This year is the the 25th anniversary of the HAWKs, and Historicon has moved to a new venue, the Lancaster County Convention Center in downtown Lancaster. With those two points in mind, when the call for HAWKs games for the convention went out a few months ago, I decided to sign up. Unfortunately, right after making that decision, my employer decided they need me in Kentucky through the Friday of the convention. That left me with space for one game, and I elected to run a Not Quite Seven Years War game. This was probably not the most considered decision I have made.
I got back from my trip, which itself fell right after all of the excitement surrounding Norman's wedding, on Friday afternoon, with all of the collecting and packing for my game still to do.
I had considered the scenario in advance, and elected to use one of the tried and true C.S. Grant situations from Scenarios for Wargames,
#15, Reinforcements in Defence: On the Table. In my usual translation of Grant scenarios to Charge, that gave a force of four foot regiments and a cavalry regiment to the attackers, and three infantry regiments and a cavalry regiment to the defenders. What I hadn't stopped to consider in advance was that I only have six complete regiments of infantry around the house. I decided to assemble the assorted companies of incomplete units to get the seventh, but it did involve "reflagging" some of the Schoeffen-Buschhagen troops as belonging to some unspecified minor power with similar uniforms.
I was happy to find that all of the necessary scenery was near the surface, although my scenery storage boxes now definitely need a reorganization, as ad hoc
searching through them the last several games have induced a good deal of entropy into the system. By 10:00 Saturday morning I had everything gathered, and attached it all to a hand cart we got for Gencon the other year. I had heard that parking was likely to be a problem, so I wanted to be ready to haul the game as needed.
|Hand cart test loaded|
I got up to Lancaster about 12:30, and ran into my first problem. Driving by myself, I couldn't get the GPS system to recognize the parking structures on the fly, and Lancaster is a twisty little maze of one-way streets, all the same. So it took a while to find the entrance of one of the official structures. It was about three and a half rather long blocks from the convention center, so I set out to scout without reloading the cart. The convention had supposedly arranged dropoff zones and volunteers to watch your stuff, but when I first drove by the convention center the spaces were all full, and I didn't really want to leave even a friend to mind my stuff for an uncertain amount of time while I circled looking for parking. Anyway, I arrived on foot and found that my QRS code to pick up my badge worked without issue. I found the HAWKs in a dim, cavernous, and noisy hall, one of two dedicated to gaming. Since my game wasn't until 7:00, I decided that I would do whatever shopping I was doing and then go collect my hand cart and gear. I ended up with a couple of 1/72 plastic figure boxes (Silk Road caravan
, the latter a potential Sea Peoples tribe for the Bronze Age), a Deep Cuts Studio road pack
(for the new table, as a test), a resin rowboat
for Ghost Archipelago, and a couple of books. I had a look around the flea market as well, but, perhaps fortunately, nothing seemed to be immediately necessary or useful.
|I can't resist new 1/72; the Airfix imprinting remains...|
After that, I walked back to the car and loaded my cart. As you can see from the pictures, the front wheels are small, so dragging it three blocks across city sidewalks was an adventure. I dragged it up to the HAWKs space to await set up time.
Eventually, I got things set up. As can be seen from the pictures, I used the dozen company movement stands to keep things moving along. By Saturday night most people were starting to run down, so I had only three players of a possible six, so everyone had plenty to do. The attackers got two players. I had several situations arise where Charge!'s old school mechanics were troubling players, so I'm not sure that it was one of my better games, a bit disappointing after all the labor to haul it and set it up.
|Coalition forces deploy to seize the hill|
Anyway, this scenario is a tough one on the defenders, as they are pretty much guaranteed to lose everything initially on the table in the effort to buy time to use the reinforcements effectively. The Pragmatic Coalition forces started right off with an attempt to charge the gun position at the end of the Alliance line with the Schoeffen-Buschhagen (S-B) hussars, which ended up in a complicated accidental melee with advancing Alliance dragoons. The hussars attacking the gun were met with a withering blast of canister, and the gun position was secure for the moment.
|S-B Hussars charge, bravely but futilely|
Undeterred by this failure, the Coalition commander next sent in the Wachovian light infantry to seize the gun. They succeeded, but were driven off in turn by the first reinforcements to arrive, more Alliance dragoons. A complicate cavalry melee developed at the end of the alliance position (typical in most of the times I've used this scenario). Meanwhile, Coalition infantry rolled forward, generally holding up well in the firefight with the Alliance infantry.
|Cavalry melee develops as Alliance dragoons attempt to buy time|
As the Alliance commander sounded the retreat at the hill, the cavalry melee broke up, and new Alliance infantry arrived on the scene.
|Alliance reinforcements begin to deploy for battle|
However, this had taken quite a while, and sunset was close. (See below.) As the armies made ready for a rough night on the field, a small party of Alliance dragoons had pressed forward to find that the survivors of the von Nordhafen regiment had retired. The other leading Coalition regiment was near to breaking as well, and the issue the next day, when the infantry would have been nearly equal, was still in doubt. Possibly the Coalition forces would have been able to use their superiority in artillery and cavalry to drive off the Alliance army, but vital time had already been lost...
|Situation as night falls; hill remains contested|
It turned out that the convention center had booked the main gaming halls for another event on Sunday, so we had to clear out by a hard deadline of midnight. With the logistics involved in stowing 550 individually based figures for travel, I didn't want to press the issue, so we called the game around 10:30. One or two more turns wouldn't have been decisive in any case, so the Alliance was deemed to have succeeded in their orders to hold until nightfall. The next day here would make for an interesting scenario; perhaps I'll have a go at translating it into AGW for fun and play it soon.
Also, I'm not a night owl, and it was a somewhat tense drive home, well beyond my usual bed time. Duncan Adams helped me out by watching my cart while I got the car. I wasn't thrilled by running out of the regularly inhabited zone of the downtown district at 11:30, but I got back to the convention center with the car, where I found that the designated parking was all blocked by non-Historicon people. Nevertheless, we got things loaded up. Rough roads on the way back were hard on the travel boxes; the cavalry, in particular, don't have enough steel area to "grab" the magnets of the boxes for their weight. Happily nothing was damaged, but the appearance upon arriving home was alarming.
|Rough roads home from Lancaster|
Overall, I'm cautious about the new venue. It's much nicer than the decaying Host had been, but the difficulties around parking and unloading don't appear to be easy to address. The center also had three of six escalators malfunctioning, and an elevator problem would have been serious, given that the spaces used were stacked on four levels. If I go again next year, I'd prioritize running a more portable game, just for some extra margin with contingencies.