Historicon 2003 Report

By Warren Peterson

This was my last opportunity to travel with the MEGA gang to this large historical miniature gaming convention. Because I recently accepted a position with another company in another state which requires that I move.

The trip was fairly uneventful. We watched DVD war movies such as Zulu, Iron Cross and others while riding to pass the time. Snacked on cookies, chips and soda (all the important food groups here). Rotating drivers periodically helped pass the time also. We stopped in Sharpsburg, MD (Antetiam) to check out the Civil War battlefield there. This was my second visit to this historic site. The "Sunken Road" was particular interesting because the terrain would have allowed the Union to advance towards the Confederate position unobserved at several points, then to rise over a small crest immediately in front of the Rebel position at close range. How did they ever do it? In this day and age when America cringes at a hundred military deaths, there were tens of thousands of military casualties in one day at this one battlefield.

After checking out the battlefield, we progressed to the convention location in Lancaster, PA. Checked into the hotel and went to register for the games!

Games Glorious Games


Thursday

1. French and Indian War "Naval" hosted by Scott Baldwin (25mm) ("Home" rules). This game was great fun and consisted of French fur traders being pursued down a river by angry Indian war bands in canoes. The rules were simple enough to grasp and provided a reasonable outcome based on events. The game (and rules) incorporated negotiating river rapids, firing muskets, grappling, hand-to-hand, tipping over and just general mayhem. I played as a 5-man Indian canoe. The Traders' objective was to pass down the river though 5 rapids with as many men in canoes as possible. The Indians objective was to stop (kill) the Traders. The Indians were able to quickly overtake the Traders. After which, a series of skirmish type battles broke out between individual canoes as each attempted to progress downstream. Many a brave Indian was killed after being wounded by musket fire then drowning when their canoe tipped over. However, the toll on the Traders was just as serious and ultimately the fast Indian canoes where able to make a sort of river gauntlet that the Traders could not overcome.

Friday

1. Englishmen, Hessians and Indians hosted by Terry Hogan (15mm) (American Battlelines rules). This was a fictitious American Revolutionary War battle. I had elected this game because I was interested in starting a new miniature army and wanted to check out the rule set. Having said that, you know your expectations aren't going to be met when you arrive at the game table at the appointed time, and the host is gluing flags on some miniatures for the first time, and the Hessians are missing. Another indicator that things were not going to be fun was the poor explanation of the rules. Thank goodness for the girl who decided to play the game. She appeared to know the rules better than the host, and was a huge help in getting us going. About 45 minutes after the scheduled start time the game commenced. I commanded an Indian war band and a regiment (or company) of British light infantry. The British were assaulting a farm held by Continentals with a couple of cannons. What no British cannons? The British assault progressed up to the farm where it was blown apart. Where did they get those cannon? It was like American Civil War 12-lbrs firing double canister. The Indians fared better being able to melee with a Continental unit which it killed to the last man. Taking scalps it then progressed to the next enemy unit. However, with no British support the unit was destined to retire from the field with honor and many scalps. The game could have been improved through a better play balance of forces and a prepared host. I cannot recommend the rule set.

2. Attack on the Illustrious hosted by Terry Callahan (1/300) (Blue Sky/Blue Sea rules). I played the British, flying (3) Fairy Fulmar fighters, in an attempt to defend the aircraft carrier Illustrious from a combined attack of German dive bombers (Ju-87s), level bombers (Ju-88s) and two Italian torpedo bombers. I managed to shoot down both torpedo bombers, but only after one had managed to launch its torpedo. Thank goodness his aim was off. I also shot down several of the Ju-87 dive bombers with the other's only causing minor bomb damage to the ship. The Fulmar pilots were very courageous as they dared their own AA-fire to pursue the enemy. On the plus side was the fact that their planes could withstand several AA hits, Oops. The Ju-88s were a different story as they approached the ship unaffected by AA-fire, and with the Fulmars all down at low altitudes. They proceeded to literally blow it out of the water with 64 points of damage being done, and only 35 points were needed to sink the ship. It was a fun game with the outcome much more uncertain than it sounded. The problem for the British player was which formation of attacking planes should he go after initially. I elected to pursue the torpedo bombers first, reckoning that a torpedo would cause more damage and the Italian planes should be easy to shoot down. After that, I sought to defend against the dive bombers. I could not reach the level bombers in time to defend against them, and had to rely on AA-fire. In retrospect it would have been better to start at high altitude attacking dive and level bombers leaving the torpedo bombers to AA-fire and the few extra planes (3) I managed to launch from the carrier during their attack.

3. The Napoleonic Wars hosted by Mark McLaughlin (GMT Napoleonic Wars board game with miniatures). I have this board game and have been trying to get the MEGA gang to try it out for some time now. What better opportunity for me to bone up on the rules and learn some strategies than to be in a game hosted by the game's designer, Mark McLaughlin. Mark had taken the board game map and enlarged it to about 4' x 6'. He then used various miniatures (ships, infantry, cannons, mounted generals) to replace the cardboard counters found in the standard game. We drew colored dice for chances to play the various factions (France, Russia, Britain, Austria, and Prussia). It being my unlucky day, I drew Prussia. I had to start the game neutral for the entire first turn. The French player was not very aggressive and did not press home his advantage in troops and cards. He also had some bad luck with his dice rolling. At the start of Turn 2, I threw my lot in with the French just to try and help. Needless to say the Russian hordes descended on my country and managed to take Berlin with the help of their Turkish ally. However, Prussia did not surrender and continued to fight on. Which is more than I can say for the French as the British made a landing in Brest and took Paris. Game over in Turn 2.

Saturday

1. Battle of Ilomantsik Finland 1944 hosted by Stephen Keyer (15mm) (BattleFront rules). This was a World War II game pitting trained Russian infantry with mortars against veteran Finish infantry with a couple of tanks. I was interested in this game because I have the rule set and have been itching to try it out. I played as a Russian. Our deployment wasn't thought to be bad, but unbeknownst to us the Finns were allowed to deploy immediately behind our lines within rifle range. I guess the Russians cannot detect anybody approaching their positions. Despite the distinct disadvantage at start and the initial losses (our supporting mortars and one machine gun), the Russians did put up stiff resistance. An antitank rifle man even managed to suppress (and dare I say disrupt) two tanks. But the Russians could not overcome a terrible starting position. A comment about this game was that the rule set designer played as a Finn. It is definitely not fair to be up against someone who knows the modifiers by heart when your learning. It just wasn't the Russians day. However, I can recommend this rule set for anyone interested in gaming 15mm World War II.

2. Dawn at Chickamauga (15mm) (Johnny Reb 2.5 rules). This was a MEGA members slugfest. I played as a Rebel commander. My job was to progress down several roads on the Rebel left flank and attempt to reach and sever a Union held road located across the table. Speed was important as Union reinforcements arrived on table. I used the roads to my advantage, even risking artillery shots while in march column (see Terry Callahan's write-up on this) in order to advance as fast as possible. It was a desperate battle with the Union launching repeated attacks in the middle as the noose was closing. But ultimately it was a Rebel victory. A great time was had by all.

General Comments

This was my second (and I hope not final) trip to the convention. Attendance appeared to be similar to 2002. There were more booths where people could get snacks or food which reduced time standing in concession lines. There also appeared to be an increase in female attendees which was positive. The dealer area was great as always. If you cannot find it here then they probably don't make it. The flea market had a few items of interest but prices were high. The convention theme was puzzling because it was supposed to be about the High Renaissance and the Rise of the Ottoman Empire. Who even games that? On top of that all the games in the main lobby were about Lord of the Rings. Who decides these themes? Someone walking into the convention would have thought it was a Games Workshop or fantasy convention. The theme games were located in an auditorium area which was difficult to find (I found it for the first time on my second trip to this convention). The couple of theme games that were there were impressive in size however.