Tuesday, May 21, 2024

HUZZAH 2024 CONVENTION

 

The main room in full swing on Saturday afternoon during the Huzzah! 2024 Convention.

Well, it has been convention season here in these parts, with the Huzzah! convention held in Portland, Maine, this last weekend coming on the heels of the Mayhem Convention held on the New Hampshire and Vermont border in late April. I was not sure whether I would attend Huzzah! this year, but events unfolded so that I was able to make a spur of the moment decision (living about an hour's drive from the event certainly does facilitate such open-ended decision making).  Given circumstances, I was not registered to run any games (unlike Mayhem), so I made the trip up just to get out and about.  I decided to do a bit more than just attend, though. I got there early so that I could sit in and lend my friend AJ, who was running a game Saturday morning, a hand.
AJ (seated at the end of the table) facilitating his Battle of Newport AWI game. This was a 28mm Electronic Brigadier game. AJ has been running these games at regional conventions (and once or twice in other venues), and there is a dedicated following for them, including several of the players at the table. AJ didn't need much help, truth in lending, but I did do some facilitating and prompting to keep things moving along at my end of the table. Thus, I wound up sticking around for the entire game and then helping to clear the table, as AJ has done for me unbidden on many occasions. We then headed out for lunch and I returned to the convention for a walk through and visit with friends before heading out. Therefore, this report is going to be rather slight and spotty as far as coverage of the event--yet there might be a few things worth seeing, dear reader, if you stick around.  Here is a sampling of just a few of the games and people (as usual, you may clix pix for BIG PIX in this post).

On the next table over from AJ's computer moderated Electronic Brigadier Game in the morning there was a computer moderated Carnage and Glory game (not pictured). And at that same table in the afternoon slot there was another Carnage and Glory Game (pictured), Freeman's Farm, run by Rich Wallace (for a report, please see the excellent Corlears Hook Fencibles blog).  So by chance or design, this seemed to be the room for computer moderated miniatures.


As far as spectacle, this magnificent Khartoum game took pride of place. It ran through Saturday, so several shifts of gamers got to participate and take over from where the previous group had left off. Simply stunning!
This whimsical Moby Dick game was in full swing. I had seen this before at several HMGS conventions, and it was good to see it on the table again. Rumor has it that the rules will be coming soon to the Wargame Vault (something to watch for). 
A very well presented winter WWII game and a quite busy Wings of Glory WWI game were on hand. 

There were several tournaments ongoing, Art De La Guarre Ancients and Lord of the Rings among them (and I must say, the winner of the tattoo award goes to the LOTR player in the lower picture!). 
Speaking of things Tolkien, there was this cracking Battle of Five Armies game.  As I was taking these shots, the game master had just announced that Beorn had arrived on the battlefield, much to the excitement of the players!
I took these two shots, both of WWII historical games, because I was struck by the players. Looking at these images (and my general impressions from attendance at Mayhem), the graying of the hobby may be real for those of us who are "gray" (literally), but the evidence suggests that the hobby, specifically historical miniatures, isn't going to go "poof" when we are gone. 
Best, of all, attending conventions brings people together...

...BLOGGERS THREE
Although not on the scale of the Salute Blogger's Meet Up, three of we happy bloggers did arrange to get together and visit: Right: Vincent, of the Corlears Hook Fencibles blog; Center: Mark, of the My Brave Fusiliers blog; and myself, of the inexplicable squint (not a bad name for a blog, come to think of it...).  It was a high point of the day, and we are looking forward to finding a time when we might get in a game together when Vincent is in the area again. 

Exelsior!

Monday, May 6, 2024

MAYHEM CONVENTION PART THE SECOND: BATTLE REPORTS

 

Your humble correspondent, wearing his black and white club colors, doing his best impression of thoughtful facilitator whilst running one of three games at the recent Mayhem convention.  

In this post, dear reader, we follow up from our promise (threat?) of the last and report on the games we ran at the recent Mayhem convention. Given that there were three, these reports will be a bit on the brief side, but hopefully will still inform (possibly entertain?).  I'll take them in order (as usual, you may clix pix for BIG PIX).

On Friday night, I ran the Battle of Lutzen using my Baroque Battles system. 
This was a five player game, and I was happy to see that it was registered and full ahead of time--and all players were present.  Left, in the role of Wallenstein and the Imperials, Dr Dick (foreground) and Mark M. Right, in the role of Gustavus and the Protestants were, from left to right, Gerry, Steve, and Bill (who would win the rotten dice award of the evening, I should add). 
Left: the end of the Protestant array, ready to go.  Right: the sides conferring and strategizing before the game.
A few "action" shots of the game in progress.  The players picked up the system quite quickly and the game was actually played to a conclusion within the time period. "But how did it go?" you may be wondering, and I'm glad you asked...
If you look closely at the above picture, you will see that the Protestants (left) have a pretty solid wall of units stretching across the table. While the Imperials are outnumbered and more dispersed (then again, their job is to hang on).  Unfortunately, the Protestants let the ditch terrain stretching across the middle of the table get into their heads as much more of a barrier than it was. Despite my clarifications, they formed a plan...
...to basically ignore the center and push everything around the flanks, despite the fact that they had the numbers to push in the center as well. Meanwhile, the Imperials had come up with a novel plan themselves: rather than holding, they went on the offensive--on the flanks. Now, this game (if you ever play it) emphasizes battle management. You will see in the above that the Imperial center is literally empty, while there were massive, grinding fights on the wings. The Protestants, by not engaging the center, allowed the Imperials the freedom to maneuver to the flanks and meet them on equal terms there. 
Left: A closeup of the Imperial left and Imperial right Right.  The boxed units show the thinly held areas, and the arrows show the cycling of units from support into combat. There were still some precarious moments, particularly on the Imperial right/Protestant left, where dangerous gaps in the line were showing and units were desperately trying to reorganize in time to plug them. 
Late in the game, the Protestants did recognize that they could push into the center, which they did, but the Imperials scratched together a response to hold them off. Had the game gone longer, this push by the Protestants might very well have broken through the overstretched Imperials. But time ran out; night fell, and the Imperials came out on top. But it was a slugfest, and the players certainly got plenty of die rolling and pushing of toy soldiers in. 


\
I stayed up late Friday night after the Lutzen game and stayed in the room setting up my Bloody Big Battles game, which would kick off at 8 a.m. on Saturday: Clash of Eagles, Russia vs Austria in 1879: BBB Meets Kriegspiel.  I've posted on this game before, so won't do a deep dive into it here (it will be a medium dive...).  
The summary version of the game is that I had redone the scenario for six players, with three corps on each side converging on a main highway. I should add that for this scenario, the base unit is the brigade. Each division consists of two brigades, each corps of two divisions. The victory conditions were based on "advantages": the side that had more would be the winner:
This is essentially a military problem, with mirrored forces maneuvering across terrain to achieve objectives.  
The victory conditions were designed along the principles of warfare and closely mimic the principles of territorial control reflected in GO  (the Chinese version of Chess) in particular the concepts of “connection,” “invasion,” “sente,” and “cut.”  In western parlance, the salient principles of war at work (and in tension ) are security, objective, unity of effort, and economy of force. In short, this is a meeting engagement and movement to contact, with each side trying to gain advantage by penetrating as far as possible into the enemy territory along the key axis, controlling as much of the field as possible, while safeguarding their own base. In so doing, of course, they will run into the opposing force, who is trying to do the same thing. Engaging, pushing back, and destroying the enemy is part of the operation, but so, too is preserving the strength of the friendly force and managing risk: how hard to you push vs where and when do you maneuver?
Unfortunately, there were only four players (as opposed to six).  Three of them making a return engagement from the Lutzen game of the previous evening. Bill (standing left) and Steve (barely visible over his right shoulder), the former Protestants team, joined forces once again, this time as the Austrians. Mark (green shirt), the victorious Imperial from the night before, was joined by a new player, Will. They took up the Russian cause and can be seen conferring before the game in the right hand picture. Knowing that I would be short players, I had planned to pull one corps from each side and reprise the four player version of the scenario. However, the players were adamant that they wanted all the troops, so I stuck with the six corps version. Thus, Will and Mark wound up running two corps each, which I'm sure slowed things down some.
I was gratified, however, to see that this particular game unfolded much more deliberately and "maneuver-like" than the platyests, where the players basically charged into each other. The Russians moved first, and they pushed I corps looping around the bad terrain to the north, the III corps directly up the highway, and the II Corps swung south. This was a good read of the terrain on the part of Mark (who was running the I and II Corps). In all the other games, the Russians tried to bull through the heavy terrain just north of the road, with the two commands abreast as opposed to marching one around the bad terrain to come out on the other side. This still presented some risk, as it would create a gap until the forces could link up. Seeing this actually develop brings out the hybrid nature of this style of game, mixing campaign with operational battle. As it turned out, the gap between the Russian center and left wing did present difficulties as the Austrians came online against it.  
The battle develops. The Austrians counter the Russian moves, shifting I Corps to meet the Russian II Corps to the south. The Austrian III Corps comes down the road to meet the Russian III Corps: a collision is brewing here. The Austrian II Corps shifts to counter the left wing of the Russian III Corps as well as meet the Russian I Corps, which is about to make its turn to the South. 
Another view of the early phase of operations, with both sides marching and countering the other. As opposed to the conventional thinking of most convention games, where any turn not spent rolling dice and shooting up stands is considered a waste, this element of maneuver and counter maneuver is very much a part of the fabric of this style of game. The players were very much engaged at this point, I must add, and did not seem at all bored by this phase of the game. 
This is what passes for an action shot.  I must say that this kind of game, more so than any other I've run at conventions, does take a great deal of facilitating.  Players are thrust into a novel situation, and it takes some time to get used to maneuvering across a topographic map. Along with guiding players through the mechanics of the rules, the main task of the game master is to make calls on lines of sight, fire, and movement paths on the map. Fortunately, the players were all very good about accepting any judgements I was called on to make (or interventions I did). Hats off to them!
Given my involvement, I did not get a complete slate of shots to record the stages of the game as it developed. Here, however, is a graphic that tells the story. The Russian II Corps and Austrian I Corps wound up doing something akin to the WWI "race to the sea" as they leapfrogged nearly to the edge of the battle space trying to outflank one another while stretching their line to cover the zone. The Russian III and Austrian III Corps collided head on in the middle. The left flank division of the Russian III Corps got roughly handled as it was hanging on the end and forced to come up piecemeal in front of a deployed Austrian division before the Russian I Corps could make its turn and force the Austrians to face that direction. Meanwhile, the Russian III Corps made a remarkable thrust right up the road, pushing the Austrian III Corps back (Bill was running the Austrian III Corps, and his awful dice from the previous night were still with him). I also made a mistake and failed to note that a unit was disorganized after an assault, even after winning, so the Russians were more able to sustain their assault than they should have been. 
This is not to take away from Mark's handling of the Russian main effort (the III and I Corps). Regardless of my flub on the rules, he made remarkable progress and handled the maneuver very deftly. I started the game clock on this game at 1400 on day one. The idea was to get to an overnight turn, where forces would separate, refit, and a full day two would ensue. This game actually reached the night turn as the time slot came to an end. At that point, the situation was: Advantage  north to the Russians. Advantage South to the Austrians. Advantage Center (despite the Russian successes), null (they hadn't pushed far enough to gain advantage): credit here to Bill for his positioning of the Austrian III Corps in depth to withstand the assault, despite me handicapping him by not getting the rules right on several assaults.  So one advantage to each side: a draw result. Night would have fallen and the Austrian III Corps would have recovered some of its vigor and been ready to stand in the line in the morning. 

My next (and last) game was later Saturday: Joust for the Fun of It. The BBB game wrapped up at noon (after picking it up), and so I had a (much needed) break until about 6:00 pm when I would start setting up again--it sucks gettin' old!  There was a bit of drama to kick this game off. I had six players registered, but two were no shows. Fortunately, a fellow game master who did not have any players registered for his game had passed by earlier had expressed an interest in playing should there be no walk ups--and that was the case, so he joined in. And my friend Mark D had more players than he could seat at his game across the room, so AJ (another club mate who was wandering about), played the role of facilitator and directed a fellow who wasn't able to play there to my game--and he wound up being the winner! There isn't much to report on the jousting game as far as developments or story line, but here are some nice pictures...


It was a very pleasant group who played, including a father and son and a young man of 11 playing solo (who came in second!). 

All in all, I would say it was a good outing. They have already scheduled Mayhem 2025, and I'm looking forward to it, although I don't think I'll be running three games in two days again.  This time around, though, I was happy to be able to showcase three very different games. At least I had a grand time!

Excelsior!

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