This year, due to financial constraints, I only went down for one day, and that seemed difficult at times. As you may read previously, I ran my first game at Historicon this weekend, so I've been scrambling around like a Muppet on speed the last few weeks, but that's for Part Two "GNOMES!"
Somehow, by the grace of God, I was actually on the road by 5:45am heading towards the Mecca which is, this year, the Valley Forge Convention Center. Despite many possible disturbances in the Force, some Sith plot known "casino construction, we had the whole facility one last time. As I spilled my coffee in travel mug before I even got out the door, I stopped off at the Allentown Rest Stop on the Turnpike for a nice Turkey Hill lemonade iced tea to compliment my lemon pie which I had previously acquired through nefarious means (or not).
Two hours and ten minutes later, I arrived at the VFCC with a parking spot less than 60 seconds from the door. Either this was a sign that attendance was going to suck... or everybody had a REALLY good time Friday night.
Last year I graded certain things, and I'll try to do it again this year.
FACILITY: B+ My familiarity last year made things a whole lot more comfortable. Things felt a bit more confined than last year for three reasons. (1) The dealer hall had a full wall partition that I KNOW for a fact wasn't there last year. The entrance/exit were two doors in the wall. If I've learned anything from HGTV, walls make spaces smaller. (2) The flea market (Wally's Basement) moved to where the Duke had his extravaganza last year. Despite having just as many tables in the area, the migrating mobs of humanity can make one claustrophic. (3) With actual picture evidence, the Flames of War National Tournament tables were filled with people!
Last year I must have been on the same break schedule as these guys, because every time I would walk by, the place was barren. Without looking at the con program map, I'd reckon they used up forty tables. But hey, they're not playing with gnomes or zombies, so it's alright. .
Registration: Took three times as long last year! Of course, that means it took thirty seconds to hit the GM Reg desk, grab my badge and swag bag, and have a quick conversation with a human being. A+
Dealers Hall: B. The Great Wall of Vendors notwithstanding, there was a weird vibe in that part of the building. Most of the old reliables were there (Brigade, Belle and Blade,Old Glory, Eureka, Harmony Hobbies) with only ATKM being the only no-show I really cared about. The first thing I noticed about my first walk-through was just noticeable gaps in products. The dealer I only refer to as "the quart of bases" guys were completely out of 25mm round bases. Being that I checked them out right around 2pm, I guess that's acceptable. A major bummer, but acceptable. I was also aghast that the War Store had NOTHING I wanted. Not a single Pegasus Models building? Really? Now, Nic and the other guys from Eureka were pleasant but swamped, and Lon at Brigade had a steady stream of customers (or people wanting to hold packs of lead and chew his ear off.) Perhaps it was the lighting, perhaps it was the insanely limited budget I had this year. I guess we'll never know.
Flea Market: B- For the first time ever in HMGS con history, I was actually in the line for the flea market while it was opening up. I spent my $5 I thought necessary, but that was it. There were tables of the same old 40k, tanks, mediocre terrain, and weird miscellany, but I did notice some things that might have piqued my interest if circumstances were different. Guys bringing in old 15/25mm sci fi minis in their original packaging, and offering reasonable prices to boot. One guy had a giant box of painted Eureka Teddy Bears for $200. Another guy had a painted German gnome unit, plus the rulebook for $130. The gnomes I would look over the paint scheme with a fine tooth comb and offer $20 less, but at least there was something for to go "oh snap, where's there an old lady with a purse full of cash I can mug?"
Food: C+ As I am crying poverty, I didn't partake in much site food. My wonderful wife packed up a nice sack lunch and I had two 2-liter bottles of Mountain Dew to provide liquid encouragement. Unfortunately I packed my half-eaten lunch in the trunk for over an hour when I forgot it was in my container of event paraphenalia, so I did consume a $3.00 hot dog. Prices for larger items seemed about a buck higher than the Host, and most lines for food at lunchtime moved pretty quickly. My only minor quibble was that after being given a plain hot dog, the indifferent staff didn't have the energy to say the condiments table was on the other side of the equipment blocking it's view. It's insigniciant, as I found it ten seconds later, but I guess that the woman's tirade on one of her babies' daddies (I kid you not) was much more.
Lodging: F--. As I drove down for the day, I didn't have a room. Nor will my wife ever allow me to stay at a Radisson or Scanticon hotel after last year's debacle. However, I am hunting down the phone number for whoever runs the Allentown Rest Stop. That, and the car fire between Allentown and Lehighton that shut down traffic for a hour FELT like staying in a bad motel. When I left on time contraints, I figured a ten minute detour at the rest stop to pick up some Roy Rogers would make the day complete. Now, before the Turnpike Commission went crazy with "modernizing" the rest stops, I could get in a giant line at Roy Rogers, grab things a la carte and get checked out, top my burger, and be back on the road in five minutes, ten with a bathroom break first. After watching the girl behind the counter tell the three groups in front of me that they were out of chicken finger/strips/whatever, after the group hemmed and hawed over the menu and finally decided on them was bad. Having to announce each food item over a sound system better fitting for a ballpark got really annoying. But then realizing that there were a total of seven families still waiting for food to come out of the magical opening, and nothing had come out while I had been in line. I just gave up and walked back to the car, to munch on stale Doritos and Mountain Dew for the remainder of the ride. Thank God Michelle got pizza that night!
HMGS Rumors and Inuendo: No Grade. The site for next year is not confirmed. I couldn't even confirm the FOUR sites for next year: Fredricksburg, Hampton, Valley Forge with a smaller footprint, and York.
Yes, York. Home of barbells and York College. It seems they have a convention center good enough for model railroaders. York is an intriguing option, for selfish logistical reasons.
Also Bob Giglio, the tireless Historicon Convention Director, has become tired and decided to retire. There were numerous fliers posted around the site looking for interested applicants to replace him. Oh if I didn't have two little ones... and seeked a divorce from my wife, I would go for that in an instant.
edit: After giving this a quick proofread. I'm incredibly whiney about things, especially non-gaming people. First off, deal with it. Secondly, I'm one of the easiest customers someone will ever have. I want my stuff. I don't want any variation or substitution on my order, and I'll even say please and thank you. Just give me my damn food and easy access to the other stuff. And I've found most Flames of War guys to exceed my capacity to whine and the product to overpriced and vanilla, much akin to 40k or Magic. Outside of that, my time at the con was fantastic and I hope it shows though the next posts
Part Two "A Very Gnomish Civil War" Battle Report and pics from Jim's game.
Part Three: Other Games I haven't previously posted pics of in previous years, and minimal swag.