This past weekend, about ten of us from Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY piled into cars and headed off to Lancaster, PA to attend the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society’s Fall In! 2015 gaming convention. This year’s theme highlighted the end of the Napoleonic era and the “Campaign of the 100 Days,” and numerous games of the period in multiple scales were presented throughout the con. Scores of games were run over the unseasonably warm three-day weekend covering just about any past or future imaginable clash of armies, legions, infantry, artillery, armor, planes, ships, gnomes, knights, cowboys, gladiators, pirates, zombies and aliens. In all, the estimated 2000 or so gamers in attendance at Fall In! 2015 found a well-run convention packed with variety and action all weekend long.
Hitting the ground running on Friday afternoon, I ran a 15mm World War II Flames of War beginner’s game with the tank battle at Barkmann’s Corner. My brother and his friend ran a Battle of Waterloo theme game in 15mm using their home-brewed, convention-friendly rules for a mixed group of green and veteran players. Across the room another member of our club and his friend put on a fantastic Battle of Rivoli game in 10mm on a gorgeous custom table which won an award at the con (you should really check out the photos of their project build at the Eagles at War blog). Just after dinner some other members of our club ran a 13-player Muskets & Tomahawks scenario injecting a fair amount of raucous role-playing into a prisoner exchange scenario in the 18th-century American wilderness. My Indian agent got ambushed and lost his entire unit of militia in some hand-to-hand combat with British-allied Indians in a thick woods but the game was a great time for the whole group.
Just before heading off to grab another game, I won a couple small French and Indian War hex-and-counter games in the Toys For Tots charity raffle, feeding my current fascination with the 18th-century American colonial wars period. I wrapped up a long Friday of driving and gaming with a late night game of Pirates of The Caribbean using out-of-print plastic card miniatures from Pocketmodels and more home-brewed rules from my brother. The game has become a tradition for us on convention Fridays, and with the Jolly Roger flying on the wall nearby I managed to win the game for the first time in all my years playing.
I took the first part of Saturday to spend some time in the flea market and dealer hall, mostly just picking up a couple books and browsing. There wasn’t a lot of new stuff from the 70 or so dealers, although the fantasy game Frostgrave from Osprey Publishing and the Warlord Games sci-fi Beyond the Gates of Antares were each making their first appearances at the con. World War II miniatures still dominated both shopping areas, although there was the usually healthy representation of miniatures from every historical era. I was glad to see Scenic Express in the dealer hall with a fantastic selection of well-displayed landscape terrain products, something largely lacking in previous years. Interest in the previously-trending All Quiet on the Martian Front seemed to have ebbed a bit, I didn’t see much in the way of Martian-themed gaming at the con and there was a fair amount of the models marked down for sale.
The other game I ran at the convention was the Flames of War St. Oedenrode scenario from Operation Market Garden. As in my previous day’s FOW game, I had three eager inexperienced players join me and another member of our club for a fun four-hour intro action with a healthy mix of infantry, artillery and tank models on the table. Late-arriving reserves on both sides and a big stand-off by a lone platoon of Fallschirmjägers holding a key position in a building against the mass of assaulting American airborne troops made the game a hard-fought slog. As in my previous plays through the scenario, the game came down to the bitter end with the Allies just seizing the bridges in the sixth and final turn.
By dinner time I was back to touring the floor and checking out the late day games. I played a World War II naval battle run by a club member a couple other players new to the rules and battles at sea. An amazing American Civil War “Naval Battle of Memphis, June 6, 1862” ironclad game raged in the middle of the central convention room. Other periods were well-represented, including WWII, WWI trench warfare, a Haitian slave revolt scenario, ships at sail, a beautiful Lord of The Rings game, numerous games set in the Middle East, ancient warfare and the healthiest selection of French and Indian War and American War of Independence games that I had seen in many years.
Saturday’s headliner game was the massive seven-hour, eight-player 10mm Battle of Fredericksburg. The game stretched over multiple tables with an incredibly-detailed sculpted battlefield and was played using a playtest the new Brigade Fire & Fury rules, an update of the first wargaming rules I played some 30 years ago. People stopped by the table throughout the day to watch the truly inspiring spectacle which really captured everything there is to love about miniatures wargaming on a grand scale. The classic game won a much-earned award, so look for more and the launch of the new rules at Historicon 2016 next summer.
Outside of traditional military wargaming, the convention hosted a variety of other games. The huge (and hugely popular) depression-era “Speak Easy and Carry a Big Stick” game was back this year with big Friday and Saturday night games. I spent some time Saturday night watching the football/soccer game Corner Kick!, and one of my fellow club members picked up the rules and two teams to paint up and get on the tabletop pitch soon.
A bunch of us also got a chance to play test a game of Fantz, a soon-to-be Kickstarted game of ant picnic warfare. The game presents four ant colonies, each with their own specific characteristics, battling over a central picnic basket and hauling goodies back to their ant mound. For a simple concept, the game held the attention of a number of us hardcore miniatures gamers and I’ll be watching as this game moves into production next year.
A number of sci-fi games were played throughout the weekend, including Star Wars, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica games as well as some Warhammer 40K and BattleTech games. In the post-apocalyptic genre, zombie games were still present but not as much as in past years. The more recently popular Mad Max car dueling games are really coming on strong, made popular a couple years ago by the free Road Warrior/White Line Fever rules and modded Matchbox cars. Saturday night had two rowdy games of blacktop warfare — “Oh, What a Lovely Day” and “Road Warrior Invitational” — each featuring larger scale cars and trucks tricked-out with all manner of deadly weaponry and modified home rules.
Fall In! 2015 was my sixth HMGS convention and the first outing for a couple guys from my club. The weekends are exhausting but a great way to meet and play with gamers from all over the country, try out new games and revisit some favorite eras again. We all returned home with lots of new stuff to paint and read, and our club is already making plans attend the next HMGS Cold Wars convention in March 2016.