|Pre-dreadnoughts - The Czar vs. the Great White Fleet off Alaska!|
|The USS Artremis starship bridge simulator|
|Warhammer 40k, I think...|
|One of the club areas|
I was a little worried, going into this convention, about the noise levels; the convention is held in two huge barn-like halls, and I don't handle high levels of sound pressure any more.
Much to my delight, it was really nice in the halls! The walls and roofs are lined with insulation, so all of the surfaces above head height are absorb sound, not reflect it, and it made for a really good environment. The sound was that of a lot of very happy people having a really good time, and not the absolute din that I've had to suffer through at other conventions over the years.
The convention is an 'open-table' set-up; if one waned to reserve a seat at a particular game table, one got a ticket - at no charge! - from the registration desk, and one had a seat at the table. If one simply wanted to play, then all one had to do was pull up a chair and have at it; I didn't see anyone turned away from any game during the convention, as all of the GMs were very happy to have extra players - and had made their plans accordingly.
There was a huge variety of games on offer, too; everything from the classic RPGs to the classic miniatures games. There was something for everyone on offer, and I saw a lot of kids and families having a great time. My personal favorite was a modern game with a pair of Stryker armored vehicles - these were being run by what looked for all the world to be a couple of stereotypical 'soccer moms', who were playing hard, fast, and furious; anytime a dismounted trooper got into trouble, they were there in a flash with all guns blazing in true cavalry spirit and with true cavalry panache. George Patton would have been proud of them, and it was wonderful to watch.
Another favorite was the pre-dreadnought battle between the Czar's Imperial Navy and Teddy Rooselevdt's Great White Fleet off the Alaskan coast; icebergs were an additional hazard. This was a legendary game - it was played with the famous 1/700 scale ships made by and formerly owned by the legendary naval gamer Richard Huston (of 'Houston's Ships" fame) and lovingly preserved by one of his friends. None of your delicate 'steampunk' goggles-and-top-hat types here; this was manly men shoving coal into the boilers and shells into the guns as fast as they could, and having a damn good time doing it. As was usual with the technology of the time, nothing worked quite right, and the mishaps of machinery malfunctions was a very funny part of the game. (Certain American warships of this period could not point all their guns in the same direction at the same time, due to capsizing issues; it does affect your tactical thinking, I assure you.)
At the opposite end of the technological spectrum was the amazing USS Artremis starship bridge simulator, which worked all the time all weekend, and was very popular with players of all kinds. I've seen a couple of these kind of things in action at various conventions, and they never cease to amaze me - we never had anything like this, back in my day, and it would have made those far-off 'Traveller', 'Star Trek', and 'Star Wars' games something else to have been able to play. Wonderful stuff.
As I mentioned, the convention venue was great - and the food was even better! The convention organizers had set up a food stand, and the food was both inexpensive (a rarity!) and really good (even more rare and unusual!); I don;t know about anyone else, but I stuffed my face. An additional feature was that criers would tour the halls before the kitchen closed, offering deals on the 'leftovers'; nothing went to waste, and the whole operation was wonderfully well-managed and staffed.
If you asked me, this whole convention was wonderfully well-staffed and well-run. I had no problems at all during the weekend - the first time that this has happened at a convention in literally decades!
Right, then; next up, What I Did For The Weekend...