I was able to make it to Historicon this year, my first trip there in about 8 years. As usual the event was a wonderland for historical minis with over 700 events. I had a great time: ran two well received games (Showdown Over Singapore and Of Mules and Men), got into some great games and got to catch up with a number of old gaming buddies from Texas and Seattle.
On Thursday I got into a nice Boxer Rebellion game using Sword and the Flame. The Boxer mission was to move some seige cannons off table and my command was tasked to provide escort for the cannons and serve as the tactical reserve. After a little march-countermarch, my forces were pitched into the fray when two units of Europeans popped up in our rear. Despite valiant efforts my Boxers were ground down by the superior Europeans and the cannons eventually captured by German cavalry. Not sure what the Boxers could have done differently, as the Europeans had the advantage of superior mobility (they had cavalry), firepower (nothing new there), and reinforcements arriving later in the game (after most forces had been committed to battle) in an advantageous position.
Friday I started off by playing in a game of predreadnought naval combat put on by my good friend Mike Miller. His game featured the relatively new line of 1/600 ships from Old Glory Shipyards. which were visually impressive and nicely showed off the unusual design and armament of the era. I commanded a small Japanese squadron that along with some French ships were to intercept a trio of fleeing Russian ships. It was not a good day to be commander of a Japanese cruiser, as both of the crusier captains under my command were blown apart on their bridge. The game was a blast as the ships circled and blazed away. I lost one cruiser completely dead in the water and the French-Japanese had numerous other ships heavily damaged. One Russian protected cruiser was dead in the water, but the other two Russian ships slipped the blockade and escaped.
After an afternoon at the dealer’s hall – rightfully billed as the world’s largest hobby shop – I dropped by for a demo of the new air rules Check Your Six! from Skirmish Campaigns. I really liked these and picked up a copy. Hopefully I’ll have a report here soon.
Friday evening I played in the annual HAWKS BAPS Extravaganza, a huge game put on by the Hartsford Area Weekly Kreigspeilers using Buck Surdu’s Beer and Pretzels Skirmish rules. I know Buck from the days we were both in Texas and played BAPS many times when he was there, but had not played in a couple of years. The game was based on the actions on LZ X-Ray as told in “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young”. The game was laid out on a big T-shaped table with the short arms of the T being the NVA attacks on the LZ and the long leg for the attempted extraction of The Lost Platoon. I commanded one of the NVA units attacking the LZ. My forces on one side of the table got a little too aggressive in the face of an M60 machine gun, but on the other side I overran the American platoon and was able to get a squad or so of NVA onto the landing zone. I was in a nice position to start taking pot shots at the US mortar support, but when a squad of Americans landed by helo in front of me, I engaged them instead, figuring that reinforcements not sent to the main action (the destruction of the Lost Platoon) would be a useful contribution. In the end my command was wiped out to man, but the Lost Platoon was also overwhelmed, giving the NVA the victory. As usual, the HAWKS put on a fun event with plenty of GMs to help keep the big game flowing.
Saturday morning I played in another game run by the HAWKS, an French v. British naval action set in 1782. I love the Age of Sail (and have a few ships among my collection of unpainted lead), but have not taken the plunge of painting any of them because I haven’t liked many of the rules I’ve played. Most Age of Sail games are way too involved and move at a snails pace while the rest are usually way to simple and don’t seem to capture the flavor of the period. So whenever I am at a convention, I like to try out Age of Sail rules I haven’t played. This year I decided to try out Fire As She Bears (version 2 IIRC). The action was a clash between St. Tropez and Hughes, each at the head of ~10 ships of the line, in the Indian Ocean. I commanded the French line and since the English had the weather gauge, I knew they could eventually close the gap and close with us where their vastly superior gunnery would be dangerous. I chose then to fight a running battle, hoping to wear them down a bit. The referee was pretty startled that I didn’t follow the usual wargamer’s trend and dive right into the fray. The plan worked to a certain degree, but eventually the lines closed and the action became hot. The British admiral ordered one of his squadrons to attempt to break the French line. The game hung in the balance at that point as the cards were turned. If the French could move first they could move their entire line across the bow of the lead British ship and gut her with bowrakes. Alas, the British drew four cards in a row and were able to move first cutting the line and raking a French ship. The French simply didn’t have the luck this day as a similar run of luck cost the French another opportunity later and a change of wind that entirely favored thed British eventually sealed the French fate. Each side had one ship strike her colors, but the remainder of the French fleet was definitely worse for wear. A good fun game though and the French definitely had their chances. I did like these rules quite a bit. They seemed to have the right balance I’ve been looking for, so I might get inspired to pick them up and paint some of my ships.
Of course, half of the Historicon experience is just walking through the gaming halls and looking at the terrain and minis that people put together for the event. Got some really good ideas for representing negative elevation by placing terrain features in spaces between tables.
Overall I had a great time at Historicon and I’m eager to go back next year. The Lancaster Host is not the greatest venue on the planet, but I could see huge improvements over the last time I was there and the facilities in no way dimished my enjoyment.