Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rapiercon & The Hotel From Heck

Last Friday and Saturday we went to Rapiercon in north Jacksonville, FL. This was our first time to the convention, and it was an "interesting" event to say the least. We arrived at the convention hotel just after lunch. It's no secret that the hotel is under construction, which is why we booked a room down the street at the Hilton Garden Inn.

We Arrive in Heck
While the Hilton was a pleasure to say at for only a few dollars more, complete with cooked-to-order breakfast buffet for the both of us, the convention hotel was an absolute disgrace of a building let alone a hotel. I'm surprised Double Tree (aka Hilton) is even trying to renovate it, though I was told they are dragging their feet on the project. Bottom line, this was the worst hotel I have ever seen outside a third world country. The folks on Tripadvisor are correct in their negative reviews.

After finding a parking space in the parking lot--which is way too small, badly designed, and cluttered with containers and construction equipment--we made our way through the hotel to the con's registration desk on the building's far side. It was an interesting trip to the desk, full of strange (possibly toxic) smells and interesting "under construction" sights of exposed ceilings and walls.

Thankfully, the folks at the con's registration desk were friendly. We picked up materials, paid for Jeremy's con t-shirt, and went into the miniature gaming hall. Since it was about 1pm on Friday, not many people were there yet. Dealers were still setting up. We had registered for a game at 1pm, a WWII bombing game, and saw it set up already.

A panoramic shot of the con on Saturday afternoon. My first attempt at trying out the feature. It came out pretty good for indoors and not knowing how to take the shot.

And It's as Hot as Heck
We walked around a bit, checked out the numerous door prizes, and then checked out the dealers booths. Within a few minutes I had worked up a sweat! I mentioned to a fellow that it seemed a bit warm in the room. He replied that the AC was barely working and that the hotel was "investigating" it (we all knew this was corporate speak for doing nothing). The temperature in the room wound up in the low-to-mid 80s, which was downright unacceptable and uncomfortable. From what I was told, it was the same way last year. As Jeremy commented, it felt better outside--and this is Florida in the summer! I should have known something was wrong when people were bringing electric fans!

Right before our game began, I stopped by a dealer booth. I picked up another copy of Warmaster for $1, 5th Ed Warhammer for $1, Warhammer Ancients for $1, some old codexes for $1, War of the Ring for $5, and a bunch of other free WHFB and 40K rulebooks, expansions, and catalogs. I also bought a boatload of old White Dwarfs for 5 for $1. I never expected to buy GW stuff!

Sweating to the Oldies
Since I literally was dripping with sweat and rushing to get to the game, I was having a hard time thinking through everything. If I had time to really look through the stacks of White Dwarfs, I would have bought even more. Still, I did get a ton of WDs from 1992 onward along with some of the brand new issues each for the price of a stick of gum. All said and done, I spent $23 at the booth. Later, Jeremy got to load the big box of WDs and rules into the car! I also got a bunch of Axis &Allies 15mm armor at 2 for $1 from Cool Stuff, a 3mm sample pack of Modern Early 80s Pico Armor, and the 15mm AP-Team pack from Odzial Osmy. (I'm mail ordering the rest of the line!)

Though I got to the game late, the fellow running the game didn't mind at all. He had been shopping as well, getting some good deals. It's all part of the fun. So let's get to the game!

A Hot Time Over the Arctic
The game was "Goering's Carrier" run by Jerry Boles using the Black Cross/Blue Sky rules. Jerry was a great guy with the right attitude for a convention game. He made it fun and simple for newbies like us, who just wanted to try out something new. We had a blast playing the game, even though the room kept getting hotter and hotter. Jerry just was a swell guy with a good sense of humor. It was the highlight of the con and turned into the only game we played that weekend, though we didn't plan it that way.

The premise was based on an historical battle: British convoy PQ 18, escorted by carrier Avenger, is heading towards Russia with much needed supplies. Taking note of the carrier, Herman Goering orders, "Ignore the convoy, get the carrier."

Jeremy and I played the Germans, while Jerry and another fellow named Bob played the Brits. We had a flight of  He-111 bombers. The Brits had Hawker Hurricanes and flak from their ships. So we had a Jeremy, a Jerry, and two Bob's playing the game--what are the odd of that!?

In the end, we fared worse than the actual Germans did in the real battle. For a while, it looked like we were winning, but a few lucky critical hits on our planes made sawdust out of our plans just as we were getting close to dropping our torpedoes. One bomber had no damage, took one hit, and blew up due to a fuel line hit! Rats!

Last year, I had seen Cool Stuff and Miniature Market blowing out the game on deep discount sales. I knew little about the game and feared it would sit on the shelf untouched like most of the games that I had been buying. Plus, I had Wings of War if I wanted a flying game, though that was sitting unused as well. I liked playing the game so much I checked into buying it online later that evening. Sadly, the only place selling it is the publisher, but it would cost $105 for the base game. That's a bit out of my price range at the moment.

I Got a New Toy!
Literally right before the con I had bought a new camera off of Amazon, finally ditching my 10 year old Lumix. This time I bought an Olympus Stylus SH-50 iHS along with the the fastest and newest SD card on the market, a Samsung Pro SDHC MB-SG16D/AM. The card writes blazing fast and the camera is da' bomb!

These are the very first photos I shot with the camera, so they were a learning experience. All I did was set it to Automatic and let the camera do all the work. I didn't even need macro. The flash never went off once. I was amazed, even considering how poor the lighting was in the con. The photos I took outside are fantastic. Plus full 1080p video was great--I shot some trains later in the evening when we did some train watching up in GA. I think this will take far better photos of miniatures than my old camera.

Ok, enough blathering! Here are the photos.

The British convoy and escort. That's not the USS St. Lo. It's really the Avenger. You just need to squint a bit to see it. :)

Our He-111 bombers heck-bent on the carrier.

"The kid" waiting for me to take my seat after taking the obligatory photo for Mommy.

Jerry did a great job on the planes and bases. We were impressed.

His homemade cards for the planes. He put them in 'hardbacks' so we could write on them using Vis-a-vis markers.

A close-up of some He-111's. We used to die to track how many hexes each plane had moved in a straight line.

The bomber's card.

Each card handles three or four planes. This is the back of the He-111.

Jerry helps Jeremy make a hard decision, while Bob watches as he contemplates which bomber he'll shoot down first. Hey wait a minute! The kid is getting "help" from the enemy!?! LoL.

Bandit! 3 o'clock!

Ah, the end game. As you can see by the graveyard on the left it has been a bloody game. We are each down to one plane a piece. My bomber on the left dropped its torpedoes but missed. Rats! Jeremy has switched ends to watch his bomber try to drop torpedoes. Unfortunately, the Hurricane ruins those plans, blowing the He-111 out of the sky. The escort carrier survived unscathed. Just as in real life, the mission was a total failure that would hurt Germany the rest of the war. Still, we had a great time. I really want this game! Thanks, Jerry, for putting on such a good show and being a gracious host!


  1. I almost went to ReaperCon, just didn't turn up in the cards. After I read this, it hit me you and I live near one another! Been reading your blog for some time. I live in Hudson....if you ever want to game drop me a line at patrickballinger(at) We are also doing a Bolt Action Invasion at Anthem Games in Tampa on Sunday the 29th of June from 12:30 to 6:30 if you want to drop by. We are having demos, open gaming, the store has a load of product, we will have war movies, giveaways and cake is rumored!

    1. Thanks for following the blog! Yeah, it can be a small world! :-)

      We're just a few minutes from Cool Stuff's Maitland store. Traveling long distance on Sunday afternoons can be rough since we have church until 12-ish. But you never know. Also depends on the weather--gotta love summer storms in Florida. The shop looks really really nice. It's good to see a shop that doesn't look like a dysfunctional teenager's basement bedroom. ;-)

      We'll be at Dice Tower Con down by Sea World during the 4th of July week--just on the off chance that anyone else reading this is going there as well. :-)

      I really don't think you missed much at the con. I did it because it had been a long time since my son and I went away by ourselves on a weekend trip. (Another consequence of the turmoil I went through from my dad dying a few years ago.) So while we didn't do too much at the con for "various reasons," we did have fun doing some train watching, which we hadn't done in a few years, and thrift shop hunting. We also ate some excellent Thai food in Folkston, GA during a severe thunderstorm before we shot some trains. :-)

      I don't plan on doing the con again. Hurricon and Recon will be just fine, and a lot closer should we go. (We haven't been there in about 5 years but am thinking of doing Hurricon in Sept.)

    2. Well, we are going to be there 12:30 to 6:30 and we can save you some cake if Steve gets one. Drawings and such will not be until 5 or 5:30 which will include a rule book and some other goodies. Plus there is a great BBQ and Peruvian place in the plaza so you can enjoy a good afternoon lunch as well. The Peruvian is a tad expensive while the BBQ is a bit cheaper. The shop is very nice and I love the new any case if you can't make it we will have more events. This will be a nice mixer to get people to know one another and build up the community. Trying to push something else in other than 40k to the gaming masses.

      Thinking about Hurricon depending on the date. It always hits the weekend before October which nails me because of our wedding annv then my wife's bday! Curses!

      We are also invited back to Crucible in Orlando (same hotel as Recon and Hurricon) last year we did a tank company tournament and a 5 game event over 2 days. We had a blast. We was talking about this year some of us getting uniforms to wear. Last year a Space Marine was there....

      If there is anything GW you are looking for, I have a huge stack of WD I am about to get rid of and can cut you a great deal, I am ebaying a bunch of old books and such. I also have a ton of novels I am about to sell off. Trying to free up space in the hobby room.

  2. Nice write up, your GW haul and the game you did manage to play both sound great. At least you salvaged a good weekend out of it too, better than sweating your backside off in a construction site! Cheers, Paul :-)

    1. Thanks, Paul. We had a good time. Even got to go to the jacuzzi every night, which was also nice!

      BTW Friday evening when we popped over the border to GA to catch some trains, we got hit with a severe storm in Folkston. We had some great Thai food while waiting out the storm. It was 94 degrees when we went to eat. When we came out an hour later after the storm passed it was 74 and dropping. When we left at 8pm, it was in the upper 60s--felt down right chilly! When we got back to JAX 40 minutes to the south, it was still 92 degrees and had never rained. Gotta love living in the Deep South! :-)

  3. Sorry I missed you, I played in Jerry's Friday evening game (the raid to get Yamato... I got him!) and Saturday afternoon game (Stopping Afrika Corps aerial supply with Spitfires... we did.) I'm in your panoramic shot of the Con on the far right of the picture in a white t-shirt reaching over the table. Concur with your assessment of the hotel... horrible. Small world: I live in Ocoee and was attending Rapier with my 20 year old son. ;) I own the Black Cross / Blue Sky set and I'm working on building a set of Pacific Theater Minis.

    1. Wow, this blog is turning into a small world! Now all we need to do is get Jay to move from sunny CA to sunny FL and we'll have it made. Ok, and maybe a couple hundred other guys as well. LoL

      Shoot me an email at cpelt at gmail,com. Maybe we can get together a bit.

      BTW I just noticed my box of games and lunch bag sitting on the table behind you. Didn't see that until just now!