Historicon 2005 - Of Leaden Ships and Painting Men11 Aug 2005 0
When I received the HMGS East Newsletter I was delighted to see that Historicon 2005?s theme was The Age of Fighting Sail! With over 600 historical miniatures events to choose from, one needn?t have a wind gauge to enjoy Lancaster, PA., in July, but I always leaf through the thick Programs Events List (PEL) and pre-register for as many naval battles as possible. A nautical theme would only give me more to choose from.
Analyzing the PEL is like sifting through course catalogues in college. Between all the great teachers and topics available there was never enough time to sop up all the history I wanted. Now, with only four days to game, deciding what to enroll in at Historicon is even tougher. I don?t want to be shut out of my favorites. Yet, as I learned this year, even that can rebound to your favor, or as the Princess Ryan?s Star Marines motto goes, ?It?s BETTER that way!?
Since I am bringing my eleven year old daughter to Historicon for the first time, and the car?s air conditioning doesn?t work, I eschew my annual ?get lost and stuck trying to avoid Route 30,? ritual this year. We arrive in time for the Thursday noon kickoff and put on our game faces. Dylan and I scope out the flea market first; then move on to the dealers? floor where I chat with Jeff Hunt of Portsmouth Miniatures. Jeff, a legendary GM (game master), stages sea battles using his custom made 1/900 models and the Close Action rule set. He hopes I?ve already got a reserve ticket for his game because he?s heard that all the Age of Sail events?including his own?are booked solid.
Actually, I?d hoped to ?walk up? to one of Jeff?s typically freewheeling events. But I had reserved a spot in The Battle of Cape Matapan, which was about to begin. ?Nothing like a brawl in the Mediterranean to get the juices flowing,? I assure Dylan, as I herd her into the Cornwall room. Overhearing my remark, a kindred soul informs me that Matapan has been cancelled. The GM, Vince, can?t make it to the convention. The news comes as a shock because I?ve used three out of four of my daily pre-registrations to enroll in his games! ?Now what?? I wonder. Dylan is already powering up her Gameboy. This will complicate the weekend?s enrollment logistics, but if we?re going to land a spot in a Thursday afternoon game, I can?t worry about that now.
A few moments later, no doubt seeing us mooch about like lost puppies, Brian Whitaker invites us to join Cog Wars. ?Sail a leaky ship wearing chain mail,? he suggests, holding up an odd looking shell with a square forecastle and prominent quarterdeck. ?But you can only be captain if you know what a Wyvern is.? Dylan shoves her Gameboy in her pocket. ?A Wyvern is a Chinese dragon,? she says, (her mom being from Singapore.) Brian hands over the ship and I get one too. Ten minutes later our vessels are pounding the bounding bane toward an enemy fleet similarly crammed full of colorful 25mm medieval knights.
Cog Wars is a blast. Educational too. I learn that during the pre-cannon epoch of the Age of Sail one had to board and besiege the enemy?s castle?meaning his quarterdeck?to win. Basically it?s a land battle at sea, but there is preliminary maneuvering during which Dylan grapples an enemy ship. We catch up and surround it on three sides. Mounting a spirited defense, Jon Lundberg, the enemy captain, bulls free but staves in his hull doing so, thus inspiring his knights to counter-board Dylan?s ship. I am dismayed, but my daughter calmly sets Wyvern free by severing the grapple; thus ?capturing? Jon?s command group. Lucky for him, I point out as his original vessel sinks, because swimming in armor is difficult unless he?s a witch (or a small stone perhaps.) Everybody is too busy razzing Jon to figure out who actually won the game.
That evening I hook up with a pair of Connecticut Game Club (CGC) homeys for some American Civil War (ACW) action under Age of Iron rules. Tom Cusa, as Admiral Porter, commands our huge flagship Blackhawk, and the heavily armed side-wheeler Ohio. I have the powerful, if lumbering, ironclads Ticonderoga and Tyler. John Demeter captains the Cairo?the Bismarck/Yamato/Iowa of her day.
Johnny Reb needs to slip three gold laden blockade runners down river. Accompanying them is a pair of gunboats and an extremely small, swift craft with a spar torpedo affixed to its prow. Nashville is the Confederate?s only genuine ironclad, but she?s huge, bog slow and somewhat reminiscent of a snapping turtle. The blockade runners ditch Nashville like a little brother. A Confederate gunboat and the tiny torpedo vessel run interference for the blockade runners by attempting to ram Blackhawk which is the only Union vessel not out of position. Underestimating their speed, I veer to port too late, but Porter sinks them both in the nick of time. Not quickly enough, however, to stop the gold ships from executing a successful end run. Even worse, our lithe opponents?which employ wet bales of cotton for armor?actually do sink Porter?s hotel sized flagship. The gold bribes England?s Parliament into allying with the Confederacy, reversing the course of the ACW. Whoops.