Tag Archives: convention

Cold Wars 2017, a minor pilgrimage


the Mighty Susquehanna!

The Mighty Susquehanna!!! (we shout this every time)

Hurray!  Once again the sun dawns on a trip to an exotic faraway location where I can play toy soldiers all weekend long.  As happens this time in March, The Historical Miniatures Gaming Society held their annual SPRING convention, namely, Cold Wars, last weekend.  The “exotic faraway location” being, of course, Lancaster PA, a location about as faraway and exotic as day old Wonder bread, but hey, we like it, so there.

Note that Friday was Saint Patrick’s Day, which I celebrated by my standard boycotting of feeling obligated to wear green.  As I’ve said many times, the Irish have given much to America.. so much beyond buffoonery, drunkenness and stuff like this.  I prefer to have a little dignity about a Saint’s Day.

Gar and I had our mutual acts together and the van packed the night before, so we aimed at being on the road at 7:30, with a predictable, actual start of 8:30.  Sigh, that’s entropy for  you.  Journey was uneventful, but longer than usual because THIS time, we stopped for breakfast.

mmmm.. coffee

New Oxford Family Diner.  They made a decent egg white omelette, and the coffee was passable.

Our arrival was 1230ish, even with petal to the metal (legally of course). I really had had ambitions to TRY to get into a Frostgrave event this weekend, it didn’t pan out. I did, however, get a chance to see some splendid Frostgrave scenery for the ongoing tournament in the tournament area.

Click to Enlarge Frostgrave Photos

I also had a notion of getting in an event during the day Friday but that didn’t pan out.. the siren song of the Exhibitor Hall and Flea Market delayed my steps. I was happy to bump into a flea market guy selling bulk 28mm individual figures from a few historical periods– Romans, Gauls, Germans and Vikings, etc. I picked up a bunch of 28mm Vikings (for Viking Looters and SAGA).  I’m not sure what manufacturer this was; I didn’t ask too many questions.  Also, on Friday, I picked up more Copplestone KISS KISS BANG BANG figures for a game I’m designing called SPY RUN.  Wait’ll ya see, wait’ll ya see.

So I wandered around for a bit, talked with friends, and say some great games being run.  Nothing that knocked my socks off, but that’s okay, a lot of people were having a good time.


Homemade ironclad miniatures– using air dried modeling clay!


Now, that’s OLD school.


Big ships, pirates.. yep, Brian Whitaker is around.

Later on we foolishly risked losing our parking spot to go out and get dinner, my son being no great fan of Hall Pig (we were at the ass end of beyond, anyway, and Sherpas ain’t cheap). I have to say, normally, I’m no great fan of chain restaurants in a neighborhood where there are tons upon tons of locally owned and operated family joints, but there was something about a Cracker Barrel, mashed potatoes, roast beef, and coffee, near a fireplace.  It was in such stark contrast to the outside I got positively drowsy.  So I was still in a good mood when I attempted to come BACK to the Host and park.  I’ll be the guy to bring this up; what idiot left the front right parking lot (diagonal from the Lampeter half snowed in for the entire weekend??? The convention lost about 20 parking spots, maybe more, due to there being gigantic drifts piled up from snow removal.  Don’t they use snow blowers in Lancaster?   It was a lousy job of snow removal, and it impacted us.

Might as well bring it up since people who didn’t show up will wonder.  How is the Host these days?   Well, kind of a mixed bag.  I didn’t stay there (more on that miserable experience later) so I can’t comment on the state of the rooms that got rennovated.  The physical plant appears to be operating, but there were still signs of wear all over the place that badly needed fixing and attention.  Basic stuff, like the railing to the handicapped entrance ramp only held up by one post stuck into crumbling concrete.  If someone ever puts their weight on it, they’re in for a nasty fall.  The hotel appeared to be operating normally otherwise– no overflowing toilets, the heating and a/c worked.. the wireless was just an gigantic joke.  I tried periscoping and/or Facebook Live from the show, and it just kept dropping connections.

Conventions at the Lancaster Host.. they are not for sissies.

Live Action Dripcam footage on Instagram


Caesar Vs. Pluck

Once back, I got a spot in Jeff Wasileski’s Caesar Vs. Pluck game.  This is an adaption of Howard Whitehouse’s older Science vs. Pluck for the Roman era.  Yours truly played the Imperial Heir Domitian, younger brother of Titus and son of Vespasian.  Jeff’s games call for much playing of roles and skullduggery as a rule.  As I had played Domitian before in 2013, the last time Jeff ran a a game of CVP, I took the role of Domitian again.  This was a great scenario.  Barbarians (The Ruritani and Schwetti?) have taken over a local Imperial city on the coast, and have been despoiling it for a couple of weeks.  Domitian, spoiled brat that he is, yearns for some glory to get out of his older brother’s shadow.  Well, he got some glory in spades, as it were. Like last time, Domitian has been entrusted with military command, and a couple of decent veteran soldiers to make sure he doesn’t mess everything up.  The command is split into land and sea.  Domitian plans to land a naval force, offloading some Romans and wiping out pirate reinforcements, while a veteran legion drives the barbs to the sea.  That was the theory anyway.  Jeff loves games with factions and we played it to the hilt.

Romans on the attack

Pirates getting a lot more than they bargained for

Flaming naptha pirates come to grief.

Landing force seems overwhelmed

Meanwhile the field army was in trouble!

I played Domitian exactly like one SHOULD play Domitian– ambitious, angry, trying to prove himself (he’s very young in this time period). I have to say, the Romans killed like champions in this scenario. I dropped off the landing barges on the beach and went in for the Ram on the nearest Pirate galley with my Liburnian. We didn’t sink it but we did damage it, and then my gladiator cohort boarded it and turned the crew into chutney. Just like that. THEN, the gladiators rowed the ship over to the local hijacked grain ship, thinking they could liberate that too… mistake! The hatches to the hold burst open and 25 pirates swarmed out– the good kind. Against 9 gladiators. The gladiators held a line and marched right at them. Oddly, the pirates took some casualties, broke their morale, and they dove over the side. I mean, ALL of them. And the grain ship was ours. So we rowed back around to the where the galleys were still engaged in with Greek Fire shooting ships. We tried to sink one from a distance but lost patience and rammed the hell out of it, sinking it instantly. With that, the pirate naval forces were gone, decimated.

Gladiators solve problems.

We landed some boat crews and soldiers. They supported the land forces that were expanding a toehold on the beach. And, as soon as the Gladiators supported the flanks, the beach side barb forces were crumbling right and left and running for it. The land side forces initially did NOT do nearly as well, also playing their roles to the hilt and were non-cooperative. The Barb cavalry was pretty vicious, in fact. Eventually, things started to stabilize, and a line was formed.

Romans capture the signal tower on the hill

I feel like if we had played a few more turns, the naval force would have fought all the way to the land force. Everything around the naval force had taken to the hills. Rome clearly had a smashing victory by any measure, especially when a cave of pirate loot was discovered, destined for the coffers of the Roman treasury. THAT’s a victory. Now, I’m not sure I played Domitian exactly how I’d like to think was accurately. Domitian wasn’t exactly a killing machine in real life, but I played it as best I could– petty, backstabbing, and tyrannical. GREAT game, and Jeff and his son Nick won a PELA for it. Well deserved.

I took a ton of pictures of Caesar vs. Pluck.  If you want to see a screenshow, click on the Roman Eagle:

The Wasileskis basking in the glory of their well deserved award.

After we finished there we went to the hotel and finally checked in. Word of warning, do NOT bother with the tiny Red Roof motel on the Host side of Route 30. OMG.. it redefines the term “Spartan”, given that the Spartans enjoyed cold baths, hard sleeping surfaces, and occasionally dealing with angry Persians. This motel is 1 star at best; only because they won’t let you rate it lower. Sigh. It was cheap. Next time I’ll pay more and be able to sleep.

The next day..

Since the Red Roof dump we were staying in deigned not to serve any kind of breakfast, we did Panera, and then went back to the convention.  Even on Saturday, it was a hard slog finding a parking spot, but we managed way out at the end of the expansion lot they built where the Congressional used to be.   I suppose that’s good news (no parking should equal high attendance, usually, but I think you can blame a lot of no parking in this instance on inadequate snow removal).

There were still some great games on Saturday, though I thought the space wasn’t filled up by any means.


7TV Wreck of the Fafnir Alpha

Wreck of the Fafnir Alpha, a setting for 7TV

Once again, I did a run on the dealer’s room since I had a ticket for a 7TV game run by a gentleman named  Keith Frye at 2:00 PM. I’ve wanted to play 7TV for a long time now.  The system is kind of/sort of set up as a roleplaying game of a television show from mythical 60s or 70s spy shows.  So every game will have a kind of ridiculous retro style to it that I find very entertaining.  The mechanics aren’t very complicated… mostly rolling against skill checks, which is really just a way of validating “doing crazy stuff”.  And crazy stuff there was!!!  This was a great crew of players, many of whom I have played with in similarly silly games run by other GMs.  The plot wasn’t hugely complicated.. or was it?  The action took place on a giant petroleum platform called the Fafnir Alpha.  There were spies, corporate troubleshooters, regular shooters, strikers, spies, super criminals, and a giant alien blob creature.  One predictable side got in a predictable gunfight with another predictable side, and while they were hung up with that, I tried (as Archer, yes, that guy) to intercept some kind of briefcase and get off the platform.  Since it seemed clear that I wasn’t going to get to the helicopter in time to do that, I had Lana shoot the pilot dead, which lead to a series of unfortunate and somewhat hilarious results: 1) there was now no way off of the platform for, well, anyone; 2) the briefcase was still on the platform; and 3) the faceless super-villain made a heroic leap for the diving (uncontrolled) helicopter and managed to control it before it hit the drink!  What a great time!

I have a ton of photographs of this game, if you want to see them in a flickr slideshow, go here.

I’m blanking on what we did for dinner, but again, it wasn’t hall pig.  I know I made a quick run to the dealer’s room to get some pre-dreadnought 1:2400 ships from Viking Forge, then got back in time to play SAIL POWER at 8:00


Jolly Jack Tars.. or the Dutch equivalent

Sail Power aka, another excuse to spank Scott Landis

I played this game at FALL IN, and had a great time–  it was a combat-centric game set in the age of sail,in roughly 15mm scale.  The sailing and combat mechanics are a little fiddly, but once you get the hang of it, perfectly understandable.

This game was very different from the one I played at FALL-IN! Even though I was sailing a giant Indiaman, with tons more cannons than the single gunboat I was sailing in last game, I fired nary a shot. This was ostensibly because the scenario was more nuanced than “just shaddup and try to sink Scott Landis”. Scott was indeed present, but managed to escape justice and hot shot by scampering away and engaging in some chicanery with the Spaniards and local merchants. Next time, next time. I actually enjoyed THIS game more than the last one– my goal, as the Dutch player, was to bring a suitable bribe to the Spanish governor in the fort at the center of the table and have him commit to the ongoing war with the English on our side. The British want the same things, of course, but I got there first, with a large suitcase of bribes (3,000 gold and a chimpanzee). I played the diplomatic thing to the hilt, rendering honors going into a Spanish port, running in the guns when at the dock, etc. Sure, it’s fun to smash your opponents to flinders sometimes, but it’s also fun to bribe Spanish governors in SAIL POWER’s meta game, of sorts. Garrett and I (and Scott Landis) all had a great time.

Yes, I have tons of pictures of this game, too. You can see a slide show here.

It was cool to see Eric G.’s ROAD WARRIOR game on Saturday night, but I was involved in Sail Power and couldn’t play.  The 28mm stuff is very impressive but tends to make for a very crowded and slow race IMO.

Speaking of Garrett, and we weren’t, what was HE doing all this time? Killing big stompy mechs, that’s what. Garrett has become quite a fan of Battletech in the past two years, and he’s not bad at it.

Click on the picture to see his slideshow, and here’s Garrett’s review of Cold Wars 2017:

Cold wars 2017 was a blast, great fun the whole time. My father and I arrived on Friday, I partook in a game of battletech (a favorite of mine), kicked some butts, and took some names. Many fun moments were had that game, such as my mech falling, getting back up only to be knocked over by an enemy who fell over as well. The next day, I played battletech most of the day, the game was pretty eventful, with great plays by everyone involved. The GM(s) running battletech gave out a miniature for every kill you got in the game, in total I received 11 of them. Saturday ended with a game of Sailpower, a large boat game with a fantastic rule set. Sailpower was a great time, the people running it were fun and the game was great,t a nice mix of trading, fighting, exploring, and strategy. Finally on the last day, my dad and I checked out the dealer’s hall and the flea market, we found some cool things we could use for games. Cold wars 2017 was great I had a fun time there playing games and socializing.

Sunday was largely predictable.. nothing in the Flea, no last minute purchase in the dealer’s area, so we saddled up, got some breakfast and then we bolted for lands South.

Homeward Brave Soldiers, homeward! Farewell, Oh Mighty Susquehanna!

Observations and Whatnot: Cold Wars 2017 was a great time for me personally– I played in the kind of games that I love to play in, played enough games to keep me amused but not flat out exhausted, got enough rest and nutrition to not feel like dropping dead on the way home and just generally had a great time. That is not to say that I think CW17 was particularly well attended (I know it’s corny to say “it looked light” but it really did, and that was probably because of the recent snow). The new owners of the Host have (mostly) fixed the roof and I hear hot water was present without renting a rent-a-plant. I can’t vouch for the room redecorating, I stayed in a horrid motel down the road a bit (my one star Yelp review is HERE). I do think there are many features of the ‘rennovated’ hotel that don’t look like they have changed at all. Word is that Lancaster will host all three conventions in 2018, so here we all are back again!

In any event, this was one fun Cold Wars, despite the snow, despite the awful motel, despite a leaky roof.. I had a fantastic time and so did Garrett.

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!

A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight: HISTORICON 2016 AAR


HISTORICON 2016: Fredericksburg Convention Center, 13-17 July 2016

Before we begin: Well, I didn’t think I’d have to write a disclaimer since back in the days of a, erm, certain potentially litigious former board member, but it might be a good idea to state this up front. The author of this blog is Walt O’Hara. I am not on the board of HMGS and never have been. I have served HMGS as an unpaid volunteer for several years — from the mid 90s, in point of fact. During that time, I have done most jobs you can possibly do on staff, some indifferently well, some I wouldn’t touch again with a ten foot pole. I have known “the HMGS skinny” in the past, from time to time, maybe, but now is not that time. I generally have a high opinion of the board, they are working in an underappreciated position with high expectations for no pay– which is was true “back in the day” and is true now. I know both Pauls, Mike, Kevin, and Scott  by working on the same shows with them, several times (mostly– Mike and Paul D are locals and I see them now and again at Eagle and Empire). I don’t know John and Dave that well, but I have played in games they have run in the past (in Dave’s case, it was a Russian Civil War game, and it kicked butt. In John’s I think it was some Trench warfare thing with Belgians!). I do not, however, really ‘hang out’ with anyone on the BoD and I am not “in the know” by any sane definition of the term. I do take a very dim view of people who castigate a Board of Directors for being “corrupt”, “venal”, “lazy” or “criminal” simply because they chose to perform a thankless job most of us (including ME) won’t take the time or bother to do, though we all seem to have the time to complain about them.  I also take a dim view of people that condemn BOD members that make decisions that are marginally inconvenient for them, personally.  That’s just stupid, lazy logic. So with that said, I am going to warn you up front. I’m going to voice an opinion about HMGS business in this post. It’s just an opinion. Everyone has one and mine is as good or as bad as anybody’s.  So if reading opinions bores you, skip over the yellow part.  Fair warning.  There, we’re done with that. On to the fun stuff.

Convention Director Delaney addresses the troops and introducing “Will Call”

Gar and I drove down to Fredericksburg in a vehicle we affectionately call “Granny’s Sh*tbox”- an old Ford minivan she bought used back in the 90s.  It’s dull blue oxidized paint, but her previous “honest” mechanic conned her into buying a new engine and we feel honor bound to drive this revitalized crapwagon into the ground. On the plus side, it has that snazzy early era Air Conditioning, which is bonus for July in VA.  I was actually shivering.  It also has a unique automobile superpower– it’s got to be the most anonymous looking vehicle ever created.  I couldn’t remember where I parked it, constantly.

Everyone has to show for the staff meeting but that leaves the convention way overstaffed the first night, with volunteers stumbling over each other in an attempt to be helpful. I’ve worked events these last few years, but will do whatever. I like the event desk– you really are helping people do exactly what they came to the convention to do, that is play games. Seeing that we were underemployed, Brenda suggested we set up the events board that evening, and so we did.


The events desk– crazy and non stop until about 11 AM most days, then again when they put out the evening tickets.

Events is good gig, sure, it looks like all we do is hand out tickets, but we’re empowered to help people do a lot of things.. like move tables, run new events, cancel events, finding new tables, etc.  Essentially it’s the old “GM Help desk” concept folded into the events board.  I like the job because it’s really the last step to getting people into the reason they came to a convention: playing games.  Don’t ask me to comment on the registration system.  I haven’t used it yet, I can’t compare it to the last one (which I had used and  I didn’t hold in high regard).  If it has a high learning curve, I can’t comment on it.  If one person uses it slower than another, try not to complain too much.  Some people learn things faster than others.  Besides, it relies on wireless, and every venue we’re in these days has problems catching up to the 21st century in that regard.


You never know who’ll show up to these things.

Gar and I closed the events table for the night, and there not being a lot of games going on, eventually hit the sack.

Thursday was the first “public” day of the convention.  Many of the tickets for Thursday had gone out the night before and it was slim pickings that morning.  I felt pretty bad for not getting my act together in time to run an event for this convention.   For one thing, it would have sold out, easily.  For another, it feels like there just isn’t enough events being run for the space.. we could easily add 100 more to the schedule, though I wince a the noise problem that might cause.  It’s not like we didn’t start the con with a low number of events– we had 506 by my count, and that’s from the data that the events coordinator sent me for guidebook so it’s fairly accurate.  We only had about 7 cancellations and none for any shady reasons that I could detect, like getting a free GM badge.  Speaking of events, and as this is one of those topics that everyone weighs in on with their opinion, here are the ACTUAL NUMBERS OF EVENTS IN THE SCHEDULE BY CATEGORY.  As you can see here clearly, historical events outnumber non-historical events far and away, again.

(quick note on methodology, I used the database from events, sorted by category in Excel, did a COUNTA function on the categories, then totaled the resulting subtotals.  These are the categories HMGS uses in our program books and to schedule games, not mine.  I counted borderline subjects such as “Pulp” as non-historical, but Westerns and Pirates as historical, so you can juggle numbers if that doesn’t fit your particular prejudices) (edit: yeah, I  know.  I screwed up the count above and “Colonial” is in twice, but it only a matter of maybe 10 events total, if that.  I’ll fix)

A lot of people get a lot of mileage out of saying the Society is going to the dogs for running non-historical games at our conventions– that we are somehow “losing our brand” for doing so.  The actual numbers tell a very different story.

Wednesday night sightings:

Setup, not running

 Setup, not running

Thursday was incredibly busy.  This is the morning most of the weekend visitors arrive and the parking lot out front jammed up pretty fast.  Most people want registration over and done with as smoothly and painlessly as possible.  This year, to whittle down the lines, HMGS introduced “Will Call”.. essentially using your smart phone to bring up the website in line and printing badge labels directly- so you could enter with a credit card while standing at the back of the line and then cut over to Pre-Reg and find your badge made, just like a pre-reg person.  I’d like to get feedback on if it worked or how it worked, but that’s how it was described it would work.  If we go full bore on Will Call ticketing.. my only question is, why do we shut down per-registration so early, then?  This is essentially the same thing, but the day of the show, isn’t it?

Thursday Sightings

Hey, if working registration was EASY, anyone could do it!

Dinner was with Gar at BONCHON chicken Fredericksburg, and it is quite a meal.  Bonchon is a Korean style of cooking chicken with amazing results.  See below:

Portions are HUGE. We had to bring back leftovers.

Meanwhile, back at the convention, I was getting into my first official game of the convention:

Jutland – Day of the Dreadnaughts; GM: Brian Dewitt; World War I; When Dreadnaughts Ruled the Seas. The British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet showdown fought in misty North Seas conditions on May 31, 1916. The battle opened with the six British Battlecruisers chasing five German Battlecruisers. The German Dreadnoughts are out numbered but the battle is very even with both sides claiming victory.

I took many pictures of this game which took some time to unfold.  Posting them to this post would be tedious, but you can go HERE to see the slideshow.

Brian DeWitt is a local boy from Northern VA, and I’ve played his naval games many times, including these rules, When Dreadnoughts Ruled the Seas.  They are reasonably comprehensive, not “Fear God and Dread Nought” (Clash of Arms) by any means, but they play fast for all of that.  Instead of measuring THIS armor thickness versus THAT gun caliber, the rules generalize a certain threshold of firepower into categories (about 14″ or higher if I’m remembering it right).  This makes figuring out the firing sequence fast and simple.  For the JUTLAND scenario we were under some constraints that really changed the rules substantially, making the game more about hidden movement and random initial placement.  Essentially both the Germans and the English have ships on the map at start, but they are all represented as tokens with arrows on them, indicating what direction it is moving.  Both sides have many dummy counters.  As the tokens move and come within spotting distance of each other, the ships appear on the water, sometimes (as happened to us) extremely close to the Grand Fleet!    I was an honorary Briton for this game and led two squadrons led by the Iron Duke and the Benbow.

Things didn’t go swimmingly for the British from the first moment. There were six flying squadrons coming in from the Northwest (including mine) that only fired an odd angry shot at the end of the game. British gunfire was just okay, we piled on the drubbing but it wasn’t good enough to sink much of the German capital ships, though we did nail some destroyers and lighter cruisers. In return, the Germans plastered the Germans into next week. Every roll, it seemed, got a critical hit somewhere on the deck near the ammo bunkers of an English ship, and then Bang, Zing! another dead modern ship killed by an aging German tub. Life seemed stacked against the Grand fleet that day.

I took a lot of pano pictures as well, they are also in the SLIDESHOW. Click on the picture below to see the dispositions when Brian called the game. It’s a large (wide) picture and you’ll have to scroll to see all the enemy..

Click to see larger button, enemy distribution.  It will blow up to original size (and it’s a large picture).

Thursday ended with a resounding defeat for the Royal Navy, which I blame on our inability to get our line in decent shape fast enough to pound the Germans, and also terrible dice rolling.  The Germans must have rolled the “Deck Critical Hit” result 4 times.  Maybe 5.  The game ended.. even though we lost, I greatly enjoyed the chaotic nature of the Jutland game, especially the hidden/semi-hidden setup, which made for some real surprises.

Did I mention I got the historical Admiral Jellicoe killed?  Yeah, he was on the Iron Duke… sigh.

Ruefully, I had the first beer offered, which as “My Imaginary Girlfriend IPA”.. and it was tastier than the ashes of defeat.

Thursday was a busy day and night for gaming.  There was a lot of action in the side rooms, which hosted discrete gaming groups that submitted blocks of gaming events– there were games from NOVAG, HAWKS, a group of individuals that play Battletech (which my son is somewhat addicted to), a group of people who play Colonial era games, and some local gaming groups I couldn’t identify.  I like the side rooms, you can hear better and they really put on a show.

I found a HUGE Roman gaming on in one of the side rooms during Jutland:


I’m really enjoying the Panning option in digital photography. I wouldn’t recommend it for every setup of course, but it’s a handy method of capturing those really huge setups like this one. (Click on picture above to see Pano).


Garrett’s current fixation, Battletech.

So Thursday ended with Garrett and I in defeat, him in Battletech, me at Jutland. So it goes. Friday, a new day dawns and this is where we have our greatest influx of walkins, by my estimation. We reported to our shift early and were in a steady state of demand until 1 PMish. Not to polish my own apple any, but I found that the Guidebook app I built for Historicon is incredibly handy for solving problems at the events desk.

“I don’t know where this event is”
“okay, tell me something about it”
“It had Rommel in the title” (Walt brings up SEARCH, types in Rommel…)
“Starts when?”
“3 PM”
“FOUND IT! that’s table EA09. Starts in 20 minutes.”
“Great! Um, where’s that?” (Walt brings up room layout maps, finds EA, points out table)
“THERE.. right through those doors, about 30 feet up on the left.”
“Wow, great! Thanks! How did you do that, are you in league with Satan?”
“No Worries, mate.. I use… GUIDEBOOK!

Okay, maybe a little embellished but you get the point. It was faster than taking the guy there and faster than looking it up in paper books.

After my Friday shift, I went directly into:
Reds vs Whites: Retreat to the Crimea!; GM: Jared Fishman; Inter-War; FOB2 Modified. Deniken’s 1919 push on Moscow has failed. With Baron von Wrangel in charge now, the White forces are in full blown retreat towards the Crimea. In this battle, a desperate White rearguard, entrenched along a rail line, attempts to hold off combat ready Red troops who are beginning to shine on the battlefield. 15mm, lots of variety (tachankas, armored cars, White officer battalions), using modified Field of Battle 2 Rules. Can the Whites hold back the Red tide? Experience with FOB is helpful!

This was a great game. I have zero experience with Piquet, which I am assuming this “FoB system” is built upon. However, once I got the hang of it, it was pretty great. The card system isn’t just a “Sword and the Flame” like means of activation, it has a larger role– creating and managing the chaos factor on a battlefield. I really enjoyed the cerebral aspect of planning how to advance my forces using the card system. Mr. Fishman, the GM, was both patient and enthusiastic, and knew his period well.


My left flank command, mostly cavalry, veteran to crack troops, two armored cars and two tachankas. I lost the use of both fairly early.

I took a lot of risks in that game.. you never know what your opponent might draw, and most assuredly it won’t be good for you. Since I was cavalry I knew I had to react aggressively for the left flank to accomplish anything. I lost my tachankas early and my A/Cs were “silenced”.. I never drew the card combination to get them from being in a buttoned down state again. Still had men with horses, though, and I drove up the left side, supporting an infantry attack to my right. The cavalry were the glory boys that day, routing the enemy’s entire right flank thoroughly, and taking out most of his artillery. The game ended when it did, and it was kind of a draw.. we had done some damage to the enemy’s line that he had to react to, but he wasn’t dislodged in the center and our right flank didn’t accomplish much of anything. So it goes. We might have accomplished more in a few more turns, sweeping right and driving in from the enemy right flank, trying to roll him up his line, but we ran out of time. Great game!

There were a lot of rumors flying around the convention about the convention moving.. Many, many people came up to me for an opinion or comment on the issue, and I admitted I knew nothing about it.  Read the disclaimer above.   I don’t travel with the hip crowd.  I was told that tonight’s membership meeting would be important, so after going and discovering the tasty treat that was COOKOUT FREDERICKSBURG (I could write a whole post on how great that place is), we sat in the meeting.  Not that there were many seats, it was well attended.  Scott Landis presented the convention relocation reports, and he did a good job with the analysis.  The familiar scattershot diagram was presented.  Cost of tables, and Room rates were discussed.  The conclusion was that Historicon operates close to the margin.  Okay, we got that.  Then we went over some of the other options and his (Scott’s) Stoplight chart for ranking them.  Some options were brought up in the Pocanos and New Jersey.  I didn’t care for either one of them, but the undercurrent of the conversation was that they seemed to want to move Historicon for the reasons that “it was too much like the other conventions, nothing stands out any more” “it costs too much to run H’con in Fredericksburg”.

Okay, back to the opinion part, and it’s JUST MY OPINION, not that of the BOD, HMGS or any other body.  I think the hue and cry to move Historicon (of all conventions you could move) is ridiculous.  Sure there are many issues with the Fredericksburg site, there will always be issues with sites– this place is Nirvana compared to the Host.  Is there something wrong with the idea that we could have a geographic spacing of conventions in a North, Middle and South arrangement?  Who CARES about the concept of “Flagship” conventions, anyway.. if that’s your issue, make Fall-IN! the Flagship, it’s doing relatively well these days.  I personally believe this move is a response to people who find Fredericksburg inconvenient for them personally, because they got used to driving 45 minutes from PA or NJ to get to the cons when ALL of them were in one state.  As was emphasized time and time again, when you move a convention, attendance drops off.  So why move H’con? Doesn’t that sound stupid to anyone?  Buehler? Buehler?    Yes, I admit that the margins are tighter on the Fredericksburg location, but isn’t the proper response to that to GROW THE CONVENTION IN PLACE, instead of retreating all the time?  Everywhere I looked at the convention, there were signs we had a lot of people.  I couldn’t get a parking spot to save my life on Saturday.  The games were great, people had a good time– but almost all games were full up.  We’ve had conventions that were tight on the budget before– Fall IN! at Gettysburg comes to mind, immediately.  Yet, we kept them in place in the hopes they would grow, as Fall IN! DID grow.  I find the analysis competent (good job, Scott, I’m serious), but I disagree that the conclusion is “We must move a convention now”.  I found the room rates discussion of the Jersey location alarming.. it appears we’re getting into another Baltimore situation,with very very expensive hotels, and middle aged or older attendees with fixed incomes who chose not to bother to show up.  I know I’d have to put a lot of thought into a convention that cost me a thousand bucks in hotel before I stepped one foot into the dealer area.  Only, unlike Baltimore, I couldn’t manage a day trip visit to New Jersey.  I’m not that unique– I think tons of potential Southern guests that attend can manage the same kind of math.  Frankly we’re looking at the wrong problem here.. aren’t Fall-IN! and Cold Wars the big risks here?  It truly remains to be seen whether or not the Host can be rebuilt to code or not.  So I have to ask, isn’t that where the Relocation committee should be focusing right now?  We have two very fragile eggs in that basket, and all it could take is one more burst pipe to break them.  I’ve spoken with the FI convention manager, who is up next, and he remains confident that the new owners will spend the necessary monies to get the place fixed up.  I’d give him the benefit of the doubt, but one thing’s for certain, the Host will go up in price as well.   Betting future convention success on the well being of the Lancaster Host hotel is starting to sound like a fool’s bet… and I used to be a big proponent of the place back in the MOVE HISTORICON NOW era.  Remember that?  It took a lot of fail for me to get here. Moving Historicon also seems like a bad move.  We’re ensuring a large attendance drop (according to Scott Landis, about 200 attendees, more or less).  To cut the throat of convention that might not be doing spectacularly, but at least is doing steady state (and perhaps improving) just seems .. stupid to me.  In one stroke of the pen we will lose ground we’ve made with attendees from farther South.  I was speaking with two rather pleasant gentlemen from Tennessee volunteering with me (walk in volunteers btw), and I asked them if they would go to the convention if it moved up to New Jersey or Northern PA.  “Nope, can’t afford it”, was the honest answer.  Rather than try to serve the center mass of the attendance diagram so a smaller PA-NJ-VA-MD set of people can got to three conventions in PA, why not forge ahead with the locating one in the North (NJ/NY), one in the Middle (PA) and one in the South (VA)?  We’ll at least pick up outlyers from other regions that way as well as a lot of (but not ALL of) our core attendees.  We have to understand that not all dealers will be happy with that idea and some stalwarts will not be at every convention– which is pretty much where we are at today.

Well, that’s my .02, worth what you paid for it.  I rarely speak about HMGS policies on this blog any more, because it’s not worth the effort– I’d rather spend my time commenting on the positive.  This will be an exception.  To sum up: 1) Moving Historicon bad (losing 200 attendees immediately and attendees from South and Southwest of VA), 2) Moving Cold Wars and/or Fall IN! farther North good (don’t put our eggs in one basket).  3) Geographic Attendee spread farther North and South good4) Astronomical room night rates bad.                               Rant OFF.

So our good friend Ed Watts was also experiencing his birthday at the convention and both Gar and I were invited to the tiny con-within-a-con that was his birthday party.  There was cake and candles and soda and Sword in the Flame and Western Skirmish gaming.

This was such a good time.. old friends (I despair to say how old) coming together for nosh and good times.  I was sort of the British commander for Ed’s Sword and the Flame game, which appeared a little hopeless at first but things were changing up by the time we had to end (early).  For more pictures, go HERE for the slideshow.

Saturday dragged a bit in the morning at events but was brisk at reception.  The parking lot was jammed to the gills.  We were on until 5 oclock but really didn’t have to work too hard after 1PM.  We broke down events at the end and just laid out the tickets.  Saturday night was fantastic.. I got a ticket for Steve Braun’s Tekumel game:

On the Seas of Tekumel; GM: Steve Braun; Fantasy; 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. This is one of the five gamaes on the HAWKS Tekumel track.

I didn’t realize the HAWKS even had a “Tekumel track” but that certainly is intriguing.  For those of you not in the know, Tekumel is a reference to an ancient, dense roleplaying & combat system called “Empire of the Petal Throne”, set in a fantastic setting 60, 000 years in the future when mankind has colonized other worlds, in particular the setting for this game, Tekumel, a somewhat tropical planet that is host to not only human colonists but several intelligent and bellicose alien species vying for control.  Steve Braun’s game imagined that the races of Tekumel would carry their conflicts onto the ocean with them, and he spent a lot of time building up boats and weird watercraft fitted to the alien races.  I got to play the Hluss, which are kind of insect like, kind of reptilian. Best of all, my faction had an organic submersible of sorts.  This led to all kinds of hilarity when we surfaced underneath the frog-like Hlutgru’s spiffy new war canoe!


Now that’s non-stop hilarity. The Hlutgru player had another opinion, of course.

I loved the game, loved the rules.. and if they are going to be running this at Barrage I need to make a point to come to that event. I love naval games and remember having a lot of fun with this material when I was all of 17 years old. It’s heartening to see that the Petal Throne is staying alive through the volunteer efforts of lots of dedicated people. For more pictures of this event, see the slide show HERE.

I was in no more events for the weekend, I reckon I had my fill. Let’s see, lots of historicals (see the analysis up top). I only played in one “fantasy” game and I could hardly resist. There were no standout extravaganza games anywhere at this convention that I could see, but plenty of excellent work by dedicated gamemasters. I loved the games I played in. Shopping wise I didn’t get a ton of stuff but I did put down some serious support for vendors (first) and flea market (second). Got some frostgrave stuff for camp, got a new maori war canoe, go some bulk pewter for Iron Wind Metal (mostly treasure chest tokens). I did not start a new period “just because”. We discovered two new eating places down there (BonChon and Cookout), and slept well at the Homewood Suites, which is becoming my favorite of the three adjoining spots. I saw a lot of old friends, got to jaw with them endlessly and even went to a party. I’d say this convention was a bucket of win for me and my son.

Observations: There were plenty of games, numerically, but it was a seller’s market.. competition for tickets was fierce.  Lines at registration were long, but seemed to move– I didn’t hear about any WIFI disasters.  The parking lots were full all the time.  The Vendor Hall was light, but we are just going to have to accept that that is the new reality now.  The Call Ahead ticketing idea seems like it’s way overdue, but I haven’t tried it yet.  Guidebook, yet again, has proven its value.  Many people approached me to tell me how valuable the “paperless approach” is to them.

So that is that.  As the sun sets slowly in the West, we will leave our attendees, clustering around one last round of beers, re-fighting old wars..

See you all at Fall-IN!

For every picture from the weekend, and a lot of them weren’t posted, go HERE to see the slideshow…

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!

A visit to the Weekend, 2016


The Weekend is Otto Schmidt’s concept about a nearly self sustaining, low impact miniatures convention with almost zero staff (beyond Otto it seems), an emphasis on amiability and sociability, and no politics.  Otto has been running the Weekend as sole alpha male for quite a while now and I’ve been making a point about attending the last couple of years.  The site is the Continental Inn, which is directly across the street from the Lancaster Host.  This is a nice, family owned hotel.. maybe not the most modern hotel in town, but then again few buildings on that Route 30 strip have been built earlier than the last ten years.  One night was under 100 bucks with the convention rate– I defy any Lancaster hotel to charge less than 100 dollars a night these days.

The Mighty Susquehannnnnnaaaa!!!

So Garrett and I showed up much later on Saturday than intended, mostly through our own idiocy. It happens.  My schedule indicated two games I wanted to play in– Pete Frechtling’s Leonardo Plus game, and a big Steampunk game in the evening.  We were to suffer two disappointments along those lines– Pete’s game was already started, and the evening steampunk game started four hours early.

However, Pete was just finishing up when we arrived and we got to see his great setup.

Yep, that’s a spectacle and a half. I like Leonardo Plus.

Sadly, the real lesson is to show up early for this thing, or show up the night before. The Weekend runs Friday and Saturday, and Sunday is just for having breakfast, jabbering and leaving. Much like any miniatures convention. I hope the boardgaming element of the Weekend grows somewhat, the venue is plenty spacious and can handle more people– it’s not big enough for WBC or a HMGS convention, and that’s just fine. I like small conventions like the Weekend and Guns of August.

Some Mustangs and Messerschmidt being run on Saturday

A fun Steam punk “Saurian Safari” style game Saturday night

Fortunately, Eric Turner was there to run a game pitting Italian Colonialists versus the Dervish late in the 19th century. I was surprised to see Garrett wanted to play and he jumped in as one of my Italian co-captains. We tried to play an aggressive game but the game came up a little short as we didn’t achieve victory conditions in time. So it goes, we enjoyed playing the game, and it illustrates it really doesn’t matter WHAT you play as long as you are with the right people.

(that’s not me disparaging the subject matter, it was a lot of fun)

I actually Periscoped this one for a while, not that we had that many viewers, but that’s the kind of thing I want to do more of.

Anyway, yeah, we lost, but we had a great time trash talking with our friends.

As traditionally ends every Weekend, there was MST3K (Military Science Theater 3000). The film was some Soviet era science fiction thing dubbed and redubbed by various countries over the years. Journey to the Prehistoric Planet, I think.

This was an easy film to make fun of, and nod off to. 🙂

So that was our weekend. We had a great time, and on the way back we found a cool little Open House event at the York Airport.

https://goo.gl/photos/gQ1jtJJXgxxqpVu88 <– a little video Google made automatically from phone pictures. Nice!

More Photographs HERE <– the rest of my FLICKR set on the Weekend

Phil Gardocki’s blog post on the Weekend

Guidebook for Cold Wars 2016 is released


app for that

In a real crash program of data entry, I have managed to put together a Guidebook guide for Cold Wars 2016.  Thanks to Paul Trani, Theresa Presizosi, Scott Holder, and Scott Landis for their assorted (timely) inputs.

Guidebook has changed a bit over the years we have been using it for HMGS conventions.  I’m going to go over the basic screens now and show some of the new(ish) features.

A couple caveats up front.

First of all, we don’t have TRACKS any more.  That’s a pay feature and HMGS is too cheap to buy it.. so no more color coded dots and collections of categories of events.  I liked the color coding but even I am not sure if it’s worth the extra $$ Guidebook is asking to activate tracks, and I’m fairly bullish about Guidebook.  Secondly, I got a lot of the data for this guidebook pretty late (VERY late), so I didn’t have time to add little banners for “Event” “Tournament” “Hobby U” etc.. you’ll just have to figure it out yourselves this time, sorry.

Screenshots were taken on an Ipad Air, the smart phone menu will look different.

And now, the grand tour– if you don’t want to bother, scroll to the bottom of this post and all the download links will be there.

CW16 Guidebook Main Screen

This is the main screen (above).  The layout is a little nicer than before, and they have streamlined a lot of the “basic convention information” into a single screen.  The menu items are on the left in this shot because of the tablet I’m using (an Ipad Air).

Going from the top of the menu, down, here is Exhibitors– aka Vendors.  In the main listing I

CW16 guidebook individual exhibitor listing

This is an individual exhibitor (see above).  In this case Eureka.  The listing will mention location (table number on the vendor hall map, posted in maps), as well as some description and a website.  If the vendor has any sales or promotions for the show, this is the place to put it.  Note the “Add to T0-Do” link on the bottom. This places the listing on your to-do list (menu item) so it can be a note to yourself to visit this vendor in the exhibitors hall.

Next thing down is the speaker’s list (below) and an individual speaker (below that).

CW16 guidebook speaker's list

and detailed speaker listing.. There’s that handsome devil.

CW16 guidebook individual speaker

This is basically what GB used to refer to as “an extra custom list” and it used to cost big money, so I’m glad it’s free.  We can break out speakers into their own category this way.   Note that you can add a SEMINAR to your “to-do” list, as well.

Going down the list “Contacts” is just a small list for listing people on the convention staff. I haven’t populated it beyond Frank P, I might get to it before the show but I doubt it.

Inbox (next item down) is back from previous years.  This is simply a way for me (or convention management) to send an email to all Guidebook users at once.  I haven’t sent out a test message yet so there’s nothing to look at, I didn’t bother with a screen shot.

Photos:

Photo album is kind of new, and blessedly FREE.  Here’s how it works.. you take a picture(s) or two of a game you are in, or of something interesting.  You can upload it in Guidebook so that it appears in the universal show album.  Not sure what the capacity of this thing is as I haven’t tested it.  Here’s me uploading a picture in three easy steps:

one

selecting a picture or taking a new one

two

writing a caption

three

image in guidebook image catalogue

Images can be a really fun way of sharing not just YOUR game but all the games you played with your mates out to everyone going to the convention.

Schedule:

This looks pretty much like it has looked and works more or less the same way as in past guidebooks. Here’s a few screenshots breaking it down to a couple of individual events.

schedule page for a day

individual schedule item, Hobby U
A Hobby University event– note that Hobby U, Games and Tournaments will all look pretty much the same in the current schedule. I use a T- in front of Tournament event titles and the mortar board to represent Hobby U events.

individual schedule item, Game
A regular game event in the schedule.

MAPS are about the same as always with one nice feature. See the little blue arrows bottom right? That’s a zoom out arrow. Watch what it does:

before:

Map, not zoomed out

after:

 

Map, blue button removes menu for easier viewing

TO DO LIST basically is a reminder list you build by clicking on “Add to my to-do list” for various vendors, speakers etc.   You can also add items to it as “Add item”. I didn’t bother with a screenshot. No, WAIT, it turns out I did:

to do list

MY SCHEDULE is the schedule that YOU build by checking off schedule items in SCHEDULE. You can also set reminders to your self for Guidebook to nag you before an event occurs. This works as it has before, no major changes.

ATTENDEES works as it has before, this is NOT A REGISTRATION SYSTEM. It’s a checking in system, to tell OTHER GUIDEBOOK USERS “Hey, I’m here at the convention”.

GENERAL INFORMATION is all that stuff on the main page.. Google Maps, convention prices, schedule, directions etc.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS are back for this guidebook, in the form of Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter:
Twitter connection screen

I’ve plugged in these hashtags: #ColdWars16, #HMGS, #CW2016, and this account: @HMGS_Inc, since Cold Wars doesn’t seem to have a Twitter account.

Facebook:
Facebook Connection screen

This connects to the HMGS page on Facebook, like last year.

With all that said, here is where you go to get your GUIDEBOOK
https://guidebook.com/g/CW2016/

Here is the link to view it online. The screen layout is very similar to my Ipad Screenshots
https://guidebook.com/guide/53323/

Fall-IN! 2015: More like a Whimper than a Bang!


Once again, another fun Convention Recap by yours truly. In this instance, Fall-IN! 2015, from the warm, yet leaky embrace of the Lancaster Host resort, Lancaster PA.

The Host went all out on the roof repair for our benefit!


Thursday’s child has far to go,

I didn’t have a game to run (though now I wish I had). So I checked in and started to deal with an immediate problem with Guidebook for FALL IN! 2015. I had made a last minute insertion update with the data given to me by Events. I had to format the data several times because it kept not accepting it… Now I think there was something going on with the servers right when I sent that because after it worked, we were missing something along the lines of 200 events. I worked through the problem with Guidebook and extracted the delta from the original data, then inserted the delta, which (finally) fixed the problem. I apologize for anyone who was inconvenienced by GB, I assure you, this is the first time I’ve had any problems in 12 conventions of using it, so we’ll just have to do it right for Cold Wars 2015.

I didn’t do a lot of convention stuff Thursday night, didn’t even stay up late in the bar, as it was virtually empty of life. The crowds were just starting to arrive but the place wasn’t packed. I attended the CD’s meeting and tried to stay out of the way, even though I had volunteered if they were short handed. Dan appeared to be short staff on Thursday but all kinds of people jumped in to help with the rush.

So not much in the way of gaming Thursday but I did get a chance to see the awesome set up for SPEAK SOFTLY AND CARRY A BIGGER STICK! by Michale Konwinski and crew. If you didn’t see it, this was that gigantic pulp city in the upstairs lobby. Michael and crew were setting up most of Thursday night, where I managed to do a little quick run through..

(An Ipad isn’t the best camera platform for filming miniatures, so bear with me)

Friday’s child is loving and giving,

Friday I had no plans so I just wandered about and did some shopping. I have got my hands on the raw materials for a game so jaw-droopingly sacrilegious it will offend nearly everyone. More details as they firm up. In the meantime, here’s some clues:

This gave me a chance to jaw with Otto Schmidt, who is a favorite collaborator, and use a range of figures from Sergeant Major that I’ve passed by a few years running with the idea that “there’s a game in here somewhere, it’s just not talking to me yet”… it was fun to get the gears turning on this one.

I did game one official game on Friday. This was “GET THE STONEWALL”, a hypothetical ironclad game (as most ACW Ironclads tend to be). Rule were Sail and Steam navies (from Bay Area yards) which I had tried in the past and most emphatically did not like. However, THIS game went swimmingly, and I’m not saying that because the Union side (which I was on) won. It really did move much faster and more streamlined from the last time I played it, which was Historicon 2015.

Passaic (front right) and Patapsco (bottom) encounter the Jackson (center left) trailing a few other ash n’ trash like CSS David class torpedoes. The Passaic renders good service here, smashing the steering on the Jackson and sending him swinging the wide arc around and effectively out of the fight.

Later in the same fight. The Jackson is still turning to face us (background). The other union ships are fighting behind the island top left and not doing very well. The Stonewall did get engines fired up and in motion (bottom right) but once again we rendered good service by taking out their long gun early in the fight. The GM keeps this fact hidden from me (as he should) and we had to play it safe, not coming in close to the Stonewall and keeping him bracketed at a distance, shooting him to pieces.

I captained the USS Passaic and Patapsco monitors. I smashed the steering on the CSS Jackson early in the game, effectively taking her out of the fight until very late in the game. I didn’t know this, of course. As we neared the Stonewall on dock, it was trying to frantically load munitions and get steam up. Again, all unknowing, I blew up Stonewall’s big gun, leaving her toothless for long range fights. She was still dangerous, so I kept my distance and kept her under fire, and that’s where the GM called it a Union victory. My union colleague lost a ship, as the Rebs converged upon him. Not what I would have done, but hey, there it is.   GM ruled it a Union victory as we achieved our major objective (or would have in a few more turns of pounding the Stonewall).  Even though we lost an ironclad.   I got a prize– the USS Keokuk for my part in the battle.

HERE is an animated slide show of GET THE STONEWALL in MP4 format, with a little accompaniment by Swamp Candy.

There were a lot of great games at FALL IN! 2015, though really I couldn’t grasp if any period or rules dominated.  FROSTGRAVE (by Osprey) is a big new thing, and reminds me of a snowy Mordheim in some respects.  I only saw a few games of it being run but, wow, the terrain was excellent on the ones I did see.  Historically? probably  it was mostly Napoleonics but it didn’t seem as if there were more than usual in evidence.   Lots and lots of pulp games were in evidence, which is probably going to get someone’s panties in a wad somewhere, but there it is.   Here’s a nice screen show of a sampling of games at the convention:

Click for Slide Show of miscellaneous games run on Friday and Saturday at Fall IN! 2015. Mostly Distelfink and the surrounding small club rooms.

Friday, during the day, the Distelfink was a wasteland, there were many open tables.  They got full up at night, though.  That’s about the extent of any gauge of attendance or participation I did.  I don’t think any game I saw was exactly hurting for people but many didn’t have the full compliment either.

My personal favorite historical spectacle was Bill Moreno (from Good Ground)’s 10mm ‘ Battle of Fredericksburg layout, which deserved whatever prize thingy it go.  He gets much respect from me.  See for yourselves, it looks like a Currier and Ives engraving:

I have NO IDEA what attendance records were.  Dan Murawski seemed to think we were going to go over 2000, which would have been pretty amazing for any Fall IN! show. I’m not sure it happened, though.   I hope it does– Fall IN! continues to grow as our Yankee brethren forfend to attend a convention in Fredericksburg (if you take TMP dross seriously)– so Historicon’s loss is Fall IN’s gain, although as usual it’s hard to quantify ANY statement about who actually comes to shows and why they stay away from others.

The bald guy in the center had the highest pitched giggle I've ever seen come out of a man in my life.

The New York State/Erie folk who arrange Toys for Tots donations and raffles for FALL IN! were once more back on the job, doing a good job.   Seemed a little quiet this year, however, I missed Santa Moe.

I admire what Uncle Moe and his sizable crew do for Toys for Tots.. giving the lie to the perception that all gamers are immature selfish bastards with bad BO and poor social skills.  I mean, we do occasionally do something nice for charity, despite the BO and bad social skills, right?  That has to count for something!

Saturday’s child works hard for a living,

I found myself not much interested (again) in staying up late and drinking in the bar, since it was somewhat devoid of a crowd.  So I went to bed and got up in time to weasel my way into Brian DeWitt’s epic portrayal of the Persian victory at Artemisium.  What’s that?  You always heard it as being a GREEK victory?  Well, so it might have been, were it not for our right flank and some profoundly bad luck.  Brian’s a great designer and a good “systems man” in his approach.  I liked this rule set, which he claims is not ready for prime time, but it seemed pretty well defined to me.

Click to see the slideshow/MP4 of this epic LOSS (grumble grumble) by the valiant Greek navy.

Having lost Western Civilization in the morning, I cast about to see the rest of the world, doing a run on the flea market and not accomplishing much. I did get a copy of Samurai Battles (brand new) for 20 bucks from the designer. Not bad at all. I also got a few assorted bits here and there, nothing special. I also went to the vendor hall and picked up a cigar box game mat, for my 3D rocket man game (more on that in the near future).

To be honest, it was a lot of same-old, same-old. No hot new products this year.

My firm intention was to play in yet another ironclad game in the afternoon but I was feeling pretty dog tired, even though I had eaten reasonably well and not stayed up massively late as I am used to at these conventions. I’m not sure what it was but it did make me feel a little pekid. My intention was to sleep for a half an hour.. HA!!

After a decent meal (at the host, where I ate most of them), I knocked about a bit and waited for Eric’s ROAD WARRIOR INVITATIONAL to get started.  He was going big this year, or going home..

Now, I thought the vehicles showed amazing creativity and ingenuity… but wow, I don’t like that crowded track.  There’s no room to get around each other, and soon something like this happens:

And we had to give the tail end charlies Pity Pushes to have them keep up with the race! Pity Pushes– ME. I nearly took out the truck with a motorcycle, single handed!! and now I’m getting a pity push? The shame is great!

Oddly enough, many drunken hoarse renditions of the phrase WITNESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSMEEEEEEEEEE! was not enough to get the truck over the finish line without being stopped by the forces of Bad.  Humbling, ain’t it?

And so to bed.

But the child who is born on the Sabbath day,
Is lucky and happy and good and gay.  (in the old sense of the word).

Sunday was the usual last pass on the Flea Market (found a few neat 15mm Khurasan figures) and the dealer room (not much of anything except some Stan Johansen Road Warrior stuff).   After the usual goodbyes, I was nosing my van into traffic for the long ride home, where, I am happy to say, someone was glad to see me.

That was my Fall-IN! 2015.  Not a bad convention, not the greatest one I was ever at, but it all went smoothly with no headaches.  Good work, Dan and crew!! you make it look easy.  That’s all for now, I’ll see you all at COLD WARS 2016!

Guidebook Fall-IN! 2015, some new features, some have changed so pay attention…


That’s right.. we do. And I’m not going to say “GOING” Mobile since we’ve been serving up electronic Guidebook apps for 10 conventions now!

So I’ll deliver the bottom line up front. The First Draft of the Fall-IN! 2015 Guidebook app is published, ready for download. You may download it on the landing page here.

https://guidebook.com/g/t5d9icys/

Whoah, Red Ryder!  

One thing I haven’t done is go through the feature list in long time (since Cold Wars 2012, in fact) so I’ll point out the new features and decremented features now.

Between HISTORICON 2015 and now, Guidebook, Inc, made some changes to the basic builder module, and a lot of features have changed.  Most of the changes are minor in scope.  one or two impact the look and feel some, so I’ll go through it from top to bottom to explain what is where.

FRONT PAGE

This looks pretty much as it did before Historicon.  They have streamlined the presentation a little bit (no longer do we get the tiny icon inside the big banner effect, which I personally miss).   The front page is where you see the top level for the convention– the address, the director’s blurb, etc.  Call it the “Main Menu”.

MASTER SCHEDULE

Simply put, the Master Schedule is where everything is, and this has changed.  We used to be able to define tracks and color code them.  I liked this feature– and it defined my color scheme nicely.  Red for game events, Blue for Tournaments, etc. etc.  Unfortunately, even defining tracks (and not making it a menu item) costs us extra money that we aren’t willing to spend, so no more color coding, which I think sucks.  Still, it’s FREE, and everything still works, it’s just not as easy on the eye as before.

So if you want to find something in the schedule, look in the cleverly named “Master Schedule”  Here’s some event detail.

EVENT DETAIL

This is what you’ll see when you click on an event.  There’s information here, pointing at the room, time, event, scale, GM and rules, plus even description.  All of this was pulled from the registration system by your humble narrator.

If you want to build your PERSONAL list of events to plan your convention– see that “Add to My Schedule” button at the bottom of the event detail and it will build a list for you.  As you can see, I’ve already started mine (below):

MY SCHEDULE

PLEASE NOTE THIS, and NOTE IT WELL:  Guidebook is NOT the registration system, or a replacement for a pegboard.  It is a substitute for having a program book with you all the time.. you will NOT be registering for ANY game or event when you build “MY SCHEDULE” in Guidebook.. this is your internal reminder of when your games are going to be held, and you can get it to send you an alarm as well!  So… yeah.  You’ll have to do the same thing to get into a game you always have.

Exhibitors 

Aka, the dealer’s area vendor list and table layout.  The list of vendors and their table locations are in “Exhibitors”.  The table layout is in “Maps.”

I had a picture of the list part, but I just got a huge update from Scott Landis and the picture isn’t accurate any more.

Maps are about the same as they ever were, only I found them easier to upload and size in the current builder.  That’s an improvement.   If you want to find where the tables are in a room, go to MAPS (see below).

MAPS

There are tons of maps for this convention in this guidebook.  You change them by clicking “Right” on the direction arrow top of the screen.

I broke Distelfink into three maps– one big one showing everything, one smaller one for the front, and a similar one for the back.  I was going to do this for the Lampter, but hey, what’s the point.. all you really need to show there is the relative locations of touraments and flea market, and the current size does this.  I also uploaded the vendor hall map as is.. if its unreadable, GET IN TOUCH WITH ME and Ill break it up into a front and back view.

HAPPY TO GLAD STUFF: NEW-ISH features

Guidebook is going whole-hawg into social media with this release, and made the previously charged-for menu items for social media stuff free.  We did this a little bit at HISTORICON.  Anyway, here are some of them..

Facebook

This is set to automatically go to the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society page on Facebook.  Why?  Well, Fall IN! doesn’t have a page, and I’m not sure it needs one.  Yet.  So if you want to post what’s going on in your convention and post pictures to the FB page, here’s how.

I don’t have a better idea for Facebook, but this seems to fit.

Twitter

We actually do have a Twitter account for Fall-IN!, I created it, it’s @FALLINCON.  However, what this menu item does is facilitate that “live tweeting” thing that goes on during a convention.  Our official #hashtag for the show is #FALLIN15.  Some soccer competition is using it but let’s hope that’s done by November.  It will also recognize #HMGS and @FallINCon.

Not much being tweeted at the moment (as you can see) but this really started going up last HISTORICON the closer to the show we got.  I like this idea.

YOUTUBE

We can also have a menu item for a YOUTUBE Channel for show videos, presuming people post to Youtube about miniature conventions.  Right now I have it pointing to Teri Litorco’s miniature wargaming show on Geek and Sundry.  Why?  Well, it’s a fun show (a little Warhmmery but still fun) `and there aren’t any ‘sanctioned’ Youtube shows for miniature gaming (as there seems to be in boardgaming, but that’s another story).  If you can come up with a better idea, I’m all ears.   Now, IDEALLY, this would be pointing to a HMGS youtube channel where GMs would have the ability to load SHOW VIDEOS to a single “Fall IN” or “H’con” channel and everyone could see our fun events… almost as they happen.  This hasn’t happened yet.  Want to work with me on it?  Contact me.

There’s some other Social Media stuff we can consider.  I’d personally love to have a team Periscoping miniature events (the big, fun ones anyway) as they happen so people can see what we do.  (for the oldsters out there, this is what Periscope is).   I added in a news feed to the TMP page, but this is just a nice-t0-have because it’s free feature.  If you have an RSS feed we SHOULD put in there, let me know.

Other stuff

Inbox, My To-Do List, and Attendees are not new items, but a few reminders.  “Attendees” is not a registration system.  It’s a way of announcing to Guidebook users that “Hey! I made it and I’m here!  Find me!”  Inbox is how you receive email FROM me (or convention management).  We can send you a message from a computer and it will show up on all your Guidebook apps.  I usually just use messaging for guidebook updates.  The to-do list is nothing special..  I use it to list my convention volunteer schedule and shopping list for the dealer’s hall.

That’s about it.  It’s about finished now.  There will be some updates in Events (i have yet to add banners, but I will) and Dan owes me about ten new events.  Also, there will likely be some new vendors in those “TBD” Slots before show time.

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

The Weekend: Gaming on the Mellow Side


I’ve been meaning to catch Otto Schmidt’s THE WEEKEND for a long time now. It’s been tough, as June is a busy month usually with high school age kids.  Now that one is in college and the other is in his last year, I thought I’d spread my wings a little and manage a day trip.  Background: the Weekend is held late June, and appears to be a 3 day affair, so it is about as much of a commitment as any small convention in terms of time.  As I recall, this was started by Otto Schmidt as an alternative for HISTORICON when the latter was slated to go to a much more expensive venue in Baltimore, MD (this did not transpire, for many reasons).  Otto wanted the Weekend to be a gathering of old friends who wanted to blab, gossip, game and hang out.  It is held at the Continental Inn off of Route 30 pretty much right across the street from the Lancaster Host, site of Fall-IN! and Cold Wars.

The Inn is an old building, family owned and operated.  It has seen some hard usage but is not what I would call “a dump” by any means.  The hotel has a major meeting space downstairs and other, smaller rooms here and there in the upper and lower lobby floors.  Frankly, I would have killed for a space like this back in the TriadCon days.  If we’d only known.   It’s not perfect– the handicapped facilities are about as non-existent as they are at the Host if not worse (no elevators in critical areas; no handicapped bathroom stalls) but you can always drive around back to the lower level to unload things, which is a plus.

There is a MST3K (Military Science Theater 3000) set up for this con but I wasn’t there for that.  No vendors that I could see, and a desultory bring-n-buy style flea market.  That was about the normal convention “stuff” present.


An exquisite Age of Reason battle in 15mm, created by Bill Grey, the Author of Age of Eagles. Click the picture to see more.

I got there a little after noon (due to traffic and helping get my son ready for camp).  Literally, I spent much of my time there BSing and catching up with friends, so I’d say Otto’s goals for this convention are certainly being met.  It was great seeing many people I haven’t seen in a month of Sundays, including Dennis Largess, Rich Low, Andy Turlington, Bill Grey, Bob Leibl, Cleo Hanlon, and Pete Frechtling.  And Otto of course, but I talk to him on the phone frequently.

Mr. Tracy Johnson ran AFTER THE HOLOCAUST, the old rare SPI game on a giant splodey map with army men. It had a great look to it. For other pictures, click on the picture above

When I got there there was an ACW game going on in the corner, and two being set up, an AFTER THE HOLOCAUST (SPI) game being rendered in miniature form by Tracy Johnson, a two player game set in 1714 being run by Bill Gray,  and an I Leonardo game run by Pete Frechtling.

I definitely wanted to play the I Leonardo game, by temperament and experience.  I’ve played in Pete Frechtling’s skewed version of the Italian Wars (with Leonardo Da Vinci tanks, helicopters, gliders and etc.).  So with your kind forbearance, I will sketch things out as best I can, providing something of an “After the Battle” report of sorts.

The basic set up was the Imperials holding a bastion with supplies on one side of a canal that opened up into a river.  There was only one established bridge over the river (made of stone) and it was being defended by a force of two commands of Imperials, with two Leonardo style tanks each (not the conical tanks, the flat ones).  The Imperials also had a ship loaded with mixed troops and cannon to defend the water entrance with.   On the far side of the canal were the Allies– British (red striped tank), Swiss (green striped tank) and French (blue striped tank).  Each Ally had one “castle” style Leonardo tank, painted as I have noted, plus a wild mixture of artillery, infantry and a little cavalry.  I took the French (blue striped) command on the far right of the line.  I had the tank as mentioned, a grenadier, Leonardo himself, some engineers, some cavalry units, some foot knights, and a bridging unit (important!).   The Swiss to my left were in the center.  They had more artillery than I and some ruins to hide in.  They kept a hot fire going against the forces that would venture clear enough to be shot at in the center of the line opposite us.  At the far left was the British and the Allies’ two ships.  The ships also (important!) had a bridging unit.   The idea being they would sail into the canal, beach, and construct the bridge from their ship to the opposing side.

I didn’t spend a lot of time tracking the naval conflict, but it was protracted and savage.

The English engaged such targets of opportunity as were available across the canal.  With the canal there to impede movement the battle became kind of a long ranged slugging match over the canal as both sides attempted to bombard each other.  The big guns on the Imperial side were their two flat rectangular tanks, and a flame thrower style vehicle that was somewhat hindered by being in the midst of a pack of infantry.

We were in a stalemate for the first few turns.. The French being the closest to the existing bridge (played by your humble correspondent) we were going to have to swarm over it somehow and take the bridge.. Unfortunately the Imperials had placed one of their two precious tanks to cover that very narrow defile, and they were aggressively defending with everything at their disposal, including a land rocket that misfired and went fizzing off in a random direction (panicking my troops but causing no damage).   My plan was to make a big demonstration and hoo-hah at the center bridge and focus the defenders there, while building my bridge train on the far right of the battlefield.

 
Now that’s a satisfying reaction! More smoke clouds please.

The Swiss did their best to support me, and were game to swarm over the center bridge as well, but we had to move the vehicles out of the way to accomplish this.  They had the advantage of some ruins to disperse into and set up artillery and other fun Leonardo style weapons (including a machine gun) to plaster the Imperial bridge defenders with.  I had a single artillery piece on my front which did some service fighting the opposing tank unit.  About midway through the game I steamed over the bridge and tried for a ram on the opposing tank.  Yes, I know this sounds decidedly risky but sometimes  you have to push things to win things.  The ram did not accomplish much, nor did the follow on fire into his sides at point blank range.  It wasn’t a bad idea, really, I just rolled pretty badly throughout the game.  I followed it up with a fusilade of infantry attacks which DID cause problems… the French grenadier tossed a grenade into the mix and it actually exploded more or less correctly, starting a fire and killing several of the crew.

Here we come, you knaves! Take that, and that, and that…

Meanwhile the bridge building gang on the right had succeeded at their task and the first independent bridgehead over the canal had happened.  The opposing player realized this and moved half-armored knights into the gap to engage with me.   On the left, the Imperials attempted to move all their infantry down the road, lost their general to gunfire, and moved their secret weapons out to engage the Allied Ships, which had bested the Imperial and were heading up the channel.  The flaming water borne holocaust the Imperial player was loudly fantasizing over (repeatedly) did not transpire, and thus the left flank was able to create a bridgehead over the canal as well.

Victory is nigh!!!

Although we were slated to play until 10PM, I was being frantically called from the home front, over a matter of shoes for my son’s camp.  Timing came together wonderfully, as Peter declared the game a victory for the Allies at the end of the turn where the second bridgehead had taken place.  This makes sense.  Although the center bridge was very much in dispute, I could still push men over the the entangled two tanks and even though the defenders had a larger group of infantry there, it was so narrow between the buildings he would never have the chance to use them effectively.  I actually welcomed such a push of the pike.    The much referenced “secret weapon” (flamethrower) amounted to almost nothing and the two Imperial tanks were heavily damaged.  The French tank (mine) had suffered damage but was still firing and reloading.  I was expecting casualties on the right flank as our crossing attempts had triggered some ambuscades from hidden troops.  Still, I could see the tide of battle was changing rapidly in our favor, and who was I to contest the GM’s view of things, anyway?  My thoughts on the I, Leonardo game system was that it seems remarkably bloodless.  Most of the Imperial arsenal was taking a heavy pound throughout the game and we really didn’t kill much of anything– we disabled a lot, and killed some crews.. but that’s about it.  I would like to redo the charts to this one some day.. just pondering.  I like the system itself just fine, but it’s really for a history geek audience who pretty much know the subject already.

For an amusing SLIDESHOW of the I LEONARDO BATTLE, click here.

As mentioned, I had to depart earlier than planned to solve a problem at home but I was glad I had an opportunity (at long last) to visit THE WEEKEND.

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…

Balticon 49: A short visit Saturday


Gar and I headed up to Balticon at the venerable Hunt Valley Inn last weekend, for a day visit.  We were a little stymied when we discovered the indie film festival was on Sunday and we went on a Saturday.  Call it faulty memory– maybe we DID go up on Sunday last  year? (yes we did; should have read the online program first)  Oh well, we didn’t let that dim the luster.

Impressions: For starters, B49 seemed very lightly attended.  It wasn’t the standard cheek by jowl situation in the Salon areas, and the usual mob of costumery seemed greatly diminished.  I like Science Fiction conventions quite a bit, but I’ve never been one of the faithful– meaning, I don’t wear costumes, I don’t “filk”, I don’t wear a lot of buttons.  So SF Con Fandom isn’t really my thing– I’m not part of that culture.   I read books, and I like SF authors, and like to hear them talk, and I buy books.  So that’s what I come to a convention for– and maybe see indie films and play some games.   In that respect, we were only partially successful, but that’s fine.

There were two writer GOH’s I wanted to see, Chuck Gannon and Jack McDevitt, but I missed both.  I did buy a book of each of theirs however.  FireFall by Gannon and the reissue of The Hercules Text from McDevitt.

The Con Suite was a big disappointment.  The munchies budget was clearly halved.  No WiFi signal in the Con Suite, which was very annoying.  Still, it’s a nice place to collect and plan our precious hours, so we mapped out our day.  I went to the Dealer’s area and bought some books from vendors who I don’t normally see on Amazon.  I also made a point of buying three books from the late great C.J. Henderson, whom I liked and will miss.  C.J.’ s wife and family incurred lots of expense in the final stages of his illness so every little bit helps.    I also sat in on his memorial service at the convention.  I certainly hope C.J.’s work remains in print and someone (not necessarily his wife) continues selling his titles.

I didn’t hit every panel talk I wanted to– I went to a Pulp discussion that was notionally about C.J.’s work but ranged far and wide, and was very engaging.  I enjoyed it.  I followed that up with dropping in to see a little of the anime film Princess Mononoke but as I  A) had seen this film multiple times and B) was falling asleep in the back, much to my son’s embarrassment, I nipped out to the next talk, which was on the Ancient Art of Celestial Navigation and Land-Finding, as practiced by Polynesians.   This was very interesting indeed.    The professor (a public scholar from the Smithsonian Institution Museum of the Native Americas) was a great speaker and projected his enthusiasm for the subject to his rapt audience.  A very fortuitous find.  After that, we were hungry, so we went to Wegman’s to get the buffet and make use of the WiFi.

Since we were at sixes and sevens not being able to make the Film Festival unless we spent the night, so I suggested we try Mr. John Montrie’s RPG session about Victorian Horror using Howard Whitehouse’s Dashing Adventure rules.  Garrett readily agreed and this activity proved to be the high point of the day.  We were using minimal rules/maximum storytelling approaches to the game– Howard’s rules are very forgiving.   The scenario was pretty cut and dried– we were a team of trouble makers sent to a mansion to investigate the recent ghost sightings reported there.  I played “Biggles” the Pilot, and I played him increasingly skeptical of the events transpiring at the castle.  We played it all the way through to the end, and part of my prediction (that the former owner of the estate was somehow caught up in the hauntings) would come true.  Even if there was a leprechaun.   It was a very satisfying conclusion,and thus we drove homeward, it being elevenish.

Despite a low attendance and a bad con suite, I enjoyed myself and so did Garrett.  We tried something new (RPG games at a convention) and got a decent return for our buck.  There were rumors of Balticon moving into the inner harbor next year– not sure what to make of them.  The only convention I’ve been associated with that tried to go to the Inner Harbor (convention center) ended up losing 30K plus.  I hope the planners have thought of everything.  I’d still be inclined only to do a day trip under those circumstances, and maybe only once, if the parking is too astronomical.  As it tends to be.

So that was my Balticon 49.. kind of a shade of what it once was, but still enjoyable.

First Draft (PEL v.) Guidebook for HISTORICON 2015 is ready for downloads.


Greetings, HISTORICON 2015 convention attendees!

As I do for all the HMGS Inc shows (and other conventions), I have created a Guidebook App for you to download and use as a sort of electronic program booklet for the duration of your stay at the convention.

If you are not familiar with HISTORICON and HMGS historical miniature goodness, I recommend visiting the HMGS Site to get up to speed about our biggest event of the year, HISTORICON.    H’con will be held at the Fredericksburg Convention Center, Carl. D. Silver parkway, just to the left of Interstate I-95 facing North.   The app will actually pop up Google Maps to give you an idea of where to go.

[Cautionary note.  You register,sign-up for events, and pay on the Historicon 2o15 site above, which looks like this.  You don’t register for Hcon with this guidebook app, even if it has some features described as “checking in”– that is mostly for attendees communicating with each other and has nothing to do with paying/registering for a show]

Each Guidebook App uses the guidebook app engine created by Guidebook, Inc.  The information is customized for every show.   Usually by me, as it happens.

So to make the Guidebook App work, you’ll need the core “engine app” from Guidebook, and the specialized convention module that I create for each show.  You download the guidebook app, FIRST, then using the search mechanism, search for the app for a specific show.  In this case, HISTORICON 2015.

You will find the pertinent links to how to download the core app and show app on Guidebook’s LANDING PAGE for Historicon 2015.

After you download the guidebook app first and convention app second, you can browse around and look at the schedule.

Front Splash Page, Featuring maps and address, show hours and policies

The menu as it stands currently (PEL release)

Note— these are Android Phone version screens– I usually post Ipad shots.  I changed it up because not everyone uses a tablet.

Note, as well — this release was concurrent with the official HMGS Historicon PEL.  It is ONLY that at the moment.. just the event listings that the events team has a record of at the current moment (5/12/2015).  The guidebook will change a great deal before game time– we will be adding Seminars, Maps, Tournaments, Hobby University events, Exhibitor Listings, Restaurants, and a Vendor Hall Layout.  The good news is that if you download it now, you will automatically update every time I publish an update.  Just open it connected to the Internet (somehow) and Guidebook will tell you that Historicon 2015 has been updated and do you want to update it?  Say yes.

Right now, this is just the first step/bare bones initial release.  Stand by and I will be posting major updates as I get them.  You can also view the preview web copy here.

Enjoy, and I’ll see you at HISTORICON 2015.  I’ll be the guy running the big post-apocalyptic Mad Max game.

Guidebook QR Codes:

For the guidebook app, the “engine”

For the Guide itself (if you already have Guidebook installed). The actual show bits.

Road Warrior/WLF Car Conversions Part 2, the Wrath of Helltruck!


Here is part two (of two) in a series on converting Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars into Post-Apocalyptic Engines of Destruction (or delight).  The first post was here, and preamble post here.

Up front I’ll mention with a few exceptions*, this might be all I’m going to do.  Post Apocalyptic diecast conversions are, for some reason, a very pleasurable pastime and I don’t want a suitcase of these these things, just about 40 plus will do nicely.  That should cover both a very small group going through cars at a phenomenal rate (the rules are very unforgiving, I might point out) or a HUGE group of players.

1. Helltruck

Start with a cute, pristine Matchbox Super King line Tanker truck.  I bought two of them off of Ebay.

Shell super king tanker before conversions.

These can be had for about 11 dollars or so. I have two.

Matchbox Super King series trucks are humongous by Matchbox standards, yet still in scale.

Enter HELLTRUCK.

HellTruck was converted by adding side door armor to the side doors (steel and rust paint), with eye slits cut out. I did a mesh armor windshield with bloodstains. Topped it off with turret Machine gun. Painted all a base brick red color then built up with success coats of rust washing on exposed metal, a filth wash (light brown) and a grim wash (thin black). The result looks like a truck that has been rolling down that apocalyptic highway. The tanker payload was a little more challenging. I built up a cage frame out of styrene I beams and L beams all the way around the tank. This provides a metal “frame” that keeps the cage away from the rig itself, much like the rocket cages on today’s Army convoy vehicles, and largely for the same reason– to reduce a rocket attack.. possibly. I gave the tank an overall mud color base coat and eliminated the Shell decals. The built up a paint job of thin black grime, LOTS of dirt, and rust on the cage material, frame and the big metal rear armor. For finishing touches I added a little plate metal cupola up top (with some infantry figures for scale) for the HellTruck defense team to fire from, plus a big rear armor slab with the Anarchy symbol on it.

HellTruck, More shots

I’m rather proud of this conversion, so bear with me while I show it off.

Helltruck, rear view (note big red Anarchy symbol/aiming point). Primed figures in cupola to show sense of scale, which is roughly 20mm.

Front view of Helltruck (R) next to what it got built up from, a Shell Super King Tanker (L).

Front shot, showing cage windshield and left door armor with improvised vision slit. Hard to see against the reddish background, but I painted a thin trickle of blood seeping out of the screen armor on the passenger side. Bad luck for somebody.

Helltruck is shown with some vehicles next to it, in a possible reflection of future combat. In this instance, the vehicles are from the Technicals tribe (mostly pickups with crew in the back firing mounted weapons). Figures added for scale. Note the Volkswagen Transporter van (a nod to Nancy Ott), a recent addition, flame thrower and side cage armor added, plus I added a platform to have figures fire out of the roof, Technicals style.

Two harpoon cannon equipped Technicals (Dodge Pickup, bottom left, Ford 150 top right) attempt to fire harpoons into truck tires. Ford 150 (bottom right) fires mounted light MG against the cab. The VW Transporter (top left) has a flamethrower with finite shots in it, so it is waiting to get closer to the cab to fire, but the crew member (unpainted, primed) is firing a pistol up versus the crew in the cupola.
At this angle, the crew up in the cupola could fire sidearms and rifles or crossbows down at the Tehnicals, but the turret MG on the front cab would not have the angle to fire back. Good for the Technicals, baaaad for Helltruck.

2. The Dune Buggy Tribe

This is a group of very lightly armored vehicles with few mounted weapons. Mostly cage armor. They engage by harassing fire with side arms or rifles. They are fragile but very fast and have bonuses for rugged terrain.

Dune buggy tribe.

Tribe cars are: MB Dune Buggy 2006, HW Roll Cage, Sahara Sweeper (foreground, heavily modded), Sahara Survivor, and a single Sting Rod II to provide some heavy weapon support.

3. The Fetish Car Design Gang

This is my catchall category for (mostly) Hot Wheels cars that are designed for visual impact and often don’t make a lick of sense in any real world context. These are goofy concepts like a car designed like a skeleton or scorpion, or a car with four jet engines back to back (a design one might imagine would blow up in the first minute of operation) Still, once they paint up they look pretty great!

Not all of these went the rusty/dirty metal route.. I just loved the lime green paint job on the art deco coupe (left) that I had to retain it, just dull it down a lot, with 3 coats of matte varnish and a dirt wash. I also added a gatling cannon.

Fetish Car Gang consists of: HW Shell Shock, HW Pirahna Terror
, HW Scorpedo, HW Tomb Up, HW Skull Crusher, HW Solar Reflex, and I don’t recall the name of the green car.

Notes– most of these came from a “Fright cars” five pack. They look ridiculous in bright colors but look just alien and tribal enough covered with dirt and rust. The Shell Shock is painted up as a fire starter car, with two “big guns” remodeled as fire throwers. Also added a MG on the roof, plus hatch. I put screen armor all over the “Solar Panel” on the Solar Reflex. The rest are pretty self explanatory– I put a harpoon gun on the Skull Crusher.

4. Muscle Cars/Factory Cars Tribe

These are cars that actually look like, well, CARS.. readily identifiable. I didn’t upgun these very much because the idea was to have the standard automobile underneath be readily identifiable.

Muscle car heaven

Note: Conversions are minimal here. Flat base coats, lots of screen mesh armor and maybe a MG here or there, but for the most part these look familiar and are painted that way..

5. Odds and Ends

Not sure what I’m going to do with these yet. The copter I have plans for, as I will mount it on a flight stand (same for the projected Gyrocopter, too)

* What’s left?

  • I have a 50s era Checker cab, painted like a Checker cab, en route. Hard to find with the original checker stripe– nothing else will do. This will be converted to “Hell Cab” with a gatling gun and some up-armor.
  • I have plans to acquire a postal vehicle, just for the “Disgruntled Postal employee” visual joke. Hard to find at a reasonable price.
  • I just won a Kettenkrad and Schwimwagon on ebay, I will assemble and add those.
  • Others– we haven’t even touched Motorcycles yet. I have to have at least ten of those. Or the gyrocopter.

Next post will probably be on motorcycles, pedestrian figures and terrain conversions.   Ciao!