Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Historicon 2011

As long as I was catching up on conventions, I thought I'd record a little bit about my Historicon 2011 experience.

This was the second year the convention was held at the Valley Forge Convention Center. As many of you may know, it will probably be the last as a significant percentage of the site will be converted into a casino.

Summary of impressions:
• I think there were fewer dealers than in years past
• There were fewer games I wanted to play listed in the PEL
• I don’t care what HMGS may publish, I think there were fewer people there.

On to the nitty gritty.

The Room:

This year I stayed at the Radisson and thought it was very good, especially compared to last year’s experience with the Scanticon. The room was large, clean, and had Select Comfort beds. Most importantly, the AC could keep up with the heat. Finding the secret "warp gate" between the two hotels was great too.

Last year I reserved a queen suite at the Scanticon and when I arrived I was given a king suite (one bed). As I did not wish to share a bed with my travelling partner and his son, this was unacceptable. To the Scanticon’s credit they did provide a free cot and a room rate reduction. On the down side the room was always hot and the cot was ancient and worn out. Avoid the Scanticon hotel at all costs. I would stay off site before I stayed at the Scanticon again.

The Official Con games:

Thursday Mark “Clambo” Kinsey and I played in a Road Rage game - a post apocalypse car game by Stan Johanson Miniatures. The rules author ran the game and was not set up on time. I think because he was big on selling the rules, he did not seem to want us to know the rules. We were not allowed to see the QRS, in fact Kinsey was chastised for taking one to expedite his turn. Basically every turn consisted of trying to get the authors attention and telling him "I am on a standard motorcycle, I am going 50mph, I was to make a 30 degree turn." - "Ok, you need to roll above a 7". Since everyone needed to do this, and he would get distracted by making histrionics about "car physics", etc. we got through about 2.5 turns in 4 hours. Poor Kinsey started on the far side of the board and was still about 2 moves from contact with the enemy at end of game. I'll stick with the free Axles and Alloys thanks!

Game pros:
• Visually attractive game
• GM enthusiastic
• Interesting scenario
Game cons:
• Slow moving
• “Protected” from rules making buy decision impossible

Friday I played in a 28mm pirate game using the Merrimack/Old glory **H*U*G*E** sailing ships using the rules they sell. Quick and dirty gaming - very fun. My medium ship got raked by the Governor's ship leaving me with 5 crew out of a starting 32.
Game pros:
• Quick to pick up
• Knowledgable GM
• Provided useful play sheets
• Fun
Game cons:
• I’m not sure I would ever be willing to invest the amount of money to run a game like this myself. Perhaps 15mm?

Saturday I played Secret Science Test Area, a new rule set being worked on by Bob Charette (of Parroom Station fame). Basic concept is (roughly) Victorian SF - an island where Maestros (the players) run experimental armies of biological and mechanical construction. The Maestro is actually a figure on the board and influences outcomes and the loose structure allows you to use any mini you have in army creation. Combat usually involves rolling handfuls of D6. The downside is there seem to be lots of modifiers to a target number, plus 6s get re-rolled and added, plus there are modifiers to the die roll. Too much number juggling - and that says a lot coming from an engineer! I don't think the GM was really ready for play testing (though he started doing it at last year's HCon) and I was not really clear on his intent - sort of varies from beer and pretzels fist o dice to detailed simulation with lots of math. I don't see it being on my shopping list without substantial changes.
Game pros:
• Interesting insight into game development
• Like the Victorian era, play with what you got philosophy
• Interesting to participate in a playtest
Game cons:
• 2 hour slot too short to get to any meat
• Unclear mechanics plus multiple mechanics – card hands, dice rolling, lots of modifiers
• Obsolete play aids not updated to the most recent version

Non-Con games:

One of my favorite parts of Historicon is getting together with friends from across the country and enjoying a good game. Sadly this year the usual gang was about half its usual size due to the economy and amily issues. We still had some great games though!

Thursday night my friend Jeff ran Cover Your 6. A couple of simple Brit/German scenarios. Awesome game. Not too simple, not too complex. The visual appeal of the 1/144th planes didn't hurt either. This was my first time playing the game and I was hooked! Ran out and bought it the next day.

Friday night Jeff ran Cowboys and Zombies using The Rules with No Name. Also very fun. Kevin B. and Jeff were Concerned Citizens, Mark M. a group of Apaches, and I played Mexican banditos. We had all come together to put down the zombie menace. Rumors were a crystal skull existed that had something to do with the z-outbreak.
Hidden on the board were 3 "gunslinger" zeds that still had higher brain function. I have always liked TRwNN and I think a good time was had by all. Despite getting trapped in a number of hand-to-hand coombats he would rather have avoided, Mark killed the 2 "gunslinger" zombies, captured the crystal skull, and won the game.

Saturday Mark M. and I played Tannhauser. It was my first time playing, but the game is easy to pick up. I like the pre-paints and game component quality is excellent. Mark suggested I play the Germans, as he felt it was easier to win with them. And was that ever true! The Germans are a slaughter machine and my (unusually) hot die rolling lead to one of the bloodiest games of Tannhauser Mark has ever seen.

Flea market:

Not that much that interested me. Always a few tables open even on Saturday afternoon, which was most unusual. Warhammer, painted armies, scenery, and board games. One guy had some Crimson Skies planes, which after I thought about it went back for, but he was gone.

Hobby University:

I always try and take a few classes at Historicon. This year I took a class on mini prep and pinning. Pretty good, a little bit of new info that was new to me. I always enjoy hearing other folks approaches. I was surprised on Friday there was empty slots in EVERY class. Big contrast to last year.

War College:

I haven’t attended any of the talks in the past and decided this would be a good year to mix things up. I attended a talk by Richard Clark (Too Fat Lardies) talking about friction in battle. Very interesting talk, well presented. Richard’s speech and the slide set complimented each other well. Highly recommended.

Robert Jones (Repique) talked about game mechanics - dice, cards, rondels, ipads, etc. Pos, cons, historical insights. Excellent talk, great visuals. Also talked about some of his recent designs; Zouaves 2 and Die Fighting. This was also an extremely well done talk, despite some initial technical problems. Also highly recommended.

Despite the promo hype, I swear there were fewer vendors than last year. This did not keep me from making a pretty good haul!

15mm Transylvania building set #3 (5 buildings)
15mm Transylvania building set #1 (1 inn)
15mm zombie pack
15mm pirate guns
15mm pirate gun crew
15mm robot legion (3 packs)
Galactic Wars One

Old Glory Shipyards
15mm row boats
15mm row boats with masts

Harmony Hut
8 sided D4s
Card stands

The Warstore
Warmachine: Eirys mercenary
Warmachine: Hierophant
Warmachine: Thyra warcaster
Incursion Ilsa figure

5 pieces of 15mm SF scenery
15mm wheat field
some latex roads
round 60mm MDF bases
Check Your 6!
Over the Channel (Cy6 supplement)
15mm farmhouse
Bottles of brass and bronze paint.

2 plastic sprues in the goody bag
28mm robots for re-upping my old glory army card.

The Move:

The big buzz of the con was about where would HCon be next year but no definitive answers. Common belief is Fredericksburg, VA. Other places bandied about: Hampton Roads, VA, York fairgrounds, PA, someplace in Jersey. Word on TMP is there are 5 places under consideration. We’ll have to see where it lands. If it is too far, or I can’t get someone to go with me, this may be my last HCon for a while.

The Scenery:

Another thing I love about Historicon is seeing the vast array of beautiful scenery. It is always a great source of ideas and inspiration.


Unknown game

Cool trees..


Nice .45 Adventure set up…

Clever SF Scenery - yeah, that tower in the foreground is a low voltage walkway light!

Well, that's it 'til next time!

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