This past weekend I attended Historicon in Fredericksburg, VA for the second year in a row. The convention is located about an hour from my house so it's very convenient for me. I only get to maybe one convention a year so I try to make it count ad attend all four days. Here is my report and review of the convention.
Thursday, Day 1: I arrived at about 10 AM, registered with no delay, and proceeded to the dealer hall for some goodies. It seemed to me that there was a bit less going on in the dealer hall this year, perhaps due to the absence of the Warstore and a few board game companies that were there last year. I hit the Battlefront booth and picked up the new Flames of War early war book on Japan, Finland, and the Soviets, along with a Japanese infantry company, machine gun platoon, and anti-tank teams. I also grabbed some rice paddies and huts for Vietnam and some M113 APCs in plastic. In short, I bought ome stuff! After lunch I checked out the afternoon flea market, which was small, but didn't see anything I needed.
At first game of the convention started. It was a Force on Force game called "Red Dawn" and was a (highly) fictional scenario involving a Nicaraguan-Cuban attack on a not-so-sleepy New Mexico town. I got to play the Nicaraguans, who started the game with two APCs and a technical. We started off well, dispersing some police and civilians in the town center, when Rev. Jenkins and his young assistant hit a BTR with an old bazooka from the church steeple! These American pig-dogs are really well armed! My DshKA technical put paid to those two but more and more townsfolk wielding automatic weapons and the alarmingly common LAW started appearing in droves. One of my heroic co-commanders tried to crash the cars in the center of town to advance on the objectives but immobilized his ride. More police and townsfolk showed up in vehicles including the local black-helicopter fearing crowd, who were of course well-versed in practicing their 2nd Amendment rights, much to our dismay. Our objectives in the Guard armory, TV station and Gas station seemed very far away. Luckily we got a few more reinforcements in the form of another APC and a light reconnaissance vehicle. Sadly, the APC was whacked by ANOTHER bazooka-wielding patriot from the church tower and we had lost 3 out of 5 vehicles.
Meanwhile, I am proud to say, my technical team were earning their MVP status for Red team by wasting Americans every time they opened fire. In total they took out several cops, the Rev. Jenkins and his friend, a squad of bikers in a bar, a police cruiser and its' passengers, and inflicted casualties on and pinned a squad of National Guardsmen. Even after their technical was hit by a LAW, all three crewman bailed out and continued to fiht using the wreck as cover. These were clearly Cuban or Nicaraguan Spec Ops and deserved promotion to d10 troops. Despite their heroics, however, a huge number of civvies, cops, militia a nd guardsmen held off our assault. We managed to seize the gas station by waiting until the very last moment to reveal a squad of inflitrators out of a taco truck who managed to seize the station unhindered. A heroic infantry squad also made it to the radio station. But we ould not get near the NG Armory and we missed the fleeing Congressman who made it our of a gentlmen's club with his escort and retinue. The ol' US of A won 18 points to 15, helped along greatly by their abundant AT assets nailing 4 out of 5 bad guy vehicles. I thought it was a great game and kudos to John and Henry. incidentally I had faced John and Henry in a Flames of War doubles tournament a few years back and it was a pleasure seeing them again.
Here come the Commies!
Downtown in trouble!
Police get hosed with the DshKa!
And one gets popped!
Cuban SF technical strikes back!
Cuban SF technical nails a cop car.
And some dudes in the building...
And bail out and keep fighting!
Oh, no more LAWs!
Guardsmen and women report to the armory.
This town will never be the same.
The Nicaraguan regulars liberate the radio station and some dudes hiding in the Taco van take the gas station.
The Americans win thanks to Wayne LaPierre.
That evening I was signed up for another game but was pretty bushed and also greatly interested in seeing a movie. I went to see Pacific Rim at a local movie theater that gave me flashbacks to the early eighties (in a good way) and I enjoyed the mindless but fun super robot vs. monsters action before retiring for the evening.
Friday, Day 2: First up was the SAGA tournament. I had played last year and took 2nd place after going 3-0 in regular rounds and then coming in 2nd in a 4-way free for all. This year I brought my Irish war-band which I had not played competitively, or much at all really. What follows is an AAR of the tournament so if that's too long for you check out the pics and skip the accompanying wall of text. Some events may not be exactly in sequence as I did not take notes, but the gist of the battles should be correct.
My army was 6 points: 2 hearth-guard in 1 unit of 6 and 2 made in Irish Curaidh (heroes), 2 points of warriors fielded as 2 8-man units, and 2 points of levies fielded as 2 12-man units. Irish are primarily a shooting army, with all units having either javelins or slings, and some tricks to use terrain and to equalize melees against factions that rely on using a lot of special abilities to maximize melee attacks. They tend not to hold up too well in melee.
Round 1: I faced a Scots army fielded by a nice chap from South Carolina. We played the "Clash of Warlords scenario requiring a Warlord kill for a clean win, or VP in the alternative. We both were getting the rust off so the play was probably not stellar, but after an initial exchange of some ranged fire he made a mistake and left his warlord alone on a hill with a depleted levy unit in front of him. I used all my dice to hurl my hearth-guard unit through the levy and then into the Warlord, and used bonus dice from my attack pool to add to my roll. Luckily for me he just managed to fail enough saves to die, as he had no warriors or hearth-guard near him to help out. So i won round 1 with a Warlord kill.
The armies face off.
Hmm, they didn't listen to reason.
The hole in the middle used to have a Scots Warlord.
Round 2: I faced a brand-new player using the TO's Anglo-Danish army. Again, we played the "Clash of Warlords scenario requiring a Warlord kill for a clean win, or VP in the alternative. He was very aggressive and decided to come after my levy with his warlord and some hearth-guard. He succeeded in smashing the levy but they killed a hearth-guard or two in return, and his warlord was left horribly exposed. Utilizing my Irish battle board's shooting abilities, I pelted the hearth-guard unit and then the Warlord into oblivion n a shower of sling-stones and javelins. A second Warlord kill made me 2-0 on the day.
Now here's a fight we can get behind...killing Anglish! Er, Danish. Something.
He's headed right for us! What a brave Dane, er Angle, uh..guy.
Did you see that? The Javelins went clean through!
Round 3: I played Skirmish, a scenario where the first person to lose 2 Saga dice lost the game, against the Skraelings. I had seen them in action under the same commander last year, and frankly they are terrifying. I realized that my only chance to win was to use my superior ranged attacks to wear him down, as his bottomless bag of tricks and huge numbers (he fielded 48 warriors in 4 units of 12) would no doubt be my undoing in close combat. He also used his special ability to permanently disable my ability "Sons of Dana" which provides for a shooting attack against enemies within 4" of rough terrain. (This is known affectionately by me as the ""Potatoes from the Woods" attack.) He then maneuvered almost his whole army into the woods on my right, where he was protected but also stymied in his movement. At the first opportunity, I proceeded to deny my right flank and put my levies forward to pelt whatever targets I could with stones. This paid off when my levy took the high ground and killed 8 warriors who were exposed in the rear of his army. He used another horrifying ability to bring a unit of warriors into play in the rear of my army, and they assaulted an killed a Curaidh (Irish hero) who heroically took two with him for good measure. I was then able to finish off this small unit for one SAGA die, and then tried very hard to finish off his depleted Warrior unit in the rear with my levy on the hill. They rolled an exceptional 8 hits using my battle board abilities but he made 6 saves, keeping his unit alive with 2 warriors left and preventing me from winning right then. He then concentrated his attacks from all his units onto my levies on the hill, which wiped out the unit but did not cost me a SAGA die (it takes 2 levy units to cost a Saga die for this scenario) so I continued. In my turn I attacked with my other unit of levies, which had been weakened by his use of my ability "Sons of Dana" (yes the Skraelings can do that, too) causing one more warrior casualty. At that point time was called. Since neither of us had lost two SAGA dice, I had won with 9 victory points to his 7. Close!
Oh, they're more naked than we are! Poor lads.
Erm, they look dead hard, though.
Let's keep our distance. Yeah, that's it.
Rocks! We got loads of them in Galway, boys.
Oh, that's just cheating. Pog mo Thoin!
The bards will right a tale of brave Dumnhall.
We cleared up those cheeky flankers, lads. More rocks on 'em!
Round 4: Having just made it through Round 3 undefeated, I was matched up with the last other undefeated player, who had 2 wins and a tie. He was also playing Scots, but he had made a massive 12 man hearth-guard unit supported by another unit of hearth-guard and 2 units of 8 warriors. The game started with me trying to load up a large shooting attack on the closest unit of warriors, only to see the Scottish defensive abilities stymie me. In turn, he rolled his massive hearth-guard unit (with banner so they could rest more than once a turn) into my levies, smashing them in two rounds of combat. In my turn I fired from the woods on his warriors to little avail, and pelted his hearth-guard with javelins killing about 4. On his next turn he used the hearth-guard to kill my Curaidh and advanced the rest of his army. He also advanced his warlord supported by a warrior unit in the center, leaving him a tempting target.
On my next turn I made a major play mistake, loading up my board for a shot at his warlord. I activated other units to thin the warriors accompanying the warlord but did little damage, then I launched the hearth-guard at him intending to use "The Old Ways" using a 6 die to get 12 dice to his 1. There was a good chance this would kill the warlord or that a following activation could do so. Except, I had forgotten that my hearth-guard were within 2" (very short) range of his hearth-guard, and thus I was forced to attack them! Cursing my stupidity I took some solace in the fact that I killed all but one of them, losing 4 of my hearth-guard in the process. I girded my loins for the kicking that awaited. On his last turn, he loaded up his board for a go at my warlord. His first move was to attack my warriors escorting the warlord. He played a minuet of destruction on his board, converting defensive dice to attacks and adding more attacks until he had maxed out the 16 dice his 8-man warrior unit could roll. My one defensive die lay on an ability that could not help me. He then rolled his attacks, needing 4s or better to hit. 3 hits only! What!!? I joked that selling my son's soul to the devil had paid off. To add insult to injury, my warriors his 5 times out of 8 attacks and he failed 3 saves to my 2, losing the combat. With his dice board all but spent he passed. At this point the TO told us it was time and said that since I had gone first I should not start my next turn. Counting VPs, I had won 13-12! What luck! It had been good for me that I had inflicted so much hurt on the hearth-guard but the kicker was the points I got for killing his warriors and not getting wiped out in the last turn. Sometimes you get the bear.
More Scots? Can't we all just get along. We agree on not liking Angles, right?
Pretty. They must be rich.
They appear impervious to rocks, alas. Must be those metal shirts we have heard of.
Alright boys, javelins away!
A Celtic stand-off.
Hearth-guards nearly wipe each other out in heroic Celtic style. But here comes the big ass-kicking we've expected all day.
Oh, look at all those bad rolls! It's the luck of the Irish for real this time, boys!
Having won all four rounds I took 1st Place and a gift certificate from Architects of War, which I used to get the latest SAGA book with folio. Thanks to Eric Lauterbach and Architects for a great event, and thanks to my sporting opponents.
After that exhausting day, I had a leisurely dinner and joined Dirty Jon of WWPD fame for a 5-player game of Battlestar Galactica the board-game. This game features a killer traitor mechanic where one or more players could be a Cylon traitor trying to sabotage Galactica as the last humans try to reach earth. This game ran long, about 4 hours but we did have to go over all the rules and take a few breaks, so I figure there was about 3 hours of actual playing time. In sum, the humans had a cakewalk until we hit the halfway point of Kobol. Shortly thereafter the first Cylon revealed himself, it was SonBae, also of WWPD fame. He hit us with super crisis card that sent us reeling. Suddenly the ship was swamped with Cylon attackers. We were just about the jump away to in the game, however, when a stray Cylon Basestar shot hit our Faster Than Light (FTL) drive! As we scrambled to a) fix it, b) fight off the Cylon ships and c) get the frak out of there, our second Cylon appeared. As President, I had jailed him with probable cause (he was too quiet) but that didn't help us much. He hit us with two super crisis cards in a row, one of which sent us back several steps on the FTL jump track! As we desperately tried fending off the toasters, we lost most of our precious resources to Cylon ships shooting up our civilian fleet. We were simultaneously being shot by Basestars and baorded by Centurions! It was mayhem, and it couldn't last. Finally, the Cylon raiders blasted two of our civilian ships, enough to lower our population to zero. The frakkin' toasters had won! It was great game and many thanks to Dirty Jon for his hard work teaching it to us and helping the game along the whole way. After that, it was time for bed!
I smell toaster.
Saturday, Day 3: Saturday was Flea Market day! Suffice it to say I sold a TON of stuff. I got rid of 3 fully painted armies and a bunch of other stuff I was not using, and ended up being a hero with the wife, who called saying she needed to buy 4 new tires for the MAZDA 5. Problem solved as I covered the cost! Boy was she happy about my great hobby at that moment. Luckily, there was plenty left for me and I indulged in a long-time fantasy purchase: the BF miniatures Polish Train! I found this baby unopened for over 30% off retail in the flea market and I snatched it up. I plan on painting it in Soviet colors for my Russians to deploy against Fritz. In fact, this exact train was historically captured and used by the Soviets, so it's not a stretch to do at all. Urrah!
After my flea market session I had a game at 3 pm of Bolt Action, called Black Death at Leningrad. I like the Bolt Action system but this scenario seemed a bit broken. First, it really only utilized only about 1/3 of the table, the Germans didn't have a prayer. The situation was that both sides needed to take 3 rooms of a factory complex. The side that took the most in six turns would win. Both sides got to deploy anywhere on their table edge but there was no reason not to deploy on the 1/3 of the table with the factory. (Note-I greatly prefer convention games where the starting positions are predetermined-it saves time and ensures balance based on play-testing.) So both sides rolled all their stuff into 1/3 of the table, with the rest of the table being mostly irrelevant to the game except for the odd pot-shot from two AT guns sited far from the action. The Sovs had 3 crack squads of 9 Naval infantry, all of which rolled double dice in assault. The Germans had two squads of slightly better quality but 1/2 the attack dice, and some support assets of dubious use, like a 20mm-armed armored scout car. The Soviet deployment area was screened by the objective buildings, which were also about 6" closer to the Soviet deployment zone So things developed pretty predictably with the Soviets running unscathed into the building, crushing the one squad of Germans in there, and daring the Germans with their one remaining squad to come in. Did I mention that squad took 30% casualties from a 152mm arty strike? Did I mention the Germans got only off-board smoke? Did I mention the T-34? The Germans engaged in some Keystone Kops routines out of desperation, such as driving the scout car into the building in desperation. Myself and another Army veteran, playing the Germans, privately remarked that we would have withdrawn our forces after the loss of our first squad, as it was plainly hopeless after about turn 2. And so 4 turns of agony (or FUN! for the Soviets) later, we lost. On the bright side, they gave out some very nice prizes.
It's so cold and unfair! Why did we ever invade Russia?
What's so great about that factory, anyway?
After that I attended the WWPD final podcast. Au revoir, Steve of WWPD. You will be missed. I won a box of PSC Tigers in the drawing (actually traded some American stuff to KayJay for it) and then joined a Napoleonic game in progress.
I joined my pal the Consul, playing with his friends Will and Juan, as well as Captain K, his son. Juan had painted an enormous number of remarkably beautiful Napoleonic 28mm figures and they were playing a game of GW's Waterloo. We had a great time rolling buckets of dice and pushing around Juan's masterpiece armies until the French heavy cavalry hit a seam and rolled up the Austrian flank for a win. Good times! Juan, you are the man! Those minis! Wow. Then I went to bed, reading my newly-purchased copy of Battlegroup: Kursk as a bedtime story That is an amazing book, if you haven't already checked it out.
Captain K takes a break from texting to consider the Austrian predicament.
French and Austrians advance to combat! Vive L'Empereur!
Sunday, Day 4: Sunday is the let down day. But this time we went out with a bang. After a little last minute shopping in which I accidentally picked up a company's worth of 15mm BF Italian raiding trucks for a little Flames of War desert raiding action, the Consul and I set up Samurai Battles for a quick game before we ended our convention experience. We had a great back and forth battle as the Takeda flanked and assaulted the Uesugi camp. However, the Uesugi got some great dice rolls and card combinations, including a crippling Traitor! event which gave me control of one of the Consul's best units, and the Uesugi changed history by winning this time. Samurai Battles is one of Richard Borg's Commands and Colors series, which I really enjoy. I had a chance to speak with Richard during this H-con as he ran demos of his Battle Cry! Civil War game. He is a great guy and his games are really good. Check them out.
The Uesugi cavalry move to contain a Takeda flank attack.
The Consul looks happy, right before I play the Traitor card on him.
And so another Historicon ended. I had had a great time, played a lot of games, and bought a few small items home to help me through months until the next Historicon. If you are a gamer and you haven 't gone yet, you should!