell cards, because, well, they’re nifty looking and pretty handy.. besides, I wanted to thank Brigade Games for sponsoring Hobby University by throwing some coin his way.  I was going to get troop cards for BLUCHER, but, sadly, they were sold out when I went back for them.   I looked over the flea market as well, but didn’t find much of what I came there to buy.  I was looking for AQMF Martian stuff (which hasn’t taken a nose dive in price like I thought it might), as well as 15mm SF and some other bits and bobs.  Sigh.

Events: Given that I was only there from Friday morning-ish until late Saturday night, I didn’t see everything.  However, I did like most of what I saw.  The ballroom wasn’t jammed on Friday, which  usually has people complaining about the empty tables, but every game I saw didn’t lack for players (YMMV).

Friday night around 6PM I participated in the playtest game of BLACK SMOKE, BLUE WATER.  This is a game of Pre-Dreadnought era ship combat, with some important caveats; this game setting assumes about a twenty year leap forward in technology, so it adds some elements that would be missing in a straight up historical period game, such as air operations, submarines and etc.  The game played well.  I thought the combat in a multiplayer game really slowed down somewhat when the ranged narrowed and many options (based on calibers of weapon) opened up.  The designers welcomed feedback and got some good gouge from the players.

The game scenario was Manila Bay (the same fleets I had bought that morning).  The American fleet is entering the board just clearing Cavite island which has a battery that can shoot out 36 inches. Not having any operational need to land on Cavited, we just cheerfully ignored it and steamed onward, keeping more than 36″ out of range.  I ran the Olympia and the Baltimore.  For much of the fight we were the chief American ships engaging the Spaniards, but it was still a one sided contest (not in the Spaniard’s favor).  I felt bad for the Spaniards.. their Torpedo Boat force were pretty close to Cavite at the onset, but when it was clear we weren’t going near the place, they had to spend most of the game running in flank to engage the Americans, only really coming close in the last few turns.  The Spanish Admiral was quite aggressive, unlike his historical counterpart, and gave almost as good as he got.  In game terms, the Olympia was the best ship on the board (and that bears up with the historical battle).  Having guns of over 7″ was a big advantage in certain situations and that contributed to the American fleet sinking a Spanish battle cruiser.  We called the game after a certain point and discussed the mechanics.  For a small slide show of the engagement, please click on the picture below.

It was a fun game experience, and I do like the rules.  I find the combat to be a little drawn out, but what can I say, they are correct in modeling all that gunfire, such as it is.. each of the ships of the era had a veritable battery of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary gun types of various sizes and calibers.  They were effective in their roles, up to a point.  My torpedo (the only one that hit of the six that were shot) was what ended the one Spanish ship that sank, and that also seems to reflect history.. the ship guns weren’t huge and they weren’t very accurate.   It just seemed to be a remarkably bloodless engagement compared to the actual historical Manila Bay.

Some great games were going on in the Distelfink Friday night and Saturday day…

Jon Paul Cosgrove’s excellent “Zombies attacking a Prison that is suspiciously like the one he worked at” game had some amazing scenery.

zombies and prison

zombies and prison

There was a Russian Revolution/Civil War game going in the back, not sure who ran it but it looked like tons of fun.. and was a beauty to behold.

Oh and there was THIS THING, which was playing Saturday, I think:

Invasion of the Pasta People? Maybe?

Whatever! Looks like it was a blast to play.. and it certainly was colorful.

Jim McWee was running a zombies overrunning a town game that I think he has run before. Sure was nice and colorful!

There was even a naval game based on the Destroyermen series going on in the corner:


courtesy of Leo Walsh

The best part as always was seeing old friends again and jawing with some familiar faces we don’t see but a few times a year (if we are lucky):


(Bob and Cleo at the table next to me)

One game I wanted to capture in pictures was a double blind game of MIDWAY based upon the classic Avalon Hill game of the same name being played in the Distelfink.  It was fantastic.  Fortunately the guy who writes DE NERDIBUS got a few pictures of it and I include the link below.

Saturday morning Gar and I got in to the one game we both played together, which was S161: Frostgrave – Cold Harbor, run by Jon Lundberg.  I had a really fun time playing this.  I had a Chronomancer and small gang (including a polar bear!).  We slipped in to the city from the South side, hardly killed anyone (except for a rampaging killer snowman) and was altogether too polite — not a lot of blood was spilled.  Still, I got 4 treasures off the board, which is a respectable showing, I think.  Click the picture above to see a very small album of pictures from the first Frostgrave game I played Saturday Morning, if you have an interest.


(or try this link)

I did one more run on the dealer’s room Saturday but the stuff I was going back for had sold out.  So it goes.  I ended up taking a nap in a chair in the lobby, and checking in with Garrett, who was joyously stomping other big stompy mechas. as you can see here:

25807517041_4077e9b58e

He played until quite late in the evening, and it was a slugfest. Garrett’s comment about his day immediately brought up that age old stereotype. “Dad, the guy next to me was your age, almost. I’ve never smelled an adult that smelled that bad in my life.. do people not shower here or something? It could have gagged a maggot“. He didn’t understand why I was laughing until I hiccupped… (to clarify, the man he was referring to IS NOT PICTURED)

Apparently the Membership meeting went off while I was pre-dreadnoughting the night before. Here’s what I got from Otto Schmidt, who did attend:

I attended the membership meeting at Cold Wars on Friday night at 7 pm.

The following items were announced

Three hotel chains are in negotiations to buy the host, two are national changes one is a regional chain. THE HOST sales rep says that all of them will NOT tear the host down but will repair and restore it bit by bit, one section at a time. The guest rooms will need the majority of the work, but the meeting rooms will need not much more than some new carpets and cosmetic changes. The heating and air conditioning plant will be replace and some electrical work done and the bathrooms repaired. This was reported by the Bod who said that the impact on us would be, if we stayed, that the hotel would lose 60 rooms at a time as they were reconditioned, but that could be taken up by surrounding hotels. They did say that the room rate then would, according to the host, go up to $149 USD a night.

The BOD also said they were looking at other venues including YORK convention center and Lancaster Convention Center, both of whom had been rejected previously and Dave Waxtel is investigating a location in Somerset County NJ. No name was mentioned.

I had a report from the owner of the Continental hotel who is heavily involved with the local hotel organization that the host is in receivership (or soon will be) to the bank. This was not said at the meeting.

The Bod announced that Fall in 2016 will be at the host and Cold Wars 2017 will be there also. After that it would be as negotiations with the host and new owners progressed.

The BOD said they were looking at a cost saving measure of buying tables for the convention. They said their largest expense each year was $60,000 USD for table and chair rental. They were investigating buying these (folding chairs) and it would cost about $25,000 USD total. The original plan, (pre-auction) was to store these at The Lancaster Host and let the Host Use them for other events and the host would pay us a fee when this was done and that the cost of the purchase would then be amortized over about four years. This plan was put in abeyance after the auction kerfuffle, because it was realized that if we did that the tables and chairs would be seized if a foreclosure was processed, and it did not mater if we owned them.

If a bank or agency does this, the release of them would not take place till all creditors with outstanding charges against the hotel were satisfied, and any assets or possessions on site would be part of “inventory” and so sold off.

No discussion was made of the chairs and table rentals for Historicon in Fredericksburg and the rental cost was not broken out for that, nor was it said if the tables and chairs allegedly stored at the host (if it came to pass) would be trucked down to Virginia) nor the cost of haulage and dunnage for that.

Nominations of officers were made. The Bod will publish them in the newsletter. ”

(this is repeated on TMP and elsewhere, quotations Otto Schmidt)

There was some other reports about someone attending Salut in the UK (Dave Waxtel) and as to whether he was paying for it or the Board. Dave is. There was a lot of discussion (on TMP or elsewhere) as to whether a Salut “diorama game” convention will work in a US market (most Americans think not). There was some discussion about paying clubs or GMs to run large set piece games by helping them with their construction expenses. “This is paying GMs to run games” was mentioned from the floor. There was some contention– I could point out HMGS has paid GMs in the past and has the leeway to do it on a per show basis.. just ask anyone who has paid for “Uncle Duke” in the past.

As for the comments about the Host. Hmmm. I fully expected 2016 to be the last year I would be going to a Cold Wars game at the Host. I’m astounded that chains are interested in this property, but apparently it is fulfilling a requirement for mid-income to low-income convention gatherings that no other property around can fill, and there’s a real economic need for a property called the Host. Still.. there’s SO MUCH work to do to fix this place up..


The temporary physical plant, now taking up several parking places.. this keeps the place in hot water.. most of the time.


Downstairs toilets were broken most of Saturday– with big yellow “do not cross” police tape covering the doors. One of the urinals UPstairs broke, too (pictured). So at one point, there were only three urinals and 5 stalls for the entire Lancaster host facility (working).

Everywhere, everywhere.. there’s signs of decay and crumbling. The kitschy cool sixties rock exterior is crumbling off the building in several places. The railing up the side of the handicapped ramp to the lobby is now floating in mid air in all but two places.. The roof.. well, you know about the roof.

Saturday night I resolved to get into another game of Frostgrave, as I like the rules a lot. I really wanted to attend S244: Frostgrave: Treasure Hunting in the Frozen City. I was the last alternate to get in. Jeff Hiley’s terrain was simply fantastic. He won an award for it in the middle of the game! I played a Summoner for this game, and managed to nab 4 treasures.. but only got two off board by end game. We were doing the good versus evil thing, which suited me. This was my favorite game of the convention by a country mile; this is not to say I didn’t love the other games too, I just got into the setting so much with Jeff Hiley’s terrain efforts it was hard to come to any other conclusion.


Jeff getting an award.

We got into a big fight with some do-gooders at the choke points on the ramp. I think I was up against a Thaumaturgist at least. Sadly the only spell I had much of a shot with was LEAP, which did work most of the time, and Summon Demon, which was ineffectual most of the game. The rest of my spells were just too blinkin’ hard.

There’s a nice slide show of the Second Frostgrave game Saturday night below, if you have an interest. Just click on the picture.


(Or try this link)

As it was 11PM at this point, Gar and I had to bail out and head home.. it was an easy trip but we were already pretty tired so didn’t want to press our luck.

Sadly we had to miss Eric’s Road Warrior game, but it’s just as well, I prefer the HO sized one.

So that was our COLD WARS 2016. For me, it was the Frostgrave Cold Wars. I’m quite taken with that game and am painting up some warbands. The decrepit surroundings didn’t make the convention run less efficiently (though there were and are the usually carping about things that never seem to change, like long lines). I definitely gamed more and enjoyed myself more than I usually do at conventions. Thanks to all the crew who helped me get Guidebook done for this convention– Theresa, Paul, Scott, Scott, Heather etc. (see previous post on that subject. I did try a few new things this year, like taking pictures and uploading them to the guidebook. Not sure who can see these or if they are shared to the general guidebook user base or not. In any event, Guidebook was its usual useful self. The CD of Cold Wars really could care less about it, but the attendees do, so I’ll keep doing it despite official indifference.

Finally, if I could sum it up, I’d say this was a convention of interesting games and some good times.  My son came with me and I encouraged him to go off and find his own groove.. he hung out with guys his own age (or older) all weekend and had a terrific time.  I played in some great games, and saw some great games being played.  It was more of a game playing convention than a shopping con for me.

So as the sun set swiftly in the West, we drove home, tired and all conventioned-out. See everyone at HISTORICON!!!

(SLIDE SHOW of all Cold Wars 2016 pictures I took over the weekend)
(or try this link)

De Nerdibus: Cold War pictures (including the Midway double blind game)

Xin’s Lair: Cold Wars 2016 Frostgrave Game

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.

HISTORICON 2015: Sand Fleas in Fredericksburg!


It’s time for one of my favorite things to write, a convention narrative.  From Wednesday 15 July to Sunday 19 July, I attended HISTORICON 2015, at the Fredericksburg Convention Center.  I was on staff for the convention (working the events board), I stayed at the Homewood Suites, and I ran one game Saturday night.

Traffic?  Well, there wasn’t, much. 

I had half a day on Wednesday but had the car packed the night before, so I hit the road directly after changing and arrived in Fredericksburg from the DC area in about an hour.  Traffic was dense but steady– if I had been any later, I would have taken the Western route– out 66 to 29 South through Warrenton, then 17 directly to the Center.  As it turned out, I was willing to gamble since I left at 1300, and it paid off in time.

The usual first day hubbub was in evidence, people hanging up tags and stuffing flyers into program books and setting up the registration system.  Controlled Chaos really.  After a while it becomes second nature.  The CD did try to set up convention registration in the long hall next to the side ballrooms.  Jury’s out on that idea.  I think it might have worked best by the hallway near the windows on the far side of the hall, as the hall is wider there, but I understand you will want reg to be in the central part of your convention so you can control events better.   I thought the hall was  a little bit of a squeeze as a result.  Gamers ain’t svelte, as a rule.

The Typical Challenges and a new biting phenomenon

There was the typical challenges associated with the facility.   It does get loud on Saturday and Friday and Thursday peak hours.   The carpeting helps a lot.  So does the vertical drapes that break up the space around the main room.  We arrived expecting that. The HVAC handled Wednesday and Thursday’s environmental conditions fine; however by Friday midday the heat index was well over 100 degrees F– hot enough to make you instantly feel like an un-wrung sponge and gasping for breath once you walked outside. Not healthy environmental conditions!. Inside the hall the HVAC did its best but it was, well, “muggy” in the Exhibitor’s Hall to be certain.  One new nuisance appeared to be a biting fly that was annoying the hell out of people during games.  I’m not sure what form of insect life it was but I had small welts on my legs.  Very annoying, I think it was a sand-flea. On the plus side, that was my favorite hotel experience I’ve had at Fredericksburg. I was parked close enough to walk to the hall every day. The complimentary food didn’t suck and it was in abundance. I wish the other hotels would follow their example.

Bug Disclaimer statement: I experienced several instances of a small, annoying flying and biting insect specifically on Friday. Other people did, too. Many people did not experience any bites and are surprised I brought this up. I am not sure what the insect was; I’m not an entomologist, nor do I play one on television.

Thursday: Events, Food and a Chariot Race.

Thursday was a brisk start..  I was at the events desk for the entire show, so spent much of the time handing out tickets and resolving table problems.

Sugah don’t melt in my mowf.

Here we are improvising tickets.

Historicon 2015 had many great games but most of the ones I saw were sell-outs. Why? Because there clearly were not enough of them being run. There are plenty of attendees that wanted to get into 2 or more games a day, but it wasn’t going to happen. Pickings were slim. So if you want more historical games (or any games for that matter) people are going to have to step up (either in Fredericksburg or Lancaster, by the way). I can afford to lecture since I did run one, he said smugly.

I gulped down a free manager’s special (dinner) and hurried over to the main hall to play in a chariot race.  This was a fun game (totally full up), done in 54mm scale and using Brian Dewitt’s chariot racing rules. I’ve played in games using those rules before and I enjoy them– much easier than Circus Maximus.

CLICK ME TO SEE THE PHOTOGRAPHIC SLIDE SHOW!

I like Chariot games– and I’ve been in a few over the years. Experience teaches me to to let the blowhards who like to crash into each other get out in front while they attack each other, and carefully inhabit a slot in the middle of the pack waiting for the aggressive ones to die. That didn’t happen quickly enough so by the end of the second lap I was taking risks to pull out in front or I would fall too far behind. That worked,kind of, but I had been pretty battered by attacks and when I tried to go into that final curve, my chariot flipped on me. Withing half a lap of the finish line. That’s the way the cookie crumbles!

Here’s a little thing I put together using some stills and a little footage left from a Periscope session. I used “Jockey full of bourbon” by Tom Waits as the music (the first time) but Vimeo had copyright problems so there’s some godawful royalty free electronica on there now.

I hung out with some friends later and played some board games, notably Letters from Whitechapel (the new version from FFG). Whitechapel is a fun little guessing game with attractive components. The players are constables trying to catch Jack the Ripper in Victorian London. Jack uses hidden movement, from sector to sector, as the constables call out the sector numbers to see if he’s there. We came close a couple of times but Jack solidly kicked all of our asses.

Games were pretty good at HISTORICON 2015, but nothing that I considered a huge standout. There was some very pretty terrain setups here or there, but I saw a lot of GMs cutting corners, too.

Seriously? An out of the box game of Space Hulk?

There were also GMs who spent a year or more making a setup, as you can see here:

I enjoyed the games I got into, for the most part. If there was any standout theme, I’d say “Air combat games”.. seemed like there were a ton of them being played. Mostly Check your Six.

Here’s a slideshow of other sights seen around Historicon 2015:

CLICK ME to see more

The next day I worked the Events desk as normal, and then got into a game of BLOCKADE RUNNERS run by Gary Coyle. Gary is an excellent gamesmaster and I have played in his Roman Seas games before and had a great time with them. Blockade Runners was a Charleston Harbor scenario during the last full year of the Civil War. As the Union, you’re trying to stop blockade runners from entering the harbor. As a Confederate, you’re there to engage the Union fleet and prevent their conditions from happening. I had two Passaic ironclads, the other two Union players had Passaic ironclads and the New Ironsides. We were up against a number of Pametto State style casement ironclads armed with a mix of guns and spar torpedoes. There was an inshore squadron of David style and Spar torpedo armed small boats that really didn’t see action. We pulled off a very narrow Union victory by sinking two Blockade Runners. We were unable to do much lasting damage to the casemates, though Palmetto state was pretty battered by the end of the game. On the plus side not much damage was done to the Union side either. Much as I like Gary’s games I wasn’t enchanted with the rules, Steam and Sail Navies. Combat resolution was slow, very chart heavy and I never really “grokked it”. Perhaps a good system for a game in someone’s basement but not for a big convention game.

(Naturally, click on the picture above for a small slide show on Blockade Runners)

Afterward I went out for dinner, to a local place I hadn’t tried yet, Tito’s Diner. One must try new things. It wasn’t a raging success. Any diner should be able to master a basic Reuben, and mine had plastic in it.

Saturday was another brisk day, as people queued up to get tickets. Except for MY game, which was being held at 10PM.. was I insane? Should I have scheduled it at 9PM?

I shouldn’t have worried…

I did some shopping both in the dealer hall and the flea market. I also popped out for a few supplies for the evening’s festivities.

Wait.. to LEGALLY clarify.. I kept these back at the room for after-game toasting.. that’s right..

RIDE THAT FURY ROAD!! S-450, GM Walt O’Hara

I’ve been working on a Road Warrior style game off and on since Cold Wars. It came together rather easily, using Eric’s Road Warrior rules as a base and doing a lot of tinkering. This game was a dry run for the Game Camp I’ll be running in August, and I have to say it was a great success. People had a great time, the rules were simple enough and though some of the stats need tweaking, the basic ideas are easy enough to grasp and run with. I loved the way the game built its own narrative.. the hippies with the cloud of pot smoke behind their VW Van, the Fighting Griswolds, Herbie the Hate Bug, the not-so homicidal Postman and his SLOW postal truck, the Bikers, the explosions.. simple fun! That’s a win.

To see a slideshow, click on the picture below

Explosions! Machine Guns! Oil Slicks! Pot Smoke! Dubious Sushi! This game had it all!

I ended up getting to bed at 3AM, despite my best efforts to get some sleep at this convention.

Sunday was spent in some desultory shopping before hitting the road North. Traffic back home was worse than traffic there. It’s all in the timing.

So, in conclusion– a good convention!

Highlights were:

  • Getting some of my gaming camp families to drop by in advance and take a tour.  Paul Delaney was kind enough to extend free passes to any family that wanted to attend in advance of the camp and many people responded they were coming.. only one did that I know of, but that’s okay.
  • I really enjoyed playing Chariots and running the Ride that Fury Road game. Most of all, I enjoyed seeing my friends again.
  • Shopping — I got some Saxons from Footsore Miniatures (one of the standout vendors, kind of a new guy on the block).  Also some Fairy Swordfish in 1:600 scale (for my Raid on Taranto game) from PicoArmor as well as the Hind Commander game, which intrigues the heck out of me.  Nothing jumped out in the Flea Market but I did get more (painted) Saxons and laser artillery bits for my Future Tank game.
  • I noticed there were representatives from the Dayton Convention Center and York Convention Center touring the convention to get an idea of the scope of the thing. Comments from the Dayton guy: “It’s soo.. sooo HUGE! I had no idea!”
  • The Guidebook app continues to be useful and the recent metadata they publish is really starting to be helpful in a meaningful way. Here’s a snap of some of the stats being collected (in the free version):

    There was also a big hook to Twitter and Facebook at this convention and the hashtag #Historicon2015 was used liberally. It really helped spread the word, I think.

So that was my Historicon, I’d give it a decent B+. Thanks to all the staff and leadership for working tirelessly as unpaid volunteers to put on a great show, and thanks for reading.

Last Changes/Updates to the HISTORICON 2015 guidebook app


Various Guidebook Formats

Various Guidebook Formats

HISTORICON 2015 convention goers.. I’m making the last changes to the GUIDEBOOK app for HISTORICON 2015. So here are a few notes for you.

Dudley Garidel got the final vendor count and maps to me, they are now included. I’ve added one more event since PEL.  There’s one BIG map image to show how the tables fit together, then I broke the big map into 3 smaller ones, front, middle and back.

I enabled three new features for HISTORICON 2015. Twitter feed, Notepad and TMP News feed. What the heck, why not, they are free!

1) A News feed uses a RSS feed to transmit news items to the Guidebook. Since HMGS doesn’t keep up a RSS feed, I used the miniatures page, which is as close as we come. It’s not very relevant to a specific show, but what the heck, it might provide interesting reading.

2) Notepad is just that– a place for the user to keep notes.. like ” I need to vist PicoArmor and buy Hind D helicopters”.. etc. etc.

3) Twitter feed. Again, there ISN’T a Twitter account for Historicon (that I could find), so I’ll do some tweeting about it during the show using my account (@TheLastBrunch) and the hashtag HISTORICON2015. I encourage EVERYONE who uses twitter to use #historicon2015 during the show!!

If you need a reminder about how to get the GUIDEBOOK app and the specific HISTORICON 2015 guide, visit the landing page.

HERE is the guide on the web

Major Guidebook Update for HISTORICON 2015


Hey HMGS Convention Attendees, we have a MAJOR Guidebook Update for you.

Hey Historicon! There’s an app for that!

First of all, I tried floating events early without room numbers.  That was a bad idea, as updating them (later) WITH the numbers nuked most of what I had done before, causing me to reenter data for tournaments and seminars!  Woo hoo! I love entering data twice.

So I’m making a business decision– we don’t post events (that is, regular games) until the events guy irons out what the table numbers are and where they are at.. it’s too painful to bounce back if the earlier input crashes on you.  If that means we post Guidebook a little closer to the event, so be it.

So, what do we have?

  • TOURNAMENTS (again)
  • SEMINARS (again)
  • HOBBY UNIVERSITY (first time)
  • GAMES (again)
  • Maps!

What am I missing?  The map of the Exhibitor Hall and Exhibitor List.

And then we will be done, unless we get new games between now and the convention itself.

How to get it

Go to the Guidebook Landing Page which is HERE and follow directions.

To Preview the Guide

Go to the Preview Page which is here

Historicals versus Non-Historical Count

New feature: I thought I’d do an actual count by period.  The reality of Non-Historical versus Historical by counting the actual numbers, not by hand waving*:


Source: Events Spreadsheet extracted on 6/18/2015, Historicon 2015

So the reality is 20% non-historical games at Historicon.  And I’m grouping in anything that could remotely be considered fantasy and SF together.  There are the numbers.

Events by Rules mentioned in PEL


You may have to click to see original size. There were a lot of rule sets.

This was all over the map.. there were a lot of rule sets being used.  Where it was possible I combined version and flavors and variants into the parent.

In any event, there’s the true facts, and a big, big, big guidebook update.  See you at HISTORICON 2015.

* Note on the period count above– it excludes all tournaments, which probably should be entered under fantasy in some respects.  Did I say that out loud?  I’m trying not to snark…

Pat Condray, gone too soon


Pat Condray, raconteur, toy soldier enthusiast, and apparently a yachtsman.

Pat Condray, raconteur, toy soldier enthusiast, and apparently a yachtsman.

I just received the word from Brett Abbott, Pat’s son-in-law.

Pat Condray has passed away.

“I am afraid Pat passed away earlier this morning. Not sure of arrangements yet, will update later. Thanks to all for the thoughts and prayers, this hobby meant a lot to Pat and he loved the people in it.”

Tragic news, tragic news.. this has been a bad year span for the founders and shakers of the American miniatures wargaming scene.   First Craig Taylor, then Donald Featherstone, then Bob Coggins, then Jay Hadley & John Hill (almost simultaneously) .  Now Pat Condray has joined the choir invisible.

It was kind of a shockingly, stupidly abrupt way to go.  Pat was in great shape for his age and exercised regularly.  Yesterday, he decided to go for a bicycle ride near his home in Florida.  A local resident named Pok Sun Morgan was driving his Chevy Equinox down the same road Pat was biking down the right side of. Morgan sideswiped Pat on his bike and he was thrown a long way.  Sadly, Pat wasn’t wearing a helmet.  I’m not sure if that would have saved him or not, but it surely couldn’t have hurt.   The damage was severe, and Pat was airlifted to a local hospital in a coma.   As you can see, he didn’t make it.

What can you say about Pat?  Where do you start?  For all the pride he took in being argumentative and a “Well Known Poison Pen” (a nickname he took perverse pride in and used as his signature), he was at the core, a kind-hearted man of keen intelligence and wit.  He was fiercely dedicated to the hobby of Toy Soldiers and the art of wargaming.  His historical passions were the Spanish Civil War and the War of Spanish Succession, a hobby that he grew into a small and successful business, the Historical Products Company.   I owned several of his SCW figures in 20mm even now, and still break out “Viva El Christo Rey!” from time to time.

A strange memorial to be sure. Part of a phony deck of “trading cards” I made up to lampoon the 2006 Board of Directors elections.

As for the hobby in general, his antecedents go much farther back than the much discussed “Wally’s Basement Crowd” (a tribute to the late, great Wally Simon, many years gone).  Pat was an early participant in the Toy Soldier Society and active participant in the creation of HMGS as an organization.  He helped create the early HISTORICONs and MINICON convention programs (MiniCon became Cold Wars), working with Jay Hadley and Bob Coggins, and was president of HMGS at least once.  Even years after the average former Board of Directors member had burnt out and faded away, Pat retained a scrupulous eye on the day to day efforts of the Society he helped found– pouring over BoD Meeting minutes, the projected Budget and convention reports, often bringing them back up in minute detail during membership meetings, which he hardly ever missed.  He likened himself to the chapter historian, in a sense.  He would retain a version of events from a dozen years ago and come up with his own grandiloquent turn of phrase for it years afterward– a Board Of Directors became “The Gang of Four” in anecdotes years later.  An effort to remove someone from the board of directors would be called a “Putsch”.    He loved to prose away at issues, using his own argot as much as possible.   Being somewhat prickly online, he often came off as a curmudgeonly crank, but he was never that way in person.

My favorite memories of Pat were the Spanish Civil War games he ran at NOVAG‘s small conventions held at the Elk’s Lodge and Masonic Halls in Northern VA.  These were transformative for me.  I had always loved the Spanish Civil War period but the hobby was all over the Big Three in those days (The American Civil War, Napoleonics and WW2 of course).  It was cool and refreshing to see someone dabble in this obscure little conflict that I felt like I was the only person who knew anything about.   And .. here was an entire line of miniatures devoted to it!  It did open my eyes to a world of possibilities about historical wargaming with miniatures, and led to my participation in HMGS, and wargaming conventions.   So you can blame Pat about that!

So, yeah, at the end of it all, what CAN you say?  Pat, I really wish you had worn your damned helmet.  God bless and keep you, rest in peace and I’ll say a prayer for your repose and for your family in your time of grief.  You will be missed very much.

Farewell to a stalwart: the passing of Jay Hadley


Jay Hadley

Jay (center) doing one thing he loved to do, working a flea market table, talking to people.  Circa 2006, Photograph from the author’s collection

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be writing about another notable hobby passing quite so soon after John Hill.   We’re living in an age where the stalwarts of a hobby are starting to pass at an alarming rate.  Far too alarming.

Quite by accident, I discovered Mr. Jay Hadley passed from the cares of the mortal world on the 11th of this month, almost at the same time John Hill did.  The cause of death appears to be lung cancer (according to one source)  but might have been lymphoid leukemia Stage IV (according to another).  If you have a moment, you might say a prayer for his family.

There’s so much that can be said about Jay.  He was a figure with a profound impact on the miniatures wargaming hobby, going back a very long way, to the early 70s at least or even earlier, with his involvement with the Military Figure Collectors of America (MFCA). which had threw one of the first miniatures wargames events on the East Coast (The”Wargame Convention”).   He was very active in the Toy Soldiers Collector Societies (and their spinoff groups) before there was such a thing as “organized hobby wargaming” conventions (or HMGS for that matter).   Jay was one of the early adopters of HMGS, although not a “Wally’s Basement” member.   Jay worked hard to develop SOPs and procedures and was responsible for the foundation of much of how we operate conventions today– especially as a nonprofit.  His early work with ORIGINS (1980) and ATLANTICON is a subject I’m not remotely equipped to comment on– I went to a few of them but I certainly didn’t know who did what and when.. I’ve asked Pat Condray to fill in the details for me.  Jay was a past president of HMGS (elected, 1998)  and was an early promoter of the concept that some day, we would outgrow the Host facility and require a bigger site to run a convention in.

Jay’s passion for historical subjects often coincided with his professional success as a fund raiser and marketing wallah for many institutions, primarily in the field of health care.  He was active with the United Way, Make-a-Wish Foundation, the Cooper University Hospital, The Battleship New Jersey alliance and the National World War II memorial committee.   There are many other professional highlights and organizations he served on or chaired, if you want that level of detail, I suggest visiting his LinkedIn page.

Indeed, it was in those areas– fundraising, building relationships, and deal making, that Jay best showed his phenomenal strength and skill in handling people.  Jay was always comfortable in politicking– negotiating and understanding the little nuances of what made people tick.  Jay possessed considerable charm– when I was a Cold Wars director in the Mid-00s, he was invaluable as a source of advice or a way of dealing with a stumbling block.  “Who do I talk to at the hotel to get “X”?  “Easy, that’s ____, remember to ask how her daughter is doing at school”.  It’s the little things, he would say.  And he was right, for the most part.    I think Jay Hadley was born after his time– I have always pictured him in some turn of the century saloon, his straw hat pushed back on his head and thumbs in his vest pockets, cheerfully buying drinks for a pack of galoots, trying to get the vote out for his candidate.  He had that kind of energy about him.

For all of the “I’m just a goombah from New Jersey” brio he consciously projected (in booming voice), he did work tirelessly for the hobby, driving hours on his own time and his own dime to check if the site was making upgrades, or to talk to the Table vendors, or whatever.  Jay deeply cared about HMGS and miniatures gaming, and he put in many a long hour towards making the convention program a success.

With all that said, Jay could be caustic and he could be polarizing.  There is much that could be mentioned about the politics within Society in the 90s and 00s, many of us were there and many of us have strong opinions, some of them not charitable.  Jay jumped in with both feet and was an enthusiastic participant in the issues of moment back then, and he had his hands in almost everything.  I’m not going to comment beyond that, because I choose to remember the good things– and in point of fact, the “bad things” seem pretty trivial with the passage of time.

Jay was a dedicated hobbyist, tireless promoter, shameless gossip and excellent negotiator.  He was also a bit of a rascal.  Yet he helped make HMGS what it is today– and despite anyone’s axe to grind, that fact cannot be denied.  As for me, I liked him immensely and counted him a good friend.  If I wanted to hear the backstory on something, I inevitably talked to Jay.  The last time I saw him was 2 or maybe 3 conventions ago.  He was still a game bird for a long, rambling discussion but the fire had gone out of him a little bit– he didn’t mention it but the sickness must have already taken hold.  He was tired– the scandal of the moment (whatever it was) was of little interest to him any more.

So, Farewell, Jay Hadley.  Thanks for all you did.   For in the end, what can we do, but cherish the living, and honor the dead?

Aequa lege necessitas sortitur insignes et imos…

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: F- 352 UP THE YAZOO
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

CLICK TO SEE SLIDESHOW

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

CLICK ON THE IMAGE FOR THE SLIDESHOW

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: