I left Thursday afternoon amid perfect weather for driving. It was a very easy trip and timed to get there before 7 to register. I had tried to register online but the site was down for three or four days and then when it came back up, it said registration was closed. Oh well, no biggie. The main reason I wanted to go was for a 30 Years War game (Olendorf) with rules adapted from Fire & Fury Regimental. At this point I still held out hope to get a ticker despite the registration issues. I did a quick walk through and saw some games already being played and headed up to register. There was a relatively short line, maybe 50 people or so. Well, you know how it turned out: it took over 2.5 hours to register as their computers were 'down' and they had to call an engineer from home to come fix it. (I am quite sure there were no computer geeks at a gaming convention.) Now, if I was cynical, I would say something like 'I guess they never had game conventions before computers. It must be impossible to collect people's money and give them a name tag and a pen'. But I'm not cynical so I won't say anything like that. The funny thing is, I remember going to conventions and paying with my ID and getting a name tag and a pen. Apparently HMGS is too modern for that.Technology, even shitty technology, uber alles. But the damage was done: after 2.5 hours of standing with diabetic neuropathy and 20 plus years of stick fighting, I could barely move. My feet felt like I had lit cigarettes in my shoes and my back was killing me. I consider myself lucky though; many fat people simply passed out and were rolled to safety. At least it made the line shorter.
I limped downstairs and found the F&F playtest. It was extremely enjoyable and enlightening to be privy to their thought processes.They are 'upgrading' the brigade game and it is much closer to the Regimental version, no longer the bourbon and pretzels game I love but nonetheless quite good. Much more command and control refinement, leader value implications and varying weaponry outcomes. My biggest concern is the same as with regimental and the main reason I don't play it: how does one go about finding out what each brigade (in this case) was armed with? Nonetheless, a cracking good experience. I hung out with the Big Names until about midnight and then called it.
On my way between registration and F&F, I stopped and got a cheeseburger in the hallway. In typical Lancaster Host fashion, it cost $7.50 and it would be generous to say it was room temperature. It was cold and as dry as sole leather, the cheese was cold and just laid on top and the bread was literally so stale that it crumbled at the touch. Nice. The next morning I awoke to find that none of the toilets were flushing. I'll leave it to you to imagine what 2000 gamers did to the bathrooms. The place is a dump. I am hard pressed to imagine that they can't find a better place anywhere along the eastern seaboard. It was *so* nice in Gettysburg! But, this not being my first rodeo, I had packed a cooler of healthy food for the weekend for less than the cost of dinner at the Host and plenty of clean underwear.
I wandered around Friday, just grateful not to be at work, and visited with some of the (Pittsburgh) locals who were gearing up for their Flames of War tournament. As it happened they were right next to a 500 point team LotR mini-tourney going on. I got to watch 3 games, each with gorgeous figures and terrain. There was also a Art de la Guerre tourney going on, a relatively new ancients/medieval set ala DBx. The DBMers were there too Kevin, mashed pikes and all. About 6 of them maybe. The DBA Doubles tournament had all of 4 teams!. The last time Kevin and I played there were 22 teams.
Then I had another real good spontaneous experience. I wandered into a room and saw a Chaos Wars game being set up. (There was a shit ton of fantasy games being played.) As I inspected it, I saw they had many of the old LotR Ral Partha figs that I have been currently been bringing back to life. I struck up a conversation with the two brothers setting up and had a lively talk about the old RP figs. They kept bringing out figs I would mention from their cases and we traded stories about them in the old days. (Like buying a dozen figs in the box for $4!) They have some connection with the current owners, Iron Winds, still in Cincinnatti. They said they've seen all the master molds and if folks raised enough money for a specific figure(s), they would cast them. It's part of the plan anyway, to start recasting some of the old gems. It was great conversation. (They even had the three headed giant with the three heads being Larry, Curly and Moe.)
Headed to the dealer's hall. Saw my old friend Ed Wimble and successfully resisted kicking him in the balls, mostly because it would have been a pain to get around the table. The Nazi was there with his propaganda wear. I opted out of an SS t-shirt. I was looking for several things in particular: Old Glory British Regulars, French Marines and courier de bois for the F&I War period as well as a few rules sets that utilize FoW figs for games that actually resemble WW2. It became evident almost immediately that there would be no 'deals'. You would think vendors wouldn't be set to gouge attendees at a convention and make up for slightly reduced prices by selling in volume, but alas, nearly everything was ridiculously overpriced, eg: 5 feet of 15mm fence for $57. Uh, no thanks. I walked the circuit three times to make sure I saw everything and ended up walking away with some hills and two 4Ground buildings. (There are many more of these in my future.)(*And* the only dealer in the joint with a discount: buy 2 buildings, get 20% off).
While I was in the dealer hall, I ran into the GM for the Olendorf game (recognized his name on his electronically printed name tag). I told him his game was the main reason I was there and of course, there were no tickets. He was flattered, (by design,) and promised me there would be room at the game for me. Score! Chalk one up to ass kissing.
I then headed over to the now open flea market. Not quite sure what to say. About 75% of the 'dealers' thought they were just that: dealers. These guys had brand new stuff at exhorbitant prices. I guess it was cheaper than getting a vendor's table in the dealer hall. Combined with this was the usual flea market fare. I walked this circuit three times, making sure I hadn't missed anything. I ended up getting three bags of 5 each courier de bois (15 dudes) for $5. A blister of 6 by Warlord games is $16, so I figure I made out.
By this point I was exhausted from the walking combined with the standing from the night before. I ate my peanut butter sammiches and considering heading home after my Olendorf game. After all, I had had a really good time with my conversations and had been multiple times through the dealer hall and flea market. I had seen a lot of really cool games and terrain. I was exhausted and in a lot of pain and I reasoned I could play the game I wanted, then return home with my loot and recuperate the rest of the weekend. I was signed up for a game on Saturday but it wasn't until 7pm. And truth be told, it just wasn't as much fun being by myself. I very much missed the fun we used to have by getting together for dinner and sharing war stories from the day and the travel time being immersed in all things games.
So that's what I did. The Olendorf game was as advertised. Extremely cool, visually striking and all the players were the decent sort. There were no rules lawyers or cheaters or dickheads. (Excepting me, of course.) I hooked up with the GM and managed to exchange emails to get a copy of the rules for my own use. While we were playing, HMGS came and presented him with an award and took his picture. I was the hero for the Imperialsists, running the Reserve. Typically, this happened by accident. My command dice were so poor to start the game, my command sat for a few turns while the front lines blasted each other into bits. By the time we arrived, we were Fresh and with a unit of Elite foot and 2 units of Kurrassier heavy cavalry, swept the field clean of the barbarian Protestants. I've attached a few photos.
Some general observations: it was small. There were usually only about 50% of the tables full at any given time. Granted, it was Friday but there were not too many more games scheduled for Saturday. I saw the same people from 5 years ago, many of them wearing the same clothes. To say the hobby is gentrifying is an understatement. My intention is to run a Bolt Action game for kids at Fall-In.
And speaking of Bolt Action I was quite taken aback by the backlash directed toward the game I love so well. Many people were calling it 'Bolt Action 40K' in a deragotory way and lamenting it's utter lack of WW2 tactics; one gentleman going so far as to say it could be fought with any figures from cavemen to sci fi. I silently held my tongue as it took all I had to point out cavemen decidely did NOT have BAR's. But overall it kind of felt like I was a guy who finally met a woman who would love me after years of lonliness only to be told she fucked me only because she was a whore and had already fucked everyone else. But I *still* love her! (Think Tyrion Lannister) What I ended up doing was to do some quick research on other WW2 skirmish games I had discussed with people and watched a Chain of Command game from Two Fat Lardies. It's different and has some excellent mechanics. I bought the rules. The question is, who will I ever play against? This is becoming more and more of an issue as we sunder further and further apart. I met a few guys down at Legions who play historicals on Thursdays and Sundays. I had another long talk with one of them at Cold Wars about getting together. But the point is, I still like BA and the guys play at Legions every Sunday, so I will get a chance to play.
Overall, despite the tumble down aspect of the venue, I had a *very* good time. I felt like I had my fill and was quite ready to pack it in. I got to see many great games, played in one, came home with treasure, and slept in my own bed this weekend.
And my toilet flushed.