Home Forums General Conventions and Shows Fall-In! at Lancaster Pennsylvania

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    Otto Schmidt

    Dear List

    I phoned Jerry yesterday when I got back from Lancaster and  Fall-In! and gave him the fast run down. We talked about this and that, more of this anon, but he asked me “So did you see anything visually striking or inspiring?” at the convention?” My answer after a few moments of silence was surprisingly “Oh to be sure, as will all returns from conventions we are inspired and energized for this project or that project, but of what I saw at the Con very little of it was memorable, and one must ask as does the Carpenter from Nazareth in Scripture, the title of this post. After 30 years of conventions sometimes as many as four a year, what new is there to see. Jerry who has been cycling through various sets of rules from “Soldat” to “Rules of Ten” to “Easy Eight” and so forth noted that all of them are more or less “deriviative” in that there is a depressing sameness about the rules, but I reminded him that ALL games are more or less “derivative” in that they have a board and pieces  and that regardless of the ‘backstory” or the ‘names attached to the pieces” (be they B29 or “Barbie”, Kampfpanzer Mark IV or “Ken”) are merely “objects” which have certain attributes and mathematical, notional, or ascribed properties used in completely artificial contest to decide which narrative will be pursued.  The “contests” have invariably nothing to do with the actual function of B29 or Barbie in their interaction with Ken or Kampfpanzer IV, and at best give only a statistical average of all possible results.  So in the extreme sense everything is derivative

    What this has to do with the convention is that while I did not find any game that was aesthetically overwhelming, there was one thing that was extremely UNDERWHELMING. This was what I perceived as the extreme dullness of the set ups.  Obviously a World War II set up with drabs, duns and feldgrau cannot match the color and the panoply of the Renaissance Swiss and Landsknechts, and obviously the dimness of the Dystlefink has a factor, but even in more well-lit venues I am always amazed by the drabness of the table tops


    Now, I reiterate, I do not expect WWII to have the intensity and flashiness of the Medieval Age and the Renaissance, but while warfare has changed a lot in half a millennia, nature has not, and the sun shines as bright today on  field and stream as it did in days of old. No one going out onto the veldt on a sunny day can find almost ANYTHING that is flat, and the world, awash in sunlight makes even flat black shine. Nature is at best semi-gloss not flat, and this is nowhere to be found (except in my game) at most conventions. Standing on a hillside  grass is not pool table green but at darkest a bright Kelley green and often a pale pastel. Buildings are not drab eminations, and even bunkers sparkle- camo looks more party-colored than concealing. Most war game set ups disregard the effects of light upon them. I am not entirely free of this, in that my hex table did seem a bit darker than I remembered from the last game, but even so it was still brighter than most others I saw, and I realized that I usually play my games either in my living room with three walls of floor to ceiling windows that flood the room with light, or downstairs there 18 100 watt light bulbs illume the cellar.

    But that’s me

    It’s sad that most people lavish so much attention on detail and craftsmanship which then is completely obscured in dull and dim eternal light. Yet even when these things are put in outdoor light they still are somewhat darker than their real life counterparts.  All of this means I am going to ratchet up the lichen and foam brush a shade or two

    Was there anything new and exciting? Not that I saw!  I did get two one minute egg-timer hour glasses so I can enforce time limits on my players from now on, but the flea-market was singularly unyielding of anything interesting. I could not find my Italian tankettes and will have to scratchbuild them, and not even Bren gun carriers could be found as a strictly third rate substitute. Apparently these quaint little beasties find no partisans today.

    The Dealer Area was similarly unyielding of interesting items, thogh Andy continues to yield excellent and interesting things in his business, and is the only person, it seems who is adding anything new to the hobby. Yet I could not get interested in anything he had, even eskimoes in parkas and rifles. It’s not Andy’s Fault, I was just too excited to see him again and have him back among us. (He had been quite ill.)

    So if there was something new and exciting and wonderful, it escaped my eye

    My Library did rather well, and most of the things I bought were books

    I got one book in the Flea Market on Pin-Ups which showed thematically several dozen  notable pin-ups by famous illustrators and how that image was copied and modified when it got painted on the bomber nose. Curiously,  the editors seemed to feel the need to list the type of plane the art appeared on, as if that had anything to do with anything.   From “On Military Matters” I got “The War Game Companion”  a reprint of Charles Grant’s book with a huge amount of the backstory and background material from his games, including copious  photos of his Imagi-Nations, all of which are of great interest to me. I also got  Ian Dickie’s “War Gaming on a Budget” which I will enjoy devouring, and Don Featherstone’s War Gaming in the Ancient and Medieval periods.  and Charles Grant’s Ancient Battle for War Gamers. Charles Grant’s Napoleonic War Games also was acquired. I already had a copy of that, but what the heck

    The only game I bought was “The Great Khan Game from TSR’s “Forgotten Realms” series of 1989. I had this game a  long time ago and loaned it to someone who never returned it. I wanted it for my board game archive because of some of the unique features and methodologies it had. It has some ideas that I want to tweak for possible use in my gaming set up, which I talked about here before

    Now… as to the convention itself

    Rumors of the immediate demise of the Lancaster Hose continue to abound and continue to be largely fantasy. The corporation that owns the property is presently using the hotel as  a cash cow to make improvements of it’s other hotels in the area, but I know two owners of hotels within a half mile of the Lancaster Host (unaffiliated with it) who say that it is unlikely to be sold, and that it is, if sold, even MORE unlikely to be town down for the land, as most of it is under agricultuaral assessment which gives it a nice low tax rate, which if it was turned into shopping malls would go away and the tax rates would skyrocket. The hotel being “on the market’ is nothing particularly special, in their estimation as practically every hotel in the area is “on the market” and the problem with every hotel is parking, and the character of the host is such that if it shrivels up and goes away  it will create a huge need in the area. This need is exactly what we need it for, which is a huge amount of meeting and exhibition space attached to a hotel, and if the hotel is knocked down that will take out abut (literally!) 60% of the meeting rooms footage with it! Most of the other hotels have vestigial meeting rooms for events (if any) and cater to the bus trade and individual vacationers who go to Dutch Wonderland  and the outlets of Amishery and others. Most of the smallery meeting room venders are taken up with clubs, churches, religious social groups and so forth, and I can confirm this when I was canvassing for meeting rooms for “The Weekend.” Most of them were little more than two normal hotel rooms with the wall between them knocked out.  So if the host is sold it is more than likely going to be to someone who will upgrade and refurbish it, or knock it down and make a clone with a golf course (to keep the agricultural assessment

    As for the convention itself, Fall-In was always the smallest of the three HMGS conventions but always rather nice and less frenetic  than Cold Wars and Historicon. So it remains. For a hard-time GM like me, it’s more easy going and slow paced and it’s in a great area that my wife loves to visit in, and theres things to do for the whole family.  As I intimated above there wasn’t anything new and exciting, and the roster of games seemed to have less zombies in it, but I didn’t make a count.  The convention was saddened by the deaths of many important gamers this year, and it was sad to hear the health problems of others. But I did take careful note that it was not dominated by grey-beards, and there were significant numbers of 20 to 30 somethings. The teens and kids were in short supply, but remember, schools in and they can’t get away from classes.

    While this may seem a somewhat lack-luster review, on the other side I can’t say I found anything much to complain about, and it was on the whole an entirely pleasant convention, and what more can one ask for



    Otto Schmidt

    <p id=”yui_3_15_0_1_1447161163661_1932″><span id=”yui_3_15_0_5_1447161163661_8″>Dear List</span></p>

    <span id=”yui_3_15_0_5_1447161163661_8″>The Flea-Market at Fall in, which the powers that be irreverentially and blasphemously call “Wally’s Basement” is really an event not to be missed. This time it was not very forthcoming in things I absolutely positively had to have, but there have been times when I have spent lots there and found real treasures.</span>
    <p id=”yui_3_15_0_1_1447161163661_1934″><span id=”yui_3_15_0_5_1447161163661_12″>One of the aspects of the Flea Market is the barometer of the Hobby. If you want to know what’s out, what’s done, what’s on the decline, wander through the flea-market and take a gander.  If it shows up there on more than four tables, it’s about to die the death of a dog.  A few years ago people were dropping all their Rocco and minitanks and a lot of kits, and now those have pretty much cycled through into collections that want them.  Beyond that, the Flea Market is a good seminar in what not to buy.  </span></p>
    <p id=”yui_3_15_0_1_1447161163661_1936″><span id=”yui_3_15_0_5_1447161163661_15″>Year after Year I see in the flea market the war game equivalent of  Girlie Magazines. These are things like “The Waffen SS In FULL  COLOR!!!!!” or tons of popular books on WWI, WWII, anything we got footage on, all of which attribute NOTHING to the hobby and NOTHING to the game, but feed, like girlie books flagging interest in the subject and perhaps a bit of a counterattack against the waning of interest which is the war gamers equivalent of impotence. </span></p>
    <p id=”yui_3_15_0_1_1447161163661_1938″><span id=”yui_3_15_0_5_1447161163661_18″>I admit this might be my own prejudice, but I really have no need for a big folio book of color illustrations of tanks and planes and guns which has very little info in it and is only good for dragging down from the shelf and paging through now and then. I have books of pin-ups and sexy girls for that, and the interest is universal and … well neat. Kind of what God had in mind when he created women.  But other than that I can’t see a folio book “The Waffen SS In FULL  COLOR!!!!!” on my coffee table when company comes over or it being a good conversation starter. Of course if you’re a skin-head then perhaps… I once posted on this subject when I acquired piles and piles of popular magazines on WWII and history which obviously were rehashes of each other bought by people for impulse buys at the newsstands, and how there seemed to be an inexhaustible supply of these things.  </span></p>
    <p id=”yui_3_15_0_1_1447161163661_1942″><span id=”yui_3_15_0_5_1447161163661_22″>Another thing about the Flea-Market is that a lot of terrain seems to be sold off here. I wonder what the table tops these things came from are going to do  for walls and trees and woods and fields and streams now that they are gone.  I have often seen some nice stuff, but always as I am looking at these things I begin to realize that they are “artifacts.” I realize they are not going to really “fit” with my stuff and if I buy them and use them they will look like something I bought and used at a flea market. I see this on table tops all the time. They are obviously collages of this or that terrain piece, which may be striking, clever, heroic, or just plain pretty, but they  rarely “fit” together. with the odd-lot jumble that gamers frequently use. Here I can afford to be snooty and condescending, having long ago made my hexagonal terrain, which once you put together the edges virtually disappear and rolls seamlessly from edge to edge, but  that’s a special case and not many will put that amount of work into it.  Some people make these things just to sell them, and it’s obvious they have never been in a game. The dead give away is they are still intact and haven’t been flattened, crushed, steam-rollered, folded, stapled, spindled, or mutilated by the vicissitudes of real life gaming.  A wry smile comes to my mouth when I see these things, obviously the creations from the Model Railroading guys, and I know how fragile they are.</span></p>
    <p id=”yui_3_15_0_1_1447161163661_1959″><span id=”yui_3_15_0_5_1447161163661_25″>I did find at this flea-market several issues of the Avalon Hill General that I had sold off years ago. My first tip-off was the three ring holes in the magazines that I had punched to put them into binders, and the second was I found some of my own notes in the margins on one of them.  No, I did not buy them for old times sake.</span></p>
    <p id=”yui_3_15_0_1_1447161163661_1961″><span id=”yui_3_15_0_5_1447161163661_29″>One thing that always is found in the flea market is the truly weird stuff. I can’t even begin to describe this as a class or genre, but can range from things like a 3′ long model of the Victory in a glass case, to super-hero action figures, to odd model kits and  even pottery and statuary.  Some of this you just have to ask “WHY!!!!???” and others might pique your interest now and then.  More particular you wonder how a wa rgamer got hold of it in the first place and why.</span></p>
    <p id=”yui_3_15_0_1_1447161163661_1963″><span id=”yui_3_15_0_5_1447161163661_32″>A tour through the flea-market is like a bazaar of the bizarre. It can go from what you have been searching for with a passion for fifteen years, to stuff that you’d never buy in a million.</span></p>
    <p id=”yui_3_15_0_1_1447161163661_1965″><span id=”yui_3_15_0_5_1447161163661_35″>Otto</span></p>

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