After not having been to a convention in well over a year, I was grateful to catch a ride with a couple guys from Metropolitan Wargamers to Fall In! in Lancaster, Pennsylvania a few weeks ago. Overall, I thought the convention was a bit lightly-attended but the quality of the games I saw seemed to outweigh the quanity.
I arrived in the late afternoon Friday and jumped into an evening of ancients gaming. A friend of mine was running a large-scale chariot racing game based on Avalon Hill’s 1979 Circus Maximus. Although my chariot ultimately lost the race, I did pull off a remarkable maneuver of slamming a competitor’s chariot into a wall that then filipped through the air to destroy another. As it turned out, a player who spent the race avoiding combat won, so there may be a lesson somewhere in there.
After the chariot race, I fell into a gladiator battle using the wildly-entertaining and bloody Arena Games ruleset co-written by a friend of mine. I’ve played these rules a few times, and the guy running the game had a nifty arena with previous victors’ names written and dated on the walls. The rules are simple and rowdy, and my fellow players included a mix of kids and a couple US Marines. In the weeks since, I’ve been thinking how fun it would be to adapt the rules to a Hunger Games-like scenario.
Saturday morning started with an enormous 28mm American Civil War scenario at Fort DeRussy, Louisiana. I’d previously played games of Miller’s Cornfield and Burnside’s Bridge presented by these two longtime friends, and their tables are always first-class. In this five-hour game, I played as the Confederates defending the fort against wave after wave of oncoming Union men. On adjoining tables, my fellow Confederates fended-off charges across an open field and manned the guns near the riverside against approaching Union steamers. The custom terrain, gunboats and hundreds of models were spectacular, but ultimately the Rebel boys just couldn’t hold off the Union onslaught.
I wrapped up Saturday with a long, late night of my brother’s home-brewed Pirates of the Caribbean game based on the WizKids Pirates of the Spanish Main Pirates Constructable Game. I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in some time as I did during this game as alliances were created and fell through a three-hour game full of double-crosses, shattered masts and stolen loot. My pirate eventually took the table through a go it alone strategy as as pirate truly should.
Walking around the gaming halls over the weekend, there were a ton of visually-compelling games from all periods. Some of my favorites included the enormous three-day re-fighting of the Battle of Gettysburg, a huge zombie horde scenario, a standalone Israeli-Egyptian desert warfare game and an incredibly-imaginative Roman./sci-fi game.
Diversity in style, rules, periods, scales and artistry is what makes conventions like Fall In! so compelling for me. The one commonality throughout the weekend was a passion for games, and it was just the place to be completely immersed in a community of gamers before returning to our separate realities.