Monday, July 23, 2012

Historicon After Action Report

      I tried to keep my preparations for Historicon simple and flexible this year, which turned out to be a good idea, as Norman starting a job the same week as the convention could have been a problem. As it turned out, though, we would have had some difficulty packing everything if we had needed to put a third person in the Yaris for the trip. I signed up to run three games, all Not Quite Seven Years War scenarios, using approximately the same troops and scenery pool. I wasn't sure what the scenarios would be when I signed up, but I did, at least, already have the troops and scenery in hand. 

      As the convention approached, I realized that I had left the hotel reservations until too late. All of the near area hotels were booked, so I eventually (the week before the convention) resorted to Expedia and got a room at the Quality Inn, about two miles away. This didn't turn out to be too onerous, but I had better see about booking Cold Wars now if I want to be at the Host. I also realized around the beginning of July that I had better decided on what the scenarios would be. NQSYW and Charge work beautifully with C.S. Grant's scenario books, so I went through them looking for something suitable, not requiring new terrain to be built. I ended up settling on Scenario 10, The Important Bridge, from Scenarios for All Ages (the Red Book), and scenarios 15 and 12 (Reinforcements in Defence and Flank Attack) from Scenarios for Wargames (the Green Book). For reasons which will be clear later, I had some hesitation over the Flank Attack scenario, based on Frederick the Great's victory at Leuthen in the real Seven Years War. However, I was pleased to note that the scenarios all used very similar force levels, and therefore could be narratively linked into a short campaign even though I wasn't going to track the casualties across the games as we did with the St. Michel campaign at Cold Wars in 2010.

      Norman's new job came up while I was working scenarios and hotel arrangements. This, while generally very good news indeed, did cause him to need to cancel his two Bronze Age chariot games. We got him sent off to his new dwelling the Sunday before the convention. This left just me and William to pull our troops and scenery together before packing the car on Thursday morning.

William's Temple of the Golden Idol of Baga-Baga in a tray for transport

A peek inside the Temple
Since we had no particular schedule to keep, we finally pushed off from home around 10:30, with two last-minute errands to do on the way. I had hoped that the early afternoon would have been a reasonable time for traffic, but we found that traffic on 95 was at a standstill starting about 20 miles from Fredericksburg. We jumped off and tried Route 1 instead, but found that to be almost as bad. As a result, it was about 3:30 by the time we finally made it to the convention. After picking up badges and finding the HAWKs room, we did a sweep of the dealers' area. I picked up some new Eureka 28mm Dark Ages figures and a pack of new Sash and Saber 40mm Indian leaders for the F&IW. We then signed up for games for Friday. Game availability was somewhat limited. William also tried to sign for a Thursday evening game, but there wasn't anything available except Battletech by then. William's overall comment was that there were not enough ancients games on the schedule, so he intends to work on his 40mm Vikings before Cold Wars. 

      Since we couldn't find anything we wanted to play, and the table schedule for NQSYW the next day was available, we decided that we would set up a small NQSYW pickup game. By the time we were done setting up, we had three other players, so I dropped back into gamemaster mode rather than play myself. In keeping with the C.S. Grant theme, we used Scenario 41 from the Green Book, Chance Encounter (perhaps better known as "Sawmill Village"). Each side picked six units from a short list of possibilities. Interestingly, force composition turned out to be identical, with two squadrons of dragoons, two line infantry companies, a light infantry company, and a gun on each side. Schoeffen-Buschhagen and North Polenburg provided all forces, without the need to break out any allies. William took command of the S-Bs. Ultimately the S-Bs won the race to the town, at the cost of one of the dragoon squadrons, lost while delaying the enemy infantry. Once established in the buildings, the remaining N-Ps did not have sufficient strength to drive them out, and elected to withdraw in good order. While we have played Charge with the past few months, I was glad of an opportunity to remind myself of several of the fine points of the rules before running my "official" games.

Forces preparing to enter for our pick-up game

Cavalry melee at the north end of Graukopf

      I signed up for a 1:00 game on Friday, so I took time upon arrival to set up the scenery for my 7:00 game. Obviously this would not have been possible if the tables had needed to have been more tightly scheduled. With some help from William, the table was set fairly quickly, and I used the spare time to finish up my shopping agenda. I picked up three boxes of 1/72 scale plastic figures, mostly Vikings, to provide a Hordes of the Things fantasy army for Norman's proposed grand fantasy campaign in the Hyborian mode, which I've dubbed "Myboria". Our HotT armies are generally on double-depth bases for the infantry for a nicer appearance, so we generally need more figures than we would with the "stock" basing. 

30mm Austrians

     My 1:00 game was somebody else's retro-tricorne game, in this case actually using a 1971 set of rules called Tricorne to run a Seven Years War scenario with 30mm figures. Tricorne uses rosters to track casualties by the man, so it's probably not something I'd use at home, but we managed to have it running by the third or fourth turn without too much gamemaster intervention. I still needed to leave somewhat before it was done, to ensure that I had enough time to lay out all the troops for my own first scenario. 

      The first scenario, The Important Bridge, was deemed to be the start of the little narrative campaign. I had six players for this one, the only one of my games to actually fill during the weekend. Four forces, two from each side, converge on a bridge needed to enable (or prevent) further operations. A total of three infantry regiments, a cavalry regiment, two guns, and a few light troops are present on each side. I used this scenario once before, at Barrage in 2010, but I don't have detailed notes about the outcomes for comparison. In this running, overly bold use of the light infantry on both sides led to their quick demise. The detached Coalition force, composed almost entirely of Wachovians, forded the river downstream of the bridge and seized the walled chateau just ahead of the advancing North Polenburgers. After an extended cavalry melee on the Coalition side of the bridge, the Alliance's North Polenburg dragoons were compelled to withdraw across the bridge to rally. The Coalition cavalry pursued, and managed to force the bridge in the teeth of the advancing Alliance Stanzbach-Anwatsch infantry. This turned out to be the final straw for the Alliance forces, and they ceded the crossing to the Coalition. Norman turned up partway through the game, which was handy for me as I pressed him into service as an additional gamemaster.

Early in the battle; North Polenburg dragoons crossing the bridge, Alliance light forces advancing to the left of the river

      We had a successful trawl through the flea market on Saturday morning. I ended up with a small collection of painted 40mm stuff, including two cannons and three musketeers for my Renaissance project. Norman found a Bronze Age city/fortress wall, with two towers, a gate, and a breached section, which should enhance our chariot games. William got a real deal on a Playmobile pirate ship, which is large enough to to use with his Sash and Saber 40mm pirate collection. I also ended up picking up one last thing from the dealers, Dux Bellorum, a new set of Dark Ages rules from Osprey. It was a bit of a gamble, but I figured I already had a set of possible armies for it (since it stretches to cover the early Viking raids on the Saxon kingdoms), so it wouldn't tend to cause me to buy anything else new. (And if it inspires painting, that would be a bonus.) I hope to give it a try and post a review sometime soon. 

     I only had two actual players show up for my 1:00 scenario. I pressed William into playing, and enlisted an OSW blogger who stopped by for a look. This scenario involved the Alliance in a holding position on a ridge, waiting for the arrival of reinforcements. As it turned out, the Alliance players found the attacking Coalition cavalry sweeping around the ridge at the left end of their position, and blocked them with their own cavalry, more or less as I expected. Also as expected, this melee took several turns to work out. They decided to send in the lead reinforcing infantry regiment to back up the cavalry, which they agreed, in retrospect, might not have been the optimum decision. As is played out, this left the force on the ridge unsupported for at least a few turns too long, and when they collapsed and the assaulting Coalition infantry took the ridge, they were unable to muster an adequate counterattack. The game only ended up taking three hours, so we had two hours to sort the figures back out and reset the scenery for the third game. My sons then departed for their own 7:00 game, leaving me to run this one by myself.

Coalition forces massed for the attack in Scenario 2, Reinforcements in the Defence

     As I mentioned earlier, I'd had some hesitation over the choice of the third scenario. It is a surprise scenario, where one side discovers as the scenario opens that their objective is not what they thought it was, but turns out to be to simply survive. I ended up putting the one repeat player, who had won the previous battle, in the position of the greatest danger. He was a good sport about the whole business, but there was undoubtedly some consternation on the Coalition side when they discovered that all the troops visible on the set up table off to the side ended up appearing on turn one in a corner of the table that had been covered in gaming litter, such as spare Quick Reference Sheets, dice, and pencils. Norman and I have played this scenario at home, although I never got a battle report posted. It ended up in a solid victory for the attacking player. This time, though, almost all the luck was with the Alliance players. As mentioned in the separate report, they rolled the Coalition up like a carpet. I don't know that I would pull this one out for a convention again. There are too many ways a surprise can go wrong. My sons showed up after their game ended, just in time to help me pack the troops away all neat, orderly, and ready for their next deployment. We took the time to pack the car carefully into its travel load configuration before heading back to the hotel and collapsing into bed. 

     We didn't go back to the convention in the morning, having too much to do before the end of the day. As a result we headed north around 9:30, and William and I got home around noon, so the trip home was considerably easier than the trip down. We listened to the latest View from the Veranda podcast on the trip back. The topic of its discussion strayed to "the graying of the hobby". I'll just add the observation that each of my official games had two of the sub-25 crowd in them, none of whom appeared to have been press-ganged into accompanying a parent or otherwise coerced. For an advertised old school tricorne game, that doesn't strike me as being a harbinger of doom... 

    Now that the convention is over, I notice that most of my shopping was associated with my Dark Ages project. Once we figure out when Ross is coming down again, which will be an opportunity for the joint projects, I am thinking that next year's other convention games may be something other than NQSYW.

(Pictures added, 30 July; final version)


  1. Sounds like I would not have cared for the extra drive. I had a brief hope of bringing an 1812 game to Fall In this year but there is a conflict so I'm back to hanging my hat on Cold Wars.

    Should I get to casting & painting 40mm Vikings & Saxons?


  2. I agree with your conclusions and looking forward to your coming updates. Thanks for sharing

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