Monday, November 19, 2007

A Look Back at Fall In 2007

Between my trip to the Fall In convention the previous weekend, a very busy work-week last week, a day off to go to the annual brunch and Christmas play at Allenberry Resort, a trip down to Philly this past weekend to see my wife's folks, and a Hershey Bears hockey game, I've been too busy to blog. Hey, it happens.

Anyway, I did manage to squeeze in some other fun stuff along the way, with my trip to Fall In being the most fun. Well duh! It's a game convention... with miniatures... how could that NOT be fun?

This year's Fall In convention was a little different for me than the last batch of HMGS East cons I've attended. The big difference is that none of my wargaming buddies (Kev, Geoff, Wally, and Mike) were able to fit a trip down to Gettysburg into their schedules this year. So I didn't get any convention gaming in, because frankly, that's just not something I do when "I'm going solo".

Also, there weren't any Painting Classes that really caught my eye this go around. I'm hoping that there's a Horse painting class or How to Speed Paint in 1 Hour class at the Cold Wars 2008 convention which I'd be much more keen to sign up for. That's not a knock on Heather Blush. She and her crew do a truly excellent job running the painting events at the HMGS East cons. Heck, I voted for Heather to be on HMGS East's board of directors, because I felt she's really brought a lot to the hobby as the guiding force behind the painting classes at these cons. Plus, she's one of the friendliest people you'll ever meet. Keep up the great work Heather!

So with no gaming or no painting to fill the time, 100% of my focus was on shopping. Woohoo baby! Truth be told, shopping for new toys is really what I live for when it comes to these miniatures conventions. And with no friends around to help curb my spending or quickly ferry me past the vendor tables, I was able to leisurely stroll around the All Star hall, size up the merchandise, and shop in a relaxed manner without worrying that my long, lustful gazes were holding anyone else up. It was one of the most pleasurable convention shopping experiences that I've had in a long time.

My wargaming buddies would be the first to tell you how I have this rabid fascination with shopping at HMGS East cons. While they have been known to spend their cold, hard cash at many a convention, they're much more restrained than me. Perhaps part of it is because they have kids, and don't have the disposable income that someone like me (with no children) has. They have little mouths to feed and little bodies to wrap in new clothes. Maybe it's because they've haven't been involved in the hobby for as many years as I have. They lack the burning itch for new figures and games that many of us longtime wargamers have. Or maybe it's simply because they're cheap bastards. And of course, I say that with love.

Whatever biological phenomenon it is that helps restrain my friends from reaching for their wallets, it seems that I lack that gene, hormone, nervous system response, or whatever it is. I could easily spend $1500 to $2000 at a game convention without blinking. The only thing stopping me is common sense and the fact that my wife would probably kick me in the nads... after she slapped me silly. So I limit my spending to about one-fourth or one-fifth of that amount.

At this year's Fall In, I was determined to make much better use of my available funds than I did at Historicon. At the summer con, I returned with only a few really memorable things. Most of them were gorgeously painted miniatures (a large reptilian hero from Fernando Enterprises, a demon-General from Stan Johansen, and a beautiful regiment of Vikings from Evil Bob's). I was pleased with what I bought, it's just that I didn't feel I got a lot of bang for my buck. So my goal at Gettysburg was to come home with a much wider variety of stuff, and things which I would definitely use or play with right away. I didn't buy ANY professionally painted miniatures or ANY unpainted lead (metal figures). That's probably a first for me, at least a first for many years. So what did I buy?

Interestingly enough, about 40-45% of my money was spent on board games. That's very unusual for me at an HMGS East con. But there was a much broader selection of cool board games available at this convention than ever before. My first purchase of the day was at the Canton Games booth where a very personable gentleman helped me scarf up Tide of Iron, and 3 expansions for Battlelore (Goblin Skirmishers, Dwarven Battalion, and Hundred Years War). After a quick trip to the car to drop off those goodies, I came back for more.

My next purchase was Hammer of the Scots from the Last Square, along with some packs of metal wargaming bases and Nut Brown Ink from Windsor & Newton. The Last Square had a show special of 15% off all board games, which was excellent. I was thinking about picking up Crusader Rex and Wings of War (Famous Aces), but they were gone by the time that I returned to the booth a 2nd time to shop. As the old saying goes, if you snooze, you lose!

I then switched over to miniature wargaming mode, sauntered over to the On Military Matters booth, and picked up a newly released book I had been seeking entitled Ancient & Medieval Wargaming (by Neil Thomas). This is a hefty book (close to 300 pages) and is chock full of rules, army lists, and tactics used by historical armies. I haven't gotten the chance to read through it in earnest yet, but it looks like an excellent addition to any wargamer's library. Although I'm mainly a fantasy gamer, the ancient & medieval period is by far my favorite from a historical perspective.

I also paid a visit to Steve at Pastimes on the Square, a game shop located in Palmyra, PA that I visit on occasion. Pastimes has their own range of terrain which is both very nice and affordable. I bought a pile of hills, hedges, and trees for around $50, which will see plenty of use on my wargames table. Right next to the Pastimes booth was Evil Bob's, who is now carrying the excellent terrain made by Acheson's Creations. I snagged a beautifully painted Orc Hut nestled amongst rocky outcroppings in 28mm scale.

I then stopped by the Brigade Games booth to grab the newly released Gnome Wars rulebook. If you've never seen the Gnome Wars minis, you've just got to see them. They're chock full of character and whimsy, and put a heavy dose of fun into what can sometimes turn into an overly serious hobby for some stuffy old grognards. Between the gnome cavalry riding rabbits, the German gnomes with their spiked helms that would make the Kaiser proud, the Stinky Cheese Grenadier, and the classic Swiss gnomes that look like long-lost cousins of the Travelocity roaming gnome, these minis are truly great. I also had a nice little chat with Lon Weiss of Brigade Games, and discovered that he also went to Penn State and graduated the same year that I did. Small world eh?

My final stop was at one of the places where I started my morning browsing, The War Store. Early in the morning, I stopped by to chat with Neil Catapano, the owner of the War Store. Neil is a genuinely great guy, very easy to talk to and willing to help you out however he can. He's one of those guys that upon meeting for the first time, you feel like you've known him forever. He said that he has only attended 2 conventions in the past five years or so, GenCon and Fall In. He's hoping to come to Cold Wars in 2008. I sure hope he can make it. The War Store booth was not only huge and had an appealing layout, it was loaded with popular board games and mainstream miniatures games, and was staffed by some of the friendliest people I've ever met at an HMGS East con. Plus, Neil's prices on games are really good.

I ended up buying the AT-43 starter set at the War Store booth. With all the time and money I invest in traditional fantasy and medieval period figures, I just don't have thousands of dollars to spend on sci-fi stuff as well. So when AT-43 came out, a pre-painted sci-fi skirmish game, my interest was piqued. The barrier to entry was low (not that expensive, not many figures needed to play), and you could easily expand the game with more figures & armies without investing lots of time painting up new forces. That and the fact that the pre-paints are pretty nice looking, hooked me to try out AT-43. I can't wait until those space apes come out! Strange as it may sound, I actually felt guilty that I didn't spend more at Neil's booth. I just liked these guys that much. Of course, there's always Christmas mail order!

All things considered, I had a great day shopping on Friday the 9th. So great in fact, that I blew my entire "toy budget" in one day. My only real regrets of the show were forgetting to come back and buy a few packs of Warrior Frogs from Eureka minis, and not having enough extra funds to snag a gorgeous piece of ESLO terrain from Old Rivertowne Miniatures that I had my eye on. Oh well, there's always the next HMGS East convention in March!

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