Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Historicon 2013, day two (many pics)

Saturday morning, I slept as late as possible, knowing it'd be a long day ahead. The rental car I got for the weekend had XM satellite radio, and I confess I am a bit spoiled by it. The BPM channel served as my commuting soundtrack for the convention (and this song in particular was a choice find; I heard it maybe a handful of times, and I still want to listen to it again and again.) I managed to get out the door about a half-hour early, and saw maybe a half-hour of traffic, so got there right about on time? Heard rumors later drivers ran into worse backups, so hooray for planning beforehand.

Soon as I got there, I made a quick hit on the dealers room. I knew my schedule would be tight for the day, and wanted to pick up some presents for the guys back at the ranch, and figured this might be my last opportunity for the day. (This is, again, foreshadowing.) Toys in hand, I darted over to Wally's.

Sample my wares!

For those not familiar with the Historicon circuit, Wally's Basement is essentially a flea market where games rent a table for a few hours and sell stuff they don't want anymore. I'm a fan of the early Saturday slot, and have in the past few events managed to unload enough old product I no longer feel the need to keep, and made enough money off it... to buy more toy soldiers at the con. There's a disconnect here, but just run with it, heh. Anyways, things got off to a slow start, which I was worried was because I got a slot all the way in the back row. Luckily, things picked up before too long. I was able to find a good home for both some Warhammer Dogs of War figs I never got around to using, as well as a bunch of 25mm Foundry cowboys I picked up many years back. I was worried with the Reaper Bones kickstarter figs hitting the market, there wouldn't be many buyers for the older metal figs, but I was able to sell more than a few there as well. And maybe it was because this was the first time running the table by myself, but people certainly seemed chattier this year. In the end, made a tidy profit, and made some spare room for more minis.

Even with eating a speedy lunch, I had a couple minutes to myself, so I headed back to the dealers hall for the second time of the day, to spend a bit of that hard-earned cash. Gotta support the industry and all that!

The Count emerges from his shadowly lair!

When I signed up for the convention originally, the first thing I looked for in the events list was anyone running In Her Majesty's Name. As noted previously, I picked up the game a bit back, and have been looking forward to trying it out. The rules really seemed to be what I was looking for, but I needed to see them in action to know. I always learn by playing. And that's one of the things conventions are great at doing.

The Zef Secret Service, in their finest, not-so-secret uniforms.

Our fearless gamemaster presented us with a number of options of companies to pick from. Helpfully, he happens to have posted the stats (and closeup pics) for the non-book companies online; you can check them out here. After some dithering, I went with the Zef Secret Service, there to defeat the foul Count Krabbenstein and his wicked minions, and thusly convince the villagers how much better life would be under Zef rule.

 The villagers are revolting.

The whole table, a grand affair. All our action focused in and around the castle. A whole separate battle was waged around the village, which was a great way to run the game for that many players. And, truth be told, after three turns our so, we had the majority of the rules down, and just used the gamemaster for rulings or more obscure questions.

And a river runs through it.

The foreboding forest.

I was sitting next to the Black Dragon Tong player. Check out the glamor shot of the paintjobs (and that Yeti!)

Another pic of the village I wasn't visiting. Love it! Especially the little details, like the scarecrow there.

The villagers, being an angry mob, pretty much barreled right towards the castle. The Count sent his brides out to give them a good thrashing. Zef's finest, meanwhile, fanned out and started taking out the Count's Cossack minions, including shooting them off the castle walls.

One Cossack really stood out, and was the fan favorite on our side. His musket jammed early (should have invested in fine Zef engineering!) and, discarding it, he leaped from the parapets to join the fray! He was a house on fire, shrugging off shot after shot. I am pretty convinced his last name was Rasputin.

Between the villagers and Zef steel, the Count and his ladies were dispatched with extreme prejudice. But before the day could be won, the Gypsies finally committed to the fray, and it turns out they were a bunch of werewolves! They tore through what remained of everyone in the big scrim, in short order.

Seeing a lone villager run towards the now-empty castle, the remaining Zef forces saw the wisdom in his rustic peasant attitude, and started hightailing it towards the gate, as the werewolves cleaned up the last men standing.

Pictured above, the last of the Zef Secret Police is overrun by lycanthropes, while the last villager successfully makes it to safety. I have zero idea what happened in the village, but it sounded like they were having some fun plot twists of their own.

 The gamemaster put his writeup of the day here, check it out.

Officially, I rule IHMN a success. The game is relatively intuitive, and runs very smoothly. The turn sequence (all players move, in initiative order, then everyone shoot, then melee happens) keeps people involved, and allows for some interesting tactical choices. And a wealth of VSF companies to pick from, combined with some good rules for writing up your own, means there's something for everyone. Time to get my own figs painted up and run some games for the local crowd.

I had one more game scheduled for the evening, but was beat, and didn't want to stick around for more before my drive home (much less kicking around for the WWPD podcast after that.) So, for my last act of the day, I hit the dealers room a third time, mere minutes before they closed, and renewed my Old Glory membership. I wasn't sure, going into the con, that I would need to. I mean, hadn't I bought enough Old Glory in the past year? But the more notes I took about future purchases, the more things I kept finding to grab from them, so yeah, decision made. The money made off the table that morning made it an easy call.

Finally, here's some links to other people's Historicon reports. I do regret missing out on Les Miserables: the Wargame, because wow. Mister Nizz put up his full con AAR, always a good read. Victoria's Boys in Red presented their VSF report as well. You can follow the links here for some YouTube reporting goodness. Luke from WWPD put up his gallery, including some fancy close-ups, one thing my cell camera isn't great at. And oh, if you check out nothing else, here's plenty of eye-candy at 1000 Foot General too, so many fine pictures. Make sure to follow the links for the other days.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Historicon 2013, day one (many pics)

Last weekend was Historicon 2013, in lovely Fredericksburg, VA. My usual possee couldn't make it this year, so I was flying solo, a new experience for me. Got up at 7:15, just before my third alarm went off. Chugged a delightful iced coffee energy drink on the drive in; it tasted like getting punched in the face feels, but it did the job. No appreciable traffic, even on the Beltway, plus directions easy enough for me not to get lost meant I got there in just over an hour, well on time.

First strike was the dealers hall, to pick up items I was concerned would sell out quickly. Grabbed the Scotland Yard company for In Her Majesty's Name for Aaron, and some choice figs from Rebel Minis. My poor decision of the day was also picking up the Amazons from Wargames Factory (for 7th Voyage.) Good figs, but a.) they weren't likely to sell out, and b.) the rest of the day I was lugging around a box of plastic figs, since they'd melt in the car. Oh well, lesson learned.

When we went to Historicon last year, one of the big complaints was the noise levels in the main gaming hall. The site folks put up these curtains (drapes?) as a sound baffle, which sort of subdivided the room into sections. I was dubious at first, but when things got going, there was a distinct improvement. Hopefully they'll improve on the concept next year, as well as figure out a way to cram a couple more bathrooms into that joint, because yeah, that's still an issue.Anyways.

Next up, hit the early version of Wally's Basement, the flea market where games get a table for a few hours and sell stuff they don't want anymore. Picked up some plaster terrain bits that, uh, I only have some vague ideas for. Heh. I'm an easy sell.

In the Basement, I met the guy behind Dark Lance Designs. They have some nifty projects and ideas in the works, like the above. Will definitely be keeping an eye on them in the future. (He also pointed out they are more than willing to listen to suggestions for future products, so if you have something in mind, drop them a note on their Facebook page, linked above.)

Now on to the meat of our tale. The games. First one I wanted to stop by was the Saga campaign board. I'd been curious about Saga, since it's caught on in the convention scene, and cons are a great way to learn about new games. As noted in the pic above, this was to be a multiplayer battle, the outcome of which would affect the next game. Neat concept, and I figured it'd be a good way for me to get how the game works.

Did I mention it was a lovely table? It really was, and drew a crowd of observers in short order.

Seriously, look at that.

The game itself was interesting. I may write up my thoughts on Saga eventually. I feel like I should play an actual game of it, but I am not sure that's in the cards at this point.

Also wandered by this lovely Stalingrad board.

This Jerusalem board was used for a couple games during the con, and man, that's some great work too. Cons are always great for terrain pr0n.

This beast was set up for a "Mars Needs Steam" game, the link to which I will provide tomorrow. Definitely a major undertaking, and I admire their efforts.

No, seriously, it was that big.

And man, I love the big dungeon boards. Love.

Snuck in a quick lunch after that, in which I struck up a random conversation with a fellow gamer, and learned a lot about Eve Online, and why I should travel overseas. Noted! Dude was a real gentleman.

Next up... a beginner's class on painting terrain. Here's the not-so-secret: I enjoy painting, but I am not very good at it, and I am not very fast at it. And I have a lot of terrain bits I never got around to painting, because, you know, hard. And I could be painting figures instead! But no. I declared this the Year of Terrain, and this class was step one. We learned such techniques as drybrushing, flocking, color choices, etc. Yes, real easy stuff, but I learn best by having someone show me, and this class fit the bill perfectly. Will definitely be looking at more of these in the future.

After that, another quick walk-through the dealers hall. Reaper had a booth there, for the first time. I am betting the fact that a lot of people just scored figs from the Bones kickstarter suppressed sales, but I would pick up a couple things there, and saw other shoppers, so maybe not.

I finally found the booth for Darkest Star Games this time. I'd wanted to get a look at their Spec-Sec figs for 15mm scifi, and heavens, I wasn't disappointed. This is definitely a company to watch, with a real eye for the ultra-slick vision of games like Infinity, or something from, say, Ghost in the Shell, but in 15mm. Quality stuff. They had sold out of the Colonists I'd wanted to pick up initially, but I found a couple other easy picks. He was also one of the cooler people I met this con, which is just added value at this point. Wish I had got a pic at the time, but hopefully will get those figs together shortly and up here.

Damn you, Blue Moon/Old Glory. I didn't know I needed gangster figs and terrain, but here we are. (Spoiler alert: I renew my Old Glory membership at the end of my weekend. So many treats.)

Lovely downtown Granville, IL. Nice place to visit, but I'd recommend against moving there.

My final event of the day was my first actual scheduled game of the con: "The Walking Dead of Granville, IL." I always enjoy the multiplayer GASLIGHT games run by the fine ladies and gentlemen of the HAWKS wargaming club, and this was no exception.

This time around, I played the brave hero Duke Morrison and his loyal troopers, as well as the police. The citizens of this fine burg were being turned into mindless zombies by some wicked Venusians. We were in town to rescue as many locals as we could, gather needed supplies, and track down Professor Nannini's secret lab.

Look, only a couple zombies wandering. This'll be easy, right?

I started in the southeast corner, which would also be the road out of town. Our allies, a motley groupd of roughnecks, sailors, and gangsters, started various places around the board. We made some vague plans to meet up towards the middle. (No, we didn't actually expect the plans to work. But hey.)

We can be taught.

On turn two, we learned very quickly that sound attracts zombies. Lots of zombies. And the zombies are damned tough to put down. Alright, heroes, let's get to work.

The west side of town. I never made it that far.

What followed became a race instead of a fight, with us trying to avoid firing any guns, and only hotwiring cars when necessary. (Starting a car was certainly noisy enough to get the undead's attention.) So we ran, and were tactical, and trying and failing to thin out the zeds.

Duke Morrison: action hero.

Having created a small horde by myself (whoops) I lead them on a merry chase, taking advantage of Duke's awesomeness to let me sneak a civilian out of harm's way. Personally, this was my best play of the day.

Luckily, my horde was mostly creepers. Other players were dealing with bloaters and runners, undead with different powers. (This is called foreshadowing.)

Any car that we did get running was jam-packed with civilians. This would come back to haunt us, as the zombie players (well, the players running the zombies, I mean) figured out if they attacked those cars with the bloater zombies, when the bloaters got hit, they could potentially explode and infect everyone in the vehicle. Ouch. The cars were still a good call, considering how fast they were (comparatively) but a distinct liability. I don't think a single vehicle made it out without having to deal with one or more passenger turning.

Things are rough. The zeds are everywhere, we can't find the lab, and have not been picking up enough supplies. And what's more, the zombies have started pushing cars around, causing me to exclaim loudly about there being 'some sort of brain zombie.'

Tragically, the last building we search turns out to be the secret lab. But the equipment is too heavy to get out without vehicular conveyance, so I make the heroic decision to abandon the lab junk in favor of getting the last civilian off the board safely. I just didn't think we'd get enough turns to get a car there, load up the gear, and get off the board before being surrounded by zombies, who were now massing near the exit.

Morrison ushers out the last civilian on foot, as one of his men clears the way.

And this is how Granville fell, in a storm of dice and creepers.

A fun game, indeed. There was a family of younger players there, but their father kept them in line and focused for the most part. They just needed a bit more patience to rein in their more... energetic impulses. And they seemed to enjoy the game as well, which is the reason we're all there.

Mr. Surdu discusses the game on his blog here.

Drove home after that and tried to get some sleep for an early morning and a busy day ahead.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Historicon approacheth!

Totally not ready for Historicon this year. I mean, I am registered, and signed up for games to play while I am there, and signed up for the table to unload some toys (and fingers crossed make a couple bucks, to pay for more toys there.) But this past month has been a whirlwind of things outside the gaming world for me, and now that we're under a week to go, I have a lot to do. (Neither of my usual partners in crime will be joining me either, which will make for a different experience, to be sure.)

Just heading up for Friday and Saturday this time around. Am looking forward to learning to play SAGA and finally playing In Her Majesty's Name, plus more GASLIGHT and other con favorites. Plotting to pick up... a few items while I am there. More Victorian scifi and related items for IHMN, some fantasy figs to bulk up the planned 7th Voyage outing. As always, cons are a great place to pick up terrain as well. The Rebel Minis and Acheson booths are always tempting, as well, and the flea market has treated me well in the past as well.

So yes. Next couple days will be spent scouring the basement for things to sell at the con, then a flurry of packing and the like. Good times ahead! (And man, when I get back I have a pretty hefty backlog of toys to put together and paint, not to mention games to play. Truly this is a golden age.)