Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I spent last weekend in Fredericksburg VA to attend the mothership of all the miniature wargaming conventions, Historicon. I had missed the meeting one year ago, so I was somewhat eager to join back the fray, and what a great time I had! It was real pleasure to meet old friends, make new ones, playing one game or two, and did some financial damage at the Vendors’ Hall.

In wargamers’ fora there was some apprehension about the new location, south of the Beltway and away from Historicon traditional Pennsylvania’s grounds. Well, the new location worked very well for me. It was an easy flight in and out Washington Dulles Airport, and a relatively easy drive from the airport to Fredericksburg on Friday, and back on Sunday. Some traffic on I-95 on Friday, but I still made the 55 miles or so in about 1h 15min. I stayed at a Best Western about 10min drive from the Fredericksburg Expo, site of the convention. The hotel was simple, clean, functional, and $75 per night. The drive to the Expo was a short trip across a busy mall area (which, incidentally, offers many diverse dining options.) The Expo itself is a large and functional structure, with plenty of space for game tables, and an adequate Dealers’ Hall. Food options on-site were fine – what you would expect in a convention center. Many people loved the opportunity to walk to a Wegmans across the street from the Expo; I didn’t, but apparently the large store had much to offer for food (and drinks…) Some people complained about the noise and din in the large gaming space; it was a mild annoyance, but not a major problem for me. The only complain would be the bathrooms: too few, and not serviced during the day so that by night-time they were in precarious conditions. This is something that can be fixed next year.

Attendance was good, in my opinion – but it is hard to gauge it in a very different space. If you have eight cramped rooms with six games each, you have a very busy convention; if you have 60 games in one large space that can accommodate for 100 of them, you are showing 25% more games, and yet the space may feel somewhat less busy than in the former case. It will be interesting to hear the report on attendance by HMGS-East.
By what I heard, vendors were generally happy about sales and traffic, and I have yet to hear one comment by anyone, dealers or players, who suffered a completely negative experience. Grades on TMP range from A+ to B-, with mine at A/A-. In my opinion, there was a good variety of games, with a little bit for every taste: from the large, organized tournaments for Ancient and FOW (not my cup of tea) to Medieval, Napoleonics, Colonial extravaganzas, and so on up to WWII, post-war and contemporary “Force on Force” games. Both naval and aerial games were also well-represented and easy to locate. Here’s some pictures from random tables that caught my eye.
As for my frolicking. I did some shopping, but I successfully resisted any major splurge. I bought some JR Miniatures buildings, 15mm from the Prussia range, that will look very nice around Saxe-Pape. I bought a few bags of 15mm Blue Moon minis from the Dark Africa range. I brought home Mark Fastoso’s scenario booklet for the Boxer Rebellion – Seymour’s Relief Expedition. I bought trees and palms, and the pontoon bridge by Paper Terrain, plus two other nice bridges that will come handy in the future. That’s pretty much it. To be fully honest, conventions aren’t anymore great shopping attractions if you are mostly in 15mm, as I am. Minifigs was never big at shows, and the American branch of operations is now gone. Essex has a distributor who doesn’t take anything past Marlburians to the convention. QRF wasn’t available (I even forgot who was their Historicon seller in the past.) Old Glory 15 stopped attending a couple of years ago. The only reliable option remains Peter Pig, thanks to the participation of Brookhurst Hobby from California. On net, at least for me, Historicon is less and less about buying figures. As for the games, the one I fully participated and enjoyed was a “Tanga-esque” pick-up battle courtesy of a bunch of good friends, Rob C., Fred A., Tim C., Iain B. Since I have good pictures from that evening, I will write a more complete AAR on that affairs in the coming days. For the time being, here a few shots to whet your appetite!
All in all, Historicon was a great experience as usual, a wonderful opportunity to meet friends, and a fantastic way to rekindle my love affair with the hobby!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Count down to Historicon, and some previews on Saxe-Pape

If all goes well, tomorrow by this time in the morning I will be at Historicon, in Fredericksburg, VA. Having missed the show one year ago, I am really looking forward to reconnect with friends, do some shopping, and hopefully join a few games.
As my usual, I am showing up at the convention without much of a plan. I have no pressing need to purchase miniatures or rules, and one of my favorite hobby bookstore, On Military Matters, is not going to attend this year. Thus, I think I may be aiming to some terrain pieces, or other target of opportunities -- a dangerous spot to be, as there is nothing like a wargamer abandoning himself to impulse shopping!

In the meanwhile, I spent the last couple of days doing some work on my revamped Imagination. I set up a specific blog... shhh, it's still a secret, but you can look at the layout and an introductory post right here at the Chronicles of Saxe-Pape. (By the way: when the time will come for the "official" launch, could anyone suggest how to have Saxe-Pape included in the Emperor vs. Elector blog?)
At the moment, I am doing some background work of the personalities of my Imaginations, comprehensive of family trees and individual attributes. I became a little apprehensive about finding proper names, but as usual, Wikipedia proved to be an invaluable resource. Would you have imagined that somebody make the efforts to provide a comprehensive "List of Hessian consorts"? With a little of research on the history of minor German principalities, and their ruling families, it is really not that difficult to come up with many splendid ideas for an Imagination.
Going forward, my plan is:
  1. to review and post the introduction and historical background on Saxe-Pape;
  2. to complete the work on personalities and ruling families in Saxe-Pape, and post brief introductions about the leading characters;
  3. to finish and post the "official" map of Alte-Saxe;
  4. to take pictures, pictures, pictures for the blogs (don't we all love eye-candies?)
  5. and, last but not least, to complete the painting of enough miniatures to fight a first battle sometimes before the end of the summer.
With those thoughts, off to Historicon - if computer connection will allow, I wouldn't mind to post from the convention, but do not hold your breath if I fail to return to these columns until Sunday.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cosmetic change, and Blue Moon Fort Zinderneuf

Maybe I am getting old, maybe my sight is weakening, but as I returned to this blog yesterday, I felt dissatisfied with its look. Light characters over dark background do not make it anymore for me - I find the combination very tiresome on my eyes. Hence, the decision to switch to black and dark grey for the text, and off-white for the background. Any better? It seems so to me, but I will take your recommendations if you feel strongly one way or another.

On wargaming matters. Perfectly timed for release at Historicon, Blue Moon is now offering a French Foreign Legion range which includes an impressive Fort Zinderneuf: Link
We should congratulate Blue Moon for a very active expansion of their 15mm ranges - too many to mention here, but Three Muskeeters and Dark Africa stand out as interesting niches that were missing at this scale. Many of their packages can also be useful to add color and character to other periods (I am thinking of the FIW/AWI civilian sets.) As for myself, I think the Dark Africa range is something I will consider in the near future, to add to my colonial collections. And a Fort Zinderneuf has been in my wishlist for quite some time now, as I have, in a box somewhere, a small collection of FFL and Arabs figures from Stone Mountain. Maybe, as I will take a break from the placid 18th century German countryside, I will finally get into some action deep into a Northern Africa desert... ah, temptation, temptation...

UPDATE - Apparently some of the formatting options in Blogspot have changed during my "sabbatical." I am struggling a bit in spacing paragraphs, breaking the text, and inserting pictures via a link to other websites. I guess I need to spend some time in the Help section...

Monday, July 16, 2012

... aaand, back I am

So much for the need of a reset, uh? My last blog post dates August 31, 2011. It has been a long, long time since I last wrote anything in this blog. In truth, I was on regularly, mosty to peruse my list of links and keep an eye on all the gaming excitement taking place elsewhere. as for myself, full time papa-hood and full time job really suppressed much of my already sparse hobby time; when one hour here and there became available, I ended up spending it on painting figures and enjoying the hobby rather than writing about it! (The good news is, as soon as I get back to my camera, there will be plenty of eye candies to share!) Hopefully my days of being MIA are coming to an end! First of all, all is clear to be back at Historicon! I am planning on arriving around noon on Friday, until Sunday morning. That should make two (TWO!) intense days of shopping and playing, and I look forward to arrange some impromptu dinner on Friday and/or Saturday with friends old and new. I'll make sure that "DestoFante" will appear on my name tag - if you happened to be on this blog, and will be at the show, please stop by and say hi! I really can't wait to be back at Historicon after my 2011 no-show. Second, I really look forward to return to blogging on a regular basis. I miss the discipline and introspection that blogging about my projects provides, but most of all I missed the warmth interaction with the virtual community here. Finally, on the gaming front, I spent most of the last year working, almost exclusively, on "Age of Reason" project. It started small, you may remember -- first in dipping my toe in the Marlburian period, than switching to the WAS/SYW period, but just to complete a couple dozen units of Austrians and Prussians to playtest Sam Mustafa's Might and Reason (the idea was to do Mollwitz, which is a fairly parsimonious battle in terms of troops.) Fast forward two years, and I now have a full cabinet... Prussian and Austrian armies have grown in size, and were joined by... British/Hannoverians, French, Saxons, Bavarians, Palatinate, Hesse-Kassel, and a handful of Reichsarmee battalions... mission creep, anyone? ;-) Next, I am planning on returning to my Imagination (I already have extensive notes, that kept me company during business traveling in the last couple of years), as well as, finally, fighting that original battle of Mollwitz. In fact, I'd like to fight it not once but four times, testing and comparing some of my favorite rulesets, old and new: Piquet/Cartouche, Maurice, Die Fighting, and Might and Reason. These rules that have intrigued me the most in recent years. But, most importantly: I want to make sure it will not be another 11 months before my next post!