With no Spring gathering of HMGS-PSW during their usual April con period (whats up with these guys?) Steve G and I went to San Diego’s “Kingdom con convention” held April 24-28, 2014, one of the rare gatherings on the US West coast for miniaturist in what we call the “Desert of the Wargaming World”. When we locals call this area a desert we don’t mean there is no miniature wargaming around, no there are many places that have far less gaming going on, we in fact have quite a bit going on, its just that like life in the desert its hard to find, you have to look under rocks and behind bushes to find it. Over the years many of us have tried to bring the southern California Miniature Wargaming scene closer together under one roof so to speak with varying degrees of success and in Kingdom Con we have yet one more group trying it.
Kingdom con has been going on for several years and has been doing better each year. I had never attended it as local LA cons and my involvement with HMGS-PSW kept me busy enough try to get things better in the Los Angeles area. This year would be different as my break with the Los Angele’s conventions and in fact HMGS-PSW of whom I had been a member for more than 20 years had left me with both the time and the yearning to attend a different gathering and meet different people.
Since my time as President of HMGS-PSW had brought me into contact with a lot of the different groups around the Pacific Southwest on a organizational level, I was on a lot of their yahoo groups, mailing list, and various events still dropped into my email box. When the announcement for this years Kingdom con arrived and a quick glance at their event list revealed at least 3 miniature events I’d be interested in including a SAGA Tournament event I became very interested. Like I said earlier most of us are gaming in our own circles (some under rocks) and it’s sad we seldom venture out to see and share with others the fun, passion, and camaraderie of the Miniature wargaming community. This is particularly prevalent in the Historical section of the hobby where many of the old stick in the mud’s bemoan the state of the “Historical Wargaming Hobby” but can’t be induced to rise up off their “lardy arrses” and get out and participate! Such was my feeling when I tried to get a bit of interest in some of us making the drive down to see what was going on there.
So after lifting a few rocks and bushes I found a few stalwarts who decided in favor of making the trek down. Tim Daun (another former President of HMGS-PSW) his wife Jen, Steve Gausche (my #1 gaming bud and also a former member of HMGS-PSW, 15+ years) all were up for playing SAGA the DARK AGES historical game tourney with a different group and away from our own rocks. So cutting to the chase we all made the almost 2 hour trip (for us) Saturday morning down to San Diego arriving at the Crowne Plaza hotel in beautiful Mission Valley just in time for the sign in, checking of Warband list, and the 10am start time for the first of 3 rounds of competition.
Before I get into the Con and the Tourney lets talk about the drive because I know a few of you “Lardies” are already thinking “1 or 2 hour drive!!! I’m not doing that! Ahh horrible, horrible, why can’t they have the convention closer to me? in fact cant it be just up the block!” Well the people who put these things on, do all the work to bring you a bit of fun, and rarely get to enjoy their own con do the best they can for the most part. Cons are not easy things to put on (I know I’ve been responsible for more than half a dozen) and the least we can do is to come and support them because only through that support they will grow into the cons we all dream about attending. That 1-2 hour drive in both directions…well call some friends and carpool, it was a very pleasant time for us to sit and kibbitz on many things, wargaming, cons, painting, and life in general. The drive was really much the same as the pre-game “bs” that normally goes on with all gaming groups except we were moving at 70 miles per hour……..
My, My, I do get up on that soap box don’t I…..
So we arrived at the Crowne Plaza Mission Valley right off the freeway, where a quick right and left brought us into the parking lot were the attendant politely asked if we were here for the convention, “yep” “great sir, $3, please” $3? Dam I haven’t seen parking that cheap in 20 years at a con! And you got in and out privileges with out being a over nighter!!!! The parking lot was very large and had ample parking despite becoming quite full during the day always had spots open. There were two convenient doors available to load in and out from and within moments we had gathered up our mini’s, terrain, rules, and with a short walk stood in the lobby. Déjà vu! I realized that it was the same great hotel that my wife and I would occasionally stay at with the kids back in the day when coming to visit relatives here in SD, lovely place with a great pool area, beautiful grounds, pleasant helpful staff, and unbelievably…a fair priced restaurant with good food! (ok the restaurant is not cheap fast food but its not overpriced crap and you don’t have to walk our drive out)
The people at the Kingdom con registration desk were very friendly and after plopping down $20 bucks for our one day badge they pointed us in the direction of the upstairs “Historical miniature’s” area in the Grand Pacific Ballroom and even sent a “guide” along to make sure we found it…or was it to prevent us “Historical” guys from wandering around and ruining the rest of the con?…just kidding!
The room was nice 30 x 70, well lit! and filled with plenty of tables and chairs. Several games were already going on and in the middle there were 2 long sections about 4 x 16 with terrain in-place for the SAGA tourney. Tony the SAGA events organizer Tony was there setting up terrain and getting everyone’s Warband info recorded. The turn out was better than I expected 7 locals and 3 of us “northerners” for a 10 player 3 round competition. I planned to run my “Normans” and in a basically “stock” formation, levy bows (12), warrior Crossbows (8), 4 Hearth guard units (4×4=16), the Hearth guard would fight in 2 four figure units and one 8 man unit. I figured this would be fairly balanced and give me a good chance in most situations. Tim Daun was also going with his band of choice the Anglo Danes, Steve who I thought was going to run his Vikings switched up and brought out the Byzantines!! (he regretted this a bit later when we found out how the different rounds were to be played)
Now I’m not a tourney player in fact this was my first real experience at a tournament, not that I haven’t seen them or have a general knowledge of how they work, it’s just I do not play games that lend themselves to tournament type play. SAGA is different for a historical game and follows a trend of “newer” historical games to be designed along a one on one competition ala the “War hammer” mold. Yes guys get over it the younger generation of gamers who started with Warhammer and not Napoleons battles or the traditional type Historicals we learned and were brought up with are now getting into historicals and the resulting games often have a flavor or play style that harkens back to their roots! Of course many of the traditional wargames like WRG, DBA, and others have similar styles of one on one competition play. I like some of these newer games and think they help give new life to our hobby of “historical Wargaming”, people and times change and we have to change with them or fade away….
That being said I figured the tournament would be 3 rounds of fairly straight forward SAGA with the winner being the chap who did the best, period…Yes it did end up being the chap who did the best but the “straight Forward rounds” were quite a different matter. Tony had mentioned in an email that each of the scenarios would be different, I assumed they were the scenarios out of the book and that where things started to go wrong for me and my Normans… then came the announcement that we would not as normal be rolling terrain up but playing on pre set boards, well there was strike two for the Normans as terrain placing is quite important for them as a mobility/range weapon warband…oh well into the fray.
My first opponent was Paul a very nice San Diego player (as they all were) and he brought out to my surprise another horse army the Bretons! Much like the Normans except the hearth guard are all missile /javelin troops! They can run up and shoot! then melee before you can say “Jack be Nimble”. As I mentioned the terrain was pre-set something I was a little disappointed in since I think “setting” the terrain is a big part of many warbands depending on who they are facing and this coupled with my javelin armed opponent had me a bit un-nerved. I fought hard but my Normans were unprepared for the Javelin armed horse so my poor die rolling coupled with Paul’s good play and good roles soon had me on the ropes. This round was a win by casualty points we marked our battle report cards, handed them in and went for a lunch break.
For lunch Steve and I almost went out but then decided to try the Hotel, always a dicey proposition, but the place “Islands” had fair prices (for a hotel) great service, and the food very good! So we ate relaxed, talked about the mornings battles, soon it was time to walk back up to our final two rounds. Both Steve and I were apprehensive about our next battles feeling we had used the “wrong warbands” for this shindig but we were having fun, and learning quite a bit about other Warbands.
The next round for me was a “Sacred Ground” scenario with 3 pieces of terrain laid out evenly across the center of the board that had to be taken and held each turn. At the end of each of your opponents turns if you held an Un-contested piece of sacred ground you received points according to the value of the figures there.
Now I was facing a Welsh Warband and felt much more confident going in as I knew my Warband would have some of it strengths come into play, it’s mobility, and it’s ranged weapons. For this game my die rolls were also better and I won the initiative roll and used my Cavalry’s mobility to move out to the objectives securing them by the second turn before the Welsh. On my left my Crossbow men moved in to secure one objective while some Hearth guard Cavalry secured the center section, now I had two of the three objectives and it was only turn 2 and the beginning of scoring. The Welsh player (it was Rene….) moved his Javelins into the far objective and brought more of his men forward to try and push me off the objectives but my opening moves had seemed throw him off his game much like what happened to me in the first game and he now had to play catch up.
I had placed my levy archers in a position to be able to cover both left and center objectives, this with back up by my Hearth guard cav coupled with the fact that I only had to fight defensively gave me the advantage and after a bad third round his losses forced him to abandon the one objective he held and join his other troops trying to force me off the the center one. He briefly took the center, long enough to get two points, then a flock of arrows and a charge by another of my Hearth guard retook the center objective for the Normans. It was not a good day to be the Welsh, Norman win for game two (15 points for Normans, two points for the Welsh if I remember).
Steve was having better luck with his Byzantines and managed a draw against a tough opponent (the San Diego guys were ALL tough, well, practiced opponents who knew their Warbands!) Tim was now 2 and 0! Woot! I must mention here again that all the other players we met here from the San Diego area were great opponents, many allowing slight adjustments or corrections to be made during the game, very fair guys, who made even losing to them fun!
My third game I faced the Anglo Danish with their great Dane Axes! This games was a mess from the first move! Tony the event runner gave us the scenario sheet as we sat down (would have been better to hand these out in the beginning of the day or even posted on the con event outline) and as I read it and Tony explained it I knew I was lost with my Normans. The scenario was called Slaughter House and points were to be awarded only for those figures killed in Melee!!! “What” I asked…”Melee only?” and me with a shooting warband who’s warrior crossbow figures get no credit for bow kills and have armor like his levis coupled with guys on Horses that are on bigger bases thus getting less figures into melee much of the time. Well, it’s going to be fun trying this…..ohh and by the way figures who are killed regenerate into new warbands that can basically come back onto the board anywhere as long as they are not on your enemies home edge and must be “short” away from any enemy warband. The only Warband of his (8 man Danes Axes Hearthguard) I wiped out appeared to my rear right after I killed it at the beginning of his turn. Normans as expected went down in flames…..
So despite a few problems (mostly with my choice of Normans) I felt the tourney was very well run, we all had a great time, and our hats are off to all those guys in San Diego who worked so hard to put this together!!! Thanks, Tony, Rene, Paul, Dave, and all the rest well done!
The results well Tim Daun from our local group the “Dogs of War” took first place with a 3-0 win count! Way to go Tim! For his efforts he took home a 6 point Scott’s Warband from Gripping Beast! Nice!!! 2nd and Third place I believe went to Dave and Paul, One took a plastic Gripping Beast set and the other a full boxed set of Vallejo paints donated by me. Now yours truly also took home a prize because in the end my defeated, battle worn Norman’s were still judged to be the best looking Warband of the ten there! I got an Osprey Viking book I did not own yet! Our first SAGA tourney was over….
The rest, well since we spent most of the time in the SAGA room so the rest of the con was not well investigated…we took a stroll around the con at lunch and after the tourney and it was looking pretty well attended, not as big as a Strategicon convention but it felt much more vibrant, “younger” if that is the right word and it also seemed to have more miniatures stuff, not so much historical (although that is steadily growing) but the War Machine and 40K guys filled the larger ballroom! (60×160) There were many demo games scattered around the foyer and main hall with one catching my interest (sadly I did not have time to play) it was a miniature game with a beautiful board taken from the 1960’s movie “The Naked Prey” where Cornell Wilde plays a white man chased for sport by natives across the harsh African landscape while wearing nothing!!! Great idea! I happened to see local gamer Harry Morris (the Bengal Club) and his son playing in that one.
Robert Boyens (HMGS-PSW member) was down there and ran his beautiful wargame in the age of sail. I also saw a few other LA area gamers there in various games. I saw a large 28mm “DR. Who” game with very nice Victorian terrain. The Minis in the Sci Fi/Warhammer/Warmachine area were also a treat to see, some very nice work. Judging by the paper cups, large bottles of “the good stuff” those boys know how to game! Privateer Press had a BIG presence here! there were also “living history” re-enactors, Board gamers, RPGs, and all the rest one finds at a “mixed” venue.
The dealers room was packed but little for the “Historical Gamer” perhaps that will change with better attendance by historical gamers.
That pretty much ended our day we loaded the car, then walked back to the restaurant area where the bar had opened and had a few toddies, some delicious sushi rolls, and discussed the days battles….
So my overall impression with Kingdom con was very favorable, I admit the Historical side was still lacking and without more support from the locals it will not grow but they do have the makings of a great con if they can convince some of those “locals” that “if we build it they will come!” With a few more Historical games and better advertising it will take off! For us from the Los Angeles area it was in reality almost less hassle then one of our local airport cons… It was in a great city, in a great location, with great people, I plan to put on a game and take wife next year!
Links to more info on this event.